Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Thursday, March 29, 2007



On one of my very first blogs I told the story of “MY SHORT HOT SUMMER WITH MARLON BRANDO.” I had gone to London back in the late 60s to shoot some film for my TV show. Marlon Brando happened to be at the airport meeting his attorney who was on the same plane as I. We immediately hit it off.

I told the story of how I was invited to the set of “The Countess From Hong Kong,” starring Brando, Sophia Loren, and directed by Charley Chaplin. Recently re-reading my blog, I realized the point of the story was completely missed. An important joke was involved and I never told it. Instead I wrote, “Unfortunately I can’t write out the joke on this page. It’s just too visual, with lots of hand gestures. So, you’ll just have to take my word that it’s funny.” My Brando story fell as flat as a road spiked tire.

That was before I knew how to add pictures. Now that I can, here’s the missing-joke story re-told ...

During a break in the filming, Brando and I were sitting off-stage, side by side in tall director’s chairs, and I told this joke:

A man walks into a bar, sits down, and starts talking to the guy next to him. He says, “You should have seen the gal I was out with last night.” Then he holds his hands up to his chest … like this.

The other guy asks, “She had big Tits?” and the man answers, “No. She had arthritis.”

Marlon couldn’t stop laughing. Then, as if on some kind of off-stage cue, he suddenly stopped and turned quite serious. “I’ve got to tell that joke to somebody and I’ve got to do it right now,” he said as he jumped down from his chair and rushed over to the other side of the set to interrupt a lone gaffer busily adjusting a light. He was too far away for me to make out exactly what he was saying, but I could see his lips moving and his hands making the correct gesture.

After he delivered the punchline the gaffer just stared, turned and continued his work. Brando looked perplexed, but not undaunted.

He next rushed over to Chaplin’s son Sidney, who was also in the film. More animated this time, it was Brando at his best. He accentuated the two-hand gesture as if an Oscar would be the result. Nothing! No laugh. Not even a smile.

Like a scene from a movie within a movie, Marlon returned and climbed back next to me on to his chair. During the few moments it took for him to carefully prepare his next line, the gaffer’s well-positioned key light provided me with the famous Brando profile.

When ready, he slowly turned and looked directly at me with dramatically hooded eyes, “Lloyd,” he said, “ I guess it’s just you and me.”

It was pretty obvious to me that he had blown the punch line. But, who cared? To me, it was pure Brando and I will always cherish that moment. Here we were, sitting close together, just like in the backseat scene in “On The Waterfront.” But instead of Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger, it was Marlon Brando and Lloyd Thaxton. He may have turned to me and said, “Lloyd, I guess it’s just you and me.” But I’ll swear to my dying day that what I heard was:

“Lloyd, I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.”

Stay tuned

Monday, March 26, 2007


In my last posting, "King Kong vs Godzilla," I took up the issue of the Viacom vs YouTube's one-billion dollar law suit. This is an important issue to anyone who, not only enjoys watching creative (expensive to produce) television, but also wants to continue to be able to listen to their favorite music via CDs and iPod devices. Though many people visited my blog, there was only one comment posted to the "Kong" blog. An indication as to how few people really give a damn.
The one comment was from loyal fan, Mike Barer, who wrote, "Your video with Marvin Gaye got pulled. That is unfortunate, but glad I could enjoy it." Many thanks to Mike for taking the time to post his thoughts.

As I do give a damn, here is my comment to Mike:
The reason the Marvin Gaye video got pulled was because it was taken from a Marvin Gaye Documentary and downloaded to YouTube to be viewed illegally for FREE. This is not fair play. The producers of the documentary had paid dearly for the use of the clip and paid all the required license fees to the publishers of the music.

This is nice for the viewers of YouTube, but hard on the producers and the estate of Marvin Gaye, who not only spent many dollars for usage rights, but many hours producing and merchandising the DVD. This is a very expensive process. Why would one pay for view if they can see it free.

I'm sure there isn't one viewer of YouTube clips that would like to go to work each day and not get paid for their time, creativity, and efforts.

Like you, I enjoyed looking at the Lloyd Thaxton Show Marvin Gaye clip myself. Good promotion for my own future DVD, but at the same time, bad for people trying to make a living in the music and DVD business. YouTube and the holders of the copyrights have to get together and figure out a reasonable-cost way to solve this problem.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


When I was producing “Fight Back” on NBC back in the 90s, we posed this question to our audience, “What is the difference between one million dollars and one billion dollars?” Our answer: One MILLION DOLLARS is a stack of one hundred dollar bills THREE FEET HIGH. One BILLION DOLLARS is a stack of one hundred dollars bills AS HIGH AS THREE EMPIRE STATE BUILDINGS stacked on top of one another.

Think about that while you peruse this legal looking document.

Viacom International Inc. (King Kong) is suing YouTube and Google (Godzilla) for one BILLION dollars. I don’t know about you, but this sure got my attention.

Now why would the nice guys at Viacom Inc. sue those other nice guys at YouTube and Google? According to what is printed in the paper (and we all believe what is printed in the paper) Viacom has discovered a few of their copyrighted TV shows playing on YouTube without their paying the required license fees. Well, maybe more than just a few; more like 160,000? Oh-Oh!

I have to say right here that I am sympathetic to Viacom’s BILLION dollar position.

The same kind of stuff is happening to the people who make records. Have you noticed how many neighborhood and chain record stores have gone out of business lately? Their downfall began when people started downloading songs free from the Internet. Why buy an album when you can listen to it freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee? If this phenomenon continued, it wouldn’t be long before there would be nothing to listen to, free or not. Why write songs? Why record songs? We all know it is fun to write music and sing and play in a band, but a person has to make a living.

Viacom’s BILLION dollar gorilla might just wake everyone up before all this litigation gets completely out of hand (a TRILLION dollars is a stack of hundred dollar bills as tall as THREE THOUSAND EMPIRE STATE BUILDINGS!). Hopefully someone will stop and listen to the wise words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

The big movie, TV and music corporations should step back and face the fact that we have entered a new media era for the distribution of entertainment. And, the Internet has to stop playing unlicensed copyrighted material. There should be some kind of compromise reached between the supplier and the provider of Internet programming. My hope is that the Viacom/YouTube/Google BILLION dollar threat might be the catalyst to helping bring everyone together.

One of the many complaints music fans had against the record company conglomerates was that too many times the buyer had to fork out over 20-bucks for an entire album just to get the one song they really wanted. The record companies failed miserably in their attempts to address these complaints and the Internet was there to take over.

Apple, the one totally awesome company that rose to the challenge, opened their iTunes store offering downloaded single songs for 99-cents each. They then developed iPod for fans to program their own album compilations. The fans got their favorite songs; the recording artists and composers got paid. Compromise. Everybody wins.

I would hope that Viacom (King Kong) and YouTube/Google (Godzilla) reach a similar solution. One where a kid from Toledo could make a funny face and lip-sync Christina Aquilera doing a James Brown song on YouTube and the companies that distribute monies to the record company that recorded the song would get a reasonable percentage fee from YouTube’s advertising revenue. This is fantastic promotion for the record company, satisfaction for the publishers, lots of advertising for YouTube, and a lot of fun for the viewers watching some kid making a fool of himself in front of millions of people (BILLIONS actually).

That’s what I call entertainment.

That’s what I call getting along.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


When I was a kid, my buddies tagged me with the moniker “Worm.” No matter how much my mother hated it, she had to admit it was a better nickname than my best pal, “Slimy.” Actually, “Worm” was quite prophetic. I grew up to be a worm: a bookworm. I collect American classics. And, I love to read more than just about anything else. Some of my favorite books are written by friends. And, if they are PSBA (Personally Signed By Author), reading their very personal notes brings back lots of warm memories.

What started me on this subject was a new book written and signed to me by my friend of over 40 years, noted promotion maven, Shelly Saltman. Shelly’s recently published book, Fear No Evel, is a fascinating read. I met Shelly back in 1963 when MCA-Universal, the media giant that syndicated The Lloyd Thaxton Show, put him in charge of the show’s promotion. It was Shelly’s innovative promotion style that helped keep the show on top of the syndicated charts for all the years it was on.

Shelly’s career ranged from promoting Jack Benny, Andy Williams, Mohammad Ali, all the way to Evel Knievel’s highly publicized sky-cycle rocket car jump over Snake River Canyon in Idaho. After that attempt failed, Shelly wrote about it in his first book, Evel Knievel On Tour, to which Mr. Knievel critiqued by beating Shelly to a pulp on the 20th Century Fox movie lot with a baseball bat. Hence the title, Fear No Evel. It’s a fascinating read and reminds me of all the wonderful experiences Shelly and I had together (Fortunately, I was spared the bat).

Next on my shelf I found another one of my favorite “PSBA” books. In 1968 I hosted an interview show on KCOP in Los Angeles. It was a pilot program to work out the kinks for the show’s possible run at national syndication. I had to be in New York during one of the show tapings and Regis Philbin sat in for me. The guest that day was Margaret O’Brian, who was there to plug her book My Diary.

She signed her book, “To Lloyd Thaxton. Thank you for the rare opportunity of meeting Regis Philbin. Gratefully – Margaret O’Brien.” What a sweet thing for her to write.

My all-time favorite PSBA book is a classic little tome titled, The Chrysalis, written by the late Paul Francis Webster. If the name Paul Francis Webster doesn’t strike a note, sing a few bars of, “Secret Love” or “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” Paul wrote these two songs with composer Sammy Fain and each song won an Oscar. The same with “The Shadow of Your Smile” that Paul wrote with composer Johnny Mandel. Add those three Oscars to Paul’s 16 Academy Award nominations, 20 Gold Records, and a Grammy Award for songs like, “Tender is the Night,” “April Love,” “I Had it Bad and That Ain’t Good” and “Somewhere My Love” (Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago).

I first met Paul Francis Webster in 1961 on "Lloyd Thaxton’s Record Shop.” He appeared on the show to plug his latest movie sound-track album. The next time I met him, about a year later, it was during a miss-guided trip to the front door of his house in Beverly Hills.

My wife and I were invited to dinner by Sam Mannis, the 60’s “Furrier to the Stars” and creator of FursByMannis in Beverly Hills. To make it easier to find his house Sam told us to look for his Rolls Royce, which he would park in the driveway.

We spotted the Rolls right away, walked up the driveway and knocked on the door. But, when the door opened, instead of Sam Mannis, it was Paul Francis Webster. He didn’t seem to be surprised at all to see me. As a matter of fact, he said, “Hi Lloyd. Come on in.” I asked if Sam Mannis was there and Paul answered, “No. Sam lives up the street. Do you want me to call him?” I felt quite stupid. I should have known there might be more than one home in Beverly Hills with a Rolls in the driveway. When I told Paul that I obviously had the wrong house, he looked at me, his face revealing obvious disappointment, and asked, “Does that mean you’re not staying?”

Sounds like an old joke, right? No way. Paul was truly disappointed. We didn’t stay that time, but that very moment was the beginning of a wonderfully warm friendship that lasted for many years. Paul and his lovely wife, Gloria, had a perpetual open house. Regardless of the hour, they loved to have friends just “drop in,” And, drop in, we did, many times.

Paul was in his 80s at the time but he and Gloria became formidable tennis foes. Barbara and I called Paul, “The Artful Lobber.”

We’ll never forget the night we were discussing the technique of collaborating with other composers. We asked how it was to work with the highly prolific composer Sammy Fain, who collaborated with Paul on, “Secret Love, “Tender is the Night,” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” Instead of giving us an answer, he went to the phone, dialed up Sammy Fain, and had him come to the house to join the conversation. He even called Doris Day, who lived next door. If she had been home, he would have invited her over to personally sing “Secret Love.” I have no doubts, knowing Paul, that she would have showed up.

For about two hours, Paul and Sammy sat at the piano (pictured below) and performed a rousing concert almost laying out their entire careers together. I was salivating for a tape recorder. It seemed unfair for just Barbara and myself, an audience of only two, to enjoy. But, that was Paul. He loved his friends and he loved to share his wealth of talent.

Thanks for all those lovely words Paul. Just like you wrote it, Love IS a many splendored thing.

An aside to all my boyhood pals: Please take note that none of the above distinguished authors called me, "Worm."

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Early Wednesday morning, a member of our family passed away.

He was a little guy who lived in our house for over 11 years. An acclaimed child prodigy, he named himself, “Baby Peter” at just three months old. Then, started reciting, “I’m Baby Peter, Pumpkin Eater.” At only 2 years of age, he had a vocabulary of over 200 words. He could even recite Shakespeare (“To be or not to be. That is the question”). At age 3, he was entertaining guests with somersaults and taking treat requests (“Do you want a cookie?” “Would you like some water?”). He had a set of feathers on him that knocked you out every time he flew into the room.

Feathers? Flew? I guess by now you know I’m not talking about the little guy interviewing big guy Rock Hudson in the above picture. This little guy was a Parakeet. But, to us, he was a little person in a feather suit.

My love for parakeets began in 1952 while doing a show called “Leave It To Lloyd” on WSPD-TV in Toledo, Ohio. The show featured Lola Smith at the organ, Barbara Krall, who sang, myself, and starred the talking Parakeet, Sanford. Sanford was named after the pet store “Sanfords,” that donated him to the show (this was typical local 50s TV folks). We also had big guy guests like Rock Hudson, but it was Sanford who always stole the show and gathered the ratings. When the show went off the air (as all shows eventually do), Sanford moved into my parent's house for the rest of a very good life.

The scene changes to Hollywood.

My wife, Barbara, and I first saw Baby Peter at The Farmer’s Market Pet Store just days after he was born. When we entered the store he was being hand fed by Todd, the loving owner himself, and we had to wait a couple of weeks before he was old enough to bring home. From that moment on, he literally personified the phrase, “What a handful.”

Then one day, just a little over four weeks out of his nest, he looked up at Barbara and myself and said, ever so softly, “Baby bird.” We rushed to the phone to call Todd at Farmer’s Market to report this unbelievable feat (“He’s talking. He’s talking”), but were told that this was impossible; the bird was too young to talk. All the time I was trying to convince Todd it was true, Baby Peter was on my shoulder shouting into the phone, “BABY BIRD … BABY BIRD.”

And that was just the beginning. For the next 11 years he sang “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” and hundreds of other songs and expressions. He called out for “Cheese Please,” at the dinner hour, and said “I want to go to sleepy” when it was time for bedtime. Once covered, he then recited, “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” We called him The Prince of Parakeeters.

We loved him so much and truly expected him to stay around forever. But, 11 is a lot of years for a Parakeet and a couple of weeks ago he began to fail. He stopped talking and spent a lot of time just sitting flat on our shoulders, snuggled up tight against our cheeks.

On Tuesday, Baby Peter started to lose the ability to stand on his own feet and Barbara and I took turns holding him in our hands for most of the day and night. At two thirty Early Wednesday morning, he lifted his head, let out a sigh, and died quietly in Barbara’s hand. We buried our little Prince under the Japanese Maple tree.

Anyone who has ever lost a beloved family member can surely understand our grief. The house feels eerily lonesome and quiet. We miss Baby Peter even more than we could have imagined. We were so thankful we were able to be with him when he left us. He was never alone.

Good night sweet Prince of Parakeeters; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Stay tuned.