Archive | November, 2010


26 Nov

59 years ago on Monday November 26, 1951Bob & Ray” or “The Bob and Ray Show” premiered on NBC featuring the comedy team of Bob & Ray (Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding). Best known for their work on radio Bob & Ray had their own brand of comedy that delighted many and went over the heads of others. Joining them in sketches and spoofs in this 15 minute program was Audrey Meadows. She would later be replaced by Cloris Leachman, who would then be replaced by Audrey Meadows.

Bob & Ray in their WOR radio studio, December 1974, joined by students Sami Kenigsberg, Paul Messina, and Jerry Seigerman.

The photo shown above was taken in December 1974 during Bob & Ray’s radio show on WOR (AM) in New York. The comedy legends were nice enough to agree to be interviewed by 3 junior high school students (I was one of them). If you look closely we are wearing “Wally Ballou for Mayor” buttons given to us that day by Bob & Ray.

The autographs were signed several years later (I believe 1979) in Bob & Ray’s dressing room after their masterful performance in the NBC late night comedy special “Bob & Ray, Jane, Laraine & Gilda.”


19 Nov

48 years ago today, on Monday, November 19, 1962 Alicia Foster was born in Los Angeles. By the time she began her acting career three years later she was known as Jodie Foster

Postcard from the 1974 ABC series "Paper Moon" produced by Paramount Pictures

Although she is best known today as a film star and Oscar-winning actress, Jodie Foster began her career on television. The postcard (above) was sent to fans of the TV series, “Paper Moon,” which was based on the film of the same name. It premiered on ABC in September 1974 but only lasted a few months. In the show Foster played young Addie Pray, the same role that won Tatum O’Neal an Oscar. The back of that postcard featured facsimile autographs from Foster and co-star Christopher Connelly.

Reverse side of postcard from the 1974 ABC series "Paper Moon" - produced by Paramount Pictures

I remember Jodie Foster playing a small role as a young neighbor in one or two episodes of “Family Affair.” Her other TV appearances include episodes of “The Doris Day Show,” “Julia,” “Nanny and the Professor,” “Mayberry RFD,” “My Three Sons,” and “The Paul Lynde Show.” Foster was also in the cast of the TV version of the film, “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” which aired on ABC in the fall of 1973.

Today’s TV birthdays also include

Allison Janney                  1959 (maybe 1960)

Ann Curry                            1956

Ted Turner                          1938

Dick Cavett                         1936

Larry King                            1933

Alan Young                         1919


18 Nov

59 years ago today on Sunday, November 18, 1951 Americans watched the first broadcast of Edward R. Murrow’s documentary program “See It Now.”

Sketch of Edward R. Murrow by Viondette Lopez, from Edward R. Murrow High School's 1978 Yearbook

Although the series run of “See It Now” didn’t begin until April 20 of the following year, the first edition broadcast was on this date in TV history.

“See It Now” was hosted by legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow and was a TV version of his radio show, “Hear It Now.” The TV show is now best remembered for its broadcast of March 9, 1954 which took on controversial Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Other broadcasting icons who worked on “See It Now” include Executive Producer Fred W. Friendly and Don Hewitt who was the show’s director. Some 20 years later Hewitt would go on to become the creator and driving force behind “60 Minutes.”

Artwork © Viondette Lopez


14 Nov


William Hurt as former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, November 14, 2010

Today, the Midwood section of Brooklyn once again returned to its roots as the original Hollywood. The HBO drama, “Too Big to Fail” (about the recent financial crisis) was filming at JC Studios. A portion of the studio goes back to around 1930 when it was built by Warner Bros. NBC bought it in the early 1950s and it remained an NBC studio for nearly 50 years.

Paul Giamatti on set as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, November 14, 2010

 Among those filming at the studio today were Oscar-winning actor William Hurt (top), who portrays former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Paul Giamatti as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke can be seen entering the makeup trailer (above).

Cynthia Nixon as Paulson's former spokeswoman Michele Davis, November 14, 2010

Actress Cynthia Nixon (above) portrays Paulson’s former spokeswoman Michele Davis. And dressed as current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner is Billy Crudup (below) seen heading into the studio. 

Billy Crudup on set as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner, November 14, 2010

Other cast members are reported to be Ed Asner, James Woods, Tony Shalhoub, and Dan Hedaya.

©Photos by Mike Wright


5 Nov

Unused ticket for "To Tell the Truth," November 5, 1974

36 years ago on Tuesday November 5, 1974 I attended a taping of “To Tell the Truth.” It also happened to be Election Day. A regular panelist on the show at that time was the fun-loving Nipsey Russell, who had a poem for every occasion… and Election Day was no different.

Not yet 14-years old, I didn’t totally understand the poem he recited that day, but I never forgot it. And in time I learned why it was so funny.

It will help if you try to read this with Nipsey’s classic delivery in your mind:

I’ve written a poem about politics,

I think you should read it before you vote,

It’s about the Democrats, the Republicans, and the taxpayers,

And it’s called the donkey, the elephant, and the goat 

Unused ticket for "To Tell the Truth," November 5, 1974

Nipsey Russell died on October 2, 2005 at age 87. The man never failed to put a smile on my face.


4 Nov

Closeup of Conan from the Happy Happy Good Show, 1988

I first met Conan O’Brien and saw him perform in the summer of 1988 in Chicago. He was in town to do a sketch comedy show with my old college friend, Robert Smigel and several other former members of the local improv group All You Can Eat. With the Writer’s Guild on strike at the time, Smigel combined part of his old improv group with fellow SNL writers, Conan O’Brien and Bob Odenkirk to create the Happy Happy Good Show

Program from the Happy Happy Good Show (including Conan O'Brien), 1988

In the program for the show (above), which was performed at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Studio Theater, you’ll see a photo of the cast with an arrow pointing to Conan.

 Inside the program (below) you can read Conan’s bio, in which he refers to his rich uncle Conius C. Coneworthy, and the bios of Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel which are also highlighted by arrows. In addition to this trio of now well-known performers, several others in the cast have continued their careers in entertainment. Dave Reynolds, in fact, went on to co-write the classic Disney film “Finding Nemo.” 

The inside of the program from the Happy Happy Good Show, 1988

In a review of the show that appeared in the July 15, 1988 edition of “The Reader,” a Chicago alternative weekly newspaper, critic Tom Valeo wrote, “If any television executives see Happy Happy Good Show, they may decide to let the writers’ strike go on forever.” He also declared the show “remarkably unfunny” and said “almost nothing works.” On the bright side Valeo does call the performances “pretty skillful.” And in referring to one sketch with Conan and Bob Odenkirk, the critic says they are “wonderfully manic as ‘bithespians’ who team up to give a single performance.” 

Conan fans may remember that this was the summer Conan famously roomed with another unknown comedian named Jeff Garlin, now on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” On another occasion I will describe my 1987 encounters with Garlin and perhaps show a clip of the standup video I hired him to host that year.

NBC bio given out at the Press Conference introducing Conan O'Brien to the media, May 3, 1993.

 When he was selected to host “Late Night” in 1993 Conan O’Brien was best known as a writer and not a performer, so NBC included his Happy Happy Good Show experience in his official bio (see above). Months before his version of “Late Night” premiered I showed Conan the old program from Happy Happy Good Show and he was excited to see it. Apparently he never saved a copy for himself. So if he still wants one… he knows where to find me.

All items are from the collection of Paul Messina. ©Paul Messina

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