Archive | October, 2010


30 Oct


Chevy Chase autograph signed in October 1976

34 years ago tonight, on Saturday, October 30, 1976, Chevy Chase appeared in his last episode of “Saturday Night Live” as a cast member. The show, then called “NBC’s Saturday Night,” was produced that night at the NBC studios in Brooklyn for the third week in a row (see previous post for the reason).  It was also the night Buck Henry became the show’s first 3-time host. The autograph above was signed by Chevy sometime during that week.                                        

T-shirt identical to the one I presented to Chevy Chase on October 30, 1976

At that night’s dress rehearsal I presented Chevy with a silk-screened T-shirt that a friend and I created. The photo above shows my identical T-shirt as it looks today 34 years later. One difference though; I actually wore my shirt. I doubt Chevy ever wore his. It may be difficult for young people to understand just how popular Chase was at the time. He was the first break-out star from SNL, leaving after just 1 year on the show to make movies. (This was the 6th episode of season 2 and the series’ 30th new episode). The first film Chase released was “Foul Play” with Goldie Hawn in 1978.

 Also on this date…                                                

Paul Messina and Henry Winkler in the garden of NYC's Gracie Mansion, 1977

65 years ago today, on Tuesday, October 30, 1945, Henry Winkler was born in New York City. Best known for his years playing Fonzie on “Happy Days” Winkler has since appeared in many other shows as both a regular cast member and recurring character. The photos above and below were taken at New York City’s Gracie Mansion in 1977.                                           

Paul Messina and Henry Winkler at NYC's Gracie Mansion, 1977

 When I asked him that day in 1977 about ABC Entertainment President Fred Silverman’s involvement in expanding the role of Fonzie on “Happy Days,” Winkler got quite defensive and sharply replied, “Lemme tell you something. Fred Silverman wanted to make the show “Fonzie’s Happy Days” but Ron Howard wouldn’t stand for it, and I don’t blame him.” Thus I learned that an insightful question, that pushes buttons, can get you a wonderful and sincere response.

©Photos by Paul Messina


23 Oct

Steve Martin autograph written on October 23, 1976

34 years ago on Saturday, October 23, 1976 comedian Steve Martin hosted “Saturday Night Live” for the first time. It was a partnership that would flourish and, to this day, Martin is closely associated with the show. The autograph seen above was signed by Steve Martin on that day at the NBC studio in Brooklyn, where that week’s show was originating. Below you can what’s on the other side of the paper Steve autographed: The date, written on my admission slip to the PSAT exam. (I went straight from the exam to the studio).

What's on the other side of Steve Martin's autograph? The date on my admission slip for the PSAT exam, which was administered that morning.

In fact, for three weeks that October, SNL (then called “NBC’s Saturday Night”) for the first time, performed the show away from Studio 8H at 30 Rock. Why? NBC News had turned 8H into “Election Headquarters” for the upcoming Presidential election, so SNL had to find another temporary home. In addition to Martin’s debut the other SNL episodes done in Brooklyn were on October 16, hosted by Karen Black, and on October 30, with host Buck Henry.

Also on this date in TV history

Johnny Carson, circa 1960

85 years ago on Friday, October 23, 1925 Johnny Carson, the “King of Late Night,” was born in Corning, Iowa. Carson was born to Homer and Ruth, and he would go on to leave a giant imprint on the world of television.

Although born in Corning, Iowa the Carson family moved quite a bit due to Homer’s job with a utility company. After several stops in other Iowa towns, the family settled for good in Norfolk, Nebraska, where Johnny grew up. It was in this classic version of small-town America that the future star began performing. After learning magic young Johnny appeared around town as The Great Carsoni and built the foundation for his career.

Unused ticket for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" for April 9, 1992.

Johnny Carson went on to host “The Tonight Show” from 1962 to 1992, almost 30 full years, and turned “The Tonight Show” into an institution. It became a nightly “must-see” for many and Carson himself became a barometer of public opinion.

Offices for "The Tonight Show" at NBC Burbank, 1979.

Sometimes Carson affected public opinion as well. His influence was never more evident than one night in the 1970’s when Carson turned a small news item into a national story. He mentioned reading an article about a possible toilet paper shortage. (His joke was that this would be a problem that would “touch every American.”) Within days Carson had actually created a nationwide toilet paper shortage as Americans raced to stock up so they wouldn’t be left empty-handed.

Johnny Carson's name on the marquee at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, June 1979.

Carson left “The Tonight Show” in 1992 and pretty much retired from public life. He died on January 23, 2005 due to emphysema.

Johnny Carson, one of television’s biggest stars ever  — a man who donated millions of dollars to his hometown of Norfolk, Nebraska — was born 85 years ago on this date in TV history.

Brooklyn Blue Bloods

19 Oct

The set of "Blue Bloods" on Rugby Rd in Brooklyn, NY. October 19, 2010

The new Tom Selleck cop drama “Blue Bloods” was filming in Brooklyn, NY today. Cast and crew were using an old Victorian home on Rugby Road in the borough’s Ditmas Park section. Our “RaisedByTV” cameras  caught co-star Donnie Wahlberg saying hello to fans in the neighborhood.

Donnie Wahlberg greeting fans on the Brooklyn set of "Blue Bloods." October 19, 2010.

In one photo you see an N.Y.P.D. squad car that doesn’t look like part of the show. The proof is written on the side of the car. New York City has no 12th Precinct.

An N.Y.P.D. squad car used for films and TV on the Brooklyn set of "Blue Bloods," October 19, 2010. New York City has no 12th Precinct.

The CBS show airs Friday nights at 10:00pm/9:00pm Central Time.

Donnie Wahlberg waving goodbye to fans in Brooklyn, NY, October 19, 2010.

©Photos by Mike Wright


16 Oct

23 years ago today on Friday, October 16, 1987, America watched as 18-month old Jessica McClure is rescued after being trapped in a Midland, Texas well for more than 58 hours.


Angela Lansbury             1925

Ann Morgan Guilbert    1928

Barry Corbin                     1940

Suzanne Somers              1946

Kellie Martin                     1975


Alice Pearce                      1917 (died 1966)

Bert Kaempfert                1923 (died 1980)

Michael Conrad               1925 (died 1983)

Jerry Seigerman             1960 (died 1996)


11 Oct


Don Pardo autograph obtained in 1973 or 1974

Don Pardo autograph obtained in 1973 or 1974


35 years ago tonight, on Saturday, October 11, 1975, America watched the first episode of a new late night comedy show called “NBC’s Saturday Night.” It replaced reruns of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” at 11:30pm on Saturday nights.

The title of the new program was not producer Lorne Michaels’ first choice. ABC had already used the title he wanted for its new variety show, “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell,” which premiered in September (see ticket from later episode below).

Ticket to "Saturday Night Live" with Howard Cosell

Ticket to Oct. 18, 1975 episode of "Saturday Night Live" with Howard Cosell


One interesting note: Character actor George Coe, who appeared in the first several episodes to bring some maturity to certain roles, was listed onscreen that night as a member of “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.” But SNL writer Alan Zweibel later told me that Coe was never a “Not Ready for Prime Time Player.” Was the onscreen credit another flub? Or did they decide they didn’t need Coe after all?

Saturday Night Live” has launched the careers of many comedy stars, but the first breakout star from its cast was Chevy Chase, who left the show in November 1976 and became a movie star for a while.

It’s now in its 36th season… but the first ever episode of “Saturday Night Live” (nee “NBC’s Saturday Night”) premiered on this date in TV history.


10 Oct

George Carlin / October 10, 1975

George Carlin autograph from October 10, 1975


35 years ago tonight, on Friday, October 10, 1975, I attended the dress rehearsal for a new late night comedy show called “NBC’s Saturday Night;” a dress rehearsal that lasted 2 ½ hours.

The title of the new program was actually producer Lorne Michaels’ second choice. ABC had already used the title he wanted for its new variety show, “Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell,” which premiered several weeks earlier in prime-time. (I attended the premiere of that show as well.)

“Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell” was intended to be an “Ed Sullivan Show” for the next generation. Like Sullivan, Cosell had no discernable show-business talent; he simply introduced the acts. However I seem to remember being in the audience when Howard Cosell and Barbara Walters sang a duet one week. Was I dreaming? This show was also broadcast from “The Ed Sullivan Theater.”

One interesting note: The Cosell show had a small comedy troupe called “The Prime Time Players.” That’s why Michaels had the original cast of “NBC’s Saturday Night” introduced as “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

One more tidbit… Two members of Cosell’s “Prime Time Players” would later join the NBC show: Bill Murray and his brother Brian Doyle Murray.

Remembrances: “Home Base” (where the host opens the show) was on the audience side of the studio that night. My friend Jerry and I sat next to “home base” looking up at guest host George Carlin during his monologue.  After the show he gave me his autograph on the back of a newspaper coupon for McDonalds (see above). One of the most memorable acts that night was a comedian who was bumped from the next night’s live premiere: Billy Crystal.

It’s now in its 36th season… but the dress rehearsal for the first ever episode of “Saturday Night Live” (nee “NBC’s Saturday Night”) took place on this date in TV history.


5 Oct

On October 5, 1947 Harry Truman became the first President to deliver a White House address to the nation via television. The number of U.S. homes with TVs was less than 50,000 at that time, so most Americans would still have been listening on radio.


Bill Dana                     1924

Jeff Conaway            1950

Daniel Baldwin         1960

Josie Bissett              1970

Parminder Nagra   1975


Larry Fine         1902 (died in 1975)

Allen Ludden   1917 (died in 1981)

Bernie Mac       1957 (died in 2008)

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