Archive | April, 2011

QUINCY MADISON

27 Apr

89 years ago, on Thursday, April 27, 1922, Jacob “Jack” Klugman was born in Philadelphia. Although best known to TV audiences as Oscar Madison, the sloppy half of “The Odd Couple,” his other well-known series “Quincy, M.E.” actually ran for more seasons (7 to 5) and produced more episodes (148 to 114).

Klugman began to act after serving in World War II. His early TV appearances include multiple episodes of famed series like “Inner Sanctum,” “Studio One,” and “Playhouse 90.” Jack Klugman was a working actor, but when he was cast in the TV version of “The Odd Couple” he became a star. While the show achieved some popularity during its run on ABC (1970-1975), it was in syndication that the show really caught fire.

Postcard sent to fans of ABC’s “The Odd Couple” in the 1970s.

In 1993 I interviewed Klugman and Tony Randall in Central Park while they were filming scenes for “The Odd Couple: Together Again” reunion movie. It was about three years after Klugman had surgery for throat cancer, and it left him with a slight and raspy voice. But I was a bit surprised when Klugman was actually apologetic for his inability to answer in full voice. He seemed to be a genuinely nice man.

Reverse side of the same postcard with “autographs” from the stars.

Of course, “The Odd Couple” was followed by “Quincy, M.E.” on NBC in which Klugman played Dr. R. Quincy, a medical examiner (or coroner) who had no first name. In the 1980s Klugman went back to sitcoms with NBC‘s “You Again?” co-starring John Stamos. It lasted just one season.

Happy 89th Birthday Jack. You’re an American treasure.

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…THIS TIME TOGETHER

26 Apr
78 years ago, on Wednesday, April 26, 1933, Carol Burnett was born in San Antonio, Texas. As the child of two alcoholics, Burnett was raised by her grandmother who moved them to Hollywood.
 
When she would tug on her ear at the end of “The Carol Burnett Show” it was her way of saying hello to that beloved grandmother.

Pseudo-autographed 8x10 photo sent to fans of “The Carol Burnett Show"

Carol Burnett herself has won three Emmys. “The Carol Burnett Show” also won three Emmys for Outstanding Comedy, Variety or Music Series.

In 1985 Burnett was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, and in November 2005 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Carol Burnett also received a Peabody Award in 1962.

Recently she has been touring the country with her “Laughter and Reflection” stage show, which is similar to the opening of her old TV show. Burnett simply answers questions from the audience and talks about her life.

While I titled this post “…THIS TIME TOGETHER” I was obviously playing off Carol Burnett’s famous closing song from her show. What I did not know is that Ms. Burnett has an autobiography, also entitled This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection (now out in paperback). Great minds think alike.

Happy 78th Birthday Carol (as I tug on my ear).

OH MY

20 Apr

74 years ago, on Tuesday, April 20, 1937 actor George Takei was born in Los Angeles. Although best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in “Star Trek,” Takei has hundreds of television appearances to his credit, starting with a live episode of “Playhouse 90” in 1959.

In his 2007 autobiography, To the Stars, Takei says he and his family were among more than 100,000 other Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps during World War II. Takei lived in Camp Rohwer in Arkansas and Camp Tule Lake in northern California.

After the war, the Takeis returned to southern California, where George would eventually earn a masters degree in theater from U.C.L.A. in 1964.

Takei’s life would change forever when he was cast as Mr. Sulu in 1965 for the second “Star Trek” pilot.

George Takei autograph signed in NYC, 1973.

The above autograph was signed by George Takei during the 1973 Star Trek Convention at New York’s Commodore Hotel. I was 12 years old. What I remember most about our encounter is how George kept repeating to us all, “It’s pronounced ‘tuh-KAY’ as in O.K.” Throughout the past 38 years I have occasionally heard people refer to him as George “tuh-KIE” – and I don’t know if he ever used this pronunciation. But to the best of my knowledge, from George’s own mouth, “It’s pronounced ‘tuh-KAY’ as in O.K.

While some will only remember him as Sulu, George Takei’s acting career has lasted more than 50 years. Recently  he had a recurring role on NBC‘s “Heroes” from 2007 to 2010, and this year he joined the cast of Nickelodeon‘s new series “Supah Ninjas” as Hologramps, the holographic grandfather.

Takei may be the only TV actor (certainly one of the few) with an asteroid named in his honor. In October 2007 the International Astronomical Union‘s Committee on Small Body Nomenclature approved the official, scientific name of 7307 Takei for the asteroid, which is located between Mars and Jupiter.

According to Takei’s own website, he and his husband Brad Altman made television history when they became the first gay couple to appear on “The Newlywed Game” on GSN cable network in October 2009. They won the game and donated their $10,000 prize to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

Happy birthday George… now warp speed to 75!

THE TRUE HOME RUN CHAMP

8 Apr

37 years ago tonight, on Monday, April 8, 1974, baseball slugger Hank Aaron hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s record.

It was a TV event.

Atlanta Braves right fielder Henry “Hank” Aaron began the 1974 season just one career home run behind the legendary Babe Ruth. In his first at bat of the season, in Cincinnati against the Reds, Aaron hit #714 tying the “Bambino.” Days later a crowd of more than 53,000 crammed into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to see Aaron and the Braves play the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still photo taken off my TV at home as Hank Aaron follows through in his historic at-bat, April 8, 1974.

As I watched the game on national TV with my Dad, and his friend Gene Flanagan, the excitement was palpable… And in the 4th inning Aaron went deep off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing. Aaron’s historic home run went over the left field wall and into the home team’s bullpen where it was caught by Braves’ reliever Tom House.

After the 1974 season Hank Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers so he could finish his major league career, as a designated hitter, in the city where it began. In total Aaron hit 755 career home runs.

In the mid-2000s some media reported that Hank Aaron’s career home run record had been surpassed by a player from a west coast team. When that has been proven, I will be happy to acknowledge it. Until then, in MY book, Hank Aaron remains major league baseball’s all-time home run champ.

In 1982 Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with 97.8% of the ballots cast. (No player in history has ever received 100%)

In 2001 Hank Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton… and in 2002, Aaron received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

BLACK GOLD, TEXAS TEA

2 Apr

33 years ago tonight, on Sunday, April 2, 1978, the prime-time soap opera “Dallas” premiered on CBS. And just like the daytime soaps, this one had love, hate, greed, and sex. Lots of sex.

The real Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, 1994.

TV viewers got a spring preview of “Dallas” when it first hit the airwaves at the end of the 1977-78 season. And while it attracted an audience its ratings didn’t crack the Top 30 until the 1979-80 season when it was the 6th highest rated show. The following two seasons it was TV’s number 1 show. All told it was in the Top 2 for five straight seasons and stayed in the Top 30 through the 1988-89 season. It was quite a ride.

The "Ewing Mansion" at the real Southfork Ranch, 1994.

Dallas” told the story of the wealthy Ewing family: Texas oil tycoons with huge appetites for money, power, and trouble. The Patriarch was Jock Ewing played by Jim Davis. His wife, Miss Ellie was portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes. The couple had three adult sons, but the series focused on just two of them: the oldest and the youngest.

Sign posted at the real Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, 1994.

J.R. Ewing (the oldest son) was evil incarnate. As played by Larry Hagman, J.R. became one of TV’s greatest villains ever. Patrick Duffy, on the other hand, had the role of youngest son Bobby, the nice guy. But he was the nice guy who married the daughter of his father’s former business partner and rival. Bobby’s wife Pamela Barnes Ewing was portrayed by Victoria Principal, while Linda Gray appeared as J.R.’s wife Sue Ellen Ewing.

This writer (on left) with “Pal Joey” at the real Southfork Ranch, 1994.

Although old-time movie serials were known for their cliffhangers, “Dallas” has been credited with bringing the cliffhanger to TV. In the last episode of the 1979-80 season J.R. Ewing was shot, leaving viewers to wait until the fall to find out his fate and the identity of the gunman. Because of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild that wait lasted from March until November. But in that time the phrase, “Who shot J.R.?” was on the lips of millions of Americans. So who did shoot J.R.? I’m not telling.

This writer’s friend, “Pal Joey,” relaxing in the garden at the real Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, 1994.

The photos accompanying this post were taken at the actual Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, just northeast of Dallas. While the series itself was shot at studios in California, exterior scenes were filmed here. By 1985, as visitors continued to flock to the ranch, the owners moved out and Southfork became strictly a tourist attraction. Today it’s open daily for guided tours of the ranch and the “Ewing Mansion.”

Dallas” ran for 13 seasons, until May 1991, and left an indelible mark on the TV landscape.

“Pal Joey” enjoying the view J.R. would have enjoyed, at the real Southfork Ranch, 1994.

AND PARTY EVERY DAY

1 Apr

48 years ago, on Monday, April 1, 1963 the children’s show Birthday House premiered locally in New York on WNBC-TV.  It was a kid’s show, broadcast each morning that was really just a big birthday party. Basically, real children, from the audience, celebrated their birthdays on the air in the “birthday house.” But it was hosts Paul Tripp and his wife, Ruth Enders Tripp, who made the show.

A cherished possession I have saved for 45 years; an “autographed” photo of Paul Tripp from “Birthday House.”

The Tripps were originally educators. (It was their work with children that first got them noticed by TV producers). So while they played games with the kids in the studio, and us at home, they were actually teaching us. Who knew? I sure didn’t at the time.

Tripp and his wife had previously hosted a CBS morning show for kids called, “On The Carousel” from 1954 to 1959.

Whenever I think of “Birthday House” or see a clip from the show, it makes me think of my wonderful mother… and I like that.

Birthday House” was broadcast until September of 1967.

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