TO BEARD OR NOT TO BEARD - THAT IS THE QUESTION
I have finally started on the DVD, “My Name is Lloyd Thaxton – So What,” and hope to have it out before the end of the year. I’ve been looking at clips for that last few months and I guarantee you are going to be blown away. Damn! That was a good show.
I have a problem. A respected friend warned me that, “When the DVD is finished, you will have to promote it. And that means the beard will have to go." His reasoning? No one will watch a bearded person on TV pitching anything.
That bit of constructive criticism reminded of the day I made the decision to step out from in front of the camera and become a producer. I had had a great run on TV, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to go behind the camera and write and produce and direct (doesn’t everyone?).
The problem was that no one I talked to would buy the idea of me as a producer. After all, I was that crazy on-camera guy: the funny TV person, the Jerry Lewis of rock and roll. No one was supposed to ever take me seriously. I was expected to spend the rest of my life lip-syncing records?
One morning I took a hard look at myself in the mirror. Unfortunately, I was never able to look at myself in a mirror without making a goofy face. I started to laugh. “STOP IT!” I shouted. “THIS IS SERIOUS!!” I changed my expression to a studious intelligent looking frown and gently stroked my chin. “What I need is a beard,” I mused. “No one hires an on-camera person who has a beard. Only writers, producers and directors are allowed to have beards. It makes them look more educated. You know, "the producer look."
Think about it. How many TV hosts have you ever seen with beards? Alex Trebek started out with only a mustache. but in a few weeks, it was GONE! TV news producers pay big money to consultants to ensure that all their news anchors have that same TV news-reader look. The one rule that can never be broken? NO FACIAL HAIR (and that includes the female news anchors as well). Ever see a dance show host with a beard? Or, how about a candidate running for office?
So, I grew a beard. No one would ever put Lloyd Thaxton in front of a TV camera again.
To test my new look I went to a producer job interview. They took one look at me and said, “You LOOK like a producer,” and I was hired on the spot.
This program we were talking about was not a Lloyd Thaxton type show or anything even close to it. It was a new local show for TV station KNBC in Los Angeles to be titled, “California Buy-line.” It would star KNBC's very popular consumer reporter, David Horowitz.
When the word got around that I was going to produce and direct a public service consumer show on a local television station, the whispered gossip was: He must really need the money. Are you kidding me? Take a guess at what you think they paid producers of local TV shows back in the seventies. $20,000 a week? $2,000? If you guessed $200, you win the cigar. Not much money, honey, but I was a PRODUCER!
This turned out to be the best career move I ever made. The show was an instant local hit. The great thing is that I was never told to do the show with the zany part of my brain tied behind my back. KNBC (and David, bless his supreme intelligence) gave me free reign to do what ever I wanted. You’ve heard of “The Power of One?” This was “The power of The Beard.”
Together we produced the very first consumer show with pizazz. I even got to do some cameo appearances as the bearded Dr. Freon, the product testing genius, the dirty-bearded Dirty Moore, the inventor of Dirty Potato Chips, and a host of other weird bearded characters.
We spent our shoot days giddily dropping trash bags from the KNBC traffic helicopter to challenge the manufacturer’s highly touted claims of unusual strength. Dr. Freon froze Timex watches and dropped wrecking balls on them.
We even had wrestlers strap watches to their waists to see if they could really “take a licking and keep on ticking.”
Geeta, the late great LA Zoo elephant (what a BIG sweetheart), mashed toy trucks, suitcases, unbreakable cola bottles and many other products, to challenge the outrageous claims of their indestructibility.
The show became so popular that after the first year it went national. It soon became the Emmy award winning “Fight Back! with David Horowitz.” We did the show for 18 fun filled years.
And, I owe it all to my beard.
Many of my contemporaries, who are still highly successful in the on-camera music-broadcast business, have long whitened their teeth, darkened their hair and would never ever be seen with even an iota of “FACIAL HAIR.” I salute their longevity. But, just because I have a new DVD that might require stepping back in the limelight as a host, do I really have to go that route?
What would Hamlet do?