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Rich Little makes lasting impressions

Jan 13, 2003 4:12 AM

Rich Little and his cast of voices return to the Suncoast, Friday through Sunday, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $39.95 to $49.95.

Notorious for his skewing of political figures, Little has charmed, amused, annoyed and lampooned politicians from here to his native home in Canada. Former U.S. Presidents, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have all been drawn into Little’s repertoire.

Little is a master mimic of over 200 voices. A professed classic movie buff, he is particularly fond of doing Alan Ladd, his hero as a young child. Little has also latched on to Baby Boomer-friendly characters such as Edith Bunker, Kermit the Frog and Dr. Ruth Westheimer just to name a few.

The son of a doctor in Ottawa, Canada, Little started his "career" at the age of 12 when he answered back to his teachers in their own voices. To get dates, Little would find out the girl’s favorite actor then call her up imitating his voice. When he would show up at the girl’s home, he would simply say, "sorry, Cary can’t make it."

In his early 20’s, Little was discovered in the United States. His friend, singer Mel Torme, then on the musical team of the "Judy Garland Show" asked him to make a tape. Instead of the usual impressions, he did Fred MacMurray, James Mason and Van Heflin. Garland thought it was great and Little was signed for the show.

Appearances on a variety of television shows starring Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin soon followed. Little had his own variety show in the 70’s. He also hosted "The Tonight Show" 12 times. Little became a household name sitting in one of the "Hollywood Squares."

Little was named "Comedy Star of the Year," by the American Guild of Variety Artists. The perpetrator of nine comedy albums and three HBO comedy specials, "Rich Little’s Christmas Carol" with "W.C. Fields" as Scrooge, "Humphrey Bogart" as one of the ghosts and "Paul Lynde" as Bob Crachitt, won an Emmy, among other awards.

Over the years, Rich has been active with children’s charities. He was inducted into the Miami Children’s Hospital International Pediatrics Hall of Fame for his tireless efforts in fundraising on behalf of children. June 1998, Rich added his star to the "Canadian Walk of Fame" to go along with his star on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame."

Recently PBS aired Rich Little’s one-man show for Broadway entitled, "All Presidents", a comedy/drama featuring Presidents, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.