The Chairs (Four Way Bit)


This routine was the centerpiece of Dick Buckley's nightclub act for years. It took off from the popular radio program Amos 'n Andy, casting audience participants as the show's characters. Buckley sat the participants in four chairs and used them as human ventriloquist's dummies as he knelt behind them and enacted a scene in black dialect similar to the radio show.

Buckley called the style "Mass Pantomimicism" and described it as follows: "I went through the various scenes and movements of show business and trios and singles and finally I achieved a thing called 'mass pantomimism' which is the art of voice projection through people. It's employed and controlled by a thing called 'staccato control' which is a system of piercing touch, a lightning touch preceded by a very strong sound."

This routine demonstrates Buckley's earliest recorded use of black dialect in his act. It is interesting that he copied the popular radio program in which white performers like himself and his audience participants portrayed stereotypical black characters.

This performance was broadcast in 1949 on Ed Sullivan's pioneer TV variety show Toast of the Town. The participants were New York Yankees shortstop, and future Hall-of-Famer, Phil "The Scooter" Rizzuto, Brooklyn Dodgers left fielder and power hitter, Gene Hermanski, Hermanski's girlfriend, Phyllis, and a new face in the movies, John Derek, twenty-five years before he divorced Linda Evans to marry Bo.

Despite repeated viewing of the video and close listening to a tape recording, at normal and slow speed, there are still a few brief moments that were too obscure to transcibe with confidence. They are indicated with the sign "[ ? ]."

The transcript picks up with Sullivan's introduction of his guest participants:

Sullivan:. . . I'd like you to meet Mr. Hermanski, Mr. Derek, and "The Scooter," Phil Rizutto. What are you two fellows doing since the season's over? Out with the American Shops?

Rizzuto: Yes, the clothing store in Newark.

Sullivan: [Admiring Rizzuto's suit] You look pretty sharp there, Scooter. Gonna be over there on Monday. I want to get one gal to come up out of the audience, with the three fellows. Can I get one gal to come up out of the audience? Who is the good-looking blonde girl sitting right out here near Tony Minor?

Rizzuto: My wife.

Sullivan: Is that your wife? [Audience laughs] Judy, you want to .... No?

Hermanski: The girl next to her is my girlfriend.

Sullivan: Well, then that's the one we want up here. Come on up here. [to Hermanski] What's her name?

Hermanski: Cora, is his wife, the blonde.

Sullivan: No, your girlfriend.

Rizzuto: Phyllis.

Sullivan: Phyllis, will you come on up here and join your boyfriend up on the stage?

Hermanski: Come on, Phyllis. What's wrong with you?

Sullivan: I'll tell you what we'll do, while I've got them up here, while we're determining whether Phyllis will or will not come up. I want the boys to meet a very significant figure in American entertainment. And he's gonna - you're going to work for him in a second here - His Lordship, Dick Buckley. Buckley, come out here. [Musical intro.] Come over here and talk with the boys.

[Buckley, in white tie and tails, enters from stage left, crosses to them, and bows formally.]

Buckley: Gentlemen. A great pleasure indeed. My dear Rizzitu, I know your cousin very well. Come here.

Rizzuto: Who's that?

Buckley: He's in the theater. He's an excellent dancer, isn't he? [Rizzuto laughs, puzzled.] Come here lad. Sit down my dear boy.

[Rizzuto sits down in the stage left chair and the band plays a sharp note.]

Buckley: Hermanski! This good looking rascal here. One moment, I've changed . . . well, you can take that one for the moment. [He points Hermanski to a chair.]

Hermanski: Thank you.

[Hermanski starts to sit next to Rizzuto.]

Buckley: No, next, over there.

[Buckley seats Hermanski in the second chair from the right. Orchestra raspberry as Hermanski sits. It startles Phyllis who enters at that moment.]

Buckley: Milady.

Phyllis: What happened?

Buckley: Milady. Over here, please.

[The orchestra plays a fanfare.]

Buckley: Ladies and Gentlemen, with great plee-e-sure may I announce that the quee-un is in residence. Milady.

[He seats Phyllis in the third seat from stage right, on Hermanski's left.]

Buckley: Rizzitu, my dear fellow, move the whole affair over to right field over there.

[Rizzuto moves to the stage right chair.]

Buckley: That's it. Excellent. Sir John Derek, come here. How are you, John?

Derek: How are you?

Buckley: It's a great pleasure and a great honor. You're taking over my place in Theater I see. You young, handsome begger. [He pats him on the shoulder.]

Derek: Thank you.

Buckley: Sit down, sit down.

[He seats Derek in the stage left seat next to Phyllis. Final seating order, stage right to stage left: Rizzuto, Hermanski, Phyllis, Derek.]

Buckley: The Sunny Side!

[The band plays "Sunny Side of the Street" and Buckley scat sings as he puts comical hats on the three men. He positions himself behind the four performers seated on the chairs.]

Buckley: Ladies and gentlemen. Through the lovely lady and the three gentlemen seated upon the chairs - come here, Hermanski - through these four charming people I will pro-ject four different and distinct voices. Each and every one of them WILL be given an individual voice to pantomime. They, themselves, will not say word one. But when they hear the voice allotted to them coming through the microphone they will move their lips, eyebrows, nose, facial features, jaws and whatnot in a pantomimic manner thereby simulating actual speech.

Now my dear Rizzo here will have the voice of Andy, that's a very deep voice there. When you hear that voice coming through the microphone I want you to synchronize or move your lips to the sound of it. Begin when it begins, quitting when it quits and the results [ ? ] of that will be this:

Andy Voice: Uhhh... Well, it looks like everything gonna be alright. Don't worry about a thing.

Buckley: Solid. Rizz, you're right in the theatre. Number two lad, Hermanski, "The Monster" - you will put on the voice of brother Crawfish, an official type, when it hits the beam:

Crawfish Voice: Well, my dear boy I dare say we'll straighten the matter out next year.

Buckley: Solid!

[ He punches Hermanski hard on the shoulder. ]

Hermanski: Ow!

Buckley: Her Highness, The Queen, will have the voice of Madame Queen, a very high gentle voice. When it hits the beam:

Madame Queen Voice: I tell you boys all the time how I feel about the situlation.

Buckley: Sir John, my buddy cat, will have the voice of Amos, a Wall Street type. When it hits:

Amos Voice: Well, Jack, you gotta stay on the track, you ain't never gonna get back.

Buckley: Solid mac. Now we are going to play "Little Theater." Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, courtesy of America, the first television broadcast of Amos 'n Andy. The time, the summertime. The beautiful, warm, golden summertime of Southern California. They're seated in a lovely Spanish garden in the fabulous San Fernando Valley, and it's sundown in San Fernando, and the Moon -- catch that beautiful Southern California moonlight shining right down in their eyes. They're very relaxed. They've had a double shot of tequila apiece and a very new California drink called a "Benzedrine Float." They are looking up into the moonlight and Andrew is talking.

[Buckley then begins supplying the voices and playing his quartet like marionettes.]

Andy/Rizzuto: Uh, just like I tole you before, Crawfish, we be sittin' here one day after the game was over, an' you know, when a team's got the greatest shortstop in de world on dere side, ain't gonna be nobody messin' with 'em, dat's fo sure.

Crawfish/Hermanski: Well, tomorrow's another day, my dear boy, don't forget that. Every time the year rolls round you can't tell who's going to pick up on the crowd.

Amos/Derek: Yeah, you got somethin' there.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: I'm hip, he's got somethin' there. He's comin' on with the come on.

Amos/Derek: You ain't lyin', baby! You talkin' straight. Ain't nothin' I like better than a hip chick.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: I'm hip yo' hip, too, Daddy.

Amos/Derek: I'm hip yo' hip I'm hip!

Crawfish/Hermanski: Hip hip . . .

Andy/Rizzuto: . . . hooray! Uhhh... You see, the way the situlation is there. If it wasn't fo' me, dem Yankees wouldn't be no place, uh, 'cause I's out dere watchin' all dem balls comin' in, and dey know if dey on the ground I gonna git 'em.

Crawfish/Hermanski: No question about it, my dear boy. You've done a magnificent job. Positively a magnificent job.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: That's what I say, too. I think it's right on the beam myself.

Amos/Derek: Baby, the more you talk, the more I'm fallin' in love with you, dat's for sure.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: I'm hip to dat.

Amos/Derek: I'm hip you're hip.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: I'm hip you're hip I'm hip.

Crawfish/Hermanski: Hip, hip . . .

Andy/Rizzuto: . . . hooray! Uhhh, by de way, Crawfish.

Crawfish/Hermanski: What's on your mind now, my dear boy?

Andy/Rizzuto: Well, how you been a feelin' since you been on the wagon?

Crawfish/Hermanski: To tell the truth, my lad, I have been feeling much better. Much to my surprise. Much better indeed.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: Uh, is it true, Crawfish, that you don't even take one little drink anymore?

Crawfish /Hermanski: No, my dear girl I never touch it anymore. I can well remember the time when I would wake up in the morning with a horrible hangover, have a cup of coffee. [Either Buckley punches Hermanski from behind or the ballplayer coughs and pitches forward.] [ ? ] . . I would try a Coca Cola. [He pitches forward again and the audience laughs.] . . . I would light a cigarette. [He coughs and pitches forward four more times with increasing audience response.]

Andy/Rizzuto: Uhh. It looked for a while there like you was gonna take off, Crawfish.

Crawfish/Hermanski: Well, if I hadn't had my flaps down I'd a made it.

Andy/Rizzuto: Yeah, well, we is a gonna relax and enjoy this here beautiful moonlit night.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: I've never seen such a gorgeous night in all my life. Stars in the sky certainly do make a girl feel romantic in this here kind of weather, I swear.

Amos/Derek: Baby, you know, you is a pretty little chick. You know that, Sugar?

Madame Queen/Phyllis: Is I, daddy?

Crawfish/Hermanski: That's what the man said.

Andy/Rizzuto: Uhh-huh!

Amos/Derek: You know, you is sittin' beside one of the greatest lovers in the New-Nited-States of America, baby?

Madame Queen/Phyllis: Is that the truth?

Amos/Derek: That's the truth and furthermore - -

Madame Queen/Phyllis: What's that, you little rascal?

Amos/Derek: I'm going to give you the most wild supersonic kiss that you ever received in your born days. I'm gonna out-Gable Gable.

Madame Queen/Phyllis: Well come on, Daddy, I'm ready.

Amos/Derek: Well here I come, baby!

Buckley: Take over my boy!

[Derek gives her a kiss. The band strikes up and Buckley scat sings as he stands up.]

Buckley: Take a bow. Up you go.

[The participants bow as the band plays and the audience applauds. They file off stage right past Sullivan, who is clapping. Sullivan gestures left to Buckley who is off the screen.]

Sullivan: Dick, make an exit this way. This side.

Transcribed by EARL RIVERS