For a public relations stunt, Gleason made a 4,337-mile, 10-city train trip from Los Angeles to New York on "The Great Gleason Express." The rail excursion promoted the new TV show, "Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine."
The Los Angeles Times reported: "Comic Jackie Gleason, who reportedly gets $100,000 a year from CBS-TV whether he works or not, left for New York Thursday aboard a private train which will cost at least $80,000 for the 10-day jaunt."
"Gleason made it clear that 'I'm not going to pay for this trip.'"
Times Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper wrote:
"Jackie Gleason sure knows how to make an exit. Balloons, midgets, a band, beautiful girls -- his choreographer, lovely June Taylor, leading lady Sue Ann Langdon, and his daughter Geraldine -- director George Marshall and 210 freeloaders were present when he took off on his special train bound for New York. Forty-five went with him. It was show business in the manner of P.T. Barnum, which someday Jackie must put on screen. They had everything except an elephant."
A ratings success, the TV show that in 1966 was renamed "The Jackie Gleason Show" was on CBS until 1970.
And yes, CBS paid for the train trip.
This post originally was published on Sep. 14, 2010.