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Spies on Television & Radio ~
From F Troop to Get Smart – The Many Voices of Larry Storch

By Wesley Britton


Larry Storch as The Groovy Guru
Larry Storch played the title character in the Get Smart episode, “The Groovy Guru” (Jan. 13, 1968).

For most Baby Boomers, the name Larry Storch evokes the one character he is most famous for – that of Corporal Randolph Agarn on F Troop, the ABC comic hit that ran from 1965 to 1967.

But beyond F Troop, Larry Storch has been an actor with a wide, long and distinguished career on stage, in the movies, and especially on network television. His credits include roles on I Dream of Jeannie, Mannix, All in the Family, Sergeant Bilko, Columbo, Fantasy Island, McCloud, and That Girl.

And, for “Spywise” readers, Larry was also a noted guest on another comedy hit of the ‘60s – Get Smart. More on that below.

On Sept. 20, 2008, I was able to sit down with Larry at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention and ask him a few questions. I met him at his table, seeing a smiling, gracious – and frail – 85-year-old wearing a replica of his trademark Corp. Agarn hat and an orange neckerchief. It was clear Larry was enjoying himself sharing memories of his many roles with fans at the Maryland show. He happily talked about his 50-year-old girlfriend, living in the Bronx, his work on stage and screen, and especially his co-stars. So I began by asking him about how he got the role of Corp. Agarn on F Troop.

“Well, I was actually auditioning for the role of the sergeant (Sergeant Morgan Sylvester O'Rourke), and thought I had it until Forrest Tucker came along. He was so perfect for that part, tall, with the right presence. But he told the producers, ‘Don’t get rid of Larry. We work so well together.”"

“So the role of Corp. Agarn was created especially for you?”

“Yes.”

“What did you do to use your special talents to shape your character?”

“I was very much a dialectian, able to do many voices drawn from different regions and countries. So I did a number of cousins that all looked like the corporal from different places, the Canadian fur-trapper cousin (‘Lucky Pierre’), a Mexican bandit cousin (‘El Diablo’), and a Russian soldier cousin (‘Col. Dimitri Agarnoff’).”

“That kind of reminds me,” I replied, “of the work of Ross Martin on The Wild Wild West – another actor able to portray characters from all sorts of ethnic groups.”

Larry looked thoughtful and said, “Yes, that’s true. How nice of you to remember him. Ross Martin was very good and it was a great loss to lose him. Yes, we were that way, impressionists who used voices to create our characters. If you want to hear another good impressionist, you should hear my brother [Jay Lawrence], especially singing. His own singing voice isn’t much, but when he’s doing someone else, he’s amazing.”

“I gather you were also a big fan of your F Troop co-star Ken Berry, who played Captain Wilton Parmenter.”

“Oh yes indeed, Ken Berry could do anything! He was such a talented man. I used to watch him practice all those falls. They told me he would steal every scene he was in, and that was true! I didn’t mind because he was great to work with.”

“Now, I thought you were the scene-stealer, with all that frustration and fumbling and stomping on your hat when your enterprises didn’t go right.”

“Well, thank you. Ken Berry and I had very different styles which balanced well together. He was more, ah, reserved and I more flamboyant. We really set each other off.”

Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Larry Storch
Max (Don Adams) and Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) dance under the spell of the Groovy Guru (Larry Storch), in “The Groovy Guru”, Get Smart.

Another actor Larry thinks highly of was Don Adams, an old friend from grade school in New York. “We also went into the military together,” Larry recalls, “He was such a good impressionist; many people don’t know that.”

Storch first worked with Adams from 1963 to 1966 for the CBS cartoon, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales. Adams voiced the title role, Storch played Phineas J. Whoopee. As many a child of the era will remember, Mr. Whoopee always popped into the stories to use his 3-D BB (a three dimensional blackboard) to explain scientific concepts to young viewers. After every educational tidbit, Tennessee would exclaim, “Phineas J. Whoopee, you’re the greatest!”

Then, on Jan. 13, 1968, Larry Storch appeared on Get Smart as the title character in “The Groovy Guru.” Rated the Number 6 “Best Episode” of the series at the Get Smart fan-run website WouldYouBelieve.com, “The Groovy Guru” was also rated one of the 100 best TV show episodes ever by TV Guide.

In the story, the “Guru” has the nation’s teenagers dancing constantly under the spell of a special song sung by the “Sacred Cows” which was designed to incite them to riot.

“For that character,” Larry said, “I came up with a distinctive voice, but no one could place who I was imitating. Finally, at the end of the week, Don came up and said, ‘I figured it out. You’re doing Louis Prima!”

“I know Louis Prima – the singer of ‘Just a Gigolo’.”

“That’s right. Took Don all week to figure that out.”

Not surprisingly, Get Smart wasn’t Larry’s only guest-shot on a TV spy show. During his stint in the Navy, Larry served on the submarine, the USS Proteus, along with another actor-to-be, Tony Curtis, with whom Larry co-starred in many films. In 1971, Larry also worked with Curtis on the Curtis/Roger Moore British hit, The Persuaders. For trivia buffs, another connection between F Troop and Get Smart was when Pat Harrington, Jr. guest-starred on F Troop as secret agent B Wise – a spoof of Agent 86.

Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Larry Storch
Between scenes on “The Groovy Guru” with Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, and Larry Storch.

But we didn’t get a chance to discuss Larry’s friendship with Curtis – as we talked, many fans stopped by to greet Larry and had questions of their own.

“Are you recognized on the streets?” one asked.

“Oh no, not in New York. It’s here at these conventions when folks like you stop by that I get to talk about the old days.”

Some remembered when Larry reunited with the late Forrest Tucker for the 15 episodes of the 1975 Filmation live-action children’s show, Ghostbusters. Cartoon experts remembered his long career doing voice-work, as in, again for Filmation, Larry doing the “Joker” in the 1968 version of Batman. He can also be heard in episodes of The Groovy Goolies, The Brady Kids, Scooby Doo, and Kool Kat, among many, many others.

As a result of appearing in literally hundreds of such projects, Larry admits it’s difficult to remember everything he’s done over the years. I told him about my conversations with guitarist Vic Flick, who played on so many record sessions, he has dim memories of everything he worked on as he was in and out so quickly as a working musician. “Oh, that’s so true! I’ve done plays, movies, some of my best work isn’t so well known, as in the stage shows.”

Currently, Larry is semi-retired and planning on writing his memoirs. He has a new manager who has taken over the role of Larry’s deceased wife, who represented him for over 50 years. He told me of his surprise that Larry was nominated for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but was turned down.

Never mind that – Larry’s also planning on attending even more conventions to meet and greet his fans. For news on these appearances and announcements about asking for autographed photos, check out ~

Larry Storch’s page on Facebook
and on MySpace




Larry Storch’s best-known TV series, F Troop is now available on DVD through these on-line merchants ~

Amazon U.S.
Amazon Canada
Amazon U.K.