Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Monday, March 31, 2008


The relatives came to visit. They arrived with questions. Can we see the star’s homes? How about the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Where can we go to see the Hollywood Sign? What else can you show us?

The problem is that when you have lived in Hollywood most of your life, it is rather hard to figure out what it is people from Toledo, Ohio (my original home town) would find exciting.

For the purpose of this story, I’ll call my visitors Brynn and Carly. The fact that this is their real names is coincidental. Brynn is my sister’s son’s daughter (Great niece?) and Carly is her daughter (great great niece?)

Carly kind of set the stage (pun intended) for the day. She wanted to see the Hollywood Sign. I can understand that. The sign is Hollywood's Eifel Tower. Actually Hollywood's Eye-full Tower. And, it has a great Hollywood story.

I remember years ago when I used to ride my horse from Griffith Park right up to the sign. It was in disrepair in those days not famous at all. I used to ride up with friends and point out where Peg Entwistle plunged to her death from atop the “H.”

This was a suicide filled with ironies. According to the story, Peg was depressed because she was failing to get parts as an aspiring actor. At her lowest point, she scratched and clawed her way up the slope to the base of the sign, took off her coat and folded it neatly. She then climbed up the workman’s ladder on the back of the 50 foot “H.”

Peg then performed a perfect Swan dive into the ground. She was only 24 years old.

Editor’s note: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Editor’s second note: If a women dives from a Hollywood sign and no one is around to see it, does she really make a swan dive?

One irony here is that Peg left a note for her favorite kin, Uncle Harold (“H”) The second irony is that shortly after her death a letter arrived from the Beverly Hills Playhouse offering her a starring role in their next production. Third irony: The play was about a young girl who commits suicide.

Now that alone, put the Hollywood Sign on Brynn and Carly’s must-see list. Especially, the “H.”


Brynn and Carly were very disappointed in Hollywood Boulevard and the, “Hollywood Walk of the Stars,” Carly wanted to see real stars and all she saw were a lot of names on the sidewalk that she didn’t recognize plus a lot of live performers dressed like stars asking for money. They found it all kind of seedy. Carly, being a teen-ager, was looking for someone she had heard of under 25 (at the least). Another irony: Carly will most likely come back in twenty years or so to see her favorites on the walk of fame and then HER kids won’t know who they are.


The obvious thing to do was to take them on my own version of the “Homes of the Stars” tour. First we started in my own neighborhood. I pointed out Alex Trebec’s house, which is just down the street. Carly said, “Who’s he?”

Next: I drove them a little further up the street to Gene Autry’s house with the big Flying “A” on his gate. That always impressed me. But, to Carly, nothing. However when we got to George Clooney’s house, there was instant success. The real winner was when I pulled into the gated community at the top of the hill and announced, “This is where Britney Spears lives.” When I saw Carly glancing around for the paparazzi, I knew I had scored one for the home team.

I did discover one trick that I will pass on to all you future visitor tour guides. Take your guests through Beverly Hills and just keep pointing at houses and announcing, “This is where Brad Pitt lives,” or “This is the home of Lindsey Lohan.” In other words, just make up names to fit addresses. Who would know. Even the tour buses use that routine. Their maps are many times out of date.

For example, this map I found on the Internet gives MY celebrity bus tour address. Problem is, I moved out of that address over 50 years ago (I whited-out the house number to keep the neighborhood free of paparazzi).

To make my point, I pulled up behind a tour bus. You know, the kind that has people sitting up on a top deck? The tour driver pointed to a house and everyone started taking pictures. Now I don’t know who the bus driver was referring to, but I happen to know who lives in that house. Nice people, but they have nothing to do with Hollywood show business. But, so what? Everyone on the bus was thrilled and they were all having a great time.

After my tour was over I really felt that Hollywood needs some truly extravagant displays of our famous town. A little more showbiz pazazz. Especially Hollywood Boulevard. The Hollywood Walk of Stars could be made so much more exciting if they just made a few changes.

I've said this before. Supplement the Hollywood Walk of Fame with the Hollywood Heads of Fame. In the 60s I was honored to have my wax figure in the Hollywood Wax Museum (on Hollywood Blvd).

Years later while shooting a segment for “Fight Back! with David Horowitz,’ in front of the museum, one of my crew members went inside to see if they still had my figure.

He came out with my head. You see, when a star’s light dims, they remove the figure, keeping the head in The Hollywood Museum head shop.

Here's the deal. Rescue all those heads on a shelf and put them on lamp poles along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and call it “The Hollywood Heads of Fame.” Think of the possibilities. When each head is raised to the lamp-post, mobs carrying flaming torches could gather. They would chant, “Hooray For Hollywood.” Now this would be the real Hollywood for tourists to see.

Don’t like that idea? Well, I’m going to throw it right back at all you future tourists and tour guides.


Let me know and I’ll work on it.

Don’t leave out the Hollywood Sign. It’s one “H” of a Hollywood icon.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 07, 2008


There is one thing that upsets me everytime I listen to talk radio (one thing?). The hosts are always putting down “mainstream media,” A.K.A, the newspaper. They do this while obviously quoting from their local newspaper in order to get the facts for their story. Local radio shows don’t have the money to staff a large research or investigative department, so they let the mainstreamers do the work.

As for myself, I couldn’t face the day without my Los Angeles Times. The headline above is from a story I read in this morning’s edition (March 7, 2008). It was written by Times Staff Writer Seema Mehta, and is about a new form of human tantalizer, the “Cyberbully.” The meanie who posts bully-like comments on the Internet.

This article rang a bell in my head (a very loud bell). I had just posted a new blog which mentioned one of my earlier shows, Lloyd Thaxton’s Record Shop. And I posted a picture of me interviewing Stan Freberg.

The next day after my posting went up, I got my first cyberbully comment.

10:58 AM

Anonymous said...

A great post and a lesson for the ages. If you could only spell Stan Freberg's name, it would be perfect.


Now, I’m not really serious about calling this anonymous person a cyberbully. However, the use of the pseudonym “anonymous” could have been a really big mistake.

The second I saw this comment, I flashed back 43 years to another such subtle attack. It was 1965 and I had decided to change my show’s theme song, So What by Bill Black and his combo. I asked my friend Herb Alpert if he would record a new one for me. Being the great guy he is, Herb never missed a beat. The next day he was in the recording studio and the new theme, So What’s New, was born.

When I received the “Stan Freeberg-Stan Freberg” cyberbully comment, I asked Dan Schaarschmidt, Research Video’s ace video editor, to dig into my show archives and find the famous Herb Alpert end-credit. Remember this?

This credit was posted after every show for six months. That is until we got a letter from a listener (TV bully?) who wrote and said …. What?

Take a closer read. What’s wrong with this picture?

You got it. We spelled Herb Alpert’s name wrong. For six months (180 shows) we didn’t hear one complaint. That is until our TV bully (a woman fan) called and informed us of our mistake.

We were, to put it mildly, extremely flabbergasted. However, we bounced back and decided to make a big deal out of it. We invited our bully viewer to join us on the very next show. Then we told a lie (albeit, a tongue-in-cheek kind of lie). We told her it had been a contest all along and that she, being the first one to catch the mistake, had won a TV set. We presented the prize amidst much applause, corrected our mistake, and the beat went on.

There’s no Business like Show Business!!

That’s why I said that the bully who posted the Stan Freberg-Stan Freeberg comment made a big mistake. By using “anonymous” as their moniker, there is no way I can respond. Think about it. There was always the chance that I was having another contest and that maybe an iPhone, or an iPod, or a plasma HD TV might have been the prize for discovery.

Suggestion: next time anyone wants to be a cyberbully on this blog, add your email address and use the name “anonymouse” instead of “anonymous. “That way I will know you are a Mouse Cliquer and eligible for any prizes that just might be for the taking.

No more lies. I loved the comment. It made me smile.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 01, 2008



I was looking over some of my previous posts and was surprised to discover that I have been doing this for over 2 years (This is my 100th posting). According to the amount of comments my past posting, “WHY LLOYD THAXTON DISAPPEARED,” generated, it would make it the most popular one I’ve written so far. Because it was posted so long ago, I realized that many of our newer Mouse Cliquers might have missed it. So, here it is again.

Sub Title

In 1959 I was hosting The Lloyd Thaxton Record Shop on channel 13, Los Angeles. I sat all by myself behind a desk in front of a stage flat painted to look like record shop album shelves.

Like a radio disk jockey, I played records. This, however, was TV and the audience had to watch something while the records were playing. So, among a host of others gimmicks, I lip-synced, faked musical instruments and created finger people to perform this task. Even though it was a morning show with a low rating, I did manage to get some great musical artists as guest.

By 1961, just before the debut of The Lloyd Thaxton Show, which added teen-agers to the mix, the Record Shop had built up quite a sizable audience.

One morning I had country singer Jimmy Dean as a guest. Most people today know Jimmy Dean as the frozen sausage king.

But in the late 50’s, Jimmy not only made hit records, he was also the star of a highly rated country music TV show in New York City. That is, until, according to Jimmy; “I let them add the brass.”

Though The Jimmy Dean Show was already a hit in the New York suburbs, no one expected the show to make it in the Big City itself. But, according to the ratings, the show was, in fact, becoming a big city hit. Because of this, the wise men at the New York station came to Jimmy and said he would have to make some major changes in the show. “Why?” asked Jimmy. “The show is a hit.”

According to these wise men, THAT was the very reason for the changes. They told Jimmy the viewers in the city are too sophisticated to watch a country music show. The show now has to be more sophisticated. “But the show is already a hit with the big city slickers. They like it as it is,” complained Jimmy.

The wise men won out and added all kinds of changes. Out went the country humor and all those fiddles. In their place they put a big band with lots of trombones and trumpets (they added the brass). The format was totally changed from “A Little Bit of Country” to “Big Brassy New York City.”

You guessed it. The ratings went in the toilet and the show was canceled. Jimmy was telling me this story as a friendly warning. He said that I should not change anything in my show just because the ratings showed that more and more Los Angeles people were starting to watch it.

When Jimmy left the studio, his parting words were, “Remember, Lloyd, don’t let them add the brass.”

In 1966, I forgot.

The Lloyd Thaxton Show was designed from the beginning as a low budget local show. It had one host (me), an average of 30 teens dancing to records in a small TV studio in front of an inexpensive set. There were several innovative elements that separated it from other dance shows at the time. Everyone (myself and the kids) lip-synced records and performed other wild and crazy production numbers in order to make the music visual and more entertaining to watch. Some have referred to these bits as “the beginning of the Music Video.” The show held on to its classic local show look.

In just 10 months, The Lloyd Thaxton Show zoomed to the top in Los Angeles. Not only was it a hit with teens, it was number one with 18-39 year-old viewers. This is the audience demographic most coveted by advertisers and in 1964 the show went into national syndication. And, guess what. The wise men showed up.

I was advised that because the show would now be seen in cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we had to make changes. At the time, I remembered Jimmy Dean’s advice and refused to change or “add the brass.” The show continued its rating success in every city it played, big and small. It looked so local that many people thought that it was telecast live from their own city’s station.

Reality Fact #1: The only reason the show was in syndication was because it was rated number one in the 18-39 demographics. Advertisers drool over this coveted bracket and the Lloyd Thaxton show was getting the winning numbers.

Reality Fact #2: Very few corporate executives, the ones who make the ad buying decisions, really watch the shows they advertise in on a regular basis, if at all. They make their ad buy decisions based on the rating books.

Then one day it all changed.

One of the Lloyd Thaxton Show’s biggest advertisers was Colgate-Palmolive. Colgate placed a lot of ads in the show. One afternoon the president of Colgate just happened to tune in and watched for about five minutes. What did he see? According to him, he saw nothing but teen-agers DANCING! He immediately called his ad department and asked, “Why are we advertising in that show? It’s a teen show! They don’t buy toothpaste!” The advertising department could not convince the president of the company that the rating books , not only showed teens were watching, but, adults 18-39, were also watching, so Colgate pulled their ads. On some TV stations this represented about 50% of their advertising and they panicked.

In marched the wise men again. “Change the show. Make it look older,” they said. This time I didn’t listen to Jimmy Dean. I could have held on. There were enough other advertisers aboard to get us through this short-term emergency. But, I gave in and agreed to make changes.

I made what I now consider to be my biggest mistake. I changed the age limit for the kids on the show. They now had to be over 18. Instead of always using high school groups, I intermingled them with college students. “Ok,” I said, “If any of the wise men tune in now, they will see 18 to 23 year-olds on the show.

Was this a fantastically shrewd move or not? NOT! I had broken the Jimmy Dean rule. I had “added the brass.”

Though it was still a very entertaining show, I slowly started to lose some of my faithful teen audience. This was the show’s core. The overall ratings dropped. I could have still held on (and sometimes I wish I had) but I had been doing the Record Shop, plus The Lloyd Thaxton Show five days a week, 52 weeks a year for over nine years and felt I should move on. The final straw, of course, was the 60s itself. The Vietnam War, the teen-age draft, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, plus Martin Luther King, Civil Rights Demonstrations, riots, Rock & Roll’s morphing into “Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll,” was taking a heavy toll on teen-agers. This was the beginning of the end of the fabulous 60s.

I cancelled the show.

I sometimes wonder that if I hadn’t given in to the wise men (There were definitely more than three), some version of The Lloyd Thaxton Show would still be around today.

We’ve all heard the saying, “What works, works. What doesn't work, doesn't work. Working hard at what doesn't work will never make it work” (Stuff Happens)

Adding the brass doesn't work.

Stay tuned