In Hollywood back in 1978, getting your name in TV Guide was an early indication that you had “arrived.”
That was then. It was my very first network television role and on a top-ten rated show! And, whaddya know… suddenly, POW! There I was – in TV Guide! Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite ready to start writing an Emmy* acceptance speech yet, but I did feel like I was finally in the ‘big leagues” – even if I was still only a bat boy on the team.
Now, exactly forty-one years later, through wistful eyes, it all seems rather naive, amusing – and, in some ways, sad. Penny Marshall is gone. So is her brother, legendary comedy producer Garry Marshall – and Jack Somack, who starred in the classic 1969 “Spicy meatball” Alka Seltzer commercial. My buddy Phil Foster, too – along with so many others.
I look at who we beat the pants off of in the ratings that week, and I see TV icon Merv Griffin and one of my boyhood idols, Jack Paar, along with the hilarious Dody Goodman and brilliant Hans Conried. Also, TV perennial Dr. Joyce Brothers, comic Stu Gilliam and the insanely funny Pat McCormick, who later became one of my dear pals. At 6’7″, he was often (and aptly) referred to as “The World’s Tallest Leprechaun.”
I miss them. They’re all gone now – and so is the authoritative importance of TV Guide – along with that entire innocent and wonderfully funny world of network TV comedy which we all inhabited – so at home in that combination stage, playground and madhouse.
But forty-one years ago today, at the age of 28, I was starting to feel like I had finally “arrived” – on a cloud of enthusiasm and blissfully unaware of the ultimately tenuous nature of it all – and of us.
12 December 2019
*The term “Emmy” is a registered trademark of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, (NATAS).