Tag Archives: Autograph

UP YOUR NOSE WITH A RUBBER HOSE

31 Mar

66 years ago, on Saturday, March 31, 1945, Gabriel Kaplan was born in Brooklyn. Since then he has been a stand-up comedian, a financial investor, and a champion poker player… but most people know him as the creator and star of “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

From the letterhead used by “Welcome Back, Kotter” in the 1970s.

The sitcom about a man who becomes a teacher in his old high school premiered in September 1975 on ABC and ran for 4 seasons. It also made stars out of Gabe Kaplan and John Travolta.

Kaplan started doing stand-up in the late 1960s and by the early 70s got the break every comic dreamed of – a spot on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” More TV appearances followed and then Kaplan recorded a comedy album called, Holes and Mellow Rolls. As he explained in his routine, a mellow roll was a kind of ice pop. The album’s title referred to the insults or “ranks” he and his friends used to say to each other in high school. “Up your hole with a mellow roll,” “in your ear with a can of beer,” “up your nose with a rubber hose.”

It was that part of his stand-up act that drew the most attention and allowed Gabe Kaplan (along with Alan Sacks) to create a sitcom based on his high school experiences. The premise had Gabe Kotter (once a remedial student or “sweathog”) return to teach the current “sweathogs” at his old high school. And it became a hit.

Card with pre-printed autograph, sent to fans of “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

During the time “Welcome Back, Kotter” was a hit show, I was attending a real high school in Brooklyn. And since Gabe Kaplan was actually from Brooklyn a friend and I decided we should interview his parents for our school newspaper. We looked in the phone book and found a listing for Kaplan in the correct neighborhood. My friend called and did the talking. Gabe Kaplan’s mother agreed to let us come to their home to interview them. She asked us to call back the following week to set a date.

When we called again Mrs. Kaplan said Gabe never heard of our high school and didn’t think it was a real school. So he told her not to do the interview, and that was the end of it.

Months, maybe years, later I saw Gabe Kaplan on a talk show discussing fame. He said that when “Welcome Back, Kotter” became a hit people would call his parents pretending to be from phony high schools just to score an interview. I always wondered if he meant us.

For the record, we were real, our high school was real, and the interview request was real. Our school — Edward R. Murrow High School — was brand new and in just its second year of existence. That may be why Kaplan (out in Hollywood) had never heard of it. And I suppose “Edward R. Murrow” would’ve been a great name to use for a made-up school.

Gabriel Kaplan autograph signed outside the Ed Sullivan Theater on October 18, 1975.

After “Welcome Back, Kotter” Kaplan starred in several films and gave sitcoms one more try with “Lewis & Clark” (1981-82). His next act led him to the financial markets and then professional poker.

Since the late 1970s Gabe Kaplan has been a champion poker player participating in the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker, and winning the Super Bowl of Poker Main Event in 1980. Kaplan has earned more than $1-million playing poker professionally.

He has also been a poker TV commentator, most notably for 6 seasons on “High Stakes Poker” on GSN.

Close-up of Gabriel Kaplan’s autograph.

The cast of “Welcome Back, Kotter” will be honored at this year’s TV Land Awards in April. All the living former cast members: Gabe Kaplan, Marcia Strassman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (aka Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), Ron Palillo, Robert Hegyes, and even John Travolta are planning to attend. And if anybody’s a no-show? “Up your hole with a mellow roll.”

Oh… and Happy Birthday Gabe.

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RADIO GENIUS, TV COMEDIAN

26 Mar

88 years ago, on Monday, March 26, 1923, actor/comedian Bob Elliott was born in Boston. Though he is best-known for his work in radio, Elliott (with comedy partner Ray Goulding) starred in several TV specials and series.

Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding in the studios of WOR (AM), December 1974.

In 1946 Ray Goulding was hired to read the news for a morning show Bob Elliott was hosting on WHDH in Boston. That fateful pairing would result in a 15 minute radio show called “Matinee with Bob and Ray” and eventually their partnership as the comedy team of Bob & Ray.

Their television careers began on Monday November 26, 1951 when “Bob & Ray” (or “The Bob and Ray Show”) premiered on NBC.  Joining them in sketches and spoofs in this 15 minute program was Audrey Meadows. She was replaced by Cloris Leachman, who was then replaced by Audrey Meadows. The show lasted two years.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bob & Ray on three separate occasions, which are detailed in my previous post. Each time they were gracious and generous.

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

In addition to “The Bob and Ray Show,” the duo briefly hosted a TV game show and made many TV guest appearances. One highlight was the 1979 late night special, “Bob & Ray, Jane, Laraine & Gilda” with Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner, which I attended.

Bob Elliott has also spread his comedic genes to future generations. His son is actor/comedian Chris Elliott and his granddaughter is “Saturday Night Live” cast member Abby Elliott.

In fact, for two seasons (1990-1992) Bob Elliott portrayed the father of his real-life son Chris in the FOX sitcom “Get a Life.”

Autographs in the book: “To Paul – Cheers! Bob Elliott” and “To Paul, All the Best, Ray Goulding”

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1984. “The Bob and Ray Show” was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

While Ray Goulding died of kidney failure in 1990, at the age of 68, Bob Elliott is alive and well and living on Long Island. Today we salute Bob wish him a Happy Birthday.

You can send a birthday greeting to Bob Elliott at: bob@bobandray.com 

…or send him a note at: P.O. Box 53, Planetarium Station, New York, NY 10024-0053. I’m told Bob usually answers his mail.

Happy Birthday Bob… and thank you.

THE SILENCE IS DEAFENING

20 Mar

89 years ago, on Monday, March 20, 1922, actor/comedian Ray Goulding was born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Though he is best-known for his work in radio, Goulding (with comedy partner Bob Elliott) starred in several TV specials and series.

Ray Goulding in the studios of WOR (AM) in December 1974.

Ray Goulding started his career as an announcer on WLLH radio in Lowell around 1939, and then moved to WEEI in Boston just a year later. After serving in World War II, Goulding was hired to read the news for a morning show hosted by Bob Elliott on WHDH in Boston. That fateful pairing would result in a 15 minute radio show called “Matinee with Bob and Ray” and eventually their partnership as the comedy team of Bob & Ray.

Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding in the studios of WOR (AM), December 1974.

Their television careers began on Monday November 26, 1951 when “Bob & Ray” (or “The Bob and Ray Show”) premiered on NBC.  Joining them in sketches and spoofs in this 15 minute program was Audrey Meadows. She was replaced by Cloris Leachman, who was then replaced by Audrey Meadows. The show lasted two years.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bob & Ray on three separate occasions.

The first time was in December 1974 in the studios of WOR radio. 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’re wearing “Wally Ballou for Mayor” buttons given to us that day by Bob & Ray.

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

The second time we met was in 1979. The photos we took in 1974 gained us access to Bob & Ray’s dressing room after their masterful performance in the NBC late night comedy special “Bob & Ray, Jane, Laraine & Gilda.” That’s when Bob & Ray were kind enough to autograph these photos.

From Approximately Coast to Coast… It’s The Bob and Ray Show published by Atheneum in 1983.

The third, and last, time I met Bob & Ray was in 1983 when they came up to WPIX-TV to be interviewed about their newest book; From Approximately Coast to Coast… It’s The Bob and Ray Show. I was working at the station at the time and made sure I bought a copy of their book beforehand so I could get another set of autographs. (And yes, I showed them the photos from 1974 to let them know we’d met before).

Autographs in the book: “To Paul – Cheers! Bob Elliott” and “To Paul, All the Best, Ray Goulding”

Rarely does one find geniuses to be so gracious and courteous.

Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1984. “The Bob and Ray Show” was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.

Ray Goulding died of kidney failure in 1990. He was 68. Bob Elliott is alive and well and living on Long Island. He will turn 88 next week. But today we honor Ray Goulding for bringing laughter to my world and the world of television.

THANKS TONY

26 Feb

91 years ago today, on Thursday, February 26, 1920, A. Leonard Rosenberg was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After taking the name Tony Randall he would become a star of stage, screen, and television.

Most sources give Randall’s birth name as Leonard Rosenberg, but according to the 1937 Tulsa Central High School yearbook, he was known as A. Leonard Rosenberg… and according to other sources, which I cannot confirm, the “A” stood for Arthur.

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

It’s “odd” to think of Tony Randall as a Jew from Oklahoma. He was so closely associated with New York and became the quintessential New Yorker. In fact, once when I was about 12, I followed Tony Randall from The Ed Sullivan Theater to The Russian Tea Room. Why? I wanted to see where he was going!

Depending on your age, you might know Randall best from the 1950’s sitcom “Mr. Peepers,” which starred Wally Cox… or you might know him best from his many late night talk show appearances with Johnny Carson, David Letterman, or Conan O’Brien. But it’s safe to say most know Tony Randall best as Felix Unger from ABC’s “The Odd Couple.”

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

Although “The Odd Couple” ran on the network for 5 seasons, it became an absolute smash in syndication, which elevated Randall and co-star Jack Klugman into beloved members of our own families.

Tony Randall died on May 17, 2004 at the age of 84. He was survived by his second wife, Heather Harlan Randall, a daughter, Julia Laurette Randall, now 13-years old, and a son, Jefferson Salvini Randall, now 12.

S.W.A.T.? SWEET!

24 Feb

36 years ago tonight, on Monday, February 24, 1975, the series “S.W.A.T.” premiered on ABC.

One week earlier, on Feb 17, the 2-hour pilot aired, but the first episode of the series was broadcast on this date in TV history.

Postcard sent to fans of “S.W.A.T.” in the 1970s

Like most civilians (and most 14-year olds) I had never heard of a S.W.A.T. team before, but this show made the acronym a common household term. S.W.A.T. stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. In many big city police departments it’s the unit that’s called in for those heavy-duty assignments when street cops just aren’t enough.

The series “S.W.A.T.” was set in an unnamed California city and featured the five men in the unit. Actor Steve Forrest starred as Lt. Dan “Hondo” Harrelson, the Commanding Officer. Second in command was Sgt. David “Deacon” Kay, played by Rod Perry. A young Robert Urich portrayed Officer Jim Street, while James Coleman and Mark Shera played Officers T.J. McCabe and Dominic Luca, respectively.

Reverse side of the same postcard, featuring "autographs" of the actors

S.W.A.T.” was a Spelling-Goldberg production and was technically a spin-off of “The Rookies,” also on ABC. “S.W.A.T.” ran February 1975 until June 1976.

Another fun memory: The “Theme from ‘S.W.A.T.’” performed by Rhythm Heritage became a #1 hit song in 1975.

THIS IS DON PARDO

22 Feb

93 years ago, on Friday, February 22, 1918, Don Pardo, one of television’s greatest and most famous announcers, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts.

His name at birth, however, was Dominick George Pardo – George, because he was born on George Washington’s birthday. 

Don Pardo autograph obtained in 1973 or 1974

Don Pardo autograph obtained in 1973 or 1974

After graduating high school in Providence, Rhode Island Pardo set his sights on acting. While performing with some local theater groups in Providence a producer/director from WJAR radio invited him to join the “20th Century Players” on a weekly one-hour program. This led to a job offer from WJAR as a staff announcer; a job that paid $30/week.

As you no doubt know, Pardo would move on to a job as a staff announcer with NBC in 1944 and spent a record 60 years and 6 months in the job. During those six decades he would become a “household voice.” First on NBC radio, then on television. And for most of us that meant game shows and SNL.

Ticket from “Winning Streak” – an NBC game show hosted by Bill Cullen, with Don Pardo as announcer

The game shows that were lucky enough to have Don Pardo as announcer include the original versions of “The Price Is Right” and “Jeopardy!,” plus a few less successful shows like “Winning Streak and “Jackpot!

Ticket from “Jackpot!” – an NBC game show hosted by Geoff Edwards, with Don Pardo as announcer

In the early 1970s, when Pardo was a fixture on NBC game shows produced in New York, I was a fixture in their audiences. I had a lot of free time – after all, I was 12 years old. But in addition to seeing TV shows, my friend and I liked to tour the building at 30 Rock – but not the official NBC tour or RCA Building tour… we took our own tours.

It’s hard to believe in this era of high-security, but in the early 1970s there was no guard stationed by the NBC studio elevators in the RCA Building. Businessmen (and pre-teens) could walk into the elevators and go anywhere they wanted. So we did. Often. For several years.

One time the security guard on the 7th floor, leading to the NBC commissary, yelled at us to “get outta here” or he’d “break our asses.” Another time, we peeked into an empty Studio 6B, or so we thought. There in the back of the audience seating was a group of 5 or 6 NBC Pages. We ran. They ran after us. It was quite the British farce now that I think about it. So what do these stories have to do with Don Pardo? It’s how I got the autograph seen below.

Don Pardo autograph obtained in 1973 or 1974

Don Pardo autograph obtained in 1973 or 1974

My annoying friend and I got into an elevator with Don Pardo sometime around 1973 or 1974. I was thrilled to just see the man in person, say hello, and get an autograph. My annoying friend needed more. He asked Pardo to say, “This is Don Pardo.” It was clear that the man didn’t want to say, “This is Don Pardo,” but my annoying friend wouldn’t stop asking, then TELLING him to say, “This is Don Pardo.”

Say ‘this is Don Pardo.’ C’mon, say it. Say ‘this is Don Pardo.’ ‘This is Don Pardo.’” I wanted to strangle my friend and neighbor right there in front of Don Pardo. Surely to get rid of my annoying friend, Pardo acquiesced and said a quick, “This is Don Pardo” in a half-hearted way. (Let me now publicly apologize for my friend’s behavior on that day, so long ago).

SNL

Now… do we really need to tell you about his association with “Saturday Night Live”? Don Pardo was the show’s first and practically ONLY announcer since its premiere in 1975. He was not a part of the show’s seventh season (1981–1982).

Two quick memories of Pardo on SNL:

First… I remember watching the series premiere on October 11, 1975 and hearing him flub the very first introduction of the cast. Instead of saying “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” Pardo accidently flipped two words and said, “The Not for Ready Prime Time Players.

I was also at the dress rehearsal when Pardo performed “I’m the Slime” on SNL with Frank Zappa. It was awesome to see and hear. You shoulda been there!

Pardo retired from NBC in 2004 but continues to announce for SNL. For several years he flew in each week from his retirement home in Tucson, Arizona just to do the job. I’m told that this season he is recording the show’s introductions at home. After all – the man is turning 93 today!!!

Don Pardo was inducted into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame in 2009 and into The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 2010. Both well-deserved.

Happy Birthday Don Pardo. My ears love you.

BIRTHDAY #100

20 Feb

100 years ago today, on Monday, February 20, 1911 children’s TV host Paul Tripp was born in New York City.

Of course, Tripp was much more than simply a “children’s TV host.” He was also an actor, author, musician, and educator.

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

It was Paul Tripp’s work with children that got him and his wife, Ruth Enders Tripp, noticed by TV producers. That eventually landed Tripp a job as “Mr. I Magination” on CBS, Sunday nights from 1949 until 1952.

Tripp and his wife Ruth then hosted a CBS morning show for kids called, “On The Carousel” from 1954 to 1959. During that time Paul Tripp also hosted a summer series for CBS on Sunday nights in 1955 called, “It’s Magic.”

But I best remember Paul Tripp as the host of “Birthday House” on WNBC in New York, from 1963 to 1967. It was a kid’s show, broadcast each morning that was really just one big birthday party.

For others Tripp may be best remembered as the author and creator of “Tubby the Tuba,” a children’s song from the 1940s.

Paul Tripp died in his native New York City on August 29, 2002 at the age of 91. Today I honor the 100th anniversary of his birth simply because he gave me joy when I was a child, and I’m certain he made millions of other children happy as well.

Interestingly, while watching a clip of “Birthday House” this week it made me think of my late mother.

Thank you Paul… and Happy Birthday.

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