Monday, May 2, 2011
Hackett's first job after the war was at the Pink Elephant, a Brooklyn club. It was here that he changed his name from Leonard Hacker to Buddy Hackett. He made appearances in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and continued to perform in the Catskills. He acted on Broadway, in Lunatics and Lovers, where Max Liebman saw him and put him in two television specials.
In the late 1940s, Hackett's friend, Jules White, asked him if he would like to replace Curly Howard in The Three Stooges, due to Curly's stroke. According to the The Love Bug audio commentary, Hackett turned down the role.
Hackett's movie career began in 1950 with a 10-minute "World of Sports" reel for Columbia Pictures called King of the Pins. The film demonstrated championship bowling techniques, with expert Joe Wilman demonstrating the right way and Hackett (in pantomime) exemplifying the wrong way. Hackett would not return to movies until 1953, after one of his nightclub routines attracted attention. With a rubber band around his head to slant his eyes, Hackett's "The Chinese Waiter" lampooned the heavy dialect, frustration, and communication problems encountered by a busy waiter in a Chinese restaurant: "No, we no have sprit-pea soup ... We gotta wonton, we got eh-roll ... No orda for her, juss orda for you!" The routine was such a hit that Hackett made a recording of it, and was hired to reprise it in the 1953 Technicolor musical Walking My Baby Back Home, produced by Universal-International.
Hackett was an emergency replacement for Lou Costello in 1954. Abbott and Costello were set to make a feature-length comedy Fireman, Save My Child, with a guest appearance by Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Several scenes had been shot with stunt doubles when Lou Costello was forced to withdraw due to illness. Universal-International salvaged the project by hiring Hugh O'Brian and Hackett to take over the Abbott and Costello roles; Jones and his band became the main attraction.
On June 12, 1955, Buddy Hackett married Sherry Cohen. He lived in a home in Leonia, New Jersey before purchasing a home in Fort Lee in the late 1950s that had been owned by crime boss Albert Anastasia.
Hackett became known to a wider audience when he appeared on television in the 1950s and 1960s as a frequent guest on such talk shows as those of Jack Paar and Arthur Godfrey, telling brash, often off-color jokes, and mugging at the camera. He was on the Johnny Carson show as a frequent guest. During this time, he also appeared as a panelist on What's My Line?