Aircheck: NBC-TV, 12/2/1959

I haven’t done an Aircheck segment in a while – and I thought today would be a good day to re-introduce the segment to you. It’s good to take a break from the tumult in our world every now and then, right?

Recently, I had the chance to read the Adam Nadeff book about Bill Cullen, who I believe still holds the record for the most game shows hosted or participated in during a career at somewhere around 30. Unless there’s a sudden proliferation of game shows on network TV or syndication again (which seems unlikely in today’s media climate), it’s probably a record that will go unbroken.

In my estimations, I have Bill Cullen and Bob Barker first and second on my list as to whom I’d want to pick to host a game show if I could pick anyone from all of time somehow. Barker did one show better than anyone, whereas Cullen did an earlier incarnation of the same show – and did several others with great professionalism.

YouTuber Adam Curry posted this from late 1959 – an airing of The Price Is Right in its original format as it aired on NBC.

Aircheck: WBFF (Baltimore), 4/1/1994

Throughout the history of television, there have been many attempts to make the game of Bingo a successful program. They all share one thing in common: none of them were all that successful.

Here’s one of the more unique attempts back in 1994 – taking the game of Bingo and making it part of a larger talk show. It only aired in the Baltimore TV market back in early 1994, though there were eventual plans to syndicate the half-hour show and make it seen nationwide.

More interesting here is who is hosting the show – Bob Marella, Caron Tate, and Sean Mooney. If you’re a wrestling fan of that era, Mooney should be familiar to you – but who’s that Marella fella? Yep, that’s Gorilla Monsoon – using his real name. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan also winds up making a cameo on this April Fool’s Day episode, making one last televised appearance with long-time real-life bubby Marella.

Aircheck: CBS, 1990s

This is sometime during the 1990s on the CBS game show, The Price Is Right. It would have to be 1995 or some point earlier because Holly Hallstrom is one of the models (the redhead in the darker dress) – and was fired from the show that year.

Here, a pricing game called “Hole In One (Or Two)” is being played. Contestants line up grocery items so that the cheapest priced are farther away while the more expensive items are closer to the hole. If the lineup is in perfect order, the contestant wins a small cash prize (back then, $500) – but for each correct answer, he or she gets to make a golf putt closer to the hole while an incorrect answer stops the advancement from where the putt is made from. If they make the putt in one or two attempts, they win a car.

Ella was a fun contestant – and is worth watching this segment to the very end with her incredible second attempt.

Aircheck: WNBC (New York), 8/25/1977

In case you missed it over the holidays, radio talk show host and DJ Don Imus passed away last week.

I first heard about Imus back in the 80’s thanks to a cousin of mine who lived on and off in New York City. How can I describe Imus to anyone who never heard him? I think of him as being “cutting edge” at one point of his career – more or less using bits and methods that Howard Stern would later perfect.

Tbe “Billy Sol Hargis” bit struck me as the most funny – where Don voices a fictional Texas evangelist (though the character is based on real-life evangelist Billy Sol Estes somewhat) who would ask listeners for donations in exchange for products of a dubious nature.

Imus would wind up simulcasted in Tampa – first on WQYK, later on WTAN from the 90’s onward. By then, the show wasn’t as catered to sophomoric bits and hijinks as it once was, but still engaged of plenty of satire. I’d watch his MSNBC show in the late 90’s and wonder a few times how he would get away with saying something controversial. Blackmail? Stock ownership?

When the show said disparriging things about the Rutgers women’s basketball team one time in 2000’s – everyone who vouched for him over time could (mostly) do it no more, and everyone who wanted him gone finally got their wish. Even with those remarks, he still found work on WABC and the Fox Business Network – saying there until his retirement in 2018.

Yes, he was a controversial figure – few people in that business are successful these days without controversy. However, very few people in the media industry let you see who they really are – and Imus was in that sense one of a kind.

Aircheck: ABC/Reagan Library, 5/23/1984

In posting this, I’m unsure of two things.

First, I’m assuming ABC aired this interview at some point, though I can’t remember off-hand whether or not ABC News or ABC Sports aired this. Conceivably, either department could have aired the interview – or both could have.

Secondly, could this have been the last time Howard Cosell had the chance to interview Reagan? I don’t know. Cosell was yanked off of ABC television (but stayed on to do his radio work) the following year when his book, I Never Played The Game, was released. Off hand, I’d have to think Howard probably got the chance to interview him in the intervening year – perhaps during that year’s Olympics in Los Angeles.

Their respective styles seem to play well off of each other here. In today’s political climate where anything “Blue” seems to hate everything “Red” that Cosell, who was a staunch Democrat (and bandied the idea of running for Senate in the 70’s) and Reagan were respectful and complimentary of each other.

Aircheck: WLCY-TV, 1977

A few notes about this clip from 1977, if you please.

First, this was before Channel 10 became WTSP – a name change that would take place the following year in September of 1978. Back then, Channel 10 was not a CBS station as it is now – but an ABC station, which it was up until the “Big Switch” of 1994.

Secondly, and this is mind-boggling to think about these days – one of Channel 10’s popular shows in the mid-1970’s was their wrestling show that aired Sundays at 1pm, often airing in place of whatever news or sports programs ABC had. The big professional circuit of note of that era and area, Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF), had two locally televised shows in the Tampa Bay market: one would air Saturdays at 7pm on WTOG, Channel 44, and would stay there until the circuit’s demise in 1987.

That show would host matches from the Sportatorium in Tampa where the top talent would be featured against lesser-known grapplers usually there to lose, although that didn’t always happen – and the show was basically an “infomercial” for upcoming cards in the various arenas in Florida, with scripted “angles” taking place on TV so that fans had added incentive to go to the shows. Tampa had a card every week at the Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory, one of many stops during the course of a given week. On most Saturdays, additional cards would be held at either the Lakeland Civic Center, the Bayfront Center in St. Pete, or Sarasota’s Robarts Arena.

The “second show” that Channel 10 had often used different formats and would often air on different channels in that era. For a brief while around 1980, WFLA aired it on Friday nights after Johnny Carson – then WTOG would air the “B-show” on Sundays at 7pm. Sometimes it would just be a replay of the Saturday edition, sometimes it would be repackaged, and other times Gordon Solie would interview someone in the wrestling world for a half-hour or so, then show highlights the rest of the way.

Here, Gordon’s interviewing one Andre Roussimoff, better known to the world as merely Andre The Giant – one of most in-demand performers of the era.

Aircheck: NBC, 1976

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at an episode of the Family Feud game show – back at a time when it aired on network TV, had a different host, and had a different look.

For all of you younger than me (and I’ll be 48 September 6th) – there once was a time Wheel Of Fortune had a different host, aired on daytime TV (NBC), had a different letter-turner, and had a bit of a different look and feel.

Oh, and if you won a round – you got to “go shopping” and buy a bunch of prizes.

Aircheck: ABC-TV, 1/26/1974

I haven’t done one of these “airchecks” in a while. But when I find something that I think is worth sharing – I figure, why not share it with you all?

It should be noted that most of this episode of Wide World Of Sports (a sports anthology ABC used to have in the days before the proliferation of cable TV) was taped on January 23, 1974, for air three days later. (I saw promos on this footage for shows that aired on Sunday – so I’m assuming this aired on Saturday, 1/26/1974.)

This was also back in an era where professional boxing commanded attention. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were a few days away from their second fight on January 28th – but neither man was the reigning champion, fighting for a lesser title instead. George Foreman was the reigning World champ, so this upcoming fight would basically decide who would fight him. Ali lost to Frazier the first time they met in 1971, and Howard Cosell and ABC had arranged for both men to view film footage of that initial bout a few days before their second bout.

Frazier was then the recognized champ, but Ali also had the distinction of never losing his title in the ring – being stripped of the crown for refusing to join the military in 1967, thus the first fight would produce a truly undisputed champion if a winner were found. Both men also went into the ring for that first fight undefeated, but that night produced a Frazier decision victory, benefiting from a 15th round knockdown of Muhammad.

In what always struck me as an odd decision – Ali and Frazier sat by side-by-side. Why not have Howard in between them? I guess it’s easy to say in retrospect, considering what happened as the trio viewed the tenth round of the first fight. The verbal sparring between the two men deteriorated into an actual fight – while they were watching the original fight! Cosell sat there, not moving a muscle, telling the audience, “Well, we’re having a scene, as you can see…”

Ali was probably not as serious, knowing that such an altercation would probably increase interest in the fight to come – a page taken from the stagecraft of professional wrestling, maybe. Frazier seemed decidedly annoyed as the men wrestled to the floor. As Cosell notes in the opening of the footage, the New York State Athletic Commission fined each of the fighters $5,000 – with the prominent broadcaster pointing out that the commission failed to view any of the tapes, which ABC would have allowed them to view. Thus, they made their ruling on hearsay evidence, with Cosell, the former lawyer – pointing that out in spades.

The studio scuffle wound up being more interesting than the fight was a few days later – Ali won a 12-round decision. They’d met again in Manilla, with Ali winning the title away from Foreman later in 1974 – and this time, Ali won by knockout after the 14th round when Frazier’s corner stopped the fight due to fears Joe couldn’t see out of at least one of his eyes. Ali also wanted to quit after that 14th round. Had the referee, Carlos Padilla had the wherewithal to check Ali’s corner – the fight could have wound up a draw, or a rarely seen double TKO, in which case Ali would have retained his championship.

With boxing out of the sporting limelight and television broke down into hundreds of pieces with the proliferation of cable TV – I doubt if the sport ever returns to such prominence. There was a welterweight title fight on ESPN this past weekend between two fighters I’d never heard of. At the weigh-in before the fight, one fighter had the audacity to take a swing at the other fighter, a punch the targeted fighter easily evaded. The incident barely got any media attention outside of ESPN.

Yep, we’re a long way away from 1974.


Aircheck: ABC, 6/5/1968

I’ve always felt that the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles may have been a more sadistic blow to our country than the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, roughly four and a half years earlier.

ABC was the only network that stayed on the air continuously as events transitioned from election results to a breaking news event. Shortly after 3:15am Eastern time on June 5, 1968, the network was just returning from a B.F. Goodrich commercial and was about to sign off for the evening at approximately 19 minutes into the clip – the very moment RFK had been gunned down. For several moments, the John Phillip Souza march “The Thunderer” is heard.

Howard K. Smith is seen taking phone calls at his desk on the left, and a crowd forms in the upper right part of the screen by the wire machines above the “Race to the White House: California Primary” graphics. (Bill Lawrence is on the right side of the screen, whom ABC used as a political analyst.)

As the music re-cues a minute later, an announcer informs the audience to “Please stand by.” A minute later, the music stops and starts again, this time the announcer hints something serious is afoot by saying, “Please stand by for a special report.” Smith is seen furiously writing down notes and fielding a few more calls. About four and a half minutes into a static shot of the studio and the nearly continuous music, Smith returns to break the news at about 3:20am:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve kept the air on because we’ve heard an alarming report that Robert Kennedy was shot in that ballroom in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. A very loud noise like a clap of thunder was heard, a small explosion. We waited to see what it was, and then came a report that Senator Robert Kennedy was shot. We will bring you more news as we learn it.”

The details came forth in the following minutes and hours. RFK would cling to life for a little over a day before dying in the wee hours of June 6, 1968. I wasn’t alive when it happened (I came into the world three years and three months later), but it had to have been a cruel blow to the country – and I’m sure many wondered in the 50 years that have now proceeded the event what would have happened had RFK not been fired upon.