Monday, February 19, 2007

I was kicked off the Dating Game

I mentioned in passing in a recent post that I was booted off THE DATING GAME. A number of readers wanted to know the details.

It was in the late 60’s, I was in high school, and someone recommended I try out. I was a wise-ass even then. So I called the show, was given an appointment to audition. The first thing I said when I got there was that my father worked for ABC radio and if that was a conflict let me know now and save us all a lot of time and trouble. They assured me that was no problem. In fact, they said members of their own staff have had to go on in emergency cases.

So I went through the audition process. They put 40 of us in a room and asked us random DATING GAME-type questions.

A week later they called and invited me to be on the show. Everyone wonders if bachelors are given a preview of the questions or get to see the girl in advance. The answer is no. They filmed three episodes at a time so nine of us reported to an assigned room. We were briefed, then ushered to the stage for a rehearsal. They walked us through it, where we sat, what to do after the girl made her selection, etc. Then it was back to this waiting room until we were called for the show.

I didn’t give a shit about winning the date. I just wanted to score. And I was lucky. Got some good questions, had some funny answers, called one of the other bachelors a blimp, just wreaked as much comic havoc as I could. Big surprise, I wasn’t selected. As a result I missed getting to go on a little cruise boat around the Newport Beach harbor with the Turtles. (I’ve since become friends with Howard Kaylan and he can’t even remember that event).

Two days after the show aired I got invited to go on again for their alumni show. Again I was apparently funny. I just remember doing an Elvis impression and trashing the institution of marriage. This girl didn’t pick me either. Instead I went home with 50 pairs of Ray-Ban sunglasses or something useless like that. I think the date I missed was to the Lancaster Date Festival. I’ve since gotten over my disappointment.

After that show aired they invited me to be on the night-time version. Now that was big stuff. Winners got trips to Europe and Hawaii, not Orange County. Oh yeah, and you’d be on national primetime television… but it was really the prizes.

Unfortunately, there was an engineers’ strike at ABC at the time and management had to man the cameras. During the rehearsal, one of the cameramen recognized me and mentioned casually that my father worked for ABC radio. Chuck Barris went ballistic. I was immediately thrown off the show. I said, “But what about when your own staff has to sub…?” Their answer was, “Get out!” So that was that. I was bumped from the show, they grabbed a guy in the audience who was wearing a suit, and he went on in my place. The selected bachelor got a trip to Paris. I got a roast beef sandwich at Arby’s.

A few years later I was working as an intern at KMPC radio in Los Angeles. Jim Lange was hired as a disc jockey. He spotted me down the hall and amazingly, remembered me. Even rattled off my blimp quip. Two days later at the station I get a call from THE DATING GAME. All was forgiven. They’d love to have me on again. I said, “Is this the night-time version?” They said no, I’d have to go back to daytime. So I told them to stick it. And thus ended my storied DATING GAME career.

Do I have regrets? Yes. I wish I had some of those sunglasses today. I could get a FORTUNE for that crap on ebay.

23 comments:

Paul Duca said...

Quite a story, Ken...too bad you didn't get to enjoy the City of Light, while Chuck took care of his appointed hit.

Dwacon said...

So you didn't make the "in the butt, Bob" comment?

doggans said...

So were you the inspiration for the final scene in "Mallrats"?

Anonymous said...

You used to see a lot of young actors on the show, because Barris paid guild members scale -- and, of course, there was the "exposure."

I, too, was on twice, both in the daytime. When I lost, the consolation prizes were a cheap watch and a "year's supply" of a powder you added to rum to make Mai Tais. In my case, the "year's supply" was about one packet.

When I won, my date and I went skiing up in the SeaTac area -- which would have been fantastic had I been a skier. As it was, while my date hustled the instructor, I remained in the lodge, quaffing hot toddys with our chaperon -- Tom Brokaw's wife, who was on the Barris staff.

la guy said...

Ahhh... I can see it now...

(My apologies for the poor PS skills)

mikeinseattle said...

Ken, did you see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? Charlie Kaufman script, directed by George Clooney.

Stranger things have happened than Chuck being an assassin. As as a weird fat guy, I liked the notion of the weird fat guy being a KGB agent.

Chuck probably just thought you were too smart to be a useful idiot to their spy shenanigans.

D. McEwan said...

This post took me back. I made my national TV debut on that night-time edtion you were ejected from, in 1968. I was 18, and, as bachelor #3, I got some good laughs with weak double entendres, though the biggest laugh was on me. In one of her questions, the girl said, "I don't like guys who wear flowered shirts." There were very small white rose blossoms on my shirt which the camera zoomed in on as she mentioned them, which got a big laugh. Clearly they'd advised her to say that, since they were ready for the zoom-in.

She picked me. The other winning couple on that episode went to Belgium. We went to the premiere of "Isadora" and a buffet on the Phantom set at Universal afterwards. I felt like, "Dinner a movie in Hollywood? That's my usual Friday night. Send us to Belgium".

But it turned out great. Oh the girl was a stiff, but I didn't care. I was gay anyway. (How many gay porn stars have I seen on that show? Many.) We were introduced to Vanessa Redgrave as "The winners of The Dating Game". Vanessa asked "What is The Dating Game?". Before I could say, "Never mind about that. You're a Goddess. Let me worship you." my date whined, "You've never heard of the Dating Game?" in a have-you-been-living-in-a-cave tone of voice, and then explaned to Vanessa, at length and in detail, just what The Dating Game was, while Vanessa kept a get-me-out-of-here-before-this-madwoman-kills-me look on her face.

But we were on the soundstage where much of "Bride of Frankenstein", my favorite movie, was shot. I got in the buffet line, and when the short, plump, elderly, red-headed woman ahead of me in line turned to chat, it was Elsa Lanchester! I was on the stage where my favorite movie had been shot, talking to the Bride herself. I was in movie geek heaven. It beat the hell out of going to Belgium.

10 years later, when they were paying AFTRA comics to do the show, I did it again, this time for the money. I lost, but the girl turned out to be my friend Gail Matthius, before her stint on SNL. We'd been onstage together the night before. It became so obvious we knew each other that Jim Lange pointed it out on the show.

Those royalty checks kept coming in for years. Bless The Dating game.

Tom Qugley said...

Wasn't the "in the butt" comment made on THE NEWLYWED GAME in response to "Where's the most unusual place you and your spouse ever made whoopee?" It seems to surface every time they air one of those old game show bloopers shows hosted by (an old) Bob Eubanks....

Dave Williams said...

Jim Lange is a classy guy. Thirty years ago I got a shot at radio stardom when I was invited to a live, three-hour audition on KSFO. Sound nutty? It did to me! I was scared to death. Walking up California Street to the Fairmont Hotel where KSFO lived I nearly turned around and drove home. But I forced myself to go in and do the show. Three hours, beginning at 9AM right after Jim's morning show. He was polite when I took over the announce booth. But a couple of hours later he phoned me from Golden Gate Fields (he was a daily horse bettor)to tell me he thought I sounded terrific! He didn't have to do that.

They gave me some weekend air shifts and let me fill in from time to time during the week. I looked forward to seeing Jim whenever possible. He always gave me that famous smile.

Mike McCann said...

As parting gifts, you received Ray-bans, but no Turtle Wax? You were stiffed! Cheated! Denied your just rewards. What about Rice-a-Roni (or would that be inappropriate for a bachelor not expected to be capable of cooking)??

Mary Stella said...

I bet a cruise with Flo and Eddie and the Turtles would be a lot funnier a date than many I've been on. Sad commentary on my dating life, I know, but I love their concerts. Saw them back when I was in college and then a few times at The Bottom Line in New York. I also listened to their radio show during their brief stint on K-Rock (I think it was K-Rock) in NYC in the late 80s.

kadgi said...

Goodness. Here in Portugal the best we get in what comes to dating shows are the news, when the two hosts seem to glance at each other in a flirting factin in between the sports segue...

Sorry for being out of subject, but i was watching this "new" sitcom that i'm starting to enjoy called "It's all Relative" when, to my surprise, I saw the name of The Levine as a consultant. My God, i never noticed before, it rocks to enjoy a blog and a show by the same autor, without knowing it!
I don't know if you like to talk about your current shows, but something striked me when watching the first episode: it was as violent as "The Shield's" Vic when he misses the Superbowl. I was horrified, the things those caracters were saying, specially by the second act, were way to cold for tv-at least the kind of tv i was expecting.
Wish is good.
My question is: when trying to discuss a subject in a tv series, how far should we go in the first episode?
Cheers (no pun intended)

tb said...

No show had worse "prizes". I distinctly remember Lange winding up and saying one time "You're going to....
TIJUANA MEXICO!!!!" Haha!

Mike Barer said...

I had what I thought was a cleaver comment but dwaco said something to that effect.
The Dating Game really helped launch Herb Alpert's career as I remember.

Seymour said...

I did The Dating Game also. Lost. I remember receiving a box of lovely parting gifts. These included a certificate for a "Polyglycoat" undercoating for a new car. I didn't even own an old car, and could not afford to get one either. There was a "Lifetime supply of Spray PAM.", i.e., a case of PAM. Frankly, one can is a "Lifetime Supply" for me. I gave all those away. There was also a plush teddy bear stuffed in the box, I guess as packing padding. That was in 1980. I still have the teddy bear.

But it was The Newlywed Game that gave me my favorite Chuck Barris Game Show moment. Tuning in one day, I saw a man I'd had an affair with years earlier with his new wife. I ran into him a couple years later at a gay bar, and told him about seeing him on the show.

He said, "The marriage didn't work out." Oh yeah?

rashad khan said...

Is it just me, or does that doctored photo make Ken look even more like a CPA?

Mike Barer said...

Was there anyway to get away from the "Dating Game Chapperone"?

Anonymous said...

In my experience, the chaperon was there mainly to bail us out of any trouble -- missed connections, name not at hotel, etc. (those were simpler times); and to make sure nothing actionable occurred.

Of course, my "date" and I were both above 21, but we could have sneaked off easily, had she been so inclined.

I'm sure the chaperon would have been far more attentive had the Mann Act been applicable.

Anonymous said...

Harlan Ellison tells a really funny story about his experience on The Dating Game, in one of his Glass Teat books.

I won't try to summarize it here. But let's just say that Bachelor Number Three got progressively cranky as the taping went on, and eventually, Barris started screaming at people to burn the videotape.

Roz said...

Hi Ken: I have a girlfriend that was a contestant in 1978. Do you happen to know how she can get a copy of the episode???

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Anonymous said...

I was one of the lucky ones. I was a bachelor that got to ask the questions of the three females. In my case they were all sisters and made up 3 of the 4 Flying Cavarettas, a trapeze act. I was in the "sound proof booth' with the 4th sister but did not know it until all the sisters were on stage at the end when we did the kiss thing.

Dating said...

The Dating Game really helped launch Herb Alpert's career as I remember.