Martin: Good afternoon, My name is Mary Martin. I am the Executive
Director of the Bowlus Center and co-chair of the Buster Keaton Celebration
Committee. With me is Iola attorney Clyde Toland, co-founder of this
celebration and an important member of the committee. We have the privilege
today of presenting The Buster,
an annual award given jointly by the Keaton Celebration Committee and
The Damfinos: The International Buster Keaton Society.
is presented to a person who we believe has, in one manner or another,
demonstrated professional excellence in the tradition of Buster Keaton.
The award consists in part of a beautiful sculpture, which was specially
designed by Randy Lambert of Mt. Shasta, California, a longtime Keaton
fan. The sculpture is of a vaudeville trunk that rests on a base in
the shape of Kansas with the location of Piqua appropriately marked
with a star. The trunk has a label — "The Buster" — on the front and
is stamped in various places with the names Piqua, Muskegon, New York
and Hollywood, all important places in the life and career of Buster
Keaton. A porkpie hat adorns the top of the trunk and slapshoes and
a movie camera further illustrate the theme.
first presented this joint award in 1995 to noted Keaton film preservationist
David Shepard. Other recipients have been film critic and author Leonard
Maltin, film historian, critic and author David Robinson, filmmaker,
historian, preservationist and author Kevin Brownlow, author, comedian,
and composer Steve Allen, and Buster's widow and best fan, Eleanor Keaton.
Today we are pleased to present our 7th Buster honoring both Buster
Keaton and the recipient.
Toland: Good afternoon. In describing the sterling accomplishments
of our "Buster" recipient, I feel like a mosquito in a nudist camp:
I hardly know where to begin. This year's recipient is a gifted and
versatile man as amply testified to by his long and distinguished acting
is a veteran of Broadway, television, and film. His Broadway debut was
in A Street Car Named Desire in 1947. Subsequently he appeared
in over 20 Broadway plays, and was associated with Edward Albee in several
plays, both on Broadway and the West End in London. For 20 years our
recipient produced and acted in productions on the summer stock circuit,
and also appeared in a nightclub act with Celeste Holm at the Persian
Room in New York and at the Tropicana Hotel in Vegas.
television work began in 1948 with the Philco telecast of A Christmas
Carol, directed by the pioneer television director Fred Coe. Our
recipient has had recurring roles in several television series as well
as many, many guest leads on episodic series. Feature film work began
with the low-budget film Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
in 1965. Since then our recipient has appeared in more than 50 films,
including the cult classic Return of the Living Dead.
recipient's creative talents are not limited to dramatic acting. He
has appeared both on television and radio as spokesman for the Pathmark
Supermarket Chain, and his talent for flawless timing down to the last
second is impressively apparent when one watches him taping such a radio
commercial. He has appeared in a record-breaking 5,000-plus on-camera
commercials. Throughout his distinguished career he has performed with
Fredric March, Jason Robards, Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson, Robert Redford,
Michael Douglas, Craig T. Nelson, Jeff Bridges, and Jessica Lange… among
suspects that perhaps the most meaningful acting association for him
was with Buster Keaton, himself. As a young actor, our recipient toured
with Buster in a production of Merton of the Movies. When the
production at the first stop on the tour was not very good, Buster,
our recipient, and others reworked the script to produce a resulting
wonderful show. The opportunity to work with Buster occurred once again
in a Samuel Beckett film called Film. Our recipient became one
of the closest friends of both Buster and Eleanor Keaton until each
of their respective deaths.
a distinct honor, privilege, and pleasure for our recipient to have
worked with and been a close friend of the great Buster Keaton. Our
recipient has taken his natural talent as an actor and has honed it
to perfection. We are all the richer as a result. Additionally, and
not unimportantly, he is a learned man of wit, grace, and charm. With
appreciation and admiration we present The Buster to James Karen.