Monday, January 20, 2014

Retro TV Monday - This week in TV Guide: January 14, 1961

After two weeks in the 70s, it's back to this 60s with this issue celebrating the upcoming inauguration of John F. Kennedy as President.

Actually, it's kind of strange (not to say disconcerting), having so recently spent a good amount of time on Kennedy's assassination, to suddenly be propelled backwards to a time before "Ask not," before Camelot, before any of the myth.  In an ideal world I might well be giving you this TV Guide series in chronological order, but I have to go with what I have, and this happens to be the only available issue that fits the bill for what we need this week.*

*Of course, if' you'd like to help me rectify this by expanding my TV Guide collection, I'll be more than happy to accept your donations.  Email me and I'll give you my Paypal account.


Perry Como has no complaints about being labeled a nice guy.  "I suppose it is a tag it's hard to swallow at times.  Mr. Nice Guy.  But what in hell is wrong with that?  I don't know anyone in his right mind who doesn't like to be thought of as a nice person.*"

*Dennis Rodman doesn't count; we're talking about people in their right minds, remember?

Como is the 50s version of the king of cool, with one wife, three children, two homes, two cars and two offices, all of which are an oasis of calm.  As of 1961, Como has been on television longer than any other singer, and NBC pays him $1,250,000 per year for his services.  (He has an additional two-year, $25 million contract with Kraft Foods, sponsor of his show.)  And his biggest problem, according to industry insiders, is that Perry Como is bland.  As one says, "Perry's got all the seven sins - green, envy and so on - but he's blocked them out - almost."  When asked to explain the "almost," the source replies, "Well, he gets just as angry as anybody else if the men's room is locked."

Como's lifestyle would probably be considered unacceptable today, lacking the spicy elements of "celebrity" that seem to be prerequisites for stardom.  He's heard it all, of course, but "It really doesn't make a hell of a lo of difference to me."  But, he adds, ""I've got my moments, like everyone else.  But I hide 'em better'n anyone else*.  That's all it is."  When arguments do arise during production, "It takes me just 10 seconds to tell 'em - to set things straight.  And then maybe they think, 'Maybe this old so-and-so, he's been around, maybe he's right.'  I haven't beat anyone up lately.  Nobody's beat me up.  Maybe they have respect for my old age.  Here's a guy - me - sings a song, goes home, takes a bath, grabs what few dollars he can - of course, I'm exaggerating; it's a damned sight more than a few dollars - and doesn't beat up the old lady. She could probably beat me up.  What do they expect me to do?"

*Obviously, the man is immune to Freudian theories of repression.

Is it just me, or is this kind of refreshing?  It didn't hurt Como's career; his regular series runs until 1967, and his Christmas specials run for years after that.  Perhaps it's because Como was a barber before his musical success, and could probably go back to cutting hair if he wanted.  There's no sense of entitlement from Mr. C, though - "I've had things so good, I've just never really had to worry.  It's a hell of a feeling.  If that's bland, then I'm bland.  And pretty damned glad of it, at that."

Read the whole piece here.

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