Friday, December 30, 2011

Brady Bunch Guest Stars


The Brady Bunch ran for five seasons, from 1969 until 1974 on ABC.  During its run, the series featured many celebrity guest stars.  Here are descriptions of some of the most notable guest appearances on the show.

* Desi Arnaz, Jr., the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, appeared on The Brady Bunch during his teen heartthrob days.  In a Season One episode titled "The Possible Dream," Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) meets Desi after writing about him in her diary.  The episode aired on February 27, 1970.  Oh yes, we must not forget Marcia's heartfelt declaration after receiving her first kiss from Desi Jr.  "I'll never wash this cheek again!" she says dreamily.

Desi Jr. kisses Marcia

* Former football star Joe Namath guest-starred on a Season Five episode entitled "Mail Order Hero."  In that episode, which aired on September 21, 1973, Broadway Joe visits Bobby Brady (Mike Lookinland) because he mistakenly believes that Bobby is suffering from a terminal illness.

* In a Season Three episode, Davy Jones of the Monkees performs the song "Girl" at a music studio, visits the Brady home and promises to escort Marcia to her school dance.  The episode, titled "Getting Davy Jones," aired December 10, 1971.  Trivia note: Marcia Wallace, who portrayed Carol on The Bob Newhart Show, played the role of Marcia Brady's teacher in his episode.

Davy Jones on The Brady Bunch

To watch Davy Jones as he sings "Girl" on The Brady Bunch, click on the link below.

* Marion Ross, the actress who later became famous as Marion Cunningham, the mother on Happy Days, played the part of Dr. Porter, a doctor who treats the Brady girls' measles in a Season One episode.  "Is There a Doctor in the House?" aired on December 26. 1969.

Marion Ross as Dr. Porter

* Hawaiian singer Don Ho appeared in the first of a three-part Season Four opener called"Hawaii Bound."  "Hawaii Bound was filmed on location in Hawaii and the first segment aired on September 22, 1972.  In Part One, Ho serenades the two youngest Brady children, Bobby and Cindy (Susan Olsen).  By the way, Don Ho passed away in Waikiki on April 14, 2007 of heart failure.  He was 76 years old.

To watch "Hawaii Bound," click on the link below.

* The late horror actor Vincent Price appeared in two of the three segments of the Hawaii episode.  He played the role of the dastardly Professor Hubert Whitehead in "Pass the Tabu" (Part Two) and "The Tiki Caves" (Part Three).  Whitehead holds the Brady boys hostage until they are rescued by their parents, Mike (Robert Reed) and Carol (Florence Henderson).

Vincent Price, a lifelong smoker, died of lung cancer and emphysema on October 25, 1993.  He was 82 years old.

* Comic actress Imogene Coca is best remembered for her role opposite Sid Caesar in the 1950s variety series Your Show of Shows. In 1972, she played the Brady girls' eccentric Aunt Jenny in a Season Three episode entitled "Jan's Aunt Jenny."  In this episode, Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) sees a photograph of Aunt Jenny and fears that she will grow up to resemble her aunt.  FYI: Imogene Coca died in Westport, Connecticut on June 2, 2001 at the age of 92.

Imogene Coca as Aunt Jenny with Eve Plumb.

- Joanne

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bing Crosby and David Bowie: Their duet on Bing's last Christmas special

Eighty-something crooner Tony Bennett has made a habit of recording duets with much younger artists such as Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse.  Intergenerational duets, however, are nothing new.

Bing Crosby was 74 years old in September of 1977 when he and his family and singer Rosemary Clooney embarked on a concert tour of England.  The tour included two weeks at the famed London Palladium.  While in England, Crosby recorded his final album, Seasons, and his last television appearance, a Christmas special.

The special was called Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas and Bing's guest star was 27-year-old British rock star David Bowie.  The two singers recorded a duet of "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth" for the show.  They taped the segment in London on September 11, 1977.

The original plan had been for Bowie to sing "The Little Drummer Boy" along with Bing.  David, however, did not feel comfortable with the song and his voice did not adapt well to it.  Composer/lyricists Buz Cohan, Larry Grossman and Ian Frasier quickly whipped up "Peace on Earth" which suited Bowie's voice much better.  Bing and Bowie met the morning of the taping, rehearsed for an hour and finished their duet in only three takes.

Crosby and Bowie made an unlikely pair.  They were men of different generations and different lifestyles.  The flamboyant Bowie, known for wearing makeup on stage, appeared much more conservative on Bing's special.  There was nary a hint of his androgynous persona because he was scrubbed clean of his usual mascara and fingernail polish.  For the TV special, Crosby wore a comfortable cardigan and the usually outlandish Bowie was almost unrecognizable with his neatly-combed hair and royal blue blazer.

Bing had no idea of who David Bowie really was.  If he had been better informed, it is almost certain that the collaboration wouldn't have taken place.  In an interview four days after the filming of the Christmas special, Bing described Bowie as "a clean cut kid and a real fine asset to the show.  He sings well, has a great voice and reads lines well.  He could be a good actor if he wanted."  Crosby, of course, was unaware that David Bowie had already starred in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth.

If Bing were so uninformed about David Bowie, how then did the pairing of this proverbial odd couple happen?  What brought about their collaboration?  Bing, it seems, wanted a young star to appear on his Christmas special and someone mentioned the name of David Bowie.  Although Bing had never heard of David, his children certainly had. An invitation was sent to Bowie and he accepted enthusiastically.  Surprisingly, he was a fan of Bing's.

After his tour of England was completed, Bing Crosby flew to Spain on his own.  His intention was to do some hunting and golfing there.  On the evening of October 14, 1977, however, Crosby, who had a heart condition, collapsed after playing 18 holes of golf near Madrid.  He died of a massive heart attack.

Bing's final Christmas special aired on November 30, 1977, just weeks after his death and his duet with David Bowie generated a great deal of public interest.  It became a perennial music video, best-selling single and a CD-ROM.

In the June 5, 1999 issue of TV Guide, the Crosby-Bowie performance was selected as one of the 25 best television moments of the 20th century and their duet turned out to be a great Christmas song.  Yet, if Bing had known more about David Bowie and his underground lifestyle, it probably wouldn't have come about. 

To watch a video clip of David Bowie on Bing Crosby's Merrie Old Christmas, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Friday, December 2, 2011

More televison pets: From Jed Clampett's dog to Mr. Ed

On April 25, 2011, I wrote about well known pets on television shows.  I profiled such TV pet luminaries as Fred the Cockatoo on Baretta and Arnold the Pig on Green Acres.  At the end of my posting, I said there would be future postings about television pets on TV Banter.  As promised, here is some more about TV animals.

Ann B. Davis (Alice on The Brady Bunch) and Tiger

On The Brady Bunch, the Brady family had a pet dog named Tiger.  In real life, the original Tiger died after being run over by a florist's truck.  It happened during the filming of an episode of the series titled "Katchoo."  In that 1969 episode, the Bradys fear that daughter Jan (Eve Plumb) is allergic to the family dog.

The Clampetts and Duke

Remember how Elly May Clampett loved her critters on The Beverly Hillbillies?  There was, however, one critter who was more associated with Elly's father, Jed.  It was Jed's sleepy hound dog, Duke. 

Duke, a blood hound, was Jed Clampett's hunting dog.  When the Ozark hillbilly family moved to Beverly Hills after striking oil, Duke became increasingly lazy.  The canine just sat around the mansion all day.  Jed, who bemoaned Duke's behaviour, once remarked, "There's a dog who could trail a butterfly through a rain storm.  Now he couldn't smell cabbage cooking."

Duke was portrayed by canine actor Stretch who had appeared in the military comedy No Time for Sergeants with Andy Griffith.  When Stretch reached the age of 13, he was replaced on The Beverly Hillbillies by a younger bloodhound.

Honey West (Anne Francis) with Bruce

In the 1965-66 detective series Honey West, starring the late Anne Francis, Honey had a pet ocelot named Bruce.  According to Ronald L. Smith in his book Sweethearts of 60s TV, "The powerful thirty-pound animal pelted Anne around with his paws, leaving her black and blue.  When he chomped on her hand and drew blood, she had to have a tetanus shot."

Various South American ocelots played the role of Bruce.  Animal trainer Ralph Helfer, who supplied the wild cats, is quoted in The Encyclopedia of TV Pets as saying, "Anne Francis was a sweetheart, one of the few who that didn't mind if the ocelot scratched her a little bit when it jumped on her lap."  Helfer described the late actress as "a real animal lover."

Ted and Button the Chimp

How can we forget a pet monkey on a television series?  Back in 1972, the late Ted Bessell of That Girl fame starred in his own short-lived sitcom.  It was called Me and the Chimp and Bessell portrayed a dentist named Mike Reynolds.  Reynolds lived with his wife Liz, their children, Scott and Kitty, and a trouble making chimp named Buttons. 

Unfortunately for Ted Bessell, Me and the Chimp was a complete flop.  Critics panned it savagely to the point where Ted was forced to turn to directing in order to find work.  He died on October 6, 1996 of an aortic aneurysm.  At the time of his passing, he was 61 years old.

Alan Young and Connie Hines with Mr. Ed

The popular sitcom Mr. Ed (1961-1966) featured a talking equine.  Mr. Ed was a horse who only spoke to his owner, good-natured architect Wilbur Post (played by Alan Young).  Connie Hines had the role of Wilbur's wife, Carol Post. 
Ed was portrayed by a palomino named Bamboo Harvester.  The gelding was foaled in California in 1949 and trained by Les Hilton, a protege of Will Rogers.  In 1968, two years after the cancellation of Mr. Ed, Bamboo's health began to decline.  He suffered from a variety of ailments and was euthanized in 1970 at the age of 20.

You might wonder who provided Mr. Ed's deep voice.  It was cowboy star Allen Lane.  Lane, who was never credited during the run of the series, died of cancer in 1973.  He was 64.

As for Alan Young, he is now 92 years old.  His television wife, Connie Hines, passed away on December 18, 2009 at the age of 78.

- Joanne