Monday, June 24, 2013

This Week in Television History: June 2013 PART IV

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:
As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.


June 25, 1993
Last night of Late Night with David Letterman. On this day in 1993, Late Night with David Letterman airs its last episode. Offbeat comic Letterman, passed over by NBC for the host seat on The Tonight Show after Johnny Carson's retirement, left the network to launch a rival show on CBS.
  
David Letterman was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1947. From an early age, he aspired to host his own talk show. He became a stand-up comic and a wacky weatherman on a local TV station. After years on the stand-up comedy circuit, he made his first appearance on The Tonight Show in 1978 and served as the program's guest host 50 times. In 1980, Letterman had a short-lived morning variety show, The David Letterman Show, which won two Emmys.
 
He launched his popular late-night TV show in 1982. His offbeat humor and goofy stunts spoofed traditional talk shows. Antics like wearing a Velcro suit and throwing himself at a wall or tossing eggs into a giant electric fan, Letterman gained a large following, especially among college students. Regular features included his "Top Ten List," "Stupid Pet Tricks," and tours of the neighborhood. He also frequently wandered with his camera into other NBC shows in progress. Over more than 11 years, the show won five Emmys and 35 nominations.
When Carson announced his retirement in 1992, Letterman and rival comic Jay Leno engaged in a heated battle for the coveted host slot. When Letterman was passed over, he left NBC for CBS, where his new program, Late Show, outperformed Leno's show almost every week in its first year. However, Leno pulled ahead the following year and maintained a strong lead. Letterman underwent emergency heart surgery in 2000 and was off the show for five weeks. In recent years, Leno's lead over Letterman in viewership has slimmed.








June 27, 1968 
Elvis Presley tapes his famous TV "comeback special"







There was quite a bit more than just 12 years and a few extra pounds separating the Elvis Presley of 1968 from the Elvis that set the world on fire in 1956. With a nearly decade-long string of forgettable movies and inconsistent recordings behind him, Elvis had drifted so far from his glorious, youthful incarnation that he'd turned himself into a historical artifact without any help from the Beatles, Bob Dylan or the Stones. And then something amazing happened: A television special for NBC that Elvis' manager Colonel Tom Parker envisioned as an Andy Williams-like sequence of Christmas carol performances instead became a thrilling turning point in Elvis's legendary career. Elvis began taping his legendary "Comeback Special" on this day in 1968.

Much of the credit for the Comeback Special goes to the young director NBC turned to on the project. Only 26 years old but with a strong background in televised music, Steve Binder had the skills and creativity to put together a more interesting program than the one originally planned, but he'd also had the youthful confidence to tell Elvis that a successful show was an absolute necessity if he wanted to regain his relevance. "Basically, I told him I thought his career was in the toilet," Binder recalled in an interview almost four decades later. From the beginning, Elvis embraced almost every suggestion Binder made, including what would turn out to be the best one, which came after Binder watched Elvis jamming with his friends and fellow musicians in his dressing room one night after rehearsals. "Wait a minute, this is history," Binder recalls thinking. "I want to film this." Binder sold Elvis on the idea that would become the most memorable segment of the show: an informal, "unplugged" session before a live audience.
Elvis went to Hawaii with his wife, Priscilla, and their infant daughter, Lisa Marie, in the weeks leading up to the taping, and when he returned, he was tanned, rested and thinner than he'd been at any time since leaving the Army. "He was totally keyed up now, on edge in a way he had rarely been since abandoning live performing a decade before," writes Peter Guralnick in Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, the second volume of his Elvis biography. "His professionalism continued to be noted by the entire crew...but there was something else now, too. For the first time in a long time he didn't bother to hide the fact that he really cared."
When Elvis took to the stage on this night in 1968 to record the "jam session" portion of the Comeback Special, he did so only after Binder talked him out of a last-minute case of stage fright. After a nervous start, Elvis Presley gave the legendary performance that would reinvigorate his flagging career.



June 29, 1978
Bob Crane was found bludgeoned to death.
On the afternoon of June 29 Crane's co-star Victoria Ann Berry found his body in his apartment after he failed to show up for a lunch meeting. Crane had been bludgeoned to death with a weapon that was never found, though investigators believed it to be a camera tripod. An electrical cord had been tied around his neck. 

Crane's funeral was held on July 5 at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Westwood. An estimated 200 family members and friends attended, including Patty Duke, John Astin, and Carroll O'Connor. Pallbearers included Hogan's Heroes producer Edward Feldman, co-stars Larry Hovis and Robert Clary, and Crane's eldest son, Robert. Crane was interred in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, California.
More than 20 years after his death, Crane's widow, Sigrid Valdis, had his remains exhumed and transported approximately 25 miles southeast to Westwood Village Memorial Park in Westwood. After her death from lung cancer in 2007, Valdis was buried next to him.
According to an episode of A&E's Cold Case Files, police officers who arrived at the scene of the crime noted that Carpenter called the apartment several times and did not seem surprised that the police were there, which raised suspicions. The car Carpenter had rented the previous day was impounded. In it, several blood smears were found that matched Crane's blood type. DNA testing was not available at that time. Due to insufficient evidence, Maricopa County Attorney Charles F. Hyder declined to file charges.
In 1990 the Maricopa County Attorney re-opened Crane's murder case; investigators reexamined and retested the evidence found in June 1978. Although DNA testing of the blood found in Carpenter's rental car was inconclusive, Detective Jim Raines discovered an evidence photograph of the car's interior that appeared to show a piece of brain tissue. The blood and tissue samples themselves, which had been found in Carpenter's car the day after Crane's murder, had been lost; but an Arizona judge ruled that the new evidence was admissible.  In June 1992 Carpenter was arrested and charged with Crane's murder.
At Carpenter's 1994 trial Crane's son Robert testified that in the weeks before his father's death, Crane had repeatedly expressed a desire to sever his friendship with Carpenter. Carpenter had become, "a hanger-on," he said, and "a nuisance to the point of being obnoxious". The night before his death, Crane reportedly called Carpenter and ended their friendship. 
Defense attorneys attacked the prosecution's case as circumstantial and inconclusive. They denied the claim that Carpenter and Crane were on bad terms just before the slaying, and they labeled the determination that a camera tripod was the murder weapon as sheer speculation, based on Carpenter's occupation. They also disputed the claim that the rediscovered photo showed brain tissue, noting that authorities did not have the tissue itself. The defense pointed out that Crane had been videotaped and photographed in compromising sexual positions with numerous women, implying that a jealous person or someone fearing blackmail might have been the killer.
Carpenter was found not guilty. He maintained his innocence until his death on September 4, 1998. Crane's murder remains officially unsolved.
 

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa





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