January 16th, 2008


WIlliam Gaines On "To Tell The Truth" via Classic Television Showbiz

Classic Television Showbiz, a blog run by Kliph Nesteroff, is far and away one of my favorite sites on the World Wide Wasteland. As the name implies, it's all about that vast wasteland we know and love/loathe called television. More to the point, it's about old clips from TV, culled from the even vaster wasteland known as Youtube, featuring a bevy of celebrity heavy hitters, also-rans and complete obscurities who polluted the airwaves during, oh, let's say the 50's up through the 80's. Pre-cable, post experimental. I guess.

You could lose yourself for days poring through this guided tour of Youtube treasures, zonks and door prizes. Old interview show clips (Carson, Letterman, Paar, Steve Allen, Merv, Mike Douglas -- usually the guests are the attraction), black and white game shows, old kiddie shows (Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney, etc), local right-wing rant fests (Joe Pyne, anyone? Anyone?), shows with restored footage and sponsorship features, bloopers, gaffes, wonky celebrity pairings or appearances (Mike Douglas, Muhammad Ali and a drunk and/or stoned Sly Stone arguing race and politics(!), for one, Frank Zappa on Dance Fever, for another), an emphasis on stand-up comics and teams (lots of Don Rickles, which is a-ok in my book), and more. Sometimes the links lead to clips, sometimes full episodes. Sometimes you get commentary or background information, sometimes you're on your own*.

Here's what finally got me off my ass to plug the site: A recent post featuring an appearance by EC Comics/Mad Magazine publisher William M. Gaines on the game show To Tell The Truth. With a cameo by longtime Mad writer Dick Debartolo, who also wrote for game shows (and who drops a comment on the blog, which features a few short anecdotes about the taping of the Gaines appearance on TTTT).

To tell the truth, To Tell the Truth isn't my favorite old panel show (that would be Garry Moore-era I've Got a Secret, followed by John Daly-era What's My Line), but Sarah and I habitually watched anything the pre-suck Game Show Network ran in their "late night black and white" slot, even the generally dullsville The Name is the Same with Robert Q. Lewis (although Carl Reiner was a panelist several times). Even so, we did catch Hank Ketcham as a contestant on TTTT, as well as Clarence "Ducky" Nash, the vintage voice of Donald Duck. And you get some Tom Posten drollery on the show (along with more than some Kittie Carlisle snobbery), and the host in those days was Bud Collyer, radio and cartoon voice of Superman, among other things.

*And before I forget, and/or screw up this post again as I did several minutes ago, let me quickly add that if you like this stuff at all, you simply owe it to yourself to check out Kliph Nesteroff's amazing posts at the great WFMU blog. While his introductions to the clips on his site can be simple, these posts about often obscure showbiz personalities can be exhaustive, entertaining and informative. Even if you're not aware of or particularly interested in the subject, these write-ups are pretty fascinating, sort of a peek at Drew Friedman's archives, only without the vitriol or lampooning, A recent batch of posts about Murray Roman -- a forgotten "hippie" comic who opened for rock bands and wrote for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -- includes nifty interviews about him with Tommy Smothers and Steve Martin (who also wrote for the Comedy Hour) . Recent posts have covered the venerable career of Milton Delugg (Gong Show bandleader, Jerry Mahoney foil, scorer of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, among other things) and the rise and fall of Doodles Weaver (member of Spike Jones' City Slickers, character actor and uncle of Sigourney Weaver). Nesteroff's posts usually feature a lot of nifty and obscure imagery, press photos, lobby cards, LP covers, etc. And he veers into comics territory fairly often while turning over all those pop culture stones during his research.

It's awesome stuff, and tons of fun. I'd buy a book filled with his showbiz posts.

Click, you fools! Click and be spellbound!