In the late actor Tim Conway‘s words, he was never supposed to be a TV star.
“I wanted to be a jockey. But at this weight even the horses ask you to get off,” he joked, in a never-before-seen interview left on the cutting room floor of the documentary Wait for Your Laugh. “[Dick Van Dyke Show star] Rose Marie is responsible for my being here, not in this chair, but in Hollywood.”
Marie, who died in late 2017 at age 94, recalled meeting the late star while doing promos for the Dick Van Dyke Show at a Cleveland TV station where Conway worked at the time and that she established an easy bond and banter with him. Marie went on to recommend him for famed ’60s talk show host Steve Allen’s new show.
“I met him, I said ‘You’re funny’ … I said, ‘Do you have anything on tape?'” Marie recalled in the interview.
Conway deadpanned, “I have a band-aid on my foot.”
The funnyman managed to put together a tape of his radio and TV bits, which Marie passed along to Allen.
“Steve [had] the original Tonight Show,” said Conway. “She showed it to Steve,” and the rest is history. After his appearances on The Steve Allen Show, Conway was asked to appear on the WWII sitcom McHale’s Navy, which eventually led to The Carol Burnett Show.
Marie also helped Conway change his name — from Tom Conway to Tim Conway.
“His name is Tom Conway,” Marie said. “We changed it to Tim because there is a Tom Conway who’s a movie actor.”
The two TV icons became close friends and remained that way until Marie’s death.
“His family came out here [to L.A.], I became his oldest daughter Kelly’s godmother,” Marie said.
“She told me about the business,” Conway recalled. “I would go over to her house for dinner. I’ve never had so much food in all my life.”
“And that’s the story of Tim Conway,” quipped Marie. “He became a big star.”
Conway died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 85. Prior to his death, he suffered complications from Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) and had no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
For more of Conway’s final interview, check out his stories and showbiz memories in Wait for Your Laugh.