Thursday, March 22, 2007


The recent comment about the authenticity of Larry "Bud" Melman brings to mind another character from the early days of Late Night who was suspected of being an actor playing a part, Brother Theodore. The gnomish friar appeared quite regularly on Letterman in the early 1980s, apocalyptically denouncing whatever he felt was wrong with the world and the human condition, not unlike this very blog. As I understood it at the time, his regular gig was then a spoken-word show he did on the Lower East Side, although one knucklehead in my dorm insisted he was a character played by the same actor who played Mr. Woodman on Welcome Back, Kotter (John Sylvester White, although the claimant was too much of an idiot to know that).

Brother Theodore was a real person, though, as real as any of us are, born Theodore Gottlieb to a wealthy family in Dusseldorf and having been imprisoned in a concentration camp before making his way to America. Wikipedia claims that he was deported from Switzerland for chess hustling, but really, who hasn't been? "I come from extremely bad stock," he once said. "The members of my family were mostly punks. Punks, blockheads, fishwives, vegetarians, triplets, nail biters. But I've always been happy." He had been making small movie appearances since the 1940s, including as the voice of Gollum in Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings, and had guested on talk shows alongside the likes of Joey Bishop and Merv Griffin before his halcyon days with Letterman. If half of what is reported here is true, his was one of the most fascinating lives of the 20th century.

Brother Theodore died in April 2001 at the age of 94. Wherever he is now, I'm sure he's still angry about something.

1 comment:

salfan2 said...

Brother Theodore Lives!!!!
All Theodorians who can get to Los Angeles before April 14 should check out the show "The Return Of Brother Theodore" at the Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz. Go to
and click on the theatre section.
There's a "GO" recommendation from the chief theatre critic. The review contains all the info about how to see the show.
I saw the show and it's really amazing!! I saw Theodore at the 13th St. Theatre in NYC in the 80's, and this actor really nails the vibe in spades.
SEE THIS SHOW, and then print your comments here. you'll be glad you did.