Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rolling Around in the Gutter!

My love of old time TV & movie stars is well-known among my regular readers, particularly when oddball combinations of them are tossed together in various formats such as The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, Battle of the Network Stars, Night of a 100 Stars and the like. Thus, you can imagine my heady delight when, out of nowhere, an over-the-air TV channel suddenly brought out a vintage program I had no knowledge of beforehand: Celebrity Bowling (1971-1977)!

Don't ask me why I'd never seen it or even heard of it before. Chances are that when it was on, I was under ten and the idea of watching ANY bowling on television would have been anathema to me. I still wouldn't watch bowling on TV by pros, but there is something quite comforting in watching total amateurs doing it and since I feel I know these people, it's like spending a half-hour with family at the old bowling alley! The host of Celebrity Bowling was Jed Allan, an actor who had just portrayed the latest owner of Lassie (1968-1969), but who is better known as a star of many daytime soap operas such as Days of Our Lives and Santa Barbara.
The show featured two, two-person teams who would share each frame using a "Best Ball" system. Each player would take a stab at ten pins. Whoever took down the fewest would swap lanes and try to pick up the spare of his or her partner, who'd done better. Then the teams would proceed back and forth through the tenth frame and, depending on the scores, lucky audience members would win a terrific prize. If somehow a decent bowler happened to accidentally show up and the score exceeded 210 points, the winner would receive a car! Thanks to the hapless, often skill-free, way the stars played, this only happened one time in all those years! More often, a bowling ball and bag or maybe a watch or a microwave wound up as the top prize.
But the fun of Celebrity Bowling is in the shock of discovering various stars placed together, such as the day that John Saxon, Angie Dickinson, Howard Duff and Susan St. James were all playing. They throw gutter balls, but sometimes luck out on a strike. It's fascinating to see these people unguarded and doing their best, sometimes at a sport that completely defeats them.
Few of the participants approached the game without a degree of intense concen- tration, not that it did all of them any good!  It's also amusing to see all the different stances, swings and follow-throughs. (My apologies that the quality of many of these pictures is, for the most part, quite poor because these are just snaps I had to take from a small kitchen television, the only one in my house that receives these obscure, over-the-air channels that are not offered on my satellite.)
The show was broadcast for 48 hours straight and I am so ashamed of how much I watched. I left the TV on and would continually come in each half hour or so to see who was playing. You can imagine how agog I was to step into the kitchen in time to see Jed Allan introducing The Lennon Sisters comprising the two teams!
This was historic in itself for it was practically the first time I have ever seen The Lennon Sisters when Kathy Lennon didn't possess my favorite hairstyle (she's the one with the long ponytail and ears showing.) On this day, by far my favorite hairdo went to Janet, whose blonde locks were curled and fluffed up into a big, bouncy confection that offset her snappy '70s outfit (with chain belt!) perfectly.
I adore The Lennon Sisters and truly enjoyed watching them attempt to bowl, many times with an utter lack of success, but with the occasional small victory. And, true to form, even when in competition they were encouraging and supportive to one another.
Like most game shows, several of these were filmed over the course of one day only to be broadcast weekly at a later time. Thus Peggy Lennon was on hand (but in the same outfit) for a subsequent episode. This one had her pair with John Davidson opposite Gail Fisher of Mannix and Ed Asner. I should mention that at this time, these people were still enjoying active careers. Their hit shows were still running. So it must have been a treat for fans to see them off duty.

By the way, John Davidson's beige pants fit like a second skin to an almost science-fiction level!

He did something I really appreciate (which few others appeared to do, but which I would have!) Even though he filmed more than one episode during his visit, he didn't wear precisely the same outfit. He changed shirts, while ladies like Peggy Lennon, Gail Fisher and Diane Lennon kept the same thing on the entire time! I once filmed two episodes of a local variety show back-to-back (twice in fact) and brought two shirts and ties so that I'd look different for one instance and added a jacket on another. (A lot of good it did me! On one of the shows, I was billed as "Don" instead of Jon!!  LOL) Anyway, shown on the far right here is Richard Long of The Big Valley and Nanny and the Professor, who Allan continuously and amusingly called "Dick Long" throughout the program!

Other stars included the children from The Brady Bunch. (Is Maureen McCormick braless?? "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!")

William Shatner and Hugh O'Brian (along with, not pictured, Fran Jeffries and Michele Lee.)

The unique conglomeration of Rory Calhoun and Frankie Avalon (!) versus Kate Jackson and Edward Albert!

Many, many, many others were on who I don't have photos of including: Leslie Nielsen, Ernest Borgnine, Lloyd Bridges, Michael Douglas, Brenda Vaccaro, Elizabeth Ashley, Greg Morris, Cornel Wilde, Edie Adams, Christopher & Lynda Day George, Dick Gautier and Jack Cassidy, to name a few. By far, the one that sent me over the moon, though, next to The Lennon Sisters, was seeing childhood crush Chuck Woolery! He's seen here with his then-wife JoAnn Pflug and opponent Julie London (who made frequent appearances with her husband Russ Conway.)
I fell in love with Chuck Woolery the first time I ever saw Wheel of Fortune, of which he was the host back in the day (1975-1981.) Always a rather dim child, I thought Elvis Presley was the host!  LOL  Looking at him now, there's more of a Jay Leno thing going on, but no one had heard of him then. Most people think of Woolery now, if at all, as the popular host of Love Connection (1983-1998.)
Seeing Chuck again (and his straining, flimsy dress slacks!) from this era brought utter joy to my day.  I adored him so much that I once dated a girl in high school a time or two simply because I knew that her mother had gone to prom with him when they were kids in Kentucky and a framed portrait of the two was positioned in the living room!  Never let it be said that I'm not aware of my own craziness. 
Precious few episodes of this show are on and I can't figure out why. It's a hoot and a half and features so many famous names! (Many of them, sadly, no longer with us.)  I'm almost glad it's not on regularly or I dare say I'd hardly leave the house!


joel65913 said...

I am so jealous and have only myself to blame. I had noticed that this marathon was coming up on that channel about a week before it came on, and wondering what the hell it was going to be like, and then completely forgot about it until this minute and now I'm dying a little inside at having missed it! Especially with those couple of pictures of John Saxon!! at the top. Aside from the star gazing missed it sounds like it was probably worth a chuckle or two. Sadly I'm guessing that my window of opportunity has probably passed so I have to go and weep a little over a golden chance that has passed me by.

Gingerguy said...

O.M.G. JoAnn Pflug. I remember her now, I will be saying that name for the rest of the afternoon. Bless your fortitude for watching this. The Lennon Sisters bowling! and you are absolutely right, Cathy's hair is TRAGICALLY disappointing, but Janet looks fabulous. Like Joan Kennedy in a bowling alley. I am hoping that Angie Dickinson won a microwave so she could make Burt Bacharach mini pizzas for dinner!

Poseidon3 said...

Joel, I can pretty much guarantee you would have enjoyed watching at least a few of these. Maybe they'll be back around. I was staggered that some people on the Decades FB page were complaining about this show! It was an invaluable way of seeing these people as themselves and was so much fun. Mind-blowing, too, to see some of them squat down between frames and light up a cig!

Gingerguy, I was so disappointed with Chuck and JoAnn divorced. I thought they made a great couple. Her jeans on this show worried me a bit, but otherwise I liked her. The Lennon Sisters ep is one of the scant few to be found on youtube. I totally adored Janet's look from tip to toe. Kathy was a dreadful bowler, God love her. Hilarious about the Joan Kennedy comparison!!! (I always loved the way Joan looked and dressed, too!) Angie needed to win cut crystal for their Martini & Rossi on the rocks, "say yeahhh..." ha!

Dave in Alamitos Beach said...

That Janet Lennon do is a work of art. Is ANY of that hair real? If so, hats off to the hairdresser. Did they have crazy long fingernails? That's what I would wonder about. I mean you almost have to have them to counter the hair right? But then how would you bowl?

The tight pants on display is pretty dazzling I must say. And all that male feathered hair to go with it. What a flashback!

roberta steve said...

How did I miss this show when I was growing up? This show would have been right up my alley (pun intended!)
I loved any celebrity competition/game show. What a great post; it brings back so many memories. You mention that Michael Douglas and Brenda Vaccaro were on. That must have been when they were dating. And I think Kat Jackson and Edward Albertwere a real life couple for a time too. (I used to read those old Hollywood magazines that Rona Barrett wrote for.).

Also doesn't Rory Calhoun look like Chris Both in that photo?

F. Nomen said...

I didn't see the marathon but I caught a couple of episodes that were aired abouttwo weeks ago. Fascinating in a "you're on a successful series, why are you on Celebrity Bowling?" sort of way. Angie Dickinson, as a bowler you're one hell of an actress.

Scooter said...

I had never heard of this show either. At first, I thought you were featuring Bowling for Dollars but that was so much less glamorous than this treasure. Thanks for turning me on to it!

Poseidon3 said...

So glad to see some affection coming forth for this show. I do recall (and recall hating) "Bowling for Dollars" and probably skimmed over this as a kid, thinking it was the same thing. I still reel at the people who appeared on this! I mean, Adrienne Barbeau, Roy Rogers, Bob Newhart, James Farentino, Michael Cole and on and on...

Dave, Janet Lennon reminds me of some of the cartoon characters that used to be on back then like Daphne from "Scooby-Doo" and others... the big hair and mod clothes. Love it!

Roberta, yes, Michael and Brenda were a couple. So cute. They'd done "Summertree" together (there's a tribute to it elsewhere on this blog.) And I do believe Kate and Edward were together then as well. She was on "The Rookies" at the time and he was making movies! Like I say, these were not has-beens showing up, they were then-hot.

I forgot to mention that one show had Bobby & Cindy from "The Brady Bunch" versus two of the kids from "The Waltons!" (Erin & Ben.)

The Metzinger Sisters said...

Wow, six years of watching celebrities roll gutter balls...I'm surprised it lasted that long. Actually...I'm not surprised, after reading your article I headed over to Youtube and ended up watching two hours worth of clips myself. I never even heard of this show but what a great line-up of celebs.

Brian Coffey said...

Thanks for your good work on Celebrity Bowling. It remains a unique, televisual resource.

Taylor Maddux said...

Never saw this show. Thanks for writing about it, Poseidon. It's all too thrilling!

Poseidon3 said...

For quite a while would rotate four or five episodes on their site for viewing, but they've recently been taken down... It's a shame. I was going to link ya'll to them! A few episodes have made their way to youtube, including ones with Frank Gorshin, William Shatner and The Lennon Sisters, if you want to search for those... Thanks!