Thursday, February 27, 2014

In honor of Jim Lange

Who passed away this week at 81, I'm reposting a section from my '60s book on how I was thrown off of THE DATING GAME (which he hosted).   Jim was a great guy.  I got to work with him at KMPC.  Easygoing and fun.  Later I became a disc jockey at KYA in San Francisco and would hang out with Jim and other local bay area radio greats at Perry's on Union Street.  Jim -- a big kiss goodbye, my friend.

It was in the late 60’s, I was in high school, and someone recommended I try out for THE DATING GAME. This was a popular game show on ABC at the time. Three bachelors would be asked inane questions by a girl who couldn't see them and based on the answers she'd select one for her "date".

I was a wise-ass even then (as opposed to say... now). 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 get big laughs. 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 when 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:

Angry Gamer said...

When you tell stories like this one, I just get this image of yoda saying something like.
"The funny is strong with this one."


Angry Gamer
-Not so Angry today... check back later

Mike Barer said...

Can't believe he was 81. Man,time flies.

Cap'n Bob said...

I think if you'd gotten on one more time you would have beaten Jimmy Boyd's record.

Steve Ray said...

My favorite Jim Lange story was told to me by John Felz, the Ops Mgr at KMPC when I worked there. He said Jim was rushing to the stduio after a bathroom break, cued the engineer to hit the next song...and introduced it as "Sleepwalk by Johnny Santos on 710 KMPC" LOL

Todd Everett said...

The punch line of my own "Dating Game" story: my chaperone was (and still is) Tom Brokaw's wife.

Bill Taub said...

I was on - and won, which I take no solace in because one of the other bachelors was Pee-Wee Herman.

Artie in Sin City said...

Did the room interview thing, too...As I remember it was on Vine Street by Dot Records in some upstairs hall...I sucked...I left...I never regretted it...But a fellow I worked with at KVFM in the Valley was on the show two times...He was mellow, not too funny, but they wanted his character in a chair...One gets the rejection in Hollywood at an early age...It was time to move on, move on...

Igor said...

Friday question/challenge:

Ken, you know baseball pitching; you know pilot pitching. Do you have a tortuous joke that combines the two? One-liners...? Anything...?

Anonymous said...

The funny is strong with this one, mmmmmmm.....

J.R. said...

Jim Lange was awesome. As a kid I loved watching Name That Tune with my dad.

mmryan314 said...

I love your stories Ken Levine. One would never know you are/were/are a big shot.

D. McEwan said...

I was on The Dating Game twice (Won the first time). When filling out the contestant form, under the question: "List any nicknames you have" I wrote: "Scarface." I will never forget hearing Jim Lange say: "And his friends call him Scarface..." (Bear in mind, that was the time I won. The girl picked the guy Lange said was called "Scarface.")

My earliest memories of Lange are as the announcer on The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show out of San Francisco, at noon, 5 days a week, back in, I think, 1961.

A total pro.

D. McEwan said...

"As a result I missed getting to go on a little cruise boat around the Newport Beach harbor with the Turtles."

"The selected bachelor got a trip to Paris. I got a roast beef sandwich at Arby’s"


The first time I did the show, in 1968, it was the night time version. (In fact, it was my network TV debut.) We were sent to the Premiere of Isadora with Vanessa Redgrave and the dinner party afterwards. The couple who won the other round got a trip to Belgium. I remember being almost driven nuts by that. "Dinner and a movie in Hollywood? That's my typical Friday night. My win was just as valid as theirs. Send US to Belgium!"

But the date turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of my life. Oh, not the girl. She was an idiot. (As I'll illustrate in a moment) though rather pleasingly slutty. (Chaperone-schmaperone. I got a hand job from her in the limo, her idea.)

But I was introduced to Carol Burnett, Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero (who, in 1968, was GORGEOUS), and a number of other celebs. (A cousin of mine who has money, and with whom I do not get along showed up at the premiere, seeing me on the red carpet with the stars. I enjoyed that.) And the party was on Stage 28 at Universal, on the then-still-standing set of Lon Chaney's The Phantom of the Opera, Holy Ground to me. In the buffet line, I found myself standing beside Elsa Lanchester.

Now Bride of Frankenestein was then, and remains now, my favorite movie. Chatting with Elsa about Bride in the buffet line in a sound stage where some of that movie was actually shot (The model effects shots, the opening stormy villa shot and the final Tower-lab-collapses shot, were filmed on Stage 28) remains a Life Highlight Thrill.

Now about my date: When we were introduced to Vanessa Redgrave (Who was great in the movie. I worshipped her as a goddess), she was told we were "The winners of The Dating Game," like it was a big deal. Vanessa then said exactly what you'd expect her to say: "What is 'The Dating Game'?"

Before I could draw in breath to say: "Never mind that. It's nothing. You are a goddess! Let me worship at your feet! Take my First-born!" my date said, in a nasel tone of voice that implied Have you been living in a cave?: "You've never heard of The Dating Game?" She then preceeded to spend our precious few seconds with one of the greatest actresses in the world explaining to her, in minute detail, just exactly what The Dating Game was, while Vanessa gave her a humoring-the-insane frozen smile, and her eyes screamed "Please get me away from this mad woman before she snaps and kills me." Our date was essentially over at that moment.

But I went home thrilled. I'd met Elsa Lanchester! (While my date was safely back at the table, and couldn't say anything stupid to Elsa.)

Mike Barer said...

ABC was really the only network that targeted young people in the 60s. I guess the "ABC" made it a natural to go after kids. All though, I believe it was far behind the two other networks, It's programming at the time seemed the reflect the period.
The Dating Game, American Bandstand, and The Mod Squad are all more or less in that vain.

Jeffro said...

Just wondering: If you can make a fortune off of crap, is it still really crap?

Cheerio,
Jeffro

Dave Williams said...

I had the great pleasure of working with Jim at KSFO. He really was a sweet man and a great radio personality.

Mark Stout said...

I know a girl who was on the Dating Game. She went on to be an agent and even named one of entertainments 100 most powerful women one year.

VP81955 said...

Am currently listening to KNX online; plenty of Sigalerts, on the PCH and elsewhere. Hope all of you in SoCal are safe...and please be careful when driving today.

Jim said...

If I comment that this show was way before my time, will it make anybody feel old?

D. McEwan said...

"Jeffro said...
Just wondering: If you can make a fortune off of crap, is it still really crap?"


YES!

In its later days, I was routinely recognizing gay porn stars, whose work I'd - ah - enjoyed, as bachelors on The Dating Game. I kept wanting to tell the girls: "You don't want Bachelor #3. He's a bottom."

Once I saw a guy I'd had an affair with, a rather lengthy affair, as a contestant on The Newlywed Game. I ran into him about a year later and asked him about that. He said: "It was a very short marriage." It seemed he and this girl he knew had thought that, if they got quickly married, they could win some nice furniture they could sell and split the money. Well, they didn't win. You needed to know stuff about each other to win on that show.

Anonymous said...

D. McEwan -who needs your degenerate gay stories, likely fantasies in your own twisted mind.

D. McEwan said...

Ah, Anonymous, as charming as you are brave and bigoted. Nice to see someone who lacks the courage of his prejudices. The scorn of a coward really stings. ow.

Anonymous said...

Where where where can one find a recording of Jim Lnage's Friday radio theme "I've got the weekend off, I'm so glad its Friday" ?
jcbikeman@aol.com