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Me and George Burns at his book signing.

How I Met George Burns

In the 1980s I met Movie Star, TV Star, Entertainer, Comedian and All-Around Legend George Burns at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He was signing his book, “Gracie: A Love Story,” and as the Assistant to the Entertainment Director of the Las Vegas SUN, I went to greet him and have a chat.

My department did the SUN newspaper advertising for Caesars, and we wanted to give the red carpet treatment to this comedy legend. We had been informed rather late that he was having the book signing, so we grabbed what we needed for the interview, including the newspaper photographer, and dashed out to the Las Vegas Strip and the magnificent Caesars Palace.

The Caesars staff were their usual courteous and amenable folks and made sure to provide a comfy spot for him to do his autographing. Of course, he was also appearing there in two shows a night. The man was a machine who never stopped!

George, at this time of his life was getting frail, but he still had the wit and the charm he’d always had. He was still as funny as ever, telling his tales of life with Gracie Allen, his wife of 38 years before she died in 1964 from a heart attack. His book tells of all the ways Gracie made his life funnier, happier and actually more prosperous. He credits her totally with his rise to stardom.

Burns and Allen – Perfect Comedy Team

Burns & Allen 1952

Photo Credit

George Burns ~ The Author – Gracie – A Love Story

Gracie A Love Story is a poignant, loving story, of his life with Gracie Allen.

He was the “straight man,” to her funny nonsensical charm.

Gracie pulled off things you’d never believe. Critics loved her and called it “illogic logic,” when she said such things as “I was so surprised at being born that I didn’t speak for a year and a half,” (from page 17, Gracie A Love Story.)

The Back-And-Forth Repartee Between Them

Example of their witty give-and-take: George: “Gracie did the maid ever drop you on your head when you were a baby?” Gracie: “Don’t be silly George, we couldn’t afford a maid. My mother had to do it,” (from page 19, Gracie A Love Story.) This book is full of funny stories, but mostly ones that show his love for Gracie. Burns always gives her the credit for their show being the hit that it was. It’s a book you’ll love reading, especially if you loved George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Cigar smoking but hale and healthy

Photo Credit

The RUSH to Caesar’s Palace

The visit to Caesars was an unexpected one. We knew Burns was to be in town performing there, but did not know he was going to hold a book signing until the last moment. When we were notified, of course we wanted to cover it. We had already heard this was a book about Gracie, the love of his life, so we were happy to be covering the signing. When it came our time to talk with him, we spent probably a good 20 to 30 minutes with him as he signed books for fans, and we talked in between signings.

George autographed a book for me, and made me laugh!

When he said he was autographing one for me, I said, “But George, I don’t have one with me! We had no time to stop if we wanted to make it while you were signing the book.” He smiled broadly, and reached behind him into a book bag (honestly!) pulled one out and said, “I’m always prepared to autograph my books for pretty girls.” I laughed, and he signed it  “To Nancy, My Best, George Burns,” and handed it to me. I’ve treasured it since then, along with the photo at the top of this page of the two of us, sent to me courtesy of Caesars Palace. As for the book, it’s kept in a safe place so that it never gets damaged or thrown away by mistake once I’m gone. The photo is on the wall of my office, to remember the good times. Four copies are being made of it, to be given to my kids.

This is the autographed book I treasure,    Gracie A Love Story

You can own Gracie A Love Story, but not my autographed copy. It’s a treasure that will be passed on to my family. However, Amazon still has copies at a reduced rate, and if you’d like to own a piece of American Entertainment History, now is the perfect time. Plus, you’ll find yourself chuckling throughout its pages.


Gracie: A Love Story by George Burns (1988) Hardcover

Lots of Stories to Tell, From Living A Long Life

Nobody can tell stories like George Burns. He always had such a way of making the story seem interesting but inconsequential, until the final moments of laughter. This book of 100 Stories in 100 Years is filled with his funny way of looking at everyday life. Words, to George, were the best way to poke fun at himself, along with Gracie’s help of course.


100 Years 100 Stories

A Quick Biography – Of One Of America’s Greatest Comedians

Who WAS George Burns?

George Burns was born Nathan Birnbaum on January 20, 1896 in New York City. He was the ninth of 12 children born to Jewish immigrants from Romania. His mother passed away at an early age from an influenza epidemic and “Nattie” as he was known, went to work at various menial jobs to help support the family. While working in a candy shop at the age of seven, Burns and fellow co-workers used their free time singing and harmonizing current songs. After someone gave them a few coins to perform, he knew show business was the thing for him.

Burns began in Vaudeville, then went on to become a top comedian, an Oscar winning actor, and a best selling author of 10 books, before he passed away on March 9, 1996, 49 days after his 100th birthday. He always gave the credit for his rise in show business to his partner and wife, Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen.
Here’s a recent biography of George Burns you might be interested in, compiled by Charles River Editors.


American Legends: The Life of George Burns

George Burns tells funny and touching stories – of his many friends, both living and dead

He was friends with some of the greats of early show business, including Al Jolson, Fanny Brice, Jack Benny, the Marx Brothers and more. He also had friends of the more current variety such as Walter Matthau, Bobby Darin, Ann-Margaret and Brooke Shields. On the anecdotes he tells in this book,  American Legends: The Life of George Burns, he says “Most of what I said is true. The rest is show business.”


George Burns: All My Best Friends

George Burns lived 49 days past his 100th birthday. When he was buried alongside Gracie at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, the gravestone was changed  to add his name and dates and engraved with “Together Again.” He also insisted that she have top billing on the gravestone, and as shown here, her name is first.

A fitting sentiment for the two.

 

 

Want to know more about George Burns and Gracie Allen? – Here are links for more on this fascinating couple.

Burns and Allen on Wikipedia

Biography of George Burns on Wikipedia, including his early years, and awards he won.

Biography of Gracie Allen on Wikipedia, including her early years and awards she won.