Jonathan Winters Has Left The Building

Jonathan Winters passed away today, leaving the world with one less voice of mirth and laughter. Although it is not widely remembered, Winters was a frequent visitor to Nevada City in the past. I never encountered him personally, but I do recall the stories from those who did. My own memory is sketchy on the details, but I believe he was somehow related to the family that ran Alpha Hardware. As a lark, he would sometimes work the counter, befuddling the local customers with his talent for creating funny characters. Wish I knew more about it. Anyone else out there remember these stories?

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11 Responses to Jonathan Winters Has Left The Building

  1. Judith Lowry says:

    My brother-in-law and his little boy ran into Mr. Winters at an antique store in Morro Bay. He immediately went into his shtick to entertain the child. Really generous for a celebrity.

    I have a copy of “Hang-ups”, a book of his paintings. Very interesting and whimsical works.
    I will miss him and “Maude Frickert”. She’s probably up there with “Aunt Blabby” now.
    An American original. Funny, funny man.

  2. Judith Lowry says:

    And sad to read that one of my idols, Maria Tallchief, has passed away at the age of 88.
    She was a strikingly beautiful Native American ballerina and an inspiration to generations of dancers.

  3. Todd Juvinall says:

    His mother lived in Lake Wildwood and she was a friend of a friend. He came to visit her often. Mad Mad World was a monumental comedy and he was great. He will be missed.

  4. George Rebane says:

    We celebrated Jonathan’s life last night in bed by watching a number of his hilariously funny comedy routines available on YouTube on our iPad perched on my belly. The many memories he left with us … . Another pillar of America’s golden age, we have been privileged.

  5. Mark Johnson says:

    J. Winter’s sister in law(Miriam Jensen) lived in Penn Valley. J Winters spent many hours fishing Nevada County lakes and streams with Charlie Sailor. Charlie’s wife, Barbara, and Miriam were great friends(The Sailors were great friends of my (family). Pearl Glass(aka Mumzy the clown) who lived here with her husband CL in GV for 50+years worked at Ready Springs School when she was not clowning. She told about the time J. Winters showed up at Ready Springs School in the early 70s’ , and gave the kids and staff a day to remember. RL – I bet J. Winters shopped at Alpha for his fishing gear, and showed his generosity by entertaining the staff and customers.

    • rl crabb says:

      Thanks, Mark. It seems like everybody manages to pass through our little corner of the universe eventually. I wanted to acknowledge the Sailor connection, but wasn’t sure if my memory was correct.

    • Kim Vigil says:

      My dad, Don Johnson, Winters and Sailor would often go fishing together and bring home many black bass. Sometimes there would be dinner afterwards at a local spot with side splitting one-man entertainment. He and my dad are sorely missed.

  6. TD Pittsford says:

    I have to share this tale: In the late 60’s (1967 to be precise) our camera crew (USAF 1369th Documentary Squadron out of Vandenberg AFB) drew duty to cover the 25th anniversary reunion of Jimmy Dolittle’s Tokyo Raiders in Alameda, CA at the Edgewater Inn. During a very private part of the ceremonies I and a few others were treated to a couple of hours, one-on-one with who was then as is still one of my all-time comedy heroes. I remember asking him how all those comedy icons in, “Its a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” got along during the making of the film. He reported that they all got along fine, “…except for Terry Thomas,” the gap-toothed English comedian. “Terry kept knocking Americans (much as he did in the film with comments like, ‘You bloody Americans and your bloody cars and your bloody refrigerators, and your bloody swimming pools!’ I got pretty tired of it and finally looked him in face and said, [in a faux British accent] Terry, isn’t it strange that I can talk like you but you cahn’t talk like me?” When the event ended we met Mr. Winters in the parking lot and as we were leaving and simply couldn’t help myself. In a poor imitation of Maudie Frickert’s voice, I said, “Johnny, it’s just been so good to meet you!” Of course I was mortified once I realized that I was imitating one of my most revered heroes’ characters right in front of him. I think he was just being gracious but it cracked him up. If indeed, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, I couldn’t think of a better way to honor him…and humiliate myself in the process. From his 1950’s TV show: “Up the little ladder, (scuttling sound) open the little door (whooshing sound) close the little door” (more whooshing followed by a spacey whistling sound as the little spaceship left this planet. Goodbye Johnny and thank you, thank you so very much for all the moments of true comedic genius you shared with us all.

    PS: Does anyone else remember the 15 minute TV show called “Hot Dog”? It starred Johnathon Winters, Ruth Bussey (Laugh-In) and Woody Allen? A wonderfully funny and educational show the likes of which will never be seen again because they just don’t make television like that any more.

  7. TD Pittsford says:

    Oops! It wasn’t Ruth Bussey, it was JoAnn Worely who co-starred in “Hot Dog”. (Sorry for the confusion; chalk it up to encroaching senility. After all, it was over a half-century ago and my memory sometimes doesn’t go back as far yesterday.)

  8. Ken Bowles says:

    Winters touched something in those who were in his cult. I think for me it was all about irony and inversion, taking familiar and mundane themes and thoughts and reactions, inverting the point of view, and enhancing and emphasizing the irony and humor of inserting those rules into ridiculous situations. And all done on the spot in free form. He was like a real time cartoonist, forcing us to the outside edges of our comfortable lives. He was about content, not process. No light shows, rock music, or super stars, just his brain on an empty stage dreaming it up as he went along.

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