Red Buttons was an American comedian and actor.
Red Buttons was born Aaron Chwatt on February 5, 1919 in New York City to Jewish immigrants. At sixteen years old, Chwatt got a job as an entertaining bellhop at Ryan’s Tavern in City Island, Bronx. The combination of his red hair and the shiny buttoned bellhop uniform inspired orchestra leader Charles “Dinty” Moore to call him Red Buttons, the name under which he would later perform.
Later that same summer, Buttons worked on the Borscht Belt; his straight man was Robert Alda. In 1939, Buttons started working for Minsky’s Burlesque; in 1941, José Ferrer chose Buttons to appear in a Broadway show The Admiral Had a Wife. The show was a farce set in Pearl Harbor, and it was due to open on December 8, 1941. It never did, as it was deemed inappropriate after the Japanese attack. In later years, Buttons would joke that the Japanese only attacked Pearl Harbor to keep him off Broadway.
In September 1942, Buttons at last got his Broadway debut in Vickie with Ferrer and Uta Hagen. Later that year, he appeared in the Minsky’s show Wine, Women and Song; this was the last Burlesque show in New York City history, as the Mayor La Guardia administration closed it down. Buttons was on stage when the show was raided.