At the age of 7, Naftaly Birnbaum (aka George Burns) landed a job making syrup in the basement of a local candy store. When the mailman, a sucker for tight harmony, heard Burns and his pals crooning away on a barbershop number, he brought them out to the street and a small crowd gathered.
“We called ourselves the Peewee Quartet,” Burns recalled in an interview with Cigar Aficionado 90 years later. “Sometimes the customers threw something in the hats. Sometimes they took something out of the hats. Sometimes they took the hats.”
Shortly thereafter, Burns quit school in the fourth grade to pursue show business full time, which at the time meant singing with a trained seal, trick roller-skating and adagio dancing in small-time vaudeville acts. The fact that he managed to do all this while keeping one hand wrapped around a beautiful woman and the other puffing on a long, thick cigar, right up to his death in 1996 at the age of 100, is an accomplishment that baffles the mind.