Saturday, December 19, 2015

My favorite cheesy TV Christmas special

Here's a holiday excerpt from the book I wrote about growing up in the 60s (that would make a GREAT holiday gift).   Order it here. 

I still can’t fathom why anyone watched the ANDY WILLIAMS variety show on NBC if they didn’t own a color TV. It was so wholesome your teeth ached. Whatever “edge” the show had was provided by the Osmond Family. But it was in color and production numbers always featured grinning All-American yahoos in brightly colored sweaters holding brightly colored balloons. Not having a color TV and not being gay I never watched THE ANDY WILLIAMS SHOW… except…

During their Christmas special.

It was the one time of year Andy had his beautiful family on the show and this became a 60s American tradition. Mom and dad and the Williams kinder would sing Carols, exchange presents, and their message of love and holiday good cheer would absolutely entrance you. That’s not why I watched it, of course. I wanted to screw Andy’s wife.

Claudine Longet (Mrs. Williams) was a willowy brunette with exquisite doe eyes and luscious lips. Laura Petrie but French. She was also a successful recording artist but believe me, if she looked like Charles De Gaulle she couldn’t give away one record. But I found her incredibly sexy, even when she was singing Silent Night in front of a crucifix. She and Andy would divorce in the 70s and two years later she shot her boyfriend, Olympic skier Spider Sabich to death. I still wanted to screw her, but not as much.

So as enjoyable as those holiday shows were in the mid 60s, watching them now on PBS they take on a whole new level of absurdity. Two of their kids are named Noelle and Christian. How much more seriously can you take Christmas? And yet, twelve years later, there’s mom in a different winter wonderland with a loaded revolver. She was ultimately convicted on a lesser charge and married her defense attorney.

I’ll be on parole for Christmas.

56 comments:

Astroboy said...

God, as a teen I found Claudette Longet almost unbearably sexy! Now that I'm older, I gotta, say, she's still got it; I'm a sucker for any women with a French accent who shoots her boyfriend.

Astroboy said...

Oops, I meant Claudine. I actually have all her records on vinyl, and I listen to them!

Ralph C. said...

I would recommend the book as a gift. It's a great read. 😃

Mike Barer said...

They seemed like the perfect family and they skied with the Kennedy's. It looks like Andy cut ties at just the right time. Anyone remember the bear skit on the early 70's version?

iain said...

"GetTV" is running a "Best of" Andy's Christmas specials. Corny indeed, but what a voice.

They're also running Judy Garland's Christmas show, featuring a young & astoundingly talented Liza, a younger & obviously talented Lorna &...that poor little brother. Also, Judy at her train-wreck best.

Adam said...

Geezer post. Never heard of the people mentioned in Ken's post or the people mentioned in the comments.

tamv said...

I'm now thinking of the infamous "SNL" skit-written by Michael O'Donohue-in which Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin do a play-by-play of the Claudine Longet Ski Invitational in which various skiers are "accidentally shot by Claudine Longet"!

iain said...

tamv & resulted in an apology by Lorne Michaels the following week, which was the lamest thing he ever did until inviting Donald Trump to be a guest host.

Grace said...

I'm not sure you should post comments like that, Adam. It always makes some of the geezers angry and defensive. Not that I know who any of these people are from the post or comments, either. I mean, not without googling them. I don't know any of them just to read their names.

tavm said...

iain, yeah, I wasn't too enthused about the latest Donald Trump guest-hosting stint, either...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

And now, in the New Tens, we have to put up with a Michael Buble Christmas special every year, and I ask why? Hasn't Bubbley Mikey Pizza Crust's relevance ran out years ago? Why keep giving him a Christmas special year after year?

Ted said...

Well, Grace, I'll admit comments like that do tick off some "geezers." It's disconcerting to discover that performers who were well-known cultural reference points when you were young now need a footnote so anybody under forty (maybe fifty) knows what the hell you're talking about. I don't know that it was any different when we were young, though. I can remember my grandfather talking about people like Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker and not having a clue who they were. We conveniently forget that, though, when we're busy getting huffy because these idiot youngsters don't know who Andy Williams or Judy Garland are without resorting to Wikipedia.

Bill Avena said...

The only Xmas shows this geezer would like is rebroadcasts of The King Family Singers specials. And the 1970 Chuck Jones "A Christmas Carol".

Tom Quigley said...

Adam said...

"Geezer post. Never heard of the people mentioned in Ken's post or the people mentioned in the comments."

Adam: Buy Ken's book. There actually was civilized life on earth before the year 2000.

Bryson said...

All I know about Andy Williams is that he did a Christmas song titled "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" that I truly despise, because it's always in heavy rotation in the Christmas music we have to suffer through at work every year between Thanksgiving and closing time on December 24th.

tavm said...

Bryson, yeah, I think I'd rather hear "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" again than hear that one even once...

Sean Savage said...

Claudine's best song is also a Xmas one: "I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You" -- a sweet sentiment that from her somehow comes off as a threat. I picture a confrontation in a snowy Aspen chateau...

https://youtu.be/EiXNn9J8IbE

Davey C. said...

The bear was the 2nd best part of the show, or the best part when Claudine wasn't on.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

,,.ah, yes, some of my warm memories with Christmas and firearms:

A ten-year-old kid hiding bullets from a drunken adult family member who just wanted to 'scare' someone.

Fa-la-la-la...

Ol' Joe said...

Ted, and the other side of that is when you hear young people talking about their favorite performers and you've never heard of half of them.

Michael Hagerty said...

Ken: The 1962-1967 Andy Williams weekly show was as achingly wholesome as you describe it. But the 1969-1971 reboot was different. He hired a young Mike Post as his musical director and booked some fairly contemporary acts:

Creedence Clearwater Revival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2oJIBQKlnw

Ike & Tina Turner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWwCAtKu3as

Jackson 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7B6_1oaNEk

Elton John: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GG5g8Isxws

Linda Ronstadt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nojHLC4z0h4


I watched it (at age 13-15) because it was one of the few variety shows of the time that treated the contemporary artists with respect.

I wanted Claudine, too. Until the whole gun thing.

Gary said...

Great post Ken! It reminded me of my similar feelings about Joey Heatherton. Once in a while I got to stay up late and watch the Dean Martin Show, and when she was a guest I was mesmerized. Somehow I knew that, even though I wasn't old enough to like girls yet, she was the kind I was going to like...

Diane D. said...

Ken Levine, you didn't mention that Andy Williams, regardless of how corny his show was, proved himself to be the coolest man alive when he rushed to his ex-wife's side after she shot her lover.

Adam and Grace, I can understand you not knowing anyone…….except Judy Garland! Come on, surely you've seen The Wizard of Oz.

YEKIMI said...

The holiday special I wish they'd show again....just so I can reassure myself it wasn't actually a fever dream....would be the Star Wars Holiday Special. So horrendous that it was only shown once but you can find it on Youtube nowadays.

Pat Reeder said...

Claudine Longet almost made it into our book, "Hollywood Hi-Fi," about strange and obscure celebrity records. Now that we're working on an expanded and updated e-book version, this reminds me that maybe she should be included. Back in the dead tree book days, when space was limited, we'd planned to hold off on her until "Hollywood Hi-Fi 2." But she deserves inclusion for her cover of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" alone (it's on YouTube). It sounds like Georgette from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" with a French accent. And apologies to Adam and Grace, for forcing them to have to Google Georgia Engel, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and France. I'm sure all three were created before their time.

BTW, to Adam and Grace: I don't get angry when people don't know some pop culture reference. We all start out as babies and have much to learn. For instance, most of the things I enjoy and write about were created well before my time. But it does annoy me when people proudly flaunt their ignorance, as if not knowing anything that happened before they were 12 somehow signals their coolness. Granted, history textbooks are boring, because they're written by pedantic bores traversing a PC minefield. But whenever a student whines that history is boring, I heard that as, "Everything that ever happened to everyone since the dawn of time was boring, up until I came on the scene, boo-hoo!" News flash: the world did not start spinning on the day the first Millennial was born. In fact, I'd say evidence suggests it's become considerably dumber since then.

There was a satirical group called the Credibility Gap whose motto you should consider adopting: "Ignorance of your culture is not considered cool." Unfortunately, they were a group from the '60s, so you wouldn't know them.

Grace said...

Whatever you say, Gramps.

gottacook said...

I would have thought "geezer post" referred to the USPS.

Honeycutt Powell said...

Today's comment section reads like a prepubescent version of True Confessions.

Stephen Marks said...

12/19/2045 6:11 PM Andy said....I remember those Katy Perry and Lady Gaga Christmas Specials from 2015, yeah they were cheesier then Stewie Griffin's diaper but I loved watching them, brings back good memories, especially Christmas with the Kardashians. Hey if you don't like the old stuff you're just one of those idiots who continues to watch Survivor Mars and CSI: Uranus.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Wow, does this hit home. One of the attributes that attracted me to my first wife was her resemblance to Claudine. Same delicate, sultry face, but no interest in weapons.

Many years ago, Fox was setting up to host an outdoor dignitary-heavy event. I walked onto the lot after lunch right past an orchestra rehearsing for the festivities later that night. I listened for a minute to the musicians tuning up when a small fellow emerged from the group and started testing the mike. And then he started singing. And it was the purest, most beautiful, ethereal noise I'd ever heard. No fancy sound engineering, the orchestra wasn't playing, it was just him rehearsing with the mike. His voice literally stopped people in their tracks. It was Andy Williams. I'll never forget his voice or his wife. Or mine.

canda said...

How about a mention of Claudine's breathy singing style, which is another reason her records sold.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Lady Gaga? Oh yeah, I remember last year she had what she called THE LADY GAGA & THE MUPPETS THANKSGIVING SPECIAL, or what it should have been called: THE LADY GAGA PLUGS HER NEW ALBUM WITH THE MUPPETS THROWN IN AT THE LAST MINUTE SPECIAL.

Elvis Gjerkaj said...

Loved those old shows

Toby the Wonder Horse said...

Wait, no has yet mentioned that Claudine Longet was the female lead in the Peter Sellers classic The Party? Has the world gone mad?

I always thought Andy Williams was like Perry Como only without the charisma.

Anonymous said...

Yes I also watched the show and I do know who Andy, Claudine and Joey Heatherton are so I must be a geezer too. I have to admit reading about Andy W and his show makes me think of SCTV's Perry Como and Lola Heatherton skits.Janice B.

Blair Ivey said...

I'll be on parole for Christmas
If only in my dreams
I know I'm Jewish but hey
I get a break it seems

Diane D. said...

Adam and Grace,
I would say there were an awful lot of assumptions made about you from a couple of innocent (and humorous) comments. It was a geezer post, and I wonder how many of the geezers are curious enough to be reading a Millennial blog. I thought your comment was funny and charming.

A Geezer

Anonymous said...

@ Toby the Wonder Horse
Perry Como on his best day couldn't sing like Andy Williams on his worst.
Listen to Moon River (his is the definitive version) or Days of Wine And Roses. Perry Como couldn't sing like that.
And if you want to hear one of the greatest singing performances in musical history, yes better than any single Sinatra performance, look up Andy Williams singing The Battle Hymn Of The Republic at Robert Kennedy's funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral. They put speakers on the street so people up an down Fifth Avenue could hear it.

Mike Barer said...

How did his children do in later years? History has shown it tough for children who have grown up on TV. Hopefully, growing up Williams was a blessing rather than a curse.

Mike Britt said...

Dear geezer-slammers...history did exist before 1975. Although there wasn't much of it and it really wasn't that important.

norm said...

Have you seen Claudet's photo recently.....wow not aged well at all.

thomas tucker said...

Congrats to Adam for winning the Christmas Troll Award.

Barry Rivadue said...

We have access to so much information now on the internet, especially YouTube, for easy discovery of worlds that existed before 1975, yet some will proudly advertise that such worlds never existed or mattered.

Andrew said...

Hi Ken. Since it's that time of year, can I make a request?
One of my favorite posts of yours is the one on "A Charlie Brown Christmas." First of all, I get the impression that you're not a Christian and don't expect to become one :-). So to read your insights into what made it stand out to you was a real treat.
But the best thing about the post was how everything that made that show wonderful and special - the music, the animation, the children's voices, Linus reading scripture - was opposed by the higher-ups. There's a lesson in there somewhere, and not just related to TV.
So my request: Please repost that post! It will be a delightful Christmas gift to your readers, especially those who've never read it before.

Tom Lawrence said...

Poor Adam and Grace. So stupid, and yet so proud of that. They represent their generation perfectly.
As a future geezer, I admit the perverse pride that some younger people take in being ignorant of anything that doesn't happen in their life and time is exasperating. When I was a teen, I knew who the politicians, singers, actors and major figures were of an earlier age.
Now, if it didn't happen in the last two years, they're too stupid to know about it and too lazy to care or do anything about it. Poor Adam and Grace.

Diane D. said...

Adam and Grace are probably long gone, but if not, they must be astonished at the number of assumptions and insults that one brief (humorous!) comment has generated. Surely being unfamiliar with Andy Williams and his wife (two very minor figures in 20th century popular culture) shouldn't lead to the assumption they know nothing of "politicians, singers, actors and major figures of an earlier age." Now if they're unfamiliar with CHEERS, that would indeed be an indictment of their intellectual curiosity.

Hank Gillette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank Gillette said...

Ken,

Presumably, if you got Ms. Longet into bed, it would be relatively easy to frisk her for weapons.

Al said...

I agree with you, Diane. The amount of vitriol spewed at a couple of young people for being ignorant of a long out-of-fashion pop singer has astounded me. This WAS a geezer post, and that's speaking as someone who's 63 years old. You can research Andy Williams and Claudine Longet on Wikipedia. You may be able to find some of Williams' TV work on YouTube. All that will get you intellectual knowledge of the people and events being discussed, but it won't make the post resound with you the way it does with those of us who experienced Andy Williams and Claudine Longet first hand. The older I get the more convinced I become that the younger generation is right. Most old people really are a bunch of sour old cranks, hating anybody and anything that reminds them they're old and looking for any excuse to brand "the kids" a bunch of stupid, ignorant, worthless losers.

thomas tucker said...

I disagree with you, Al. Go back and read Adam's comment about this funny and interesting post by Ken Levine. Adam's comment had no wit or humor in it at all- it was just negative. That's bad manners, at the least.

Leif said...

Jesus, it's a comment. Comments don't count if they don't have "wit or humor" or are negatve? Hell, the majority of the comments posted on this blog lack "wit or humor," and god knows there's more than enough crabby negativity in them to go around.

Diane D. said...

Well said and very true, Leif. I would be surprised if Ken Levine was offended by Adam's pithy (and I still say humorous) remark. And all Grace did was warn Adam he should be careful about saying such things because some geezers might get angry or defensive, which considering subsequent remarks, showed some noteworthy insight.

Al, as a fellow geezer, the older I get the more I enjoy spending time around young people, for just the reasons you mentioned.

ian said...

I swear this entire thread needs to be accompanied by Paul Lynde belting out "Kids" from Bye Bye Birdie (hey, at least 2 more geezer-centric references in that sentence alone).

As someone from the tail-end of the boomer generation, I can assure folks like Adam & Grace that we won't be going quietly or with a lot of dignity, so it's only going to get worse for them.

& I really don't feel bad about that.

Diane D. said...

Dear God! Will someone please explain to me what is so offensive about a young person (who happens to be reading Ken Levine's blog!) saying: "Geezer post---I don't know any of these people" in reference to a blog post about Andy Williams, of all people. If they hadn't known who Elvis or The Beatles or President Kennedy or Martin Luther King was, it would be reason for outrage. They are accused of being proud of their ignorance, of which I saw no sign, and yet a geezer says, with enormous pride "we will not be going quietly or with dignity." Why is this something of which to be proud?

iain said...

Dane D....it was supposed to be a joke. About uptight boomers. My own people. Go & be offended at someone else.

Actually, the real joke is I can't spell my own name right in that post. Oh well.

Diane D. said...

OMG, I'm so sorry, iain. I don't know how I missed that. When I re-read it with that in mind, it was hilarious. Oh well, so I'm an idiot. No more posts from me for a while!