The great Groucho: On everything
By JIM IRWIN
NO SOONER had he trudged into his
plush Beverly Hills suite and col-
lapsed in the nearest armchair than the
phone began to ring.
"Hello, Groucho Marx? This is the
San Francisco Examiner. Is it true you
told the Berkeley Barb that 'the only
hope this country has is Nixon's assassi-
A buzzy voice. Will Hearst Jr. maybe?
"I deny making it," Groucho answered
hotly. "I don't remember - it was a
long time ago.
"I deny everything, because I never
tell the truth. It's dangerous.
"I lig about everything I do or say -
about men, women or any other sex."
Good old Groucho, graying now, sur-
vives Chico and Harpo. His infamous
moustache, the one we all love, is gone
now, too, but he's still a veteran comed-
Groucho was obviously irritated when
examined by the Examiner.
"I just walked in the door and the
phone rang. I'm not sure I'm happy I
THE BUZZY VOICE on the other end
asked Groucho about other alleged poli-
tical statements made to the Barb, an
underground Berkeley paper, which pub-
lished in their May-June issue the full
text of an interview with Groucho in the
Bistro, a fashionable Beverly Hills res-
"I don't even want to discuss them. Is
this a cross-examination where I have to
get a lawyer?"
"Well, I'm only from The Examiner."
"You remember that I used to read The
"Why don't you read it any more?"
"I don't like it. I hope you get a story
out of this." (Click!)
U.S. ATTORNEY James Browning Jr.
expressed interest in Marx's alleged
statement about Nixon and other politi-
"We're studying the article to deter-
mine if there might be a provable offense
which may have been committed," he told
the Examiner late in May.
But Browning later told The Daily that
he had given up the idea. "The federal
statute requires the utterance to be a
true threat - a sincere and clear-cut
threat. In my view what Groucho Marx
said was not a true threat.
"You also have to consider that when
someone like a Black Panther says,
'We will kill Richard Nixon,' it's not the
'I think we were very luck that, with a limited amount of talent, we fooled the public
successfully for many years,'
tolerance that Johnson gave to Bobby
Baker, who's now in gaol. This goes on
all the time . . . Look at the Speaker
of the House, McCormack . . . he stole
everything before he left. And they gave
him a bonus besides, because he didn't
Barb: Do you think there's any hope
Groucho: No, I think the only hope
this country has is Nixon's assassination.
Barb: But then we've got to deal with
Groucho: Well, I mean it would be
near the end of the term. Agnew .won't
run again. I don't think. But I think
Muskie is a good man . . . I think the
other guy, McGovern, is a joke. The
420 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Edited and managed by students at the
University of Michigan
Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in all reprints.
--N-IGHT EDITOR TA
NIGHT EDITOR: TAMMY JACOBS
age, to start getting married again. I've
paid a lot of money in three alimonies.
It's not worth it.
Barb: What about companionship?
Groucho: For that you need a dif-
ferent kind of girl - you don't necessar-
ily need a girl with big tits. You need a
girl that normally you wouldn't marry,
or you wouldn't try to lay. But if a fellow
gets both, he's a very fortunate man. You
see, I don't believe there's such a thing as
lowe, I believe two people can like each
other, and I think that's much more im-
portant than love. Love just means go-
ing to bed and fucking.
On his movies:
Barb: Before the movies, when you
were on Broadway, what was it like?
Groucho: Vaudeville. First we were in
vaudeville, small-time vaudeville, where
there were rats in the dressing rooms.
Frequently, it was the manager.
Barb: What lured you away from
Broadway and out to Hollywood?
Groucho: Paramount offered us more
money than we could afford to reject,
We went there and we did five pictures.
Barb: Which film was your favorite?
Groucho: Duck Soup, Night at th e
Opera and Day at the Races. Some of
them were terrible. To us, not to the
audience. The kids, today . . . I get
more fan mail now than I did when I
was at the height of my career.
Barb: You're a -hero for a generation
that's seen your films only in revival.
Why do you think kids love your movies
so much? A lot of other old films, nobody
wants to look at anymore.
Groucho: They're not about anything,
most of them. I thought ours were gen-
erally about something . . . They were
attacking the contemporary establish-
ment of those days. We did a picture
called Duck Soup which was about mon-
archy. We did a funny picture about a
school, and we certainly satirized the
opera in America. So I think our pic-
tures were about something. Whereas in
most cases - Harold Lloyd, Keaton and
those fellows - they weren't anything,
they were just trying to be funny. We
were trying to be funny, but we didn't
know that we were satirizing the cur-
rent conditions. It came as a great
surprise to us.
Barb: Why can't they make funny
movies anymore? What did you have
that they don't have?
Groucho: Well, to begin with we had
talent. Then we had very good writers.
And we spent a year on each picture. El-
liot Gould has just made four pictures in
five months. How can they be any good?
Especially since it's just two people in
bed fucking. It takes more than that.
Barb: Many people who look at your
films now see elements of surrealism and
dada in them.
Groucho: It's kind of an LSD effect, 1
Barb: That wasn't exactly what I
meant. I wondered whether, in 1935, the
names of Cocteau or Jarry would have
meant anything to you?
Groucho: At that time, all I w a s
reading was the New York Journal, with
editorials by William Randolph Hearst.
Barb: So you say you weren't influ-
enced by the classic surrealists.
Groucho: I had never heard of them
in those days, I was too busy making a
living in vaudeville . . . I was crazy
about earning money and living well.
Barb: Then you weren't at all in-
terested in art?
Groucho: Not at all. Not in the pic-
tures nor on the stage. I think I was a
natural comedian, and I enjoyed doing
Barb: Did you ever think when you
were doing it, even privately, that it was
Groucho: I thought I had a good
racket going. No, I never thought of it
as art. I don't think the word art, which
happens to be my son's name, has, ever
come up in my thoughts or my conver-
sation. I didn't think there was any art
involved. We were trying to be funny,
and we were getting very good money for
Barb: Well, now that there's a vast
hody of literature dedicated to the pro-
-elon that at least the movies were
a-t. have you changed your mind?
-Groucho: No, I still feel the same way.
I think we were very lucky that, with a
" sd amount of talent, we fooled the
public successfully for many years.
Barb: Who do you say 'fooled them'?
The pictures were truly funny.
Groucho: I didn't think so - I
wouldn't go. Oh, I like some of them.
I'll never forget: I think the best pic-
ture ,we made was Night at the Opera.
We previewed it in San Francisco, and
in those days they used to give the
customers cards on which they would
write what they thought of the picture.
And one card we got just said, "Youse
guys are fulls shit." Now do you expect
me to have any respect for that, and call
same as an utterance from an alleged
(David Hilliard, Black Panther chief
of staff, was cited on federal charges for
saying, "We will kill Richard Nixon,"
before thousands of demonstrators at
Golden Gate Park at a peace rally on
Nov. 15, 1969.
(The charge was dismissed in M a y
by U.S. District Judge William Gray of
Los Angeles. The U.S. attorney refused
to disclose wire tap recordings of Hil-
liard that they claimed were irrelevant to
the Nixon charge.)
FOLLOWING are some excerpts from
the interview published in the B a r b
where Groucho discusses his life, h is
movies, and his politics.
Barb: How do you feel about the es-
Groucho: I think it's hopeless. This
whole gang in Washington, at least half
of them -are thieves - I don't think
there's any question about that. Every-
day you read about it. Look at the
mere fact that he's against the war is
not enough. He says he's been against the
war for three years. So what? I've been
against the war since the first war with
the Kaiser, but that doesn't qualify me
in any way to run for the Presidency.
Groucho: . . . I didn't know where
babies came from until I was about 18.
And by that time my folks had had five
boys . . . The first time was when I was
playing in Montreal, in some dump'
theatre there. A hooker picked me up,
and I didn't know what that was even.
She took me down in the cellar. Eight
days later I had gonorrhea. And I still
have it. They say it's something -you
really never get cured of. The vestiges of
that always remain in some'part of your
Barb: When did sex start getting
boring for you?
Groucho: My last marriage, I was 57
years old'. . I had ten wonderful years
with her . . . I've been single ever since,
and propose to stay that way for the rest
of my life. It would be folly, at my