Ed Sullivan, Jackie Mason, the Rolling Stones and the Doors

Dear Mr. Inman: The comic Jackie Mason came up in a recent conversation and I remarked that back in the 1960s Mason had been barred from “The Ed Sullivan Show” for giving Ed an obscene gesture on the air. My wife is skeptical, to say the least. Then the subject turned to other feuds Sullivan had with rock bands, including The Rolling Stones. Can you verify or confirm any of this? – R.T., Rochester, N.Y.

Dear R.T.: First, for the youngsters in the audience, as Ed used to say on his show, we should explain that Ed Sullivan was a newspaper columnist who hosted a weekly variety series on CBS from 1948-71. It was a Sunday night ritual for a generation of old people, including myself.

Ed himself was not a scintillating host, but as comic Fred Allen once said, “Ed Sullivan will be on the air as long as other people have talent.” He introduced America to Elvis Presley, The Beatles, acrobatic and circus acts from all over the world and Sister Sourire, a folk-singing Nun whose life story was made into a movie with Debbie Reynolds (Ed played himself).

The incident with Jackie Mason happened in 1964. The show was running too long (it was live), and as Mason was performing Sullivan was out of camera range. He held up two fingers to signal to Mason to cut his act short. Mason, still on camera, said “I’m getting all these fingers here tonight.” He then raised his hands with fingers held up. Sullivan, however, thought Mason was giving him THE finger, and barred Mason from the show. He was, however, back on in a year or so.

As for the rock groups, the conflict came over song lyrics. The Rolling Stones were asked to change the lyrics of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.” They did.

The Doors, on the other hand, we asked to change the line “girl, we couldn’t get much higher” in the song “Light My Fire.” They agreed before the show, but went on the air (again, live) without changing it. They were barred from again appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

Steve Carell Was a Regular on “The Dana Carvey Show”

Dear David: Before “The Office,” Steve Carell was on a TV series a few years ago that was a lot of different sketches, like “Saturday Night Live.” But I can’t remember what it was called. Please help – this is driving me bonkers! – R., Boston

Dear R.: There, there.

That was “The Dana Carvey Show,” which ran on ABC for a few weeks in 1996. Carell was a regular, as was a young pup of a comic named Stephen Colbert, now of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central. Both he and Carell had also been regulars on “The Daily Show,” of course.

You can see episodes of “The Dana Carvey Show” at www.hulu.com.

Joan Crawford and Steven Spielberg — Together at Last!

Dear Incredible Inman: My husband and I seldom see eye-to-eye on anything. I have finally decided to write to you because, after asking every old movie buff that I know, no one has yet to give me a definite answer about a black and white movie that I only saw the last few minutes of many years ago. The leading lady of the movie apparently had been blind and was given new eyeballs in a surgery. Upon taking off her bandages the woman was able to finally see the sun shine. The only problem was that she could not take her eyes off of the sun so she winds up frying her brand new eyes! The movie closes as the woman, realizing she is blinded once again, screams, “My eyes! My eyes!” Now, at times when the sun is shining brilliantly, I will humorously holler, “My eyes! My eyes!” and people shoot me quizzical looks. Is this movie a figment of my “mind’s eye” as my husband says or can you substantiate that it, indeed, exists? – Tammy, via e-mail

Dear Tammy: It’s funny how our memories of something can be so different than the actual event or item.

In your case, I believe you watched the 1969 TV-movie pilot for “Night Gallery,” Rod Serling’s series after “The Twilight Zone.” There was a segment in that movie called “Eyes,” in which Joan Crawford plays a blind, selfish old woman who pays another person for their eyes, even though she will be able to see through them for only 12 hours.

The transplant occurs, the bandages are removed, and the woman can see. But almost immediately, there is a massive blackout and she is again plunged into darkness for the entire night.

At dawn, she awakens to see the sun rising. But at the same time, her sight is fading – the 12 hours are almost up. Unwilling to give up her sight, she reaches out of the window of her skyscraper apartment toward the sun, and – splat.

So there is sun, and there is an eye transplant. But there’s no “My eyes! My eyes!”

Oh – and that segment was directed by some kid who’d found his way onto the Universal lot and bluffed his way into a job. This was his first gig. His name, ladies and gentlemen, is STEVEN SPIELBERG.

Here is the movie:

The Impoverished Adventures of Rocky King, Detective

Mr. Inman: When I was a kid, during the early days of TV, I was really into detectives. I’ve been trying to find out about one show in particular. I recall it was on Sunday evenings, and the detective always wore a light-colored trench coat and a wide-brimmed hat. The thing that sticks out in my mind is after solving his weekly mystery, he’d spend a few minutes talking to the audience, summarizing the show, and complaining to his wife, or a woman off camera, whose voice you always heard, but never actually saw. A few of my friends seem to thing it was “Boston Blackie,” but I’m not sure. Was it, or is there another detective show I’m confusing it with? – Gordon, via e-mail

Dear Gordon: That was “Rocky King, Detective,” also known as “Inside Detective,” and it ran on the DuMont TV network from 1950-54. Veteran character actor Roscoe Karns, who almost always played wiseguy types, was Rocky, a gumshoe with the New York City police. At the end of each episode, he’d call his wife Mabel and let her know he was coming home, and end with, “Great girl, that Mabel.”

The show aired on the perpetually impoverished DuMont network, and location shots were filmed at the DuMont offices, which were empty, because this was Sunday night and the show was live. The DuMont network went out of business in 1956.

There are several episodes online. Just go here:


Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!

Dear David Inman: I am of the age where the phrase “Wonder Twin powers, activate” calls to mind Saturday morning TV in the late 1970s. I remember the Wonder Twins, but I don’t remember what show they were on. What say you? – D.H., Boston

Dear D.H.: I say I never hung out with the Wonder Twins, but I spent a memorable weekend with the Awesome Triplets, and … well, that’s a story for another time.

The Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna, were regulars on “The All-New Super Friends Hour,” which ran on ABC from 1977-78. Zan was voiced by Michael Bell and Jayna was voiced by Liberty Williams. They were from the planet Exxor, and they traveled around helping kids in trouble with the help of space monkey Gleek. Their twin powers were activated by touching each other, at which time they would say “Shape of …” or “Form of …” to turn into something to stop the bad guys. Zan could transform into any form of water and Jayna could turn into any animal.

A “Hatfields and McCoys” Roundup

Hatfields and McCoys

Dear David: Please help! At the very end of “The Hatfields and McCoys” they showed what happened to the main characters. BUT the information rolled by so very fast, there was NO way anybody could read it. Can you help by putting it in your newspaper column? – Wilma, Alexandria, KY

Dear Wilma: Yes. Here it is.

“It’s said that Sally McCoy died in a mental hospital … Randall McCoy was buried next to his beloved wife.

“Wall Hatfield never lived to appeal … he died in prison a few months after sentencing.

“Johnse Hatfield, upon his return from Oregon, was sentenced to life in prison. After saving the warden from a knife attack, Johnse received an early pardon… he married four more times.

“Cap Hatfield became a lawyer … then served as a Deputy Sheriff.

“Elias Hatfield left Mate Creek to raise a family … his son, Henry D. Hatfield, became Governor of West Virginia and a U.S. Senator.

“Perry Cline died two years after the trials.

“Nancy McCoy-Hatfield-Phillips died several years after Bad Frank’s death … she is buried alongside him.

“Anse died peacefully in his sleep. His funeral was attended by over 5,000 mourners.

“Levicy passed away eight years later. A statue of Devil Anse, sculpted in Italy, marks their double gravesite.”

Remember “Tales of the Gold Monkey”?

talesDear Mr. Inman: I am writing to ask you for help about a show I was hooked on back in the 1980s. I thought it was called “Golden Monkey” and it was about an Indiana Jones-type character who flew a plane in the South Pacific before World War II. But I can find no mention of it. Please reply to ease my mind. – K.K., Cincinnati

Dear K.K.: Just call me easy, like Sunday morning.

“Tales of the Gold Monkey” ran on ABC from 1982-83.

The show was set in 1938 and dealt with the adventures of Jake Cutter (Stephen Collins), a former pilot with the Flying Tigers who was now a freelance pilot on the island of Boragora, which is so remote it doesn’t even exist.

Jake was always getting into scrapes with Nazi spies, Nazi saboteurs and just plain Nazis, not to mention Japanese spies, Japanese saboteurs, etc., etc.

Along for the ride were Jake’s mechanic Corky (Jeff MacKay), spy Sarah Stickney White (Caitlin O’Heaney) and Bon Chance Louie (Roddy MacDowall), who owned the Monkey Bar on Boragora.

All About “I Married Joan”

joanDear Incredible Inman: When I was a kid back in the 1950s, my favorite show was “I Married Joan,” which I believe ran on Wednesday nights. I thought the actress who played Joan, Joan Davis, was the funniest woman in the world. Of course, I was four. Can you tell me when the series originally ran and, even more important, the words to the theme song? – E.W., Cincinnati

Dear E.W.: “I Married Joan” ran on NBC from 1952-55, and featured Davis as Joan Stevens, loving but scatterbrained wife of judge Bradley Stevens (Jim Backus). Other cast regulars included Davis’ real-life daughter, Beverly Wills, as Joan’s onscreen sister. And the theme song went like this:

I married Joan,
What a girl
What a whirl
What a life!

I married Joan,
What a mind,
Love is blind,
What a wife!

Giddy and gay
all day she keeps my heart laughin’,
Never know where her brain has flown,

To each his own,
can’t deny that’s why I MARRIED JOAN!

See for yourself:

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Series About a Werewolf

Dear David Inman: A friend and I both have vague recollections of a TV series during the 1980s about a man hitchhiking across America who was also a werewolf during the full moon. My friend remembers there was also a “hunter” who was always on his trail. Are we imagining things or did this series exist? – Jason and Ray, Southern Indiana

Dear J. and R.: You know, for better or worse, some TV shows just bring out the songwriter in me. Sing along – you know the tune.

Come and listen to my story
of a college dope
who got bitten by a werewolf
and became a lycanthrope
He traveled cross the country
with a hunter close behind,
but before he could break free
the show was dumped by Fox

“Werewolf” ran on Fox in 1987. John J. York played the wolf in question, Eric Cord. Eric’s problem was that he was bitten by his college roommate – no jokes, please – and turned in a hairy, hairy beast. Eric then shot his roommate with a silver bullet and set out to find the king of the werewolves, because once the king was killed, Eric wouldn’t be a werewolf any more.

Yes, it’s all about you, isn’t it, Eric?

Anyway, the king of the werewolves was played by Chuck “The Rifleman” Connors, and the bounty hunter chasing Eric was played by Lance LeGault.

“The People’s Choice” Had a Talking Basset Hound

peoplestvgHi: In the 1960s when I was a child there was a program about a talking basset hound. I really enjoyed this program and whenever we get together with friends and start reminiscing I mention this program, but NO ONE can remember ever seeing it. I know that I saw it because I fell in love with basset hounds as a result. Please confirm that such a program aired, even for short time. I am not getting senile — not yet! – Frances, via e-mail

Dear Frances: There, there.

The show did indeed exist, and it was called “The People’s Choice.” It aired on NBC from 1955-58 and in reruns into the early 1960s.

Jackie Cooper played Socrates “Sock” Miller, who was on the city council of New City, California. He had a little romance going with Mandy Peoples (Patricia Breslin), daughter of the town mayor. Eventually they married, but had to keep it secret for sitcom-related reasons. Oh – and Sock had a basset hound named Cleo, whose thoughts were voiced by Mary Jane Croft.