Monday, February 03, 2014

This Week in Television History: February 2014 PART I


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. 




February 4, 1924
Janet Waldo is born.  
Actress and voice artist with a career encompassing radio, television, animation and live-action films. She is best known in animation for voicing Judy Jetson, Penelope Pitstop and Josie McCoy in Josie and the Pussycats. She was equally famed for radio's Meet Corliss Archer, a title role with which she was so identified that she was drawn into the comic book adaptation.

February 4, 1974
Patty Hearst kidnapped.

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by two black men and a white woman, all three of whom are armed. Her fiance, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape.
Three days later, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small U.S. leftist group, announced in a letter to a Berkeley radio station that it was holding Hearst as a "prisoner of war." Four days later, the SLA demanded that the Hearst family give $70 in foodstuffs to every needy person from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles. This done, said the SLA, negotiation would begin for the return of Patricia Hearst. Randolph Hearst hesitantly gave away some $2 million worth of food. The SLA then called this inadequate and asked for $6 million more. The Hearst Corporation said it would donate the additional sum if the girl was released unharmed.
In April, however, the situation changed dramatically when a surveillance camera took a photo of Hearst participating in an armed robbery of a San Francisco bank, and she was also spotted during a robbery of a Los Angeles store. She later declared, in a tape sent to the authorities, that she had joined the SLA of her own free will.
On May 17, Los Angeles police raided the SLA's secret headquarters, killing six of the group's nine known members. Among the dead was the SLA's leader, Donald DeFreeze, an African American ex-convict who called himself General Field Marshal Cinque. Patty Hearst and two other SLA members wanted for the April bank robbery were not on the premises.
Finally, on September 18, 1975, after crisscrossing the country with her captors--or conspirators--for more than a year, Hearst, or "Tania" as she called herself, was captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. Despite her claim that she had been brainwashed by the SLA, she was convicted on March 20, 1976, and sentenced to seven years in prison. She served 21 months before her sentence was commuted by President Carter. After leaving prison, she returned to a more routine existence and later married her bodyguard. She was pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001.


February 7, 1964
The Beatles arrive on American shores. 

"On the airplane, I felt New York," Ringo Starr said many years later. "It was like an octopus....I could feel, like, tentacles coming up to the plane it was so exciting." For the better part of a year leading up to their arrival in America on this day in 1964, the Beatles had been adjusting to the hysteria that seemed to greet them wherever they went. They had grown somewhat accustomed to the screaming hordes of teenage fans and the omnipresent pack of photographers, cameramen and reporters. They had conquered Sweden, France, Germany and their native England. Yet even the Beatles were nervous at the prospect of finally visiting the United States, a country that had seemed to react indifferently to the initial small-label release of singles like "Please Please Me" and "She Loves You" almost a year earlier.  "I know on the plane over I was thinking, 'Oh, we won't make it,'" John Lennon later recalled. "But that's that side of me. We knew we would wipe them out if we could just get a grip."
Getting a grip would be difficult given the reception that awaited them on the ground in New York.
"We got off the plane, and we were used to ten, twelve thousand people, you know," Ringo later recalled. "It must have been four billion people out there. I mean, it was just crazy!" The Beatles were loose, poised and funny at the airport news conference amid the bedlam of shouted questions and screaming fans. But on the ride into Manhattan, Ringo says, they were as giddy as some of the fans who surrounded their limo as it approached the Plaza Hotel. "It was madness! They were all outside and there's barriers and horses and cops all over the place...with the four of us sitting in the car, giggling. I'll speak for everybody—we couldn't believe it! I mean, I'm looking out the car saying, 'What's going on? Look at this! Can you believe this?' It was amazing."
Nowadays, scenes like those that greeted the Beatles in America in February 1964 could be manufactured by any competent publicist with a client who was willing to foot the bill. It would be impossible, though, to manufacture the emotional impact of Beatlemania, both on the Beatles themselves and on America. John, Paul, George and Ringo had developed an airtight act both onstage and off, but they were still four working-class lads from northern England, now being hailed as conquering heroes in the country whose music had inspired them to become musicians in the first place. And America—not just its teenagers, but the entire country—was still looking for a reason to emerge from the shadow of the Kennedy assassination barely two months earlier. New York found its reason on this day in 1964, and the rest of America followed just two days later when the Beatles made their live television debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.


February 8, 1974

Good Times first aired on CBS.

The show was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, and developed by Norman Lear, the series' primary executive producer. Good Times is a spin-off of Maude, which is itself a spin-off of All in the Family along with The Jeffersons.
The series stars Esther Rolle as Florida Evans and John Amos as her husband, James Evans, Sr. The characters originated on the sitcom Maude as Florida and Henry Evans, with Florida employed as Maude Findlay's housekeeper in Tuckahoe, New York and Henry employed as a firefighter. When producers decided to feature the Florida character in her own show, they applied retroactive changes to the characters' history. Henry's name became James, there is no mention of Maude, and the couple now live in Chicago.
Florida and James Evans and their three children live in a rented project apartment, 17C, at 963 N. Gilbert Ave., in a housing project (implicitly the infamous Cabrini–Green projects, shown in the opening and closing credits but never mentioned by name on the show) in a poor, black neighborhood in inner-city Chicago. Florida's and James's children are James, Jr., also known as "J.J." (Jimmie Walker), Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter). When the series begins, J.J. and Thelma are seventeen and sixteen years old, respectively, and Michael, called "the militant midget" by his father due to his passionate activism, is eleven years old. Their exuberant neighbor, and Florida's best friend, is Willona Woods (played by Ja'net Dubois), a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (Johnny Brown), to whom James, Willona and later J.J. refer as "Buffalo Butt", or, even more derisively, "Booger".



February 9, 1964

America meets the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.
At approximately 8:12 p.m. Eastern time, Sunday, February 9, 1964, The Ed Sullivan Show returned from a commercial (for Anacin pain reliever), and there was Ed Sullivan standing before a restless crowd. He tried to begin his next introduction, but then stopped and extended his arms in the universal sign for "Settle Down." "Quiet!" he said with mock gravity, and the noise died down just a little. Then he resumed: "Here's a very amusing magician we saw in Europe and signed last summer....Let's have a nice hand for him—Fred Kaps!"
For the record, Fred Kaps proceeded to be quite charming and funny over the next five minutes. In fact, Fred Kaps is revered to this day by magicians around the world as the only three-time Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques Grand Prix winner. But Fred Kaps had the horrific bad luck on this day in 1964 to be the guest that followed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan—possibly the hardest act to follow in the history of show business.
It is estimated that 73 million Americans were watching that night as the Beatles made their live U.S. television debut. Roughly eight minutes before Fred Kaps took the stage, Sullivan gave his now-famous intro, "Ladies and gentlemen...the Beatles!" and after a few seconds of rapturous cheering from the audience, the band kicked into "All My Lovin'." Fifty seconds in, the first audience-reaction shot of the performance shows a teenage girl beaming and possibly hyperventilating. Two minutes later, Paul is singing another pretty, mid-tempo number: "Til There Was You," from the Broadway musicalMusic Man. There's screaming at the end of every phrase in the lyrics, of course, but to view the broadcast today, it seems driven more by anticipation than by the relatively low-key performance itself. And then came "She Loves You," and the place seems to explode. What followed was perhaps the most important two minutes and 16 seconds of music ever broadcast on American television—a sequence that still sends chills down the spine almost half a century later.
The Beatles would return later in the show to perform "I Saw Her Standing There" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" as the audience remained at the same fever pitch it had reached during "She Loves You." This time it was Wells & the Four Fays, a troupe of comic acrobats, who had to suffer what Fred Kaps had after the Beatles' first set. Perhaps the only non-Beatle on Sullivan's stage that night who did not consider the evening a total loss was the young man from the Broadway cast of Oliver! who sang "I'd Do Anything" as the Artful Dodger midway through the show. His name was Davy Jones, and less than three years later, he'd star in a TV show of his own that owed a rather significant debt to the hysteria that began on this night in 1964: The Monkees.


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






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Tony Figueroa
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