The Boy with the Betty Grable Legs An Interview with Skip E. Lowe By Mike White. Cashiers du Cinemart: So tell me all about your book! First off, what’s with that title?

Cashiers du Cinemart: So tell me all about your book! First off, what’s with that title?
Skip E. Lowe: It’s called The Boy With The Betty Grable Legs and it’s subtitled “From Here To Hollywood.” I used to work strip clubs when I was a kid at seventeen, eighteen years old. I worked in Chicago, for the Mafia. I used to work as an M.C. You’d come home at like four in the morning because the clubs are open late.

Then I worked in Cicero and Calumet City. That was really raw-they had the girls take off everything there. I used to have a lot to do with the girls because I was the “head man” watching the girls at night. Evidently what happened when I used to work for them—it’s all about that in the book.

And, also, I worked for the military. I didn’t work for them. I entertained the troops in Vietnam and Germany. I was with the Everly Brothers, Phil and Don, for about six or seven years as an M.C. and comedian. I worked with Johnny Ray, Joanie James, Sheckie Green (he’s also from Chicago). I worked with a lot of big singers.

Then I stayed in Europe a long time, hanging around there. I went all over Europe, working the military bases so I could see Europe. Then, finally, Vietnam came and I went to Saigon. I stayed in Saigon and I worked in Da Nang and Le Trang and all the bases. This is where I met Martha Raye and Mamie Van Doren. Martha wasn’t entertaining there—she was working as a nurse—and I stayed with her there.

CdC:What timeframe are we talking here?
SEL: I was living in New York and I left there in about 1960 to visit Paris. Then I was in London at the time that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was working the Blue Angel with Noel Harrison (Rex Harrison’s son). And I met the Beatles. Paul McCartney-he was going with an actress by the name of Jane Asher. A lot of chic people used to come there. Then the night that President Kennedy was shot I was with a girl there, a singer, and we both decided to go back to Paris.

Back in Paris I worked with Josephine Baker. She was slipping at the time. From there we went to Germany and then I started doing the bases there. The war in Vietnam started getting hot then. I went over there about...1967 and stayed there until 1972. After I left there I landed in San Francisco and wound up staying in California.

CdC:What did you do once you got to the West Coast?
SEL: I did showcases. You present singers and comedians. Some of my finds were Michael Feinstein and Yakov Smirnoff-you remember Michael Feinstein? He used to work for me. He came from Ohio. There’s a lot of good singers, I can’t even think of all the names of people I helped along the line.

So, anyway, I did the “Skip E. Lowe’s Talent Showcase.” It became very popular around L.A. I worked all the clubs and hotels. I still do it every once in a while. I just closed the Passion and I’ll probably open at the Roosevelt.

CdC:Then you got involved with Roger Corman’s studio for a while?
SEL: Yes, I did for a while. I met Edy Williams and her husband, Russ Meyer, was doing a movie. I met Christian Brando through her, Marlon’s son. Marlon and I got very close. It’s in my book.

CdC:I really enjoyed some of your films from the seventies, like Capone and Crazy Mama. My favorite, though, has to be Black Shampoo.
SEL: That’s your favorite? Wow! I have never really seen the film, you know. I do a lot of movies that I’ve never seen. I did about four of them just recently and I don’t even remember the names of them. I just go and do them, you know. I heard the music is great in that.

CdC:How did you get involved with your cable access show?
SEL: Some man saw me do my show at the Hyatt and said to me, “Why don’t you do a public access show?” When I started I was the very first in Hollywood. The very, very first. I started with the close-ups. My shows are filled with tight close-ups.

CdC:What was it like being a child star?
SEL: I came out to Hollywood when I was nine years old. It’s all in my book. It’s all the odysseys of my life. I did Best Foot Forward, that was my first movie. Then I did a movie with Jane Powell—it was her first movie—Song of the Open Road.

CdC:Did your parents push you into show business?
SEL: My mother did. My mother was very mothery, tough lady. You see, I’m half Jewish and half Italian. My mother was Jewish and she really wanted to push me. I stayed in Hollywood until I was twelve and then my mother took me to New York and I stayed with my Aunt Sadie who worked at a club called Sammy’s Bowery Follies. I worked there for a while as a singing newsboy. When I got to be about sixteen or seventeen I worked up at the Catskills in the mountains. Then I got booked into Pittsburgh and from there I went to Chicago and I started working strip clubs.

CdC:When you were overseas, what kind of material would you do?
SEL: I was doing very, very clean material. Singing, I do singing. I’m an Irish Tenor. I used to sing songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” you know, George M. Cohan. “Danny Boy” was my big, big thing in Vietnam. No dirty material. That’s why the military loved me.

CdC:How did you get involved in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita?
SEL: That was when I was working in Rome. I played a cameraman. I had blonde hair and a scarf and I looked like one of those guys running around. Do you remember when she got off the plane? I was one of the paparazzi.

CdC:You still haven’t answered my question about the name of the book.
SEL: The girls in the clubs in Chicago, backstage I used to have boxers and I used to take my pants off and run around the backstage. And, the girls used to make fun of me; “Oh, here he comes, the boy with the Betty Grable legs!” I have great legs and that’s it.

Visit the official site of Skip E. Lowe

Article revised and available in the Impossibly Funky Collection

Back to Issue 12