Harry Einstein, a former newspaperman, achieved his fame in radio as a master of dialect, especially with his garbled Greek characterization of Parkyakarkus (“park ya carcass”). An appearance on Eddie Cantor’s radio show in the early 1930s attracted so much attention that he became a permanent fixture on the show.
Einstein appeared in 11 films from 1936 to 1945 as Parkyakarkus, which became much more than a stage name. He even applied to a New York court for permission to legally change it, contending that no one knew him by his actual name. The judge turned him down.
The comedian’s life came to a dramatic end at 54, when he suffered a fatal heart attack after finishing a speech at a Friars Club roast for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Witnesses told The Times that “it was the most hilarious speech of his career.”
The 1,000 Hollywood celebrities at the Beverly Hilton were still laughing when he finished the speech, suddenly stumbled and fell against Milton Berle. Berle called for a doctor and emcee Art Linkletter relayed the call over the microphone.
Five physicians in the crowd immediately came forward. Berle, George Burns and actor John Bromfield carried Einstein to a corridor behind the dais. Dr. Alfred Goldman of the City of Hope cut open Einstein’s chest with a penknife and began manual heart massage.
At first the comedian’s heart seemed to respond, but then the beat began to diminish again. An improvised shock apparatus was devised with electrical wires and an attempt thus made to stimulate the heart action, but to no avail.
While the physicians worked, Linkletter tried to carry on the program in the tradition of the theater. Danny Thomas, who was to follow Einstein, shook his head and sat down.
While the audience sat in silence, Desi Arnaz picked up the medallion that symbolized the award and said into the microphone, “This offering meant so much to me. Now it means nothing. Please, everyone, pray to your own God that he will be saved.” He stuffed the award into his pocket and sat down.
Lucille Ball stepped to the microphone and sobbed, “I can say nothing.” She sat down without picking up her award.
People in the audience began getting up and filing out. A group of Hollywood notables made their way to the area where the doctors were laboring and stood around waiting, but at 1:20 a.m. Dr. Goldman announced that Einstein was dead.
Einstein had four sons, including comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks, Bob Einstein (a.k.a. Super Dave Osborne) and author Charles Einstein.