Monday, December 30, 2013

The Gong Show

The Gong Show with Chuck Barris

gong show

In the mid-seventies, the game show genre was suddenly enjoying a popular revival, thanks to the success of 'The Price Is Right', Match Game' and others from Goodman/Todman Productions.

Networks unveiled new game concepts at a frantic pace for daytime and syndication. Producer Chuck Barris and variety show writer/producer Chris Bearde ('The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour') were producing The Bobby Vinton Show for syndication when they sold ABC on the idea of a daily talent / game show. The acts featured would be both the best and worst they could find, with an emphasis on the bad. Think daily American Idol auditions.

Chuck Barris was responsible for some of the most popular programs of the Sixties, primetime and daytime hits like 'The Dating Game' and 'The Newlywed Game'. These pseudo-game shows fed off of an individual's willingness to do anything to be on television, 'The Gong Show' would take that premise a step further. ABC bought the show for nighttime syndication, to debut in the fall of 1976. The gong show with Chuck BarrisFilmed at KGO-TV in San Francisco, the audience reaction was enormous.

'The Gong Show' had a simple premise: If an act didn't get the gong from one of the three celebrity panelists (usually featuring the lovely Jaye P. Morgan), they would be scored on a 1-10 scale. The contestant with the highest score wins the 'grand' prize.

The prize amount low ($516.32) to keep it from being too important to anyone and professionals weren't allowed to compete for the grand prize. Instead they were paid the actor's union scale for their performance - $516.32. ($712.05 was the take on the syndicated nighttime version, later an even thousand).

This is the most infamous episode of The Gong Show with the Popsicle Twins - when you see what these provocatively dressed girls do with their frozen treats you'll know why NBC hit the roof!

Host Gary Owens was an old friend from 'Laugh-in'," Chris Bearde said at the time, "So were most of the panelists - Arte Johnson, Joanne Worley, Dick Dawson and Adrienne Barbeau. People were literally rolling in the aisles, really out of control."

The reaction to the first filmed episode was so strong Barris was able to sell NBC on a daytime version of 'The Gong Show'. Bearde would produce the nighttime version and Barris the daytime show. NBC was having a lot of trouble finding an audience for their lame game show offerings in 1976, they wanted a different host for their daytime version. Chuck Barris tried out different people before settling on John Barbour (later of 'Real People'). Frustrated with the results, Barris fired Barbour and took over hosting duties himself because taping day for the first week was too close to hire anyone else.

Gene Gene the Dancing MachineThe NBC version actually beat the syndicated version on the air by several months, an instant hit. Chuck Barris eventually took over the nighttime hosting duties on 'The Gong Show' as well, firing Gary Owens and buying out Chris Bearde. Gary Owens was upset by his ousting: "You were working at a disadvantage, doing a show the producer wanted to do himself."        

The show was a true phenomenon with T-shirts, a best-selling book and even a major motion picture release. It made 70's icons out of 'The Unknown Comic' and 'Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine'.

Ten shows were taped over the weekend, with snacks and drinks (including alcohol) between tapings. Some of the celebrities would get pretty drunk as the day wore on. During one infamous filming, Jaye P. Morman ripped open her top and exposed her boobs - but then, she had a reputation for being a wild woman.

Gong Show photoChuck Barris was philosophical about the success of the Gong Show; "All I want to do is make the bread, put it in the bank and live happily ever after." Here's a plea . . . Chuckie baby, come back, all is forgiven!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Highest Rated Half Hour Sitcom Episode of all Time!

The Beverly Hillbillies scored the highest numbers for a television program ever on January 15, 1964 - that record stood for some time. (The finale of M*A*S*H beat it with a 60 share but that episode was not a half hour.)

With an almost 43 share this episode ranks as the 44th highest rated broadcast ever. 'The Giant Jackrabbit' will forever on television be the highest rated 30 minute sitcom of all time - due to the fact that folks only had three choices back in the day, the audience is too dispersed across the dial today.

No, it's not your imagination, the theme song is not the original. That's Sharon Tate you'll see as the pretty girl from Beverly Caterers. A very funny episode. What I liked about the first 3 seasons - it was the residents of Beverly Hills that bore the brunt of the satire. When the focus shifted to making fun of the hillbillies the show got too silly.

1986 Saturday Morning Shows

Saturday morning shows 1987Networks were programming for a younger audience than a decade before; as a result, the Saturday shows were getting annoyingly cute by the mid-eighties.

Saturday mornings were in turmoil in 1986, ratings were falling. This was the first Saturday morning lineup in over fifteen years without Scooby Doo. Scooby, Bugs and the SuperFriends ate up 2 1/2 hours on ABC in 1985, but by the fall of 1986 all but Bugs were gone and he was busted to a half-hour.

While NBC took the road of least resistance (lots reruns of established shows), CBS and ABC took big gambles in 1986 in an attempt to lure a new audience. It wasn't long before Scooby and the DC heroes returned. In terms of ratings, CBS won the year handily thanks to Pee Wee Herman - but the real hit cartoons were playing on weekdays after school - Jem, Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony among many others.

Here are some highlights - go here for the complete Saturday 1986 schedule for all 3 networks.

Teen Wolf - Based on the hit movie starring Michael J. Fox, first of three years on Saturday mornings.

Galaxy High - Outer space style fun revolving around two exchange students from Earth who attend a high school on the asteroid Flutor made up of kids from every planet. I swear I don't make this stuff up; it ran for two years.

The Real Ghostbusters - Based on the hit movie. Four guys search for ghosts with Slimer, their pet glob of green goo. Just as in the cartoon version of Teen Wolf, no attempt was made to have the animated characters look like their big screen counterparts. This show was so popular it began running on weekday afternoons

Lazer Tag Academy - A time traveling teen girl from 3010 lands in the present to stop the villain Draxon Drear from changing history. She teamed with her ancestors, Tom, Nicky, and Beth who are uniquely able to use Lazer Tag guns to travel through time and manipulate objects. There were 13 episodes filmed by Ruby Spears Animation.

Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling! - Last year of two, reruns from the previous year. No, the Hulkster didn't take the time to voice his animated clone, it was Brad Garrett who did the honors. The other famous WWF wrestlers featured in this series were also voiced by others - including The Iron Sheik, Andre the Giant and Rowdy Roddy Piper. 

It's Punky Brewster - Punky was prime time kiddie fodder that translated well into cartoon format. Year two of four. Soleil Moon-Frye provided the voice of Punky; in fact, all of the original cast was on hand, as well as the obligatory added animal cohort with magical powers - in this case a gopher-like thing named Glomer.

The complete Saturday 1986 schedule for all 3 networks.

How I Saved Jesus

Jesus Stations of the Cross Diorama sculptureThere are countless stories of wayward souls saved by Jesus Christ. But did I ever tell you the story of how I returned the favor?

Well, actually it was cinematographer Phillip Dann that rescued this magnificent depiction of one of the Stations of the Cross. There were originally 13 of these detailed diorama sculptures, beautifully but dramatically depicting the suffering of Christ.

It's made of painted plaster sculpted against a solid wood backing, it must weigh 60 pounds. If I were to guess I would say this would date back to the 1930s.

Sadly, only three of the Stations survived. It seems an old church by the coast was modernizing and renovating they felt the dioramas were too old fashioned - so they just chucked them into a construction dumpster where they were decimated, reduced to rubble. Can you imagine?!? Phillip pulled the three less severely damaged sculptures out of their ignominious resting place and they were used briefly in the film I performed in in 2011, Lake of Fire.

(Here's a scene from that movie.)

It was the last day of filming and I was asked if I could take one of the sculptures home since they had no place to live. Of course I said no. I mean, this thing is huge and would tend to dominate a room. This will twist your room's Fung shui into total turmoil!

But after a moment of reflection I realized I couldn't let something so unique and symbolic end up on Storage Wars. Or worse, in some Frat House turned into a beer bong.

Fortunately I found a nice spot on my Time Tunnel hallway and there it sits.

Jesus Stations of the Cross Diorama sculptures 1930?

Stations of the Cross Diorama sculptures 1930?

I figure my ticket to Heaven is hardly guaranteed so I need to hedge my bets any way I can. Although it might not help if the big guy is looking down when I adorn the statue with a more modern touch, an anarchy metal pin.

Praise Him 'till they raise Him! Hallelujah!

The Unknown Comic's Autobiography

'Journey Through the Unknown' is the new autobiography of Murray Langston, long time TV second banana who hit superstar status in the mid-1970s with his alter ego, The Unknown Comic. In this fast paced breezy read, Langston regales the reader with tales about the top stars of the last fifty years, it's fascinating.

In the 1970s Murray Langston (along with his oft-times partners Ted Zeigler, Peter Cullen, and Freeman King) was ubiquitous on my favorite TV shows, those produced by Allan Blye, Chris Bearde and Bob Einstein starting with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1971. That series in particular, along with The Gong Show a few years later, solidified my love for this oddball comic.

As a supporting player for Sonny & Cher he was ringside for the circus surrounding the couple of the decade who made more tabloid headlines than they did money. If you've waited for an insider on the show to share his experiences here it is. Murray Langston creates an image of Cher that's both sympathetic and cold hearted bitch. Sonny Bono comes across a great deal less sympathetic.

(Not the best clip to showcase his talents but Murray Langston can be seen in the yellow hat and scarf.)

You have to recognize the genius that was The Unknown Comic, pure bullshittery but everyone was in on the joke so it worked brilliantly. Murray Langston is an honest-to-God showbiz legend that found a way to use the fuel from the daytime ratings brushfire that was The Gong Show to catapult himself into the 1970s zeitgeist, becoming an icon of the polyester decade. 'The Wizard of Whoopie' had a best-selling poster like Farrah Fawcett. He headlined Vegas.

'Journey Through the Unknown' never gets bogged down in the author's ego, a common trap for celeb books; Langston is willing to lay bare his life warts and all. My only regret concerning this massive 450+ page book filled with photos and stories about hundreds of stars like Jerry Lewis, Steve Martin, Karen Black, Ruth Buzzi, Ted Knight, Bobby Vinton, Goldie Hawn, and Lucie Arnaz... I just wish there were more. It's an exuberant life well lived and a story well told, highly recommended.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Lucy Desi 1959 Christmas Day Special

Lucy Desi Christmas Special!
I Love Lucy Christmas Show

One of the last television shows Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did together was a Christmas special that has never been re-broadcast. That's a real shame, it was a star-studded spectacular that any Lucy fan would find appealing.

On Christmas Day, 1959, The Desilu Playhouse (1958-1960) presented a special Holiday broadcast starring the whole I Love Lucy gang, in addition to the Desilu Players and numerous stars of other popular Desilu productions like George Murphy, Spring Byington, Lassie, Danny Thomas, Hugh O'Brien and Ann Sothern. Even Hollywood hag Hedda Hopper made an appearance!

Desilu PlayhouseThe wrap-around plot had Hollywood gossip queen Hedda Hopper interviewing Lucy and Desi about the Desilu Players and the show they recently staged. This led to flashbacks of Lucy (who was directing the stage show) creating chaos backstage between the musical numbers.

Lucy/Desi Xmas SpecialThis Desilu Christmas special was produced and (essentially) directed by Lucille Ball herself. This is the only Desilu production I can think of that features the I Love Lucy cast members playing "themselves."

The juxtaposition of the 'real' Lucy with the Lucy character is slightly confusing and, though Vivian Vance is referred to as "Vivian" here, her personality is basically Ethel's with more attitude.

Desi Arnaz photo If you ever get the opportunity to watch this hour-long special, look for the scene where William Frawley (as himself?) tries to pick up one of the young girls in the show. How's this for a come-on: "Miss Lovell, do you feel about older men the way I feel about younger women?"

This is the next to last appearance of the four I Love Lucy cast members together, Lucy and Desi filed for divorce just a few months after this special was filmed. The couple only appeared together in one more Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Show; they never again performed together.

Christmas Show : LucyDesilu Playhouse logo / Christmas episodeThe Desilu Players was a pet project of Lucille Ball's, who hand-picked each of the versatile performers as her protégés - they were appearing in a stage revue that she produced in LA around the time of this broadcast. The musical comedy numbers from that show ended up in the Christmas special's final edit.

One of those musical numbers ('I'm Only Happy When I'm Singin' the Blues') featured some wild art direction and garnered excellent revues for the sterling performances by Carole Cook and Dick Kallman as singing/dancing coffeehouse beatniks.

Desilu Playhouse
Carole Cook was a life-long friend of Lucy's; a Broadway star she appeared several times on The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. Dick Kallman starred in the fondly remembered TV series Hank in 1965. He also embarked on a promising Broadway career before being tragically murdered in his New York apartment in 1980.

Lucy Desi Christmas Show : Desilu Playhouse Also in the Desilu Playhouse cast: Majel Barrett (Nurse Chappell on Star Trek another Desilu show) and Robert Osborne (the Classic Movie Channel host and erstwhile writer for the Hollywood Reporter)

More Netflix Suggestions

Always looking for something to watch on DVD or Netflix streaming? Here are some suggestions, many you prolly already know.

American Horror Story - Season One
House of Cards - Brilliant and pleasant to watch.
Damages - Best TV drama ever? Gets my vote.
Dallas - The original series is a hoot start with Season 2.
Fawlty Towers - Funniest comedy ever? Yep.
The Tudors / Leverage (First 3 seasons) / Rescue Me / The Riches / Justified / The Job


End of Watch - Fast!
Girl 27 - Hushed up studio rape cases in 1940s Hollywood, heartbreaking!
Hatfields & McCoys - Nicely done drama!
Loose Change 9/11 - Boy were we fooled!
Zeitgeist the Movie - Along the same lines as above.
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Best John Wayne movie? There are many I like better but this one's solid. Other great John Wayne films: The Searchers (Martin Scorcese watches this every year, it's near perfect), Hondo, Stagecoach, and on the lighter side War Wagon, Sons of Katie Elder, El Dorado.
Seal Team Six - Great action pic with strong script.
Rampart - Gritty cop movie.
The Final Countdown - Love this 80s time travel film.
Slap Shot - 1970s classic on ice.
Breakdown - Car breaks down, wife goes missing. Chilling.

You're Gonna Miss Me / Carol Channing Larger than Life / Bad Day at Black Rock / The Guy That Was in That thing / The Apostle /

Redd Foxx's Hilariously Dirty Standup Act

"We were poor. If I wasn't a boy, 
I wouldn't have had nothing to play with." 
- Redd Foxx

Redd Foxx was an extremely popular Vegas headliner who started on the Chitlin' Circuit and worked his way up to the big showrooms at the largest casinos on the Strip. Redd used to do his standup act at 2:30 in the morning in Las Vegas.

Watch Redd Foxx from the Merv Griffin Show in the mid-sixties. Redd had a very dirty act, this was his cleaned up material for TV.

Here's Redd's standup routine:

Redd Foxx's funeral was held in the city he loved, Las Vegas and he is buried at Palm Valley View Memorial Park. It is rumored that his ghost haunts his former home.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bea Arthur vs Betty White!

Why Bea Arthur didn't like Betty White - and Golden Girls bloopers


Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes, & Mary Martin

Three legendary actresses - Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes, & Mary Martin - interviewed in New York by Bill Boggs in the late 1970s. Old school Greensboro residents might remember Bill Boggs from his stint on WGHP in the early 1970s before he moved his show to New York.

Before A Christmas Story there was A Christmas Memory (1966)

Predating A Christmas Story, the classic 1983 TV film, was A Christmas Memory, narrated by the guy who wrote it Truman Capote. This Emmy winning tele-film starring Geraldine Page aired on Stage 67 during the 1966 holiday season.

When TV Changed : Room 222

Room 222 on DVD
In 1969 when Room 222 debuted television was coming off a decade and a half purge of black faces from the screen. The networks had taken so much heat for Amos & Andy they wanted to avoid any further controversy. The easiest thing to do was not have people of color on the tube at all.

That changed in 1965 when Bill Cosby co-starred in a hit series, I-Spy on NBC. Slowly the networks warmed to the idea of blacks starring in their own series, starting with Julia in 1968.

Does Room 222 hold up in modern times? Well, yes. In a very strange way it may even be more enjoyable to watch today.

Room 222 takes place at fictional (heck, mythical) Walt Whitman High, a school so supercalifragalistically-liberal that it must be taking place in an alternate universe. Following The Flying Nun and Courtship of Eddie's Father and airing opposite The Beverly Hillbillies, Room 222 debuted in that golden classic TV year of 1969, a season filled with Partridge and Brady type families.

This was a different kind of sitcom. Created by James L. Brooks (Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Simpsons) and produced and sometimes directed by Gene Reynolds (M*A*S*H), Room 222 portrayed the American public school system as a fully integrated, imminently healthy place of learning. This was the first of TV's 'relevant' shows that tackled issues of the day like abortion, prejudice, teen rebellion, and drug use. This wasn't a reflection of the reality on the ground in any place I'm aware of, most public schools were just beginning to integrate with decidedly mixed results. Just look at the South Boston School where angry parents stormed the place and would have literally ripped the black elementary kids who dared to defile their lilly white domain to death. And that was in 1975!

At Walt Whitman High the black and white students and teachers debated politely and intelligently the issues of the day while teachers sat back and allowed the free exchange of ideas. Huh?

Today's high schoolers eargerly discussing issues in such an informed manner? Maybe, but I can't imagine students of my era doing so. We were told to shut up and listen, talking about what was on your mind in class would land you in the principal's waiting room post haste. That's what makes Room 222 such an anomaly, an almost sad look at what could have been if we had lived in a more free and open society.

This was an era when school systems around the country were moving away from drilling the three Rs, instead expanding the curriculum to include more variations on the core subjects. In that way Room 222 provided teachers and faculty with a blueprint for a more liberal educational approach. Who knows if this affected life on the ground for students like myself. Network TV shows had a great deal of influence on society back then, for better or worse.

This was not a realistic show - unless you compare it to Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie or any of the other sitcoms on the air at the time; anachronisms cascade like an avalanche but with charm and intelligence.

Season 2 saw Karen Valentine as the perky white student teacher almost walk away with the show. A supporting role originally, Valentine graduated to full fledged star in season 3. She would go on to dominate the series in later years to the extreme detriment of the production. She looks so silly in the first episodes of this sophomore year with her Conehead hairstyle (she got a 3rd season makeover).

The breakout star should have been Heshimu as Jason Allen, far and away the most radical black person on weekly TV at the time, though that's not saying much. Just the fact that he was a forceful youngster with a full on afro was enough to peg him as a radical on TV at that time, add to that the intelligent but forceful arguments he would make in class and you had a full on threat to the white establishment when racial tensions were at their height.

I doubt seriously if the show could have made it without Heshimu or David Jolliffe as the crimson afroed white kid Bernie who joined the show in the 1970-71 season. It is telling that Heshimu virtually disappeared from television after this series left the air, strange when you consider how popular his character was. I suspect, but have no way of knowing, that his portrayal of a sometimes angry young black man was a bridge too far for the early-1970s.

Lloyd Haynes and Denise Nicholas were sterling as Pete Dixon and Liz McIntyre, TV's only African-American couple at the time. Michael Constantine is remarkable as principal Seymour Kaufman. The laughs are few but the storylines provided a fascinating glimpse at a moment in history when society was rapidly evolving toward a promising tomorrow - that's what we thought anyway.

Here's the first episode, as such it's more sitcom-y than the show became:


TVparty! is Classic TV!

Monday, December 16, 2013

All-Star Christmas Special for the Troops (1960?)

Bing Crosby's White Christmas Show was a Holiday extravaganza produced for the USO for our troops overseas with over 50 stars including Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, George Burns, Jimmy Stewart, Milton Berle, Danny Kaye, Jane Russell, Gregory Peck, Kim Novak, Shirley Maclaine and many more.

The special opens with Danny Kaye performs at the Hollywood Bowl. I'm guessing the year on this - 1960?

The Magic Garden Christmas Airing on WPIX Christmas Day

Great news for classic TV lovers in the Philly area - The Magic Garden Christmas will be airing on WPIX on December 25 at 6pm. This one hour holiday special has not been seen since 1981!

Fans new and old will love this delightful show starring your friends Carole and Paula – with Sherlock, signature Magic Garden songs you love and remember, a story from the Story Box and Holiday Surprises!

Also - keep your eye out for an interview with Carole and Paula on the Channel 11 Morning News on Monday, December, 23rd. The interview is tentatively scheduled to be shown sometime between 7 and 9 am.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Mae West and Rock Hudson Sing Baby It's Cold Outside on Live TV

This version of Baby It's Cold Outside was performed on live TV for the 1957 Academy Awards broadcast. It kinda falls apart at the end but enthusiasm and superstar wattage saves the day.

Mae West also guest starred on a Dean Martin special in the '50s, here's audio in Real Player format.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Have Yourself a Billy Mumy Christmas!

Billy and Sam Billy Mumy was perhaps the best kid actor television ever saw, just the Twilight Zone episode alone where he's running around with a loaded gun should place him in the TV Hall of Fame. In 1964 and 1965 he starred in two memorable Christmas episodes with a sci-fi, fantasy flavor.

In 1964, Billy Mumy guest-starred in the Christmas episode for the first season of Bewitched, playing a troubled orphan that Darin and Samantha want to share the Holidays with. The cynical kid wants nothing to do with Christmas traditions until Samantha takes him (via broomstick) to the North Pole to visit the REAL Santa.

Ten year-old Billy Mumy was already a seasoned pro by 1964, able to wrench just the right amount of emotional punch from the contrived, sentimental ending tacked onto this 'Bewitched' episode.


At an age when many kids were playing space explorer in their backyards, Billy Mumy was playing space explorer on a multi-million dollar television production. During Lost In Space's excellent first season, producer Irwin Allen did something he'd never done before and would never do again on any of his other TV series - film a Christmas themed episode.

Debuting in 1965, Lost In Space was able to capture the imagination like no other sci-fi series before - superior special effects, coupled with an A-list cast and strong first episodes made LIS many a baby boomer's favorite show.

'Return From Outer Space' found the Robinson family in a predicament they would find all too common over the next 2 1/2 years - sinister stowaway Dr. Smith has depleted their resources for some momentary pleasure, endangering the entire party.

TVPartyWill and the Robot find an alien machine that transports the boy back to Earth so he can get another bottle of food preservative. But he's hampered in his efforts by the townfolk, who think he's just making up wild stories and trying to steal chemicals from the General Store.

The weird thing is, it's supposed to be Earth 1999 that Will returns to, but it looks more like Earth 1949, with old fashioned buses, general stores and wall mounted, hand-crank telephones.

Also - if Will Robinson was part of the first family blasted into and subsequently lost and considered dead in space, don't you think SOMEONE might remember what he looked like just two years later and cut him some slack?!?!

That Girl / Mary Tyler Moore Christmas Episodes Connection

One of the finest Holiday half-hours of the 1960s was when plucky Anne Marie Hollister got stuck on Christmas Eve in the private school where she was working. It was a touching episode of That Girl that took place as a flashback.

This episode was typical of the way sitcoms celebrated the season back in the day - schmaltzy, with a bittersweet edge that played up the emotional aspect of Christmas, with plotlines generally revolving around helping out someone in need.

Mary Tyler Moore Christmas episodeOne of the most fondly remembered Christmas comedies of all time would have to be The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode from 1970 where Mary was forced to work on Christmas Eve and her co-workers show up unexpectedly in the middle of the night to keep her company.

An interesting aside - this episode was written by the same guy (James L. Brooks) who wrote the That Girl episode referenced above called 'Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid'.

Here's a roundup of Christmas episodes from the 1950s - 1970s to jump start the season. From Jack Benny to Carol Burnett.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Want to see something beautiful and awe inspiring?

The Soweto Gospel Choir posed as shoppers and store workers at Woolworths in Johannesburg to sing Asimbonanga [We have not seen him] in tribute of Nelson Mandela.

That Wonderful CBS Animated Christmas Greeting

That Wonderful CBS Animated Christmas Greeting from 1966 that aired into the 1970s


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin - The Rat Pack Tour 1977

 In the summer of 77 Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra did something they had never done before - they went on tour together. This is a little known fact, I've never read about this experience in any of the many books about the guys. If you want to read in detail about it check out the oral history, Beyond Our Wildest Dreams - the story of the Alberici Sisters when they went to work with Dean in The Golddiggers girl group. In the book they and other former Golddiggers share stories working with these two legendary performers on this moving feast.

Sinatra was on the road a great deal in 1977 but Dean mostly stayed put in Las Vegas, he had no desire to travel, he lived to play golf. It was an unlikely booking.

As a request from the owner of The Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ, Frank asked Dean to accompany him for a month of shows starting with 2 weeks at the Westchester Premier Theater in Tarrytown, New York on May 17, 1977. Next they performed a week at The Latin Casino and ended their run at Chicago’s fabled Sabre Room.

In my research I came across actual table-top recordings from many of the shows at the Latin Casino, and further down the road as well, captured on portable tape recorders fans brought with them. Both entertainers were at the top of their games in 1977. Though people at that time complained that Sinatra had lost his voice he sounds amazingly vigorous here, a creamy richness.

These selections were recorded from nights at the Latin Casino & Westchester Premier. Frank & Dean did 2 shows a night.

Dean from the 1977 Rat Pack tour: “Here’s a song that maybe six or seven of you might remember. And I hope I’m one of ’em.”

Here from the Westchester is Dean's opening comedy monologue:

Frank sings his favorite 'saloon song' Here's That Rainy Day - he never sounded better than he does here. This is an incredible performance from the Westchester Premier.

From The Latin Casino stage Dean clowns around, sings his signature tune - then Frank hilariously
 butts in from a mic backstage.

Dialogue from the 1977 Rat Pack tour:
Frank: I want to ask you a question. What the hell were you doing drinking 7-Up? How dare you, you’re out of the club.
Dean: I wasn’t drinking 7-Up.
Frank: What were you cleaning with it? Your lighter?
Dean: No, I was pouring it for Rocky.
Frank: Oh, Rocky. I didn’t know he drank 7-Up either. You go out with him now?
Dean: Yeah, what the hell? I’m gettin’ tired of them girls.
(Dean was dating a girl named Rocky at the time.)

From The Latin Casino - Dean & Frank do their Rat Pack schtick for the show's conclusion. Boy is Dean drunk here.

While Dean stuck to the same songs every night Frank switched things up a bit as the tour progressed. Sinatra began the engagement opening with a disco version of 'All Or Nothing At All,' a tune he introduced on Sinatra and Friends, his TV special from April of that year. He must have realized the song was a stiff because by the time you arrived at the Latin Casino he dropped 'All Or Nothing At All' and replaced it with a more traditionally arranged 'I've Got You Under My Skin' which was a real crowd pleaser.

The Westchester Premier Theater was where Frank Sinatra was photographed backstage with the area’s most notorious mafia figures. That picture, taken in 1976, would haunt him for the rest of his life after the FBI got a hold of it.

For more on classic Las Vegas Entertainment go to TVparty!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Johnny Carson 1979 Toy Review (Full Episode!)

 Here's Johnny Carson from December 20, 1979 with David Letterman, Bruce Dern, and Johnny & Ed's toy review for the holiday season. Wow does the monologue bomb! Hilarious... a full episode with the original commercials.

Comedian Pat Cooper on Sinatra, Dean Martin & Las Vegas Today

This is the first part of a phone conversation I had in 2011 with legendary comedian Pat Cooper, one of the few links we have to the greatest era of entertainment Las Vegas - and the world - will ever know. He shares his thoughts about Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and how Las Vegas has changed since the 1960s & 1970s.

Famous for his hot-headedness it's no surprise that Pat Cooper is brutally honest in his assessment of his late performing partners. Coming soon I'm going to bring you some very rare recordings with Dean & Frank, stay tuned!

Groucho's 1955 Christmas broadcast

Groucho Marx' You Bet Your Life wasn't just a hit on TV it was popular on radio at the same time. Here's the December 21 1955 broadcast - not really Holiday themed but it's what folks were listening to at home almost 60 Christmases ago.

TVparty! Retro Christmas Explosion!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Carpenters Sublime Christmas Specials of the 70s

 In the late-1970s Karen & Richard Carpenter starred in two spectacular Christmas specials, and here they are in their entirety. These two hours surely rank as two of the greatest holiday specials of all time.

The first was 1977's The Carpenters at Christmas - Karen's sublime voice was never better, the group's versions of the carols we all love are pitch perfect.

Christmas 1978 saw the debut of A Christmas Portrait, coinciding with the release of the classic holiday recording of the same name.

Read all about these shows a watch a tour of the Carpenter's home.

Classic TV Star Passes

Thanks to Skeeter Ullman for catching this.   Larry Pennell best remembered as Dash Riprock on Beverly Hillbillies, passed away August 28th of this year. (Notice in the second scene in the BH episode below that Mr. Drysdale calls him Ripcord, he had just finished that series.)

Pennell was also seen on Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke and as Clark Gable on Quantum Leap.

Not only was he hilarious as Dash He also starred in one of my fave syndicated shows that I caught as a kid only when we went to the beach - Ripcord.

Ripcord starred Larry Pennell as Ted McKeever, and Ken Curtis as Jim Buckley - Ripcord, Inc - two sky diving crimefighters / rescue workers / free fall instructors. Together they find adventure behind every cloud.

This show was very exciting to me as a kid, the aerial footage wasn't faked, it was actually shot in the sky with real skydivers. That may sound like no big deal today, but it was no easy feat with Fifties technology. I'm surprised the cameraman didn't plummet like a rock! In fact, in the filming of one episode, two planes collided in mid-air - of course the footage was used in an upcoming episode.

Typical plot: Ted and Jim find that a landslide wasn't an accident, but caused by a criminal fleeing from the law. Read more here.

The complete Ripcord Series has been released on DVD.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Soldier Reunion / The King Family

This is a segment from a late-1960s King Family Christmas Special where mom Alyce is reunited with her son who was stationed overseas during the Vietnam conflict.

 This was one of the highlights on a show I did called The Christmas Special Christmas Special for Bravo a decade ago - I got to meet Tina, Cam & Yvonne at the taping. Nice folks! Tina was a regular on My Three Sons.

 Sadly, Marilyn King, the last surviving original King Sister, passed away in August of this year.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

1980 Dance Fever Christmas Special

1980 Dance Fever Christmas Special starring Deney Terrio - a great big hunk of holiday cheese. Robert Blake was one of the judges but somehow everyone lived. Nellie Oleson (Alison Arngrim) from Little House on the Prairie was guest DJ.