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Story Of My Life - I Was A TV Geek



I really can't quite move on to my College days (and yeah, maybe this is a form of procrastination from telling those stories) before remarking about my relationship to television. There is a reason I have icons of most of the networks on my LJ. I grew up not knowing what the world was like before television.

The Baby Boomers can reminisce about the day they got their first TV and what it was like to see, and all of that. By the time I came along, Televisions were very commonplace items, much like the radio had been for just about every home before that. Everybody had at least one, and some, as The Monkees noted in "Pleasant Valley Sunday," had "a TV in every room."

I've talked about television a lot over the years in this journal. I've reviewed programs, opined on basic concepts and paralleled the world TV presents to the one we've actually got. But I didn't really talk about TV and me.

I will talk more about this in future entries, because there is more to speak about directly on this topic, but that occurred after college. Right now, I'm talking about growing up with television.

Maybe it was "Romper Room" that first started the trouble. "Romper Room" was a children's program with a teacher like grade school host who would lead the group of kids in their studio audience (and the home viewers) in a series of activities, typically involving some toy that you were to have purchased from your local F.W. Woolworth & Co. store or some other retail outlet. These activities were usually jumping rope or drawing with a Doo Bee Pen (no, doobies didn't have THAT connotation, yet, Doo Bee was the show's mascot).

But most importantly was at the very end of the program, right before saying goodbye for the day, the host told everyone it was "Magic Mirror" time! She would hold up a little hand mirrored shaped placard with an oval cut out of it and would list off the names of the people she would see through it. The list was always pretty extensive, but somehow, she never saw me. Still, I would watch daily to see if I would get named that day, and it never, ever happened!

Of course, now it's clear what was going on. Parents were writing to the TV station and asking the lady to name their kids on that day's list! My mom was completely unaware of this and my name was unique enough that it wasn't going to get called accidentally so there was no hope. Still, I tuned in daily, hoping in vain that the impossible would happen and that the Magic Mirror might one day see me.

Eventually, I started watching other programs and expanded my television knowledge. I was always a fan of game shows and I did pretty well with a lot of them. And that was the thing about living in New York. A lot of the game shows that were produced during that time were taped here (though more and more programs were moving west, to facilities in Los Angeles, game shows and soap operas seemed to be the last vestige of NYC telecasting happening).

I got to attend a lot of game show tapings all through my teen years. Many of them were for shows that didn't last long. I crossed paths with George Clooney before anyone knew who he was, because I was sitting in the same row with him while his father, Nick Clooney, hosted a very strange program called "The Moneymaze." In this show two married couples answered impossibly simplistic trivia questions to qualify to enter a massive stage sized maze, to find a lighted tower within the maze and press the correct button to win the prize for that round. Bizarre doesn't even begin to describe it. Too bad there aren't any youtube vids of it, it would be very amusing to view now.

Another weird show was called "Blankety Blanks" and it was hosted by legendary MC, Bill Cullen. It was a combo platter of the old "hinky pinky" game (Q: What's a "hink pink" for an enjoyable jog? A: A "fun run.") where you got a riddle and had to fill in the blank, sorta like Mad Libs. It didn't last long, and I remember going to one taping where the rules were set up one way, and another where the rules had changed! It's usually not a good sign if a game show changes the rules in the middle of its run.

There was "The Big Showdown," where 3 contestants answered rapid fire trivia questions for the chance to roll the dice for 10,000 dollars at the end of the show. I even made my own version of the dice where they replaced the 6s with the words "Show" and "Down" so if those words came up, you won the jackpot. And I still have my homemade dice! That's how TV geeky I am!

But the show I probably attended most often was "Pyramid." I have to call it just "Pyramid" because they kept adjusting the price for inflation. Originally it was "The $10,000 Pyramid." but then it became "The $20,000 Pyramid," which is when I first got to view it live, and then it got upped to $25,000 and eventually $100,000. America's oldest living teenager, Dick Clark was the host and celebrity guests like Robert Klein, Soupy Sales, Anita Gillette or the game show perennial, Nipsey Russell would be the partners to the contestants attempting to win cash and prizes.

I attended so many of those tapings that after awhile Bob Clayton, the show's announcer, actually started to recognize me! I always assumed I would eventually be a contestant on the show, but, by the time I was old enough to qualify, it was canceled. Poor Bob didn't survive the run of the show either, he died towards the end and was replaced by a New York DJ named Steve O'Brien, who actually referred to himself as an SOB on the radio. He made no such reference on the nationally telecast game.

I always thought it was incredible to have the life of Dick Clark... jetting back and forth between New York to tape these shows every second week or third week and LA to tape "American Bandstand" and interview music performers and watch them lip-synch their hits! I never got to speak directly to Mr. Clark, but watching him was like watching the Sorcerer at work. He was always extremely well prepared, had witty things to say, kept the audience interested, and the players focused. And he really seemed like he was enjoying everything he was doing. No wonder he's a television legend!

I'm still not certain why I'm not the writer on a game show. I really ought to be. I could craft Jeopardy! clues. That would be fun to do, certainly a lot more fun than answering many of them.

There will be much more about television, and my pre-LJ appearances on it, in future installments.

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