Following the recent passing of Marty Ingels, much of the press coverage has referred to him as a comedian, actor, theatrical agent or husband to Shirley Jones. While Marty certainly held all of those titles, the one everyone seemed to forget about was his biggest and most important... showman. I was fortunate enough to have known Marty for the last five years of his life and he was always on stage, making grand statements and relentlessly pursuing something that would give him glory and fortune -- the former being much more important to him. During our many Jewish deli lunches, all I had to do was sit down and he would immediately begin explaining his latest ideas, intermingled with schtick and, on occasion, give me an opportunity to speak. His wife of almost 40 years, Academy Award-winner Shirley Jones, would say "all Marty needs is an audience, and by audience I mean one person."
I don't think anyone who knew Marty would deny he could drive you crazy, and did. Often. At times he was like a water faucet you couldn't turn off, and frequently the water came out faster than it could be swallowed by the drain causing a verbal flood. But underneath all of his ideas, craziness and incessant chatter was a genius showman.
Most people associate Marty with his work as an actor and comedian, most notably in the short-lived ABC comedy I'm Dickens, He's Fenster which has since become a cult classic. He guest starred on everything from The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched to The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. He had a successful run doing voiceovers for animation and appeared in a few films. But the area in which he truly succeeded was as a talent agent, specifically arranging celebrity endorsements for major stars of the day. Marty was responsible for Orson Welles' stint in Paul Masson commercials ("we will sell no wine before it's time"). He worked with the likes of John Wayne, Cary Grant and countless others. Marty was an impresario with the creative vision to see what no one else could and the chutzpah to make it happen.
When he wasn't being a showman behind his desk at Ingels Inc., he was being a showman with Shirley at an endless array of Hollywood events and regularly performing his unique brand of comedy on red carpets all over town. Most celebrities walk down a red carpet quietly posing for photographers and doing brief interviews about their latest projects. But not Marty. He would barrel out of the car and hit the red carpet like it was a Vegas stage, immediately engaging anyone who would listen and making funny faces and gestures. Much to the dismay of the photographers, Marty would often bring signs with him which he would hold up while he and Shirley were being photographed. "She's not pregnant" (with an arrow pointing at Shirley), "I made a promise to be good" and "Shirley Jones for president" were just a few of his favorites. When the photographers would try to get Marty out of the way and just get pictures of Shirley, Marty would have none of it. You could just as soon get the lead out of a pencil than push Marty out of a picture. But make no mistake about it; Marty knew he was there because of Shirley, and it was Shirley that everyone wanted. In fact, he would be the first person to tell you that straight out. He had no denial about who was the real star, and no shame about using it for all it was worth.
Whatever Marty did, he did in a big way. And while it sometimes got to be a bit much, it was always great showmanship. Marty lived for the reaction, and would do whatever it took to get it. He was confident enough to disregard the haters, and lovable enough to (usually) get away with his non-stop antics.
Marty taught me the importance of persistence. More than anyone I have ever known, he would never, under any circumstance, give up. He was tough, smart and relentless. Trying to stop him from doing something was like standing in front of a charging bull. And he taught me, above all else, showmanship. Think big. Believe in yourself. Don't pay attention to what anyone else thinks. When Marty set his mind on something, he could move mountains. And it many ways, he did.