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Excerpts from 'Paul Lynde: A Biography,' by Cathy Rudolph

Actor-comedian Paul Lynde in October 1975.

Actor-comedian Paul Lynde in October 1975. Credit: AP

The following is an excerpt from Cathy Rudolph's book, "Paul Lynde: A Biography: His Life, His Love(s) and His Laughter," about the late comedian.

When I was seventeen years old, I had only one mission in my life: to meet Paul Lynde. I had taken down my Donny Osmond posters two years ago and had replaced them with the funniest and most handsome man I ever saw: Paul Lynde. I loved him best on The Hollywood Squares. There was something about his voice and humor that made me laugh more than anyone ever has. I loved the way he laughed, his wink, the mischievous look in his eyes when he said something kinky or dirty- like his answer to the following: "If the right part comes along, would George C. Scott pose nude?" Paul answered, "You mean he doesn't have the right part?" I had never seen or heard anyone who acted the way he did. I was just so attracted to everything about him. My crush on Paul intensified. I had to meet him. I prayed to God every day for this. I was so determined that I bet my high school teachers that this would happen before I graduated.

Nothing short of a miracle could explain what happened next. It was November 17, 1975 and I was in my hometown library in Levittown, Long Island, doing research on Paul. I came across a reference book of Broadway stars and it had a telephone number that said it was Paul Lynde's business number. As soon as I got home, I called the number (Los Angles, California) and I nearly collapsed when the man who answered was Paul Lynde. It turned out to be his HOME number!!!!

I said, "Paul Lynde?"

He said, "Yes?"

"This is Cathy Fitzgibbon. I am such a big fan of yours. I can't believe I am talking to you!"

"How did you get my home number?" he asked suspiciously. I explained one of the books at my home town library said it was his business number.

He said, "No it's my home number. It's supposed to be unlisted. How dare that book do that!" I laughed and told him how I admired him and thought he was so funny and talented. I asked about his upcoming shows and was surprised that he was answering all my questions and didn't hang up. The conversation was flowing and I was on cloud nine. I was talking so fast, words spilled out of me barely letting him get a word in. I don't know what I was thinking back then, but I boldly blurted out:

"I know I'm asking a lot, but would you go to my senior prom with me?"

He said very seriously, "Yes, you're asking a lot."

I said, "No way?"

"Oh no WAAAAY," he answered in his famous nasal twang, laughing.

So I asked if he would want to meet me, and he gently said, "No dear, do you understand? I can't, if I did I would have to do that for all my fans, it's an absolute almost impossibility."

"Yeah," I said sadly, and then I asked him about his dog Harry MacAfee and he told me the dog had something on his paw and had to get an operation. I continued asking questions about his career. I asked Paul if he ever came to New York and he said yes. So I persisted,

"When are you gonna go, cause, like, you mean more to me than anybody in the world and I'd really want to meet you ... and I'm seventeen and I have gone so far out to try to meet you. I would have my father take me." Then there was the first silent moment-I held my breath.

"Well," Paul said very hesitantly, "I may be there Thanksgiving time, and uh, well, the only thing you can do is come by and say hello."

I couldn't believe this was happening. He told me to call him at the Pierre Hotel the week of the twenty-first and he would set something up. I thanked him and hung up. I screamed!

I called the Pierre Hotel on November 22-this time trying to sound much calmer. He answered.

I said, "Hello Mr. Lynde, this is Cathy Fitzgibbon."

He said, "Oh hi Cathy."

"Did you get the get-well card I sent for Harry?" (his dog), I asked.

"Yes, I did and thank you. Harry's doing much better now. "

Then I rambled, "Remember you said I could meet you for a picture and an autograph?" Well when would be a good time?"

He asked me how far I was from the city and if I had school. I said I didn't have to go to school, and he said, "No, you go to school." We arranged to meet at three in the afternoon. I did not go to school that day: I was way too excited.

On November 24, 1975, I took the train with my dad to New York City. I was wearing a new skirt and blouse and trying not to throw up all over it. We stepped out of the train, and the cold air helped ease the tsunami in my stomach. I held tight to the red rose I carried for Paul, and we headed to the Pierre Hotel. I waited anxiously in the lobby, holding the rose in my shaky hands.

The hotel was on fire!

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