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All these stars... let's get 'em to SING something
May 1, 2010 9:15 PM   Subscribe

In March of 1978 American radio/TV network CBS celebrated its 50th anniversary with a week-long celebration. CBS: On the Air kicked off with this remarkable and historic parade of stars in a classy, if only slightly cheesy, presentation. Perhaps they learned how NOT to do it by watching ABC's silver anniversary special a couple of months earlier, which included this monstrosity.
posted by evilcolonel (70 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Look at all of these people I have never heard of.
posted by koeselitz at 9:18 PM on May 1, 2010


OH GOOD GOD NO PLEASE DON'T LET JOHN WAYNE SING
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 PM on May 1, 2010


The past is a foreign place, they're a buncha dumbasses over there.
posted by codswallop at 9:23 PM on May 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Ah, 1978. Is there nothing you can't do?
posted by scrowdid at 9:29 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


They seem so much more lifelike... it seems that technology has taken a leap backwards if the current production models are actually descending into the Uncanny Valley.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:41 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Alphabetical order... I hate alphabetical order, and I'll bet so does Betty White...
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:44 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


OMG... that is perhaps the most concentrated group of TV talent ever assembled in one place...

It was like, smile, smile again, smile wider, smile more.. this was TV as we knew it back then....

1978, I was about... ok, exactly, 30 years old... my kids were about 9 and 10... a lot of our lives were spent in front of the TV ....(no damn internet to distract us!)... these people were our friends... we didn't have a million cable channels, we have three networks, and maybe one or two UHF channels (if you need to ask, I don't want to explain)...

thanks... what fun to watch this!
posted by HuronBob at 9:45 PM on May 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:48 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whats this? A T.V. Party?
posted by Sailormom at 9:48 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Damn, there sure were a lot more shows back then! I don't know if the shows were better than today, but the people sure were more memorable. Steve Allen, George Burns, Lucille Ball, Alfred Hitchcock... even Lassie! All on in prime time.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:50 PM on May 1, 2010


Alfred Hitchcock was great.. took his own damn time getting out there... he deserved the extra screen time...
posted by HuronBob at 9:51 PM on May 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's just so ... weird ... to look at this through today's lenses, to see people singing and dancing in praise of ... of a media corporation. As if they matter as something other than a vehicle to make money.

But I guess, back then, perhaps it did. I suppose some people really did swear a kind of allegiance to ABC-CBS-NBC, like following a favorite baseball team or something.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:53 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I doubt the performers felt any kind of allegiance beyond their contracts, but for the viewers it was like HuronBob said: the TV only had a half dozen channels, tops. Maybe three that had all the good shows, and no VCRS, no DVDs... so when famous actors appeared on the little screen in somebody's living room, it was special. And if one channel had more of the people and shows you liked, you felt closer to them.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:59 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


these people were our friends... we felt like we had a relationship to them. Especially to people like Danny Kay or Lucille Ball, Dick Van Dyke... they were more than actors, they were family.

I believe that, those of you that have grown up with 200 channels on the TV and nearly unlimited access to media on the net, have no sense as to the connection we felt to the actors on our little boxes....

That CBS clip was fantastic... think of getting Matt, Jess, Cortex, Wil, Cory, Xeni, Ze, and all the rest on the same blog... sort of like that...

(and, then you're gonna get older than shit, some other media will come along, and this will seem like, OMG...how antiquated can you get! and you'll know how we feel)
posted by HuronBob at 10:18 PM on May 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did anyone else think "king of cool" when Telly Savalas walked out in those shades with that strut? That single moment was better than the entire ABC clip.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:56 PM on May 1, 2010


Alfred Hitchcock was great.. took his own damn time getting out there..

Alfred Hitchcock was always great, but he wasn't necessarily taking his own damn time to get out there. He was born in Victoria's reign and made his first films when movies were silent and television was a goofy experiment. That walk he does in this video was probably his top speed in 1978.
posted by pracowity at 11:01 PM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Bruce Jenner! Bruce, this is the future, and I hate to tell you, but it's all downhill from here. You're going to meet a woman who -- well, let's just say OJ Simpson is going to have a bad few years in there and his lawyer -- what? no, I'm not going to tell you why -- his lawyer has this wife and... okay, listen. There's this thing called reality television and... you know what? Just enjoy this moment while you can, Bruce. While you can still move your face.
posted by sugarfish at 11:05 PM on May 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Lucille's Ball or Gomer's Pyle? Did we ever find out which was larger?
posted by squalor at 11:07 PM on May 1, 2010


I have not checked these links for fear of encountering Carol Channing.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:52 PM on May 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


For this sort of thing, I always thought the classiest one was "The NBC Story" which was broadcast during the network's sixtieth anniversary.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:06 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


gotta echo the "they looked more real" thought. I had an uneasy relationship with television during that period of history so only recognize about 50 - 60% of those represented, but all of them look more genuine then the current crop, I suspect it is that incremental pervasiveness of having to be cool and slick.

Had to laugh a bit when Sherman Hemsley (George Jefferson) walked out, he just sort of exuded the same vibe his on-screen character did.

and...

I wonder how many of them where plastered?

and...

I wonder if this is how people felt about Ma Bell ?
posted by edgeways at 12:21 AM on May 2, 2010


It's just so ... weird ... to look at this through today's lenses, to see people singing and dancing in praise of ... of a media corporation. As if they matter as something other than a vehicle to make money.

Well, they're entertainers. They get paid to sing and dance - and some of them remember Vaudeville. The key is they're getting paid for it. I don't think it's any stranger than Stephen Colbert hawking Doritos.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:29 AM on May 2, 2010


but all of them look more genuine then the current crop, I suspect it is that incremental pervasiveness of having to be cool and slick.

That, and plastic surgery.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:31 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right at the beginning of the last link they introduced "Charo" who I only know through the nauseatingly meta "I love the 70's." After seeing that clip, I'm thinking she's held together with JB Weld or something.
posted by hellojed at 12:43 AM on May 2, 2010


Charo ... wow. Yeah, she was a bit like a Zsa Zsa Gabor of the late '60s and '70s. She would show up inexplicably in all sorts of random places, but always when there's a need for random celebrities, like this extravaganza, or Laugh-In ... or Love Boat.

Wikipedia lists her real name as María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten. I know a few people here who have names like that, but Charo is easier to remember. There's also a relatively recent picture of her. Hasn't changed her style a bit.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:56 AM on May 2, 2010


OH GOOD GOD NO PLEASE DON'T LET JOHN WAYNE SING

Considering this was ABC in the 1970s, you should thank your lucky stars Toni Tenille (seen here using her Magic Mirror Microphone to call all her Romper Room friends up) didn't find Howard Cosell in the crowd.

While this was in celebration of their 25th, it's more fun if you imagine this clip as the ABC Party Rally, held yearly on the night before the Battle of the Network Stars.

Network identity was a big thing back then. Heck, ABC started off in radio as NBC Blue, one of NBC's two radio networks. Eventually the FCC considered this a media monopoly and in 1940 ordered NBC to divest themselves of one. They kept the NBC Red Network, which then became NBC proper, while the Blue Network became autonomous and named themselves NBC.

The networks didn't have anything on the Hollywood studio system of the time, where stars signing a contract with MGM or Paramount effectively became property of the studio and prohibited from acting in another studio's project, but network loyalty was still very important. There really was a "CBS family" (remember when each show would have their own pre-taped Thanksgiving Day Parade greetings? "From all of us at Dallas..." "...to all of you..." They may still do this, but I haven't watched the parade in years) and a show jumping networks was a Really Big Thing. The reasons may have been the same as they are today, a network balking at renewal of a floundering series and such, but I don't think the impact is the same at all. Outside of newscasters and late-night hosts, I can't think of any star today who represents their network as much as they represent their individual show. But boy, Tom Bosley sure was an ABC man through-and-through.

Anyway these are amazing clips, no matter how monstrous, and it's fun to pick out celebrities and just goggle at the incongruous juxtaposition. But TV was magical back then and if you ever wondered what it would be like to watch Redd Foxx singing with Barbara Eden, TV made your dream come true.
posted by Spatch at 1:53 AM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


It is interesting to see the entertainers of that era so tied to particular networks that they all had to show up at the same time and submit to the same choreographer. I forget sometimes how accessible self-promotion is today. While I can't say what rigors today's stars must go through to promote themselves, I would imagine the late-70's "star machine" was tougher and more demanding.

I think of this type of self-promotion whenever I see Charo. She really was everywhere, all the time, no matter how insignificant the appearance - even to the point where her ubiquity and willingness to appear negatively affected her celebrity cachet. I can't find anyone who more recently promoted themselves as aggressively - Charo manages to "stick" for identifiability and household-name recognition.
posted by Graygorey at 2:00 AM on May 2, 2010


That CBS clip was fantastic... think of getting Matt, Jess, Cortex, Wil, Cory, Xeni, Ze, and all the rest on the same blog... sort of like that...

Technically? Never happen. They're all on different networks.
posted by hal9k at 2:27 AM on May 2, 2010


This is why we can't have nice D, E, or F.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:08 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


recent Charo post
posted by various at 3:31 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


It was a different time: No one was getting paid $1M an episode for anyhting, back then -- and that's why it could never happen again.

What is interesting is the enthusiasm of the participants and their willingness to come out of the audience and participate. Seriously, it was a different time. IIRC, the country was in a tailspin at this point, with inflation and the shame of Richard Mulhouse Nixon resigning just 4 years earlier.

Thanks for this, it's brought me an interesting perspective.
posted by vhsiv at 4:18 AM on May 2, 2010


Abe Vigoda! Need I say more. This man, this one man has done more for entertainment over the last century and a half than all of the rest combined. Abe Vigoda himself invented television, perfected it with the addition of color, devised UHF so that his shows would live on in syndication (which he also invented), launched satellites, and dug the trenches for underground cable. Abe Vigoda. God I love this man.
posted by Gungho at 5:13 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's just so ... weird ... to look at this through today's lenses, to see people singing and dancing in praise of ... of a media corporation. As if they matter as something other than a vehicle to make money.

It's funny. What I got out of this was that someone in the promotions department convinced upper-management that it would be really cost-effective to just repeat the annual affiliate's convention gala and show that for the 25th anniversary show. Have you ever been to a national sales meeting for a large corporation? This is exactly the level of boosterism weirdness that abounds in one of those.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:17 AM on May 2, 2010


huronbob hits the nail on the head. I was 9 years old at this time. The Networks were TV and vice versa. I could not wait until Saturday night to watch Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Chips (which explains my mystical thinking, unabiding trust of the police and penchant for taking cruises).

Little did these tv executives know that they were at the height of their powers and that the world of cable tv was right around the corner.
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:19 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


This makes me wish I'd found enough material for that Battle of the Network Stars post I wanted to do.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:47 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone who works for two of the three major networks (sounds weird, I know), and has watched production crews cut and production staff offered buyout after buyout before being axed outright....this kind of thing couldn't ever happen again because there would be outright mutiny in the studios and hallways:

"We're being told we can't take two napkins in the network cafeteria, but you have the money to throw the biggest commercial of non-talent since 1978??"
posted by nevercalm at 6:01 AM on May 2, 2010


Yes, network identity was a very real and tangible thing. Consider, (if you can handle more Toni Tenille) the network promo from 1978 for ABC; Still the One. Very few celebrities here but lots of "spirit".
posted by jeremias at 6:38 AM on May 2, 2010


Where the hell was Shatner?
posted by Mcable at 6:39 AM on May 2, 2010


"John Davidson. I know you're hiding out there, John. All right. Sounds good. Bruce Jenner. Oh, boy, where's he? Whoo!"
posted by blucevalo at 6:44 AM on May 2, 2010


Oh, even better is Paul Lynde drunk off his ass going "How are yah?"
posted by blucevalo at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2010


After watching that ABC video (which I actually remember from my youth!), all I can think of is:
this is what it looks like when a television network masturbates.
I need a shower now.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:47 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


This makes me think of Network for some reason.
posted by empath at 6:49 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, the CBS once was actually really cool.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:50 AM on May 2, 2010


Ah, 1978. Is there nothing you can't do?

1978 saw the release of Wire's "Chairs Missing", so it wasn't a total write off.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:52 AM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I miss this era of television. I used to love Battle of the Network Stars. It was like a goofy summer camp competition, only with those awesome folks from Love Boat and Dukes of Hazzard. It was also a rare cross-network interaction, where you could see Scott Baio face off against Patrick Duffy in a foot race with Howard Cosell calling the finish. I even enjoyed Circus of the Stars, although I can't remember any of the details. I like to think Loni Anderson and Brooke Shields did a trapeze act together with Erik Estrada down below as their spotter.
posted by Nelson at 7:08 AM on May 2, 2010


There's a great game in the CBS clip -- Find the weirdest three-in-a-row. My favorite:

DANNY KAYE!
ESTHER ROLLE!
BOB SCHIEFFER!

Although I also liked:

JIM NEIGHBORS!
GENE RAYBURN!
LESLIE STAHL!
posted by PlusDistance at 7:18 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


IIRC, the country was in a tailspin at this point, with inflation and the shame of Richard Mulhouse Nixon resigning just 4 years earlier.

I don't think anyone was even thinking about Nixon anymore except as the butt of jokes. Four years was a long time in politics even then.

And Jimmy Carter's approval numbers in March 1978 were about where Obama's are now -- in the upper to mid-40s. Not impressive rally-around-the-flag figures, but not death territory either.
posted by blucevalo at 7:27 AM on May 2, 2010


I can't believe they made Alfred Hitchcock walk and stand for eight minutes at 79. This was about a year before his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, where he looks really out of it, and two years before his death.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:38 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Peak groovy: Burt Reynolds guest-hosting the Tonight Show in 1971 with guests Charo and Alex Karras.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:57 AM on May 2, 2010


I think my favorite part was at the very end when Edith Bunker leaned to pet Lassie. I thought, what a nice woman, to reassure the anxious dog! What an odd collision of characters!

Then I realized that Lassie was barking to warn of the network's imminent doom, and that no one could do anything.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 8:02 AM on May 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Joe Beese: "This makes me wish I'd found enough material for that Battle of the Network Stars post I wanted to do."

Let's crowdsource that FPP. You're gonna need a clip of SNL's "Battle of the Network Ts and As" in there also. I've got it on disk but youtube won't take it.

Who else?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:03 AM on May 2, 2010


Burhanistan: “1978 saw the release of Wire's "Chairs Missing" , so it wasn't a total write off.”

And this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this... I guess we have to thank bloated, pointless TV culture for being so very vapid: it was so easy for the counterculture to thrive in this situation. Don't forget that what eventually killed the whole "parade of stars" mentality of 70s TV wasn't some technological shift to cable - that came much later. What killed it was that the counterculture was so much more obviously vibrant and worthwhile than the mainstream.
posted by koeselitz at 8:34 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't spread this around but I've got a secret unreleased clip of Fox's 25th anniversary next year: Fox's Cavalcade of Hits!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:34 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


What killed it was that the counterculture was so much more obviously vibrant and worthwhile than the mainstream.

Dude, nobody gave a crap about the counterculture. Cable is what killed this kind of TV, punk rock made basically no impact in the USA until 1991. In fact you could find this kind of rah-rah Network brand boosterism into the early 90s, when Rupert Murdoch proved you could win the game without playing fair or cleanly.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:42 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The CBS tribute is amazing on so many levels -- showcasing individuals to show what a powerhouse television was at the time. A collective that didn't threaten individuality. The days where old faces weren't shunned for young ones with so much artificial enhancement. People looked like regular people -- no voguing or posing. And despite that sea of stars for every day of the week, I could immediately recognize everyone and not confuse one starlet with another.

I loved this -- thanks for the post...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:45 AM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


everyone but the newscasters - beamed in cheap global culture creation, I realize now ;p but when I was a kid, these were the people I grew up with on TV - the rest was local language programming and only two government owned channels until the mid eighties.

as huronbob said lucille ball, dick van dyke, the guy who loved jeannie et al were the window to the world without internet



and let it be known that Hitchcock was not just a mere TV star...
posted by infini at 9:03 AM on May 2, 2010


You're gonna need a clip of SNL's "Battle of the Network Ts and As" in there also. I've got it on disk but youtube won't take it.

Can't we post that on some Russian scamtube site or something? I've been trying to describe Battle of the Network Ts and As to people that I work with for at least 10 years. It's such a meta-joke, since you need to remember Battle of the Network Stars. I guess this just goes to prove that I'm old, and that my coworkers are young. Damn.
posted by dammitjim at 9:21 AM on May 2, 2010


actually I've found the old "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a engineer" fall very flat in foreign lands - pity, its such a good one ;p
posted by infini at 9:45 AM on May 2, 2010


You're gonna need a clip of SNL's "Battle of the Network Ts and As" in there also.
I remember when that skit was originally aired; it was back when our whole family still watched SNL. And I'm here to tell you I never saw my Dad lunge for the TV Guide faster than when the "biggest T's" and "nicest A's" came bouncing on the screen. "When the hell is this one? You have to tape it!" (I'd just purchased my first VCR a few months earlier.) Poor guy was sooo disappointed that it was just a skit, not a real promo.

During that CBS all-star bit, I note that Lynnie Greene was standing near Bea Arthur onstage. I bet the two never exchanged more than a few words that night. Interestingly enough, some 10 years later or so Greene would play "young" Bea Arthur on The Golden Girls during flashbacks when a young Dorothy Zbornak was needed.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:57 AM on May 2, 2010


Interestingly enough, some 10 years later or so Greene would play "young" Bea Arthur on The Golden Girls during flashbacks when a young Dorothy Zbornak was needed.

Holy crap, when I first read this, I thought you were saying that Lorne Greene had played young Bea Arthur, and I almost hyperventilated.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 10:00 AM on May 2, 2010


You know you've slipped into an alternate dimension when Lorne Greene plays a young Bea Arthur and Paul Lynde isn't drunk. But as always, Abe Vigoda stands imperturbable and eternal.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:50 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next time I get together with a few 70s TV nerds (I know some), I think we'll have to play a rousing speed round of Dead or Alive. Might take me a while to put together the key, though.

Who is "Hughes Vrad" at the end of the Monday lineup?
posted by Lukenlogs at 12:39 PM on May 2, 2010


"What's my Line?" with Soupy Sales...
posted by infini at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2010


Who is "Hughes Vrad" at the end of the Monday lineup?

That's newsman Hughes Rudd.
posted by gubo at 2:44 PM on May 2, 2010


didn't find Howard Cosell in the crowd

THERE HE IS!!! 4:46, next to Jack Soo.
posted by evilcolonel at 8:29 PM on May 2, 2010


Soupy Sales scared me as a child
Someone gifted me one of his 45rpm record books with a creepy full-sized picture of just his face superimposed on the back. ewg indeed.
*shiver*

I enjoyed watching these stars even though I was only seven during the year it aired.
Must have watched a lot of TV -- they were mostly familiar.

metafilter: María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten is Charo.
posted by will wait 4 tanjents at 8:30 PM on May 2, 2010


Cable is what killed this kind of TV, punk rock made basically no impact in the USA until 1991.

what

Don't believe everything you read in movie titles.

Punk had already been co-opted to truly, truly outrageous extremes long before 1991.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:11 PM on May 2, 2010


If hip hop died in 1991, punk was already petroleum by then.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:36 PM on May 2, 2010


The counterculture is more than just punk, by the way. The Grateful Dead and Judas Priest both released landmark albums in 1978, and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players' Handbook was first published that year, too.
posted by koeselitz at 11:15 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now, getting back to CBS Stage Full Beyond Legal Capacity Of Stars: The attire is oddly funereal for such a "celebration," isn't it? I was half expecting a casket to be carried out at the end.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:52 AM on May 3, 2010


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