Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

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.

Stay tuned*

*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.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Rocko said...

Lloyd-

Maybe the musical times were-a-changin'in the late 60s, but Dick Clark didn't change, either. Don't feel bad. At least you didn't foist the Osmonds & Disco on us.

Beard or no beard, you're still Lloyd Thaxton. SO WHAT?!?

5:40 PM

 
Blogger Gary said...

Well, I tell ya, Uncle Lloyd........NOW I get it! But my question is, even though you grew a beard for David's show, didn't anybody recognize your name and say "Hey, aren't you........?"
The thing with "facial hair" is this....you either look good with it, or you don't. YOU look good! I don't. I tried it and I certainly didn't look intelligent, I just looked old. Granted, I'm 50 NOW, but when I tried the face fuzz, I was in my early 20s at first, and I just didn't want to be "old" yet, then I tried it again about 5 years ago. HA HA HA....nope. No go. Now I shave my head and my face and people swear up and down that I'm 35 even though I tell them I'm 50. Now THAT feels good! Been shaving my head for 5 years and once in a while I'm curious to see how dark (or how light) my hair would be if I grew it back, but then I start thinking of all the shampoo I have to buy, the conditioner, a new hair brush or comb.....so I say forget it. I'll buzz my head, thank you.
Oh, and yes.....I'm staying tuned. Can't wait for more!
Gary

5:43 PM

 
Blogger Nibbly Giblets said...

I was just listening to "The Challengers - Lloyd Thaxton Goes Surfing With The Challengers", and it made me think to come here and check things out. (Been a while)

Lloyd, is there a way to get an autographed picture of you from the "old days"? It sure would go well with my retro stuff like my '58 Edsel (yes, a real one), my drive-in speakers and whatnot.

11:40 AM

 
Blogger Ken Levine said...

You've just added two years to your life when you think of all the time you didn't have to shave.

12:45 PM

 
Blogger Gaylel said...

Well, that was interesting..at least the "beard" opened the doors to other projects. Look at it this way, Lloyd, you found success with it.

12:48 PM

 
Blogger THE ROCK RELIC said...

If ya don't mind, Chief, can I make a coupla remarks on the last two entries, THEN catchup with this one?
THE LIP-SYNCHING: While another brand had guests who also synched their sounds, YOURS actually made it part of your OWN cue ... you made it a wonderful, humorous parody! Re: "Cara Mia": Even Jay Black admits the operettic connection! (Wish you'd been on long enough to do Pickett's "Deborah". You'd've floored them AGAIN!)
ROGER MILLER: No retakes, no edits, no "cutting-room" tactics. Your show was certainly a WYSIWYG phenomenon ... and its spontaniety, its ad-lib freshness, its "live"liness made it ALWAYS top-quality. And, if you looked up "entertainer" in the Big Dictionary, it'd probably have Roger's pic as its description! His group showed how tight and together a group SHOULD be, by filling in and HELPING!
NOW ... the BEARD: You look GOOD in a beard .... even today! And, considering today's TV execs (not to mention dozens of today's top personalities), you were only ahead of your time! ps You could mask the face ... but you can't mask the Lloyd Thaxton Quality!

THE ROCK RELIC LIVES!
... film at 11 ...

11:47 PM

 
Anonymous john said...

Lloyd-

Are there any videos of the shows?

12:44 PM

 
Blogger john said...

Lloyd,
25 years ago I came into possession of a 16mm reel of the "Lloyd Thaxton Show". It brought back memories of the 60's. I was a teacher and hurried home each afternoon to watch those amazing productions( Jose- He Say), my favorite. Through a network of collectors, no one seemed to know why your show never got put out on video such as Ed Sullivan, Hullabaloo, etc. I guess we still don't know. You were on 100 stations; ther had to be a hundred 16mm copies of each show i would imagine. Where did they all go.
You were the greatest!!!!!

9:59 AM

 

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