Throughout the 1980’s, I used to see Morey Amsterdam frequently at the Hamburger Hamlet, a local “industry” restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, on the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills line. It is still there today, still serving up the burgers that made the once thriving chain (now whittled down to just a few locations) so popular. My office was across the street from the Sunset location at that time. I was there a lot. When friends and family would come into town for a visit, the Sunset Boulevard Hamburger Hamlet was a sure bet for a celebrity spotting – and not just a “spotting,” but an actual, real-life “encounter.”
These weren’t necessarily the level of “A” list celebrities we think of today (Cruise, Hanks, Bullock, Witherspoon), but older, iconic celebrities who had long ago paid their dues, earned their fame and continued to have loyal fans thanks to series and syndicated television. They were celebrities who became famous in a simpler era. Fans weren’t so much star crazy as they were respectful; paparazzi (or celebrity photographers) weren’t so much bounty head hunters as they were kinder (many even fans themselves).
What does this have to do with the addition of our interview segment this week on RerunIt.com? Everything.
Morey always seemed as eager and happy to meet with and chat with fans as he was to dine with friends and colleagues. It was great to observe – and it was even greater to talk with him about his life and career when we met over coffee for our Beverly Hills-based chat show on June 1,1992.
It was “The Dick Van Dyke Show” that brought him massive fame from television in 1961, but Morey had had a prolific and sustaining career since before the days of live television, including his own show. The popularity that found him in 1961 continued long after the “Van Dyke” show ended its original network run in 1966. The show has remained a fan favorite in worldwide syndication and U.S. cable networks for decades keeping both the characters and the actors who portrayed them forever etched in American pop culture.
Dick Van Dyke’s “Rob,” Mary Tyler Moore’s “Laura,” Rose Marie’s “Sally,” Richard Deacon’s “Mel” and Morey’s “Buddy” were key among the plots and twists that earned “The Dick Van Dyke Show” a rightful place in television history.
But there was a serious side of Morey Amsterdam, as well. He talks about meeting the soon-to-be presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in the early 1960’s and the relationship that followed in our 1992 interview. Clips from that interview in a package we call “From Van Dyke to JFK” is now available for viewing on-demand on the RerunIt.com Home page.
Morey died in 1996 at the age of 87 leaving behind a legacy of his own. As much fun as it was to hear the tales, observations and perspectives from a rich life and career, I must admit, his revealing story about JFK was the most remarkable for me then and now.
I’m happy to be able to share it.
From Los Angeles,