Friday, December 31, 2010

Guy Lombardo and New Year's Eve

There was a time when Canadian-born Guy Lombardo’s name was synonymous with television on New Year’s Eve.  Born Gaetano Alberto Lombardo on June 19, 1902 in London, Ontario, Guy Lombardo was the eldest of seven children.  His father, Gaetano Sr., an Italian immigrant to Canada, was a tailor and an amateur singer.  All of the Lombardo children were encouraged to play musical instruments.  Since Guy was the eldest, he was given violin lessons because it was customary for a bandleader to be a violinist.  In 1917, Guy and two of his brothers, Carmen and Lebert, formed a dance band along with pianist Freddie Kretizer.  The quartet became popular in the London, Ontario area. 

The young Lombardo eventually put together a nine-member orchestra consisting of his brothers and other musicians from his hometown.  In November of 1923, the group travelled to Cleveland, Ohio in an attempt to make a breakthrough in the United States.  In March of 1924, the Lombardo band's first recording session took place in Indiana, under the Garnett label.  The band finally had its big break in 1927 when Guy paid a Chicago radio station to broadcast a segment of their performance at the Granada Cafe.  They were a big hit and the radio station was barraged with phone calls.  Guy traded in his violin for a baton and became an orchestra leader.

Although their agent wanted to dress the Lombardo band in Mountie uniforms, Guy rejected the idea.  As an alternative, the band was named the Royal Canadians and promoted itself as playing the “the Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.”  By 1929, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians were performing at the Roosevelt Grill at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.  The Roosevelt Hotel became the home of the band’s live New Year's Eve broadcasts on CBS until 1959.  They then moved to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where they remained until 1976.
Guy Lombardo will always be remembered as Mr. New Year's Eve.  His broadcasts from New York were a major part of celebrations across North America.  Every year, at the stroke of midnight, millions would tune in on their radios, and later their television sets, to hear Lombardo and His Royal Canadians play their signature song, “Auld Lang Syne.”
Guy Lombardo died of a heart attack on November 5, 1977 in Houston, Texas.  He was 75 years old.  Even after his death, the New Year's Eve specials continued on CBS for two years.  His brother Victor Lombardo was brought in for the 1977 New Year's broadcast and became the band's leader.  Unfortunately, Victor lacked stage presence and his leadership created tensions.  Finally, in March of 1978, trumpet player Lebert Lombardo called upon his 31-year-old son Bill to take command of the band.

In 1979, Bill Lombardo opened the band's New Year's Eve telecast with a disco arrangement of "Auld Lang Syne."  Older and more traditional fans were outraged.  Some younger viewers thought it was extremely funny.  CBS was not amused, however, and promptly declined to renew the band's broadcasting contract.  The Royal Canadians also lost their plum spot at the Waldorf-Astoria.  Bill resigned and Lebert retired from the band.  Lebert Lombardo died on June 16, 1993.  (By the way, here is some interesting trivia about Lebert.  His playing style on the trumpet was hampered by a childhood hockey accident.  He lost a front tooth after being hit by an errant puck.)

When Lebert Lombardo severed his ties with the Royal Canadians in 1979, the band was dissolved.  It was revived a decade later in 1989 by musician and bandleader Al Pierson.  It is now billed as Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians with Al Pierson.

Thirty-three years after his death, the music of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians lives on!  Their recording of "Auld Lang Syne" remains the first song of the New Year at Times Square in New York.  This is the legacy of the man from London, Ontario.

To watch a video of Guy Lombardo and New Year’s Eve 1957, click on the link below.

To watch  a tribute to Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians, click on the link below.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here's to you, Mary Tyler Moore!

One of my favourite television stars, the incomparable Mary Tyler Moore, turns 74 years old today.  She was born on December 29, 1936 in Brooklyn New York.  Her father, George Tyler Moore was a clerk for a utilities company.  Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was eight years old.

Mary’s ambition was to be a dancer.  She wound up becoming “Happy Hotpoint”, a tiny, dancing pixie who advertised Hotpoint Appliances during commercial segments on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.  As Happy Hotpoint, Mary was required to wear a heavy corset, heavy makeup and a grey leotard from head to toe.  She had a cute curl on her forehead.
Mary earned about $6,000 for appearing in 39 segments of Happy Hotpoint beginning in 1955.   It all came to an end when she became pregnant and was unable to continue in the role of a slender little elf.  She wrote the following in her 1995 autobiography After All.
Fitting into that Happy's elf costume for the next block of commercials proved to be a challenge.  I was now 3 months pregnant and my breasts reflected that fact.
To view a video of Mary Tyler Moore in a Happy Hotpoint commercial, click on the link below.  (Please note: Although this video is labelled 1954, the sources I have checked say that Mary began her Happy Hotpoint commercials in 1955.)
On July 3, 1956, Mary Tyler Moore gave birth to her only child, by her first husband Richard Meeker.  The child was named Richard Meeker, Jr. and was known as Richie, coincidentally the same name as her fictional son on The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Sadly, Mary’s son died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in October of 1980.  He was only 24 years old.
After the birth of Richie, Mary put her career on hold for a few years.  In 1959, she landed her first regular television role as a telephone receptionist on Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  Her face was never shown.  Viewers only heard her voice and saw her legs.
In 1961, Mary secured the role of Dick Van Dyke’s television wife, Laura Petrie, on The Dick Van Dyke Show.  There was great comedic chemistry between Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.  They were magic together and the show became a classic.

Unlike June Cleaver in the 1950s, Laura Petrie did not wear pearls and an apron.  Often seen in her trademark Capri pants, she represented the ideal suburban housewife of the Kennedy/Johnson era.
After The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966, Mary tried to cultivate a film career.  She appeared in the 1967 musical Thoroughly Modern Millie with Julie Andrews and Carol Channing. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and made money at the box office. 
Mary also starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1969 musical drama Change of Habit.  It was Elvis’s last screen role and MTM played a an incognito nun in the film, forced to choose between a doctor (played by Presley) and the church.  The movie received disappointing reviews.

After Change of Habit, Mary returned to television.  She stayed away from the big screen until her acclaimed Oscar-nominated performance in the 1980 film Ordinary People, directed by Robert Redford.  In Ordinary People, Mary was electrifying as a repressed wife and mother.  She surprised many by playing a character so unlike Laura Petrie and the other women she had previously played.  Here's how Mary explained her decision to portray a different type of character role in the July 25, 1995 edition of the New York Daily News.

I love comedy and I hope always to have it a true part of my life.  But I decided that I was not going to play any more characters with whom I was totally familiar   It doesn’t interest me to play a very nice, very likeable, somewhat naive, vulnerable . . .  you know, all those adorable features of the two lades I’ve played.  
In 1969, Mary Tyler Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker, formed a production company called MTM Enterprises.  Its first project was The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), one of the most memorable and successful situation comedies in television history.  Mary was cast as Mary Richards, a single career woman who was the assistant producer of a Minneapolis television news show. 
Mary Richards is often cited as the first real independent woman on a television comedy.  A case can also be made for the character played by Marlo Thomas in That Girl from 1966 to 1971.  Marlo portrayed Ann Marie, an aspiring actress who lived on her own in New York City.  

Remember too that there was Julia (1968-1971), a groundbreaking show in which Diahann Carroll became the first black female to play the lead role in a televison comedy who was not a domestic.  In the series, Julia Baker was a widowed nurse raising a young son on her own.
One of the most unforgettable TV images of all time is that of Mary Richards tossing her hat in the air as the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show proclaims, “You’re gonna make it after all.”  A bronze statue of Mary’s famous hat toss has been erected near the intersection in Minneapolis where the scene was filmed.
As I mentioned in my November 4, 2010 posting, Mary’s fans will be delighted to know that she will be a guest star on the second-season premiere of Hot in Cleveland on January 19, 2011.  Here’s to you, MTM, on your birthday!  You will always turn the world on with your smile.

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (January 25, 2017):  Beloved actress and TV icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away today at the age of 80.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Villains of Batman

The campy Batman series starring Adam West and Burt Ward made its debut in January of 1966, at a time when colour television was still a novelty.  It was orignially shown twice a week, in half hour segments on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  The first segment always ended with Batman and Robin in dire trouble.  Everything was resolved the next night.  After the first segment, the announcer implored you to "tune in tomorrow, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel”.
Based on the comic strip created by Bob Kane, Batman was an instant hit with a different guest villain every week.  The guest villains were big name actors and entertainers such as Caesar Romero as The Joker, Burgess Meredith as The Penguin and Roddy McDowall as Bookworm.  The Riddler was played by Frank Gorshin (except for one episode when John Astin played the part).
Three different actors took on the role of Mr. Freeze.  They were George Sanders, Otto Preminger and Eli Wallach.  The unfortunate Mr. Freeze was forced to wear a cryogenic suit to survive.  He had to wear the suit at all times, unless inside one of his sub-zero lairs.  His condition was due to an accident that occurred in a laboratory during a fight with Batman.

To watch a video clip in which Adam West as Batman discusses Mr. Freeze's condition, click on the link below.

Vincent Price appeared as Egghead.  Egghead had a pale bald head and a habit of using egg puns in his speech.  For example, he always said “egg- cellent” rather than “excellent" or egg-actly instead of exactly.
Art Carney played The Archer in an episode entitled “Shoot a Crooked Arrow”.  His character, The Archer, was a newly introduced villain dressed in medieval garb. 
Liberace appeared on the show in a dual role.  He played concert pianist Chandell and his evil twin brother Harry.  The two Liberace episodes, entitled "The Devil's Fingers", were the highest rated episodes of the series.
To watch a video of Liberace on as Chandell, click on the link below.
During the series’ run, three women played the role of the villainous Catwoman.  They were Lee Meriwether, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt.  I will never forget the episode in which Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Batman share a kiss.  Robin, played by Burt Ward declares, “Holy Mush!”
To watch an video highlighting the romance between Batman and Catwoman, click on the link below. 
Eartha Kitt was the third and final Catwoman on the series.  She replaced Julie Newmar who was  doing a movie at the time.  Once Eartha took over the role, the attraction between Batman and Catwoman ceased.  Eartha was African-American and Adam West was Caucasion.  Athough Eartha was flirtatious and kittenish, a romance between the two was not considered acceptable on television in the 1960s.  By the way Eartha KItt died two years ago, on Christmas Day in 2008.
Some other big names who appeared as villains on Batman are
* Shelley Winters as Ma Parker
* Ethel Merman as Lola Lasagna
* Milton Berle as Louis the Lilac
* Anne Baxter in two different roles (She played Zelda the Great and Olga, Egghead’s partner in crime)
* Van Johnson as Minstrel
* Carolyn Jones as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds
* Tallulah Bankhead as Black Widow
* Rudy Vallee as Lord Flogg
* Glynis Johns as Lady Penelope Peasoup
* Joan Collins as Siren
* Zsa Zsa Gabor as Minerva
* Cliff Robertson as Shame
* Maurice Evans as The Puzzler
Many celebrities made small cameo appearances on Batman.  They would stick their head out of a window and make comments as the Dynamic Duo climbed up a building using the Bat Rope.  One celebrity I remember peaking out of a window was Art Linkletter.
By the fall of 1967, the series had lost its lustre and ratings began to fall.  The show was cut back to one half-hour episode a week and a new character, Batgirl, was added (Batgirl is the alter ego of Commissioner Gordon’s librarian daughter, Barbara).  The character was portrayed by Yvonne Craig.  Hmmm . . . Whatever happened to her?  I will have to investigate that and report back to you.
Batman may have been the first series to have a “Fonzie jumps the shark” moment.  In the final season of the show, Batman and The Joker compete in a surfing contest and they are seen wearing bathing suits over their costumes.  By that time, The Joker had lost his edge and seemed almost benign. He was more silly than villainous. 

To watch a video clip of Batman and The Joker surfing, click on the link below.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Odds and ends at Christmas

A Merry Christmas to all from TV Banter.  Hope your are enjoying the holiday season.  The banter will return with a new entry tomorrow.

I see that Betty White has been named Entertainer of the Year by the Associated Press.  Congratulations to Betty.  Click on the link below to watch a video about her award.

- Joanne

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bobby Darin

During the late 1950s and early '60s, the ideal age was sweet 16 and it was the right time to be a teenager in love.  There were some popular singers named Bobby back then too.  There was Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton, and of course, Bobby Darin.  Bobby Darin was born Walden Robert Perciville Cassato in The Bronx, New York on May 14, 1936 to a poor family of Italian heritage during the Depression.  His career took off in 1958 with the song "Splish Splash".  "Splish Splash" sold over a million copies. He also hit it big with "Dream Lover" and "Mack the Knife".

In 1960, Bobby Darin married actress Sandra Dee whom he met while making the movie Come September. They had one son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, born in 1961.  The couple divorced in 1967.  Bobby married for the second time in June of 1973, to a legal secretary named Andrea Joy Yaeger.  The two were divorced in October of that same year, shortly before Bobby's death.

In 1968, at the age of 32, Bobby discovered that his "mother" Polly was actually his grandmother and that his "sister" Nina was really his biological mother.  He was stunned by this revelation and it affected him the rest of his days.

Bobby Darin was plagued with health problems all his life.  As a child, he had rheumatic fever which weakened his heart.  He died 37 years ago today, on December 20, 1973.  He was only 37 at the time of his death.  He passed away after undergoing open heart surgery at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Although Bobby Darin is not known primarily as a television performer, he does have a history of numerous TV appearances.  In the summer of 1957, Bobby appeared on The Big Beat, a New York-based program hosted by Alan Freed, the disc jockey who coined the term rock and roll. (According to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946- present, The Big Beat aired from July 12, 1957 until August 2, 1957).  Bobby filled in for Alan Freed, introducing dance numbers, doing a Coke commercial and interviewing contestants for "The Miss April Showers" beauty pageant.  The pageant was held to promote a shampoo for the teeny bopper set called April Showers.
To watch videos of Bobby Darin hosting The Big Beat, click on the link below.

Bobby shot to stardom after singing “Splish Splash” on Dick Clark’s Bandstand in 1958.   In 1961, he hosted a special entitled Bobby Darin and Friends. Bob Hope and Joanie Sommers were among the guests who appeared on that show.  It’s interesting to note that Bobby’s special was directed by Bud York and written by Norman Lear, the two men who were largely responsible for the success of All in the Family.  Bobby Darin and Friends was a pilot for a possible series but was not picked up.  To view a video of Bobby Darin and Friends, click below.

Click on the link below to watch Bobby Darin sing "Dream Lover" in 1963.

In 1964, Bobby Darin appeared on The Jack Benny Program.  To watch Bobby Darin on The Jack Benny Program (Parts 1, 2 and 3), click on the links below.

To view Bobby on the television game show What's My Line? in 1965, click on the link below.

In 1973, just months before his death, he hosted a short-lived musical variety show entitled The Bobby Darin Show.  It ran from January 19, 1973 until April 27, 1973.  Bobby appeared as both a singer and a sketch comedian on the show.  His musical numbers were backed by a full orchestra.  An ongoing theme of the show was to pay tribute to a different city each weak through song and comedy sketches.

- Joanne

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Television Quiz


So you think you know your Yuletide television trivia.  Why not put yourself to the test with this 10-question Christmas television quiz?  Good luck. 

1. What was the name of the song that Fred Flintstone sang on The Flintstones 1964 Christmas episode?

A.  Jingle Bells

B.  Merry Christmas is My Favorite Time of Year

C.  Santa Claus is Coming to Town

D.  Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

E.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

2.  Who provided the voice of both the narrator and The Grinch in the animated television special of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas?

A.  Vincent Price

B.  Orson Welles

C.  Boris Karloff

D. Christopher Plummer

E.  James Earl Jones

3.  In The Brady Bunch Christmas episode, what affliction overcame Carol Brady (Florence Henderson)?

A.  She lost her voice

B.  She was allergic to the Christmas tree.

C.  She had a terrible cough.

D.  She became ill after drinking too much eggnog.

E.  She had a serious case of halitosis.

4.  In the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer animated special with Burl Ives, a North Pole elf named Hermey wanted to pursue another occupation.  What did "misfit" Hermey want to do?

A.  He wanted to be an actor.

B.  He wanted to be a basketball player.

C.  He wanted to be a gourmet chef.

D.  He wanted to be a lawyer.

E.  He wanted to be a dentist.

5.  Who provided the voice of the narrator and sang the title song in the 1969 animated special Frosty the Snowman?

A.  Bing Crosby

B.  Danny Kaye

C.  Jimmy Durante

D.  Louis Armstrong

E.  Robert Goulet

6.  Who appeared as a guest on a 1977 Bing Crosby Christmas special and sang The Little Drummer Boy with Bingo.

A.  Bob Hope

B.  Elton John

C.  Rod Stewart

D.  David Bowie

E. Mick Jagger

7.  In A Charlie Brown Christmas, which character denies sending Charlie Brown a Christmas card after he sarcastically thanks her.

A.  Violet

B.  Lucy

C.  Pepperment Patty

D.  The Little Red-Headed Girl

E. Marcie

8.  In a 1955 Honeymooners episode entitled "Twas the Night Before Christmas," what does Alice buy Ralph for Christmas?

A.  A pool cue

B.  A bowling bag

C.  A fishing rod

D.  A hat

E.  A red and white tie

9.  Who appeared in a guest role in a 1958 episode of The Donna Reed Show entitled "A Very Merry Christmas?" (This is a tough one.  Give yourself a bonus point if you answer it correctly).

A.  Buster Keaton

B.  Buddy Ebsen

C.  Robert Young

D.  Danny Thomas

E.  Art Carney

10.  What was the name of the drummer boy's lamb in the 1968 animated television special The Little Drummer Boy?

A.  Fleece

B.  Lamby

C.  Baabaa

D.  Ali

E.  Sheba


1.  B

Fred Flintstone replaced an ill Santa Claus one Christmas.  As he delivered the gifts to the children, he sang, Merry Christmas is My Favorite Time of Year.

2.  C

To watch a video clip of Boris Karloff narrating How the Grinch Stole Christmas, click the link below.

3.  A

Carol Brady had laryngitis and was concerned that she would be unable to sing in the church choir at Christmas.

4.  E

Hermey the Elf wanted to be a dentist.  To view a video clip of Hermey expressing his aspirations to be a dentist, click on the link below.

5.  C

Jimmy Durante narrated Frosty the Snowman and sang the title song.

To watch a clip of  "da old schnozzola" singing Frosty the Snowman, click on the link below.

6.  D

David Bowie joined Bing Crosby in a rendition of Little Drummer Boy.  To view a video clip of the Crosby-Bowie duet, click on the link below.

7.  A

Violet denied buying Charlie Brown a Christmas card.

8.  B

Alice bought Ralph a bowling bag not knowing that Ralph had sold his bowling ball in order to buy her a Christmas present.

9.  A

Buster Keaton dressed up as Santa Claus for the children at a hospital.  To watch video clips of the episode, click on the link below.

10.  C

The Little Drummer Boy's lamb was named Baabaa.  To watch a video clip of The Little Drummer Boy and his injured lamb, click below.

- Joanne

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Note to a Reader about Coronation Street

Once again, it's time to engage in some friendly banter.   I would like to address the reader who asked me about Coronation Street's connection to the CBC.  The reader is under the impression that Coronation Street is a BBC series.  That is not correct.  Coronation Street is shown in the UK on the private British network called ITV.  ITV stands for Independent Television.  The CBC purchased the rights from ITV to broadcast the show in Canada.

Thank you to the reader and I hope this answers your question satisfactorily. 

- Joanne

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Last Thursday, Coronation Street celebrated its 50th anniversary on the air.  It was first broadcast on December 9, 1960.  Its creator, Tony Warren, originally named the show Florizel Street and thank goodness that didn't last!  Legend has it that the name was changed because Agnes, a tea lady (a British term for a woman who serves tea and refreshments at an office) at Granada Television, remarked that "Florizel" sounds like the name of a disinfectant.  I, for one, can't argue with that.  By the way Granada Television is the ITV franchise for North West England and it has produced Coronation Street since 1960.

I have to admit that I have never been a follower of Coronation Street.  It's not that I don't like it.  It's just that I have never been able to fit it into my daily routine.  However, the venerable British drama (I understand that serious fans become annoyed when it is referred to as a "soap") is hugely popular in Canada.  So if you are a reader from the UK and don't already know this, I'd like you to be aware that Canadians love Coronation Street and that it has a huge following in this country.

The CBC has broadcast the show in Canada for over 40 years.  The network estimates that 6.55 million Canadians have viewed a weeknight airing of Coronation Street this year.  That works out to be about one in five of us.  Last Thursday, to mark the 50th anniversary of Coronation Street, the CBC aired a one-hour special entitled "Corrie Crazy: Canada Loves Coronation Street."


In my November 27, 2010 posting on Shelly Fabares, I mentioned that I've been watching DVDs of the early episodes of The Donna Reed Show.  In a 1959 episode entitled "Have Fun," the Shelley Fabares character, Mary Stone, dates a teenage boy named Harvey Shields.  I noticed that Harvey was played by a very young George Hamilton - yes, he of the eternal tan.  Hamilton was born in August of 1939, so he must have been 19 years old at the time as the episode would have aired before his 20th birthday on August 12, 1959.

- Joanne

Monday, December 6, 2010


Many of the most popular television shows, including I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show,The Beverly Hillbillies and The Flintstones, were sponsored by tobacco companies.  In fact, I Love Lucy was originally sponsored by the Philip Morris tobacco company.  Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were often shown smoking.  Yes, even caveman Fred Flintstone and his friend Barney Rubble were seen puffing away in an ad for Winston cigarettes.   To view the ad, click on the link below.

In 1969, the United States Congress proposed a ban on all cigarette advertising on television and radio.  It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970.  In the United Kingdom, all television commercials for cigarettes were banned on August 1, 1965.  However, commercials for loose tobacco and cigars continued in Britain until 1991.
The last television commercial for cigarettes in the United States was broadcast on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson at exactly one minute before midnight (11:59 p.m.) on January 1, 1971, just before the federal ban came into effect.  The ban took effect on January 2, 1971 in order to allow the cigarette companies one last opportunity to advertise during the New Year's bowl games.  By the way, the final U.S. tobacco ad on television featured model/actress Veronica Hamel.  Hamel went on to star in Hill Street Blues
Mad Men, the hit television series about an advertising agency in the 1960s, has created a stir with its depiction of characters chain-smoking as was common in the '60s (actors actually puff on foul-tasting vegetable cigarettes during the smoking scenes). Some have accused Mad Men of promoting smoking.  Recently, the central character of the show, Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm) has begun an anti-smoking campaign, much to the dismay of his advertising agency. 
U.S. President Barack Obama has stated that he is a big fan of Mad Men.  According to a cover story in the New York Times Magazine, the president had a Mad Men DVD in his campaign plane.  Obama, as we know, is struggling to break the nicotine habit.

NOTE : During my years as a researcher at the library of the Toronto Star, I often chatted with former Star television critic Jim Bawden about TV and movies.  Jim is retired from the Star now, but he writes a blog.  I highly recommend that you read it at

- Joanne

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Recently I've been watching DVDs of early episodes of The Donna Reed Show which aired on ABC from 1958 until 1966.  The show centred around the adventures of the Stone family - Dr. Alex Stone, a pediatrician, his wife Donna, and their two children, Mary and Jeff.  Daughter Mary was played by Shelley Fabares who left the show in 1963 to pursue a movie career.  She co-starred with Elvis Presley in three movies - Girl Happy (1965), Spinout (1966) and Clambake (1967).

Shelley was born Michelle Marie Fabares on January 19, 1944 in Santa Monica, California.  She is now 66 years old and has enjoyed a long and successful acting career.   Here are some of her notable television appearances and roles.

* She appeared in a 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "Leather Jackets."

* She played Joy Piccolo in the 1971 television movie, Brian's Song.

* From 1981 until 1984,, she portrayed Francine Webster on One Day at a Time.

* From 1989 until 1997, she played the role of Christine Armstrong on Coach.

Shelley Fabares sang "Johnny Angel" during the fourth season of The Donna Reed Show.  She performed the teenage love ballad on a February 1, 1962 episode of the series entitled "Donna's Prima Donna."  "Johnny Angel" became a huge hit and reached the top of the Billboard charts on April 7, 1962.  It sold more than a million copies and earned Shelley a gold record.

Watch a video of Shelley Fabares (as Mary Stone) singing "Johnny Angel" on the The Donna Reed Show before her adoring television mother.  Just click on the link below.

To watch a Good Morning America interview with Shelley (circa 1991), click below.

Here are some interesting tidbits about Shelley Fabares.

* Shelley is the niece of singer/dancer Nanette Fabray. Nanette Fabray's real name is Ruby Bernadette Nanette Fabares.

* Sheley has been married to actor Mike Farrell (best known for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H.) since 1984. 

* In October of 2000, at the age of 56, Shelley underwent a liver transplant in Los Angeles.  Her liver had deteriorated as a result of an autoimmune disorder. 

- Joanne

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I recently discovered that the late heavyweight boxing champion, Rocky Marciano, once hosted his own television show.  Many people contend that Marciano was the greatest heavyweight of them all, greater than even Mohammed Ali.  He never lost a bout in his career.  His record was 49-0.  Of his 49 wins, 43 were knockouts. 
Marciano was heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952 until his retirement in April of 1956.  After his retirement, he started to appear on television.  He hosted a ten minute weekly weekend program called The Main Event.  The show originated on the long-defunct Du Mont television network and was eventually syndicated and shown on CBS.
Click on the link below to watch a video of Marciano interviewing “The Great One,” Jackie Gleason, in 1960.  It’s a gem.  I really enjoyed watching it and I hope you do too.
Rocky Marciano made an appearance in an episode of Combat! entitled “Masquerade” which originally aired on October 1, 1963.  He played a soldier who greets a Red Cross truck.  His role was uncredited.  In 1963, Marciano also appeared on some episodes of The Keefe Brasselle Show, a short-lived musical/variety show.  According to The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network TV Shows, its main claim to fame was that a young up-and-coming singer named Barbra Streisand belted out Soon It’s Gonna Rain on its premiere episode.
Sadly, Rocky Marciano was killed in a plane crash in Iowa on August 31, 1969.  His death occurred on the eve of his 46th birthday.

- Joanne

Friday, November 19, 2010


Former talk show host Dick Cavett turns 74 years old today.  Born Richard Alva Cavett in Nebraska on November 19, 1936, Cavett was a gold-medal gymnastics champion in his home state.  He began his career as a stand-up comic and eventually wrote for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  He hosted The Dick Cavett Show on ABC from 1968 to 1975 and on public television from 1977-1982.  He is the author of a recent book entitled Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets.
A diminutive man with a deep, rich voice, Cavett gained a reputation as the thinking man’s talk show host.  He had the ability to engage his guests in witty and intelligent conversation.  His ratings were not as high as those of Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson, but he was a favourite of the critics.
Dick Cavett currently writes a blog for the New York Times.  To view Cavett’s blog, click on the link below.

To watch a video clip of Dick Cavett talking to Orson Welles, click on the link below.

I have begun a new page on this blog in which I have compiled a list of American and Canadian television shows and the cities or towns where they were located.  To view my list, just click on the "Where Does That Show Take Place?" tab above.
- Joanne

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ed Asner!

Happy Birthday to Edward Asner, a television great.  Ed is 81 years old today.  He was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 15, 1929.  His parents, Lizzie and Morris David Asner, were Russian immigrants who raised their son in a Jewish Orthodox household.  The young Ed attended the University of Chicago where he was active in student drama.

Ed Asner starred in two of television's best shows, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) and its spin off, Lou Grant (1977-1982),  His portrayal of the crusty Lou Grant is unforgettable.  Asner is the only actor to win an Emmy award for playing the same role in both a sitcom and a drama. 

During the course of his impressive career, Edward Asner has appeared in some popular and very highly-regarded mini-series.  Most notably, he earned an Emmy for his portrayal of Captain Davies, the man who sold Kunta Kinte into slavery in Roots.  He also played another villainous role in Rich Man, Poor Man as Axel Jordache. 

Most recently, Ed Asner provided the voice of Carl Fredrickson in the acclaimed Oscar-winning animated film Up.

To watch a video of an interview with Ed Asner, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How old was Lucy when Little Ricky and Desi Jr. were born?

All right, let's banter!

QUESTION: A reader wants to know how old Lucy was when she had her baby on I Love Lucy

ANSWER:  Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York.  She gave birth to Little Ricky on the show and to her own son in real life, Desi Arnaz Jr., on the very same day - January 19, 1953.  So, to answer the question, Lucy was 41 years old when she gave birth. 

Thanks to the reader.  I hope to hear from you again.

By the way, Lucy's sidekick, Vivian Vance, was born on July 26, 1909. She was only two years older than Lucille Ball although her character, Ethel Mertz, was supposed to be somewhat older than Lucy.  William Frawley, who played Ethel's husband, Fred Mertz, was born on February 26, 1887.  That means that William Frawley was over 22 years older than Vivian Vance.

- Joanne

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Television Quiz #1

I have a challenge for you today.  From time to time, television quizzes will appear on this website.  Here is the first one. There are ten questions.  Good luck.


1. On The Beverly Hillbillies, how was widower Jed Clampett related to Granny?

A.  She was his great-grandmother.

B.  She was his late wife's grandmother.

C.  She was his late wife's mother.

D.  She was his great aunt.

E.  She was his stepmother.

2.  On The Beverly Hillbillies, what was Granny's real name?

A.  Pearl Bodine

B.  Loretta Clampett

C.  Alice May

D.  Daisy Moses

E.  May Bodine

3.  Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, was the original choice for a famous movie role.  What was that role?

A.  Gene Kelly's part in Singin' in the Rain

B.  Jack Haley's role as The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz

C.  Gene Kelly's role in An American in Paris

D.  Leslie Howard's part as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind

E.  The James Mason role in the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born

4.  On I Love Lucy, what was the hometown of Ethel Mertz, Lucy's best friend.

A.  Albuquerque, New Mexico

B.  Jamestown, New York

C.  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

D.  Newark, New Jersey

E.  Phoenix, Arizona

5.  On I Love Lucy, the original name of the nightclub where Ricky Ricardo performed was The Tropicana.  When Ricky took ownership of the club, what did he rename it?

A.  Club Cuba

B.  Club Babalu

C.  The Havana Club

D.  Ricky's Mambo Palace

E.  Club Ricardo

6.  On I Love Lucy, when Lucy returned from Europe, what food item did she try to smuggle on the airplane in a baby blanket?

A.  cheese

B.  salami

C.  ham

D.  sausage

E.  baloney

7.  Which famous baseball player appeared on an episode of Leave it to Beaver?  

A. Mickey Mantle

B.  Willie Mays

C.  Don Drysdale

D.  Sandy Koufax

E.  Yogi Berra

8.  Who played Lucy Ricardo's old school teacher in an episode of I Love Lucy entitled "Lucy Meets Orson Welles" (Season 6, Episode 3, Air date: October 15, 1956)?

A.  Barbara Stanwyck

B.  Bette Davis

C.  Ellen Corby

D.  Jane Wyman

E.  Tululah Bankhead

9.  Beginning in 1957, Marjorie Lord played Kathy, the second wife of nightclub entertainer Danny Williams on Make Room for Daddy (The Danny Thomas Show).  Jean Hagen played his first wife from 1953 to 1956.  In 1956, Hagen quit the show.  Rather than replacing her, Danny Thomas had her written out of the show by having her die.  What was the name of Danny Williams' first wife?

A.  Betty

B.  Susan

C.  Doris

D.  Margaret

E.  Jane

10.  What was the fate of Edith Bunker of All in the Family?

A.  She was run over by a car and died.

B.  She left Archie and moved in with her daughter Gloria.

C.  She had Alzheimer's disease.

D.  She was poisoned.

E.  She died of a stroke.


1.  The answer is C.  Granny was Jed's mother-in-law, the mother of his late wife.  

2.  The answer is D.  Granny's real name was Daisy Moses.

3.  The answer is B.  Buddy Ebsen was the original choice to play The Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.  He had to forgo the role because he was allergic to the silver make-up required for the part.

4.  The answer is A.  The hometown of Ethel Mertz was Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

5.  The answer is B.  Ricky Ricardo changed the name of The Tropicana to Club Babalu.

6.  The answer is A.  Lucy Ricardo tried to smuggle cheese back from Europe.

7.  The answer is C.  Pitcher Don Drysdale appeared on an episode of Leave it to Beaver entitled "Long Distance Call" (Season 5, Episode 37, Air Date: June 16, 1962).  He later made another guest appearance on The Brady Bunch.  To view a clip of Drysdale on those two shows, click on the link below.

8.  The answer is C.  Ellen Corby, better known as Grandma Walton on The Waltons, played Lucy's former teacher in that episode in which Orson Welles appeared.

9.  The answer is D.  Margaret was the name of Danny Williams' first wife.

10.  The answer is E.  Jean Stapleton, who portrayed Edith Bunker, on All in the Family, wanted to leave her role.  In the first episode of the 1980-81 season of Archie Bunker's Place (the successor to All in the Family, Archie was seen grieving over Edith's unexpected death from a stroke.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tribute to Art Carney

Carney is a champ.

- Jackie Gleason
1960 interview with Rocky Marciano on The Main Event
Art Carney passed away on November 9, 2003, seven years ago today.  He died in Connecticut at the age of 85.  He is best remembered for his role as Ed Norton on The Honeymooners.  Norton was Ralph Kramden’s best friend and everybody’s favourite sewer worker.  He always wore his trademark rumpled fedora and and dressed in a plain white t-shirt with a vest over it. He liked to call his friend “Ralphie boy.”
Although he made his reputation playing Ed Norton, Carney was a terrific actor and gave some fine performances outside of The Honeymooners.  He won an Academy Award in 1974 for his role in Harry and Tonto.  He played a retired teacher in the film.  As a fan of The Twilight Zone, I also remember Art Carney’s touching performance as a drunken, down-and-out Santa Claus of that show.  He starred in an episode entitled “The Night of the Meek.”
To watch a video tribute to Art Carney, click on the link below.

All right, I admit it.  I watched The Partridge Family in the 1970s.  David Cassidy, who rose to stardom as Keith Partridge on the show, was the Justin Bieber of that era, although he was not quite as young as Bieber.  The teenyboppers would swoon when he sang I Think I Love You.  Unfortunately, Cassidy never found much success after the Partridge Family went off the air.  He is now 60 years old and recently he joined the growing list of actors who have had their mug shots plastered all over the Internet. On the night of November 3, 2010, he was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence.
-  Joanne

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore

Soon after writing about Betty White in my last blog entry, I read that Mary Tyler Moore is set to appear on Betty’s current sitcom, Hot in Cleveland.  On January 19, 2011, MTM will be a guest star on the second-season premiere of the popular show.  The two television stars have not appeared together on screen in 33 years.  I’m looking forward to watching that reunion.  They were so great on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  Actually, it would be wonderful to see all the cast members of that show together again.  Are you listening Oprah Winfrey?  That seems to be your specialty since you recently reunited the casts of Love Story and The Sound of Music.  Sadly, Ted Knight who played pompous news broadcaster Ted Baxter, is no longer with us.  He died of cancer on August 26, 1986 at the age of 62.

To watch a video of a 1986 news broadcast announcing Ted Knights’s death, click on the link below.

Hey, Little Mosque on the Prairie fans (yours truly is a fan), our show will be returning on CBC for a fifth season in January.  There will be 13 new episodes for us to enjoy.  In the season finale, Ammar and Rayaan finally admitted their feelings for each other.  Their romance should shake things up in Mercy, Saskatchewan.
By the way, remember when networks produced 26 or 27 episodes per season of a series?  Due to rising production costs, those days are gone.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Betty White

As an octogenarian, television pioneer Betty White has seen a resurgence of her career.  She has recently hosted Saturday Night Live and a younger audience has become acquainted with her.  Betty Marion White was born in Oak Park, Illinois on January 17, 1922.  She is a sprightly 88 years old and busier than ever.
Click on the link below to watch a video clip of Betty White singing in the opening sequence of The Betty White Show in 1954.
To watch a 1954 video clip of Betty White in the old Life with Elizabeth series, click below.
Life With Elizabeth was a syndicated series.  65 episodes were produced from 1953 to 1955.  It was the first starring vehicle for Betty White.  Each program consisted of three separate incidents in the life of Elizabeth and her husband Alvin.  Alvin was played by Del Moore.
- Joanne

Friday, October 29, 2010

Caroll O'Connor

All In the Family was first broadcast in January of 1971.  Before Carroll O’Connor began playing Archie Bunker, he appeared in a February, 1967 episode of That Girl with Marlo Thomas.  O’Connor played a temperamental Italian opera singer named Giuseppe Casanetti.  His blue Irish eyes betrayed the fact that he wasn’t really Italian.  The name of the episode was “A Tenor’s Loving Care.” 
Carroll O’Connor’s character was a womanizer with a beard and an Italian accent.  To see what he looked like, click on the link below

It is interesting that Carroll O’Connor’s co-star on All In the Family
 also appeared on That Girl.  Yes, Rob Reiner, the Meathead
 himself, appeared on three episodes of the Marlo Thomas series.
  A young Reiner played an acting student in a December 1, 1966
 episode entitled “All About Ann.”  H played a character called
 named Carl in “This Little Piggy Had A Ball,” a March 23, 1967
 episode.  On September 14, 1967, he appeared as a hairdresser in
 “The Good Skate.”

Here is a video of an excellent  1999 interview with Carroll
 O’Connor.  Click the link below. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let the Banter Begin!

All right, let's get ready to banter!  To start, let's talk about the original version of The Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph.  I think Ralph Kramden had the starkest and poorest apartment I've ever seen on a television sitcom.  Do you remember that Ralph and Alice didn't even have a telephone or a refrigerator?  If you would like to discuss The Honeymooners or any other program, please contact me.

Goodbye to June and Mr. C.

We lost two of the most famous television parents recenlty - Barbara Billingsley,  June Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver and Tom Bosley, Howard Cunningham of Happy Days.  If you have any thoughts or questions about either of them, please send them to me.

Tribute to Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone

I am a huge fan of Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone.  Rod was so creative and imaginative.  It's also interesting to watch his vision of the future from his vantage point in the 1960s.  One of my favourite Twilight Zone episodes was the one starring Telly Savalis about a murderous doll called Talking Tina.  Do you remember that one?  I'd like to know your favourite Twighlight Zone episodes.

Here is a video of Rob Serling introducing and promoting The Twilight Zone  Just click on the link below and enjoy.

Here is a video of The Twilight Zone opening theme.

- Joanne