Show Business: Elliott Gould: The Urban Don Quixote

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lessons might help him to relax. She chose Charlie Lowe's Broadway show business school for kids. Charlie remembers her visit: "Fix up his diction," she said. "Sure," said Charlie. "We'll give him a little drama, teach him to sing, teach him to dance." "He'll never dance," Mama told Charlie firmly. "Just fix the diction." Charlie ignored her ("We do that") and put Elliott through the regular Lowe routine. "That meant everything," Gould recalled to TIME Correspondent Mary Cronin, "Blow-your-nose lessons, dance lessons, wipe yourself lessons, masturbation lessons, bunko. Compulsions for a dissatisfied mother. Why did I go? Because I loved my mother a lot. That's why I did it."

A Has-Been by Twelve

Charlie taught the kids to be little song-and-dance men, true troupers in the old vaudeville style. They would perform in shows at temples and hospitals around the city, where Elliott would knock 'em dead with a "Mary Had a Little Lamb" routine that Charlie taught him. "Mary had a little lamb, some peas and mashed potatoes/An ear of corn, some buttered beets and then had sliced tomatoes," and so on for a total of eight teeth-gnashing verses.

Occasionally the family would go horseback riding along Ocean Parkway, but mostly Elliott trod the boards for Charlie and smiled sweetly for photos and fashion shows, a sideline that Lucille got him into. "I thought he liked it," she remembers now, "but maybe it took too much out of him emotionally. He did quite a bit when he was nine and ten, but by twelve he was a has-been. He was too old to be cute."

Not quite. After Elliott had had a year or so of schooling, Charlie Lowe decided to put him on local TV shows, like the Bonny Maid Linoleum Versatile Varieties. As he was about to go on camera for the first time, "the names of the children were being announced," Mrs. Goldstein remembers. "Charlie Lowe whispered to me: 'Now you don't want him to go on as Goldstein, do you? How about Gold?' 'No,' I said. 'Gould.' " And so it was.

To this day, says Charlie, "he comes to see us. He even kisses me now; he's like my own son, you know. Before he split up with—uh—he was in that big car and he jumped out when he saw me, ran across Broadway calling, 'Uncle Charlie! Uncle Charlie!' All the kids call me Uncle Charlie. And he gave me a big hug." Says Elliott: "Charlie Lowe is exactly like Fagin. Whoever got any of the bread, if there was any to be had, the kids sure as hell didn't. Every once in a while we'd get a pastrami sandwich or a flashlight or something. God, Charlie Lowe may have my picture hanging up there in his studio! God knows, he's probably the first person who's responsible for my being conscious of what the hell show business is. But I had such negative conditioning that it made it about impossible for me to act. I was no better than a Jerry Mahoney puppet." Why didn't he rebel? "I didn't know then that there was a choice, that there could be another kind of life."

For Elliott, there couldn't be. His father gave him a normal-enough bar mitzvah ("They're still talking about it. The Biltmore in Brooklyn! Forty-some dollars a

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