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What was Milton Berle’s Net Worth?

Milton Berle was an American comedian and actor who had a net worth of $2 million at the time of his death. Milton Berle’s career spanned over 80 years from his start in silent films to hosting popular television shows and appearing in movies during the first Golden Age of Television. He was arguably the first major American television personality. Berle was known by nicknames including “Mr. Television” and “Uncle Miltie”. He hosted the NBC television series Texaco Star Theater from 1948 to 1955.

Milton Berle passed away on March 27, 2002 at 93 years old from colon cancer. At the time of his death, he wasn’t nearly as wealthy as many of his comedic contemporaries. Some point to a lifelong habit of gambling, especially on horses, as a huge financial drain for Milton. It also didn’t help that he was married four times during his life.

Early Life

Berle was born on July 12, 1908 in New York City to a Jewish family who lived in Harlem. He was given the name Mendel Berlinger by his parents Moses and Sarah. His father worked as a paint and varnish salesman. He had three older brothers – Phil, Frank, and Jack. Frank and Jack later became production staff on his television show while Phil became a programming executive at NBC.

When he was five years old, Berle won the chidlren’s Charlie Chaplin contest in 1913. He also started working as a child model and appeared as a child actor in silent films. In 1916, he enrolled as a student in the Professional Children’s School. He starting performing in vaudeville when he was 16 and was on Broadway in “Carrol’s Vanities” in 1932. At the age of 16, Berle decided to start going by Milton Berle as his professional stage name.


Following his success so far, Berle was hired by producer Jack White to star in the theatrical featurette “Poppin’ the Cork,” a musical comedy about the repeal of Prohibition. He also helped write the score for the film, as he was also beginning to display an interest in songwriting. He wrote a B-side track for Spike Jones called “Leave the Dishes in the Sink, Ma” and also wrote the title song for the film “Lil’ Abner” in 1940.

He also had begun appearing on “The Rudy Vallee Hour,” a popular radio program from 1934 to 1936. He also was a regular on “The Gillette Original Community Sing” and began hosting “Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One” in 1939. He decided to expand his radio career in 1940, reducing various in-person appearances at night clubs, in order to start the radio show “Three Ring Time.” He also hosted the audience participation show “Let Yourself Go” between 1944 and 1945. In 1947, he began hosting “The Milton Berle Show” which featured a number of other popular stars at the time and aired until mid-April 1948.

While he had been focusing on his radio career for much of the 1940s, Berle then began focusing more on television in 1948 when he revived parts of his old vaudeville act for “Texaco Star Theatre” in June. The show premiered on NBC Television Network and while Berle was not originally the permanent host, he became the regular host beginning in the fall after several months of successful spots as a rotating host. The show became a massive hit and Berle and the show won several Emmy Awards after the first. It catapulted Berle into superstardom and earned him the nickname “Mr. Television.” He also became known as “Uncle Miltie” for members of his audience after he once ended a broadcast of the show with the advice, “Listen to you Uncle Miltie and go to bed.”

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In 1951, considering the massive success of his show, NBC signed him to an exclusive unprecedented 30-year television contract. However, in 1953, the main sponsor of the show – Texaco – pulled out and was replaced by Buick. The show’s format also changed and ratings began to fall, leading to Buick’s pull out after only two seasons. The final season of the show occurred under the name “Milton Berle Show” from 1955 to 1956.

Following the decline of his television career, Berle began appearing frequently in Las Vegas hotels, clubs, and casinos. He also made a number of film appearances throughout the mid-1950s and into the 1960s. He was acclaimed for several of his dramatic acting performances and received an Emmy nomination for his role on “The Dick Powell Show.” He also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.

Throughout the latter years of his career, Berle appeared on various shows like “Saturday Night Live” and often would appear at awards shows to present awards. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1984.

Milton Berle’s Famous “Asset”

According to legend, Milton Berle had an extremely large penis. Comedy writer Alan Zweibel once encountered Milton and back stage at “Saturday Night Live” and mentioned he had written dozens of jokes about Milton’s member during his career. In response, Milton offered to show him the goods. Alana accepted and would later describe it as an “anaconda… It was enormous. It was like a pepperoni.”

Personal Life

Berle married showgirl Joyce Mathews early on in his career in 1941. However they divorced in 1947 but then reconciled and remarried in 1949. This second marriage was short-lived and ended in 1950. He then began seeing publicist Ruth Cosgrove and the two married in 1953. They remained married until her death from cancer in 1989.

In 1989, Berle also revealed that his mother had been behind the demise of his marriages to Mathews. In 1992, he married fashion designer Lorna Adams, who was 30 years younger than him. He had three children, an adopted daughter with Matthews, an adopted son with Cosgrove, and a biological son that he had with showgirl Junior Standish. He also had two stepdaughters after he married Adams.

In his autobiography, Berle describes the various extramarital relationships and sexual exploits he had, claiming to have been close with Marilyn Monroe and Betty Hutton, though the truth of these claims have been challenged.

In 2001, Berle announced that he had a malignant tumor on his colon and opted to not have surgery. While he had been expecting the tumor to grow slowly and afford him several more years of life, he died in March of 2002 of colon cancer. He is interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City.

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