Dennis Day Discusses His Positive Attitude: ‘I Like to Look Up’
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
Singer Dennis Day, who appeared on television, radio, and on the big screen during his career, said that his positivity in life comes from Above.
“Recently I read an article about a woman whose secret of happiness was to be found in two words which she had printed in large letters and placed in a frame over her sink. Those two words were ‘Yes, Lord,’” Day wrote in 1967. “I recognized immediately what those words meant to that woman because out of my own life there are two similar words that I’d do well to frame.”
For Day, the two words he learned in principal as a child and which he vocalized at the start of his radio career were “Yes, please.”
“I came across them for the first time—in a meaningful way, that is—in the 1930s, back in the heyday of radio. On one memorable occasion I had the chance to audition for Jack Benny’s vastly popular Sunday night program,” he recalled. “I was just out of college and was about to enter law school in New York when a sudden appendix operation kept me idle for a term. I had done some singing on radio in New York during school days and somehow or other a recording of me singing ‘I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak’ got to Jack Benny’s wife, Mary Livingston. She suggested that I be added to the long list of prospects.”
“There was great secrecy about the audition. When I went into the office and saw Jack Benny sitting there, I nearly fell through the floor,” he continued. “Eventually I was taken to a studio where I sang over a microphone for Jack, who sat listening in another studio. I sang for 20 minutes. I did a variety of songs and then I heard the instruction through the intercom: ‘O.K. Take a rest.’
“And so I did. I just sat there. The time passed. The silence in that studio was nerve-wracking. Then suddenly the intercom called out my name. I jumped up and quickly, without thinking at all, blurted out an innocent ‘Yes, please?’”
Little did Day know, but his instant response made the entire listening room laugh. The producers later wrote the words into his weekly radio script after Day got the job.
“The remark was accidental; yet, there is within it an attitude which reflects the type of upbringing I had as a child. Like ‘Yes, Lord,’ the idea of ‘Yes, please’ suggests readiness to respond to requests,” Day explained. “I think that this world is made up of yes-please people and no-thanks people, and, thank God, I was blessed by being born into a yes-please family.
“My four brothers and one sister and I grew up in New York’s Bronx where my father was a city engineer. We didn’t have much money. But somehow or other we became imbued with the idea of grabbing hold of life as it was given to us and then wringing as much good from it as we could,” he added.
“Whenever I see people who accept life willingly, in good times or bad, I draw strength from them. Maybe this outlook on life is too simple for some people. Maybe ‘Yes, please’ on a sign would be pointless to anyone but me. Nonetheless, I have found that when people say ‘No,’ or even ‘No thanks,’ they tend to look down. When they say ‘Yes, please,’ they look up. And I like to look up.”