“Homeless Sex”: Larry Hankin & Richard Reicheg on $4 hookers, women with baggage and more

By on July 3, 2015

If renaissance man Richard Reicheg looks at all familiar — that’s him on the park bench, with the band-aid on his forehead, having a slightly NSFW conversation with our very own Larry Hankin — it’s because he’s done just a lot of creative things over the last fifty years, like comedy writing, improv, acting (TV, film, stage) and songwriting, but he probably gets recognized these days mostly for being one of the pranksters on NBC’s hidden-camera show, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers.”

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Reicheg grew up in the shadow of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York, then went off to serve in the armed forces (he was stationed during WWWII in Weisbaden, Germany) before returning to Brooklyn and earning both a BA and MA in speech and theatre from Brooklyn College.

By the time the ’70s came rolling around, he was already working as a comedy writer, co-writing a memorable and very funny spaghetti western fumetti called “The Good, The Bad and the Garlic” depicting actor Tony Randall in the Clint Eastwood-y role, along with songwriter/musician Jim Ford and a bevy of topless vixens. It appeared in the January 1970 issue of Playboy magazine (Reicheg collaborated on it with the legendary satirist Harvey Kurtzman, known for his bawdy “Little Annie Fanny” comic strip and so much more).

After Reicheg was able to get his Equity card, the roles began coming, right and left, including his memorable turn as the Telephone Man in Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” which he performed at the Arlington Park Theatree in Chicago. That one earned him a nomination for the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Award.

He then ended up in the touring company of Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” with Tony Randall, once again, and Jack Klugman, who’d decided to take their act out on the road after having a hit with the TV series of the same name on NBC. Reicheg played one of Oscar Madison’s poker player buddies, puffing on a cigar and cracking wise, and he reprised the role later in Chicago’s Arlington Theatre with a new cast, including Art Carney (as Oscar) and Don Knotts (as Felix).

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Everywhere Reicheg went, he made new friends and connections — Klugman became a lifelong friend — and eventually he ended up moving out to L.A. in 1973, crashing on friend’s couches before he ended up sharing an apartment in Santa Monica with another actor friend, Herb Edelman, whom he’d met at Brooklyn College.

Then came the shift in focus over to songwriting, and he ended up as a staff songwriter with Warner Bros. Music, and he spent the rest of the decade going back and forth between acting and songwriting, and stints in comedy too, writing, performing.

He ended up being nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack along with some of the cast from Robert Altman’s Nashville (he co-wrote “For The Sake Of The Children” with Richard Baskin, altought Altman on the DVD audio commentary track wrongly identifies the song as having been written by actor Henry Gibson, who did contribute some other fine tunes of his own for Nashville, of course).

Some of Reicheg’s songs have been hits for a wide range of artists, including Three Dog Night (“Everybody Is A Masterpiece,” #3), Gary Wright (“Touch and Gone,” #2), and Jay and the Americans (“Capture The Moment,” #1). One of his most memorable songs has to be his tribute to the doo-wop of the ’50s,“Looking For An Echo,” which was recorded by numerous artists, including the Persuasions. The lyrics are Reicheg’s fond memories of street-corner crooning in Brooklyn and going to Erasmus High School, where Kenny Vance of Jay and the Americans, and Barbra Streisand, both also went to school; Reicheg graduated in the class of ’55.

Like Larry Hankin, Reicheg’s guest-starred on literally hundreds of TV shows, dramas and sitcoms — including “The Golden Girls,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” “Dallas,” “Remington Steele,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Newhart,” “Rhoda” and, yes, of course, even “The Odd Couple” — and he has appeared in a wide variety of motion pictures too, including Charlie Wilson’s War, Trippers, Leprechaun 3, Oh God, Book 2, First Family and Monkey Trouble.

It’s almost kind of a shame that today Reicheg is probably recognized as one of the old folks pranking young punks on Betty White’s recent TV show, but let that be a lesson to you, kids: sometimes those two old guys sitting on the park bench are probably going to have a helluva lot of good stories to tell.

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As an aside, Larry adds: “Richard’s wife, Anna, is the actress, back in 1980, who suggested I get together with Harry Mathias, a well-known camera operator who was her husband at the time. She said Harry needed a cinematography credit in order to get better jobs and suggested I write and do the lead in a film short and Harry be the cinematographer. I got together with Harry, and her suggestion became “Solly’s Diner, my Academy Award-nominated film short. Anna and I have remained friends over the years and it was through her that I met her current husband, Richard, who is an excellent actor, writer, and songsmith in his own right. Coincidentally, Richard and I have worked together as actors in one or two TV shows over the years [they both appeared together in a 1985 episode “The Three Little Pigs” for Shelley Duvall’s “Faerie Tale Theatre”] and I’ve used him as an actor in several Emmett shorts, now and again.”

About Larry Hankin

Larry Hankin is a writer, performer, director, producer and Oscar-nominee - and one of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces in the world of character actors. A graduate of “Second City”, an original member of “The Committee”, Larry has gone on to play roles in such diverse projects as “Laverne and Shirley”; Charlie Butz in "Escape From Alcatraz": the convict Clint Eastwood left behind. He stole the raisins on "Seinfeld"; he was Mr. Heckles, The downstairs neighbor on "FRIENDS"; on "Breaking Bad", Larry was the junkyard owner who destroyed the "Meth" Winebego and supplied the huge electro-magnet this season.   Larry's been seen in over 120 other TV shows and movies along the way, including Michael Bey’s: "Pain & Gain" with Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (“In the film, my character ultimately gets the crap beat out of him by Dwayne Johnson, and I consider it a milestone and an honor in my acting career”, Larry was quoted as saying). But comedic storytelling is where his heart lies: all along, Larry's also been writing short, satiric fables which he‘s been turning into film shorts (30, at present), then directing and starring in them as “Emmett Deemus”, an old, street savvy homeless poet. In Larry’s first film short: “Solly’s Diner,” he introduced his younger, comedic street character, “Sometimes Jones” to audiences here and abroad and was nominated for an Academy Award.   Larry's written and starred over 30 of his own shorts – including Larry's second incarnation of his Sometimes Jones character: Emmett Deemus: basically Don Quixote on a motorcycle: a heroicly inclined, odd elderly biker on a battered old motorcycle with a sidecar: ”The Outlaw Emmett Deemus”. At present, Larry's writing a feature and TV series for Emmett. -xxx-