Phil Silvers' News                               


The British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society Update:


A very big thank you to everyone who has taken time to sign the Phil Silvers Guest Book. We've now been live for  8 months and we're pleased to report response has been tremendous! Since the re-launch of the site we've had almost 18000 visitors. A real testament to the enduring legacy of Phil Silvers.


We've also seen the Facebook group grow at a steady rate, and we've recruited more enlistees to our Bring Back Bilko campaign!


Please be sure to bookmark us because this site is an ongoing project and will be constantly updated with new material.


Saluting Phil!




Steve & Mick



Come and join The British PHIL SILVERS Appreciation Society on Facebook! Enjoy our extensive Photo Gallery, Video Library and the chance to hook-up with Phil-fans from all over the World. Simply click on the link below to sign up to Facebook.....and join the only official Appreciation Society in honour of Phil Silvers!

and why not pay us a visit at YouTube



Sydney Chaplin, eldest son of Charlie Chaplin, has died at the age of 82, at his home in Palm Springs, Los Angeles. Sydney, an actor in his own right, was a successful Tony Award winner who made notable stage appearances in BELLS ARE RINGING and FUNNY GIRL. He passed away on March 3rd 2009. Sydney appeared in the 1hr live BILKO special KEEP IN STEP with Diana Dors.


Left: Sydney Chaplin announces Charlie Chaplin's Commemorative stamp



The United States Postal Service will release a set of 20 stamps commemorating the early years of television in 2009.

Among the shows to receive stamps are The Phil Silvers Show, The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners, The Ed Sullivan Show, I Love Lucy, Texaco Star Theater, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and Lassie.

According to, the stamps will be unveiled on August 11th in Los Angeles. TVWeek has a small image of the set available.


Left: A set of images to be used on the stamps.



Anyone remember these classic tee shirts from the mid 1980's? That long-ago decade spawned quite a few Bilko designs, but this one stood out as the shirt every Phil fan wanted to be seen in! Well after receiving a few requests from the Phil Silvers Yahoo Group we're now looking at commissioning a fresh batch through the Society! If you are interested in purchasing one of these tees please email with:

Your name/T-Shirt Size/Colour (Specify Black or White)

If we receive enough interest we'll organise a production run and then advise of final cost. As in the past these tee shirts will be available to fans at the price they cost to print (plus postage & packing).




Candace Silvers, Phil's daughter, sent this brief message for all Phil-fans everywhere:


"Your continued appreciation for my fathers talent and work is a true blessing to me and my family... he was/is a giant to us all!"




Candace Silvers


Check out Candace's website at:



At last year's Memorabilia show in Birmingham we met Richard Le Parmentier, who portrayed Admiral Motti in Star Wars: A New Hope. Originally from the United States, Star Wars was Richard's third film after moving to Britain in 1974. Richard has appeared in over fifty films and TV shows.

He now lives in Bath, UK and works as a screenwriter. He is currently developing a comedy-drama series for the BBC and is busy writing a feature film.He actually approached us at the show after spotting our Phil Silvers T-shirts!

We spoke at great length and it was obvious from the outset Richard holds Phil in high esteem, a trait which seems to run through showbusiness on both sides of the Atlantic. Phil's humour and talent is far reaching and his influence is etched into the fabric of comedy. We are always astonished that people from all walks of the entertainment industry revere Phil as a comedy genius... I'm sure you'll all agree they show extremely good taste!

Check out Richard:




We recently made contact with Bob Hastings. Bob appeared in several episodes of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, most notably in TRANSFER as Sgt.Beecher. As a by-the-book soldier Sgt.Baycher became a bigger thorn in Colonel Hall's side than Bilko ever was!


"I had to learn pages of dialogue and regulations just to get it right." said Bob. "Eddie Montagne was my closest, dearest friend and it was his idea to have me play Baycher! I worked with Eddie on MCHALE'S NAVY too!"


Bob's other credits include CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?, THE MUNSTERS, BATMAN, HOGAN'S HEROES, THE ODD COUPLE, ALL IN THE FAMILY, QUINCY & THE INCREDIBLE HULK to name but a few. He still recalls his time on BILKO with great affection and had this to say..."I did a few BILKO shows but I did one in particular where I replaced Phil. Everytime the Colonel asked me to do something I would come back with a regulation as to why I couldn't do it! Of all the shows I have done, and I have done quite a few...MCHALE'S NAVY, HOGAN'S HEROES and the could replace anybody. But you couldn't replace Phil. There's nobody like Phil. He was the greatest!"


Bob Hastings

April 2009



Larry Storch is perhaps best remembered for his role as Corporal Agarn in the popular 1960's comedy F-TROOP. Larry has appeared in countless TV shows over the years including YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, THE LARRY STORCH SHOW, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, GARRISON'S GORILLAS, GOMER PYLE USC, THE PERSUADERS etc. He also appeared in two episodes of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW - BILKO'S BOPSTER and BILKO JOINS THE NAVY.


Larry wanted me to pass on this message:


"I just want to say hi to all the Phil Silvers fans! He was just one of the great comics of all-time. He was up there with the greatest...I mean comics like Jack Benny and Jackie Gleason! I adored him and he was a joy to work with!"


Larry is 86 now and living happily in retirement in New York.


"These days I take life easy. I play my saxophone, go to dinner, take in a few shows and that's pretty much the way I like it!"


Larry Storch

April 2009


Get Fell-in! Following a great day at the Autographica event in Birmingham, check out our updates in the FEATURES section.

Interviews with George Kennedy and Martine Beswicke just added!

There will be more to follow....with memories from Phil's MAD WORLD co-star Mickey Rooney, close friend Ernest Borgnine and more recollections of his BILKO days from Oscar-winning actor George Kennedy!



This message just arrived from Iren regarding the PHIL SILVERS STAMP ceremony.....

Tentative plans call for The Early TV Memories stamp ceremony to be held at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre, 5230 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601-3109 on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 10.30 a.m.

Iren Koster


A big 'thank you' to everyone who has expressed an interest in the limited run Society T-shirts.We now have enough orders to proceed and will contact all who have ordered shortly.In the meantime if any new members would like to place a T-shirt order please contact us at the e-mail addresses at the bottom of the page.



We're pleased to report recruits to our Phil Silvers Facebook group have trebled since the launch of the 'new-look' website! So a big thank you to everyone for your loyal support. We have arranged some special Phil Silvers goodies for the 300th member, so start spreading the word! At this rate we'll hit 500 in no time, and remember the more activity we have on both sites, the better chance of getting Bilko back on our TV screens...

And don't forget to check out Mick's latest videos, dear Billy Sands in The Munster's Revenge and Steve and Mick's appearance on Comic Relief way back in 1989... perhaps it's about time we organised another 24 hour Bilkothon?


It is always a pleasure to welcome aboard new members, and even more exciting when they have a personal story to tell! One of our new recruits Michael Townsend Wright was very lucky to see Phil performing live on Broadway in 1972.

As many will know Phil just loved performing on stage, and after Forum closed in the US he made a remarkable recovery and toured his beloved England with a new production alongside seasoned veterans Arnold Ridley (Dads Army) and Trevor Jones.

Here is Michael's short message posted on the Facebook group:

I had the privilege of seeing Phil Silvers on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1972, shortly before his illness. He was wonderful; full of energy and theatrical magic on the stage. The opening number, Comedy Tonight, is happily imbedded in my memory. Although relatively young (very relatively!), I was Joey Faye's final sketch partner for about six years and I would often reflect upon Phil and Joey's days together with Minsky.

Michael Townsend Wright


Please join us in wishing Phil a very Happy Birthday for 11 May. It was on this day in 1911, 98 years ago, little Philip Silver was born into a family of 10 children at 417 Pennslyvania Avenue, Brownsville the roughest of Brooklyn's Jewish ghettos. From such humble beginings who would have thought that Phil would eventually go on to become one of the world's best-loved entertainers? From his initial discovery by Gus Edwards at Coney Island to Vaudeville, Burlesque, Broadway, USO tours (With Frank Sinatra), Radio, Hollywood, Television and ultimately worldwide acclaim as Master Sergeant Ernest G Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show, arguably one of the greatest television comedies of all time!


The late Red Buttons delivered a moving eulogy at Phil's funeral in 1985 and again in 2000 at the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. Red theorized Phil just wasn't around long enough.' 'If Phil had been able to catch another 20 years in the business, which most of the guys seemed to be doing - Milton Berle, 93, Henry Youngman, 91, George Burns, a big number - he would have been royalty.'


And now as the 100th anniversary approaches one thing is for sure...the legacy that Phil gave us grows in importance and stature with each passing year. His influence on generations of comics and performers is without question. His contribution to the entertainment industry and particularly television is immeasurable. Phil you were a Top Banana and in the words of Red Buttons "If you're a comedian what else is there to aspire to?" Happy Birthday Phil! 




Actor Bruce Kimmel is another famous new recruit to the Phil Silvers Facebook Group. Mr Kimmel has enjoyed a long and varied Hollywood career. He wrote, directed and starred in the cult movie hit, The First Nudie Musical. He performed those same duties on his second film The Creature Wasn't Nice (aka Naked Space), with Leslie Nielsen, Cindy Williams and Patrick Macnee. He also co-created the story for the hit film, The Faculty, directed by Robert Rodriguez.


As an actor, Mr. Kimmel has guest-starred on most of the long-running television shows of the Seventies, including Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Partridge Family, The Donny and Marie Show and many others. Here is Bruce's recollection of working on the much maligned 1979 movie Racquet and his chance meeting with Phil.


"I loved Phil and I loved Bilko. I went to school with Mike Lembeck and was quite close with Harvey and Co. And I remember that as a teen, I was on one of my first dates, trying to find a party in Beverly Hills (walking, of course) and being quite hopelessly lost, and seeing a man in front of his house. I went up to ask him directions, and it was Phil Silvers! He gave them to me with kindness and humor! Years later we appeared in a horrible, horrible film together (although we didn't share any scenes) It was quite sad that he had to take part in that debacle, but there were several oldies but goodies in the film. He and Jack Benny were my faves. The film was the God awful Racquet. It had the dubious distinction of being the first film of Tanya Roberts. Bert Convy was in it, and Bjorn Borg and Linda Day George and Edie Adams (her scenes were with Phil if I'm remembering correctly - I've only seen it once). I did it as a favor to the director, with whom I'd worked before, David Winters. The story about Phil giving directions really was funny to me. I approached him (I think I was all of fourteen) on Palm Drive and he turned around and I realized immediately who he was (how could you not!) and I just gawked like an idiot and said "I know who you are" and he said that was great but that info wouldn't help me find the address I was looking for! I laughed and laughed and he just did his Phil looks and was wonderful!".






We are thrilled to announce that Phil's page on YouTube has now received over 100,000 hits. This is absolutely phenomenal and a true testament to the legacy of Phil Silvers!

We thank you for your support. If you haven't paid a visit to the page yet simply click on the link





Dick Van Dyke is currently writing his memoirs with a release set for 2010! The 83 year old actor and comedian - known for The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - will write about his lengthy career in the book.


Among Dick's early television appearances were two episodes of The Phil Silvers Show - Hillbilly Whiz and Bilko's Cousin. During the 1960's and early 1970's Dick established himself as one of the world's most popular film and television stars. More recently Dick has starred in the phenomenally successful TV series Diagnosis Murder as Dr. Mark Sloane and enjoyed renewed movie success in the smash-hit Ben Stiller movie Night At The Museum (2006).






It has been well documented that Phil Silvers had a hand in writing Frank Sinatra's smash-hit song Nancy With The Laughing Face. Phil was solely responsible for writing the lyrics to the song, later collaborating with Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke. Here is a short piece by Examiner and Sinatra writer Rick Busciglio explaining the origins of the song.


The authorship of the Sinatra classic 'Nancy With The Laughing Face' is discussed/covered at great lengths on both the internet and in several books covering the tunes of the great American songbook. In every case they mostly have it wrong. Here is my personal story:


In 1979 I was working with songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen on a TV special with Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope that was never produced. Jimmy told me that one day (circa 1942) he and his lyricist Johnny Burke were working at 20th Century Fox composing for a film. While Burke was out of their writers bungalow, Phil Silvers, the comedian, a friend to both, entered and suggested to Jimmy that they write a song for Johnny's wife, Bessie, who was soon to celebrate a birthday. Silvers provided the lyrics, later revised by Van Heusen and Burke.


At the party they sang 'Bessie With A Laughing Face'. It was such a hit that they used it at other female birthday events. When they sang it as 'Nancy...With The Laughing Face' at little Nancy Sinatra's birthday party, Frank broke down and cried, thinking that it was written specially for his daughter - the trio wisely didn't correct him. Jimmy assigned his royalties to Nancy after Frank recorded it for Columbia."


Click on the link below to hear Rick discuss the origins of the song.....




Benny Hill’s ‘Fred Scuttle’ beret and glasses are to go under the auctioneer’s hammer next month. The memorabilia is to be sold by Aldridge & Son auction house in Devizes on August 15 along with a fan letter Hill sent from Bilko star Phil Silvers. The Silvers connection extends further as comedy legend Joey Bishop (Top Banana, The Court Martial) collaborated with Benny Hill on his 1991 TV special.


Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: "The beret and glasses are probably the most recognisable props used by Benny Hill and Fred Scuttle was his most famous character." Mr Aldridge said of the Phil Silvers letter: "It shows just how well-liked Benny Hill was across the Atlantic."


The beret, which has a label inside which reads 'British Fez Company, Berets Knitted and Lined 1953', has an estimate of between £700 to £1,000.


The value of the wire spectacles is also up to £1,000 and the Phil Silvers letter has an estimate of between £500 to £600.


One also imagines how much Phil's letter will ultimately fetch. There seems to be an abundance of dedicated Phil Silvers autographs available, but a hand written letter from one comedy legend to another is quite rare. The Society will watch this auction with great interest!




Carl Reiner, June Lockhart, Barbara Hale and Tracey Silvers among celebs at dedication ceremony Tuesday in NoHo.


The U.S. Postal Service will hold a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the 44-cent "Early TV Memories" series of first-class commemorative stamps at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11 at Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 5230 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91605.


Participants at the event will include Carl Reiner, director, producer, writer and actor; Jayne Meadows Allen, actress (Steve Allen's wife); John Shaffner, chairman, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; James Miller, III, U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors member attendees; June Lockhart (Timmy's mother Ruth Martin of "Lassie"); Lassie; Barbara Hale (Della Street of "Perry Mason"); Ozzie and Harriet's granddaughter Tracy Nelson (actress); Groucho Marx's son Arthur Marx; Jack Webb's wife Opal; William ("Hopalong Cassidy") Boyd's wife Grace Bradley Boyd; Milton Berle's wife Lorna Berle; Clayton ("The Lone Ranger") Moore's daughter Dawn Moore; Phil Silvers' daughter Tracey Silvers; William Talman's ("Perry Mason" District Attorney) son, actor Tim Talman; Steve Allen's son Bill Allen; and Red Skelton's wife Lothian Skelton.


The Early TV Memories programs commemorated in the 20-stamp set include: "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet"; "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" The Dinah Shore Show"; "Dragnet"; "The Ed Sullivan Show"; "The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show"; "Hopalong Cassidy"; "The Honeymooners"; "Howdy Doody"; "I Love Lucy"; "Kukla, Fran and Ollie"; "Lassie"; "The Lone Ranger"; "Perry Mason"; "The Phil Silvers Show"; "The Red Skelton Show"; "Texaco Star Theater"; "The Tonight Show"; "Twilight Zone"; and "You Bet Your Life."


Some of the memorabilia on display will include The Lone Ranger silver bullet and mask Clayton Moore wore for personal appearances; Howdy Doody; Buffalo Bob's tunic; and Groucho's "duck" from "You Bet Your Life."


Stamp Ceremony Update:


On August 11, 2009, in North Hollywood, California, the Postal Service™ issued the 44–cent, Early TV Memories commemorative stamps in 20 designs in a pane of 20 stamps, and a booklet of 20 premium stamped postal cards, designed by Carl T. Herrman of North Las Vegas, Nevada.


With these stamps, the U.S. Postal Service® commemorates 20 great shows from TV’s golden age. For more than half a century, Americans have turned to television for entertainment and information. To those watching in its early days, TV offered the additional excitement of the new. Whether laughing at the first situation comedies, tingling at crime dramas, or identifying with ordinary people who had their day in the spotlight on game shows, audiences were charmed by the novelty of the young medium.


The Phil Silvers Show Review:


This subversive comedy, set at a fictional army base in Kansas, made a hero of conniving Army Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko, a con man who flourished even in the confines of the military. With a highly developed sense of irony and acerbic wit that kept his essential decency hidden, Bilko (Phil Silvers) saw through the American dream.




Phil's letter to Benny Hill dated 6 December 1979 goes under the hammer tomorrow 15 August. Estimate is between £500-600. Here is a transcript of the actual letter:


My Dear Mr Hill,


I have no idea of how or when you will receive this letter, but I am compelled to write to you and tell you how much I admire and enjoy your program shown here every night at 11.30pm. Los Angeles time.


I won't be coy and not acknowledge that mine is a well known name in America and more importantly in your country.


Most of my life I have been an incurable Anglophile and watching you and your funny family of performers have indeed increased my Anglophilia.


Every good wish and a sincere T.T.F.N.




Phil Silvers

'Sgt Bilko'





Larry Gelbart, who created the classic TV adaptation of Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H" and whose talented comedy writing stretched from the days of radio to cutting-edge cable shows, died at his home in Beverly Hills Friday morning. He was 81. He had been diagnosed with cancer in June, his wife Pat said to the Los Angeles Times.


Gelbart, the principal writer on "M*A*S*H" during the first four years of the hit series, was responsible for 97 segments of the show, one of TV's best and most literate comedies. He also directed some of the early episodes of this ground breaking series.


Beginning as a gag writer in days of radio and honing his comic craft for such talents as Jack Carson and Eddie Cantor. Gelbart was a versatile stylist who succeeded in various formats, including the stage. He went on to write gags for Bob Hope, Jack Paar, Red Buttons, Jack Carson, Joan Davis and Phil Silvers.


In 1953 he accepted Sid Caesar's offer of $1,000 a week to work for "Caesar's Hour," joining a legendary writing team that included Reiner, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. " He's the fastest of the fast, the wittiest man in the business," Brooks once said of him.


Gelbart won an Emmy with co-producer Gene Reynolds for "M*A*S*H" as well as three WGA Awards for the episodes he wrote. He picked up two Tonys for writing the books for the musicals "A Funny Thing Happened to the Way to the Forum" and "City of Angels." He collected six awards from the Writers Guild of America, including the Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement. And he earned two Oscar nominations for the screenplays for "Oh, God" and "Tootsie."



Obviously there are many connections with Phil, not only Forum and the recently screened Judy Garland Special, but he created the pilot episode of Bel Air Patrol in 1967. Phil starred as Eddie Skinner, a Bilkoesque patrol man in plush Bel Air. Sadly such a delicious premise didn't make the jump to a fully fledged series.


He is survived by his wife, their two children Adam and Becky, two stepchildren Gary and Paul Markowitz, six grandchildren and two great-grandchild.



So long Larry and God Bless.






It's two decades since they last shot a video together but Spandau Ballet proved they're back to their best. We know this much is true because we joined the middle-aged new romantics on the set of the promo for their new single, Once More.


Singer Tony Hadley's voice was as strong as ever as he belted out the tune yesterday. And studio staff looked on in delight as the 80s icons also ran through some of their classics. We arrived at the Air Studios in North London expecting to see some of the dressing room fireworks the band were once famous for. But instead the lads were doubled up in hysterics watching classic 50s comedy The Phil Silvers Show/Sergeant Bilko. Tony said: "You're probably too young but we love this. It helps us to chill out."


Well done Tony & Co! As the ole Sarge himself would've said, 'You show extreme good taste'! Perhaps a mention on any forthcoming tours might make those illusive and stubborn TV executives sit up and take notice!





Soupy Sales, who died on Oct. 22 at age 83, was born Milton Supman in Franklinton, N.C., where his father Irving was in the dry goods business. "The local Ku Klux Klan," Soupy told me, "had to come to this Jew to buy sheets." He gave credit to everyone and the KKK loved him for that. They even asked him to join them.


After Soupy's father died, his mother Sadie worked 12 hours a day in another southern shtetl, Huntington, W.Va., to put her three sons through school. One became a doctor, the other a lawyer, and Soupy the class terror?


After graduation from Marshall College in Huntington he went on years later to become the rising star of a 1960s television show where he made a career of throwing some 19,000 custard pies in the kisser of such victims as Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Jerry Lewis and many others who pleaded to be a target on the highly rated nonsensical children's show.


Soup, who saw himself as a straight man in a world full of kooks, told his life story - better than any obit writer could - in his book, "Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times."


Nipsey Russell, Kenny Kramer, Larry Storch and Vincent Pastore (Pussy of "The Sopranos") came to Soupy's book party at the Friars Club in 2001 where, instead of a pie in the eye, they hurled zany jokes in his direction.


Bernie Ilson, Soupy's publicist for 10 years from 1965, told me his client was the easiest to work with. "What you saw on the show was the same in real life," Ilson said. "Always on."


Soupy was hard working, getting up at 5 a.m. every weekday to prepare for a show that went live at 10 a.m.


Appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, Soupy asked the host, "Mind if I throw you a pie?" Sure, Sullivan said, then hesitantly asked, "What's in it?" He needn't worry. The pie was topped, as always, with shaving cream.


Mickey Freeman, who played Private Zimmerman on "The Phil Silvers Show" in the late '50s, reported at the Friars that Soupy's book was already in its third printing. "The first two were blurred." 


Mickey was on a roll, so he continued: "Soupy, your book saved my house. I had a card table with one short leg."


Soupy once told a story about a beer commercial he did. He had 30 seconds to open a bottle of beer before the shoot, but there was no bottle opener. In a panic he called out if anybody had one. A sophisticated gentleman walked up, put his wooden leg on the table and opened the beer bottle with an opener attached to his leg.


"It was a one-man operation," Ilson said. "He wrote, planned and performed all by himself. It wasn't just for children - adults loved the slapstick humor."


"A lot of people grew up watching me," he told The Times several years ago. "I'll probably be remembered for the pies, and that's all right. That's fine and dandy. I'm flattered."




In the following video Anita Harris recalls her time working on Carry On Follow That Camel with Phil Silvers and Kenneth Williams. The interviewer is Helen James and was recorded as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Carry On film series.


(Video is shown courtesy of Helen James & HELEN JAMES PRODUCTIONS LTD.)


Helen James has worked in the media industry for over 20 years. Helen has worked as a news reporter at GMTV and ITV Yorkshire. She has also worked as a presenter, entertainment correspondent and senior reporter at ITV Thames Valley.


"I am very excited to be now running my own video production company after 20 years working in TV news for the BBC and ITV." explains Helen. "We produce videos for a wide range of clients, from sole traders to multi-national companies."


Helen has interviewed many celebrities over the years including Sir Norman Wisdom, Daniel Craig, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon and Sir Michael Caine.



To see more of Helen's Carry On footage or celebrity interviews and films simply click on the link  below...



Helen's website can now be viewed by clicking the following link:





2009 has been a resounding success for The British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society. With over 18,200 hits we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported us, and more importantly Phil since it's launch in March. As a small gesture of our appreciation we are proud to offer to the first 26 recruits an authentic Phil Silvers Show promo glass slide! This slide dates from 1955 and measure 2 x 2". Glass Promo Slides were used for press kits for TV shows, each slide has a black frame and silver matte with image in the centre. Produced by the Craftsmen Photo Company, 245 West 55th Street, NYC, this little piece of Bilko history can be yours for the paltry price of postage and packing! Please email or and register your name for one of these slides! Be quick we only have 26, so it's 'first come first served'! An offer even Bilko couldn't turn down, and when they're gone, they're gone!




The British PHIL SILVERS Appreciation Society would sincerely like to thank Phil-fans everywhere for their support during the inception year of the BPSAS website. When the BPSAS first launched in 1985 we could not have imagined that we would still be here 24 years later. This website has finally given us the chance to create the tribute for Phil that we always envisioned. We will be adding new features, photos, videos and content in the forthcoming year and endeavour to make this a site worthy of the one and only Mr. Phil Silvers!


Our Facebook group membership has rocketed to almost 500 members and our page on YouTube has now received over 150,000 hits. This is just phenomenal and I know that Phil would be absolutely thrilled to know just how much his work is still appreciated around the world. 2011 will of course see the 100th Anniversary of Phil's birth and the BPSAS is hoping to organise an event to commemorate this occasion. News reaches us that there is a chance that The Phil Silvers Show may receive a Blue-Ray DVD release and we will of course keep you posted with any developments. And so from Steve, myself and Phil's family we would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Saluting Phil!






We have been informed that there is a chance that The Phil Silvers Show may be given a Blu-Ray DVD release. It is hoped that the release would include all four seasons as opposed to the paltry 18 episodes included on the 50th Anniversary DVD release. At this time we can only confirm that this is in the planning stages. 




The British PHIL SILVERS Appreciation Society will be attending this years MEMORABILIA event to be held at the Birmingham NEC on March 27th & 28th. Photographs, T-Shirts, Postcards, DVD's and a host of other memorabilia will be available to Phil-fans. Anyone wishing to attend the event is welcome to contact us for further details.





Two veteran TV comedy writers passed away last week:


Aaron Ruben, who worked on such shows as 'The Phil Silvers Show', 'The Andy Griffith Show,' 'Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.' and 'Sanford and Son,' and Barry Blitzer, who wrote for such series as 'Get Smart' and 'The Flintstones.' Ruben died Jan. 30 in Beverly Hills from complications of pneumonia, according to He was 95. Barry Blitzer died Jan. 27 in Santa Monica from complications after abdominal surgery. He was 80.


Ruben first entered the industry as a writer for radio comedies and segued to TV comedies in the 1950s, writing for Milton Berle and Sid Caesar, and making his directorial debut on 'The Phil Silvers Show.' He wrote and produced 'The Andy Griffith Show' for five seasons in the 1960s and served as executive producer for 'Gomer Pyle' before working as one of the original producers of 'Sanford and Son' in the 1970s.


Ruben was a longtime advocate for troubled children and was awarded the Writers Guild's Valentine Davies award in 2003 for his volunteer work. He is survived by his wife, actress Maureen Arthur.


Blitzer's long career -- he was the last surviving member of the group of writers who shared a 1956 Best Comedy Writing Emmy for 'The Phil Silvers Show', according to Variety -- included writing stints on episodes of 'The Love Boat,' 'Land of the Lost,' 'The Jetsons,' 'Get Smart,' 'Too Close for Comfort,' 'McHale's Navy,' 'Good Times' and 'The Jetsons.' He was also a major contributor to the Top Cat series which owed more than a passing nod to Sgt. Bilko.  


Blitzer is survived by his wife, Elsie, a daughter and a sister.


Another two Bilko veterans now gone ~ our thoughts are with their friends and families. Goodbye Aaron and Barry ~ and thanks for the memories.




News from Hollywood that Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal are set to star in the new film adaptation of  Damn Yankees. The original Broadway musical debuted in 1955 and numerous productions have followed over the years, including a West End production in 1957. The musical was revived with great success on Broadway in 1994, the show then transferred to the West End in 1997.


Former Happy Days' writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel are set to write the script. The musical will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron for New Line. The duo were behind New Line's other musical success, Hairspray.


Jake Gyllenhall will play Joe Boyd, a married middle-aged man whose love of a loser baseball team makes him do a deal with the devil, Mr Applegate (Jim Carrey). The devil then transforms him into a slugger to help his team win the World Series.


A television film of the musical was produced in 1967 and featured Phil Silvers as Mr. Applegate. Previous incarnations of Mr.Applegate have been played by Ray Walston, Bill Kerr, Vincent Price, Van Johnson and Victor Garber and Jerry Lewis. Lewis played Mr.Applegate in both the Broadway and West End productions of Damn Yankees.


No casting details have yet been announced for the female role of Lola. Previous incarnations were played by Gwen Verdon, Elizabeth Seal, Lee Remick and Bebe Neuwrith.


The film is to be directed by Bandslam helmer Todd Graff for New Line Cinema.


No details have been announced as to a release date. 




We are pleased to report that membership of The British PHIL SILVERS

Appreciation Society on Facebook has now reached 500 members.


It's your chance to talk about Phil Silvers, leave comments or open discussions.


There are regular updates, a terrific video and photo gallery and the chance to hook-up with Phil-fans the world over.








The BPSAS display and sales stall at the March 27/28 event held at the NEC in Birmingham was a resounding success. Steve and I would like to thank the numerous Phil-fans who visited the display and spent their time chatting and sharing their thoughts on Phil Silvers. We met many interesting people over the weekend including one young lady who has recently discovered that she is related to Phil. She is currently researching her family tree and we hope to bring you an update on her story as soon as possible.


As well as a small display of our Phil Silvers memorabilia collection we had a sales stall selling such items as DVD's, T-Shirts, Key-rings, Stills, Autographs and assorted memorabilia. We are pleased to announce that we will shortly be launching a sales page on the website.


The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly the several chats we had with Anita Harris. Anita of course co-starred with Phil in Follow That Camel in 1967. Anita was absolutely delightful. Warm, charming and very friendly and she could not enthuse enough about the time she spent working with Phil. Anita has very kindly agreed to give us an interview for the website.


Following the success of our first appearance at Memorabilia we are pleased to announce that we will be attending and displaying at the Memorabilia event to be held in November at the NEC in Birmingham. We will announce full details nearer to the event itself.





April 26, 2010 - It is thirteen years, to this very day that Burlesque legend Joey Faye passed away at the age of 87. Joey's career spanned almost 70 years and covered theatre, radio, films and television. As well as being a talented performer, Joey is also recognized as being the author of numerous Vaudeville and Burlesque sketches including Slowly I Turn and Floogle Street.


Joey was born Joseph Antony Palladino in New York's Greenwich Village, on 12 July 1909.He got his start in show business by appearing in 'amateur night' contests at various New York City movie theatres. He later took a job as a social director in a series of hotels up in the Catskills Borscht Belt Region, which led to a job at Minsky's burlesque in New York. He adopted the Faye surname whilst working with best school chum Bobby Faye, brother of Herbie Faye. During WWII he served in the USO entertaining the troupes in Europe with Marlene Dietrich, following the 82nd Airborne, with General George S.Patton.


Joey's first legitimate stage role came in 1937 when he appeared in the national touring company of 'Room Service, playing  the  Harpo Marx role , and his Broadway debut was in Sing Out the News in 1939.  He played Banjo, in  another Harpo Marx vehicle with the National Touring Company of The Man Who Came to Dinner starring Clifton Webb in 1940. On radio he was a regular writer and performer on the Kate Smith and Bert Lahr Shows.On Broadway he appeared in dozens of shows, particularly working for George Abbott in a half dozen Broadway hits, He also played himself in Lindsay and Crouse's Strip for Action' (1942), Little Me (1962) and in two shows opposite Phil Silvers, High Button Shoes (1947) and Top Banana (1951). In Man Of La Mancha (1966) he appeared as Sancho Panza.


Aside from early cinema studio shorts, Vitaphone and Soundies, Joey appeared in dozens of movies from 1948 through to the 1970s, playing  the comic relief  to such stars as, John Wayne, Cary Grant , Gary Cooper, and Frank Sinatra. He was the Dancing Green Grapes in The Fruit of the Loom commercials in the most successful  advertising campaign in American history. The commercials lasted 15 years, also in that campaign with Joey was The Lion King's Sam Wright, Harry Goz, and academy award winner F. Murray Abraham.


In 1959 he was asked  to play Estragon, in Samuel Beckett's  Waiting For Godot with good friend and Burlesque partner Jack Albertson. He credits Albertson  for guiding him into receiving the Los Angeles Critics Association's , Best Actor Award.  Later, he and Tom Ewell  would shine in their  performances as Didi and Gogo in the NYC , Sheridan Square production, 1971 directed by Alan Schneider.


Joey had the honorable distinction to have played in  a Command Performance at the White House for Lyndon B. Johnson in "Guys and Dolls".


A true pioneer in early television, he had his own show , "The Joey Faye Frolics", and a game show with Mike Wallace, Guess Again. He  made dozens of TV appearances including PERRY MASON, THE DETECTIVES, 77 SUNSET STRIP, CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? and THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW. Most notably he appeared in what is considered to be the most memorable episode of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW...THE COURT MARTIAL (Harry Speakup's keeper!). His final TV appearance came in BENNY HILL AROUND THE WORLD: NEW YORK in 1991. 


Writer, Producer and Director Carol Bradshaw remembers Joey Faye  


Joey had a long and very illustrious career, being a beacon to other performers who would always seek out his advice. He made a seamless transition in all phases of show business and through all genres of entertaining.  He worked with the best and the best would ask for him including Samuel Beckett, as well as, Charles Laughton and Lupino Lane. 


He made such an impact on comedy that he is known as the Inventor of Stand Up and The Boswell of Burlesque.  He wrote for Ernest Truex, Walter Hampden, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and  Sally Marr as well as her son Lenny Bruce.


Joey Faye was never a household name or a star, but he was for those who knew him in showbiz, and they all knew him ! Charlie Chaplin, Harpo Marx and Buster Keaton , loved him. Harry Gribbon teamed up with him!


When he died he was given a Memorial Tribute on Broadway , at the site of Minsky's Old Republic Theatre, starring Tony Randall, Milton Berle, Al Lewis, Henny Youngman, Nanette Fabray, Sondra Lee, Betty Garrett, Sherry Britton, Rose Marie, Harry Goz, and many others.  It was a packed house of young and old.


He was my dear friend and he will be remembered while I have breath in my body to Sing Out the News about The Boswell of Burlesque who even Fiorello La Guardia couldn't keep down!



Carol Bradshaw April 26, 2010






Some great news from fellow member Dave Thompson regarding the long awaited and much anticipated release of the entire first season of The Phil Silvers Show on DVD. Here is the official press release courtesy of : 


This classic TV gem follows the fast-paced antics of Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Phil Silvers) as he attempts to swindle, bluff and flatter his platoon and his fellow comrades at the Ft. Baxter Army Post in the wilds of Kansas. The camp is supposedly run by Colonel Hall, but it's Bilko that calls the shots! Along with the other sergeants from the mess hall, Bilko is continually at war with Colonel Hall, who is desperately trying to put a stop to the gambling Bilko is running.


For the first time ever on DVD, relive the entire hilarious, Emmy award-winning first season of Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show. Phil Silvers as Sgt. Bilko is one of the most identifiable comic actor/TV personas from classic comedy television!


This 5-disc collection contains an army supply of special features, including the original live pilot, audio commentaries, cast commercials, original openings, a "Lucy Show" episode featuring Phil Silvers, and all 34 gut-busting episodes which have been remastered for optimal picture quality.


Back in 2006 CBS/Paramount released a 3-disc "50th Anniversary Edition" with 18 classic episodes...but today the studio has announced that Sergeant Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show - The 1st Season will come to DVD on July 27th. This new 5-disc set contains the extras described in the studio description above; note that the participants for the Audio Commentaries include George Kennedy and Allan Melvin, the episode of The Lucy Show is "Lucy and the Efficiency Expert", and the commercials include 2 from Camel and one from Pontiac (per studio-provided info). Pricing isn't available yet. Video is full screen, audio is English mono, closed captioning is included, and the run time provided is 882 minutes (timing may be subject to correction). Here's an early (small, low-res) look at the front box art for this long-awaited set, but it may not represent the final version of the cover. 


Not quite the return to Primetime television we were all hoping for but fantastic news indeed for Bilko junkies who need their daily fix of life at Fort Baxter!! More news updates to follow including the UK release date.





I had a wonderful chat with Mickey and he asked me to tell you that "Zimmerman is alive, well and still knocking out the jokes!". Mickey still performs his stand-up comedy routine across the United States. "I'm still enjoying myself and as long as the audiences will listen I'll be there!".


Ever the comedian,  Mickey asked me to relate this joke to you.....


A man has heart attack and has open heart bypass surgery. He wakes up to find himself in the care of a nun at a Catholic Hospital.


As he is recovering, the nun asks how he is going to pay for his treatment. She asks if he has health insurance.


"No health insurance." he says.


She asks if he has money in the bank.


"No money in the bank." he says.


"Do you have a relative who could help you?"  she says.


"I only have a spinster sister, who is a nun." he says.


The nun says "Your sister is not a spinster! She is married to God."


"Send the bill to my Brother-in-law." says the man!


Mickey was recently the subject of a Roast at the New York Friars Club. "It was a great night." said Mickey. "One of their biggest turn outs in years! Boy what a night!"


He was thrilled to hear about the July release of season one of The Phil Silvers Show onto DVD. "I have the three disc set they put out a few years ago. It's nice but this news about a new release is just great. I can't wait...".


Mickey asked me to pass on this message to you...


"Tell everyone I'm so touched they still think of old Zimmerman. I never imagined I would still be talking about the show so many years after we made it. Tell the fans you spoke to Mickey and that I'm the only platoon member left alive! You know, for a non-combatant unit we have a high mortality rate!"





Further to the exciting news that Season 1 of The Phil Silvers Show is coming to DVD on July 27th, US-based, longtime member Dave Thompson has posted more info re the up-coming release.


The latest information from Paramount Home Video is reproduced below: 


Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show - Season 1  (1955)


Starring: Phil Silvers, Allan Melvin, Jimmy Little, Harry Clark, Michael Dreyfuss, Harvey Lembeck, Herbie Faye, Paul Ford, Maurice Gosfield, Karl Lukas, Billy Sands, P. Jay Sidney, George Kennedy

Director: Al De Caprio

Genre: Television, Comedy, Military/War

Year: 1955

Studio: Paramount Home Video

Length:             850 minutes

Release Date: July 27, 2010


Format: DVD

Misc:NTSC, Full Screen, Black & White

Language:English(Original Language)




This classic TV gem follows the fast-paced antics of Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Phil Silvers) as he attempts to swindle, bluff and flatter his platoon and his fellow comrades at the Ft. Baxter Army Post, in the wilds of Kansas.


The camp is supposedly run by Colonel Hall, but it's Bilko that calls the shots! Along with the other sergeants from the mess hall; Signals and Supply, Bilko is continually at war with Colonel Hall, who is desperately trying to put a stop to the gambling Bilko is running.




    * Commentary by Allan Melvin

    * The Lost Audition Show

    * Commentary by George Kennedy

    * Original Network Opening

    * Lucy and the Efficiency Expert

    * Camel Commercials

    * 1959 Pontiac Commercial 


As yet there are no details as to the disc layouts but as soon as they are released we will post them. There is also no news as to the possible UK release date. With the exception of the inclusion of Lucy and The Efficiency Expert all the extras are taken from the previous released 50th anniversary boxed set. Seasons Two, Three and Four are reportedly set for release dependent upon the success of the July 27th release of Season One.





On this day May 11th 2010, the anniversary of Phil's 99th birthday let us pause, reflect, honour and celebrate the life and times of one of the 20th Century's greatest ever comedy performers, and just as importantly pay tribute to a warm, considerate and loving father and perfect gentleman.


We all continue to admire Phil for his lifetime in comedy and his ability to bring joy and laughter to millions but let us not forget how generous Phil was both as a performer and father. In our 25 years of running the Society ~ countless interviews with Phil's friends and family stand testament to how kind and thoughful Phil was to others.


His kindness can be best summed up by his close friend Leo DeLyon at Phil's funeral in 1985: 


'In the end I did get up' he recalled, 'and what I got into was how everyone had been talking about what a brilliant stage performer and comedian he was. Both those things are true.  But I told them how I had worked with a large number of 'high profile' celebrities, but never with anyone who was as humane and as considerate to other people. Phil was an actor who, if things went wrong, would never ever take it out on you. I thought I would cry, which was another reason I was afraid to get up and speak. I didn't cry, although I was overcome with emotion. I miss him, when I'm reminded of these things. Like now I miss him. For want of a better word, he was a gentleman.'


And nearly 25 years on and we all miss Phil as much as ever. Indeed the world is a sadder place but at the very least, with the flick of a remote we all have the ability to bring Phil back into our lives... priceless moments to be savoured and enjoyed!


Perhaps with the imminent release of the first season of The Phil Silvers Show onto DVD some 'forward thinking' TV Exec will have the vision to bring Bilko back to primetime television, where he belongs!  



Happy Birthday Phil and thanks for the memories!




Steve & Mick and all at the BPSAS


11 May 2010






Viacom have confirmed that Season One of The Phil Silvers Show will be released on DVD (Region 1) through the Paramount Home Entertainment Division on July 27th in the US.


Viacom have emailed me with the following "Further to our previous email - Season One of The Phil Silvers Show is scheduled to be released in July.  Wth regard to the UK release, the current schedule now says September."


OK so we have to wait a couple of months but at it'll be worth the wait!


More news on any developments will follow shortly...





Unless you've been living in a cave most Phil-fans out there will be aware by now that Paramount Home Entertainment are due to release the first season of The Phil Silvers Show onto DVD on July 27th of 2010!


A five disc set of the complete first season along with a set of extras which include commentaries by Allan Melvin and George Kennedy (taken from the 2006 50th anniversary DVD release), the original pilot plus Phil's appearance on The Lucy Show (Lucy & The Efficiency Expert) from 1966.


UK-based fans will have to wait until September (date tbc) for a Region 2 release. However, US Bilko fans along with any Bilko completists out there who wish to order a Region One box set may do so by simply clicking on the link below and completing a pre-order with AMAZON. 




The greatest military con man is ready to report to duty in a season set when Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show, The First Season is released on July 27. Four years ago fans were teased with Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show - 50th Anniversary Edition. Fans wanted more than a sampler of 18 of the 143 episodes. Now finally it is here. Sgt. Bilko (Phil Silvers) runs his unit like a rigged card game. He’s a hustler in uniform with more schemes than the Pentagon. The four seasons of Sgt Bilko are considered the cream of military comedy. Here is the press release from CBS DVD:


HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (May 20, 2010) – Television’s most beloved conman and celebrated comedic character, Sergeant Bilko, returns to finagle his way into fans’ hearts when the Emmy® award-winning series SERGEANT BILKO: THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, The First Season makes its debut on DVD July 27 from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.


Created by Nat Hiken (Car 54, Where Are You?), SERGEANT BILKO: THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW won three consecutive Emmy® awards for Best Comedy Series and launched the character of Army Sergeant Ernie Bilko, portrayed by Emmy®-award-winning star Phil Silvers (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), into television history. Fort Baxter sets the scene for the hilarious antics of Sergeant Bilko as he attempts to swindle, bluff and flatter his platoon and fellow comrades in his hilarious attempts to get rich quick. Commanding big laughs, SERGEANT BILKO: THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW co-stars Allan Melvin (All In The Family), Harvey Lembeck (Beach Party), Paul Ford (The Music Man) and Herbie Faye (The Dick Van Dyke Show).


SERGEANT BILKO: THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, The First Season is a five-disc set featuring all 34 episodes from the premiere season beautifully remastered for optimal picture quality. Available for the suggested retail price of $42.99 US and $47.99 CAN, the set also includes audio commentaries, the original lost audition show, an episode of The Lucy Show featuring Phil Silvers as a guest star and cast commercials.


SERGEANT BILKO: THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, The First Season five-disc set is presented in full screen with English Mono. The DVD is not rated. The total running time is approximately 14 hours and 42 minutes. The DVD disc breakdown is as follows:



Disc One:

* New Recruits (Commentary by Allan Melvin)

* The Empty Store

* The WAC

* The Horse

* A.W.O.L.

* The Boxer

* Special Feature:

o The Lost Audition Show – Rarely seen, live audition show that was never broadcast


Disc Two:

* The Hoodlum

* Mardi Gras

* The Eating Contest

* The Centennial

* Bivouac

* The Singing Contest

* The Twitch

* Special Features:

o Original Network Opening

o Original Cast Commercials


Disc Three:

* The Reunion

* The Rich Kid

* Hollywood

* The Investigation

* Kids In The Trailer

* The Revolutionary War

* The Transfer


Disc Four:

* The Rest Cure

* Dinner At Sowici’s

* Army Memoirs

* Miss America

* The Court Martial (Commentary by George Kennedy)

* Furlough In New York

* The Big Uranium Strike


Disc Five:

* Bilko and the Beast

* The Physical Check-Up

* The Recruiting Sergeant

* Hair

* The Con Men

* Bilko on Wall Street

* Special Feature:

o Lucy and the Efficiency Expert – Classic Episode from the fifth season of The Lucy Show where Phil Silvers hilariously guest stars as an efficiency expert who takes over Lucy’s office



(Courtesy Inside Pulse Movies) 





Viacom have emailed us to confirm that season one of The Phil Silvers Show is due for release in the UK on September 6, 2010. It is expected to retail at £17.99 although this price may vary dependant on the retailer.







I had the great pleasure of speaking with Billie Allen this evening (June 4th 2010). Billie of course played the part of WAC Billie on The Phil Silvers Show.


Billie is now aged 85 and lives in New York. She studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York and was a founding member of  Frank Silvera Writers Workshop in New York. She has enjoyed a distinguished career both on stage and TV and she has also enjoyed great success as a director of several stage productions including Home and The Brothers.


Billie has very kindly agreed to share her memories of her time on The Phil Silvers Show as well as her life and career which we will be posting shortly on the ROLL CALL section. In the meantime Billie asked me to pass on this message:


"I'm so thrilled and happy that the show is still remembered so many years later. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a groundbreaking show and it helped me so much in developing as a performer and also in shaping my career as an actress and a director. We had such fun. I'm thrilled that people still remember the show. I still remember how fast and funny it all seemed...Phil and the boys and all those wonderful antics!"





Sir Alan Ayckbourn has become the first playwright ever to receive two of the highest accolades available in the world of theatre. Having received the Olivier special award in 2009, last week he was presented with the Tony special award for lifetime achievement.


Accepting the 'Tony' in New York, Sir Alan said: "Coming, as it does, after last year's Olivier Award - which is the British equivalent of the Tony - it's a wonderful double. It's just thrilling. This one was more surprising because, of course, in England my plays are so widely known but here they've probably had less exposure than they have in London. But nonetheless they've had wonderful people supporting them. There's so many people to thank it's just impossible.


"I probably want to thank, most of all, Phil Silvers - the wonderful Sergeant Bilko, who actually did my first Broadway show (How The Other Half Loves in 1971 at the Royale Theatre) and he was directed by the wonderful man Gene Saks, who became a lifelong friend."


During his acceptance speech, Sir Alan also thanked Lynne Meadow of the Manhattan Theatre Club, and Elysabeth Kleinhans and Peter Tear of 59E59 Theatres for supporting his plays in New York. Despite having stepped down as artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Sir Alan shows no signs of reducing his workload.


He is about to go into rehearsals for the revival of his 1994 comedy thriller, Communicating Doors, which shows from August. After that he will go straight into rehearsals for the September world premiere of Life of Riley. With plans already under way for a 75th play in 2011, retirement seems to be the one word that isn't in Sir Alan's vocabulary.


(Courtesy Scarborough Evening News)






Season One of The Phil Silvers Show received its official launch in the United States today, 27th July, 2010.


The following article comes from writer Rich Heldenfels:

‘Sgt. Bilko’ commands big laughs once again


A classic ’50s sitcom went through a dizzying series of name changes. But many of you will smile if I just say ”Bilko.”


Phil Silvers played Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko in one of the funniest TV comedies ever from 1955 to 1959. Bilko was, as his name implied, a con man, always scheming to avoid work and make money while stationed on a Kansas military base. Silvers, known mainly for sidekick roles in movies, brought his considerable energy — and a big wink — to his performance, not to mention rapid-fire pacing that forced all the supporting players to move fast or get run over by Silvers. I discovered the show in reruns when I was a child and loved it; felt the same way when it reappeared from time to time on cable, and still delighted when watching a new DVD release of the first season.


Now, about that name: It had begun on CBS as You’ll Never Get Rich. But when it hit with audiences, and it was clear that Silvers was the main attraction, the main name was changed to The Phil Silvers Show (with You’ll Never Get Rich as the subtitle). Then, when the reruns aired in syndication, the show was called Sgt. Bilko — and for people like me, who mainly knew the reruns, that was the name we remembered. Since the reruns went on much longer than the original series, the new DVD doubles up, as Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show: Season One (CBS/Paramount, 34 episodes, five discs, $42.99). It’s in stores Tuesday.


The DVD has some extras, including an old audition show for the series with a slightly different cast. Also on view are the old network opening which mentions the cigarette-company sponsor, and cigarette ads with cast members. (With both extras, the DVD warns that it does not recommend smoking.)


Allan Melvin, who played Cpl. Henshaw (and died in 2008), provides audio commentary on one episode; you may also remember him as Sam the butcher on The Brady Bunch. George Kennedy, who also worked on the show, comments on another episode, and his is especially amusing. And there’s an add-on of a 1966 Lucy Show episode with Silvers as the guest star.


Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show - Season One is released in the UK on September 6, 2010.




BPSAS member and long-time Phil Silvers fan Doug Krentzlin has just posted a superb review of The Empty Store, which surely rates as the first 'true-classic' episode of The Phil Silvers Show.


Doug is a professional freelance writer, guest lecturer and actor living in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his cats, Buffy and Angel. Doug covers the classics of television, including comedies, dramas, mysteries, thrillers, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, animation and literary adaptations. He has also had articles published in the New York Post and Movie Maker Magazine.


To check out the article and to view more of Doug's writing click on the link below....






The legendary Mel Brooks, creator of such hits as The Producers and Blazing Saddles and recent recipient of a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, was once a lowly staff writer, working for the great Sid Caesar on Caesar's Hour. The year was 1958 and the show was up against The Phil Silvers Show for an Emmy.


The following article comes courtesy of TV Squad:


It's pretty tough to imagine that a writing staff that included Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart and Neil Simon would lose a writing award, but that was the case this year, when the writing crew of  Caesar's Hour, with those aforementioned writers, lost out for the best comedy writing Emmy to the staff of The Phil Silvers Show. And Brooks was apparently incredulous about the loss himself. In his 2004 autobiography 'Caesar's Hours,' Sid Caesar wrote, "Mel leapt onto his table and screamed, 'Coleman Jacoby and Arnie Rosen ('Phil Silvers Show' writers) won an Emmy and Mel Brooks didn't! That bullsh** writers can win the award and geniuses like us would be denied! Nietzsche was right! There is no God! There is no God!' It was pure Mel. He really did know how to punch up a scene."




On Friday 3rd September,  BBC Radio Scotland will be running a feature on Phil Silvers on the The Comedy Cafe programme.


The British PHIL SILVERS Appreciation Society have been invited to make a contribution to the show, hosted by Janice Forsyth.


The show will be broadcast from 1.15pm until 2.00pm. The show will also  be available on BBC I Player for one week following the broadcast. The BBC will provide a copy to the society which we will then feature in due course!





This superb review celebrating the UK DVD release of The Phil Silvers Show was published on the Herald Scotland website at the same time as the Comedy Cafe feature on BBC Radio Scotland. We feel it perfectly captures why we all love and admire Phil Silvers! Thanks Teddy!


If I could choose another life, if I could switch the random confluence of genetics and geography that made me an Ulster Prod by birth and a Scottish-based Spurs fans through peer influence and economics, I reckon I wouldn’t mind being Phil Silvers. It would be a toss-up involving him, Little Richard and Danny Blanchflower. But I suspect the man who played Sergeant Ernest Bilko would come out on top. I could put up with the hardscrabble New York upbringing and the poor health and clinical depression that blighted his later years if I knew I’d been in the best sitcom of all time. The Phil Silvers Show has just come out out on DVD. It is more than 50 years old now but it still sings, still makes me laugh like an asthmatic donkey with his family jewels caught in a vice. It is a perfect example of comic timing, ensemble acting and, best of all, a shining example of the superiority of Jewish-American humour.


From Jack Benny to the Coen Brothers, Jewish-American humour has been a thing of wit, intelligence (we’ll overlook Mel Brooks at this point) and a joyous debunking of stupidity and nastiness, or, in Benny’s glorious wartime movie To Be Or Not To Be, Naziness. And, yes, it also does pratfalls and double-takes and slapstick. Take the moment in the best ever episode of Phil Silvers in which a chimpanzee (Private Harry Speakup) is inducted into the army. As the recruitment line moves forward the army doctor examining the recruits’ feet is confronted with a chimp’s paws. After staring at them for long, long seconds, he turns round and cleans his glasses.


When I first saw the scene as teenager I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I still do. It’s the comic equivalent of a bottle of champagne, a bubbly giggle that for a moment makes you forget global warming, Tory economics and Simon Cowell. I can’t think of higher praise than that.


(Article courtesy Teddy Jamieson/Scotland Herald)




Bob Greenberg, society member and close friend of Mickey Freeman, spent some time at the weekend visiting Mickey in hospital. Although still very poorly, Mickey is making a recovery from his heart surgery.


Here is Bob's message:


"Saw Mickey today and I told him that his Brit Fans, Mick & Steve send their love as does all of the Phil Silvers App. Soc. Ditto Drew & Kathy.


He has his own room in ICU and they got him wearing "boxing gloves," obviously to keep him from p ullin' at any number of tubes and cables they got in him. I told him he looked like a telephone operator from a Screwball Comedy. Mickey, get me OXford-0814! He smiled and nodded. They had his hands tucked in under his blanket when I arrived. He told me that he was hot so I asked for a Nurse but when one didn't come and he said he was hot again, I decided to pull down his blanket and then he revealed his "boxing gloves." I said Max Baer is in Bed 3 and you're in the 3rd bout! Odds favor you, Mickey!


Obviously, our feisty Mickey has been yankin' at his tubes, Hell, I don't blame him! He did ask, "Why me?!" And then he referenced his gloves and said, "Goddammit!" I held his hand and told him you're wearing these 'cause you are a fighter and you're gonna lick this thing! He calmed down instantly.


Ann had visited him before I got there and his Sister-In-Law and her family came before I left. Ann told me that she hasn't been able to keep up with messages and calls to her so I reassured her that I would try to update as many as I could. It looks like Mickey is recovering slowly and he may be in the Hospital another month. We'll see, 'cause he's feisty, our Mickey is!"







I'm very sad to report that dear Mickey Freeman, the last surviving full-time cast member, has passed away. It was hoped that Mickey would make a good recovery from his recent heart surgery but unfortunately it was not to be.


His loss is immeasurable. His contribution to the continuing success of The Phil Silvers Show is a testament to the his talent. Some 55 years on from the show's debut, Fielding Zimmerman remains one of the show's most memorable and popular characters.


Both Steve and myself have enjoyed numerous chats over the years with Mickey. He loved talking, liked reminiscing about the old Bilko days. 


On a personal note, I began writing and calling Mickey in 1985. I still have all the cards, letters and notes he sent me and I will cherish them. My friend Bob Greenberg, who has been so very kind in keeping us up to date with Mickey's progress, asked me to post this message to the site:


"I am SO SAD to report that our Mickey passed away this evening before 8 PM, EST. I had arrived at the Hospital and he wasn't in his bed.


I asked where was he? They told me I had to call the family. I called Ann and she broke the sad news. It happened a short time before I had arrived.


Funeral Services are tom'w, Wednesday (9/22) at 11:30 AM, Plaza Memorial Chapel, 91st & Amsterdam, NYC. Will pass on to Ann you and Steve's sympathies... Friar Mike Fine had visited Mickey late last night to give him a giant card from the Friars signed by many, many members. He was delighted and asked Mike to take off his "boxing gloves" so that he could hold the card. It made him very happy. He also wanted to order Takeout! No kidding!


When Mike asked for some Menus from the Nurse he was told that Mickey could not eat or drink anything! Mike stayed from 11:30 PM-1:30 AM. Mickey went into his last day on earth knowing that he was loved by many, many people. It's funny, on Sunday, he gave me a long look and said, "You're a good man." It touched me greatly then and now even more so. One of the few times he was ever serious with me. (And yes, my friend, you may quote me.)"


Thank you Bob for those poignant words. I'm so glad he had friends like you there with him at what must have been a frightening time for him. On behalf of myself, Steve and all at The British PHIL SILVERS Appreciation Society, we salute you Mickey. Our deepest love and best wishes to his dear wife Ann at this very sad time. I like to think he's somewhere up there now, mixing it up with the Bilko gang and catching up with his resident fellow comics. The sweet sound of laughter ringing out in heaven.


God Bless you Mickey!





Mickey's friend and fellow Friar, Bob Greenberg, asked me to pass on this story about Mickey. Even though he was very ill his pursuit of the divine laugh was still in evidence.


I'll let Bob tell you the story...."Mickey's last laugh: the night before he passed, Friar Mike Fine visited him in the Hospital with a giant Get Well Card signed by many, many Friars. Mike was there late, 11:30 PM and Mickey was wide awake. (Mike stayed 'till 1:30 AM!)


Mickey opened the card and then demanded to see the envelope.Mike handed it to him. Mickey shook the giant envelope upside down saying, "Where's the money?!"






TOM BOSLEY - (1927 - 2010)



Sad news from the US that actor Tom Bosley, known to millions across the world as Howard Cunningham in Happy Days, has died at the age of 83.


Tom appeared in literally dozens of television shows over the years. Apart from Happy Days his biggest successes came in Wait 'til Your Father Gets Home, Murder She Wrote and The Father Dowling Mysteries.


In 1981 he appeared alongside Phil Silvers and Cathy Silvers in the Happy Days episode Just A Piccalo.


He appeared in an episode of Nat Hiken's Car 54 Where Are You? in 1962 and throughout the 1960's appeared in numerous shows such as Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, Bonanza, The Virginian and Get Smart.


He played the role of Howard Cunningham between 1974 and 1984. He is survived by his wife Patricia Carr Bosley and daughter Amy Bosley.





Sad news from Hollywood that another Phil Silvers Show veteran has passed away. Writing legend Coleman Jacoby lost his fight against pancreatic cancer on 20 October 2010. With his writing partner Arnie Rosen, Mr Jacoby was responsible for penning over 50 episodes of The Phil Silvers Show and collaborating with Hiken and Rosen on perhaps the funniest half hour ever in the history of television, The Court Martial, aka The Case of Harry Speakup! Here is Williams Grimes' tribute to Coleman, courtesy of The New York Times:


Coleman Jacoby, a comedy writer during the golden age of television who, with his partner Arnie Rosen, created some of Jackie Gleason’s most memorable characters and engineered one of the great match-ups in television history, Gleason and Art Carney, died on Oct. 20 in East Meadow, N.Y. He was 95 and lived in Manhattan.


The cause was pancreatic cancer, his daughter, Catherine Loria Parker, said.


Mr. Jacoby, a former writer for Fred Allen’s radio show, also wrote more than 50 episodes for Phil Silvers’s Sergeant Bilko character. He found a foothold in the fledgling television industry in 1950 when he and Mr. Rosen were hired to write sketches for Gleason, the new host of the DuMont network’s “Cavalcade of Stars.”


The partners created characters that became a permanent part of Gleason’s act over the years: “that devil-may-care playboy” Reginald Van Gleason III, the Poor Soul, Joe the Bartender, Charlie Bratton the Loud Mouth, the nebbishy Fenwick Babbitt and the stupendously inept Rudy the Repairman. Their first Reggie Van Gleason sketch called for Gleason to appear as the Man of Compunction, a swipe at Calvert whiskey’s Man of Distinction ads, in a photo session for a magazine liquor advertisement. The advertising agency’s photographer, trying to demonstrate the correct way to quaff a drink insouciantly — “I want you to toss a drink off with the élan of a polo player, heir to millions,” he tells Gleason — unwittingly initiates a tit-for-tat boozefest that ends in chaos.


For the role of the photographer the two men suggested Art Carney, a comic and impressionist they had worked with on Robert Q. Lewis’s CBS radio show. “We got to know Art pretty well when Arnie Rosen and I were working at CBS,” Mr. Jacoby told Michael Seth Starr, the author of “Art Carney: A Biography” (1997). “He was brilliant, and we remembered him. We brought him in cold and pushed him down Gleason’s throat.”


The two men clicked, and Carney became a regular, with Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Rosen writing him into as many sketches as they could, creating the characters Sedgwick Van Gleason (Reggie’s father) and the milquetoast Clem Finch (victim of the Loudmouth).


Gleason and Carney went on to television immortality in the 1950s comedy “The Honeymooners,” Gleason as the bus driver Ralph Kramden and Carney as his friend and neighbor Ed Norton.


In 1956 Mr. Jacoby and Mr. Rosen were hired to write for You’ll Never Get Rich, Nat Hiken’s service comedy starring Phil Silvers as Sergeant Ernie Bilko. Over the next four years they wrote dozens of episodes for the series, which was later known as Sgt. Bilko.


Coleman Jacoby was born on April 16, 1915, in Pittsburgh. After his mother died and his father abandoned the family, he was placed at the age of 7 in the Jewish Home for Babies and Children. He studied art at a settlement house near Pittsburgh and at 16 left for New York, where he painted murals on the walls of nightclubs and began writing jokes for stand-up comedians and Broadway press agents angling to get their clients, via a joke, into Walter Winchell’s column.


At the suggestion of the gossip columnist Earl Wilson, he changed his last name to Jacoby, which Wilson said had a pleasing ring to it. Mr. Jacoby broke into radio by writing jokes for Bob Hope and went on to write for Allen. In 1940 he married Violeta Velero, one half of the Velero Sisters, who appeared with Latin bands. The marriage ended in divorce. He later married the dancer Gaby Monet, who died in 2009. He is survived by his daughter, of Mineola, N.Y.


After writing for “Your Show of Shows,” featuring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, he teamed up with Mr. Rosen. Following their work with Silvers, the partners wrote for “The Garry Moore Show” for five years. They split up when Mr. Rosen left for California in 1967 to produce “The Carol Burnett Show.”


With his second wife, Mr. Jacoby formed Jacoby-Monet Productions, which made television specials, many of them for children. In his later years he worked on a memoir, unfinished at his death, titled “Nobody Likes an Arrogant Orphan.”


In it, Mr. Jacoby described working with Jackie Gleason as a painful learning experience. “From the very first show he is a problem,” he wrote. “We know he is a talent and a boon to our efforts but it is a question of inhuman endurance. As I once said to Arnie, ‘We have a tiger by the tail — a fat, funny tiger.’ ”


The Society would like to take this opportunity to send condolences to Mr Jacoby's family and friends during this sad time.


Thank you Coleman. You have left us all a rich legacy and some wonderful, funny and uplifting memories.






Another fascinating memoir from Sir Alan Ayckbourn relating to Phil's performance in his only semi-serious piece of stage work How The Other Half Loves. Although a particular sad piece it perfectly demonstrates Phil's strength and humour when faced with such adversity. Phil was without question a fighter, and the last line where he quips the audience had to prompt him shows even during ill health Phil lost none of his wit, timing and humour! Over to Mr Ayckbourn!


There’s another sad but blissful story in Conversations with Ayckbourn, Ian Watson’s book of interviews with the playwright, in which he talks about an American tour of How the Other Half Loves that starred the great American TV and stage comedy actor Phil Silvers. Ayckbourn picks up the story: “He had disappeared for a bit: he hadn’t been in the public eye. Sergeant Bilko he was still well loved for, and he’d got one or two Broadway successes like Top Banana under his belt, but that was some time ago; and nobody knew much about him. We found out about Phil that he was (a) an extremely nervous man and (b) an extremely nice man. But he’d some form of nervous breakdown; he’d had - what can I call it? - a relapse, anyway. His marriage had broken up and it had upset him enormously… Anyway, he saw in this a chance - and I think everyone saw in it a chance for him - to reconsitute himself. But it was a bit therapeutic, like all these occasions.”


But there was a problem: “First of all, what had gone was his memory; he couldn’t remember any of the lines.” An assistant director was deputised to work with him on them; it turned out to be Tom Erhardt, now a literary agent who has been long resident in London, but then assisting the director Gene Saks. On the first date of the tour in Palm Beach, the stage did not allow for a prompter. As Ayckbourn goes on to detail, “It was enormously wide, with an enormous forestage, and a big, billowing curtain like a maternity dress that came round the front. There was nowhere you could have a prompter without a loudhailer, because the prompt corner was miles from the centre of the stage.”


The producer had an idea: just cut a hole in the forestage, and have a trap, like an opera box, in which a prompter could sit. Since the production had made no provision for a prompter, the job fell on Tom Erhardt. And when he went down this hole, he was down there from the beginning to the end, because there was no way he could get out. Well, Tom is blond and fair and thinning, and when they put the lights on, you had this bright, shining head in the middle of the forestage…. So Tom was equipped with a black beret, which made him look not unlike a Provisional IRA man, crouching in a slit trench.”


During the second act, he goes on, “The big maternity dress draws round again in the scene change before the last scene; and it’s a thin dress, it’s not a thick curtain. And you can hear through the curtain Phil’s voice shouting down to Tom in his hole: ‘I need you now, baby!’ Which, of course, comes ringing into the auditorium…. So, the curtains drew and Phil starts the last scene, and certainly cues are coming thick and fast and people are covering; and then he gets to one line, which was one of those lines that nobody could help him on. He says, ‘Well, I…. I…. I…. think, Bob, that… I think, Bob, that…. that…..’ And Tom, the prompter, is not a prompter. There’s a great art in prompting, to give the right key word and to give it quickly and cleanly. And Tom has a very loud voice, and a very slow voice. So Tom gives him: ‘Possibly’. Phil, by then, you can see, has got buzzing noises in his ears and he couldn’t hear if you actually screamed it at him. He said, ‘I think… I think, Bob… I… I…’ And Tom’s voice comes again, equally loudly: ‘Possibly!’ ‘Just that… I think…. I think, Bob…er… you know, Bob….’ And a man, right at the back of the theatre, shouts, ‘Possibly!’ Gene says, ‘Oh my God, the audience are prompting him now!’”


After the show, Silvers is distraught: “The humiliation. I’m a man who made millions laugh on Bilko.” They try to comfort him: “It’s all right, Phil ,don’t worry, we all have bad nights.” He replies, “Bad nights! I’ve been prompted by the audience!” 


(Courtesy Sir Alan Ayckbourn/Mark Shenton @ The Stage)







Carol Bradshaw is a distinguished and well respected writer, actor and producer and a positive fountain of knowledge on the life and work of Joey Faye. An occassional contributor to this site Carol has very kindly agreed to share some of her memories of meeting everyone's favourite 'Lucretia Borgia of Fort Baxter' Mess Sgt Rupert Ritzik! Rupert was of course portrayed by the eternally lovable Joe E Ross!


"I was working while going to evening classes at Los Angeles City College. I held a job during the day and then I would do some bar tending at night a few days a week while living in Hollywood. Because of my busy schedule, there would be times I hadn't eaten dinner until after midnight!


I would go into Canters Deli on Fairfax in the center of Hollywood, and there would be a plethora of old and very young comedians and actors. Sometimes Joe would come in with his shirt wide open and two women on either arm and other times he would be in there alone.


He was quite the display. But a man of sweet character. He seemed to be there when I was there and so he would acknowledge me or I would say something to him. Finally, I was invited over to his table and he would tell me some stories about his time in Burlesque. He would also sing minstrel and vaudeville songs to me, the way that George Burns would on The Johnny Carson Show.


He also talked about being around a lot of the gangsters in his day, so aside from telling stories of the vaudevillians, he would talk to me about the intrigues of the underworld in Chicago , Miami, and NYC.


He had worked in various phases of showbiz especially night clubs around the nation. I don't think that he could read or write very well, he didn't have a lot of formal school training.


For someone that seemed to be raised by the seat of his pants, he came into quite a bit of success in his life. He had a mind like a steel trap, his power of recall was excellent. Much, much better than mine, these days!"


Carol Bradshaw January 2011





BPSAS member James Mulholland relates this wonderful story about Phil: 


"The Drama Critic sketch (from "Summer In New York") reminded me of a story that was told to me by comedian Alan King (who really acted this out to the hilt).


In the late 30's Phil Silvers and Rags Ragland were working together in Burlesque in New York. Every night they opened the show with a shipwreck blackout. In it, Phil, Rags, and a buxom blonde played castaways and Phil had the opening line: 'Well, here we are stranded on a desert island!'.


Night after night he repeated that line - 'Well, here we are...' Meanwhile, a block away the great Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans had opened in Hamlet to sold-out crowds. Phil, a serious fan of serious drama, managed to wangle a ticket for a Wednesday matinee.


For three hours he was spellbound by Evans' performance as the Bard's moody Dane. He couldn't get over the passion and power of the acclaimed tragedian's acting. Walking to the Burlesque theatre after the play, an emotionally-drained Silvers was convinced he was wasting his life at Minsky's.


Backstage he collared anyone he could to tell them about what he had just witnessed. "You should've been there - his emotional range, his depth of characterization...".


The Burlesque show was just about to start and Phil, in costume, was still going on about Maurice Evans. "Okay, Okay," said Rags. "But we got a show to do too!" .


The curtains parted on the shipwreck blackout. Phil looked out at the audience and took a pause that seemed like an eternity. Then instead of saying the trite opening line, Phil raised his fists and cried out in anguish, "Maroooooooned...!" Rags fell down laughing and couldn't go on with the sketch!".

OBITUARY: JOHN STRAUSS - (1921 - 2011)


John Strauss, a composer and sound editor whose work includes theme songs from early TV shows and the film and soundtrack for Oscar best picture winner Amadeus, has died. He was 90.


Strauss passed away Monday night at a nursing home in West Los Angeles after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, said his son, Larry Strauss.


In a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Strauss won an Emmy Award for sound editing (1977's The Amazing Howard Hughes) and a Grammy for best classical album of 1984 (Milos Forman's Amadeus).


Along with producing the soundtrack album for the eight-time Oscar winner, Strauss served as the film's music coordinator and is briefly seen onscreen as a conductor. He also wrote the brief composition that the Count shows to Mozart, who mocks the effort. Strauss coordinated the music for three other Forman films: Hair (1979), Ragtime (1981) and Valmont (1989), for which he also composed part of the score.


However, Strauss' most widely recognizable composition is probably the theme from Car 54, Where Are You?, the 1961-63 NBC series that starred Joe. E. Ross and Fred Gwynne. He also scored The Phil Silvers Show and the Elaine May film Mikey and Nicky (1976) and served as music editor on NBC series L.A. Law.


The New York native worked as sound editor on early Woody Allen films Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971) and Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex ... (1972). He did the original Heartbreak Kid and Slaughterhouse-Five, both in 1972, and was music supervisor on The Blues Brothers (1980), Impromptu (1991) and The Pirates of Penzance (1983). His theater credits include a song from the 1960s Broadway musical Pickwick.


Strauss was married to actress Charlotte Rae, for whom he wrote arrangements for her 1955 album Songs I Taught My Mother and with whom he collaborated on cabaret shows. They divorced in 1975. Strauss then became life partners with artist Lionel Friedman, who died in 2003.


Strauss served in France and North Africa during World War II, studied under Paul Hindemith at the Yale School of Music and taught briefly at New York's High School of Performing Arts. He composed two ballets for the Joffrey Ballet, and his opera, The Accused, was performed by soprano Patricia Neway and televised on the NBC Opera series of the 1950s.


In addition to Rae, with whom he remained friends, and Larry, Strauss is survived by his daughter-in-law Eleanor and grandchildren Carly, Nora and Sean.



Courtesy of Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter




The screenplay for the upcoming US made-for-television film William And Kate, which   chronicles the love affair between heir-apparent Prince William and Kate Middleton,  was written by Nancey Silvers, daughter of comedian Phil Silvers.


The film features Nico Evers-Swindell as Prince William, Camilla Luddington as Kate Middleton and Chariots Of Fire star Ben Cross as Prince Charles. The cast and crew were seen filming a boat race scene near St Andrews University, where the couple first met.


Nancey has an impressive list of writing credits to her name including The Survivors Club (2004), Girl, Positive (2007), Sunday At Tiffany's (2010) and Miracle In Manhattan (2010) starring Doris Roberts of Everbody Loves Raymond fame. 


Nancey is currently working on a new project for the Lifetime Movie Network. 

CAR 54, Where Are You?



CAR 54Where Are You? The Complete First Season



“One of the funniest TV shows of all time.”–Leonard Maltin



“CAR 54 was hilarious... one of the finest television series ever produced.”–Robert Klein



"Made a major impact on TV history."–Joe Corey, Inside Pulse



“CAR 54 creator Nat Hiken was  acomic genius.”–Carol Burnett



Complete First Season of TV Show to Debut on DVDApril 12, 2011 from Shanachie Entertainment


Comedy Series from the Great Nat Hiken, Released to Celebrate its 50th Anniversary, includes Bonus Extra of Cast Member Round Table Hosted by Robert Klein



January 3, 2011 - Many critics and comedians believe that CAR 54 Where Are You? is one of the best comedy series ever to appear on television. Leonard Maltin calls it “one of the funniest TV shows of all time.” Carol Burnett, who worked with the show’s creator Nat Hiken, called him a comedy genius.


In Carl Reiner’s words,“All comedy writersof Hiken’s day agreed that he had no peer.” Long out of circulation, this brilliant show can now be discoveredby new generations who will have a chance to view it for the first time. In celebration of the series’ 50th anniversary,Shanachie Entertainment will be releasing all 30 episodes of the first season as a 4-disc DVD package on April12, 2011 (SRP: $39.98).


This is the first time the shows have ever been on DVD, now newly remastered from the only known set of 35 mm fine grain prints.Specifically shot as a bonus extra for this release is a brand-new free-wheeling round table conversation betweenBronx-raised comedian Robert Klein and two of the regular cast members --Charlotte Rae, who played Sylvia Schnauser, and Hank Garrett, who played Officer Ed Nicholson, one of the cops of the 53rd precinct.


Rae and Garrett share stories, anecdotes and memories with Klein (a fan of Hiken’s work) that shed light on what went on behind the scenes. Nat Hiken was already famous for his highly acclaimed Sgt. Bilko show, and when the opportunity to do another TV series came up, he threw himself into the task – writing, producing, casting and directing. Drawing on his 25 years of writing experience for top comedy shows on radio and television (Fred Allen, Milton Berle, Martha Raye), the result is one of his greatest creative achievements -- a comedy rich with New York humor and filled with off-beatcharacters in scripts that were polished jewels of comedy. 


The show is set in the Bronx’s 53rd precinct, where the cops depicted are all great comedic characters, as are the residents of the neighborhood they patrol. The central figures of the show are the Mutt & Jeff squad car team of Toody and Muldoon, played by Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne. In real life the actors were also an odd couple for the ages – the crudest burlesque comedian from the lower rungs of show business paired with a trained Harvard-educated actor.


Muldoon plays the long-suffering voice of reason who invariably reins in his short stocky partner’sdimwitted schemes and patiently listens to his hilariously inane prattle.The ensemble of supporting actors was perfectly cast.With a naturally shrill voice, Beatrice Pons was ideal as Toody’sdomineering shrew of a wife. Circus veteran Al Lewis, blessed with a face that could find a contortion to accompany every passing thought, was the irascible Officer Leo Schnauser. Charlotte Rae, who stole the show with her pitchperfect comic performance in an early episode, was written in by Hiken as Schnauser’s moody, hot-tempered wife and became one of the most memorable characters on the show.


To fill out each episode, Hiken drew on a wealth of New York talent – seasoned film and TV veterans, borscht beltcomedians and some of the brightest young talent from the Broadway stage. Regulars Paul Reed, Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis were on the set during the day and appearing in Broadway shows in the evening. Episodes in the first season featured show business pros Wally Cox, Jan Murray, Molly Picon, Maureen Stapleton, Jake La Motta and many more.



(With thanks to Sherwin Dunner of Shanachie Entertainment for the press release)


I recently had the great pleasure of making contact with actress Julie Newmar. Julie has enjoyed a lengthy career as a dancer, actress, singer  and writer. Her most famous role being that of the deliciously purrfect Catwoman in the hugely successful Batman television series from the 1960's. 

One of Julie's first television appearances was in a 1957 episode of The Phil Silvers Show called The Big Scandal, in which she played the voluptuous maid known as Stacked Susie.


She remembers fondly her appearance on the show and working with Phil. "My background was in musical theatre. It was my first love and my training ground." said Julie. "Very early in my career, I appeared on The Phil Silvers Show. People forget that Phil was in  Top Banana on Broadway. He was the best at that type of performing. It's physically very demanding and it really trains you for television comedy."


"I adored working with Phil Silvers, fresh from my first Broadway show. I knew nothing at all about comedy and he was so generous to me, teaching me so much".

PHIL SILVERS -MAY 11, 1911 - 2011


Wednesday May 11th, 2011 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of our the greatest comic actor of the 20th century.....Phil Silvers.

Phil's legacy to the world is the joyous laughter he has brought (and will continue to do so) into the lives of millions of people the world over. Countless films, television shows, including the landmark The Phil Silvers Show, along with 5 smash-hit Broadway musicals more than bear testament to a man who was considered by critics, the public and his fellow comedians as one of the true greats.

Today his legacy lives on not only the incredible body of work he left behind but also in the hearts and minds of all those who remember him, along with the numerous web-sites, internet media sites, books and  magazines that continue to revere him.


In order to mark this momentous occasion we will be hosting a live 2 hour webchat on Wednesday May 11, 2011 between the hours of 8.00pm and 10.00pm BST (British Summer Time). Hopefully this will allow fellow Phil-fans from various parts of the world to take part in this momentous occasion. You will be able to chat to fans the world over in real-time about Phil Silvers....if u don't wish to chat you can simply leave a message about Phil. The event is taking place with the blessing of Phil's family, some of whom will be taking part in the event.


If you wish to take part in this momentous celebration of the life and work of Phil Silvers you simply need to contact me at the address below asap:




It was 100 years ago to this day on, May 11, 1911, that Phil Silvers was born at 417 Pennsylvannia Avenue in the Brownsville district of Brooklyn, New York to Saul and Sarah Silvers.


From suchble beginings no-one could've predicted that Phil would become one of the world's most revered and beloved entertainers.


From his early days of singing in theatres and movie houses to his discovery by Gus Edwards at Coney Island to Vaudeville, Burlesque, Broadway, USO tours, Radio, Hollywood, Television and the overwhelming worldwide acclaim he achieved through his portrayal of  Ernie Bilko in The Phil Silvers Show. he gave the world the precious gift of laughter.


To watch Phil at work is to watch a master. His old friend Red Buttons once  said "If Phil were a painting he'd be hanging in The Louvre!."


Those long years treading the boards taught Phil the intricacies of performing. It was a gift that he never, ever took for granted. In his later years he would often say, "Comedy is no laughing's hard work!."


And when it came to making people laugh, nobody worked harder than Phil. The testament to his talent resides in the body of work he left behind. He never gave anything less than his all and it shows in every frame of footage you'll ever see.


Think also too of all those lucky audiences who got to see him perform live in the staggering body of Broadway hits - Yokel Boy, High Button Shoes, Top Banana, Do Re Mi, How The Other Half Loves and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum - those performances are lost to the majority of us and we can only re-ignite them through the memories and recollections of others.


Phil passed away in 1985 and for his family, his friends and his fans it was too soon. It was almost as if he was following the old showbiz addage of "Always leave 'em wanting more!".


Today Phil lives on through his work and most importantly through his family. His daughters and his grandchildren continue to champion his legacy.


Daughter Candace asked me to pass on this message....


"My Father was and is still my hero. He may have passed many, many years ago but he is still my greatest teacher. His wisdom and talent created and inspired so much laughter on this earth. I thank all of his fans for remembering him and inspiring others to remember his genius so many years later.


Candace Silvers



Sad news reached us that Leonard Stern passed away on June 8th, aged 87, following a lengthy illness. Leonard was particularly helpful to the BPSAS in it's fledgling years and gave us some wonderful interviews and great personal insights into his time on The Phil Silvers Show as both scriptwriter and show-runner.


We are currently preparing an in-depth tribute to Leonard, in the meantime the following article comes courtesy of the BBC newsdesk.


"US writer and producer Leonard Stern, who was behind hit shows including Get Smart and The Honeymooners, has died aged 87. The Emmy and Golden Globe award-winner died of heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital, his spokesman said."


Stern found early success in the 1950s writing for sitcoms like The Phil Silvers Show. He also created and directed 1970s crime drama McMillan and Wife starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James.

Stern penned two Abbott & Costello films before his stint on The Jackie Gleason Show, where he wrote The Honeymooners sketches - which later spawned a TV series.


During his career, he worked as a writer and producer on more than 20 sitcoms. In the 1960s, he created the sitcoms I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, fugitive satire Run Buddy Run, and He & She, starring Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss as two young love birds.


The writer's film credits include screenplays for 1952 film The Jazz Singer, 1979's Just You and Me, Kid starring George Burns and Brooke Shields - which he also directed - and 1985 film Target starring Gene Hackman.


Aside from his Hollywood career, Stern also co-created a popular word game, Mad Libs - in which people fill in blank spaces with random nouns, adjectives and adverbs to form funny stories. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, actress Gloria Stroock - who played Hudson's secretary on McMillan & Wife - and two children."

Happy Anniversary Sgt. Bilko!


The Phil Silvers Show made its official series debut on the CBS Television Network on September 20th 1955.  William Paley, who was the head of CBS Television at the time, had seen the original pilot for the show and immediately commissioned a series saying "This is money in the bank. Take it off the rack and go ahead!"


Today, September 20 2011, marks the 56th anniversary of the broadcast of season opener New Recruits on CBS Television.


For a total of 143 episodes (including the original pilot) and a 1-hour live special (Keep In Step) - spanning four glorious seasons, The Phil Silvers Show remains the greatest sitcom in television history. Its influence is still felt within the industry today and the show has achieved a well-deserved cult status the world over - lauded for the central performance of Phil Silvers, the sheer comic genius of Nat Hiken's writing, a superb array of supporting characters and its groundbreaking use of a multi-cultural cast.

Dan Frazer - November 20, 1921 – December 16, 2011


Dan Frazer, best known for his role as Captain Frank McNeil on 1970s TV crime series Kojak, has died aged 90. His daughter, Susanna, said the actor died of cardiac arrest at his Manhattan home on Friday.


He began his career in the 1950s playing character roles in various TV series. His first major break came when he appeared in The Phil Silvers Show and went on to feature in 8 episodes including Bilko's Tax Trouble and Guinea Pig Bilko, between 1956 and 1959. 


He played Captain McNeil during all five seasons of the Telly Savalas cop show, which ran from 1973 to 1978 and had roles in The Andy Griffith Show, The Untouchables, McHale's Navy and My Favourite Martian.


He made his big-screen debut in the 1963 Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field and appeared in two early Woody Allen comedies, Take the Money and Run and Bananas. He reprised his role as Captain McNeil in the 1983 TV film Kojak: The Belarus File.


In recent years he had guest roles in the Law and Order franchise and appeared in The Pack with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, which screened at a number of film festivals earlier this year.

 Merry Christmas from the BPSAS


Once again the Christmas season is upon us! We'd sincerely like to thank Phil-fans everywhere for their support during 2011 Sadly this year saw the passing of the following Bilko personnel: Composer John Strauss, writer Leonard Stern and actor Dan Frazer. Our thoughts are with their families at this time. May 11, 2011 saw the 100th anniversary of Phil's birth and several of our members took part in the Phil Silvers on-line web-chat along with Phil's daughter Cathy. The year also saw the 43rd anniversary of the passing of Nat Hiken.


We approach 2012 with the hope that CBS will finally agree to release the remaining 3 seasons of The Phil Silvers Show onto DVD. We've now had over 73,000 hits on the website, our Facebook group membership continues to flourish and our YouTube channel has now received over 450,000 hits, once again proving that Phil's legacy lives on.


Thank you from Steve, myself and Phil's family we wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Steve & Mick


News just in courtesy of Jonathan M Smith and Kliph Nesteroff. After the demise of The Phil Silvers Show in 1959 it seems Phil was given the opportunity to reprise the role of Ernie Bilko  for an early 60's musical special. Sadly he turned the project down, one presumes to concentrate on his Broadway career and although the actual dates are sketchy Phil was more than likely fully immersed in headlining Do Re Mi. Over to Jonathan with all the info!


Hi Steve and Mick. Just saw an interview with Milton Delugg, who was everywhere on TV in the 50s. He mentions he and Bob Hilliard wrote a Bilko musical. Here is the page and section (about a third down):

Kliph Nesteroff: Two other actors I have listed as being on Seven at Eleven, two great comic talents, Herbie Faye - and Sid Gould.

Milton Delugg: Herbie Faye and Sid Gould. They were both very good. They were not quite strong enough to have their own shows and both funny.

Kliph Nesteroff: Herbie Faye you eventually saw all the time on The Phil Silvers Show - Sgt Bilko.


Milton Delugg: Yeah. That's right. You know, Bob Hilliard and I... Bob was a lyric writer. We wrote a show, a musical, called Bilko.

Kliph Nesteroff: Oh, really?


Milton Delugg: Yeah, but Phil Silvers didn't want to do it. He said he had five or six years of playing that soldier character on television and he was looking for a new kind of part.


Kliph Nesteroff: Wow, I had no idea.

Milton Delugg: Early sixties.

Kliph Nesteroff: You just had the idea or you went ahead and wrote the production?

Milton Delugg: We wrote it and there were some pretty good songs in it. Bobby was a remarkable lyric writer. Very good. Nothing ever happened with any of it. Once Phil turned it down, you're not going to get someone else to play that part.

Kliph Nesteroff: Phil Silvers was great in Top Banana.

Milton Delugg: Oh, he was wonderful. Was there a show called High Button Shoes? I think so. It was a musical - not on TV. Jules Stein, Sammy Cahn... and there was a hit song in it.


Kliph Nesteroff: Phil Silvers was a powerhouse. He could steal any scene.


Milton Delugg: And he did (laughs)."


Car 54 Where Are You? Season 2


Season 2 of Nat Hiken's superlative comedy series, Car 54, Where Are You? is to be released on DVD in the United States, courtesy of Shanachie Entertainment and eOne Entertainment on April 10th, 2012. The 4-disc DVD set contains the final 30 episodes of the show starring Fred Gwynne, Joe E. Ross, Paul Reed, Al Lewis and Charlotte Rae.

The release, which coincides with the show's 50th anniversary, and will once again feature episodes remastered from the original 35mm film prints. The episodes this time are to be featured in their original broadcast order (the first season set of episodes ran in order of popularity of each installment).


No real word on any extras as yet, although Shanachie have confirmed that the set will feature a ten minute stand-up comedy routine by series star Joe E. Ross. The set will retail at $39.98. A UK release date has yet to be announced.


The DVD cover artwork once again features a colour shot of stars Fred Gwynne and Joe E Ross. Renowned artist Drew Friedman was commissioned to provide an illustration for the back cover artwork.

Bilko At The BFI!


Following the  announcement that The Phil Silvers Show - The Complete Collection is to be released on DVD in the UK on September 1st comes news that the British Film Institute is to hold an evening to celebrate Phil Silvers and The Phil Silvers Show.


Organised by writer, researcher and BFI film and TV consultant Dick Fiddy, the event will take place at the BFI, Southbank, London on Thursday, August 28th and will include a screening of the BBC production Bilko On Parade, selected clips from The Phil Silvers Show, a Q & A session and a host of celebrity guest speakers


The Phil Silvers Archival Museum


Sunday November 1st 2015 heralds both the 30th anniversary of Phil Silvers' passing and the opening of The British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society's Archival Museum, which is dedicated to the life and works of legendary comedian and performer Phil Silvers.


Opening a Museum has long been on the agenda for the Society and it will house a generous display of personal effects, clothing, posters, photographs, letters, books and various other pieces of Phil Silvers memorabilia.


Doors will officially open at 11.00 am on November 1st, 2015 - the 30th anniversary of Phil's passing - at Fargo Village, Unit 2c in Coventry and there will be extensive press, radio and television coverage. Entry is free and all fans and admirers of Phil Silvers are welcome.


There will be free prize giveaways, competitions, spot prizes available on the launch day along with some very special guest visitors so please be sure to join us and help support the museum!

BILKO at the BFI - August 28th, 2014


Cathy Silvers, the daughter of American comedy actor Phil Silvers, had moist eyes and a lump in her throat as she affectionately remembered her father during what was otherwise a hilarious night at the BFI South Bank to celebrate the first-ever DVD release of the entire Sgt. Bilko TV series. Why hilarious? Well the packed house rocked with laughter at the short extracts from the classic 1950s series selected by Mick Clews and Steve Everitt of The British Phil Silvers Appreciation Society.


Each showed master sergeant Ernest G. Bilko in fine form as he connived, bluffed and gambled his way through treasured snippets from a sampling of 140-plus episodes of television gold.


When it came to performance, nobody in Hollywood could have captured the character of Sgt. Bilko as effectively as Phil Silvers. His vaudeville background and famed machine-gun vocal delivery was ideal for portraying Hiken’s eponymous hero, and coupled with some of the funniest lines ever written for a TV series, his on-screen persona will be forever immortalised in Television’s Hall of Fame.


We tend to overuse words like ‘classic’ today without too much thought, but just occasionally this is the only accolade we can bestow on an idea that is as brilliant and as original as The Phil Silvers Show.


In between the extracts from the series, BFI host, programme planner and TV expert extraordinaire, Dick Fiddy, demonstrated Silvers’ excellent comedy timing with two non-Bilko related TV shows from yesteryear.


Fiddy kept the event ticking along with a speed worthy of the great Bilko himself, aided and abetted by comedians Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden. The guest appearance by the aforementioned Cathy Silvers and some thought-provoking questions from the audience rounded off a splendid evening.


The 20-disc Sgt. Bilko aka The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Collection is available from September 22, courtesy of Medium Rare Entertainment & FremantleMedia International, priced £124.99.


In addition to the show itself, the set also promises over two-hours of bonus features including - Keep in Step (the lost footage), Phil Silvers' last interview with Sonny Fox, Phil Silvers on the Paul Ryan Show, BBC documentary Bilko On ParadeBilko in Colour!, audio commentaries, the so-called 'lost' audition show, the original network opening, Phil Silvers on the Dick Cavett Show and an episode of The Lucy Show featuring Phil Silvers.


The Phil Silvers Show - The Complete Collection (2015)


"Woefully under-appreciated in it's home country, the series has always been feted in the UK and has regularly made the top ten of 'Best Sitcom' lists and is even recognised as the greatest ever sitcom from either side of the Atlantic in the prestigious Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy."


Now for the first time anywhere the Complete Series is available on DVD in this 20 disc set with a host of all new bonus extras.


Following a succesful launch event at the British Film Institute, South Bank, London on August 28th of 2014 The Phil Silvers Show - The Complete Collection was released to the UK market on September 22nd, 2014.


The 20 disc set is comprised of:


142 cleaned/restored episodes of The Phil Silvers Show

Lost Audition Show


Keep in Step (the lost footage)

Phil Silvers last interview with Sonny Fox (Extended Version)

Phil Silvers on the Paul Ryan Show

Bilko On Parade (BBC Documentary)

Bilko in Colour! (A colourised clip from the show)

32 Page Collector's Booklet

Audio Commentaries

Original Network Opening

Original Network Commercials

Lucy and the Efficiency Expert

Phil Silvers on the Dick Cavett Show

Two Photo Galleries

Following the release of MediumRare's The Phil Silvers Show: The Complete Collection in the UK, Shout! Factory released their own version Sgt.Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show - The Complete Series to US and Canadian markets on November 4th, 2014.


There were some differences between the UK and US releases. Whereas the UK version had undergone extensive clean-up of the video masters supplied by CBS no such clean-up was carried out on the US version.There were also some minor differences in the some of the episode running orders. Whilst the UK version adhered to the original US television airdates the US version followed the broadcast dates provided by the CBS press office.


Bonus features on both versions had slight differences: The UK version included a 32-page illustrated booklet detailing the history of the show whilst the disc bonuses included a colourised clip of The Phil Silvers Show. The US version did not include a booklet whilst the disc bonuses included interviews with three of Phil Silvers' children: Tracey, Cathy and Nancey. The US version also included a bonus episode of The New Phil Silvers Show - the print was donated by The British PHIL SILVERS Appreciation Society.

Me-TV - (May 2016)


10 golden things you might not know about 'The Phil Silvers Show'

President Eisenhower, Seinfeld and the United Kingdom all love Sgt. Bilko!

The Phil Silvers Show had more aliases than a spy on Get Smart. When the sitcom premiered in 1955, it was titled You'll Never Get Rich. In reruns, it was often labeled Sgt. Bilko, a moniker often used by fans as well. Whatever you call it, The Phil Silvers Show was genius. Dense with dialogue, characters and complex plots, the series was ahead of its time. Here are 10 intriguing tidbits that make The Phil Silvers Show pure gold.


1. IT WAS SHOT IN NEW YORK CITY, NOT HOLLYWOOD: Though set in Fort Baxter, Kansas, the sitcom stayed close to Silvers' roots. The star was a Brooklyn native with experience in vaudeville and Broadway. The show was filmed in New York City at the insistence of creator/producer/writer Nat Hiken. The industry was moving to Los Angeles, but Hiken believed that the Big Apple was more fertile comic soil. Eventually, production moved to a studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, in a building that was formerly the armory of the Ninth Mounted Cavalry. So it was a military setting after all.


2. IT WAS FILMED LIVE — FOR BETTER AND WORSE: At its start, the show was rehearsed and performed straight through, like a play, and recorded to film, not video, on three cameras. This environment allowed Silvers to ad-lib. However, other performers were not so adept at improv. Paul Ford (Col. Hall) and especially Maurice Gosfield (the adored Pvt. Doberman) were notorious for flubbing and forgetting lines. Silvers filled the gaps and cracks with his ace abilities.

3. IT INSPIRED A HANNA-BARBERA CARTOON, 'SEINFELD' AND 'THE OFFICE.': Seinfeld is an example of a massive American show that never quite clicked with audiences in England. This is despite the fact that Seinfeld co-creator Larry David cites The Phil Silvers Show as his favorite. The scheming, deceptive character of Bilko and the complex plots would clearly trickle down into the concepts of Seinfeld. Here is David discussing the show with Ricky Gervais. Yet Hanna-Barbera was more than inspired by the black-and-white classic. The animation studio turned Phil Silvers into a cartoon called Top Cat. Maurice Gosfield (Pvt. Doberman) even voiced the character of Benny the Ball, the feline analogue to his original character.

4. PRESIDENT EISENHOWER WAS A FAN: Early in the show's run, White House Press Secretary James Hagerty sent a message to the network: "The Old Man missed last night's show." Naturally, a print of the episode was quickly shipped to the POTUS and war hero.

5. IT WAS INCREDIBLY POPULAR IN THE U.K: Not all American comedy translates to a British audience, and vice versa. Yet, The Phil Silvers Show clicked with the Brits. After its original run on BBC and reruns on ITV, the series became a late-night staple on BBC One in the '70s and '80s. It stayed on the BBC until 2004 — an amazing half-century run.

6. SGT. BILKO WAS NAMED AFTER A CUBS FIRST BASEMAN: Hiken was a baseball fan. He borrowed the surname of Steve Bilko, a star of the Pacific Coast League and sometime Major Leaguer, for Staff Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko. In 1954, Bilko played for the Chicago Cubs, and was immortalized when announcer Bert Wilson called a double play involving Ernie Banks, Gene Baker and Bilko — "Bingo to Bango to Bilko."

7. THE SHOW WAS ALMOST ABOUT BASEBALL: Speaking of America's Pastime, the sport almost became the premise of The Phil Silvers Show. A military setting was the first notion of Hiken and Silvers, but they instead grew enamored with the idea of having Bilko manage a minor league baseball team. Bilko was later also conceptualized as a stockbroker and a gym manager, before going back to square one on an Army base when the show was pitched to the network.

8. NAT HIKEN WAS A VISIONARY: Hiken has already been mentioned, but he deserves special notice. The Chicago-born screenwriter initially wrote the entire scripts himself — though that lasted just a couple episodes before he realized he needed help to crank out a half hour of material each week. Still, his vision was crucial to the success of the show. Hiken was adamant on casting minorities, despite the protest of some Southern stations and sponsors. He was as stickler for detail, too. As the cast and crew were preparing to film the first episode, the costume uniforms arrived in pristine condition. Hiken was upset that the crisp look did not match the ragtag nature of the platoon, so he had the actors roll around on the floor, in uniforms, to achieve a properly scruffy look.

9. THE SHOW CHANGED RADICALLY IN 1958: Near the end of its run, in its fourth and final season, The Phil Silvers Show changed setting from Kansas to California. Part of the reason was to allow the plausibility of Hollywood guest stars. The look of the show became more Hollywood as well, as the standard three-camera sitcom format was replaced with a glossier single-camera approach, giving the show a more cinematic vibe. The sitcom industry in general wouldn't make that stylistic leap until the new millennium.

10. IT ENDED BECAUSE ITS CAST WAS MASSIVE: Though the show was cut after its fourth season, it was not due to failure or sagging ratings. The principle reason was the show's deep cast. There were 22 regular cast members that would need new contracts. In the end, The Phil Silvers Show was too sprawling and rich for its own survival.

George Kennedy - (February 18, 1925 – February 28, 2016)


It's with great sadness that we have to report the death of actor George Kennedy. He was one of America’s most recognisable and versatile character actors and appeared in more than 175 films, ranging from westerns to disaster movies, thrillers to comedies.


In the late 1950's whilst still in the army, he became a military adviser on The Phil Silvers Show. As technical advisor George was required on-set at least three days a week. He found himself watching and learning from the actors. Every now and then he was asked to appear in the show (usually listed as Sgt.Kennedy!).


In 2013 we had the great pleasure of meeting George and he discussed at length and with great joy the time he spent working on The Phil Silvers Show. He told us "I just have such wonderful memories. I remember them all because of what they meant to me in my life... everything I learned as an actor I learned from them... those wonderful people!"


His film career began with the 1961 film The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come. He co-starred alongside some of Hollywood's greatest actors including Cary Grant, John Wayne, James Stewart and Dean Martin. He later went on star opposite Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967), and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His films included The Flight Of The Phoenix (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), Guns Of The Magnificent Seven (1969) and Earthquake (1974).


He was the only actor to appear in all four of films of the Airport series. He played Captain Hocken in the Naked Gun series of comedy films, and corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay on the television series Dallas.


George sadly passed away aged 91 on February 28, 2016, of a heart ailment at an assisted living facility in Idaho.

Billie Allen Henderson -  (January 13, 1925 – December 29, 2015)


Billie Allen Henderson is perhaps best know to UK audiences as WAC Billie in The Phil Silvers Show. She was an actress, theater director, dancer and entertainer. She was also one of the first African American actors to appear on television and stage in the United States. She also became became one of the first African American actors to have a recurring role on network television.


Whilst appearing in Bilko Billie also had a role in popular soap opera The Edge Of Night. She also appeared in Nat Hiken's Car 54, Where Are You?.

She appeared in numerous films and television programs including Route 66The WizWinter KillsThe Vernon Johns Story, Eddie Murphy Raw and Law and Order. In the early 1980s she directed the off-Broadway play Home featuring Samuel L. Jackson, and in 2001, she directed Saint Lucy’s Eyes starring Ruby Dee.


In 1973, she joined with Garland Lee Thompson, Morgan Freeman and journalist Clayton Riley to establish the Frank Silvers Writers Workshop, in Harlem. 


Billie died peacefully at her home in New York City, on December 29, 2015, at the age of 90. She was survived by her son and daughter.


The Phil Silvers Show box set review:


It still comes as a surprise to many that this classic 1950s sitcom isn’t actually called Sgt Bilko. It’s a perfectly excusable mistake. The show was even listed as Sgt Bilko, or even Bilko, in the Radio Times and elsewhere during the 70s and 80s, when it enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity in the UK.


Back then, it became a reliabley funny late-night fixture, usually the last thing on BBC1 before closedown. These were the days before TV could be recorded and the fact that so many people were willing to stay up is testament to the power of Silvers’ writing – and his incredible performance.


For 142 episodes, with rarely any drop in quality, Master Sergeant Ernest G Bilko would scam, con, hustle and grift his way through fast-thinking, elaborate get-rich-quick schemes. His targets were usually his fellow enlisted soldiers, particularly those under his command in the motor pool.


Sgt Ritzik, the cook, was continually bled dry of his wages, while Colonel Hall, the commander, was another favourite mark. His wife was always on the receiving end of Bilko’s flattering flannel: “Why Colonel, sir, you never mentioned any movie stars were visiting the base today!” The US army gave permission and assistance to the show’s producers provided Bilko never succeeded and the army wasn’t seen as incompetent or crooked – restrictions that actually added to the fun.


Silvers had been a performer from the age of 11. He was in his 40s when Bilko kicked off, by then a seasoned veteran of burlesque, vaudeville, Hollywood, Broadway: all in all, a sturdy workshorse of a comedy actor. CBS signed him up, paired him with the equally seasoned comedy writer Nat Hiken, then left the two alone for months to thrash out ideas.


Not only did they create a character only Silvers could play, they also formed a template for workplace sitcoms that is still used to this day. The fact that it’s set in the army isn’t all that important: deck the cast in mufti and the plots would work just as well in an office or factory.


As this complete collection shows, though, you sometimes have to pay close attention as the often elaborate schemes are formed and executed. Take Empty Store, an ingenious episode that almost literally makes something out of nothing.


Bilko rents a shop space then tells everyone, honestly, that he has no plans to do anything with it. Everyone suspects he must be up to something profitable and he’s soon offered cash bribes by those who want in on the nonexistent scam.


Another classic is The Court Martial: a rollerskating chimpanzee is accidentally inducted into the army and Bilko must make a proper legal defence of the beast in order to save his own skin. It also contains one of the show’s best adlibs: when the chimp, clearly bored, wanders off and picks up a phone, Silvers instantly chimes in with: “Just a minute, sir – I think he’s calling for another lawyer!” Part of the fun lies in seeing his fellow actors trying to stifle giggles for the rest of the scene, with varying degrees of success.


While the show may get a little samey, Silvers never phones in a performance or fluffs a gag, and every episode has plenty of decent laughs. It’s Phil Silvers’ show all right: he gets twice as many lines as everyone else put together and delivers them twice as fast. You can even spot him prompting others who have forgotten their lines, or are simply having trouble keeping up with such a powerhouse performer.

Also, despite the hucksterism and chicanery, Bilko has no mean streak. He’s relentless but not ruthless, and is protective of his fellow soldiers, seeing off anyone who dares take advantage of them. Anyone other than him, that is.


The Guardian, January 2016


Tim Vine: Why I Love Sgt.Bilko Tour


In January 2016 award winning punster and stand up comedian Tim Vine shares his admiration and passion for Phil Silvers in this brief theatre tour. In particular his long-running sitcom, The Phil Silvers Show known fondly to most as simply ‘Bilko’.


From its initial Emmy award-winning airing in the 1950s to its successful re-runs in the early 60s and 70s, Tim chooses favourite moments from the show and shares his favourite episode with us.


Timothy Mark “Tim” Vine is an English writer, actor, comedian and presenter, known for his role on the BBC series Not Going Out until his departure in 2012, as well as his smart, one-line jokes.


His list of comedy heroes include Morecambe and Wise, Cannon and Ball and a certain Sergeant Bilko (Phil Silvers).


He has released a number of DVDs of his stand-up comedy and has written several joke books. In 2010 and 2014, Vine won the award for best joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.


His winning joke was: “I decided to sell my Hoover … well it was just collecting dust.” He was the runner up in 2011, 2012 and 2013. 


He’ll Never Get Rich: The Phil Silvers Show

I first saw an episode of The Phil Silvers Show, Nat Hikens' 1950's army comedy, twenty years ago when it was still shown regularly on BBC Two. The episode was Cherokee Ernie, in which Phil Silvers’ scheming Sgt. Bilko sets out to play poker in Tulsa and ends up in a legal stramash of such magnitude that Oklahoma is very nearly returned to the Native Americans.


I don’t need to tell you that it’s a difficult episode in lots of ways. But it was the start of a love affair that’s still going. I watched the rest of Bilko just as the BBC intended—in the wrong order and on a loop—and then on VHS, with a great box of tapes which I lugged with me to University and back. And then the BBC stopped showing it, and VHS became obsolete, and it was a long time until I could see anything of Bilko beyond the far-too-selective “best of” DVD released by CBS in 2006. And then, in the winter of 2014, the box set arrived.


Oh joy! Irrationally, I find myself watching it in short bursts far apart, as if it’s going to run out—which I suppose it will, in the sense that I won’t get to watch the whole thing in broadcast order for the first time ever again. Call me sentimental, because I am.


What is it about Bilko? On the face of it, it’s a ridiculous setup. In an obscure camp in a tiny town in Kansas, an unscrupulous motor pool sergeant is trying to get rich. He has every possible advantage in this. Ernie Bilko is a devious, inventive creature, by far the intellectual superior of the majority of those around him.


His commanding officer, Paul Ford’s wonderful Col. Hall, is a soft-hearted bumbler whose victories are only ever fleeting. His two henchmen (Cpls Henshaw and Barbella, played by Allan Melvin and Harvey Lembeck) are devoted in the extreme, acting as his conspirators, enforcers and emotional punchbags; it’s the greatest codependent three-way bromance in the whole of television. He has a platoon full of broken-down men whose wants and weaknesses can always be exploited, despite their simmering resentment of him. He has a reliable stooge in Maurice Gosfield’s Pvt. Doberman, with his plaintive cry of “Why does it always have to be me?”


His fellow sergeants are extremely stupid, and only too willing to lose at poker. Even his on-again off-again love interest, the superb Sgt. Joan Hogan (Elizabeth Fraser)—perhaps the only character in the whole thing who’s consistently smarter than Bilko—too often suffers from the classic supervillain’s failure to shoot straight.


And Bilko has opportunities. Boy, does he: every television producer, every gullible journalist, every master criminal passes through Roseville. There are endless competitions and tournaments and recruitment drives; disputed wills, imperilled engagements, family fall-outs, all ripe for profit-making.


Every new recruit has a marketable talent: baseball, boxing, bandleading, a perfect memory for birds. Once the camp moves to California in Series 4, there are movie stars and socialites to exploit. Bilko ought to be a supremely wealthy man. He ought to be out of the motor pool and living on Park Avenue by the end of Series 1. But it never happens—the law will catch up with him before Dame Fortune does. Because Ernie Bilko has three weaknesses: bad luck, awful timing, and a deep, unpredictable vein of sentiment. If one doesn’t stop him, the others will.


Two factors make this scenario enthralling. One is Nat Hiken’s writing. Hiken retained a tight creative control over Bilko, and it shows. The multi-layered humour, the pathos, the self-awareness that’s just the right side of knowing—all this is pure Hiken, and it’s the very antithesis of the usual gag-driven sitcoms written by committee. And there are some fantastically dark moments: such as Bilko Goes South, in which Bilko leaps on a chance to winter in Florida and ends up, with his platoon, as the unwitting subjects of potentially fatal tests in a secret facility. I think that is my favourite episode.


The other factor is the cast: not just Silvers, who inhabits Bilko’s skin with charismatic ease, but the whole of the cast. This is an ensemble piece: the performances of character actors like Herbie Faye (Pvt. Fender), Joe E. Ross (Sgt. Ritzik) and Billy Sands (Pvt. Paparelli) are not incidental to the main action. They are the action. And they mean that a rewatch is always rewarding: there is always some new detail to see and appreciate. In other words, this is a situation comedy, but it’s not the situation that makes it truly funny. 


This was proven to disastrous effect by Steve Martin’s awful 1996 remake. Without Hiken, without Silvers, without Ford and Gosfield and Fraser and the rest, Ernie Bilko is just an empty dressing-gown and a lack of scruples. But with them, he’s unbeatable… even if his luck never does come in.


The complete boxset of The Phil Silvers Show is available from all the usual outlets. You can also buy it from Sgt. Bilko’s Vintage Emporium, located in the Phil Silvers Archival Museum, Fargo Village, Coventry.


April 8, 2016 by Kirstyjane


Bernie & Ernie - (January 2017)


After being removed from his position as chief executive of Formula One Group on 23 January 2017 this story about Ecclestone surfaced on


We're not sure if Bernie Ecclestone - like Pitpass editor Chris Balfe - is a keen fan of the legendary 50s TV series The Phil Silvers Show, better known as Sgt Bilko - but the fact is the former F1 supremo has, on more than a few occasions shown similarities to the iconic fast-talking, wheeler-dealing, scheming character.


In an episode titled Army Memoirs, Bilko, having been demoted to the rank of Private, sets about getting his revenge. He makes a big thing of getting the necessary equipment - paper and a typewriter - so that he can begin writing his memoirs.


Hearing of this, and knowing that Bilko knows all their darkest secrets and is sure to do his worst, those who have had him demoted set about having him reinstated to his previous rank of Sergeant.


Fact is, Bilko doesn't have to put pen to paper, for knowing that his 'victims' know that he knows their every little indiscretion, he relies on their own sense of self-preservation to put things right.


It's a typical Bilko ploy and one that the show's creator, Nat Hiken, used again in an episode of his follow up series Car 54, Where Are You?


Since Monday's seismic events, little has been heard of Bernie, however, that hasn't stopped others putting pen to paper, so to speak, on his behalf.


At a time Chase Carey, Ross Brawn and Sean Bratches have been setting out their vision for the future, some have been suggesting that the former F1 supremo - who like Ernest G Bilko is well aware where some of the bodies are buried - is to set up a rival series. Not so, insists (B)Ernie.


"I have built the championship over the last near 50 years, which is something I am proud of, and the last thing I want is to see it damaged," he said in a statement he issued to Reuters.


"The new owner of the company will be able to carry out the administration of the company in a different way to the way I had, which was to produce financial results for the shareholders, the normal actions of a chief executive," he continued.


"This I have done for the different shareholders over the last years and also when I owned 100 percent of the company.


"I would have loved the luxury of what Chase Carey, the CEO, is able to do," he admits. "I hope the F1 supporters appreciate this as Chase intends to put money back into the sport."

Neil Simon - (July 4, 1927 – August 26, 2018)


Neil Simon, American playwright, screenwriter and author died in New York on August 26, 2018, after being on life support while hospitalized for kidney failure. He was also suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.


He wrote more than 30 plays and movie screenplays, many of which were adaptations of his own plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tonynominations than any other writer. Following a stint in the Army Air Force Reserves  he began writing comedy scripts for radio programs and popular early television shows. Among the latter were The Gary Moore Show (1950) and Your Show Of Shows (1950- 54) which starred the great Sid Caesar.


Between 1958 and 1959, in partnership with Terry Ryan, he wrote 20 episodes of The Phil Silvers Show including Warrant Officer Papparelli, Bilko's Small Car and the final ever episode, Weekend Colonel.


His works included Barefoot In The Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), The Prisoner Of Second Avenue (1971), The Sunshine Boys (1972), California Suite (1976), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983) and The Goodbye Girl (1993).


As well as adapting many of his own plays for the big screen he also wrote original screenplays for films such as After The Fox (1966), Murder By Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978) and The Odd Couple 2 (1998).


When asked about once for his thoughts on his writing he said, "“Writing, I think, is not always an act of creation. Sometimes I think it’s like a poison that inhabits your being and the only way to get rid of it is to have the pen press deeply and quickly on the empty page.” 


Simon was married five times, to four different women. He had three children, all daughters. 


His final Broadway play was Oscar and Felix: A New Look At The Odd Couple (2005). It seems, he never stopped putting pen to paper. He once suggested his epitaph should read, “Ssshh, he’s writing.”

"Happy Days" Reboot In Works - (2019)


Sgt.Bilko Is Back On Forces TV!


Sergeant Bilko, star of the Emmy award-winning comedy series The Phil Silvers Show is back on Forces TV


The series is on weekdays at 9am, with a repeat at 12pm and at 7pm, from Monday October 16.


Originally broadcast in 1955, the series revolves around the hilarious exploits and schemes dreamt up by workshy Sergeant Bilko (played by Phil Silvers) as he ducks and dives his way through a career in the United States Army.


Debbie Barrett, Head of Acquisitions and Planning for Forces TV said: “It seemed appropriate that on a channel dedicated to all things military, that we should show this vintage series. Nearly 60 years after it was first broadcast it’s still hilarious!


"The well-crafted scripts and magnificent performances have definitely stood the test of time. Whether it is a trip down memory lane or the first time our audience has seen it, I hope Sergeant Bilko will find a new following on Forces TV.”



The Phil Silvers Show is distributed by CBS Studios International.


Forces TV is now available on Freeview 96, YouView 96, Sky Channel 264, Virgin 277 and Freesat 165.



Forces TV 11 Jul 2019


Alan Alda's First Screen Role Ever!


The first time Alan Alda appeared onscreen, he showed up suited up in a tux on a totally different military show than the one that would make him one of TV's biggest stars. It happened on The Phil Silvers Show (Bilko, The Art Lover), where Alda portrayed a 25-year-old millionaire friend who Sgt. Bilko hits up when he desperately needs a vacation, but can't afford to take one. So, he calls up Alda to fish out an invitation to come visit him in New York.


In that very first scene, Alda crosses his legs with his hair neatly combed to the side and as Carlyle Thompson III, fails to pick up on Bilko's hints at charity, saying, "Well, my aunt always stays at the Ritz Plaza. The suites are big and comfortable. Of course, there's the Waldorf."


Because it's a sitcom, in the end, Bilko gets the invitation he seeks, only to find out that Carlyle has seven months before his inheritance hits. Instead of hobnobbing with a hotshot, then, Bilko finds himself in the company of Alda's character as a struggling artist. With this added dimension to his character, we watch Alda shift from the haughty tone he uses on the phone to the squeaky impassioned pleas of an artist whose talents are ignored by his ignorant father.


For these scenes, fans can delight in the first time we see Alda's eyes fly around the screen, a dramatic actor who's been passionate and dynamic from the very start, but according to Alda in an interview with Archive Of American Television, this early role represented him in his rawest form as an actor. He even admitted that he showed up on set without having his lines memorized. It seemed in hindsight, Alda had a lot to learn to make the transition from Broadway to TV and movies:


"I had more talent than I did ability, but you could see the raw talent. And I had a lot of energy and you could see that I had this thing that my father had, which was that I could interest an audience looking at me and seeing what I was gonna do. But I needed a lot more experience. I was very raw. And I was shocked that when I got to work that day, that I was supposed to know my lines in advance, and they rolled the camera and I was supposed to do it."


Embarrassed, Alda acted fast. He said, "I was supposed to get it over with in one try, one take. At the most, two takes. And I had to go off in the corner and get somebody’s help to drill it into my head, because I was used to learning it in rehearsal. Learning it doing it."


Despite his inexperience, Alda landed the part because he nailed the audition, he said in the interview, but he also thought he might've had a tiny feather in his cap that helped him catch Phil Silvers' eye.


It seems that when Alda was just a baby, Phil Silvers once carried him onstage in a sketch during a burlesque show, and Alda thought perhaps this fond memory gave him an advantage. He said, "I had a very good-sized part on The Phil Silvers Show, and I think I was on the show partly because Phil Silvers had carried me onstage when I was 6 months old, but also because I auditioned and I was good."


He estimated in the interview that he was about six months old at the time and that Rags Ragland was also onstage when it happened, noting with a smile, "I had a lot of famous costars at six months." But ultimately, Alda said he never really became the sort of actor who showed up with lines memorized, and in the interview, he described the way the cast of M*A*S*H worked, which was a much more natural process for him.


"I don’t want to learn it in a mechanical way. I’m afraid I’ll say it in a mechanical way. When we were on M*A*S*H, we’d all sit around in a circle, and this might’ve been because of my need to do it, I don’t know, but it evolved that we all did it and we all enjoyed it. We’d sit around in a circle and read the scene with each other, over and over again in the same way that you would do for a stage rehearsal, and we had all come from the stage, so we were comfortable with stage techniques."


He also gave a pretty good reason why he works the way he does, which might just explain how he won so many Emmys, "I learned things in context. I don’t just learn the words. I like to know how I feel about what I’m saying. I like to know how I’m relating to you as I say it."

Veteran Actor Orson Bean Killed In Car Accident


Actor and  comedian Orson Bean was hit and killed by a car in Los Angeles on February 7, 2020. He was 91 years old.


He appeared in a number of films including Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Being John Malkovich (1999) and most recently in The Equalizer 2 (2018). He also and starred in several Broadway productions such as Never Too Late (1962 - 65) (alongside Bilko's Paul Ford) and Ilya Darling (1967 -68).


From the 1950's onwards he appeared in numerous television shows including: The Twilght Zone (1960), Naked City (1962), The Love Boat (1978), Murder She Wrote (1989) and Desperate Housewives (2012). He had a recurring role on Dr.Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993 - 98).


Fans of The Phil Silvers Show will perhaps know him best for his appearance as Pvt.Wally Gunther in Bilko's Insurance Company (1958) in which Bilko decides to sell insurance and thinks he's onto a winner. However he finds the risks are greater than the profits.

The Phil Silvers Archival Museum - Heritage Open Days 2020


Location: Fargo Village, Unit 2C, Far Gosford St, Coventry CV1 5ED

Time: 10.00 - 16.00

Cost: FREE


A unique Museum celebrating the life of Phil Silvers.




Friday 11 September: 10am - 4pm
Saturday 12 September: 10am - 4pm
Sunday 13 September: 10am - 4pm
Monday 14 September: 10am - 4pm
Tuesday 15 September: 10am - 4pm
Wednesday 16 September: 10am - 4pm
Thursday 17 September: 10am - 4pm
Friday 18 September: 10am - 4pm
Saturday 19 September: 10am - 4pm
Sunday 20 September: 10am - 4pm




The Phil Silvers museum opened its doors on 1 November 2015. His reputation was as one of television’s first pioneering comedians (The Phil Silvers Show 1955-1959).


Tours will take place at 11.00am and 14.00pm and will be adhering to Covid-19 distancing guidelines.


Tours will last around an hour. You can just turn up but if you prefer to pre-book email or call 07773 579181.

Frantz Kantor Draws Sgt.Bilko! - (2020)


Frantz Kantor is an Illustrator, Cartoonist, Caricaturist, Animatior, Art Director, Production Designer & Trainer in the industry of Visual Communication based in Melbourne, Australia.


In this fascinating video watch Frantz create his stunning rendition of Phil Silvers as Sgt.Bilko: 'All I ever wanted was an honest week's pay for an honest day's work!' A quote by Master Sergeant Ernie Bilko played by Comedian Phil Silvers is the subject of Artist & Illustrator Frantz Kantor in this step by step drawing tutorial. Frantz draws a caricature of Silvers' character discussing his face, personality & career, while creating a tonal drawing on grey paper, explaining the drawing process and the artist's own take on caricature along the way.


Phyllis McGuire - Dies aged 89



Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the popular all-girl singing group The McGuire Sisters, died aged 89 on 29th December, 2020 at her home in Las Vegas.


Starting in the ’50s, The McGuire Sisters became one of America’s most popular vocal groups with their wonderful three-part harmonies.


Phyllis  along with her older sisters Christine and Dorothy, shot to overnight fame after winning Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts contest in 1952. Over the next 15 years, they established themselves as one of the America's most popular vocal groups. They appeared alongside many of TV's greates stars including Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Andy Williams and Red Skelton.


The group featured in a fourth season episode of The Phil Silvers ShowBilko Presents The McGuire Sisters, written by Phil Sharp & Terry Ryan, sees Bilko stage a concert at Camp Fremont and he promises the appearance of some famous showbiz names.


The names might be familiar but the faces certainly aren't. Bilko's Sinatra recites poetry, Kim Novak plays the musical saw and The McGuire Sisters are not the famous female group but a troupe of Hungarian dancers. Following a letter from Doberman the real McGuire Sisters arrive at Camp Fremont and Bilko sets out to become their new manager.


She was dogged by scandal in 1965 when she was romantically linked with Sam Giancana, a Chicago mobster with reputed ties to the Kennedy administration and a Central Intelligence Agency plot to enlist the Mafia in what proved to be unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.


The McGuire Sisters retired from public appearances in 1968, Christine and Dorothy quit to raise families whilst Phyllis continued as a soloist. She appeared regularly in Las Vegas, where she lived for the rest of her life in her mansion which reportedly featured a swan moat and a replica of the Eiffel Tower rising through the roof.


The McGuire Sisters reunited in 1985 for a comeback and performed for almost twenty years at casinos and clubs in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and cities across the US. They sang their own hits, 1950s pop hits and Broadway show tunes, and Phyllis did impersonations of Peggy Lee, Judy Garland, Pearl Bailey and Ethel Merman.


In 1995, an HBO movie, Sugartime, focused on the Giancana-McGuire affair, with John Turturro as the mobster and Mary-Louise Parker as Phyllis. The sisters gave their last big performance on a 2004 PBS special, “Magic Moments: The Best of ’50s Pop.” They were inducted into the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1994, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.


In an interview for Vanity Fair in 1989 she said “I don’t fear living, and I don’t fear dying. You only live once, and I’m going to live it to the fullest, until away I go. And I’m going to continue singing as long as somebody wants me.”