The Menello Archives: Volume Three

In 1997, the late entrepreneur Scott Chinery asked me to make a home video companion piece to his recently released Mr. Smoke talking cigar doll. The absurdity of the whole enterprise wasn’t lost on me; it felt like a replay of Rick Rubin’s “Tougher Than Leather” debacle. But Scott had his own level of genius at play, so I was game. He had bought the original cigar doll at auction. It was said that the late Winston Churchill – who, like Scott, was an avid cigar aficionado – conceived and created the prototype doll in 1938.

I immediately asked Ric to appear in the video to anchor the madness, since Scott was mostly casting his friends who never acted before. This made it more of a personal home movie and inside joke of Scott’s than a professional home video. Still, he was financing it, so it was his ground to play on.

Ric had no problem with the insanity of the whole thing and dove right in. Scott immediately gravitated to Ric, and at the end of the shoot paid him double because he was so happy he’d agreed to participate in the project.

Ric had fun and was always fun to be around. It didn’t matter what the project was. He liked to be the center of attention and hold court as he did on the set that day.

Mr. Smoke failed to catch on and disappeared quickly. Scott Chinery died three years later, in 2000. He was only 40 years old.

Menello Archives: Volume Three

The Menello Archives: Volume One

Mel Neuhaus contributes the first classic clip from his archives circa 1980. The hilarious Orson Welles Jeans sketch features a game Menello doing his best Orson Welles impersonation in a parody of the popular jeans commercials of the time. This sketch was one of several that formed the pilot of Mel’s proposed Cable TV extravaganza The Mel Show.

Watch the 1980 clip: The Menello Archives: Volume One.