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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

I stumbled upon this hilarious clip on YouTube today and just had to share my thoughts.

I read a lot of show biz books, biographies, and autobiographies. After many years of sifting through the sincere, the obscene, and the just plain ridiculous, you tend to get a sense for what is bullshit and what is probably closer to the truth. Most of the time, I have no problem at all with the BS so long as it’s entertaining. I mean, let’s be honest – storytelling is show biz too. If you do it right.

One of my favorite books about variety television of the 1960s/1970s is Lee Hale’s Backstage at The Dean Martin Show. Hale tells us that when Martin’s show initially went on the air, he was essentially just a Master of Ceremonies to a bunch of variety acts. Try to imagine a handsome and talented Ed Sullivan. However, by not taking¬† advantage of Dean’s talent the first half dozen shows hadn’t scored too well. Hale was brought in to write and stage some special musical material for the show and by the time he reached the west coast from NYC, the producer had been fired and Greg Garrison had been put in charge.¬† It was a fortuitous twist of fate for Garrison, Dean Martin, and Lee Hale. Together, they created some unforgettable variety and comedy material that was almost always centered around Dino.

Backstage at the Dean Martin Show is essentially Hale’s remembrances of Martin, Garrison, and especially of all the guest stars that appeared on Dino’s show. A good deal of the anecdotes praise the talent and professionalism of the many talented people who stepped in front of the camera with Dean in a very difficult set of circumstances. Some of the juicer and most entertaining episodes tell of the less professional, more temperamental stars with whom Mr. Hale dealt.

You may have heard somewhere that Dean Martin did not like to rehearse. That is absolutely true. The guests and the singers and dancers would rehearse all week but Dean was never there. He’d be sent a tape of the songs he was going to have to sing so he could listen to the music/arrangements while he drove to and from the golf course. Then he would come in on Sunday, take 20-30 minutes to run through the charts with the band and then head to his dressing room. There he would simultaneously watch the national football game telecasts and a studio monitor where Garrison and Hale would runs through the duets he would do with the guest stars. Garrison would wear a sign that said “Dean Martin” while Hale might wear a sign that said “Lena Horne” or “George Gobel.” Finally, they would tape the actual show in front of a live audience and, as you’ll no doubt remember, make a lot of mistakes – which the audience loved!!

Anyway, this was all background to lead up to the Allan Sherman story. When I saw the above clip on YouTube I immediately remembered that Hale shares a story of his experience dealing with Mr. Sherman that was less than pleasant. As a rule, Garrison didn’t want Hale to coddle the guests or go to their home. “Keep them in their place,” Garrison told him. “Never forget you’re in charge now.”

Unfortunately, Sherman was apparently friends with one of the executives on the show so Garrison told Hale they would treat him with kid gloves. Sherman wanted someone to come to his home to discuss his appearance so Garrison told him to go ahead. Once there, Hale was left to wait in Sherman’s foyer for over an hour. When Hale was told by Sherman’s kids to go upstairs and look for him, he found Sherman on his bed with a phone, a pencil and pad, and several cans of ice cold beer. He got about a 30 second conference with Sherman where he was told that the material sent over by the writers was crap and “I’ll let you know what parodies I’m doing.” He rudely dismissed him and Hale left with a new understanding of why you should never “go to the guest.”

Hale then writes, “I reported back to Greg, who wasn’t the least bit surprised and actually found the story rather funny. So did I after while, especially when I heard that Greg wasn’t even going to roll tape when Allan was on the stage.”

The above clip seems to contradict the possibility that Garrison “did not run tape” when Sherman was on stage. However, according to IMDB, Sherman made two appearances on The Dean Martin Show, both coming in the first season. The first appearance seems too early for Hale to have been there yet so we can instead assume that this story is referring to episode 16. The only problem is that neither of the IMDB listings for the two shows on which Sherman was a guest, lists Vic Damone. In fact, IMDB says that Damone appeared only one time on The Dean Martin Show and that was in the second season, not the first. So where then does this clip originate? I thought it might be the Hollywood Palace but Sherman’s IMDB listings for those appearances also don’t include Damone or Martin. Therefore, I have no idea where this clip originates. My guess would be that IMDB is missing something and that they either appeared all together on Dean’s show (with tape running) or the Hollywood Palace.

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