Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mike Douglas and Me

You may have read that TV variety show host Mike Douglas passed away on Friday. It probably meant little or nothing to you, but for me...well, it brought back a flood of memories.

I made my first appearance on The Mike Douglas Show when I was about seven years old. Many more appearances would follow.

No, I wasn't some sort of a child prodigy (well, at least that wasn't why I was on television ;) I was simply a member of the studio audience.

In what may have been the first year that the show was taped in Philadelphia, I was in the audience with my mom. About seven years old. I remember sitting on a folding chair on the middle aisle. As the show wrapped up, I suddenly realized Mike was crouched next to me, pointing up at the monitor hanging over the audience. I was on TV!

(Okay, remember this was back in the 60s when being on TV was still a novelty.)

Fast forward a few years...As I entered my teens I would periodically send away for tickets to the show and we would make the daunting journey into the Big City from our home in rural Chester County.

I eventually took to making signs along the lines of "We Love You Mike" punctuated with his trademark six-petal flower, which we would hold up at the end of the show (um, yes, I was a geek even then) in an effort to get on camera. (It always worked, btw.)

Among my Mike Douglas Show memories: an encounter with Roger Moore (may have been 7/9/73 - has him appearing on that date - which is right around the time that he took over the 007 franchise.)

We met him quite by accident as he left the KYW-TV studios after the show, and my mom had her picture taken with him.

I wish I had it here to scan - it's quite the snapshot. Even though Roger was effectively ancient to my tween eyes, he was still quite the dashing figure. Very James Bond -- golden tan, smoking a cigar, and more than able to pull off wearing a white safari-style jacket.

Another memorable appearance was Yes-man Rick Wakeman. Honestly, I didn't know who he was -- I was deeply in love with Donny Osmond at the time. But Rick was wearing a cape and that was enough for me. I think he may have been playing a Mellotron on the show. Some spacey/cool keyboard set-up anyway.

Not the Mike Douglas show -- but the cape nonetheless!

During a commercial break after his performance, my uncle encouraged me to join a group of fans getting Rick's autograph, saying that he was really Someone Big. Whether history confirms or denies that...well, you be the judge.

(Imagine the autograph scanned here, if I could find my old autograph book, which I know is somewhere around here. Somewhere.)

I remember being there when a man named John DeLorean showed off a prototype of a cool gull-winged car in the center of the Mike Douglas stage...

...Ralph Nadar, Stiller and Meara...gosh, I can't even begin to recall everyone I saw live on that stage.

One time I brought a camera. Typical of the 90-minute MD Show, quite the varied lineup. It was probably 1975; definitely a magnificent 110 camera used, as the picture quality shows.

Even with the grainy photos, you can still feel the groovy 70's Flower Power vibe!

Mike Douglas in the left foreground during a break -
how 'bout that set?!

The Pointer Sisters

Cooking with Worms
L to R: David Brenner, Harry Chapin, Mike Douglas, unknown.
The show website has David Brenner appearing on 4/24/75, so it could be this show.

Harry Chapin

Which leads me to the biggest moment in my blossoming TV career since my grade-school-aged appearance: My sister and I were one of a handful of teens (I'm sure there were only a handful of teens in the entire audience!) chosen to sit on the stage floor around Harry Chapin as he played another tune.

Harry Chapin and the audience teens.
The arrow points to what I think is my head.
David Brenner and Mike are sitting off on the right.

This was all in the days before VCRs graced every home. So I have no record of any of my landmark appearances. (Yes, that makes me officially too old to be a blogger. But I am remarkably well-preserved -- probably due my lifelong consumption of processed foods.)

Sure, Mike could be corny and the quality of the show's guests was wildly uneven. But this show was as big as it got in Philly, baby. And my multiple visits to the show's set were probably the reason I chose to study television production in college (which of course meant I actually ended up working in radio.)

By all accounts, Mike Douglas was quite a decent and upstanding guy -- a family man, married for 53 years.

Plus, he was the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney's Cinderella. I mean, really, that ought to count for something.

If I still had my 70's flower power homemade sign, I'd be holding it up right now. (Well, mentally, anyway. It'd probably be really musty at this point.)


At August 12, 2006 10:12 PM, Blogger Rev. Smokin Steve said...

I see you are on Blogger too. Excellent!

You get three guesses as to who this is.

At August 13, 2006 12:24 AM, Blogger Tom said...

What a great blogst (um, that's my contraction of web+log+post--is there some other term that I'm not hip enough to have yet heard?). I, too, have fond 70's memories of Mike but only from in front of the TV screen. If memory serves, he was kind and genuine--not vitures on associates with just any show biz personality.

At August 13, 2006 1:06 PM, Blogger Cyn said...

Rev. Steve: You haven't aged a bit since that photo was taken...

At August 13, 2006 11:54 PM, Blogger Merujo said...

Cyn, that was a great post. I remember loving the Mike Douglas Show when I was a kid. What fun!

One of my sisters and one of my brothers danced on American Bandstand back in its Philly days... (Of course, my siblings are officially Older Than Mud.)


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