Recently my nimrod agent secured me the chance to appear in a Mastercard ad campaign with Laura Diaz, Ben Crenshaw, Arnold Palmer and John F. Barmon. In my long and average career, I have met many famous people, but, with apologies to Arnold, the idea of actually meeting John F. Barmon made me giddier than a lone Scotsman in a bar full of sheep. You see it was Barmon who stole the show in the greatest movie of all time, with his turn as Spaulding Smails in Caddyshack.
For my money the true measure of a movie is how accurately you remember the scenes. Every sick bastard I know can recite at least half of the Caddyshack script. I don’t want to come off as lowbrow here (no-siree, you have the wrong announcer there buddy!), but Blazing Saddles is the only movie that gives Caddyshack a run.
I always wondered how a lowbudget effort that Esquire assured its readers would bomb, about a game that no one cared about before Tiger Woods, could have scored such an ace. I picked Spaulding’s brain almost clean of useless information about the movie. Barmon says that while Chevy, Rodney, Murray and Ted Knight were the cake, it was the rest of the ensemble who provided the icing. Like the Bishop, played by Henry Wilcoxon, who was Pharaoh Yul Brynner’s lieutenant in Cecil B. De Mille’s Ten Commandments. Bill Murray’s older brother, Brian, was Lou Loomis, the caddie master. Playing Dr. Beeper was Dan Resin, who was also the wee boater down the toilet in the Tidy-Bowl commercials. Yeah, you knew you’d seen him somewhere before.
As the movie gained popularity, some of the politically incorrect scenes were cut from broadcast versions, like Spaulding buying a bag of weed from Smoke Porterhouse. (It was actually dandelion leaves that Smoke was shown picking out of the rough earlier.) In a later scene, also edited, Spaulding assures his pals that, “It’s good; I bought it from a Negro!” Porterhouse was played by Jackie Robinson, a damned good jazz organist in his day, and Sarah Holcomb played Maggie, the girl who thought she was knocked up, proving once again that a comedy filled with ethnic slurs and stereotypes needs to include someone with a bad Irish accent, who is either fighting, getting drunk, or pregnant, or in this case, all three. Holcomb also played Dean Wormer’s daughter in Animal House.
And what happened to Spaulding? It was the only movie part John Barmon ever played and he wasn’t even looking to do it. It was his best pal who wanted the part, and in 1979 John tagged along with him to his agent’s office. Two weeks later, his friend got the callback, which went something like, “Say, what’s that geekylooking friend of yours doing this summer?” Today Barmon says that he could probably be good at the game, but he feels obliged to play like Spaulding, i.e., dreadfully. He’s a successful real estate agent in Cambridge, Mass., and says the most common misconception about him is that the movie made him wealthy. The residuals, he says, net him about “40 double cheeseburgers a year.”
So, John, of all the lines from the movie that get thrown at you, which is the most common? “You’ll get nothing and like it!” he screams, laughing. Ted Knight, he says, was the nicest of the stars to work with. As it turned out, the taciturn, nosepicking, spoiled country-club kid who longed to fit in with the caddies didn’t get a lot from Caddyshack, but he likes it anyway.