Friday, January 28, 2011

James Darren and his television career

Regular readers of TV Banter know that I have been watching a DVD of the first season of The Donna Reed Show.  I discovered that James Darren appeared in an early instalment of the series entitled “April Fool”.  The episode aired on April 1, 1959 and Darren played Buzz Berry, the favourite rock ‘n roll singer of Mary Stone (Shelley Fabares).  In the episode, Buzz arrives in town for a concert.  He has contracted a bad case of the measles and is forced to hide out at the Stone family home for a few days to recuperate.  During the final scene at Mary's school, he dances with Shelley Fabares and sings to her.  (Note: Ted Knight of Mary Tyler Moore Show fame, had a very small role in this "April Fool" episode.  He portrayed a character named Phil Martin)
James Darren was born James William Ercolani in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 8, 1936.  He began his show business career as a teen idol.  His biggest hit song. “Goodbye Cruel World” was #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961.  He played Gidget’s boyfriend, Jeff, also known as “Moondoggie”, in a string of Gidget movies. 
As all you Flintstones fans must know, James Darren was the speaking and singing voice of “Jimmy Darrock” in a March 12, 1965 episode of the animated television series entitled “Surfin’ Fred”.  In the episode, the Flintstones and Rubbles visit Rock Island during a big surfing festival.  Jimmy Darrock, posing as a lifeguard, rescues Fred when his attempts to surf end in disaster.  Below is a photo of Jimmy Darrock on The Flintstones.

From 1966 to 1967, James Darren portrayed a scientist and time traveller, Dr. Tony Newman, in The Time Tunnel.  In the 1970s, Darren appeared as a guest panellist on Match Game.  In the 1980s, he portrayed Officer Jim Corrigan on the police series T.J. Hooker.  
In 1998, James Darren renewed his popularity as a singer when he took on the role of holographic crooner Vic Fontaine in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Many of his performances on the show were re-recorded for the 1999 album This One’s From the Heart.
James Darren is now 74 years old.  He has been married twice.  His first wife was Gloria Terlitsky whom he wed in 1955.  They had one son, Jim Moret, and divorced in 1959.  Moret worked as a CNN anchorman and is probably best known for hosting the cable news network’s coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995.   He is now chief correspondent for the syndicated news program Inside Editon.    
Since February 6, 1960, James Darren has been married to Evy Norlund.  They have two sons, Christian Darren, a writer, and Tony Darren, a musician.
- Joanne

Monday, January 24, 2011

Television Quiz #3

Are you ready for the third TV Banter television quiz?  Get ready and good luck.  There are ten questions.
1.  On Bewitched, the actor who played Samantha’s Uncle Arthur was
A.  Don Knotts
B.  Gayle Gordon
C.  Paul Lynde
D.  Joey Bishop
E.  Art Carney

2.  The voice of Marge Simpson on The Simpsons is provided by
A.  Joan Rivers
B.  Brenda Vaccaro
C.  Joy Behar
D.  Julie Kavner
E.  Marlo Thomas

3.  On The Beverly Hillbillies, what was the name of wealthy banker Milburn Drysdale’s wife?
A.  Margaret
B.  Doris
C.  Jane
D.  Iris
E.  Hilda

4.  Regis Philbin recently announced his retirement.  In the late 1960s, Regis was the sidekick of which television talk show host?
A.  Merv Griffin
B.  Joey Bishop
C.  Dick Cavett
D.  Mike Douglas
E.  Jack Parr

5.  On The Patty Duke Show, what was the name of Patty Lane’s boyfriend?
A.  Richard Harrison
B.  George Davis
C.  Billy Taylor
D.  Richard Patterson
E.  Mike Drake

6.  On Father Knows Best, what was the nickname of Kathy, the youngest of the three Anderson children?
A.  Princess
B.  Kitty
C.  Kat
D.  Kitten
E.  Sweet Cakes

7.  Which of the following television stars was not born in Canada?  (This is tricky.  Give yourself a bonus point if you answer it correctly).
A.  William Shatner
B.  Michael J. Fox
C.  Art Linkletter
D.  Jason Priestly
E.  Kiefer Sutherland

8.  Which of the following television brothers are brothers in real life?
A.  Peter and Bobby Brady on The Brady Bunch
B.  Wally and Beaver Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver
C.  Chip and Ernie Douglas on My Three Sons
D.  Tommy and Nicholas Bradford on Eight is Enough
E.  Frasier and Niles Crane on Frasier

9.  On the short-lived 1965-66 comedy My Mother the Car starring Jerry Van Dyke, who provided the voice of the car (By the way, the car was a 1928 Porter)?
A.  Donna Reed
B.  Bette Davis
C.  Vivian Vance
D.  Ann Sothern
E.  Anne Francis

10.  Before scoring a big hit with Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck was a cast member on a soap opera.  What was the name of the soap opera?
A.  As the World Turns
B.  The Young and the Restless
C.  Days of Our Lives
D.  One Life to Live
E.  All My Children

1.  The answer is C.  Paul Lynde played Uncle Arthur on Bewitched.
2.  The answer is D.  Julie Kavner is the voice of Marge Simpson.  Julie played Brenda Morgenstern, Rhoda’s younger sister on Rhoda.
3.  The answer is A.  His wife was Margaret Drysdale.
4.  The answer is B.  Regis Philbin was Joey Bishop’s sidekick.
To watch a video of Regis and Joey Bishop with guest star Sammy Davis, Jr., click on the link below.
5.  The answer is A.  Patty Lane’s boyfriend was Richard Harrison.  The role of Richard Harrison was played by Eddie Applegate.
6.  The answer is D.  On Father Knows Best, Kathy’s nickname was Kitten.  Her older sister Betty was called Princess.
7.  The answer is E.  Kiefer Sutherland was born in London, England.  He is the son of Canadian actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas.  His parents were working in London at the time of his birth.  After they divorced, Kiefer went to live in Toronto with his mother where he spent his school years.  Kiefer Sutherland has dual Canadian and British citizenship. 
8.  The answer is C.  Stanley Livingston played the role of Chip Douglas on My Three Sons.  His real-life younger brother, Barry Livington, played Chip’s adopted brother, Ernie Douglas.
 9.  The answer is D.  Ann Sothern was the voice of “Mother”.
10.  The answer is B.  Tom Selleck portrayed Jed Andrews on The Young and the Restless from 1974 to 1975.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Whatever happend to Kristin Harmon Nelson?

Born June 25, 1945, Kristin Harmon Nelson is 65 years old now.  When she married actor and singing star Ricky Nelson on April 20, 1963, she was 17 and pregnant with their first child, actress Tracy Nelson (born October 25, 1963).  The couple went on to have three other children – twins Matthew and Gunnar who formed a band called Nelson (born September 20, 1967) and actor/musician Sam Hilliard Nelson (born August 29, 1974.)
After her marriage to Rick Nelson, Kris was immediately thrust into the television spotlight and became both Ozzie and Harriet’s real-life and TV daughter-in-law.  In 2008, when asked if Ozzie and Harriet had embraced her, she replied, “Completely.  When we told them about our engagement, Ozzie’s first comment was, ‘Great, great, can you act?’  I said I didn’t know but it really didn’t matter because anybody who was on the show sounded like Ozzie.  He wrote, directed and controlled everything about it.  He listened to the show with a radio ear, which meant he turned his back on the actors when they spoke so he could hear what he wanted to hear.  He wouldn’t even look at the action.”
Kristin and Rick Nelson were divorced in December of 1982.  After the death of Rick Nelson in a 1985 plane crash, Kris had some very troubled times.  In 1987, she underwent rehabilitation for drug abuse.  Her brother, actor Mark Harmon, and his wife, Pam Dawber (of Mork and Mindy fame), petitioned for custody of 12-year-old Sam on the grounds that Kristin was an unfit mother.  Kristen was eventually given custody of her son, with Mark Harmon granted visitation rights.
Kristin Harmon married television producer and director Mark Tinker in 1988.  Mark is the son of Grant Tinker who was head honcho of NBC and founder of MTM productions.  He is also the former stepson of Mary Tyler Moore who was married to the elder Tinker from 1962 until 1981.  Kristen’s marriage to Mark Tinker ended in divorce in the year 2000.  After the divorce, Kris moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she lives a peaceful life as an artist.  Her art is described as having the primitive feel-good warmth of Grandma Moses.
When Kristin was 17, inspired by the assassination of John F. Kennedy, she expressed her emotions in a painting entitled “When the Kennedys were in the White House”.  A photograph of Kris standing in front of her work appeared in a 1966 issue of Life magazine.  Rick Nelson took the painting to a gallery in Los Angeles where it became the impetus for Kris’s first show.  In an October 21, 2008 interview in, Kris is quoted as saying that Jacqueline Kennedy “somehow saw the brochure for the show and Robert Kennedy called me saying she wanted to buy it.  I told him it was always done for her and that it would be a gift.”  The painting eventually ended up in the possession of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.
Kristin Harmon seems content in Santa Fe.  She first came to New Mexico with Rick in 1970 when he had a gig in Taos.  On another trip, she made a point of visiting Santa Fe and was so taken by the place that she didn’t want to go home.  She is firmly settled there now and her paintings are sold at the Coady Contemporary gallery.  Kris says the one thing she always wanted to be was an artist.
By the way, Kristin Harmon has written a book about her life.  Her autobiography, entitled Out of My Mind, was published in 1997.  It is a coffee table book and includes a collection of her artwork.  Whenever Kris did something zany as a child, her father, football star Tom Harmon, would tell her she was out of her mind.  Her senior year book had a line under her picture that read, “Kris is out of her mind” and it listed all the creative and artistic things she had done.

Readers, I would like to recommend a book to you.  I am reading Growing Up Laughing by Marlo Thomas, Hyperion, 2010.  If you like television comedy, this book is a must.  I am enjoying it immensely.  

-  Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE: (April 27, 2018): According to Tracy Nelson, the daughter of Kris Harmon Nelson, Kris passed away on the night of April 27, 2018.  On her Facebook page, Traci wrote: "My mother, Kristin Harmon Nelson, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly last night.  Love and light are welcome."

EDITOR'S UPDATE:  (May 11, 2018): According to Tracy, Kris died of a heart attack.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

David Nelson: Growing up on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

David Nelson, the last surviving member of the family of Ozzie and Harriet, died yesterday in Century City, California of complications from colon cancer.  He was 74 years old.
Born David Oswald Nelson in New York City on October 24, 1936, Dave was the eldest of Ozzie and Harriet’s two sons.  His younger sibling, Ricky, became a popular singer and a teen idol.  In fact, Rick was one the biggest stars of the early rock and roll era.  David, on the other hand, was quieter and less recognized.  He directed about a dozen episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in the 1960s and went on to spend several decades directing TV commercials and occasional television series and movies.
David and his brother began accompanying their parents on radio in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1949.  The show moved to television in October of 1952 and became a fixture on the tube for 14 years.  It was so influential that when an episode aired on December 11, 1957 in which Ozzie went searching for tutti-frutti ice cream, food stores reported a run on the flavour the next day.
To watch a video of the tutti-frutti episode, click on the link below.
The Nelson boys literally grew up in front of a television audience. Ricky was transformed from an 11-year-old with a crew cut to a real-life teenage idol and then a 25-year-old husband.  The Nelson brothers’ real-life wives become their television wives.  David’s first wife, actress June Blair, appeared on the show from 1961 until the end of the series in 1966.  Rick’s wife, Kristin Harmon (the daughter of football star, Tom Harmon and the sister of actor Mark Harmon) also joined the cast.  She first appeared in the October 9, 1963 episode “Rick’s Wedding Ring”. 
Kris filed for divorce from Rick Nelson in October of 1977.  The couple resolved their differences, but the reconciliation was only temporary.  Kris again filed for divorce in 1980.  Her breakup with Rick was nasty and acrimonious.  Ricky Nelson died in a plane crash on December 31, 1985 at the age of 45.  The day after Christmas, he and his band had begun a three-stop tour of the Southern U.S. and they were headed for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Dallas Texas.  Their plane crashed northeast of Dallas killing seven people including Rick and his fiancee, Helen Blair.
Ozzie Nelson died of liver cancer on June 3, 1975 at the age of 69.  His wife Harriet died of congestive heart failure at Laguna, Beach, California on October 2, 1994.  She was 85 years old.  David and June divorced in 1975.  That same year, David married Yvonne O’Connor Huston and adopted her three children, including actress Terri Nelson.  David and Yvonne remained together until his death.
It must have been difficult to be a member of television’s ideal family.  In a 1971 Esquire article entitled “The Happy, Happy, Happy Nelsons”, David Nelson remarked that “It’s an awfully big load to carry, to be everyone’s fantasy family.”
- Joanne

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show

If he were still alive, Elvis Aaron Presley would be 76 years old today.  He was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935.  Despite occasional “sightings” and outrageous conspiracy theories, Elvis has indeed left the building..  Although he checked out on August, 16, 1977, “the King” has left us with many indelible memories.
The years 1956 and 1957 were banner years for Elvis Presley.  He was at the pinnacle of the teen idol phase of his career.  During those years, Elvis appeared on the The Ed Sullivan Show three times.  Ed Sullivan agreed to pay Elvis the sum of $50,000 to perform thrice on his show, which was a considerable amount of money at the time.
Although Elvis had appeared on several other national television programs, including Stage Show, The Milton Berle Show and the popular Steve Allen Show, an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was a sine qua non for an entertainer on the rise.  Elvis’s previous television appearances had caused a great deal of controversy.  Many parents and teachers disapproved of his pelvic gyrations and his hip-swivelling.  They considered it to be too provocative and associated both Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll with juvenile delinquency. 
Elvis also received some negative reaction from the press.  Jack Gould of the New York Times stated that “Mr. Presley has no discernible singing ability.”  John Crosby of the New York Herald Tribune described him as “unspeakably untalented and vulgar.” 
Ed Sullivan was reluctant to have Elvis on his show.  He was shrewd enough, however, to know that he had to book Presley for practical reasons.  Ed and Steve Allen were competitors.  Their television shows shared the same time slot, 8:00 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday nights.  The Sullivan show was on CBS and the Allen show was on NBC.  The Steve Allen Show, with Elvis as guest, had attracted about twice the number of viewers as Ed’s show that night.  Sullivan and CBS couldn’t ignore those numbers.
When Elvis first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, on September 9, 1956, Sullivan himself was unable to host the show.  Ed had been in a serious car accident and was recovering in the hospital.  The substitute host was English-born actor Charles Laughton.  Elvis was not on location in New York for the show as he was in Los Angeles filming Love Me Tender.  Laughton hosted the show from the Big Apple and then cut to the stage in Hollywood for Elvis.
The great actor incorrectly introduced Elvis as “Elvin Presley”.  Elvis, dressed in a plaid jacked and clutching his guitar, cleared his throat and replied, “Thank you, Mr. Laughton, Ladies and Gentlemen.  Wow.”  Then he wiped his brow and proclaimed, “This is probably the greatest honour I’ve ever had in my life. Ah. There’s not much I can say except, it really makes you feel good. We want to thank you from the bottom of our heart. And now . . ." "Don't Be Cruel" . . .
During his second set on the show, Elvis sang a short version of “Hound Dog”.  He introduced the song with an on-air comment to the ailing Ed Sullivan.  He said, “Ah, Mr. Sullivan.  We know that somewhere out there you are looking in, and, ah, all the boys and myself, and everybody out here, are looking forward to seeing you back on television."  Elvis then declared, “Friends, as a great philosopher once said, ‘You ain’t  nothin’ but a Hound Dog . . .’”
To watch Elvis singing “Hound Dog” in 1956 on The Ed Sullivan Show, click on the link below.
Elvis Presley’s initial appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show attracted some 60 million viewers and a whopping 82.6 percent of the television audience.  Elvis made a second appearance on October 28, 1956 and a third and final appearance on January 6, 1957.  On that program, Ed Sullivan told Elvis on camera that his show had never a better experience with a name act, and added, “I wanted to say to Elvis and the country, that this is a real decent, fine boy.”  Nevertheless, it was on that January 6th appearance that CBS censors would not permit Elvis’s entire body to be shown on television.  He was only seen from the waist up. 
In one segment of Elvis's last appearance on the Sullivan show, Elvis and The Jordinaires sang “Peace in the Valley” and dedicated it to earthquake victims in Eastern Europe.  It was Elvis’s performances of Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog”, however, that really whipped the studio audience into a frenzy.  Their screams and loud applause were clearly audible to television audiences and made viewers aware of what Elvis was doing despite the censorship.
Watch this video of Elvis singing Hound Dog as censored by CBS and compare it to the 1956 uncensored video of Hound Dog above.  Click on the link below.
- Joanne

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Farewell, Anne Francis

Anne Francis died on January 2, 2011 of complications from pancreatic cancer.  She passed away at a Santa Barbara nursing home at the age of 80.  Born in Ossining, New York on September 16, 1930, Anne worked at a young age as a model to assist her family during the Depression.  She made her film debut in This Time for Keeps (1947).  Although her first leading role was in The Blackboard Jungle (1955), she is best known for her performance as Altaira in the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet.
Through the years, Anne made scores of television appearances and performed in a number of TV movies.  However, she is best remembered for her starring role in Honey West.  Honey West was a short-lived series.  It ran on the ABC network from September 17, 1965 until September 2, 1966 and there were only 30 episodes.  One of the executive producers of the show was some guy named Aaron Spelling.  I wonder whatever happened to him.
Although Honey West did not last long, it made quite an impact.  Anne Francis played the title character, a woman who had inherited her late father’s private detective firm.  It must be remembered that an independent female detective was very rare back in 1965, especially one like Honey West.  She was skilled in judo and karate and owned some amazing devices, including a lipstick that contained a radio transmitter and tear-gas earrings.  Oh yes, she even had a pet ocelot named Bruce.
In the 1960s, Anne Francis appeared in two episodes of one of my favourite television series, The Twilight Zone.  She starred as Marsha White in a 1960 episode entitled "The After Hours" in which department store mannequins come to life.  In a 1963 episode called "Jess-Bell", she played a woman who is determined to prevent her ex-boyfriend from marrying his fiancĂ©e. 

During the '60s, Anne also made appearances in such programs as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Burke's Law (in which she first  played the role of Honey West), The Fugitive and Mission Impossible.
In the 1970s and '80s, Anne was a frequent guest star on television.  She showed up in such TV shows as The F.B.I., Cannon, Columbo, Barnaby Jones, Wonder Woman, Police Woman, Fantasy Island, Simon and Simon, Trapper John, M.D., Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs Hawaii Five-0 and The Golden Girls.  In 1981, she played the role of Arliss Cooper in four episodes of Dallas. 
During the 1990s, Anne appeared in such series as Wings, Nash Bridges, The Drew Carey Show and Home Improvement.  Her final television appearance was in 2004 in Without a Trace.
Rest in Peace, Anne Lloyd Francis.

Note to fans of The Twilight Zone:  If you are crazy about Rod Serling’s iconic series, you just have to check out a website called My Life in the Shadow of The Twilight Zone.  It is the most comprehensive and interesting collection of information and commentary about The Twilight Zone that I have ever seen.  I highly recommend that you check it out at

- Joanne

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Yvonne Craig and the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention

In a previous posting on December 26, 2010 entitled "The Villains of Batman," I mentioned Yvonne Craig who played Batgirl in the series.  I promised my readers that I would find out what she’s been up to lately.  Here’s what I’ve discovered. 

Although Yvonne Craig is best known for her appearances in 26 episodes of the Batman series, she has over 150 television guest appearances to her credit, including Mod Squad, Love, American Style, Star Trek, Emergency, Kojak, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and It Takes a Thief. 

Yvonne is 73 years old now and she has been doing some voice acting.  I checked her website at and it listed the appearances she will be making in 2011.  I learned that in August she will be a guest at the Creation Las Vegas Show which will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of Star Trek.  That’s right, folks, Star Trek will be 45 years old. 
For all you Trekkies out there, Creation Entertainment’s Official Star Trek Convention runs from August 11-14, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, check out the website below.

Confidential to Yvonne Craig:
Hey, Yvonne, if you are reading this, I’d like to hear from you.  Send me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to publish what you have to say on TV Banter.

- Joanne

EDITOR'S UPDATE (September 8, 2015):  Yvonne Craig passed away on August 17, 2015 after a two-year battle with breast cancer.  She died at her home in Pacific Palisades, California at the age of 78.  R.I.P. Yvonne.