If I could travel back in time I would be a game show panelist.
In this witty urbane life my Sunday afternoon drive into Manhattan in my creme Cadillac would be scored by Rogers & Hammerstein [or Hart] among others. I might even throw in some Mitch Miller. My Sunday nights would be spent in front of a studio audience. As often as possible I would work in some reference to a broadway show or studio taping I had seen earlier in the week. My hairdresser would be especially gifted at the upsweep - a perfect balance of high/low accents framing my face. Jane and/or Audrey Meadows, among others, would call on Mondays to dish over my observations. Life is good.
Well, anyway, I do enjoy watching classic panel game shows; oh, let's just say radio and TV quiz shows - after all Groucho did not share his stage with a panel and he's a favorite. You Bet Your Life challenges the most stark definition of quiz show. Groucho would, after all, sometimes just get the questions in around interviews. We all knew that after 30 minutes we would know more about Gladis Wilson from Pasadena and her bachelor partner Harold Carson than we might ever know about our neighbors. The questions were just icing and part of the fun was listening for one of the contestants to say the evening's secret word. George Finneman's introduction of the "contestants" would include such gems as, "just before going on the air our studio audience selected a bachelor and a spinster and here they are..." [10/26/1949, 12/06/1950,...] and, "we invited some college football players and some foreign-born girls to the program tonight and here comes the two selected by our studio audience just before going on the air" [12/05/1951]. The fun would then ensue. Just Groucho, George and the parade of contestants proved entertaining.
For my regular panel gig, I've Got a Secret and What's My Line? over at CBS would've been dreamy. IGAS regulars included Henry Morgan, Faye Emerson, and Jayne Meadows. All guided along by host Bill Cullen. On the WML sound stage John Daly acted as straight man to Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis, and a mixture of Hal Block, Steve Allen, Louis Untermeyer and Fred Allen. For 30 minutes viewers strategized with blindfolded panelists asking a pretty standard list of questions - "are you a woman?, "would I have seen you on TV this week?","Do you play a sport?" are always good starters.
The mystery guest was the prize at the end of both shows -chosen due to some achievement, title, ability or fame. Most everyone in Hollywood & stage seems to have sat in, whispering with John when unsure of answer...with extra effort in disguising their celebrity voices thrown in for humor. Once the mystery guest is revealed, to everyone's delight, the guest greets panelists and is whisked away.
After the lights go down I'd hang around for just a while in my danish modern dressing room before heading back to Connecticut. As Rosemary Clooney serenades I might dissect my week's schedule; Tuesday's walk through of this week's radio script on another network, acting as hostess for my producer husband's show premier and/or meeting a copy deadline on my column.
"This is liberation", I would think. "This is New York by moonlight and I'm a panelist on a quiz show".
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