Yarmy’s Army is an invitation-only social club made up of comedians, writers, directors, and entertainers. It meets once a month for dinner, where the members share anecdotes as well as discussing whatever is going on in show business and elsewhere. In this excerpt from The Imperfect Storm: From Henry Street To Hollywood by Howard Storm & Steve Stoliar, the founder of Yarmy’s Army – veteran comedian and director Howard Storm – explains just how the club came to be:

I was friends with a guy named Dick Yarmy, the actor-brother of Get Smart star, Don Adams. Dick was a lovely man, but he was an inveterate gambler. His gambling addiction was so bad, he had an arrangement whereby if the racetrack was open, his agent didn’t call him to go on auditions unless it was before or after the track was open.

In the early ’90s, Dick was in Philadelphia, playing one of the guys in the poker game in The Odd Couple. He didn’t feel well, so he went to a doctor, who diagnosed him with lung cancer. He called up his friends, because he needed to vent. We told him to get some funny videos and books to cheer him up and entertain him and he said, “Hey, schmucks! You’re all funny! Why do I need to watch funny videos and read funny books? Take me to lunch and make me laugh!”

Dick left The Odd Couple and returned to L.A. We had our first lunch at an Italian restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Present were Dick, producer Sam Denoff, Harvey Korman, Ronnie Schell, Chuck McCann, Hank Bradford — the head writer on The Tonight Show – and me. We had a great time laughing and telling stories, and nobody had a better time than Dick. We got the bill and we were trying to figure out what we should tip. Bradford asked, “Hey Dick, what do you tip your chemo guy?” Dick loved it.

After three or four weekly lunches, we got thrown out for making too much noise, so we changed to another place in Sherman Oaks and we shifted to dinners instead of lunches. Dick came to the dinners and laughed long and hard. One night, he started coughing while I was telling a story, so I said, “What are you doing? You’re killing my timing! You want to cough, go outside! Don’t use the cancer as an excuse! Go outside and cough!” Everybody started chiming in, “Yeah, Dick! Get the hell outta here!” That may sound mean and disrespectful, but he understood what we were doing and he loved it.

We had red caps made up – long before Donald Trump stole our idea — that said “YARMY’S ARMY” across the front, but we didn’t tell Dick about them. At one dinner, we had the caps on our laps and when he walked in, we all stood up and put them on our heads. Dick started to cry. It was really a wonderful moment. Yarmy’s Army started to grow, eventually including such notables as Tom Poston, Howie Morris, Shelley Berman, Louis Nye, Don Knotts, Pat Harrington, Pat McCormick, Tim Conway, Gary Owens, Jack Riley, Hank Garrett, Warren Berlinger, Carl Gottlieb and Budd Friedman, just to name a few.

The members of Yarmy’s Army worked out a schedule so that every day Dick had to have radiation or chemo, there were up to three people available to go with him. That way, if one of us got a call to go out on an audition or was out of town, there would still be someone to take Dick to the hospital for his radiation treatment. Dick ended up missing only one dinner in the six or seven months we met, because he didn’t feel up to it.

On May 5th of 1992, we got a call at about eleven in the morning that Dick had passed away. Everybody gathered at the hospital. There must’ve been forty people in the hallway wanting to say goodbye. The nurses were in shock and told us they’d never seen anything like it. One by one, we kissed his cheek and said goodbye.

We had a memorial for Dick at Theatre West. After the service, nobody was moving to get into their car. We were standing out on the sidewalk talking to each other, hugging each other. We didn’t want it to end, so we decided to keep Yarmy’s Army going – even though Dick was gone. We continued to meet, once a month, raising a glass in a toast to Dick’s memory at each meeting. I came up with the idea of putting on benefit shows using our own talent, so we could get some money together and help actors who were not as fortunate as we were, and there have been more than a few very successful benefit shows over the years.

As older members move away or pass on, younger people are invited to join. We’ve met at a number of restaurants since the group started, but wherever we take our movable feast, Yarmy’s Army persists.