Ray Lee

Celebrity bridge

Judy Kay-Wolff’s recent blog about show-biz great Billy Wilder reminded me of Eddie Kantar’s story about his would-be TV show from many years ago.  I’ve heard him tell it many times, and he included it in his Advanced Bridge Defense book, but it always gets me laughing anyway.

7 4
West East
A J 9 2 K 10 3
Q 8 6 5

This diamond layout featured in a deal Eddie had set up to illustrate that sometimes in defense you need to underlead an ace — here, if you need four diamond tricks then as West you lead a low diamond, hoping for the above distribution.

I’ll let Eddie tell the rest of the story:

“The above layout was one I used many years ago in an ill-fated television show that never saw the light of day.  The format was to have one celebrity, usually a well-known movie star who supposedly played bridge, plus three other local players on the set.  After I interviewed the movie star, and talked for a moment or two to each of the other players, they would all adjourn to the bridge table and play one lesson-type hand I had set up — a hand they had never seen before.

For this hand the celebrity was the late Jim Backus, who was the movie voice of ‘Mr. Magoo’ for many years.  He was the nicest guy, but he hadn’t played bridge for decades and was afraid he’d make a fool of himself.  It had been agreed that we would never make the celebrity be the dummy, so I put Jim in the East seat.  I told him privately ‘If your partner ever leads a diamond, play the king and then play the ten.’  I know I wasn’t supposed to do that, but if you had seen him, you would have done the same.  He even wrote himself a little note about how to play those diamonds.

Well, the cameras started rolling (this was a one-shot deal, no second takes) with me off-camera as the commentator.  The bidding went as I had hoped.  West made the opening lead, which declarer won, and switched to clubs, West winning the ace.  Now West started to think as Jim glanced at the little note he had written.  Finally, to my horror, West laid down the A!  Jim, of course, played the K and then led the 10 out of turn! Talk about ill-fated TV shows.”

1 Comment

Judy Kay-WolffDecember 17th, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Ray: That is a classic — and as I was reading it, I could hear Eddie’s voice and picture the grin on his face as he recounted the humorous debacle. In fact, the tale is reminiscent of a term I haven’t heard since I moved from Philadelphia: Double Nullos. That was always used to express disapproval of defenders’ maneuvers to slop as many tricks as possible. However, I guess we have all been guilty of that charge on occasion.

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