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Friday, June 27, 2008

George Carlin's first and last show in Lake Geneva


Dan Plutchak/Editor

George Carlin, the stand-up comedian who made legal history with his trademark seven dirty words, died last Sunday at the age of 71.

But those seven words weren't the only ones that got him in trouble during his long career, according to Fontana resident Jerry Pawlak.

Pawlak was the maitre d' at Lake Geneva's Playboy Club, now the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa, when Carlin was nearly thrown out of town after a show.

It was Nov. 27, 1970, when the 32-year-old comedian was hired to perform in the Penthouse Room.

Carlin was still a relatively unknown comic, and as the story goes, he made a string of jokes about the Vietnam War that were not going over well with the predominantly conservative crowd.

Pawlak says he wasn't really paying attention to the act when someone came up and told him the audience wasn't responding well to the show.

Pawlak says he turned around just in time to see Carlin flip off the group and leave the stage.

"I've only had three people walk off stage on me," Pawlak said. "Joan Rivers, Buddy Rich and Carlin."

It got really nasty, Pawlak remembers. He says there was a Marine who wanted to go back stage after Carlin. Pawlak had to intervene to settle the serviceman down.

That night, Pawlak says, Playboy fired Carlin and he was never hired to play a Playboy Club again.

"It was terrible," Pawlak said. "We had to comp everyone for the show."

During its heyday in the 1970s, the Playboy Club's Penthouse Room hosted performers from Bob Hope to Sonny and Cher.

Pawlak, who is originally from Milwaukee, got his first job at the Playboy Club in 1968 as a bartender.

He worked his way up to become maitre d' of the Penthouse Room where he would make sure the right people got the 'ringside seats" to the stage show.

After leaving the Playboy Club, Pawlak worked at the Abbey for a while.

Now retired, he helps beautify Fontana by planting flowers.

Carlin's famous monologue, "The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," led to a 1978 Supreme Court case that affirmed the government's right to regulate indecent material on public airwaves.

Carlin's underground comedy eventually thrust him into the mainstream.

In later years, he was known for such gems as when he wondered,"If the black box in an airplane always survives a crash, why don't they make the whole thing out of the same material?"

Or, "What was the best thing before sliced bread?"

For his part, Pawlak says he doesn't like to speak ill of the dead, but he was no fan of Carlin's that night over 30 years ago. But he does wonder who else in the packed Penthouse Room remembers the show.

If you were there, add your recollection as a comment below

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