Picks and Pans Review: B.s. I Love You

updated 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Milton Berle

There are two ways to approach B.S. I Love You: with gratitude that it isn't Milton Berle's autobiography; with dismay that even though it is a memoir of his 60-plus years as a member of that show business fraternity, the Friars Club, the book has far more than its share of truly terrible jokes and more than its share of Mr. Television's outsize ego. In fact, B.S. I Love You reads like a fat book with a slim book inside it squealing to get out. If Uncle Miltie, known best to his cronies as the Thief of Badgags, had contented himself with writing a history of the Friars Club, the 84-year-old organization known mostly for its irreverent "roasts," B.S. I Love You would have been a delight. After all, the New York club has served as home away from home for the likes of George M. Cohan, Georgie Jessel, Will Rogers, Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Henny Youngman, George Burns and Al Jolson. (Jolson was "so certain of his ability to seduce an audience, that he once stopped a play in the first act, told the audience that sets and story weren't needed and ordered the curtain closed. He proceeded to sit down, tell the audience the story of the play, and hold everyone in the room breathless as he sang all the songs.") Mr. Berle had his first lunch at the Friars Round Table in 1920 when he was 12 and immediately fell in love with the place. But for all the book's engaging tales about the great and near-great ("I got into playing with this here rope and talking kinda odd," begins one quote from Will Rogers in the Ziegfeld Follies. "There was talk of me singing some in this show. I figured if I was ordered to sing, it'd be better if it was me that had the rope!"), there are long stretches of tedium and some infuriating inaccuracies, such as Berle's total mangling of one of George S. Kaufman's best barbs, this one to an incompetent bridge partner. (Said the partner: "I'm the dummy. If you don't mind, I'll go to the bathroom." Snapped Kaufman: "Good. For the first time tonight, I'll know what you have in your hand!") And there is just too much bad Berle. Unfortunately he can only go for so many pages without bringing himself or his family into the conversation. He interrupts reminiscences about John Barrymore, Clifton Webb and Will Rogers with a joke about brother Phil Berle, who "was such a bad driver the Highway Patrol gave him a season ticket.' " It is to the detriment of B.S. I Love You that Berle never has an unexpressed thought. (McGraw-Hill, $17.95.)

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