Victor Borge

From Academic Kids

Victor Borge (January 3, 1909December 23, 2000) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark as Børge Rosenbaum and died in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA. Affectionately known as the Clown Prince of Denmark and the Great Dane, he was a humorist, entertainer and world-class pianist.

His parents, Bernhard and Frederikke Rosenbaum, were both musicians (Bernhard played violin in the Royal Danish Chapel, and Frederikke played piano). Børge took up piano like his mother at the age of 3, and it was soon realized that he was a child prodigy. He gave his first piano recital when he was 8 years old, and was awarded a full scholarship at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory in 1918, studying under Olivo Krause. Later on, he was taught by Victor Schiøler, Frederic Lamond, and Egon Petri.

Børge played his first major venue already in 1926 at the Danish concert-hall Odd Fellow Palæet (The Odd Fellow Mansion). After a few years as a classical concert pianist, he started his now famous "stand up" act, with the signature blend of piano music and jokes. He married American Elsie Chilton in 1933, the same year he debuted with his revue acts. Børge started touring extensively in Europe, where he began telling anti-Nazi jokes. This led to Adolf Hitler placing the outspoken Jew on his list of enemies to the Fatherland.

When Denmark was occupied by the Nazis during World War II, Børge was playing a concert in Sweden, and managed to escape to Finland. He travelled to America on the SS American Legion, the last passenger ship that made it out of Europe prior to the war, and arrived August 28, 1940 with only 20 dollars, 3 of which went to the customs fee. Børge, disguised as a sailor, visited Denmark once during the occupation, to visit his dying mother.

Even though Børge didn't speak a word of English upon arrival, he quickly managed to adapt his jokes to the American audience, learning English by watching B movies. He took the name of Victor Borge, and in 1941, he started on Rudee Vallees radioshow, but was soon after hired by Bing Crosby for his Kraft Music Hall.

From then on, it went quickly for Victor, who won Best New Radio Performer of the Year in 1942. Soon after the award, he was offered film roles with big stars, such as Frank Sinatra (in Higher and Higher). While hosting The Victor Borge Show on NBC from 1946, he developed many of his trademarks, including repeatedly announce his intent to play a piece, but getting "disctracted" by something or other, making comments on the audience, or discussing the usefulness of the One Minute Waltz as an eggtimer. Among Victor's other famous routines is the spoken punctuation routine, in which he recites a story, with full punctuation (comma, period, exclamation mark, etc) as onomatopoetic sounds. Another is his inflated language, where he incremented numbers embedded in words, whether they are visible or not (inflate becomes inflnine, etc).

Victor guested Toast of the Town, hosted by Ed Sullivan, several times during 1948, and became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America the same year. He started the Comedy in Music show on The Golden Theatre in New York City on October 2, 1953. After divorcing his wife Elsie, he married Sarabel Sanna Rodgers (daughter of Richard Rodgers) in 1953. Comedy in Music became the longest running one-man show, with 849 performances when he stopped January 21, 1956, being accepted into the Guinness book of world records.

Continuing his success with several tours and shows, Victor played with some of the world's most renowned orchestras, New York Philharmonic and London Philharmonic among others. Always modest, he felt very honored when he was invited to conduct the Danish Royal Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1992.

Victor helped start several trust funds, including the Thanks to Scandinavia Fund, which was started in dedication to those who helped the Jews escape the German prosecution during the war. Victor Borge received Kennedy Center Honors in 1999.

Aside from his musical work, Victor has written the book My Favourite Intermission (with Robert Sherman), and the autobiography Smilet er den korteste afstand ("The Smile is the Shortest Distance" with Niels-Jørgen Kaiser) - the title is the Danish version of a saying of his, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people," his motto of life. His philosophy was clear; "if I have caused just one person to wipe away a tear of laughter, that's my reward."

Victor continued to tour until his last days, performing up to 60 times per year when he was 90 years old. He said, "I don't mind growing old. I'm just not used to it."

Victor Borge died December 23, 2000 in Greenwich, Connecticut, after more than 75 years of entertaining. He died peacefully, in his sleep, the day after returning from a concert in Denmark. "It was just his time to go," Frederikke Borge said. "He's been missing my mother terribly." Victor left behind 4 children, Victor Jr. and Frederikke with Sarabel, and Ronald and Janet with Elsie.

External link

de:Victor Borge sv:Victor Borge


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