Among the members of the "Your Show of Shows" legendary Writers' Room, in addition to Reiner, Simon and Brooks, were Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Tony Webster, Joe Stein and Neil Simon's brother Danny.

"Every morning, I would walk into the room, sit down in my chair, and shoot the breeze for a few minutes with the writers," Caesar wrote in "Caesar's Hours: My Life in Comedy With Love and Laughter," a 2003 book written with Friedfeld. "I then lit a cigar, which was the signal to start working, and said: 'All right, let's hear the brilliance.' "

And, he wrote, the "energy that existed inside the walls of the Writers' Room as we created was palpable. We laughed a lot, we screamed a lot and then we hollered a lot. It was a combination of euphoria and terror."

As the highly paid star of a hit TV show — he earned a princely $25,000 a week in the fourth season of "Your Show of Shows" — Caesar moved from Queens into an apartment on 5th Avenue. He also purchased a new black Cadillac convertible, bought dozens of handmade suits, smoked expensive Havana cigars and tipped lavishly.

But behind the visible signs of success was an insecure man who drank heavily outside work and took sedatives to sleep to deal with the pressure of doing the weekly show and his own personal demons.

His drinking at the time, Caesar later wrote, caused his underlying anger and violence to emerge.

Most famously, after a day of doing nine performances at a theater in Chicago, a drunk Caesar angrily lifted Brooks and rushed him to the open window of an 18th floor hotel room after Brooks kept insisting they go out.

"You want out? I'll show you out," Caesar yelled, dangling Brooks halfway out the window before Caesar's brother, Dave, grabbed him and Brooks was pulled back into the room.

Caesar addressed some of his emotional issues and his entry into psychoanalysis in a 1956 Look magazine article.

"On stage, I could hide behind the characters and inanimate objects I created," he wrote. "Off stage, with my real personality for all to see, I was a mess. It was difficult for me to establish a normal, healthy relationship with anyone. I couldn't believe that anyone could like me for myself."

The youngest of four sons, Caesar was born Sept. 8, 1922, in Yonkers, N.Y., where his Polish-immigrant father owned a luncheonette that catered to factory workers.

By the time he was in elementary school, Caesar had learned to mimic the sounds of the immigrant Italians, Russians, Poles, French, Spanish and others who ate at his father's restaurant.

When he first demonstrated his flair for foreign language double talk — gibberish that sounded like the real thing — to the immigrant groups seated at the various tables, he had the whole room breaking up. And, he later wrote in his 1982 autobiography "Where Have I Been?" "it was the beginning of a comic device that helped me earn millions later on."

But Caesar wasn't thinking in terms of a career in comedy at the time. He took saxophone lessons as a child and at the age of 16, after graduating from high school in 1939, he moved to New York City. He played sax with bands there and at resort hotels in the Catskills, where he began helping the resident comics in comedy sketches.

While performing comedy at the Avon Lodge in Woodridge, N.Y., during the summer of 1942, Caesar met the niece of the owner, Florence Levy. They were married in 1943 and had three children, Michele, Rick and Karen.

While stationed at a Coast Guard base in Brooklyn during World War II, Caesar co-produced a musical revue in which he and others performed skits that satirized life on the base.

That led to performing in the revue at other Coast Guard and Navy bases. Caesar was then asked to appear in the big Coast Guard revue "Tars and Spars," which played in theaters around the country. The revue's civilian director was Liebman, who played a key role in Caesar's postwar career.

While still in the Coast Guard, Caesar appeared in the 1946 movie version of "Tars and Spars."

On the basis of his performance in "Tars and Spars," Caesar was invited to perform for two weeks at the Copacabana nightclub in New York City, opening on New Year's Day 1947. He went on to perform on the nightclub and movie theater-vaudeville circuit and was cast in a 1948 Broadway revue called "Make Mine Manhattan," a hit that ran for a year.

Then came Caesar's meteoric rise on "Admiral Broadway Revue" and "Your Show of Shows."