Happy Birthday, Larry Storch! Famed Actor, Comedian, & Star of ’60s TV, Turns 91 Today

A 1960s

An “F-Troop” comic book cover depicts the show’s cast, including (from l to r) Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch (far right) as Corporal Agarn, the most famous comedic character of his long and illustrious shown business career. (Photo: basementcomics)

Larry Storch entertains the crowd during a 2011 appearance at the Friar's Club in New York City. (Photo: Drew Friedman)

Larry Storch entertains the crowd during a 2011 appearance at the Friar’s Club in New York City. (Photo: Drew Friedman)

F-Troop star and TV icon, Larry Storch turns 91 today. Happy Birthday, Larry!

My “Brush with Greatness” Double-Header in Small Town, USA

It was 8PM on a cold, dark September evening. The year was 2002, and the place was a Barnes & Noble (B&N) bookstore in the small college community of Champaign, Illinois. At that time, the bookstore was perched on the outermost edge of town, at the end of a retail district where civilization seemed to come to an abrupt end, butting up to hundreds of square miles of adjacent corn and soybean fields that stretched off to infinity in all directions.

The crops themselves had been harvested just a few weeks before, so now, there remained only row upon row of jagged corn-stubble and upturned, gray soil. The stalks pointed “all a kilter,” looking like the blast craters of a WWI battlefield, missing only trenches and doughboys to complete the effect. Flying high over the desolate scene, visiting TV icon Larry Storch probably looked out his plane’s window and felt like he was about to land on the moon.

Peter Marshall on the set of

Peter Marshall on the set of “Hollywood Squares” sometime in the 1970s. (Photo: NBC)

But I’m getting ahead of myself. On that particular night, I wasn’t waiting to meet Mr. Storch at all. Rather, I was flipping through pages of a new book entitled “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square,” written by another television great, Peter Marshall, the longtime host and star of the iconic comedy game show, Hollywood Squares. It was actually Marshall, that I and about 25 other “locals” were there to see.

Despite our town’s small population and relatively isolated location, Marshall had been scheduled to appear there that evening for a personal appearance and book signing event. Purely by chance, I had seen a tiny blurb about the event in the paper the day before, and almost disbelievingly, decided to drop by the B&N after work. But why, I wondered, would Peter Marshall want to come here, when Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis are all just a few hours away? Those were much bigger markets. Hmm…

Peter Marshall and wife, Laurie Stewart. (Photo: getty)

Peter Marshall and wife, Laurie Stewart. (Photo: getty)

An Unexpected Celebrity 2-for-1

Whatever the reason, I planted myself in front of a table displaying his books, and filled the time as I waited by looking at the book’s photos, marveling at all of the great celebrities Marshall had known, worked with, and befriended during his many decades in show business. Suddenly…the doors of the store opened. All heads turned. And in walked…Peter Marshall!

He was accompanied by his beautiful wife, Laurie Stewart, and the “crowd” began to drift towards the area where he would sign his books. But hold the phone, Watson! A few seconds later, in walks Larry Storch (!)…also accompanied by HIS wife! I remember just blurting out, “Hey, That’s Larry Storch!” to a perfect stranger standing next to me. Unlike many celebrities, Mr. Storch is instantly recognizable in person. Despite his age, he has changed very little over the years. That night, he looked spiffy in a black turtleneck, slacks and sport coat, and he walked across the room with an almost imperious self-confidence. I was actually more excited to see Mr. Storch in person than Mr. Marshall.

This is my copy of the Peter Marshall book, “Backstage with the Original Hollywood Square.” I actually bought two copies that night, and had both stars autograph them (one as a gift for a relative). (Photo: Mark Otnes) Click to enlarge.

What a FAN-tastic Surprise!

Okay, so here’s where the Twilight Zone part of my story begins: As Peter Marshall busied himself greeting the B&N manager and various store employees, I gathered up my nerve, and approached Mr. Storch first. He and his wife were just standing there, watching the activities, and no one else was talking to them. After telling him of my great admiration of his work, he and his wife, Norma Storch (an actress), thanked me and then… asked me to sit down WITH them in some chairs on the front row! Stunned, I quickly accepted, and after we had all introduced ourselves and shook hands, we sat down together… for a chat! Here it is:

In this 2003 photo, Larry Storch poses with his F-Troop co-star, Melody Patterson (c) and his wife, Norma Storch (r). Both Storch and his wife look much as they did when I met them a few months earlier. Sadly, she died from cancer a few months later. (Photo: Blessing Moore)

In this 2003 photo, Larry Storch poses with his F-Troop co-star, Melody Patterson (c) and his wife, Norma Storch (r). Both Storch and his wife look much as they did when I met them a few months earlier. Sadly, Norma died from cancer less than a year later. (Photo: Blessing Moore)

The “World’s Shortest Interview” with ’60s TV Icon and Funnyman, Larry Storch and his wife, Norma Storch

TJR: How was your flight? Are you having a nice trip?

Larry: “Oh man, it was rough. What a terrible flight!”
Norma: “The worst!”

TJR: I’m so sorry. What was the matter? What kind of plane was it?

Larry: “It was one of those little prop-jobs. And it was just bumpy all the way.” (Norma nodded and added an eye-roll for emphasis.)

My copy of Marshall's book with both his and Storch's kind inscriptions and autographs. What nice guys! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

My copy of Marshall’s book with both his and Storch’s kind inscriptions and autographs. What nice guys! (Photo: Mark Otnes)

TJR: Well, I’m so glad you made it safely. But it’s such a surprise to see you here. Why ARE you here, by the way?

Larry: “We’re just traveling with Peter and Laurie, to keep ’em company and have some fun.”
Norma: “Yes, but I don’t even know where this place is. HA!”

I suddenly realized what a rare opportunity our private little conversation was, and asked Storch if he would also sign Peter Marshall’s book. He chuckled, and said, “Sure!” writing out the kind inscription and autograph you see in the photo above. Soon after, Peter Marshall took his seat at the “official” book signing table, and since they were ready to begin, I thanked Larry and Norma and excused myself to get in line to meet Peter.

Bottom Line: In the end, both men signed my copy of Marshall’s book and today it remains one of my most valued possessions. Our youngest readers may have no clue about the two stars I’ve discussed today, and that’s truly a shame. Both men are hugely talented, widely accomplished, and were a great pleasure to meet in person. If I’ve peaked your interest in Larry Storch or Peter Marshall at all, I suggest you watch the following two short videos. Enjoy!

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5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Larry Storch! Famed Actor, Comedian, & Star of ’60s TV, Turns 91 Today

  1. Matthew Pak says:

    I’m a fan of both men, but here’s your 1:6 scale tie-in: I never had a Capatin Action figure as a child and it was one of my goals to get one. When I was in college in 1979 I met a guy who claimed he had a bunch of Capatin Action figures and costumes back home in his attic and I told him I would be very interested if he ever wanted to sell them. He laughed and said that he always thought Captain Action looked goofy. “You know who he looks like? He looks like Larry Storch!”

    • HA! You know, that’s right. Captain Action DOES look a little like Larry Storch! Good catch.

      • Matthew Pak says:

        Oh, and as a follow up to the story I never did get that guy’s Captain Action stuff. The more I asked him about it the more he decided it was probably “worth something” and he decided to keep it. I did not get a Captain Action until 1984 and sure enough he looked like Larry Storch!

  2. kneonknight says:

    F Troop was a staple in our household, right along with Petticoat Junction and Hogan’s Heroes (or Hogan’s Horde, as was mentioned here not too long ago) and still remains a nostalgic favorite. I remember how cheesed I was one Xmas when I received the Marx Toys 7th Cavalry playset, with the belt, Springfield carbine, sabre, pistol, holster, and the plastic Stetson that was a dead ringer for the one Larry Storch wore on the show.

    *Sigh* They don’t make television programs or toys like they used to. Our children are being robbed, I tell ya.

  3. Happy birthday to a dear actor who has given so much joy to children during the 1960’s era of F-Troop that for one, I will never forget. Although your part in the Persuaders series—Angie—will also forever he remembered in childhood friends, relating to Market Street Perth Scotland. At 91 years of age, GOD BLESS YOU. And thank you for conveying such fun for kids during the 1960’s. Such fun.

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