40 years ago today, I was on The John Davidson Show.
Yes, THAT John Davidson.
“That’s incredible”, you’re thinking.
Yes I suppose it was, but not that show.
You know. The John Davidson Show. This one –
It woulda been mentioned in here. Well, I probably wasn’t mentioned, but that episode’s guest star Todd Bridges would have been.
Perhaps you’re wondering how I, Steve, happened to be interviewed by John Davidson on the John Davidson show, 40 years ago today.
Or perhaps you aren’t. Understandable.
S1Ep224. John’s guests are actors Danny Thomas and Todd Bridges, singer Bill Medley and Joan Embery of the San Diego Zoo. Highlights:Bill Medley sings “Hey Girl”.
It is our sincere hope that there is no video of John asking audience members trivia questions at the end of the show.
My 1981 Train Trip to California
So, OK. I was in California. Shortly after graduating from Waterloo, I took the train all the way from London to Los Angeles as part of swell grad present from my parents – A two week Amtrak pass. I headed first to Sacramento for the grand opening of the California Railroad Museum. That was great. A big pageant of music and locomotives.
Then, down to LA And beautiful downtown Burbank. I really wanted to see the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Stood in a long line for tickets. Eventually got to see his show that night. It was outstanding.
I got to take a tour of the NBC Studios, and while there, I actually met Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. As if this trip didn’t have enough highlights already.
Somewhere in there, somebody was desperately trying to get people to come to a taping of the John Davidson show, a daytime talk show that I think had been a replacement for Merv Griffin.
John was a singer of some repute, and also the host of “That’s Incredible.”
His daytime talk show, I was soon to learn, was not that incredible.
Well, the tickets were free, and I had time to kill before seeing Johnny Carson, so why not. Into the studio we went.
suddenly I’m in the audience
Now, when I saw the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, it was incredibly slick. They didn’t mess around. The band played right through the commercial break and the show picked right up again. No stopping. One take. Brilliant comedy. High production values. Carson, a total pro.
The John Davidson Show was not quite like that.
So, the show always started with John Davidson singing a song. He really was a good singer. And the day I was there, he announced to us ahead of time that he was going to do the Barry Manilow classic, “Copacabana.” Hey, this’ll be good. Descending some stairs. Fog machine. OK!
Show starts. Roll tape! Lights! Camera! Fog machine! Backing band! We are GO for Copacabana!
15 seconds later, song stops. Cut. John Davidson cannot remember the words. He confesses to the audience, off air, that he’s never heard this song before.
After a couple more takes, they have a complete version in the can somehow, and the show continues.
I’m sitting in the audience, halfway back on the aisle, looking at my watch, wondering how long this is going to go on, and when the Tonight Show taping that I really wanted to see starts.
(5:30. The tonight show taped at 5:30.)
Can I just add here that John Davidson struck me as an extremely nice guy, even if he couldn’t remember the words to “Copacabana”.
end of show trivia segment
So the show continues, mostly without incident, and they interview Todd Bridges, and it was getting towards the end of the episode And I suddenly remembered: Oh, doesn’t John Davidson ask audience members trivia questions at the end of show? And look at me, here on the aisle.
Here we go, final segment. Trivia time. Souvenir coffee cup prizes. John Davidson approaches a woman in the front row, and asks her a question. I don’t remember what it was, but he said the answer was wrong. Was it, though? (Foreshadowing.) He moves on to another contestant.
Now, I have seen a recording of this, recorded by pointing a Super-8 movie camera at the live TV broadcast.
Let me describe what happens, in an impartial observer kind of tone.
John Davidson looks around the audience for another trivia contestant, and makes a beeline for the nerdiest, geekiest-looking doofus in the crowd, and sticks out his microphone.
so of course I stand up.
the dorkiest thing I have ever said
He asked my name, and we have a pleasant little chat, and he asked me what I do, and I’m thinking that I just graduated from Waterloo with a particular degree and I’m not really sure what I do and I haven’t started my first job yet, but I blurt out “I’m a computer scientist.”
I really wish I could edit that part out.
40 years later, I’m still cringing about what a dork I must’ve looked like at that moment. On national TV no less.
But, no matter. The show must go on. John Davidson hits me with a trivia question.
I don’t remember what the question was, but I got it right somehow, and the band played a little “Ta-da!” and John Davidson handed me a souvenir John Davidson show coffee mug.
I should’ve just sat down.
But, for some reason, egged on by the director, John Davidson kept asking me trivia questions.
I think he asked me six questions. And I got them all right, somehow.
The only one I remember is this.
John Davidson: “Where are Panama hats made?”
Me, recognizing a trick question: “They are not made in Panama, they’re made in Ecuador!”
Tada, another coffee mug.
I don’t know why I knew that 40 years ago, but now that I’m a grown-up, I actually own a Panama hat and I can confirm this.
Anyway, show is almost over. John Davidson thanks me, I sit down, with my set of six John Davidson show coffee mugs — And the Director is frantically signaling to John Davidson about something.
“What? She was right?” John Davidson says.
Remember the first contestant from about 47 paragraphs
“She gets a mug too”, he announces.
And then, this might be the highlight of my television career (and let me remind you, that includes leading band at the world beer games opening ceremony)
the best part
John Davidson turns to me and says:
“We’re out of mugs! Steve, can we have one of those back?”
And of course I turned one over. I still regret that I did not ask John Davidson a trivia question in return for the mug.
So that’s what I was doing 40 years ago today. My sincere thanks to John Davidson . That really was fun.
So you’ve still got those John Davidson Show coffee mugs, right?
Sadly, no. A few broke and the others eventually faded to pure white after multiple dishwashings.
I think I’ll order some more, somehow.
Hey, how about that –