Red Buttons Biography (Personal Life, Career)

Red Buttons was a red-haired American stand-up comedian, actor, songwriter, born in 1919, who won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best supporting actor in 1958 for his portrayal of Airman Joe Kelly in Sayonara (1957).

Personal Life

Aaron Chwatt (the comedian’s real name) was born on February 5, 1919 in New York City to Jewish immigrants parents (Sophie and Michael). While the stand-up comedian attended Evander Childs High School in the Bronx, he had different jobs for supporting himself. As a teenager the stand-up comedian earned his stage name by working as a singing bellhop in a bar (Ryan’s Tavern), wearing a uniform with 48 shiny red buttons that matched his hair.

Stand-up comedian Red Buttons had been married three times. His first marriage was to actress Roxanne Arlen in 1947, but it soon ended in divorce. His next marriage was to Helayne McNorton, from December 8, 1949 until 1963. His last marriage was to Alicia Pratt, which lasted from January 27, 1964 until her death in March 2001.

In 2000, the comedian's wife Alicia Pratt was arrested for possession of marijuana in the company of a woman whom, it was later reported, was her lesbian lover. The stand-up comedian had two children with his last wife, Alicia: daughter Amy Buttons and son Adam Buttons. The stand-up comedian passed away on July 13, 2006 from high blood pressure, at his house from Los Angeles.


The stand-up comedian started his show-business career singing on street corners as a child. At 16 the stand-up comedian got a job as part of a comedy act playing the famed Catskills resort area in New York.

A talented and gifted performer of stage, screen, and television, Buttons is equally at home in dramatic or comedic routines, but it was the comedy that brings him fame. In September 1942, the comedian got his Broadway debut in the show Vickie. Later that year, the stand-up comedian also appeared in the show Wine, Women and Song; this was the last burlesque show in New York City history.

In 1943, the comedian joined the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was also chosen to perform in the Broadway comedy show Winged Victory. He went on to entertain troops in the European Theatre of operations. After the war, the stand-up comedian continued to do Broadway comedy shows.

In 1952, the red-haired comedian got his own TV series "The Red Buttons Show" (1952), on CBS. The comedy show lasted three years and the comedian won an Emmy for Best Comedian. Extremely popular during its first season due to the theme song in which the comedian clap his hands together as if in prayer and sing, "Ho Ho! He He! Ha Ha! Strange things are happening!" The comedy’s song was a sort of hit amongst American kids.

After 1955, the comedian’s career went into decline, but the gifted comedian made an auspicious comeback playing a love-struck American soldier who defies the racist policies of the U.S. military and marries a Japanese woman in the Sayonara (1957).

After his Oscar-winning role (for the soldier role in Sayonara movie) , the stand-up comedian performed in numerous feature films, including the The Big Circus (1959),One, Two, Three (1961), Hatari!(1962), The Longest Day(1962), Harlow(1965), The Poseidon Adventure(1972), the dance-marathon drama They Shoot Horses, Don't They?(1969), the family comedy Pete's Dragon(1977), When Time Ran Out(1980), the age-reversal comedy 18 Again!(1988), The Ambulance (1990), It Could Happen to You (1994), The Story of Us(1999). The gifted stand-up comedian and actor was nominated for a Golden Globe for Harlow (1965) and again for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969).

In 1966, the stand-up comedian starred in his own TV series, a spy spoof called The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, which ran for one season. The comedian also made many memorable guest television appearances on programs including The Eleventh Hour, Little House on the Prairie It's Garry Shandling's Show, ER and Roseanne. His last regular role was as a homeless man on CBS' Knots Landing.

In his last decades the stand-up comedian worked primarily on television. He sailed on The Love Boat three times, and three times docked on Fantasy Island. In the late 1990s the stand-up comedian was still performing stand-up comedy. Buttons became a nationally recognizable comedian, and his "Never Got A Dinner" routine was among his well known stand-up comedy.

The stand-up comedian was number 71 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. The comedian received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for television, located at 1651 Vine Street.

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