Show Business: The Man in the Lampshade

The voice is pure club-car American, rumbling through bourbon and cigar smoke, shaking with hoarse laughter. It sounds like a man imitating what he once feared he might become: a fat-ribbed salesman for his papa's turbine plant. Rumbles James Gilmore Backus: "I left Cleveland to get away from His and Her towels, people who call cocktail parties 'pours' and the guy who always breaks it up by wearing a lampshade on his head."

Today bushy-browed Comedian Jim (Mr. Magoo) Backus, 45, is one of TV's busiest players, appearing in everything from panel shows to serious drama. The part may be small—last week...

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