Sunday, May 02, 2021

The Password Is "Games"

Began a very fast morning with fried eggs and oranges for breakfast and the soundtrack album from The Pirate Movie. This very 80's satire of The Pirates of Penzance and swashbucklers in general isn't well-regarded by most people, but my family and I watched it a lot on cable in the mid-80's, and I have very fond memories of it. Of the newer songs, the finale dance routine "Happy Endings" and double-entre filled dance number "Pumpin' and Blowin'" are my favorites.

Rushed out for work even before the first side ended. Boy, do I wish I hadn't. It was a pain today. We were busy all afternoon. It's the beginning of the month, and along with the Kentucky Derby and early Cinco Del Mayo parties, it's a perfect weekend for a barbecue. The carts were empty when I arrived at 8:30. I kept getting pulled to do this, that, and the other thing, especially later, after more help arrived. Ended up in the register for the last hour and a half because they were so desperate for cashiers. Plus, they're now wiring most of the baggers with pagers and ear pieces so they can hear the managers asking them to come in. I wouldn't mind it so much if it wasn't so conspicuous. The beepers are huge and the ear pieces are a pain to wear. 

Jumped on my bike and hurried home the second I could get out. Changed and went straight into writing after I arrived. Mayor Allen Ludden pins the metal Sheriff's badge on Richard, declaring him the head of law enforcement in Televista City. Ira offers him a room at his boss Mark Goodson's palatial ranch, but Richard opts to stay in town and asks Gene if there's anywhere he can live closer to the jail house. Gene tells him about the boarding house just around the corner from the City Hall run by Bill Daily's lady Marcia Wallace.

Broke for dinner at 7. Had the Strawberry-Oatmeal Pancakes I didn't have the time for this morning, along with salad and the last of the ham. Switched to another campy musical genre spoof, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman after Pirate Movie ended. 

This one had a far greater pedigree than Pirate Movie, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams. Their score remains the best thing about this, along with wonderfully hammy performances by Jack Cassidy as a jealous theatrical columnist and Linda Lavin as his secretary. Lavin got the honor of introducing the score's only standard, "You've Got Possibilities," as she attempts to seduce Clark Kent. My other favorite song is "We Don't Matter at All," an unusually bitter duet for a fellow Planet reporter as he attempts to woo an unimpressed Lois Lane. While the show was a flop in 1966 and the 1975 TV version is awful, there have been some concert and regional stagings that managed to do a lot more with the campy concept.

Finished the night on YouTube. Since I'm reading the Allen/Betty biography, I honored Allen's work tonight, starting with G.E College Bowl. Allen, a staunch supporter of learning and schools, hosted the first few years of this battle between the brightest minds at major colleges across the country. Of course, I had to check out the battle between North Jersey/New York rivals Colgate and Rutgers New Brunswick. Colgate won, but I suspect Rutgers having trouble with their buzzers may have been a factor.

According to the book, the moment Allen saw Betty booked for Password in 1961 and greeted her, he knew he was in love with her. It took Betty, who'd been in two marriages that hadn't worked out, longer to figure out her feelings for him. They were finally married in 1963 and announced it to the world on a hilarious nighttime episode with then-Tonight Show host Jack Paar. The show jumped to color in 1966, with Barbara Rush and Brian Keith (of the then-new Family Affair) as the celebrities. 

Most of Allen's other shows have long since vanished or been erased. Only two episodes remain of of the 1976 word association game Stumpers, and only the opening of the 1968 musical game Win With the Stars. The comedy show Liar's Club fared slightly better. Here, Allen keeps an eye on Betty, David Letterman, Larry Hovis, and Dick Gautier as they give wacky descriptions of odd objects, and the contestants have to decide who's telling the truth.

Password was revived on ABC in 1971...and alas, this too was erased (reportedly by Family Feud). Perpetually feuding then-spouses Brett Somers and Jack Klugman battle it out on one of the few remaining episodes. Things get a lot more intense on Password All-Stars, the all-celebrity version of Password. I don't know why everyone complains about this version. It was a really well-played game, and Betty, Bill Bixby, Richard Dawson, and Hal Linden all did wonderfully. Even Allen appeared more stressed than usual. 

Password reappeared on NBC in 1979 as Password Plus. Here, the words to be guessed are grouped together to form a puzzle. Solving all the words would give the clues to the puzzle. Sadly Allen only hosted most of the first year before being felled by stomach cancer. He was around long enough for the hilarious week when Betty played with handsome John Phillip Law. They were all over each other every time they entered, to Allen's mock exasperation. The full week's been shown on Buzzr, but YouTube has a very funny sample.

Pass the word to college kids and Golden Girls everywhere that we're honoring a warm and witty host! (And look for the original commercials on Password All-Stars.)

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