(This post is in response to fellow OSer Denis Faye’s desperate plea. Please go here for the back-story.)
Auction houses around the world are competing for the chance to drop the gavel on one of the most sought-after pieces of paper in recent history. It was discovered in the personal effects of Edward “Ed” Norton, a New York plumber who achieved notoriety in The Fifties when he was portrayed by actor Art Carney on the smash television comedy hit The Honeymooners.
Handwriting experts have authenticated the note as having been written by Jackie Gleason, the rotund comedian who played Norton’s bumbling buddy Ralph Kramden, a New York bus driver whose get-rich-quick schemes always seemed to end in a minor disaster for the pair. Insiders say plots on the show were often based on Norton’s real life misadventures.
The logo at the top of the note is clearly that of Gleason’s Honeymooners Production Company. The address, 633 West Fifth Street, has also been confirmed as the location of the company’s palatial sixteenth floor offices in Los Angeles. The building was sold shortly after Gleason’s death in 1987, and most recently served as the offices of AIG’s west coast division. It is presently in foreclosure, another casualty of the California real estate crisis.
Trixie Eubanks, Gleason’s longtime personal secretary, would neither confirm nor deny a story that Gleason wrote the note during a visit with Norton, an occasion when both men reportedly did their best to confirm Gleason’s reputation for hard-partying and hard-drinking. According to insiders who requested anonymity for personal reasons, Norton passed out after a night of drinking, and Gleason left the note pinned on his vomit-covered body. Apparently, Gleason scratched out his name at the top to prevent any chance of being sued.
Norton, who was never paid for the use of his name, would surely be shocked to learn the note is likely to bring $250,000 to $350,000 at auction. Some experts say it could go even higher because in his grossly inebriated state, Gleason misspelled “back”. Other experts dispute that and believe “bak” is actually an inside joke between the two men, that the letters stand for Gleason’s pet name for his character Bass-Ackwards Kramden.
©2008 Tom Cordle