By MIKE MERINO
Photos by Terri Bryce Reeves
The Tampa Bay area has raised its share of top flight entertainers and
one of the most famous hometown funnymen is known for smashing watermelons. Gallagher, now a ripe 70 years old, will be appearing at a free outdoor show to Tampa`s Ybor City on August 12.
The melon slayer of 1980`s fame shared a few memories about growing up in the Cigar City and his rise to fame.
Q) How was life growing up in the Tampa area?
A) My father was always searching for a reason to move to Florida from Ohio, so when I was 9, he moved us down here because I had asthma. When I was in junior high, Dad opened the Roll-A-Rink and our family of six lived in a three-bedroom mobile home
behind the rink. I became an excellent speed and figure skater which helped
my confidence; I was also an Eagle Boy Scout. I attended Plant High School and
graduated from USF with a chemical engineering degree. I minored in English
literature, which comes in handy when I mock language in my skits.
Q) Was comedy hard at first?
A) Compared to roller skating, comedy was a snap. You don’t have wheels on your feet, but sometimes you fall down anyway and they usually laugh.
Q) Where did the inspiration for your act (and the Sledge-O-Matic) come from?
A) The act is a parody of ads for the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, a kitchen appliance popular from the mid-1960s through the 1970s. I wrote the routine for the “SledgeO-Matic” and sent it
to George Carlin and Albert Brooks so I could say I had written a script for some
well-known comics. I`m glad they didn`t take it!
Q) How did you go from Tampa to the national stage?
A) I looked up my first talent agents in the yellow pages and found two. One
got me my first smashing act in a bowling alley. The other agent introduced
me to comic/musician Jim Stafford who I worked with for four years until
I launched my own routine in California in 1969. When I made it on to the
Tonight Show in the late 1970s, my career took off.
Q) Health problems, you’ve had your share?
A) I’ve had four heart attacks but as long as I can breathe and move I`ll
keep performing and tearing down the house with my personal style of outrageous