Make Room for Danny
Danny Thomas with Bill Davidson
G.K. Hall, 1991, 296 pp.
The title of this book, "Make Room for Danny" is taken from the title of Danny Thomas's long running TV show "Make Room for Daddy". As related in the book, the TV show title was the result of Danny wanting to do a TV series so that he could spend more time at home with his family rather than constantly traveling to do night club acts. When he would come home from these trips his children would joke about having to "make room for Daddy" in the house.
Born Muzyad Yahkoob, in 1912 to working class Lebanese parents in Michigan, he rose to become a famous comedian and TV personality under the name of Danny Thomas. His youth and teen years were a struggle financially and his entertainment career got off to the usual rough start. In 1936 he married Rose Marie Cassaniti who remained his wife and companion for life.
In addition to his career as an entertainer, Thomas is also known for his founding of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. With his wife pregnant with their first child and little money on hand Thomas questioned whether he should continue with his dream of an entertainment career or find something else. Praying alone in a church one evening before a statute of St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes, Danny asked the saint for guidance and promised to build a shrine to St. Jude if he was given guidance. A short time later he received a contract to perform in a well known club in Chicago and his career took off. While he was a religious man all his life, the press of career and family took precedence over the promise to St. Jude and it wasn't until later in life that, at the urging of a Jewish colleague, he set out to keep his promise. But, when he found out that a national shrine to St. Jude already existed in Chicago, he had to find some other way to keep the promise and the far bigger and more ambitious St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was the end result.
The book is very readable and contains good descriptions of the entertainment industry and Danny's well known contemporaries in that industry from the forties onward. For those who enjoyed watching Danny Williams, the traveling night club comic of the "Make Room for Daddy" TV series and its numerous re-runs this book will be of special interest.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent