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How sweet it is: Jackie Gleason and ‘The Honeymooners’ get a U.S. stamp (with video)

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

gleason1 America's honeymoon with Jackie Gleason continues.

The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday unveiled a 44-cent Honeymooners stamp picturing the TV icon and his co-star Art Carney. The Great One's widow, Marilyn Taylor Gleason, attended a ceremony at the Fort Lauderdale post office, stood in line at the counter and bought the first commemorative stamps sold.

‘’The memories just flood through the brain," said Gleason, 83, whose husband helped put South Florida on the entertainment map by taping his lavish TV variety series from ‘’the sun and fun capital of the world."

Each Saturday night on CBS from 1964 to 1970, Gleason proclaimed: "The Miami Beach audience is the greatest audience in the world!"

gleason4 The Honeymooners is one of 20 classic programs honored by the Postal Service in its Early TV Memories series that debuted Tuesday. Other stamps include I Love Lucy, The Twilight Zone and The Ed Sullivan Show.

Gleason introduced The Honeymooners, a series of sketches about Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden; his wife, Alice; best friend Ed Norton; and Norton's wife, Trixie, on his live, New York-based Cavalcade of Stars program on the old DuMont television network.

The Jackie Gleason Show, still featuring The Honeymooners sketches, premiered on CBS in 1952. ``Television was `learn it quick,' '' Marilyn Gleason said. ``Blink your eyes and it's the next day and it's over with. And you start all over again.''

During the 1955-56 TV season, The Honeymooners became a weekly, 30-minute series co-starring Carney as Norton, Audrey Meadows as Alice and Joyce Randolph as Trixie.

Those 39 filmed episodes were rerun continuously for a half century and now are available on DVD, along with Gleason's live Honeymooners sketches, which he preserved as lower-quality kinescopes.

In 1962, he resumed The Jackie Gleason Show, which was taped in New York at the same theater as Ed Sullivan, now used nightly by David Letterman.

Two years later, WTVJ-TV founder Mitchell Wolfson and Miami Beach publicist Hank Meyer convinced Gleason to move his entire TV company to South Florida. Through 1970, he taped the show at what is now the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach.

gleason2 Gleason met Marilyn Taylor in 1941 through her sister, dancer June Taylor, who later choreographed the Gleason variety show. They became reacquainted in the early '70s after Marilyn's first husband died and Gleason divorced his second wife.

They married in 1975. He died of cancer at age 71 in 1987 at their 14-room Inverrary mansion in Lauderhill. She now lives in a Fort Lauderdale condo near Port Everglades.

Gleason's South Florida connection led the Postal Service to unveil his stamp in Fort Lauderdale.

Many of the new TV stamps will never be used for postage, Fort Lauderdale postmaster Mike Fortunato said.

``People will have that sheet of stamps framed,'' Fortunato said. ``There is something in those 20 stamps that will resonate with most people.''

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Marilyn Gleason photos by DEANNA DENT / SUN SENTINEL

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