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Senior World Magazine: Bill Dana

by James MacArthur



Bill Dana and I have been acquaintances for nearly 30 years, but I never knew half the things I found out while penning this modest profile. For instance, when I was making the movie The Battle of the Bulge in 1964, little did I know that 20 years earlier Bill Dana had been with the real troops trying to relieve the besieged American positions! Recently, he composed and wrote a song called ‘All About Love,’ which Natalie Cole recorded. He also helped launch such comic greats as Don Adams, Don Knotts, Jackie Mason, and Jim Nabors.

Of course, what we all know best is what happened in 1959 when he first said, “My name is Jose Jimenez.” He wrote himself into show business history and his fans haven’t stopped laughing since. This includes my 11 year-old son, who really loves those Jose tapes.

Recently, Bill has been spending some time in Palm Springs, where he did a season of The Palm Springs Follies. When I arrived at his house for coffee, he was busily engaged in some project. I said, “Bill, what are you up to?” He said, “Look at what I invented!” and showed me a cloth book with Mary Had A Little Lamb printed nicely on the cloth pages. I said, “Gee, Bill, this is nice.” Whereupon, sensing my faint praise, he proceeded to turn the darn thing inside out, and suddenly there was this little wooly lamb in his hands! “How’s that?” he said. I was astounded and delighted, and told him so. He said, “We are all patented and ready to manufacture.” I said, “How did you ever think of this?” He looked at me and said, “Jim, I never stop creating ideas. I invent at least four things a day. I just don’t have enough time for everything.” But he did have time to America’s Mercury Astronauts to adopt Jose The Astronaut as their mascot. Bill Dana took humor to outer space and he is most proud that the first words spoken from the ground to an American entering space were, “Okay, Jose, you’re on your way.”

During the many years I was doing Hawaii Five-O in Hawaii, Bill suddenly arrived and made himself a lovely life in the islands. He had a night club show for a long time on Oahu and fell in love with the Hana Coast on the Island of Maui. He and his lovely wife Evelyn Shular Dana, who Bill says is his partner in life and business, keep a home there and are very involved in the ecology and environment as well as native Hawaiian causes.

As our readers are generally people above 50, I asked him if he had any advice for them. He showed me a routine he had written for Jose on this subject:

Jose: "Helen Hayes once said that age is not important unless you're a cheese."

Me: "Yes, I know, because she’s my mother."

Jose: "Oh? What a coincidence."

Me: "And I also heard her say: 'If you rest, you rust!'”

Jose: " And I say, 'Amuse it or lose it!'”

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