Saturday, March 27, 2010


Ralph and Alice Kramden were the Liz Taylor and Richard Burton of Bensonhurst in 1950's Brooklyn.

No, Not because Ralph was worldly and distinguished or because Alice was sophisticated or vivacious, like the Burtons, who personified the globetrotting lifestyle of the all-too-jaded Jet Set.

But because conflict was the currency of their respective marriages.

You see, both renowned, romantic pairings often evidenced an unequivocal and vibrant love that seemed to manifest itself in angry bouts of volcanic temper and unrealized threats.

The Karamden's were played for raucous comic effect and sweet, sentimental appeal by Jackie Gleason, as Ralph, an NYC bus driver and Audrey Meadows,as Alice the dutiful wife, who had a low tolerance for Ralph's hi-jinks..

There was a point in each of the exquisite, 39 episodes of THE HONEYMOONERS situation comedy or during a sketch featuring the Kramden characters on THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW that the caustic couple expressed their love for each other at the top of their lungs.

Gleason and Meadows were at the top of their game in these moments of exaggerated, marital turbulence. It was the nuanced quality of their performance and deft writing that kept the Kramden's arguments from getting truly ugly.

The domestic dust-up usually happened when one of the manifold,"get rich quick" schemes that Ralph conceived in concert with his sidekick in subterfuge, Ed Norton, as played with superlative comic agility by Art Carney, started to implode.

That was when his loyal,loving and sardonic spouse, Alice, would unleash a volley of vitriol on her hapless hubby.

Behind the acrid rhetoric, and at the core of the Kramden's relationship, was an unabiding love that endured any setback and overcame every challenge.

Alice knew that Ralph understood his shortcomings and that he would only engage in these outlandish adventures in an earnest effort to make a better life for the wife he adores.

The excerpt posted below, thanks to the WOWINKORPORTAED YOU TUBE SITE, is from a sketch on THE JACKIE GLEASON SHOW. It is a duet performed by Jackie Gleason as Ralph and Audrey Meadows as Alice, where he explains to his beloved ,in song, that unless she stops criticizing him ,one of these days, pow, right to the moon.Enjoy!!!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Robert Culp passed away.

Police say that he fell while jogging near his California home and suffered a fatal blow to the head.

Culp was 79 years old, and leaves behind a formidable legacy as accomplished actor, a nuanced screenwriter and a committed participant in the struggle for civil rights in America.

He headlined in theatrical films, like BOB & CAROL, TED & ALICE, did Broadway theater, and starred in three major television series, including TRACKDOWN, THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, and had a supporting role in EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND.

But for me, I SPY was the pinnacle of an admirable career.

He played Kelly Robinson, a dashing, self-effacing spy working for an undisclosed, Pentagon intelligence agency. His cover was to travel the world posing as a tennis pro accompanied by his trainer, and secret partner in espionage, Alexander Scott, portrayed by Bill Cosby.

This was the groundbreaking role in which Cosby, a popular nightclub comedian and Temple University graduate, became the first African-American male to star in a network drama. The more experienced and better known Culp offered encouragement and friendship to the young North Philadelphian. Cosby won major awards, including EMMY's, and acknowledged that Culp's support was key in making the transition from doing stand-up on THE TONIGHT SHOW to co-starring in the serio-comic,adventure series.

While Televisionary Sheldon Leonard produced I SPY on remote locations around the globe for NBC-TV from1965 to 1968, it was Culp, serving as an actor/writer/director, who delivered some of the most telling scripts and textured performances.

The series debuted with an episode entitled 'SO,LONG PATRICK HENRY' that Culp wrote and which he tailored to provide Cosby with opportunities to demonstrate, both, his comic chops and his dramatic ability, while developing the special chemistry that became the currency of their relationship on and off the screen.Here is a link YOU CAN CUT & PASTE to WATCH that debut episode on YOU TUBE:

Together, Cosby & Culp, along with Sheldon Leonard plus producers David Friedkin and Morton Fine,decided,that even in the turbulent social upheaval of the late 1960's, the best statement their characters could make on race, was no statement, at all. They choose to showcase the colorblind qualities of friendship, humor and loyalty in LIVING COLOR,each week.

On a personal note, I SPY holds a special place for me. I learned a lot from the series, which was the first to be shot on locations around the world. Today, Sheldon Leonard is one of the producers whose work I study and admire. Like so many other kids in Philly during that era, Bill Cosby made it cool to go to Temple. I did attend Temple. I actually teach there, today.

But watching Culp and Cosby , as Kelly and Scotty, run the rooftops of Hong Kong, rescue the female guest star of the week from sudden danger amid the casitas of Acapulco's Las Brisas Hotel, or throw down with the bad guys on the steps of the Parthanon in Athens, I learned that the world is bigger than the front porch of a North Philly row house. I also learned that "cool" is timeless, because, even today , in my opinion,I SPY is cool.

Robert Culp R.I.P.

Below is an excerpt of a 2007 interview from the Archive Of American Television.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Imagine two talented people, standing in front of a primitive television camera, under scorching hot studio lights and miming the lyrics of some other performer's tunes on the air.

Television put words in their mouths right OFF THE RECORD.

That was the name of an early, musical variety show that WTTG-TV in Washington DC produced for air on the innovative, but indigent DUMONT TELEVISION NETWORK.

The novel, if naive, show featured two well known and respected, local personalities, Art Lamb and Aletha Agee lip-synching to the most popular performers and their biggest recordings on the musical charts.

The show was austere in it's production values, but like NBC's hit , 1950's, musical series, YOUR HIT PARADE, OFF THE RECORD did visual representations of the storyline featured in each song.Decades later, following a similar method, music videos on MTV changed the way adolescents consume popular music.

Here, from the DCMEMORIES, YOU TUBE SITE,in glorious, DUMONT B&W, are two clips that constitute one episode of OFF THE RECORD.Enjoy!!!!!



Thursday, March 11, 2010


On June 6th, 1944,the American Supreme Commander, General Dwight David Eisenhower lead brave,allied forces on the "D-Day" invasion of Normandy Beach,while General David Sarnoff, the patriarch of RCA, provided the communications plan behind the bloody, daring attack that all but ended the war in Europe.

On May 22, 1958, these two storied and successful figures, Eisenhower,who went on to become the 34th President of the United States and ,Sarnoff, who lead the most advanced communications conglomerate of the mid-20th century, again collaborated to establish a new beachhead in modern, electronic media.

It was the day that RCA Color Videotape came to our nation's capital and to NBC television.

President Eisenhower traveled by motorcade from The White House, across Washington DC to the sprawling, low-slung facility shared by the NBC News Washington Bureau and network owned WRC TV/RADIO on Nebraska Avenue. The purpose of this Presidential appearance was to help Sarnoff, his company and its network subsidiary dedicate the building , which had just been completed, and to introduce this vibrant,video innovation to American television viewers.

It was a festive,but formal occasion with requisite speeches from NBC president Robert Sarnoff (one of David's son)and other dignitaries from the government, the network and its parent company, RCA.The president marked the occasion with oratory extolling the wonders of recorded programming that can be repeated across timezones, and preserved for years to come.

While shot LIVE and recorded in the Washington tape center, the Presidential event was also fed to NBC'S Burbank taperoom and recorded for national replay.

Sarnoff indicated in his remarks that two copies of the event would be made. One would be sent to the Library Of Congress and the other given to the White House for preservation.That second dub, according to THE QUAD GROUP WEBSITE, is now in the Eisenhower Library permanent collection.

Here, from the OLDTVHISTORY, YOU TUBE site is an excerpt from one of first recorded and longest surviving,color video tapes. Enjoy!!!!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Joan Rivers' comic sensibility is like a sawed-off shotgun wrapped in sequins.Today, she delivers comic body slams to the ultra-glam who parade on Hollywood's most exclusive red carpets.

In 1986, Rivers had two Herculean tasks to confront.A Second City alum and stand-up icon,she was the first woman to host her own, late night, network talk show. Well, not quite a network show, because THE LATE SHOW STARRING JOAN RIVERS was on FOX. It was the program with which Barry Diller, the legendary programmer with an allegedly incendiary temper, was going to launch the FOX broadcasting company. Critics waited to see if Rivers could shatter Late Night's glass ceiling, while pioneering the first new,national, broadcast network America has seen since the demise of DuMont, 30 years earlier.

On October 6, 1986, following a network ID for FBC ( now simply branded FOX)THE LATE SHOW STARRING JOAN RIVERS debuted from a newly renovated, cavernous studio at FOX TELEVISION CENTER in Los Angeles. She was given a three year, 15 million dollar contract to launch a network and light up the night for FOX.There was voluminous publicity surrounding the premiere of the show. Not all of it was good. There was a deep,vitriolic rift with the king of late night, Johnny Carson.

Rivers, born Joan Alexandra Molinsky to Russian immigrant parents, had been a welcome guest on THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON for years. Rivers called Carson her mentor. After years of her doing stand-up routines and chatting on the couch,Carson named Rivers as his permanent, substitute host on the NBC,late night franchise.When he discovered that she was going to leave and compete with him, they became estranged and ,reportedly, they never reconciled.

THE LATE SHOW STARRING JOAN RIVERS lasted only 20 months on the burgeoning FOX Network.

With low ratings, Rivers was removed in May of 1987. Guests hosts such as Dennis Miller and Arsenio Hall, both of whom would later return to the late shift in syndication, filled in , until FOX attempted topical satire with the abortive WILTON-NORTH REPORT.

The network finally ceded the timeslot to anxious affiliates.

From 1989 to 1994, many of the same FOX stations carried Arsenio's hip, syndicated talk fest. Today, the hottest rumor in media is that Peacock Ex-patriot Conan O'Brien will join FOX with a new,Late Night show in the fall of this year.

But, here, from the DESSURES, YOU TUBE site is the first 8:13 of THE LATE SHOW STARRING JOAN RIVERS. ENJOY!!!!!!

As a bonus, from that same and surreal, premiere episode of THE LATE SHOW STARRING JOAN RIVERS,here is Joan Rivers' interview with guest, Pew Wee Herman.ENJOY!!!!!

Bonus, number 2 is Arsenio Hall saying goodbye after his 13 week stint as host of THE LATE SHOW WITH ARSENIO HALL. Notice how the music, look and ambiance of the show changed with the host. Enjoy!!!!!