Milton Berle was television's first superstar and remains one of America's top comedians.
From the Print Edition:
Ron Perelman, Spring 95
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Since he was in mourning for the first year after he became a widower, Berle never brought a date along to any of the Bel Air and Beverly Hills soirees. But he'd been introduced to Lorna, who'd attended some of the same parties as someone else's date, and he found her attractive.
Lorna is a tall, well-built redhead, about 30 years younger than Berle, who owns a clothes-designing business in Los Angeles.
One evening while Berle was dining with Danny Welkes, his agent, at Nicky Blair's steak house on the Sunset Strip, he noticed Lorna sitting with a girlfriend at a nearby table. She noticed him, too, and sent her waiter over with an offer to buy him and his friend a drink. Berle sent word back that he didn't drink, but that he'd stop by her table later and buy dessert for her and her friend. Which he did, after which he lit a cigar and inadvertently blew smoke her way. Then, realizing his secondhand smoke might be objectionable, he waved it away and apologized.
"No problem," she replied. "You can blow smoke in my face anytime."
The way to a man's heart! Especially the heart of a man who had recently lost a wife and was lonely.
Berle and Lorna were married on November 26, 1990, less than three months after their restaurant meeting.
But there's a twist to the story.
About a year after their wedding, Lorna informed her husband that she had developed nodules on her vocal cords and that her doctor had advised her to stay away from cigar smoke.
"Now when I want to smoke at home, I have to go into another room," Berle lamented to me at the end of our interview. "Well, that's life. Or is it marriage?"
Arthur Marx is the author of three books and two plays about his father, Groucho.
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