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For his headstrong rule of his own roost, Gleason had a mixed reputation around CBS: "There is only one way to do things." said the voices in the washroom, "the Gleason way." He refused to rehearse, treated scriptwriters with such scorn that one producer claims "we had to hire a liaison man between Gleason and his scriptwriters." Nonetheless, the company thought enough of his talents to agree to pay him $100,000 a year every year from 1957 through 1972. Gleason does not have to work for the money. It is paid to him simply to keep him from working for any other network. He called the $100,000 "peanuts." but he took it anyway. It represented another concession from what he calls "the hierarchy"a general term he often uses to indicate all the "frat-pin boys," the college men with diplomas who make the ultimate rules by which he has to live. "All the buildings on Madison Avenue are conning towers," he says, and "any television executive must have one very important attribute: cologne."
After 39 weeks of The Honeymooners, Gleason reports, he called Buick and told them to keep the rest of their $11 million, explaining that it was impossible to maintain good material at the accelerated pace. "You'll have to give us time to think it over." said Buick. nonplused. They thought it over and finally agreed. Like all TV phenomena. Gleason had reached a peak and was apparently in decline. In 1957-58, he took a year off.
The Spender. But the boy from Brooklyn had it made financially, and he knew it. He became the biggest of the big-time spenders, and has kept it up. Jackie saves little and gambles as if he were using Monopoly scrip. He is willing to bet $100 a hole in a golf game, and he lost $3,000 on a wager that Grace Kelly would never marry the Prince of Monaco. With him, betting is as direct a challenge as Indian wrestling. Says Arthur Godfrey: "I understand that he finds out what his opponent's top wager is and then bets him twice that."
His gifts to friends, usually expensive and conventional, often run wild and combine with a boisterous taste for practical jokes. To various people he has given a pig. a goat, a horse 600 Ibs. of manure, a dozen rabbits, a truckload of used furniture, a tiny monkey, and a basketful of shrunken heads. One recipient retaliated by sneaking into Gleason's bathroom and filling the tub with Jello.
His gifts to charity are also endless$100 here, $1.000 there, a check to the family of a fireman whose death he read about in the papers, continual subsidies to a Catholic institute in New England of which he is the chief financial supporter. But he never talks about his charitable giving.