Tubby Stubby

Meet Stubby Kaye, guest star of Granada’s The Variety Show

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 31 July 1960

TWO skips and half a chorus away from Leicester-square Stubby Kaye starts singing and dancing down a street. “Every street’s a boulevard in London Town,” he warbles, and nobody takes any notice.

Now Stubby is not the kind of a man you ignore. To start with, not to put too fine a point on it, Stubby is tubby. There is 17½st of him packed into a 5ft 7½in frame … “That’s measuring from the ground up,” he says, and adds: “but it doesn’t look much different going straight across.”

Then again the American entertainer, who breaks into a month’s holiday here to make his ITV debut in The Variety Show on Wednesday, is not exactly the whispering type of warbler. When he sings, because he is happy in London, he reckons to carry to Birmingham whether the wind is in the right direction or not.

But he is the friendly type of personality who can get away with the unusual, even singing in the street, while the rest of us would be accused of being drunk and disorderly.

Two fast choruses and he stops short.

“Gotta watch the exercise,” he says, “can’t afford to lose too much weight. I gotta stay fat. Maybe I could lose 5lb, 7lb, 10lb, say a stone. Thats ridiculous,” and he pats a well-rounded girth. “A stone! More like a pebble. I’m on a diet — eating nothing but meals.

“You know why people like to watch fat people? Because we’re built for comfort—and, boy, when we bounce about does that comfort wobble around. There’s something about a fat man having a good time that’s infectious. Kinda like a yawn, only more eye-catching. So don’t call me plump — I’m fat.”

Stubby is but a shadow of the jolly fat man who returned to America in 1953 after scoring such a hit as Nicely Nicely in the musical Guys and Dolls. The one who sang Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat with such verve.

“Slimmed right down,” claims Stubby. “Used to be 52in round the waist, if you knew where to look for the waist. Now … a mere 48in.”

Stubby Kaye

He throws back his head and laughs. Gleaming gold teeth do not shine half as brightly as his kindly brown eyes. Eyes topped by sandy brows. Eyes that set the man’s character — essentially friendly.

That is what comes over most about Stubby — the friendliness. He is the butt of every joke he tells. The boot never goes on the other foot.

Feet — that is another thing. Like most fat men, he has relatively small feet.

“How do I balance all this?” He places plump hands on his tummy and shakes it. “I put one foot in front of the other — carefully — and pray some joker doesn’t tilt me.”

On Wednesday he will sing, but naturally, Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat … for about the 2,000th time, he estimates. Is he not tired of the number yet?

“Nope. Every time I sing it, it’s the first time all over again. I’m the biggest ham in this business. I want people to like me. And if I don’t look like I’m having a ball, how can I expect anyone else to enjoy it?”

For Stubby there never has been anything else but show business in his working life.

He was born in New York City on Armistice Day — November 11, 1918. A big baby. “Don’t ask me what I weighed. I was too excited to get here to look at the scales.”

Just as soon as earning a living came around Stubby headed for show business. Summer shows in the Catskill Mountains entertaining visitors. A tour with a discovery show. Camp shows. Cabaret. Stage. Television. Films.

He has other ambitions. One day… “I’ll get married. Some idiot will look the wrong way and say ‘Yes’ without thinking. All I’m waiting for is a better offer than staying happy…”

There’s one question left. What is his real name.

He stiffens — well, as much as it’s possible. Almost a hurt look. Then a slow, sweeping, golden gleam of a smile.

“Stubby,” he insists. “Stubby Kaye. That’s what they call me in the business. That’s what I call me out of it.

“Every time I give somebody my real name something nasty happens, you know. First time I told, they sent me to school. Another time I was asked, it was the conscription people. What you got lined up?”

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