Ed McMahon

I have one Ed McMahon story and it involves my very secretive friend from the San Fernando Valley and his spectacularly beautiful wife. I asked if he could get me tickets to see The Tonight Show and he asked her.

ed-and-johnny.jpgFor the past few days I’ve been torn as to whether there should be an Ed McMahon entry in the blog. Though a huge presence on television he struck me as a man with little personal integrity. He sold what can politely be called “crap” on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and never really changed. Seemingly he’d shill any product.

His moral code aside, where he was really excellent was as Johnny Carson’s announcer/sidekick. Howard Lapides coined the term we liberally sprinkled Ed’s way. It was “FL” for fake laugh. If Carson intended something to be funny then it was funny to Ed! His laugh was loud and recognizable.

Don’t underestimate this power. The Tonight Show was ‘sweetened’ in real time by Ed. No post-production house could add a laugh track that would help as much.

I have one Ed McMahon story and it involves my very secretive friend from the San Fernando Valley and his spectacularly beautiful wife. I asked if he could get me tickets to see The Tonight Show and he asked her. She had been a page at NBC. She’d even appeared on The Tonight Show giving Johnny the prize envelopes on Stump The Band!

Her specialty was making sure you’d be seated “DIF” or “down-in-front.” That’s where I sat. Thank you Sue.

There are few places I’ve been that immediately seemed so eerily familiar–Mission Control in Houston and the big digital clock at the shuttle launch facility in Florida, CNN’s newsroom, the floor of the NYSE and Carson’s studio on West Alameda in Burbank. I’d seen it a thousand times before I ever set a foot inside.

The crowd entered and politely sat. We were excited. As taping time approached the band played a number and Ed came out to warm everyone up.

“There seems to have been a mistake–a clerical error,” he said.

The audience sighed worrying what was wrong and how it would affect our best laid plans.

“I don’t know how,” he continued, “but Johnny, Doc and I have been scheduled to work on the same night!”

The audience went nuts!

I remember that moment as if it was yesterday–in fact it is the only part of my Tonight Show experience I remember.

Back On The Radio

Yesterday, I wrote about my bad decision… sleeping late on Sunday. That came back to bite me on the ass today!

My alarm was set for 4:00 AM. I went upstairs around 8:30, fell asleep by 9:00 and was awake again before midnight.

I assumed that position you assume when you’re awake, but don’t want to give in and get up. I wanted… no, I needed more sleep. Not to be.

I went downstairs and watched the clock.

I was in the car by 5:00 AM, heading to Hartford for my radio appearance on WCCC. My only detour was for coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Cromwell.

WCCC is old school. It’s not owned by a conglomerate. Its promos have the old, fun feel of a station close to its listeners. It’s live 24-7 with no voice tracking.

Even cooler, WCCC is in an old house, near St. Francis Hospital, in Hartford. This is not some chi-chi refurb. If you moved out the radio gear, you could move a family right in!

WCCC’s air product is a little hard edged for me. After all, 20hours a day, this station is really rocking. I’m not sure I am equal to that task.

I made myself comfy in the studio while the show’s producer, Jen, handed me a packet of ‘nearly’ news to read. I could sense things were going to be really casual… and they were.

Sebastian runs the show. He is the ‘name’ talent around which the show revolves. He’s been in the market forever, in good times and bad.

It’s a very good time right now.

In the studio with Sebastian are Pete Lamoureux, who does sports, and Don Steele, the all around announcer guy and the person who runs the ‘board’, the audio console which controls everything you hear. As was the case with Sebastian, they could not have been nicer.

Sebastian walked in the studio at 6:00 AM and we were off and running. Over the years morning shows have started moving to earlier start times. Lots of shows begin at 5:00 or 5:30. Like I said, this is old school.

I wonder if they know how good they have it? They got reasonably good hours and carte blanche to say nearly anything&#185

My job was to be second (or possibly third or fourth) banana. There was a time I would have objected. Not now. I embraced this opportunity for what it was – a chance to have a good time in a medium I’m still madly in love with.

When Sebastian said anything funny (or was intended to be funny), I laughed. That’s part of the job. Ask Ed McMahon.

I was fresh meat so there was lots of conversation that centered around me. How Helaine and I met. What it was like after 23 years at the TV station. Who was fun and not fun to work with. Stuff like that.

There are some stories I’ve told a million times. I had no trouble telling them again.

Sebastian can be tough, but he was easy on me. I was glad for that. OK – he did ask if I color my hair (NO!). The four hours went quickly.

I spent some time with Michael Picozzi, the program director, before heading south down I-91 toward home.

I was back to the bed around 11:30. There was no trouble falling asleep this time. I was ready.

&#185 – I shied away from a funny use of the acronym MILF. Later, when I told Sebastian I’d censored myself, he laughed and asked why?

Jerry’s Seniors

It’s after 3:00 AM here in the East, but it’s late everywhere across America. I just turned on the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. Jerry’s nowhere to be found.

Please don’t get me wrong. MDA is a great charity. Helaine makes sure we give every year. But right now, this looks like “Parents Night” at my folks’ condo!

Currently hosting: Norm Crosby. Norm will be 80 in a few weeks.

Ed McMahon is there too. Ed is 84.

They both look great for their ages, but if I see either lick their lips one more time, I’ll scream. They both just act and sound old.

There’s music, but I don’t see any musicians nor Lou Brown, the perennial band leader. Maybe he’ll be on later. He’s 86.

Unfortunately, from a production standpoint, the telethon has a very dated look. It’s as if they haven’t caught on to the fact they’re competing in a 100+ channel environment, reaching viewers with remote controls at the ready. Having this geriatric crew as the face of the telethon only goes to reinforce that feeling.

B.B. King just appeared on a promo. He seemed sharper and younger than Ed and Norm, but even B.B. will 82 in a few weeks.

Year-by-year it’s harder for MDA to do what they do. Stations are reticent to pay to staff, then give away nearly a full day of airtime (and I suspect MDA might be paying to get on in some markets).

Here in Connecticut, the telethon moved from its long time home at WFSB to WTIC. A decade ago, that switch would have been unthinkable. It was a high profile event on Channel 3 with their front line anchors hosting. I suppose telethons aren’t as special any more.

At some point MDA will have to make a decision to go younger. As long as the hosts are getting older, so will their audience. Over time, that becomes unsustainable on both ends.

Happy New Year Dick Clark

It’s a family tradition that we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. There are a few really simple reasons for this. First, I usually work. Second, we don’t drink.

Years ago, the last time we really went out for New Year’s, a drunk guy started making a pass at my wife. In fact (though we laugh about it now) we almost broke up on our first pre-marriage New Year’s Eve together.

This year, we stayed home with Steffie and watched some of the goings on in Times Square. Helaine said she wasn’t, but I was very worried that some masterstroke terrorist act would take place in Times Square while the World watched.

Though we moved back and forth between Fox, MTV and ABC, we mostly stayed with ABC. Sure, I work for an affiliate, but there is also a tradition with Dick Clark. Again this year, for at least the second year in a row, Dick was inside a warm studio above Times Square. I’m sorry. He needs to be outside. And last night, the weather wasn’t all that bad.

I was also upset at the use of Steve Doocey – who represents Fox News Channel’s morning show – as ‘talent.’ This is not to say Steve isn’t good… he is. But, this is another case of cutting your nose to spite your face. Why would ABC want to shine such a bright spotlight on someone who is trying to eat their lunch? Doesn’t anyone in the company realize that using talent from other networks is the equivalent of dumping the Disneyland live shots for Six Flags or Universal?

There was a pretty tough article on Dick Clark in Newsday recently. I’ve attached it to this link.

Maybe because I knew most of this before, or maybe just because it’s becoming more obvious now, I have trouble finding Dick warm and likable. His interaction with others, especially on ‘tosses’ from live shots, or look live taped pieces, is forced and a little too staged.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to cede New Year’s Eve to Ryan Seacrest or the stable of hosts on MTV (none of whom stick out in my mind).

Happy 2004

Continue reading “Happy New Year Dick Clark”