Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hollywood Palace (ABC-TV, October 9, 1965)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I ran Charles a quite interesting download from archive.org I had just burned to disc: the October 9, 1965 Hollywood Palace program hosted by Joan Crawford (one of the things that came up when I did an archive.org search for her — I was hoping they’d have her Brunswick records, but they didn’t) and featuring some of the same dorky acrobat acts and dance troupes that also appeared on Ed Sullivan (and which begged the question of where else these people worked!) as well as a brilliant set by the Black comedian Godfrey Cambridge (whom I always wanted to see play Charlie Parker in a movie: he was not only a skilled actor but his resemblance to the real Parker was almost uncanny — and when he died in 1975 on the eve of filming a TV-movie about the Entebbe hostage raid, in which he was supposed to play Idi Amin, I thought, “There goes the Charlie Parker movie” — ironically, the Parker biopic was made in 1988 with Joel Oliansky as screenwriter and Clint Eastwood as director, and Parker was played by Forest Whitaker … who 18 years later would win the Academy Award for The Last King of Scotland, in which he played, you guessed it, Idi Amin), two songs by Jack Jones (including a version of the Mondo Cane theme song “More” by Riz Ortolani) and one by Joanie Summers, whom Crawford introduced with the lines, “Of course I may seem a bit partial, but this charming lady happens to be my favorite singer. I guess it’s because she always hits the spot, and for those who think young, here she is, Miss Joni Summers.” Just about anyone who was alive and sentient in the mid-1960’s will recognize those lines as catch-phrases from the Pepsi-Cola commercials of the day, and indeed Miss Joni Summers was the pitchwoman for Pepsi (which Crawford still owned in 1965, having inherited it — and its debts — from her last husband, Pepsi founder Alfred Steele), though on this program instead of a soft-drink jingle she did an ill-advised uptempo swing version of Meredith Willson’s lovely ballad from The Music Man, “Till There Was You” (neither Barbara Cook, Shirley Jones, Peggy Lee nor Paul McCartney, who sang lead on the Beatles’ cover of this song, was liable to have been up at night worrying about the competition). Also on the bill was the comedy team of Marty Allen and Steve Rossi, doing a mildly amusing sketch about the Boy Scouts.

The acrobat acts weren’t so bad, actually: there was an eight-member German troupe called the Rodos and a no-hands bicyclist named Lily Yokoi from Japan — and she was astonishing, ending her act by making the bike do a pirouette with herself on it (just how she got enough pedaling done to sustain the momentum a bike needs to keep going was pretty mysterious in itself!). The show we were watching was 46 minutes, cut down from the original hour length by eliminating most of the commercials (one for Sherwin-Williams paint — they had an animated sign on the way from San Francisco to the East Bay when I was growing up that demonstrated in neon their slogan, “Covers the Earth,” with an unseen hand pouring a giant can of paint over a globe and literally covering the earth) and also cutting out a trained animal act called Stebbings’ Boxers, which was just as well as I’m concerned (few things put me off more than watching these sorts of acts with animals, especially dogs), though the show ended with a seemingly endless “inspirational” reading by Crawford that was supposed to be something about the innocence and beauty of children (something Joan Crawford was an expert on, of course!) and just got more and more boring despite Joan throwing all the lessons she’d learned lo those many years ago from the MGM voice-and-diction department of how to put claptrap like that over and make audiences believe it. And it’s an interesting indication of how far removed this show was from the younger audiences and artists who were remaking the world of entertainment that there was no mention that the date this show aired was also John Lennon’s 25th birthday!