My brother, Harold

Written by Don Reid. Posted in General

Harold and Don Reid - Statler Brothers in 2020 | Country music ...
Harold and me in a now forgotten comedy routine.

I begin this week doing something I have never done before. Living in a world without my brother in it. But it isn’t about me. The bulk of my prayers are for Brenda, his wife, his children and our sister. As the dust settles in my mind and the memories become even more painfully vivid, I have decided to use this mode of communication to thank the thousands I have heard from and taken comfort from over these past few days. Through personal phone calls, texts, messages and emails I have heard from countless friends in the entertainment world; from good and close friends from all phases of my life; from family; and from fans who loved him dearly and completely.  I have read all the beautiful messages and watched all the moving videos and have gone from laughs to tears in sometimes seconds. And I thank everyone of you for every one of the memories and sentiments you shared that made his life so special to so very many. But it wasn’t until today, just before going to his private graveside service, that I knew exactly what I wanted to say to each one of you.

Harold was funny. Everybody knew that. Hundreds of friends. Millions of fans. All of his family. And I’ve told many of those funny stories in a number of books and in more interviews than I can remember over the past 50 some years. I’ll let them stand as they are because I don’t feel all that funny today. So, I’m going to tell you a story about him that has no punchline. A story you’ve never heard before. No one has heard before.

He was 17 years old which means I was 11. He was a senior in high school and it was a month before graduation, 1957. He was extremely smart but not the greatest student in the world. His choice, understand, because he could have been. It looked like he possibly was not going to have enough academic credits to graduate. No one else knew it but he was sweating it as was our whole family. He and I talked about it. Even though there were six years difference in our ages, there was nothing we didn’t talk about and share all our lives.

He prayed about it and he made a deal with God – haven’t we all – that if He let him graduate, he promised that when he came home after graduation ceremonies that night, no matter how late, he would read Psalm 119 before going to bed. A too-simple vow from a desperate adolescent? Maybe. But for those of you who don’t know the scriptures as well as Harold did, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. 176 verses. He knew this at 17 and this was him doing penance. Being thankful. He knew what he was doing and why.

Well, God smiled on him as he often did, and he graduated. The entire graduating class stood and gave him a standing ovation (that’s how popular he was) as he crossed the stage that hot spring night to get his diploma. He stopped midway, held out his gown and curtsied to them and they roared with laughter and more thunderous applause. I know this to be true. I was there and saw it.

This was an omen; a sign of things to come as audiences would stand and roar with applause and laughter at his antics all over the world for the next four decades to come. I know this to be true, also. I was there and saw it.

But back to that night after graduation. He came home, very late, as usual; about 3 a.m. best I remember. And before he went to sleep, he sat on the side of the bed, turned on the lamp, opened his Bible and he read Psalm 119 in its entirety. We roomed together all the years growing up so I know this to be true. I was there and saw it. He was so appreciative of what he had been given that night that meant so much to him and his family and he was loyal to his promise to God. He kept his word as he always did throughout his life. And we never spoke of this incident for over 60 years.

A few months ago, I was talking to a minister friend of mine, Dr. Bill Smith, who was teaching a class on the book of Psalms and I shared this story with him. It was the first time I ever told it to anyone. Then a couple of days later I was talking to Harold on the phone and I told him I had just told the Psalm 119 story to a friend of mine. There was a long pause on his end of the line and he said very quietly, “I didn’t think you even remembered that.”

Through tears I said, “How could I ever forget?”

 That humble teenage act of contrition exemplified the spirit he possessed and the standards he would live by for the rest of his days. God chose him and he never let him go. The character he had at such an early age only grew with time and with the grace of God. He lived with laughs and good humor on the outside but with a sincere core of commitment to things he believed in on the inside. There was never a subject we couldn’t talk about. Never a situation in our personal or business lives we couldn’t work out with an agreeable solution. He was my brother, my best friend, my business partner, my confidant. Were we always of one mind and in total agreement? Yeah, pretty much. And as I begin this new world I’m living in, I’m proud of and thankful for the teacher and the example I had all those wonderful years.  

While suffering for such a long time from kidney disease, among his final words to me were, “I’m eighty years old; I have lived a blessed life; how could I possibly complain about this?”

To the bravest man I’ve ever known. I love you.

Bro Don     –   April 27, 2020    

There is peace in God’s will.


Kirk Douglas

Written by Don Reid. Posted in General

            Being a lifelong movie fan of the golden era of Hollywood, I always feel a little sadness when another legend of the screen fades off into the sunset. Yesterday it was Kirk Douglas. Spartacus. Doc Holliday. Vincent van Gogh. We, the Statlers, shared some moments on and off the screen with him that still make me smile remembering them.

            It was about 1970 that we guested on the same western tv special that shot for a week in Old Tucson, AZ. It was a musical/comedy show that we were probably more comfortable doing than he was but it turned out as fun for us all. In one scene Kirk walked into a saloon and up to the bar and had dialogue with the bartender. Phil, Lew and I were characters in the scene and Harold was the bartender. Kirk and Harold had lines back and forth and leave it to my brother to play it completely straight throughout the rehearsals until the cameras actually rolled. When the director said, “Action”, he turned on the comedy with the big eyes and gave with a flair that neither the director nor the star was expecting. Everybody was in the floor laughing. When they yelled, “Cut” and the scene was over, Kirk said to Harold, “I like your singing but have you ever thought about acting?” He loved the fact that Harold had completely stolen the scene from him.

            Kirk Douglas was quite a gun handler. Hanging around between scenes he would entertain us all with a great twirling routine. He would draw the pistol from his holster, twirl it forward, then backward, then swing his arm behind his back and toss the gun over his shoulder, catch it in the air, twirl it again on his finger and back into the holster in mid spin. Wow! I loved it. My sole response was, “Teach me to do that!” And he did. He went through the moves with me over and over and I continued to practice for weeks and weeks thereafter. In hotel rooms; backstage dressing rooms; at home. I dropped my pistol on cement, hardwood floors and every toe on both feet. I was a bruised mess plus there was a raw blister that encircled my index finger for a month until it finally morphed into a callus. But I got it down perfectly like a real gunfighter, second only to Kirk Douglas.

            About this same time, Johnny Cash and Kirk were negotiating the possibility of doing a movie together. Kirk came to Nashville to talk John into it and in the process he and June had him out to their house for dinner. We happened to be in town at the time and John called us and invited us to join them. Just the seven of us with lots of talk about movie making and old Hollywood stories. The four of us were big movie collectors and owned thousands of movies between us and Kirk was astounded at how much we knew about and loved old movies. During that period, I used to keep a record of each movie I saw each year. John, who always thought that was funny, said at the table that night, “Donnie, tell Kirk how many movies you’ve seen this year.” I said, “Two hundred forty-eight so far.” Everybody laughed and Kirk said, “Good lord, son, I haven’t seen that many in my whole life.” A fun night. He and John, the next year, starred in “A Gunfight”.

            The next and last time I ever saw him was in Elaine’s restaurant in NYC. I was there with my family and he came in and sat at the table next to us. We talked about the night we had dinner at John and June’s house and he inquired about John’s health.

            What a fantastic life and a remarkable talent. I’m honored to have shared the same air a few times with him. He was a nice and gracious man.

                                    Don Reid    2/6/20