Weird News: Groucho vs. Elvis, Who's More Important?

Is Marx the Real King of Pop Culture? You Bet Your Life!

By Buck Wolf

Aug. 13, 2002 --   They claim he's dead. But we know better.

Call it a conspiracy. A Marxist conspiracy. But I saw Groucho Marx dashing through a hotel gift shop last weekend in Saranac Lake, N.Y., chomping on an oversized cigar.

I admit I'd just driven 300 miles through the night and I may have been high from the smell of scented candles. But I swear, Groucho lives.

There we stood, eye to eye. He cocked his legendary greasepaint brow and said, "I never forget a face … But in your case, I'll make an exception."

Sure, I've heard that line before. Who hasn't? But it's a Groucho original. The king of put downs put me down. Insulted by the master! What an honor!

"I can't believe it!" I gushed. "I'm talking with the great Groucho Marx! Are you really alive?"

Groucho, as always, seemed underwhelmed, his great mustache dripping with contempt. "You've got the mind of a 4-year-old boy," he said, stalking off. "And I bet he was glad to get rid of it!"

And before I could say, "Hello, I must be going," he was gone.

Was I crazy? Certainly, scads of Presley fans regularly experience "Elvis sightings." One minute he's pumping gas in Montana, then he's munching on a Big Mac in Oklahoma, or bargain hunting at a Target.

According to news reports, Groucho had died on Aug. 19, 1977, just three days after Elvis. But if one man could leading a secret life, why can't it be a double death hoax? Call Oliver Stone! I think I've plotted his next movie, Elvis and Groucho Lost in America.

Groucho's Terrible Timing

If Groucho really did die, he picked a lousy time to do it. And that's funny, considering the comic was known for his great timing.

In life, he graced the cover of Time twice — once in 1932 and again in 1951. Yet editors pushed his obituary (a few measly lines) to the back of the magazine, to make way for Elvis. To quote Groucho: "If that isn't an insult, I don't know what is."

Now, each year, thousands of Presley pilgrims flock to Graceland to mark the anniversary of his death and the news media rehashes the well-worn details of his life.

What about Groucho? It seems we give short shrift to the comic master who once said, "I'd never join a club that would have me as a member." And that's just one of many Groucho-isms.

Woody Allen used that that line in Annie Hall to describe why his relationships always fail. After all, how could he like a woman who likes him? A fair point.