Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The proof is in the picture, and it’s worth a thousand words. The first TV reality show was done on Thanksgiving Day, 1952. How do I know that? I was there.

In 1952, I had my own TV show, “Leave It To Lloyd.” It was on every afternoon on hometown WSPD-TV in Toledo, Ohio. This was of course before videotape, so the show was live. As the first Thanksgiving Day since I had been doing the show was approaching, I realized that the TV audience would be eating their Thanksgiving dinner at home, while I had to be at the studio. Who would want to stop eating and watch television?

Besides, why should I have to tap dance while others were stuffing their faces? Since I was a little kid I had never missed Thanksgiving with my family. I came home from college to do this. And when I was in the Navy, I was lucky enough to be stationed close enough to make the trip. Why should I make an exception just because I had a little thing like my own TV show to do?

Then I thought … WAIT! This is my show. I can do anything I want. Why not be a little daring and try something never done before. I could have my TV cake and eat it too. I decided to have my Thanksgiving dinner on television and call it, “Leave It To Lloyd To Do Thanksgiving Dinner on TV.”

A dining room table with all the trimmings was set up in the middle of the studio. My Dad sat where he always sat, at the head of the table. My Mom sat at the other end. My first wife, Jackie and my two boys, Lee and Robin sat with me on one side. My daughter Jennifer was also there. You can’t see her in the picture because she had not yet been born.

Almost, but not quite.

The idea was to leave the other side of the table empty so that the audience at home could pull their chairs up to their TVs and join us. Who would think of such a thing?

We said Grace; my dad cut the turkey and served. The rest of us ate. Lee and Robin ate nothing but buttered biscuits (This was the only bit of non-reality. If they were not on TV, they would never have gotten away with THAT). We included the audience in our conversation as if they were sitting right there (I found out later, they were actually doing this).

I had no idea how this was going to be received or if anyone would even watch such a weird show. It had never been done. But, as it turned out, I got more reaction to that show, than to anything I had ever done before or since. People loved it. They wrote that it gave them a chance to meet and be a part of my real family.

Because of the audience response, I did the same thing for three more Thanksgivings. I would most likely have continued, but by the late 50s, we were off and running toward Hollywood.

Think of it. This was the harbinger of things to come like, “Survivor,” “The Apprentice,” “The Amazing Race,” and the hundreds of the other highly popular reality based television shows of today.

I want my commission.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, kind sir, are cooler than cool -- but of course you were the first to do this! Ahead of your time there just a little huh. The first reality show, the Lloyd Thaxton Show* and Tiger Beat too --I tell you, if I'd had a boy-child I would've named him LLOYD THAXTON and called him "THAX" for short!

And please keep the pictures coming! Also, when are we mouse cliquers gonna see those LTS DVDs, hmm? (...hint hint...)

Luv U Much,


11:18 AM

Blogger Gaylel said...


Man, you were ahead of your time before Cowell and Inside Edition and all of those shows which open up their homes to their lives these days.

The newer shows open up lives which are in some areas, sad stories and people going through issues.

But this show I could imagine was fun because you showed the family as they are (the youn'ens having more fun with their food) and they were enjoying life.

And this was better was better than the Browns on Bravo any time..

Keep those stories coming..


3:55 PM

Blogger William F. Earl said...

dear lloyd...with all respect, were you wearing a widow's peak toupee in that shot at the meal table? I never noticed such a prominent widow's peak before on you..C'mon fess up..we ALL wear 'em now! Required wardrobe for coastal californians! ;)

4:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found your blog! What great memories I have of "The Lloyd Thaxton Show". I used to rush home from school so I could listen to the great music and dance in my living room. A few memories that stand out - watching "Caesar and Cleo" (later known as Sonny and Cher). He wore a fur vest. On another show - Lloyd had teens singing "It's Crying Time Again" while hovering over real onions to make them cry. One song in particular stayed with me - "I've Been Carrying a Torch for You So Long That I've burned a Great Big Hole in My Heart" (April Stevens/Nino Temple). Wow, the things we store in our brains!

10:09 PM

Blogger Lloyd Thaxton said...

I've said this many times but I repeat ... gladly. Your comments bring great joy to me. Don't stop - please!

A boy-child named "THAX" for short? Terrific

Ahead of my time? Not really. I was ahead of everybody's time. One of the first in the biz.

To Bill Earl: Haven't heard the word "Widow's Peak" for a long time. I think I was 3.

And finally, having teens sing (lip-sync?)"It's Crying Time Again" while hovering over real onions to make them cry. Who would ever do such a bizarre thing?

Love it!

10:27 AM

Blogger Gary said...

Lloyd, I just found out that Freddie Garrity (Freddie & The Dreamers) has died. Did they ever appear on your show and if so, any good stories about them?

10:31 AM

Blogger William F. Earl said...

Freddie (of the Dreamers) died? How sad. He had soooo much energy, spirit, and personality. "Do the Freddie" will always be remembered as THE cool dance of 1965. I'll have to play that song this afternoon. Hard to believe it came out 41 years ago.

2:24 PM

Blogger Gaylel said...

Gawd, sorry to hear about Freddie--yes, he was this amazing personality, glasses and all--And I also remember the "Freddie Dance" also..

He'll be missed..

But that willow peak comment--I knew that Thax had that--and I watched the show at the age of 5, which makes me now at the age of 47..

As I read your bio, I did not know Thax was one of the founders of "Tiger Beat"--and that was the first fan mag I bought when I was a pre-teen..


Keep the stories coming, Uncle Lloyd, it is bring back a lot of memories growing up in South Central...

1:15 AM

Blogger Don Wrege said...

Hi Mr. Thaxton,

I was speaking with the owner of a streaming media company here in Denver, CO and he mentioned they did work for "Tiger Beat."

I'm a 52 year-old who, as a teenager, used to subscribe to Tiger Beat. The first words out of my mouth were, "Llloyd Thatxton's Tiger Beat?!" The Denver guy didn't know what I was talking about.

Funny how a face and a name can stick with you all these years. I'm delighted to see that you're still alive and kicking.

Rock and roll will never die, and I hope you don't either.

With respect,

Don Wrege
Boulder, CO
(your fan from many decades ago)

10:23 AM

Blogger suejay said...

Mr. Thaxton-
This is so amazing - I just woke up on a sunday morning and decided to look up old friends on the internet. I'm a childhood friend of your daughter, Jenny! We both owned horses in the Riverside Rancho area of Burbank. She used to sleep over at our house with my sister and I. I could go on and on...AND, I faithfully watched your show Lloyd Thaxton Hop!!! I haven't talked to Jenny since the late 60's - I would love to know how she's doing....and I'm so very happy to know you're doing this!

12:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is Jenny. Please email at Does Buff is my angel mean anything to you?

4:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW - Can't believe this! I used to watch your show all the time - in fact I was even on the show once, since I grew up in Hollywood. Even more amazing is how I found this blog! I dated your son Lee for a while back in the 70's. I had a dream about him the other night (why I would dream of someone I dated 30 years ago is beyond me), but I googled him. Didn't find Lee, but this blog came up - how cool!

Anyway, it was fun read about the old show - a real trip down memory lane. So, how is Lee, and what did he end up doing? I know he wanted to race cars back then. Tell him hello. And I look forward to the DVD!

Ruth Elliott

10:21 PM


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