NOT JUST ANOTHER PRETTY FACE
A fan asked me some time ago why I grew a beard. If you are interested in my reasons, stay with me. If not, I will understand. I will understand that you are a person with absolutely no curiosity. Actually you could ask Al Gore the same question and you would most likely get the same answer as mine: to change the perception of who I am.
After being in front of the TV cameras for over 25 years (1950-1976), I made a big decision. I would no longer perform on camera and, instead, concentrate on producing and directing. Having written and produced all the shows I was on, it wasn’t too big a leap.
This, of course, was years after the Lloyd Thaxton Show ended. Up to just lately, I have been blaming the demise of the Lloyd Thaxton Show on The Vietnam War. Actually it was the fact that in the late 60s the Vietnam War caused music to take a devastating turn. A new element, “DRUGS,” as in, “Sex, DRUGS and Rock & Roll” was the culprit. Everyone in music but me was changing. One critic of my show wrote that by 1967, “the ‘Lloyd Thaxton Show’ was starting to look like ‘The Lawrence Welk Show.’” It was a cruel but very astute observation.
A one and a two and a …
It was stuff like this that guided my own decision to scuttle the LT show and make some changes in my career. I tried hosting games shows for a few years but found little satisfaction. Compared to the Lloyd Thaxton Show, it was an easy gig. But I missed being my own boss and not being in complete control of my on-camera persona. I decided to break the mold and go behind the camera.
The problem was that no matter what I did, I was still “LLOYD THAXTON!” Everyone only saw me as that bizarre nut who stuck his lips through cutout album covers and synced Sammy Davis records. I was given the impression they were afraid I might have the “Finger People” do the directing (not a bad idea).
I decided I didn’t want to be Lloyd Thaxton anymore. I had to think about how I could do this. Then it hit me. Nobody hires an on-air personality who has a beard. Right? Ever see a game show host with a beard? Ever see a news anchor with a beard? Well, there is that one exception to the rule, Wolf Blitzer, but he can get away with it. His first name is “WOLF!” And his last name is close enough to one of Santa’s reindeers that he could grow antlers and get on TV.
That’s why I grew a beard. So no one could ever recognize me. And besides, beards tend to make you look more intelligent.
And, it worked. In 1976, with beard in full bloom, I was hired to produce and direct a local show on KNBC Los Angeles titled “California Byline” with David Horowitz. What was wonderful about this is that David (who bought the beard routine right off), and KNBC (who saw the wisdom inherent in bearded people) gave me full autonomy to do what I wished with the show. I was my own boss again. It was the combination of the wisdom of the beard combined with a little “Identity Fraud” that did the trick. They never knew who I really was.
This was a good decision. I adding my own uncontrolled zaniness to David’s carefully controlled consumer expertise and it wasn’t too long before we changed the name from “California Byline” to “Consumer Byline,” and then finally to “Fight Back! With David Horowitz” (produced and directed by Lloyd Thaxton). And, like The Lloyd Thaxton Show” before, which also started as a local show, “Fight Back” went on to become a number one nationally syndicated show. I stayed “with it” for 18 years and it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my career.
I owe it all to “The Beard.”
I was asked not too long ago to host a TV pilot. However to do so, I was told I would have to shave off my beard (they referred to it as “facial hair.” Ugh!). I passed. I have grown too fond of my “facial hair” to abandon it.
Suggestion: As you read my future blogs, think of me with my beard. You’ll be amazed at how much more intelligent my writing becomes.
*Have you figured out by now what my blog sign-off “Stay tuned” means? Though most of you would associate this with staying tuned to a particular radio or TV show (or blog) that is not it. I say, “Stay tuned” as you would expect a fine sounding piano or guitar to be. Life is too sweet for you to ever get out of tune.