Friday, May 16, 2014

The Gleason Express

On the newest Ken PD Snydecast Dana mentions Jackie Gleason's famous train ride to Miami.

SMARTT wrote the following about "greatest rolling cocktail party in history":

The Panama, Broadway, and 20th Century Limited, and even the Super Chief could not hold a candle to the greatest celebrity special ever, The Great Gleason Express. Jackie Gleason did not like to fly, so in 1962, CBS contracted him to do a weekly one hour variety show (The American Scene Magazine) in New York. Jackie moved his entourage (40 people) there by a private train. It was a ten day 4000 mile junket from LA to New York City, costing $90,000.00.

Now in New York, and with a new title, The Jackie Gleason Show, Jackie got quickly tired of New York City’s long and cold winters. So in 1964 he convinced CBS to pull up stakes in the “Big Apple” and move to the “Sun and Fun Capital of the World”, Miami Beach. And how was the Jackie Gleason Show going to get there? By train, of course!

Enter the Great Gleason Express II, the greatest rolling cocktail party in history. In August of the year 1964 a special 14 car passenger train waited at Penn Station in New York for 113 riders. Steve Lawrence, June Taylor and her dancers, the musicians, and all their families, as well as a specially hired Dixieland Band, rolled out of town for Miami Beach. “How Sweet It is!”  The train had a special dinner menu and, of course, an open bar. Over 500 pounds of meat and 2614 one-shot liquor bottles were consumed. Needless to say, there was also a fair amount of aspirin (40 boxes to be exact) and plenty of Bloody Marys to go around the next morning.  The Great Gleason Express was greeted in Miami by thousands of cheering fans.

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