Meet one of my friends who was one of my favorite comedians too!!
Ricardo Di Guglielmo was born in Lancashire, England on July 20, 1916, but you may know him better as the actor who played many roles in many movies and television shows, but was perhaps best known as George the grocer in the Charmin Toilet Tissue commercials. His name? Dick Wilson. He appeared in the Charmin commercials for over 20 years, starting in 1964. I met him in Las Vegas quite a few years ago. He and his wife Meg, and my husband , Ted and I became friends. Our friendship was sometimes long distance because they were going from their home in Las Vegas to their home in Los Angeles, except we got to see him on television sometimes, because the commercial that made him famous MANY years ago, was remade, with the original characters, and it ran many times.
We had many long talks about his life in show business. He told me that when he decided to go into show business his father warned: “If you go into show business, you’ll go right down the toilet. He laughed when he told us and said if his father was still alive he would say to his father, “If I had known how much it paid, I’d have done it years ago.” This man with a joke for every occasion, was so much more than Mr. Whipple of “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” toilet tissue fame.
Dick was in show business for nearly three quarters of a century. I found him a fascinating interview for my columns, but more then this we loved him as a friend.
In 1932, Dick performed in his first movie with Jane Withers (remember her when she was cute Shirley Temples nemesis) and fell in love-- not with Jane, but with the motion picture business, and he’s been hooked ever since. The fans of his commercials don’t realize what a resume’ of motion picture credits he had. A few of them are, “The Shakiest Gun In The West”, “Planet of the Apes”, and “What A Way To Go”. In theater, he has performed in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, “Dial M For Murder”, to name just two of hundreds. He has appeared in over 30 television shows, and was a regular on “Hogan’s Heroes”, Assistant Major Dino Baroni on “McHale’s Navy”, the drunk on “Don Rickles Show” and in TV commercials, Dick is considered “Top Banana” having made hundreds of commercials for various sponsors, which include his “biggie” as Mr. Whipple for Charmin Toilet Tissue, for which he did over 500 commercials that were shown nationwide. Occasionally some show that specializes in old television moments, shows one of the Mr. Whipple commercials.
Dick became a comic dancer in vaudeville. But he gave that up to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force early in WWII and served as a fighter pilot against the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940. After the war he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1954. After the war he worked as an acrobatic dancer in New York City before heading to California for movie & TV work.
I met Dick & Meg when I was doing publicity work for the Ms. Senior Clark County Pageant in 1990 which, by the way, Meg won a few years later. Dick and Meg opened this pageant, which had a lovely afternoon program of festivities with a little “shtick” They were so entertaining that I thought to myself that they should still be doing an act together. They would be SO popular. This particular afternoon they closed their part of the show, with Meg dancing to a toe tapping version of “Satin Doll”, and Dick “ups” to her and says, “May I dance with you?”
Meg answers, “No!”. Again she starts her dance. He taps her on the shoulder and says, “Just one step?” “No, absolutely Not !” Is Meg’s answer. Dick replies “I’m appealing to you”. Meg says “No you’re not! That’s why I won’t dance with you!”
Dick passed away November 19, 2007 in Woodland Hills, California (Los Angeles) He left his wife Meg, three children & five grandchildren. He is greatly missed, but he left such a legacy that he will never be forgotten. I hope you remember his talents, and enjoyed him as much as we did. I’m sure he is regaling many of his old friends with a joke that he tells so well, perhaps he has his wings by now, and I’m sure he would have something funny to say about them.