FUNNK & MUNDAIGNE
|FIREZINE:Would you please consent to do an interview?|
FUNNK: The main problem with it, ah Frank, Fred rather, with it is that my memory isn't what it used to be. And ah, I can only remember more of the highlights. It's like the reviews, we were going over some of our bad reviews at breakfast this morning.
FUNNK: Well this is what I'm going to try to explain, you can't...
MUNDAIGNE: That's rather judgmental Frank.
FUNNK: You don't remember the bad reviews. What you do is you pick the good...
MUNDAIGNE: There are no bad reviews in show business. Because you see that the important thing is that they've gotten your name right.
FUNNK: "There's no such thing as bad publicity" -- we always used to say in the business. You can always pull a quote out of a review that appears to be bad and it shows that the guy was really having a good time anyway, even if he panned you. Right, Honey?
MUNDAIGNE: There was a review that Frank got one time...
FUNNK: One Time? Oh boy, here we go.
MUNDAIGNE: That said, "The man stinks to high Heaven."
FUNNK: Stinks to high heaven. I remember that one.
MUNDAIGNE: So we just, you know? In show business they do a thing called a forced review. So we forced it a little bit but it's still on all of our publicity material. It says, "Frank Funnk, the man - high Heaven!"
FUNNK: His acting is "high Heaven." Another one was that one, ahhh, "What a no-talent." We just dropped the "a no". "What talent!" Ah, well actually, "What a talent." We just dropped the "no". "What a talent!" Right Honey?
MUNDAIGNE: It's a very minor difference...
FUNNK: Certainly is.
MUNDAIGNE: Two letters, my goodness.
FUNNK: So you must make the best out of adversity, the way that we look at it, I think.
MUNDAIGNE: But they spelled his name right!
FUNNK: Yes they did, the two Ns and the 1 K.
FIREZINE: How did the two of you first get together then?
FUNNK: I don't remember.
FIREZINE: Oh, OK.
MUNDAIGNE: Now that got a very good review, actually. Didn't it darling?
FUNNK: Yes, what a talent!
MUNDAIGNE: To high heaven!
FUNNK: Oh, but you mean, "How we met?"
FIREZINE: Well, yeah.
FUNNK: I was doing a charity show in the 20s to raise money for a theater ironically called "The Black Hole". This was long before they invented.... It was just a big black... It was just like a... it was like a big hole is what it was. I think they call one of these things now a 'shoe box theaters' or something. What they call them? Long haul theaters?
MUNDAIGNE: 'Black Box' theaters.
FUNNK: That's it a 'black box' theater. And in this particular time it was just a 'black hole' theater.
MUNDAIGNE: Actually the real name of the theater was the "Black Hole-In-The-Wall Theater".
FUNNK: That's it!
MUNDAIGNE: They just compressed it...
FUNNK: I couldn't remember that part of it. We were raising money to refurbish it and make it into an experimental theater. So I was performing some of my more famous Vaudeville pieces and ah...
MUNDAIGNE: Famous of course in only certain circles.
FUNNK: Well yes, well famous, right? And ah and I will never forget this. Ahh, ah... Oh yeah, so right before I was going through my ah, it was the "Where's My Pants?" routine, with Jimmy Slidenuckle. And ah...
MUNDAIGNE: I thought it was Jimmy Slidewhistle?
FUNNK: No that was the 'roust-a-bout" act. The Slidewhistles.
MUNDAIGNE: Oh, yes, I'm sorry darling. You remember much better than I do.
FUNNK: This was The Slidenuckles, The Splinterfingers, those were the Splinterfingers, I remember now. They came from Holland. Anyway a knock comes at the door, (rap, rap, rap) and I said, "What is it?". I should have said, "Who is it?", but I was in the middle of a routine, you know and sometimes my mind isn't..."What is it?", I said. And he said, "Frank, you've got to replace George Walman, he's sick!" I said, "Well, who's that?" "He's working with Margot Mundaigne and they're doing a scene from "Romeo... Romanoff and Juliet", "Romeo and Juliet". And he said, "Do you know the play?" I said, "Yes, I know it..." And I opened the door and he walked in. I wasn't talking through the door. I hope you understand this. I said, "Yes I know the play."
MUNDAIGNE: George was my scene partner in conservatory.
FUNNK: Hm Hmm. And he got the terrible grip. So, I said, "Yes I know the play. I did it in high school." I played Mecurdio, the, sword fighter, who dies. So I had a great death scene. And so I replaced him. They were doing the 'balcony scene'. He gave me the lines and I looked at the lines.
MUNDAIGNE: Looked at them cursorily.
FUNNK: Oh so oh, well, I had my own thing to do. And so we did the scene together. It was a riot, it killed 'em. Ha, ha, ha. I'll never forget the first line. I yelled, "What yonder window breaks. The sun and Juliet is my... cousin." Ha, ha, ha and she almost fell off the balcony and they loved it. They just loved it. And she's a trouper. I think I fell in love with her right at that very moment because she was a trouper. First she did a great 'double take' when I came on because of course I was wearing my 'gag' pants...
MUNDAIGNE: Of course no one had told me that ...
FUNNK: No one had told her, ha, ha, ha...
MUNDAIGNE: ...George wasn't going to be there.
FUNNK: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha (cough cough) So it was the element of surprise and improvisation which of course has sustained us through our long career.
MUNDAIGNE: I was far more surprised than any Juliet had ever been, including the original.
FUNNK: And she carried on of course trying to do the lines as Bill Shakespeare wrote them and I, you know, was improvising in my uninevitable way. And between the two of us, we were a big success. I think I remember one of the reviews said, "A diamond in the rough. She's a diamond and boy is he rough... to watch." And so out of this came, well we had dinner after this and desert... I guess I got my just deserts.
MUNDAIGNE: Of course it did close the conservatory.
FUNNK: Yeah, no, no...
MUNDAIGNE: No one ever wanted to go to a conservatory that had produced 'that'!
FUNNK: No, it did back fire on us in that regard but they did love it. I mean the audience loved it. The backers, ahh, backed out, and that was the end of it. I think the place became a ....
MUNDAIGNE: I think that's why they call them backers darling.
FUNNK: Right, that's right. They turned their back on us. You know? So, but none the less, we started dating and she'd come and see me. I did eight shows a day in those times. I was at the theater all the time. She always knew where I was. I had my dressing room, you know, that I shared with the Splinterfingers for awhile. It was OK, they were midgets and so there was plenty of room, really in the room, in the dressing room. And ahh, they slept stacked up, you know, so they could be in a corner. And we saw more...
MUNDAIGNE: And there was a little curtain.
FUNNK: There was a little curtain.
MUNDAIGNE: We pulled the curtain, you know.
FUNNK: And they didn't speak English, so, you know, you'd just say something like, "Get over there!" And they would, you know...
MUNDAIGNE: And point!
FUNNK: And point, to them.
MUNDAIGNE: And point! And they would go where you pointed.
FUNNK: They were good, they were trained, little people. Pull the curtain on them and we were alone.
MUNDAIGNE: We would hear a little giggling, once in awhile.
FUNNK: Well yes...
MUNDAIGNE: I don't think that had anything to do with us, darling.
FUNNK: No, I don't think so. They knew how to entertain themselves. They were a family, very close knit. So we began to date. I think the rest Margot should tell how we then aligned further professionally in the theater.
MUNDAIGNE: Of course we both were continuing in our own careers. Even though we met working, it didn't really occur to us to become a team. We thought it was rather happenstance that we would, you know, ever get to work together again.
FUNNK: Right, exactly what she says. So, throughout our careers, when my career really took off in musical comedies in the 30s, I don't know if you remember, "Watch Your Step"? What a great... That was the Boyden's who did that. It was Larry and Harry Boyden. The Boydens were very famous. They used to fight over first billing, whether Larry would or Harry would get it. So, on some of the music, the sheet music, it says music and lyrics, Larry and Harry Boyden and others its says, Harry and Larry Boyden. And that way at least they got what they considered to be equal billing. And the Boydens were terrible, just awful.
MUNDAIGNE: They were terrible. They were also awful in bed, both of them.
MUNDAIGNE: Yes darling, well, I've told you the story.
FUNNK: I don't remember that. That one, anyway.
MUNDAIGNE: We'll talk about that one later, darling.
FUNNK: They were terrible but they were very very successful and very popular. And ah, their lyrics were difficult because they liked to mix props with their concepts. And in "Watch Your Step" which was the story of a mail order podiatrist who wanted to become a song and dance man. Remember? Me, my part. I had the one song. "I'm In Love With My Cigarette". And I had to smoke a cigarette. They insisted, the director, Max, Maxum, Mumb...
MUNDAIGNE: Mumbles Maxim.
FUNNK: Mumbles Maxim, ahhh, Jesus Christ! You're on the stage and he says, "Ahh Frank would you duhf duhf a bahhh little more. And duhhf duhhf to the right." "What?" "Duhhf just right."
MUNDAIGNE: And he was insistent. Absolutely insistent.
FUNNK: You'd just do something and you know. And he's say, "That's better." You went, "Ahh Mumbles, please." And I had to smoke and sing and (cough) smoke and sing. He insisted and I burnt myself. Oh, Oh, they do not know what we go through sometimes to bring a little laughter into their lives. But it was a successful show and ran for hundreds of performances. And ahh, at the time, Margo was doing "The Loon". She was at the old, not the Rialto, the Toad, Toto, Toto Theater, was it? The Toto Theater because the owner was from Kansas. And ahh, it was the first basement theater, if you will. You go down into it. And duh, and that was unusual.
FIREZINE: So you started out in a hole in the wall and then went into the basement.
MUNDAIGNE: That's right. It was a lateral move, actually.
FIREZINE: So where did you go from there?
FUNNK: It was up hill from there for us, really.
MUNDAIGNE: Well that was before we started working together, actually.
FIREZINE: Oh, I see.
MUNDAIGNE: We really can't talk about that now. Part of it, Frederick, is that we are putting together our memoirs.
FIREZINE: I'm trying to get a scoop here.
MUNDAIGNE: I understand but people are not going to buy the book if we tell it all.
FIREZINE: Well, that's true. I know what. How about the future? That won't be in the book. Right?
FUNNK: Ahhh, what book?
MUNDAIGNE: The book we're writing, the book we're writing. Well, oh, no. I guess we should find a publisher for one thing.
FUNNK: What we really hope, ahh Phil, is that when we reach the point where the book has gotten to be a success...
MUNDAIGNE: It's Fred.
FUNNK: Oh, hi Fred. Then we would then be able to follow it up with a lecture tour. So I guess the future for us then is the book signings and 'An Evening Off Center...
MUNDAIGNE: "An Evening Off Center with Funnk and Mundaigne".
FUNNK: Get it? Off Center Stage with Funnk and Mundaigne. And that will be our reminiscences and a, you know, amazing anecdotes and...
MUNDAIGNE: ...book signings at the same time, you know.
FUNNK: We figure that's really what we see in the future for us.
FIREZINE: Well I guess that pretty much... We've covered just about everything.
MUNDAIGNE: That's all we're going to say!
FIREZINE: Is there anything specific you'd like to say to your hordes of fans out there?
MUNDAIGNE: Well, I will say this to our darling, darling fans, we would not be here without you and we love you very much. Thank you for our lovely life in the theater.
FUNNK: It's like life. It's a mixture of as I said, of the good and the bad, the humorous and the funny.
MUNDAIGNE: As we say, it's a mixture of the Funnk and the Mundaigne.
FUNNK: What she said.
FIREZINE: Thank you very much and good luck in the future.
MUNDAIGNE: You're welcome Frederick.
FUNNK:Thank you Phil.