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Follies Man

Riff Markowitz's Remarkable Journey . . . From Bratty Boy to Cheeky Comedian

Riff MarkowitzAt 15, Riff Markowitz ran away from home and joined the circus—an actual circus, mind you—as a tramp clown. That proverbial journey led directly to his career as performer, writer, director and producer, culminating in his most significant role: The Follies Man, that irascible, unpredictable and fearless social satirist who serves as ringmaster at every Follies performance.

A sense of political correctness is not in Markowitz's job description. "We've lost our ability to laugh at ourselves," he reflects.

Inquiring minds
ask,"How does he
get away with
the things he says?"

"Humor is one of the most interesting ways of breaking the silence. By bursting the bubble of pomposity, I hope to point out the ignorance of bigotry, the irrational nature of resentment of those who are gay or old or Jewish and the inherent foolishness of 'hating' an entire group."

Markowitz explains, "When I inflate a normally offensive remark to the point where it is patently ridiculous, I seek to remind everyone of the petty racism that persists in everyday speech, while reaffirming the need to be tolerant."

Riff Markowitz guarantees your visit to FolliesLand will be anything but ordinary.

Riff's Timeline

1938 — Born in New York, then family moves to father's birthplace, Canada.

1953 — Leaves home to join the circus as a clown.

1954 — Clowning proves a tough life for a kid of 16 so he lands a job as radio disc jockey in Canada's far north, Kirkland Lake, Ontario.

1956 — He moves from radio to TV and also begins to produce and direct.

1961 — Creates The Randy Dandy Show, a Canadian children's television show in which Riff plays the title role.

1971 — With six TV series on the air, he creates The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a cult favorite TV show, still popular today. It airs across Canada and in the United States for more than 30 years, and stars actor Vincent Price.

1973 — Moves to Hollywood and produces musical variety and comedy specials for the (then) new HBO television cable network.

1982 — With a partner, Riff builds a state-of-the-art TV post-production facility.

1983 — With partners, he creates the First Choice Canadian pay-television network.

1984 — Co-creates the HBO mystery anthology series, the groundbreaking The Hitchhiker and numerous other TV specials, starring Red Skelton, Neil Simon, George Burns, Tony Curtis and many more.

1989 — Having had enough and having "enough," divests all business interests and retires at age 50 to Palm Springs, California.

1990 — Fails at retirement.

1991 — Meets Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Tuck Broich, who later shows Riff an abandoned theater that the City has just purchased and doesn't know what to do with. Riff has an idea!

1992 — The curtain rises for the first performance of The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies.


Riff Markowitz and Vincent Price
Above, age 5: Riff being the original "Peck's Bad Boy." He's been "sticking his tongue out at the world" ever since.


Riff Markowitz and Vincent Price
At age 23, he parlayed a television announcing job into television personality Randy Dandy, above, with his own hit children's TV show in Canada. His sister charged neighborhood kids a nickel to see her famous brother sleeping.


Riff Markowitz and Vincent Price
Above, age 22: Riff, top, with siblings Mitch, Merrilee, and Cary.


Riff Markowitz and Vincent Price
Age 27: Vincent Price, far right, stars in the 1971 cult TV series, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, which Riff writes, produces and directs. The popular 60-minute daily live action show combines variety, humor and educational segments—all with a light touch of mock horror. 130 shows were produced and continue to run in syndication after almost 50 years.



Age 36: Above, from left, Avery Schreiber, "Raymond J. Johnson, Jr.," Fred Willard, Riff, Dan Rowan, Arte Johnson and Jo Anne Worley, all appearing in a Markowitz-produced comedy television special.


Riff Markowitz and The Fifth Dimension
Age 38: Riff, third from left, on stage with The Fifth Dimension during shooting of The Wolfman Jack Show, a series which he produces in 1976.



Age 42: With President Jimmy Carter in the Rose Garden of the White House.


Riff Markowitz and George Burns
Age 44: Taking a break on the set with George Burns while producing the 1982 HBO special, George Burns Live in Concert.


Riff Markowitz Today
Riff today and, far right, at age 52, onstage at the historic Plaza Theatre January 29,1992, just hours before his post-retirement "hobby"—the Follies—opens. No one could have imagined that this former television producer would become the suave, sardonic, acerbic yet charming Follies Man that audiences see today.

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