The current Jeremy Piven/"Speed-the-Plow" controversy brings to mind a bit of Broadway folklore involving Jackie Gleason.
Back in the late 1950s, Gleason was anxious to open on Broadway in a musical and settled on one produced by David Merrick - Bob Merrill's 1959 "Take Me Along," co-starring Walter Pidgeon and based on Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness."
"Open." Yes, the operative word, it seems, is that Gleason wanted to open in a Broadway musical, not necessarily appear in one for any length of time.
Well, the show was a huge success but, as the dust of the acclaim settled, Gleason quickly tired of it, calling in sick regularly. Columnists Dorothy Killgalen and Walter Winchell, among others, had a field day, speculating on why Merrick, noted for his temper and an ego as big as Gleason's, didn't explode.
Turns out, the legendary producer was prepared for Gleason's behavior, reportedly taking out a special insurance policy that covered him whenever his star missed a performance. Once Gleason found out, he retaliated by never missing another performance. He stayed with the show until his contract ended.
Time Magazine alluded to this feud in a piece titled "The Big Hustler" in which Merrick comments that Gleason repeatedly threatened during the nogtiations for the show to "get sick" if he wasn't kept happy. The now-timely article ran 47 years ago ... on Friday, 29 December, 1961.
Artword: The Playbill from Jackie Gleason's "Take Me Along," and Jeremy Piven