Comedian Bill Dana, aka 'Jose Jimenez,' Dead At 92
"My name….. Jose Jimenez." The man who made that line famous in the 1960s – comedian and writer Bill Dana – has died at age 92.
Dana was a writer for the "Steve Allen Show" in the early 1960s, who found fame as politically incorrect Jose Jimenez, a Hispanic character who spoke very poor English.
Allen or Don Hinkley would interview him in "man on the street" segments in which Jimenez would talk – in labored, broken English -- about his unlikely high-skilled profession: astronaut, Olympic bobsledder, submarine commander, CIA spy, etc.
One of the biggest laughs was when Jimenez played a Santa Claus instructor. Quizzed by straight man Hinkley, Jimenez struggled to explain: "I to – to Santy Claus. I teach to Santy Claus – I to Santy Claus – I teach Santy Claus to speak!"
Yes, I said it was politically incorrect – but even Latinos loved him. Dana was honored by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Hollywood Reporter noted. Jimenez "was a perfect example of a person that wanted to be assimilated into American culture, learn the language, always looked spiffy … not a bit of the racist stereotype about the unkempt Mexican," he said in a 2011 interview, the Hollywood Reporter wrote.
At President Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, when Milton Berle introduced "the man all America is talking about," a dozen or so Marines paraded onstage followed by a man in an astronaut suit. It wasn't John Glenn or Alan Shepard. Dana took off the helmet and brought the house down by simply saying, "My name….. Jose Jimenez."
The original seven Mercury astronauts in the early 1960s loved the character. Shepard took the code name "Jose," and Jimenez became the astronauts' "mascot," Dana said, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The pilots would hang out at Dana's house, and years later, he was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. (That's why you can see him as Jimenez on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in the 1983 movie, "The Right Stuff.")
Dana wasn't just a one-joke comic. His credits include writing the famous "All In The Family" episode where bigot Archie Bunker was kissed on the lips by entertainer Sammy Davis Jr.
In addition to being Steve Allen's head writer, he also wrote TV scripts for "Chico and the Man," the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," "Donny and Marie," "Matlock" and "The Spike Jones Show." He starred as Jimenez for two seasons (1963-65) in a NBC sitcom, plus appearedion everything from "Batman" and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." to Danny Thomas' "Make Room For Daddy," Don Adams' "Get Smart," "McMillan & Wife," "The Practice," "The Facts of Life," "St. Elsewhere"and "The Golden Girls."
Dana died Thursday, June 15, at his home in Nashville, Tenn., according to Emerson College, his alma mater. One of his proudest achievements was founding the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College, which collects interviews with comedy legends.
He was born William Szathmary, of Hungarian-Jewish descent, on Oct. 5, 1924, in Quincy, Mass. He graduated from Emerson College in 1950, after serving in the infantry during World War II. His first broadcasting job was as a NBC Page, then he formed a comedy team with Emerson buddy Gene Wood (later the studio announcer for "Family Feud"). After that, he wrote for comedians Don Adams and Steve Allen.