The skit, which was well known on the vaudeville circuit, goes something like this: A bedraggled man buttonholes a stranger and tells him a tale of betrayal and vengeance. A rogue seduced his sweetheart. He trailed the miscreant from town to town, finally catching up with him in Niagara Falls, where he pummeled him mercilessly. The hearer of the story haplessly says the magic words, “Niagara Falls,” causing the man to turn on him and mete out the same punishment.Abbott and Costello performed the “Pokomoko” version in their 1944 film, Lost in a Harem. The improbable storyline revolves around the pair traveling to Arabia to recover the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, which has been hypnotized into playing only for the villain. They pose as Hollywood talent scouts. At one point, they end up locked in a jail cell with a lunatic, who does the “Slowly I Turned” routine.
Comic Joey Faye claimed authorship of “Slowly I Turned” in its many formats. Born Joseph Palladino in 1909 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he appeared in burlesque and vaudeville shows, usually as a sidekick to the star, often Phil Silvers. He was in 36 Broadway shows, including Man of La Mancha as Sancho Panza, and dozens of movies. He had his own series, The Joey Faye Frolics, in 1950, and appeared as well in other television shows, such as The Real McCoys, Perry Mason and Maude. His most recent claim to fame was as the green grape in the Fruit of the Loom underwear commercials. He continued to work until well into his 80s and died in 1997.