There was barely one moment in my life that I can remember when my father was unrecognizable. Whenever we were out together as a family, people would approach him and ask for his autograph or to shake his hand. We accepted it as the way it was, and we were proud that so many people liked our dad.
But when I decided to begin my career, it had its drawbacks. In every play I did as a young actress, all the reviewers and interviewers wanted to talk about was my father. Was I as good as Danny Thomas? Was I as funny? Would I last as long? It was a daunting comparison for an 18-year-old. So when I auditioned and won the part of Corie in the London production of Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," I jumped at the chance -- for two reasons: 1) it was a fabulous break, and 2) it would afford me the possibility of being judged on my own talent, and not in comparison to anyone else.
And it paid off. The show was a giant hit, and it launched my career. My parents flew over for the opening, and I'll never forget the looks on their faces after the show. My mother was ecstatic, and my father looked like he had just run the triathalon. I knew he had lived through every moment of the play with me. He was drained but proud.
The next morning I received terrific reviews, but none more liberating to me than the one that ended with, "She's the daughter of an American comedian, I'm told." In true form, Dad was funny about it all. One night I had forgotten my curlers at the hotel, and Dad ran over to the theatre with them in a paper bag. The old man at the stage door yelled down to my dressing room, "There's a dark-complexioned man here with a package for you." My very famous, very adorable father came down the stairs, handed me the bag of curlers and said, "I'm going back on American Airlines where they know who the hell I am!"
That was Dad -- he never failed to make me laugh. The gift of laughter is the greatest gift he gave me, and that's one of the many things I think about on Father's Day.
Take a look below at some other Dads you may or may not recognize. I know you'll know their children!