“If the Rat Pack had a newsletter, it would be something like Milton,” says Bill Maker. “Advice on cocktails, advice on gambling, advice on comedy—all Milton is missing is pictures of naked coeds.” The Politically Incorrect host is referring to TV pioneer Milton Berle’s entry into magazine publishing. Launched last spring, with 89-year-old Uncle Miltie himself gracing the cover, the glossy $4.95 quarterly lives up to its jauntily retro Berle-esque credo—”We Drink, We Smoke, We Gamble”—by featuring articles such as “How to Play Craps Without Looking Like a Dork ” and “Rating the Top Five Rums and Tequilas. “Among its loyal readers are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sid Caesar and former O.J. prosecutor Christopher Darden.
Recently, Berle, who as a kid actor made a movie with Charlie Chaplin, held forth in his posh, four-bedroom condo in L.A. With him were Milton’s publisher—Berle’s third wife, Lorna, 57—and editor—her daughter Susan Moll, 36, wife of actor Richard Moll (Night Court,). While Berle puffed his trademark cigar, they talked with PEOPLE contributor (and designated straight man) Champ Clark.
Nice to meet you, Milton. Where would you like me to sit?
Berle: How ’bout on your [posterior]?
How did the whole idea for Milton, the magazine, start?
Lorna: Last September we were sitting and talking, and Milton was telling Susan about—I hate to say “the good old days”—but the way things used to be. And she was very interested in the cocktails and the casinos.
Susan: And Milton was talking about gambling, too. He started giving me some tips, and I had no idea what he was talking about. I realized most people my age don’t know how to play the traditional card games. Richard, my husband, even with all his big cigar nights, wasn’t comfortable with his poker skills. There wasn’t another magazine on the stands that addressed these things. We’re trying to give practical tips. How to mix certain drinks, how to set up a party.
Berle: How to dress…
Lorna:…and make people feel comfortable. Young people don’t know how or when to tip the dealer. So they avoid the situation. That’s why they stand at the slots. So we’re out there flaunting our bad habits.
Berle: There are so many dos and don’ts today. Let’s go back to our fore-fathers—or fivefathers. I don’t think that our grandparents had to worry that you couldn’t eat pickles with olives and drink at the same time. And they lived to be much older. I had an uncle that died at 118…West 118th Street. My brother Phil is going to be 97. Tell the young man how you named it Milton. Wouldn’t you like to know that? Well…ask.
How did you come to name it Milton?
Lorna: We patterned it off of Milton, who has led the good life. Nobody has ever played harder than Milton—going to the track, going to Vegas…
Berle:…drinking, smoking. The magazine is not about Milton the person. It’s about attitude and style. In the ’40s and ’50s it was an event for somebody to go to Las Vegas. Men put on their dinner jackets. Women wore evening gowns. I wore evening gowns.
Lorna, Susan, what are your backgrounds?
Lorna: Clothing design. I started when Susan was still in high school. Then we became partners, and she went on to design her own line. I think that’s one of the reasons the magazine is so visually appealing.
Berle: The word is stylish.
Lorna: Even when we do something sexy, we want to take it back to when sex was innocent.
Berle: When the hell was that?
Who would you say is a Milton man of today?
Milton: George Hamilton looks it, don’t he?
Milton: Does he know what you mean by a Milton person?
Susan: We’re adding a new word to the vocabulary. When you “party,” that’s three guys in the backyard with a keg of beer. To “Milty,” you really do it up right.
Susan: That means champagne, going to the finest restaurants, living it up.
Lorna: Everybody can “Milty”
Do you drink, Milton?
Berle: I was a drinker once. I’m satisfied today to wet my palate with tea. I have compassion for people that drink. But don’t go overboard.
Susan: We feel that moderation is the key to everything.
Berle: Including moderation.
Milton, what’s your favorite way of gambling?
Berle: When I do my act.