Larry Hovis even got left out of his high school yearbook.
August 8, 1970 - August 14, 1970
by Dick Hobson
(Note : Text submitted by Charlemange - LarryHovis.com)
How does it feel to be eighth banana in the sixth year of a half-hour laugh- track series where you're lucky to have three driblets of dialogue per show the likes of "Yes, colonel," "Sure thing!" and "Oh, boy!"?
"Like a cross between Ricky Nelson and Jimmy Lydon," is how Larry Hovis feels about his mini-role as "Sergeant Carter," the "dopey" POW on Hogan's Heroes. "I wasn't pictured in the Hogan's comic book either. I wasn't on the bubble-gum trading cards. I was even missing from the Hogan's lunch box. I'm the Invisible Man---one of those people whose every vestige of existence is destined to be erased."
[HHFC - Larry Hovis was actually pictured in three of the Fleer Cards #20, #21, #26 along with being on the cover of the April 1967 Hogan's Heroes comic book (#5)].
How did it feel, at the age of 14. after seven years as boy soprano in a brother-sister singing act, while playing a United Fund benefit in the Crystal Ballroom of the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas, to have your voice permanently change to baritone right in the middle of "Baby, It's Cold Outside"? "Relieved because I was no longer a boy soprano and I could do a single," is how Hovis felt about that.
How did a "single" feel as host of a local daytime game show, Surprise Party, on Houston's KTRK-TV, after, calling the sponsor a "knothead" or the air, to have the station manager' beckon you aside with, "Incidentally, Hovis, we'll be replacing you"?
Hovis felt relieved about that, too. "The housewives didn't like me anyway. I couldn't chitchat. I was awful."
That's when TV's most persistent self-deprecator decided to "go to California for a shot." In 1963, at a small club (The Horn) in Santa Monica, whose most celebrated alumnus is Jim Nabors, Hovis started developing his low-key standup comic routine, "such as it is." The last time he did the act we the summer before last. "I'm a 'finished' comic in Tahoe now," he says gloomily. "I did a lot of terminal-disease and death jokes like: 'Those of you who are flying out of here could be worrying about the ice. It's not that bad, though. If you go down in the mountains you'll look great for weeks. Flash-frozen.' The audience was mostly elderly and didn't care for my kind of humor. I don't think there are many more places I can work."
Well there could be T.V. Hovis has appeared in Ben Casey ("I portrayed an elevator operator"). Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. ("I played a barrack wall or something, I forget"). My Living Doll ("That was a thrill"). A couple of Andy Griffiths, and The Leslie Uggams Show. "I don't think I'm particularly right for television," sums up his feelings about it. At one time he was a series regular under contract to two rival networks, NBC for the first 13 weeks of Laugh-In and CBS for Hogan's, an unprecedented circumstance. " That shows you my impact," he says.
If clubs and TV sitcoms are not his bag, what is? "My voice," says Hovis. He once toured night clubs for five years with a singing group. "The trouble is I don't look like a singer." What he does look like according a Hogan's press release, is a "lame-brain." With press agentry like that he'll have some time making it as a singer.
As a last resort, there's always the writing profession. With collaborator Ann Elder, Hovis wrote a Marineland special, "Where It's At," and two Mitzi Gaynor specials. With co-Hero Richard Dawson, he wrote and sold a Hogan's episode, so far unproduced. On his own he wrote a screenplay, "Out of Sight," for Universal. He was one of the stable of Laugh-in writers the first season but failed to receive an Emmy with the others because somebody inadvertently left his name off the credits. "I'd like to call everybody back to the Hollywood Palladium, even it I can't get Sinatra to come back and sing 'Luck Be a Lady Tonight'."
Larry's earliest memory is of fearful Halloween masks on the Yakima Indian Reservation in the State of Washington, where he was born in, 1936, the son of a part-Yakima rodeo performer, champion wrestler and sideshow strongman. He remembers at age 3 the long train ride to Houston where he was to spend his boyhood. "I won one or two honors but I wasn't pictured in the high school yearbook."
Hovis has firm opinions, typically negative, on everything: Hollywood is "a plastic city." Movies are "unimportant." TV is "coarse and vulgar." Democracy is "a business." The U.S. War in Vietnam is "asinine." He likes the ocean, cold weather, tog, quiet, W.C. Fields, Stan Laurel, TV documentaries, My World and Welcome to It and children.
Hovis and his accomplice, Dawson, are the Hogan's company put-on artists. One of their all-time greatest took place extemporaneously one day in the studio commissary where all the Heroes were assembled except Dixon. Hovis remarked that it was too bad about "poor Ivan" needing that money so desperately, Dawson said it was "a shame" Ivan's friends couldn't lend a hand, Hovis said he wished he could "help." Klemperer could stand it no longer and demanded to know how much Ivan needed. Larry said it was "only $200" and if they each put up $40, the problem would be solved. Each of the Heroes dutifully shelled out $40. Larry collected the money and split it down the middle with Dawson. Pocketing the loot, the pair left the table with the remark, "It's been a pretty good day."
Collaborator Ann Elder says: "I just automatically believe everything Larry says. It's easier on the nerves." Producer Ed Feldman adds: "I never know when he's putting me on." Even his wife, Ann, can't be entirely sure. When he announced his determination to get out of Hollywood, leave the country, and make a new life, she was ready to start packing for someplace like Nova Scotia. Hovis says: "I think I probably will go to Nova Scotia, but I know what people will say: 'What the hell is Larry Hovis doing in Nova Scotia? He's putting us on. Just for this one joke. And it's not that funny!'"
Click on the image to see a larger version.
Hogan's Heroes Fan Club.com ©2001-2013
Read all about Hogan's Heroes from the most definitive guide to the show.