Saturday, January 26, 2008

Back in the Day

By Mitchell

It's been awhile since we've taken a look back through the pages of TV Guide, and since there's not much else going on right now why don't we open one up and see what's inside?

The latest addition to the Hadley collection is this issue from December 28, 1963, covering New Year's Day, 1964. On the cover you see the 17-year-old Patty Duke, star of The Patty Duke Show, in which she plays twin cousins Patty and Cathy Lane. This show was a modest success, running for three seasons and producing a memorable theme song. The article itself (written by an unbylined author) wasn't particularly flattering, commenting on Duke's lack of personality; one might say, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, that there was no there there. Of course, given what we know about Duke's difficult childhood, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that she came across as little more than a programmed robot with no independent thoughts of her own.

It's interesting, however, to see the different attitude TV Guide had about it's subjects. Back in the day, TV Guide wasn't merely a shill for the stars' publicity machines; at the same time, the writers often appeared to go out of their way to take shots at those whom they profiled, either outright or through snide insinuation.

Take, for instance, Richard Gehman's piece on Joey Bishop, whose sitcom was entering its third season. Bishop had by that time garnered a reputation as being difficult to work with, a trait which Gehman is eagar to analyze. Speaking of the two major influences on Bishop's career - Frank Sinatra and Jack Paar - Gehman comments, "Some of their arrogance - the necesary cockiness of deep insecurity - has rubbed off on him." I'm sure Bishop appreciated the free psychoanalysis. Again, while Gehman may be making an astute observation on Bishop, with comments such as this peppered throughout the article, it appears as if he takes particular pleasure in doing so.

Here's another article on an actress named Katherine Crawford. Only 19, her television career has just started, with appearances on programs such as Kraft Suspense Theatre and Alfred Hitchcock. She's cute enough, and apparently had talent, but her major advantage was that she was the daughter of Roy Huggins, creator of The Fugitive, The Invaders, and other TV hits. In the title of the article (also anonymously authoried), Crawford proclaims, "I'll be acting till I'm 70." As you can see from her IMDB profile, her last credit was in the series Gemini Man in 1976. Well, she made it to 32, anyway. And by the way, I don't mean for that comment to be snarky - she could well have gone on to a life more productive and more fulfilling than most of us. It's just that it never ceases to be fascinating how short the lifespan of "the next big thing" can sometimes be.

There is, for example, a program ABC broadcast on Saturday, December 28 entitled "Hollywood Deb Star Ball 1964," in which we meet "the lovely Deb [for debutante] Stars, slated for future stardom by major Hollywood studios." Well, let's take a look. There's Meredith MacRae, daughter of Gordon and Sheila MacRae, who just happened to be the hosts of the show. She did pretty well for herself. There's the aforementioned Katherine Crawford. There's Susan Seaforth, who as Susan Seaforth Hayes became a huge soap opera star. One of her Days of Our Lives co-stars, Brenda Benet, who was perhaps as well known for being Bill Bixby's ex-wife, was there as well. Linda Evans, star of Dynasty, was one of the Deb Stars, as was Chris Noel, whose remarkable life led her from a modest Hollywood career to her vocation as a radio host and entertainer stationed in Vietnam for the Armed Forces Network, travelling to locations considered too dangerous for Bob Hope and other celebrities. Claudia Martin, Deano's daughter, was one of the ten starlets, and I think it's safe to say that her bloodlines were her biggest claim to Hollywood fame. And then there were Shelly Ames, Anna Capri and Amadee Chabot, who scored minor successes at best. Why do some careers take off while others flounder? Who knows.

Remember Guy Lombardo? He was on hand, as usual, on New Year's Eve, entertaining with his Royal Canadians from Grand Central Station in New York City. Remember when football bowl games were all played in the daytime? Back in 1964 they were, as the Orange (Auburn vs. Nebraska), Sugar (Alabama vs. Mississippi) and Cotton (#1 Texas vs. #2 Navy) were all played at the same time, acting as joint opening acts for the Rose (Illinois vs. Washington), which started at 3:45 Central time and ended the college football season. And what about all those other bowl games that came before New Year's Day? Well, during this week there was only one - the Gator (Air Force vs. North Carolina), on Saturday afternoon. As you can see, service academy football was still big back in the early 60s.

On Sunday, December 29, it's the television premiere on ABC of the documentary "The Making of the President 1960," based on the Pulitzer winner by Theodore White. And speaking of which, it was only a little more than a month since JFK's assassination, and a letter writer notes her appreciation for the television industry's "finest hour" of broadcasting coverage. I would imagine the holiday season might have been a little more somber that year than in years past.

As I have said often, TV Guide is - or was - one of the prime cultural indicators of the past. For the cultural archaeologist, it's like opening a treasure chest. It reminds us not only of days gone by, the things that were, but, as in the case of the Deb Ball, some of the things - or careers - that never were. And it is nice, isn't it, to sometimes be able to look to the future in blissful ignorance of what we know is to come? A pity that we can't be more optimistic like that all the time, but then, times have changed. And not always for the best.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Remember: Think Before Commenting.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...