Siskel and Ebert Played Patty-Cake Before Every At the Movies Taping

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Still riding feel-good Roger Ebert waves from Chris Jones's now-iconic Esquire profile from a couple of years ago? Well, hop off those and soak in some cattiness, egotism, high jinks, and fine usages of the term frenemies courtesy of Slate's lengthy excerpt of a new oral history about Ebert and his longtime sparring partner Gene Siskel. "They never would have chosen each other as friends," says one source, awkwardly identified via initials and an initials-key. Minor revelations include: At the Movies' tapings often ran four to six hours owing to arguments, and a coin toss was the official deciding factor for disputes. Like, so official that every producer had to keep a quarter in his or her pocket. But by far the best anecdote, corroborated in triplicate, is the news that Siskel and Ebert began every taping with a boisterous round of patty-cake. "They performed it with complicated hand/knee slaps and everything," recalls an associate producer. Here's an unsuccessful YouTube search for "Siskel and Ebert patty-cake" if you want to open a tab and obsessively hit refresh until there's video evidence.