Archive | December, 2010


23 Dec

36 years ago today, on Monday, December 23, 1974 the game show “The Money Maze” premiered on ABC’s daytime schedule. The show was hosted by Cincinnati TV host, Nick Clooney, who would go on to become even more well-known when his son, George Clooney, became a TV and movie star. 

Unused ticket for the September 21, 1974 taping of "The Money Maze."

The show, featuring a giant maze, was taped at the ABC studio on West 66th Street in Manhattan. The set was huge and had the audience sitting above the maze. I seem to remember this show as a bit confusing to watch.

While the maze made this show unique, it may also have made it too cumbersome.  “The Money Maze” ran for just six months.


18 Dec

54 years ago tonight, on Tuesday, December 18, 1956 the program “To Tell The Truth” premiered on CBS at 9:00pm. Hosted by Bud Collyer, the Goodson-Todman panel show ran in prime time for 11 seasons, before adding another 8 years in syndication. A daytime version also ran on CBS from 1962 until 1968.

Unused ticket for "To Tell The Truth" from November 5, 1974.

For the first 8 seasons in syndication, the show’s host was Garry Moore, even if they didn’t know how to spell his first name on the tickets (above). When Moore got ill he was replaced by Joe Garagiola for one final season. In my opinion, these three versions of the show are the only ones that really matter.

Another unused ticket for "To Tell The Truth" from November 5, 1974. (After all, they were free.)

To Tell The Truth” brought three people before a celebrity panel, all claiming to be the same person – someone who had done something interesting or unique. Two of them were “imposters” but the third was the real person. The panel tried to determine which “contestant” was the actual subject by asking the guests questions. Once the celebrities had voted the host would say, “Will the real ______ please stand up.” Those words became a national catch phrase throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, and they’re still vividly remembered by most Americans over the age of 45.


17 Dec

41 years ago tonight on Wednesday, December 17, 1969 an unprecedented spectacle took place on television when novelty singer Tiny Tim married his teenage bride, Miss Vicki (Victoria Budinger), during a telecast of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

The show was taped at 6:30pm in New York City and broadcast in “The Tonight Show’s” regular 11:30pm timeslot. The non-denominational ceremony was performed by the Reverend William Glenesk of Spencer Memorial Church in Brooklyn Heights. Tiny Tim’s manager, Joseph Cappelluzzo, was the best man. The bride’s sister, Mrs. Gene Bramlett was Matron of Honor.

According to the December 29, 1969 issue of VARIETY, that episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” scored a 39.4 rating and an 84 share in New York City. Nationwide nearly 40-million people tuned in to see the “wedding of the century decade year.”

The marriage would produce a daughter, Tulip, now 39, but the couple split in 1972, and finally divorced in 1977. Tiny Tim died in November 1996. Miss Vicki now lives a simpler life in Tennessee, which you can follow on her blog;


16 Dec

35 years ago tonight, on Tuesday, December 16, 1975 “One Day at a Time,” the newest sit-com from Norman Lear, premiered on CBS. The show starred Bonnie Franklin as newly divorced Mom, Ann Romano, and Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli as her teenage daughters Julie and Barbara. Richard Masur played Ann’s boyfriend David and the building super, Schneider, was played by the show’s best-known cast member Pat Harrington Jr.

Original cast of "One Day at a Time" - 1975

 The next morning I sent a letter to the show hoping to get Norman Lear’s attention by writing the show’s first fan letter. I had previously read how Lear was touched by a letter from an early viewer of “All in the Family.” However, there was really nothing about “One Day at a Time” that even remotely reflected my life or experiences.

Form letter from Norman Lear, dated January 8, 1976.

 Norman Lear did send a letter though. It was a form letter thanking me for my interest in “One Day at a Time.” But at 15 years old, getting any letter from the most prolific comedy producer of the 1970s felt great.

One Day at a Time” ran for nine seasons on CBS. It is one of the first, and perhaps only shows I can recall that was set in Indianapolis.  It was never a blockbuster hit, but Schneider became an iconic character of the 70s, and the show did introduce us to Valerie Bertinelli.


9 Dec

32 years ago tonight, on Saturday, December 9, 1978, the sit-com “Rhoda” aired the final episode of its primetime, network run.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show” spun off 3 shows in the 1970s: “Lou Grant,” “Phyllis,” and of course, “Rhoda,” all on CBS.

Autographed photo of Valerie Harper sent to fans of “Rhoda” in 1975.

 As portrayed by Valerie Harper, the character of Rhoda Morgenstern became a fan favorite on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” so it was no surprise when producers gave the character her own series. The 1970s were, after all, a decade of spin-offs.

Rhoda” is famous for its wedding episode, where the character took the New York City subway to her own wedding while wearing her gown. But I best remember two of the jokes from the opening sequence of “Rhoda.” (You remember when TV shows had theme songs, right?)

Cast photo sent to fans of “Rhoda” in 1975.

 Rhoda explains, “I was born in New York… in December… 1941.” Then concedes she always felt responsible for World War II. How great is that line as a way to reveal something about the character? Although most people tuning in would have known Rhoda from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” this was a terrific way to introduce new viewers to the kind of misplaced guilt felt by Miss Rhoda Morgenstern.

The other memorable laugh line was when Rhoda says she grew up in New York, but moved to Minneapolis where it’s cold and she figured she’d “keep better.”

The envelope that contained the photos shown above is postmarked November 26, 1975.

Don’t you love how they put Valerie Harper’s name above the studio address on the envelope? It’s as if they want to make it look like she sent it from home.

Rhoda” ran on CBS for four seasons. It premiered in September 1974 on Monday nights at 9:30pm (ET) and remained on Mondays until January 1977. It moved to Sunday nights before ending its run with a 3 month stay on Saturdays.


8 Dec

85 years ago today, on Tuesday, December 8, 1925 Sammy Davis Jr. was born in New York City. In time he would become one of the most complete performers who ever took the stage. Davis could sing, dance, act, make you laugh, and play musical instruments. He began his career as a young child in a song and dance team alongside his father (Sammy Davis Sr. of course) and Will Mastin. As The Will Mastin Trio they toured the country for decades before Davis Jr. became a break out star.

Autographed 8x10 photo of Sammy Davis Jr. sent to members of The Sammy Davis Jr. International Fan Club in the 1970s.

In addition to numerous guest appearances on TV, Sammy had two series of his own. “The Sammy Davis Jr. Show” ran from January 1966 through April of that same year. I believe I attended one of the last episodes of this series, which was taped at the NBC studio in Brooklyn. I never knew it was a series. I thought it was a TV special. What would I know? I was 5 years old. What I do know, and do remember, is that I sat in the audience of a show starring Sammy Davis Jr. and guest Art Carney, which was taped in that studio. According to IMDb, Carney was a guest on the April 15, 1966 episode of this series.

Photo of Sammy Davis Jr. also sent to members of his International Fan Club.

Sammy’s other well-known foray into series television was the syndicated “Sammy & Company.” This 90-minute talk/variety show featured guest appearances and performances from many of Sammy’s show biz friends. The series, with radio’s William B. Williams as the announcer, was produced for 2 years, 1975-1977.

Sammy Davis Jr. died from throat cancer on May 16, 1990. He was just 64. Muppet master Jim Henson died the same day making it a memorable but sad one for the world of entertainment.


6 Dec

37 years ago tonight, on Thursday, December 6, 1973 Freddie Prinze became a star.

Freddie Prinze with Johnny Carson on a later "Tonight Show" appearance, circa 1975.

That was the night the young comedian made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” Throughout Carson’s 30 year reign, stand-up comedians vied for a coveted spot on “Tonight” because one good performance could literally give you a career. And while Carson rarely invited a new comedian to sit down after their first appearance, a simple “OK” sign from the “King of Late Night” was like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Publicity photo of Freddie Prinze sent to fans of "Chico and the Man"

On December 6, 1973 Sammy Davis Jr. was seated to Johnny’s right as 19-year old Freddie Prinze came on stage for the most important performance of his life. While the audience loved him, and Carson was impressed, some say it was Davis’s fawning over the comic that prompted Johnny to wave Freddie over to the chair.

Publicity photo of Freddie Prinze sent to fans, circa 1974.

While better gigs and more money did follow for Prinze, it was more important that producer James Komack, was watching “The Tonight Show” that night.  Komack was in the process of creating the sit-com “Chico and the Man” and that confluence of circumstances would change Prinze’s life. Nine months after that fateful “Tonight Show” appearance “Chico and the Man” starring Freddie Prinze and veteran actor Jack Albertson premiered on NBC.

Letter to fans that accompanied the previous photos.

And so, a good performance on “The Tonight Show” literally gave Prinze a career. I don’t mean to suggest that he didn’t earn it; rather I’m trying to emphasize the power of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” especially in the 1970s.

Autograph sign by Freddie Prinze on September 27, 1974, after a taping of "The $25,000 Pyramid"

Freddie Prinze became a sit-com star, a Vegas headliner, and a guest host on “The Tonight Show.” He recorded a comedy album and starred in a TV movie. Prinze also had a drug problem. And in January 1977 Freddie Prinze died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. 

Publicity photo of Prinze in "Chico and the Man" that was sent to NBC stations.

Few know that Prinze was not making his network debut that December evening. Months earlier he had performed on Jack Paar’s late night show on ABC without much notice. But it was “The Tonight Show” that mattered and Prinze would always refer to his December 6, 1973 appearance as his TV debut. Sadly, viewers only got to enjoy Freddie Prinze for a little more than 3 years before his career and his life came to a tragic end.

But that story, dear friends, is best saved for another date in TV history.

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