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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Final tributes for comic Berle
Comedian Don Rickles was a speaker at the memorial
Comedian Don Rickles was a speaker at the memorial
Friends and family have paid tribute to US comedian Milton Berle, who died last week at the age of 93.

Veterans of comedy, including Don Rickles, Red Buttons and Norm Crosby, were among the 300 people at a Los Angeles memorial service for the cigar-smoking comic.

These people, these legends like Berle - once they're gone you can never replace them

Fyvush Finkel
Berle died at a hospice in with his wife Lorna by his side on Wednesday - he had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon last year.

The entertainer was one of the first stars of television and has been credited with boosting sales of sets in the early days.

Among the legends he worked with were Bob Hope, Mary Pickford and Mabel Normand.

Comic Sid Caesar was a great friend of Berle's
Comic Sid Caesar was a great friend of Berle's
Comedian Buttons was among the speakers who paid tribute.

"Milton was bold and brash and benevolent and he had the (guts) to be funny," he said.

Producer-writer Larry Gelbart characterized Berle's humour as "giving other people's material a new home".

He added: "Jokes are a comic's oxygen, and Milton never stopped inhaling."

Among other entertainers paying tribute to the man affectionately called "Uncle Miltie" were Buddy Hackett, Larry Miller, Martin Landau and Fyvush Finkel.

"These people, these legends like Berle - once they're gone you can never replace them," said Finkel.

"They don't make 'em like that any more."

Born Mendel Berlinger in New York's Harlem on 12 July, 1908, he took to entertaining from an early age.

Milton Berle
Dressing in drag became a trademark of Berle's act
At the age of five he won a vaudeville contest for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin.

He became a child actor, appearing with Pickford and Normand and eventually Chaplin himself in Tillie's Punctured Romance.

He began on Broadway in 1920 in a production of The Floradora Girl.

He went on to join the Ziegfeld Follies in 1936, and bringing his humour to guest radio slots.


In 1948 he started on TV, becoming the new medium's highest-paid star and being watched on four out of five sets in the US.

But as tastes moved on, Berle found himself out of the limelight but he continued to perform at nightclubs, college campuses and fairs.

He admitted his humour was not sedate, saying: "I guess you'd call my style flippancy, aggressiveness, a put-downer."

In 1983, he was among the first crop of inductees entered into the TV Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Milton Berle
Berle like to take control of the TV production
Berle cited his influences as Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson and Lou Holtz when he started out touring on the vaudeville circuit.

Berle's TV show started life as the Texaco Star Theater, but was soon renamed the Milton Berle show.

He went on to win an Emmy award for the programme, which finished in 1956.

A private family burial was scheduled after the memorial service.

See also:

28 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Entertainer Milton Berle dies
07 Mar 02 | TV and Radio
Bob Hope helps comedy archive
07 Sep 01 | Americas
Bob Hope leaves hospital
15 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Muppets plan Chaplin move
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