A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 15, 2016
“I can’t die! I’m booked!”

New York-born actor and comedian George Burns (1896-1996) wanted to live to at least age 100 and he constantly worked, without formally retiring. He long-planned to celebrate his 100th birthday with performances at London’s Palladium. Burns often gave a signature line:

“How can I die? I’m booked!”

“How can I die? I’m booked!” has been cited in print since at least 1978, when Burns was only 82.

Wikipedia: George Burns
George Burns (born Nathan Birnbaum; January 20, 1896 – March 9, 1996) was an American comedian, actor, singer, and writer. He was one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, film, radio, and television. His arched eyebrow and cigar-smoke punctuation became familiar trademarks for over three-quarters of a century.
Burns suffered a head injury after falling in his bathtub in July 1994 and underwent surgery to remove fluid in his skull. Burns never fully recovered and all performances celebrating his 100th birthday were canceled. In December 1995, when he was 99, Burns was well enough to attend a Christmas party hosted by Frank Sinatra, where he reportedly caught the flu, which weakened him further. When Burns was 96, he had signed a lifetime contract with Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to perform stand-up comedy there, which included the guarantee of a show on his centenary, January 20, 1996. When that day actually came however, he was too weak to deliver the planned performance. He released a statement joking how he would love for his 100th birthday to be “a night with Sharon Stone”.

29 January 1978, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. M10, col. 1 ad (The book It Takes a Long Time to Become Young by Garson Kanin):
("How can I die? I’m booked!")

9 April 1978, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Kanin in Methuselah’s corner” by Ben Irwin, pg. M8, col. 3:
Witness the indestructible George Burns who said recently: “I can’t die. How can I? I’m booked.”

3 November 1983, Washington (DC) Times, “For Ezra—poetry at St. Elizabeths” by Jack Knarr, pg. 10A, col. 6:
“Well,” said (Dr. Carroll—ed.) Terrell, “I like the George Burns line: ‘How can I die? —I’m booked in Chicago!’”

14 November 1984, Boston (MA) Globe, “George Burns: ‘I can’t die...I’m booked’” by Susan Wagner, pg. 41, col. 4:
“Of course I’m going to live to be 100,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “On my birthday, Jan. 20, 1996, I start an engagement at the London Palladium for four weeks. I can’t die...I’m booked.”

Google Books
Say good night, Gracie!:
The Story of Burns & Allen

By Cheryl Blythe and Susan Sackett
New York, NY: Dutton
Pg. 199:
“I can’t die — I’m booked.”

And, in fact, he is — in 1996, when he will be one hundred, George is booked in to the Palladium in London.

Google Books
1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said
By Robert Byrne
New York, NY: Fawcett, Columbine
Pg. ?:
I don’t worry about getting old. I’m old already. Only young people worry about getting old. ... Besides, I can’t die now — I’m booked.
George Burns

New York (NY) Times
George Burns, Straight Man And Ageless Wit, Dies at 100
Published: March 10, 1996
George Burns, the cigar-puffing comedian who was the best comic “straight man” of his time in a partnership with the brilliantly scatterbrained Gracie Allen, and who began a solo career when he was nearly 80, died yesterday. He was 100 years old and his career in show business lasted 93 years.
When he was well into his 90’s, Mr. Burns announced with his customary brio that he had arranged to celebrate his 100th birthday, on Jan. 20, 1996, with an engagement at the London Palladium. That being the case, he noted, he could not possibly die—“I’m booked,” he explained.

In July 1994, however, Mr. Burns fell in a bathtub in his home and was hospitalized. Two months later he was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for surgery to drain fluid from the surface of his brain.

He never recovered fully and became increasingly frail. He was forced to cancel his Palladium appearance and a sold-out engagement scheduled for last year at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. Mr. Burns already had his opening line ready: “It’s nice to be here. When you’re 100 years old, it’s nice to be anywhere.”

Google Books
George Burns:
An American Life

By Lawrence J. Epstein
Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc, Publishers
Pg. 174:
He began to tell people his one-liner: “I can’t die—I’m booked.”

That was not just a joke. It was a philosophy of life, and not just his own life. He was convinced that he really had found the fountain of youth, and he wanted to share its waters.

Jewish Comedians
George Burns: I don’t believe in dying. I’m working on a new exit. Besides, I can’t die now - I’m booked. | #Quotes
10:23 PM - 14 Feb 2016

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film/Circus • Monday, February 15, 2016 • Permalink