THE PEAKS AND PERKS OF CELEBRITY
In a preceding blog I wrote “How We Did It,” the story of producing the Lloyd Thaxton Show five days a week for eight years. If you thought that I minimized a very important aspect of the show by stating, “After our musical bits were penciled in, we wrote in the guest star (we seldom had more than one guest star) and locked in the show,” you were right. When I wrote that, I fully intended to come back and go into more detail.
Celebrity certainly has it peaks. You’re HOT! And, then your NOT! That NOT part can be a real downer to some. That “some” never included me. The Perks made up for it. I would never have had the opportunity to meet and actually get to know and enjoy the company of so many celebrity friends if I didn’t have my own television show while enjoying a certain amount of celebrity myself.
I can’t emphasize enough how privileged I was to meet so many movie and TV stars and be able to count them as friends. Quiz show host Hal March (a lovely person), actors Robert Wagner, Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen, just to mention a precious few (I’ve already told you of my wonderful experiences with Brando and McQueen. In case you missed this, you can go into my blog archives and read all about it). I spent many an evening (plus many a dollar) with Milton Berle as a poker partner. He was my idol when I was in college. Meeting him years later was a major thrill (being a guest on his TV show wasn’t chopped liver either, by the way).
How does one meet these people? Without my TV show it would have never happened. This made me enough of a celebrity to get me invited to parties at which other celebrities attended. And, isn’t a party one way many of you met and made new friends?
One of my favorite parties was a Fourth of July pool party and dinner at Rock Hudson’s house. I was introduced to Rock by Robert Wagner.
There were about 20 invited guests including Carol Burnett, Polly Bergan, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner and Roddy McDowell. One of the nice things about going to a party filled with celebrities is that everyone there is recognizable and they need no introduction. It’s like going to a party where you know everyone and no one has to ask, “What do you do, Lloyd?” You can just relax and have fun. It was a great party.
Now, if you have a successful TV show, you have to include all the people you actually had as guests on your show. In eight years I met a lot of wonderful artists.
I actually first met Sonny Bono when he was a record promoter. Each record company would have a record promoter. His or her job would be to promote new artists and when he had a new artist or record to promote, he would either call or visit our office. If we had an opening we put the artist on our guest list. I first met Cher when Sony brought her along just to visit the show. He came on a later date to promote their own new record as “Caesar and Cleo.” It was later that they became “Sonny and Cher.”
The wonderful thing about doing a show in Hollywood is that so many talented artists lived relatively close by and could (and would) pop in on a moments notice.
Though we never had a show on which we didn’t have a guest, there were times when a guest had to cancel last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. In that case we had a line-up of people on the sidelines who would step in and substitute at the last minute. Glen Campbell, who lived not too far from our studio, was one of our regular fill-in guests before he had his first record. He was a studio musician and played on the tracks of many hit records. Glen would perform on the show live.
Trini Lopez was another guest who was on stand-by. He introduced “If I Had A Hammer.”
Johnny Rivers was always ready. His “Memphis” went on to become a big hit.
Herb Alpert introduced “The Lonely Bull” on one of these substitutions. It was a fun and exciting time. They all became friends (and big recording stars).
Roger Miller made several appearances and became a dear friend. His “Dang Me” and “King of the Road” brought the house down.
Brian Wilson dropped in from time to time. I had the pleasure of being invited to his house to sit at his grand piano in his sand-filled dining room. I got to put my toes in the sand and think “Beach.”
Roger Williams was also always ready. He taught me how to finger sync his hit “Autumn Leaves.” I always looked forward to Roger’s Christmas parties where he sat at his piano and led his guests in beautiful carols.
Jerry Lewis made several appearances on the show. To me he was an idol, mentor, and good friend. He even put me in one of his movies, “The Patsy.”
I introduced the Righteous Brothers for the first time on TV with “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” Forty years later I was asked to introduce them again at the Hollywood Bowl. It was their first Bowl appearance as headliners and it was sold out. 18,000 fans watched the best rock show ever presented at the bowl (my opinion).
Then there’s James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul.” What a grand person he is. Still going strong. How many people get to sing a duet with this giant (see picture)?
When I was nine years old, Fred Astaire was my favorite movie star. And here I was with my own show and FRED ASTAIRE WAS MY GUEST. Probably my biggest thrill was when he asked me during the interview, “Lloyd, how do you do this everyday?” I was tongue-tied.
And the beat goes on; Too many guests to mention here. To paraphrase a famous line, “I never met a guest I didn’t like.” When you see all of the Entertainment Tonight type shows that are on TV, you tend to get a distorted picture of celebrities. Many are presented as vain egotistical frauds that are always getting into some kind of trouble. Thanks to the new crop of reality shows, the celebrity/average person thing gets kind of balanced out. They show you that the celebrity scene isn’t too far removed from real life. It’s kind of like the Rock Hudson party; The difference between a celebrity and the average person is that everyone recognizes the celebrity.
The bottom line:
Celebrity has its peaks and doesn’t always last …
But, it sure does come with some wonderful perks.
I highly recommend it.
Next I’ll tell you how you might get your own TV show.
How you too could become a celebrity.