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Ted Mack, host, Original Amateur Hour

Credit Where Credit Is Due Okay, so Simon and American Idol get big ratings for Fox. The imitations do not so bad, either. And, back in the 70's, Chuck Barris' syndicated Gong Show were, as Archie would say, the big whoop-de-doo. But, come on. Ted Mack invented the Gong to kill really bad acts, but seldom had the heart to use it (hear that, Cowell?) Ted Mack had what was appropriately called The Original Amateur Hour on NBC from 1948 through the early 1960's. True, Ted took over for the ailing Major Bowes who started the show on radio in 1943, but let's be honest. Every TV talent competition thereafter, including Idol "borrowed" from Ted Mack. In Ted's time, there was no text messaging phone, e-mail, toll free number. Ted's mimic, CBS' Arthur Godfrey (who aped everybody, like Spanish TV's Don Francisco), used an audio level meter to supposedly measure applause (which was never accurate). Ted Mack used nonesuch. You had to mail your votes to "Box 191 Radio City Station" in New York. Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour gave starts to Ol' Blue Eyes Sinatra, Pat "White Bucks" Boone, ventriloquist Paul Winchell and dummy pal Jerry Mahoney (uh, who, exactly has become a true lasting celebrity from American Idol? Rubin who?). The top rated show died after NBC dumped it in a Sunday 5PM slot (kinda like what they did to Star Trek slushing it to Sundays at 10 as the final frontier...or so the network brass thought).

Did you know The Original Amateur Hour ran on all four networks (DuMont, NBC, CBS and ABC)? Check out the history of the show which follows!

About The Original Amateur Hour The Original Amateur Hour was first heard on New York radio in 1934 as Major Bowes' Original Amateur Hour. The following year, it was programmed on CBS radio where it remained until 1946 when Major Bowes--the program's creator and host--died. Two years later, the program was revived on ABC radio and on Dumont television, hosted in both media by Ted Mack, a talent scout and director of the series under Bowes. The radio and television programs were originally sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes, represented on television by the famous dancing cigarette box. During its first season, Original Amateur Hour was a ratings sensation, and although it never equaled its initial success, its longevity is testament to its ability to attract a consistently profitable audience share.

Original Amateur Hour lasted on radio until 1952 and on television until 1970. The television version was ultimately broadcast over all four major networks during its long run, eventually settling in as a Sunday afternoon CBS feature during its final decade of production.

The format of the program remained virtually unchanged from its premiere in early network radio. The show was essentially an amateur talent contest, the non-professional status of contestants thus distinguishing Original Amateur Hour from Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts which also ran during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Contestants traveled to New York's Radio City from all parts of the country to sing, dance, play music, and participate in various forms of novelty entertainment. Those who passed an initial screening were invited to compete on the program. Winners were determined by viewers who voted via letters and phone calls, and winning contestants returned to compete against a crop of new talent on the next program. Between amateur acts, Ted Mack conducted rambling interviews and shared corny jokes with contestants. Contestants who won three times earned cash prizes, scholarships, or parts in a traveling stage show associated with the program. In 1951, five such shows traveled about the country.

While most contestants fell back into obscurity following their appearances on the program, others went on to successful professional careers. Stars who first appeared on television's Original Amateur Hour included ventriloquist Paul Winchell and pop singers Teresa Brewer, Gladys Knight, and Pat Boone.

The Original Amateur Hour offered a shot at fame and fortune to thousands of hopeful, would-be professional entertainers. As such, it represented a permeable boundary between everyday viewers and the national entertainment industry. The program's general appeal, reliable ratings, simple format, and low production costs have inspired many imitators in television including the Gong Show (which resurrected the notorious rejection gong, not heard since the Major Bowes' radio broadcasts). Yes, there's now American Idol and X Factor, but where is the new, enduring Frank Sinatra Ted Mack gave venue to? Thanks to Warren Bareiss

Art Carney's biography can be found on OTV Ch.30 (The Honeymooners In Miami)

Rod SerlingEdward Rodman Serling, born December 25, 1924, in Syracuse, NY; died of complications during coronary bypass surgery, June 28, 1975, in Rochester, NY; son of Samuel Lawrence (a wholesale butcher) and Esther (Cooper) Serling; married Carolyn Louise Kramer, July 31, 1948; children: Jodi, Anne. A master of suspense and the bizarre, Rod Serling is best remembered for his groundbreaking sci-fi television anthology series The Twilight Zone (1959-1965). Born in Syracuse, NY, the son of a wholesale meat dealer, Serling had a life-long interest in science fiction and the supernatural. During WWII, he served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army 11th Airborne Division. While in the military, Serling was also a noted boxer. Following an honorable discharge in 1946, the result of a shrapnel wound, he attended Antioch College and majored in physical education and then literature. While there, he began writing, directing, and acting in locally produced radio plays. In 1949, he sold his first television script, "Grady Everett for the People." He came to Hollywood to write teleplays full-time in the mid-'50s. Early on, Serling was noted for his intelligent and offbeat scripts. His teleplay Patterns earned him his first of five Emmys. With the Twilight Zone, Serling served as the host and oversaw each of the two stories presented per episode. He wrote many of the stories himself, most of which were known for their ironic twists. Serling also wrote a few screenplays, including Planet of the Apes (1968). Later, he returned to television to launch other anthology series such as Rod Serling's Night Gallery. He also was noted as the distinctive narrator of the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau documentaries. In addition to his television career, Serling often did cross-country college campus lectures and for a time was a professor at Antioch College. He died in 1975 during open-heart surgery.

Annette Funicello Annette Funicello born October 22, 1942, in Utica, New York. Funicello and her family moved to Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley when she was four years old. Best known for her role in the Mickey Mouse Club and in teenage beach movies of the early 1960s. Walt Disney saw Funicello dancing the lead in Swan Lake at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, California, and invited her to audition for his new children's show, The Mickey Mouse Club (1955). Funicello got her start on the program at age thirteen, soon becoming the most popular "Mouseketeer" on the show. After leaving the Mickey Mouse Club, Funicello remained under contract to Disney and appeared in the TV shows Zorro (1957), The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca (1958), and starred in the Disney feature films The Shaggy Dog (1959), Babes in Toyland (1961), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), and The Monkey's Uncle (1965).

In the early 1960s, Annette starred in a series of beach party movies with Frankie Avalon, including Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965). During this time, she recorded a series of hit top-40 pop singles, including "Tall Paul," "First Name Initial," "How Will I Know My Love," and "Pineapple Princess." In 1987, Funicello again teamed up with Frankie Avalon to co-produce and star in Paramount's Back to the Beach as parents of a pair of troublesome teenagers. In 1989 and 1990, Avalon and Funicello staged a nostalgic concert tour, performing the beach party music and pop hit singles they made famous in the 1960s.

In 1992, Funicello announced that she had been battling Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disease, since 1987. To assist in fundraising to fight neurological disorders, she founded The Annette Funicello Teddy Bear Company, which markets a line of collectible bears, and developed her own perfume line, Cello, by Annette. A portion of the proceeds from these products goes to The Annette Funicello Research Fund for Neurological Diseases. Annette Funicello was married to Jack Gilardi from 1965 until their divorce in 1981. The couple had three children. She married current husband, Glen Holt, in 1986.

Frankie Avalon Frankie Avalon Frankie Avalon (born Francis Thomas Avallone, September 18, 1939 in Philadelphia, was the reigning teen singing idol from 1958 through 1960. Devotees of American Bandstand will hold affectionate memories of such Avalon top-tenners as "Gingerbread" and "Venus." Avalon made a gradual transition from singer to actor beginning in 1957. He successfully essayed supporting roles in such films as Guns of the Timberland (1960) and The Alamo (1960) before starring in a string of inexpensive but moneymaking "Beach Party" flicks for American-International. As his film stardom eclipsed in the early 1970s, Avalon returned to singing, briefly starring in the 1976 nostalgia-oriented TV variety series Easy Does It. In 1987, Frankie Avalon was reteamed with his "Beach Party" leading lady Annette Funicello in the retro film musical Back to the Beach (1987), which he also co-produced. Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

The Champs The Champs were a rock and roll band, most famous for their latin-tinged instrumental "Tequila." Formed by studio executives at Gene Autry's Challenge Records to record a B-Side for the Dave Burgess (aka Dave Dupree) single, the intended throwaway track became more famous than its A-Side, "Train to Nowhere". "Tequila" went to No. 1 in just three weeks and the band became the group to go to the top spot with an instrumental that was their first release. The song was recorded at Gold Star Studios, and in 1959 won the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording. There are many cover versions of the tune, for example by rappers A.L.T. and XL Singleton. The Champs also had success with instrumentals such as a cover of Chubby Checker's "Limbo Rock" and the famous "La Cucaracha". In 1985 it featured prominently in the movie "Pee Wee's Big Adventure." Closing the OTV compilation clip here, The Champs follow up to "Tequila," natch it was "Too Much Tequila."

Don Adams Don Adams was born Donald James Yarmy on April 13, 1923 in New York City) is an American actor, best known for his role as Maxwell Smart (Agent 86) in the TV sitcom Get Smart (1965-1970), for which he also directed and wrote. Adams won three Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Max. He served with the USMC during World War II and came down with malaria during the battle of Guadalcanal. He worked as a comic and mimic, taking the stage-name of Adams after marrying singer Adelaide Adams. His work on television began in 1954. After the success of Get Smart his later efforts were less successful, including the comedy series The Partners and three attempts to revive the Get Smart series in the 1980s. He continued to make the majority of his income from live work on stage and in clubs. Adams also works as a voiceover actor. His first work was in Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales (1963-1966), but he is more famous now as the voice of Inspector Gadget in the initial run of that television series (1983-1985) and the Christmas Special as well as in later reprises. He also attempted a sitcom comeback in Canada with Check it Out! in 1985, but the show was not successful. He has stated in interviews that his famous "clippy" voice characterization was based on, and an exaggeration of, the speaking style of actor William Powell.


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