I was 18 years old when being managed in show business. George called me on a Friday telling me that on Monday I was going to be on Joe Franklin’s television show called Memory Lane. Although I started acting when I was thirteen, it was my first time not having my comedy partner to work off of. I asked what I would be doing, to which he responded, “I’ll tell you on Monday”.
At that time I was going by the name of Merle Exit saying that I changed my last name so that I can “see my name up in lights”. As we arrived I asked again. “You are the teenage laugh champion of New York City”. Joel Brooks and I certainly laughed enough. In fact, George had formed a corporation for us called “Funny Business” in which we would be employed to laugh in audiences.
George did most of the talking on the show, spurting out a bio that didn’t exist. I didn’t know how to respond and just started laughing…loud and long.
I hoped nobody viewed it. Wrong. I was on the subway with Joel and a few friends when a woman across from me said, “Hey, aren’t you the laughing girl? I was home sick watching tv and as I changed the channels I saw you and it made me feel so much better.” So, that was okay.
Some years later I went back on his talk show and doing a short comedy routine. This time there was a group of entertainers and when I introduced myself Joe said, “You changed your name to Exit so that you could see your name up in lights”.
Years go by and Joe’s son, Brad, started doing a cable tv show. It was his first show and with all of the people that Joe could have asked, called ME. The program consisted of just Brad, Joe and me. Keep in mind that just about everyone in show business has been on Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane both top stars and those simply working. When introduced Joe remembered the same line about my name.
Several years later, now being a journalist, I would encounter Joe at the same Broadway show that I
was critiquing. By this time his was at least in his late 70’s. I wasn’t sure if he knew me, so I would go over to him and say, “Hi Joe, Merle Exit”. His response was always the same even well into his 80’s. He would repeat it to whoever he was with and say his other response of “call me.” With show business a thing of the past, other than having an internet radio show, I never did but will always remember how he remembered me…and everyone else.