Charlie Hill would be 71, today. I miss him. I loved him. Google made a Google Doodle to celebrate what would be his 71st birthday. That would make Charlie laughs his ass off. Charlie loved to laugh. He was such a wonderful guy. One of my buddies since 1977 when I met him out at The Comedy Store. We were both originally from Detroit and had that bond, and he loved to have fun.
The doodle for some reason reminds me of his career-changing appearance on ‘The Richard Pryor show’. The way he stood that day. The way he holds the mic. I went with Argus Hamilton and Ollie Joe Prader, two other of Charlie’s closet Comedy Store friends to watch the taping at NBC. It was so exciting for all of Charlie’s buddies, and he was so great on the show. He looked so damn great. Like a star. Pryor introduced him. He was radiant that day. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.
When Charlie’s episode aired, and by the way, the show itself was short-lived, he was one of the things everyone was talking about the next day.
One night at the ‘store’, Lindsay Wagner, who was the star of a huge television series at the time, ‘The Bionic Woman’ came in and saw Charlie. Not long afterward he was offered a role on the show. He worked so hard to ‘kill’ on his first acting role and he did. Not only did I visit the set several times as he shot the show, Charlie and his buddies, myself included, went over to Lindsay Wagner’s home in the Hills above Sherman Oaks and partied with her. He was having the time of his life and he wanted his Comedy Store buddies to reap the rewards as well. That was unprecedented for us lowly doorman/potlucker types at that time to be hanging out with a major TV star. It kind of blew our minds. Especially Charlie and I, two kids from Detroit.
Charlie went on to have a strong career. He appeared on all of the major talk shows and variety shows and toured the country, performing for a wide spectrum of audiences, and more importantly for Charlie, his own people, who adored him. I won’t say Charlie was a ‘comics-comic’ because that’s an overused phrase these day, but I will say he was a Gentleman’s-Gentleman. He was such a humble, polite, down-to-earth guy. Not that he couldn’t mix it up with his comic pals when we were all off alone, getting high. He could be as raunchy and out there as the next guy, but to people he met or wait-staff, other comedians he didn’t know, Charlie was always such a warm presence. I’ll never forget that about him.
The other thing, though I didn’t know them, when we talked, even many years later when I would see him, he spoke so sweetly about his family. He loved his family so much and could go on and on telling funny stories about his kids and his wife and grandkids. It was, for me, something that made me love him even more.
His son phoned me just a few days before Charlie died and asked if I wanted to say goodbye. It was a surreal, tough, and beautiful phone call. Charlie was so sure he was at the end, at the door. So calm about it. He just wanted to say goodbye to a few friends.
“I’m on my way out Mike. Just wanted to tell you I love you.”
Then we laughed, and ran down some of the funny moments we had shared ‘in the day.’ I told him I loved him and hung up. I’m sure he had other calls to make. He was polite, humble, and a big-hearted guy to the very end.
Do what you can to look up Charlie’s comedy. Never Forget; Charlie Hill.
CHARLIE ON DAVID LETTERMAN
OKAY THEN, CARRY ON..
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