Peter Mar­shall and other friends share their fond­est mem­o­ries of the beloved Hol­ly­wood Squares fun­ny­man.

Closer Weekly - - Contents - PAUL LYNDE

At tap­ings of The Hol­ly­wood Squares, Paul Lynde would some­times get tipsy dur­ing the din­ner break and once got pulled over while he was driv­ing home. “The cop walks up, Paul rolls down the win­dow and says, ‘I’ll have a cheese­burger and fries,’” pal Rose Marie tells Closer. “The cop burst out laugh­ing, rec­og­nized Paul and of­fered to drive him home.”

With his trade­mark snark and per­fectly timed one-lin­ers, Paul could dis­arm any­one. “He was the fun­ni­est man I ever knew,” says Rose, who fre­quently oc­cu­pied a square along­side his on the clas­sic game show. “He was very dear, sweet, and such a good friend.”

His life, how­ever, wasn’t al­ways a laugh­ing mat­ter. He grew up the son of a straight-laced butcher in Ohio and some­times clashed with his dad at the fam­ily busi­ness. “He was more in­ter­ested in jok­ing around than be­ing a se­ri­ous butcher,” says Steve Wil­son, co-au­thor of Cen­ter Square: The Paul Lynde Story. When he told his fam­ily he wanted to go into show­biz, “my dad hit the roof and I hit the road si­mul­ta­ne­ously,” Paul joked.

He cap­i­tal­ized on his flair for com­edy while study­ing the­ater at North­west­ern Univer­sity, where one of his class­mates was fu­ture Facts of Life star Char­lotte Rae. “He was so sharp, quick and out­ra­geous,” Char­lotte re­calls to Closer. “His ir­rev­er­ence was far ahead of its time.”

Paul first found fame as the flus­tered fa­ther in the mu­si­cal Bye Bye Birdie, both on Broad­way and in the 1963 movie. He soon be­came an in­de­mand guest star on TV shows like I Dream of Jean­nie, The Mun­sters, Donny & Marie and Be­witched, which cre­ated the re­cur­ring role of Un­cle Arthur for him. “Guest star­ring was what he was best at,” says Wil­son. “Peo­ple found his per­sona fun in small doses.”

Paul’s naughty wit re­ally flow­ered in The Hol­ly­wood Squares’ cov­eted cen­ter square from 1966–’79. (Asked if Snow White was a blonde or a brunette, he quipped, “Only Walt Dis­ney knows for sure.”) “Paul had his own style, and it al­ways gar­nered a laugh,” re­calls host Peter Mar­shall.

Still, he grew frustrated with be­ing rel­e­gated to sec­ond-ba­nana roles — and hav­ing to hide his sex­u­al­ity in those less gay-friendly days — and turned to al­co­hol and drugs. “He was not fun to be around when he was drink­ing,” says

THE JOKER’S WILD

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THE WISEGUY WON OVER FRIENDS AND FANS ALIKE WITH HIS WICKED WIT

Peter. “But he got sober be­fore he passed away, and he was a de­light.”

The em­cee fondly re­mem­bers the last time he saw Paul. “We were at an air­port, and he was go­ing to New York to do a com­mer­cial and he looked great,” Peter says. “Near the end, he found his happy place.”

He died too young, of a heart at­tack at 55 in 1982, but Paul left a legacy of laugh­ter that res­onates to this day. “He in­flu­enced just about ev­ery out­ra­geous comic ac­tor from Robin Wil­liams to John Candy, but Paul was unique,” says Char­lotte. “There will never be an­other Paul Lynde.” — Bruce Fretts, with re­port­ing by

Ilyssa Panitz and Ja­clyn Roth

“Every­one loved work­ing with Paul,” Hol­ly­wood Squares host Peter Mar­shall tells Closer. “He was won­der­fully funny.”

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