After a stint in the US Army in World War II, Callas was a Big Band drummer, playing in the Tommy Dorsey orchestra, among others. “I was always clowning around when I was a musician,” he recalled later. “They said I played ‘funny drums’ and should become a comedian.” In the 1960s he did, and became known for his rubber face and self-made sound effects. The scrawny comic was a regular on The Merv Griffin Show, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Mel Brooks called him “a cast of thousands all by himself. He could do a thousand faces, a thousand voices and a thousand sound effects. In ‘High Anxiety’ he played a cocker spaniel. He cost me a lot of money: it was almost impossible to finish a scene without the whole crew collapsing in laughter.” Callas went into semi-retirement in 2003, and died in a hospice in Las Vegas on January 27 at 83.
From This is True for 30 January 2011