Funnyman Buddy Hackett took fatherhood seriously. The doting dad of three kids was “well-read, smart and a strict disciplinarian,” recalls his son, Sandy Hackett. “At 16, I got a speeding ticket, and Dad wouldn’t let me drive for 30 days. He said, ‘Walk, get a ride, bicycle, take the bus. I don’t care.’” Later, Buddy outfitted Sandy’s car with a new set of wheels and quipped, “If you’re going to drive that fast, you’ll need better tires.”
A protective papa by nature, Buddy didn’t just look out for his own children. Once, at the end of a film shoot in communist Hungary, he helped his 18-year-old driver escape by hiding him in the trunk of the car! “That kid came to live with us, and my father put him through Columbia University,” Sandy tells Closer.
Born in Brooklyn, Buddy got his start in the Catskills working as a tummler – a merrymaker tasked with entertaining resort guests. He studied acting and did stand-up unsuccessfully before fine-tuning his act and slaying audiences with her expressive face, cartoonish voice and raunchy jokes. After making his mark in LA, he returned to headline in the Catskills, where he met Sherry Dubois. They married and stayed together for 48 years.
Though busy with tour dates and TV and movie roles, Buddy always made time for family. Skiing and golf were favorite pastimes, and famous friends often tagged along. “Lucille Ball and Gary Morton had a condo near our in Snowmass, Colo., and we hung out,” Sandy explains.
At home in Beverly Hills, the Hacketts enjoyed entertaining and regularly hosted luncheons for a veritable who’s who of comedy. “Every six months, my mother cooked incredible meals for about 20 comedians like George Burns, Danny Thomas, Bob Newhart and Don Rickles,” Sandy recounts. “The comedians would tell stories, and we’d laugh for hours. My mother wanted to record the get-togethers, but my father wouldn’t let her. She finally got everybody outside to take a picture in the driveway.”
For Buddy, comedy had been a great career path. “I like what I do,” he told Dick Cavett in 1980. But he didn’t want his son to follow in his footsteps. “He was really against it. He just knew how tough it was,” says Sandy. “When I told him I got a job as a stand-up comedian, tears welled up in his eyes. He asked, ‘What last name are you using?’ I said, ‘Hackett.’ He said, ‘Why? All these years I spent building up the name, I’d hate to see you @#$% it up in one outing.’ He was crying, and we were both laughing. My dad was my greatest resource and best friend.”