Vintage Scan #2: Author Extraordinaire- Charles Nelson Reilly

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This 1975 ad confuses me. Nevermind the fact that CNR is dressed as a minuteman, if you read the small print at the bottom you'll see that Charles Nelson Reilly has evidently written a book on his stays at Rodeway Inns! WTF?

"Get My Latest Book! Free! Here's the inside story of Rodeway Inns as revealed for the first time by me! It will be a big help to you when you're planning to rediscover America. So mail this coupon right now! You'll get it free!"
This must be quite a book - almost every sentence is an exclamation! I would love to read CNR's travel tales, but alas cannot find evidence of this book anywhere. I'm sure it never won a Pulitzer and is just basically an advertisement in book form, but you know it would be a fun read anyway. Let me know if you've ever heard of this book.


  1. That little book (booklet?) would be quite a find. I'll keep my eyes open.

  2. I was always a huge fan of his. I'd read any book he wrote.

  3. To the Editor:

    Per usual, I go too long. So, I'll have to split this into separate postings (because every word I type is more precious than gold).

    This older note of yours came up, following your latest post on Drive Ins. Charles Nelson Reilly was THE man, no doubt about it.

    Hairball mentioned Mr. Reilly's stint on Match Game--but he was good on everything. I remember--as a kid--seeing CNR on Mike Douglas (the MOTHER of all dull talk shows), telling this hilarious story about how hard it was to be a director...

    He was also a solid stand-by for a last minute addition to Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. At that time, Late Show ran for 90 minutes, so Carson had time to include more than just the usual gang of idiots hawking new movies. When Tonight was cut back to an hour, the CNRs, Phyllis Dillers--that generation of comics all got nixed.

    During the middle 70s, CNR also had a hilarious afternoon "kid" show, where he wore this outlandish crocodile costume. His show was supposed to be so "terrible," that the boss/network/The Man--I don't remember--was always threatening to fire him. Essentially, the show was a send up of the "worst" Captain Kangaroo ever. In fact, one show had as a "guest" the star of the most popular children's show ever, "Captain Klangaroo." Klangaroo was a Captain Kangaroo look alike, only with a large cymbal strapped to his waist and the other in his hand. Captain Klangaroo would often (REAL often) slam the cymbals together to make a point. Mainly, the show featured the two "hosts" insulting each other...I can't remember the name of that show, but I'm afraid it's lost to television history......

  4. (Part II)

    Any real X-Files fan will also include in their top ten favorites the immortal "Jose Chung" episode, where CNR was an author, writing a book about an supposed alien abduction. It was a wonderful/strange show, with Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebeck as two of the Men in Black.

    Mr. Reilly reprised his Jose Chung character for the pilot of a quasi-spin off called "Millennium," where CNR's author-character was "researching" an article about a secular "religion" (I don't remember the name of the religion in the show, but the religion resembled Scientology in a way that is best described as "identical").

    Millennium had its good shows--but I don't think any of them reached the level of CNR in the pilot. Spoiler Alert (for anyone who cares): They killed Jose Chung--maybe for reasons important to the plot, but I was still wildly pissed.

    I also have to say, in talking about Mr. Reilly--as a kid, I never knew he was gay. But he never made a secret of it, or who he was. Nor did he exploit it by making fun of it or himself. He was an entertainer, who developed his own persona--like Don Rickles and Soupy Sales--and had the talent & intelligence to play it, and make it roll.

    I'm good at looking for books--I'll see what I can do, if there's any decent biographies or books by The Man.

    In the meantime, if you're looking for similar styled books, here's a few I recommend. Keep in mind none of these are exactly Look Homeward, Angel or John Steinbeck in their writing--but all of them made me laugh out loud.

  5. (Part III--There should be a prize for the intrepid able to wade through to the end....)

    For me, the King is Lenny Bruce's How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Very funny, and filled with great stories of how Lenny got to be Lenny. The posthumous (I think it's posthumous) collection of some of his routines, The Essential Lenny Bruce, is also wildly hilarious.

    Rodney Dangerfield's It's Not Easy Being Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs is also surprisingly good. As a narrative, it's not Boswell's Life of Johnson--but it really feels like the kind of book you'd expect from Mr. Dangerfield.

    I also want to give a shout out to Lewis Black's Nothing's Sacred, the paperback edition with a new update. This book is (roughly) an autobiography of Mr. Black, and wicked funny (especially if you're a bitter, cranky middle aged guy *cough cough*).

    I may be the last person in continental North America who remembers Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre, but two of the more memorable characters are Dr. Science (He knows more than you do!) and Ian Shoales (There are many waves in popular culture. Catch them, with Ian Shoales). The Official Dr. Science Big Book of Science is very funny. Merle Kessler's Ian Shoales's Perfect World is a little strange, in that this "novel" is disjointed (to say the least), but it's one of my favorite books.

    Jean Shepard's In God We Trust--All Others Pay Cash is a wonderful collection of short stories about a Depression era mill town in Indiana. Mr. Shepard's other books are a little uneven in places, but In God We Trust is all good. These stories were the basis for the film "A Christmas Story," by the by.

    I am ashamed to say I that while I am certain, sure Mr. Don Rickles has written a book, I have not seen it. I'll look for it.

    I remain:
    Bill Abendroth
    Samsara Samizdat