Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pro-War Activist, Comedy Writer Dead at 89

HOLLYWOOD, CA - Comedy writer Pez Rompert, who created the 1982 pro-nuclear war sit-com Boom and Bust, died at his Brentwood home. His death was confirmed by a neighbor, who was over visiting, "Pez asked me who was winning the conflict between Italy and Ethopia. I said that war was toast. Then he coughed twice like you do when a doctor holds your nuts, kicked me in the shins, then died. Then I helped myself to a couple of Milky Ways and a blender I saw on the kitchen counter."

Born on November 3, 1919 in Los Angeles to film pioneers Lincoln and Cascade Rompert, Pez loved war from an early age. In a grade school essay, he urged giving the Indians back their land so Americans could take it from them again, this time using aircraft and tanks. Always quick-witted, Pez found work writing gag scenarios for his father, who filmed a popular series of Depression era shorts featuring hobos fighting sharks and tigers. After high school, Pez traveled to Spain, where he kept a diary, listing humorous anecdotes, and, occasionally, helping both sides finish off wounded.

Back home, his memoirs formed the basis for his first pro-war film, a comedy starring Jack Oakie called Spain in the Neck. When World War II broke out, Pez enlisted in the Army Air Corps and traveled to England. As a ball turret gunner, he was demoted after firing his machine gun before, during and after missions. Kept busy inflating bomber tires, Pez wrote a series of humorous letters to his parents. After the war, these letters formed the basis for a comedy serial about a talking B-17 called, Plane Speaking.

In 1949, Pez married actress Gwilm Toledo, who had appeared in the 1947 Universal thriller Frankenstein vs Communist Union Thugs. They eventually had four children, all of whom became degenerates, studio executives, or both.

No stranger to the grape, Pez struggled for many years with alcoholism, but could never quite develop a serious drinking problem. His sprees were short and nothing to brag about, he turned work in on time, never struck his wife, and never quarreled with the police. This caused an uproar in the studios, where the bosses liked their writers soused, making them easy pickings at contract time.

Boom and Bust is Rompert's most remembered project and his most political. Set in an ICBM silo, Pez' Air Force characters openly call President Reagan a coward for not lighting up the Soviets. Each week, the cast "accidentally" fired off a nuke and vaporized Guam or Tunisia. Generally, a survivor of the nuked nation would write the characters to say how much better nuking had made his radiation-shortened life. Though it only lasted one season, "Boom" became a VHS hit and can be found on You Tube with Finnish subtitles and the original concertina score.

In lieu of flowers, mourners are asked to pick a fight with a stranger in a bakery. (Photo:


Dutch said...

Old Pez is gone. In the sixties I was assigned to interview him for a guild living history project. He had a large print of Guernica on a wall in his home with all the good parts highlighted.While I was admiring it he sapped me from behind. I woke up three hours later tied to a chair with my testicle wired to a field generator. Pez eventually got me to confess to nabbing the Lindberg kid and conspiring with the Rosenbergs. I'll never forget Pez especially since I have a panic attack every time I see a kitchen chair.

Anonymous said...


Pez Rompert!

Never knew him, yet feel like I know him better than myself after reading your enlightening and bittersweet obituary of this genuinely semi-talented man.

I feel like the world is diminished by his absence, but I also feel like shooting at crows, so feelings can be way off base at times.

(I have successfully reduced the crow population in my neighborhood. Ask me how!)

My reason for writing: a bit of trivia. Pez Rompert's future bride, Gwilm Toledo, working under her early stage name Gwilm Decatur, had a bit part as the flamenco dancer "Shaatzi" in Pez's aforementioned Jack Oakie feature "Spain in the Neck."

You can see Gwilm dancing on the terrace in the scene when Oakie is swimming laps in the Sangria pond.

Other scenes featuring Gwilm caused quite a scandal during the film's initial release, especially after it was revealed that Gwilm's clothing was painted on. Other than paint, Gwilm was wearing nothing but her birthday suit.

Sadly, these colorful scenes were removed by the Hayes office and the film was re-issued under the mystifying title "Franklin Buys a Goat."

That's all.

TR "Succotash" Yohanssen
St. Paul, Minnesota