Show Business: Elliott Gould: The Urban Don Quixote

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couple!"), but in addition to Charlie Lowe's, his mother enrolled him in the Professional Children's School in Manhattan. When the family lived for a year in West Orange, N.J., Elliott had to commute to school, and "got sick on the bus every time."

Summer vacations, young Elliott performed in the Catskill borscht belt. He would win dance contests during the Champagne Hour, doing the mambo with his mother. "When an entertainer needed a stooge," says his father, "Elliott would be the one they'd choose. He could do a dozen dialects—German, Italian, Jewish, all of them. Then he performed one summer for three weeks in summer stock. He had the second lead in a pre-Broadway show at Woodstock, Some Little Honor."

It seemed then that he was always doing bits, was always "on." Friends recall that he would go into a diner, sit next to a little old lady and calmly make a meal out of his paper napkin —complete with salt, pepper and ketchup. He also liked to knock on strangers' doors and inquire politely, "Is this the party?" Or walk into one door of a Checker cab stopped in traffic and out the other (apologizing to the passenger), or call up relatives and confound them with some uncanny voice impersonation of the rabbi or the neighborhood butcher. It was the kind of desperately funny behavior that was a frustrated child's plea for attention and a cry for help.

It also got him his first part in a Broadway show. In 1957, when he was 18, Gould phoned a producer, impersonated an agent and sang the praises of a kid named Elliott Gould. The job (in the chorus line of a short-lived show called Rumple) earned him $125 a week and bursitis from hefting showgirls into the air. After Rumple crumpled, he scuffled around the periphery of Broadway, picking up a small job here and there and spending a lot of time in the 42nd Street movie houses.

An occupational klutz with girls, Elliott was always alone, except for an occasional buddy. He was gambling compulsively by the time his mother and father went to Florida for the 1958 season. He ran up debts, pawned his father's jewelry to pay some of them off, and had their home phone disconnected when hoods started calling him to demand the rest of their payment. He and a friend sold phony ads for a nonexistent labor newspaper until the racket got too hot to handle; then Elliott took odd jobs—as a rug-cleaner salesman, a theatrical-school teacher, night elevator man in a residential hotel. Around this time, things seemed to pick up. He got a summer job in Hit the Deck, which led to a chorus job in Irma La Douce, which led to an audition for lead understudy in I Can Get It For You Wholesale, which led to that girl who stole the show, Barbra Streisand.

Elliott got more than he hoped for. He not only got the job, he got the lead, and Barbra got him. The show was not a hit, but Barbra won high praise for her role, and Gould's relationship with the compulsively over-achieving Brooklyn girl went on. He moved into her apartment over a seafood restaurant on Third Avenue. A year and a half later, they entered into a marriage that came perilously close to finishing Elliott. Barbra made it big in about as much time as it takes to get to Coney Island on the subway. At times it seemed that while Barbra was basking in the spotlight, Elliott was only

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