News From ME

From the E-Mailbag…

I asked here the other day about a local (L.A.) musician named Stan Worth who among other appearances, was the bandleader on a number of local talk shows. Douglas McEwan writes about one of them…

OK, here's something else about Stan Worth. In the late 1960s, Lohman & Barkley had a TV show on local KNBC on late night Saturdays, what would become SNL's time slot but only an hour long. A number of later-famous people were regular writer-performers on it: McLean Stevenson, Craig T. Nelson, Rudy De Luca, Barry Levinson. The show is so obscure that it appears on none of these people's IMDb resumes, not even Lohman's or Barkley's. I was a friend of Al and Rog's from my junior year of high school on, and eventually wrote for them (though not for this TV show), so I was often present for the tapings. (I recall being in the studio with them the night Nixon got the Republican nomination. I recall Al's "Son-of-a-BITCH!" when Nixon got the nod.) There was no audience, just me staying out of the way of the cameras. It was shot just down the hall from Laugh-In. So while I could not really say I knew Stan, I did meet him at tapings many times.

Anyway, The Stan Worth Trio was the house band on the show, and so, along with George of the Jungle (which Stan performed on the show), Stan wrote the theme song for the show, for which Al & Rog penned the lyrics.

During the run of the show, Stan was suddenly afflicted by a disease called, I think, Bell's Palsey, which paralyzed half of his face, and made his speech slurry. It lasted a few months, but they did talk about it on the air, as they had really no choice, since it was clear there was somethihng wrong with his face and his speech that hadn't been before. He did fully recover from it.

So that's all I know about Stan Worth.

Man, I miss Al Lohman. The tenth anniversary of his passing was this past October.

Yeah, I've written before here about that Lohman & Barkley TV show. The two of them were pleasant but not revolutionary in their radio work…basically two more of hundreds of guys out there doing Bob & Ray. But that short-lived TV series, which I think was seen only on the NBC owned-'n'-operated stations and not even all of them, was one of the funniest, cleverest television comedy shows I've ever seen. I would want to see it again before I said it was on the level of, say, Ernie Kovacs or Monty Python…but if it was as good as I recall, it was in that league.

I haven't seen it since its original airings, which I believe were around 1973 or 1974. In an earlier post here about the show, I said '74 but if Laugh-In was taping down the hall, that would suggest '73 or earlier since Laugh-In stopped taping forever early in '73.

Al Lohman and Roger Barkley

Al Lohman and Roger Barkley

People later credited David Letterman with "deconstructing" the talk show form but that series really did it…and did it before he did. Among its premises was that Lohman and Barkley were self-admitted bad interviewers of their guests. I don't think they asked a real question during the entire run of the show. They'd fumble about and get things wrong and just make a shambles out of every interview. Something went horribly wrong in every one of them, including the time they accidentally killed their first guest, Pat Paulsen, and left his dead body on the stage there as they brought out subsequent guests.

One time, they had Steve Allen on…and it was obvious Steverino had only been minimally briefed on what was going to happen. Allen had often on his shows spoken of his best friend from high school, whose name was Niles Lishness. I don't guarantee that spelling but that was the fellow's name and it turned up often in sketches and bits on The Steve Allen Show. Lohman and Barkley, with considerable fanfare, announced that at considerable expense, they had tracked down Steve's old friend and flown him out to Hollywood for a thrilling on-air reunion. Then they brought him out, he didn't recognize Steve…

…and it was quickly determined that they'd brought out the wrong Niles Lishness.

Lohman and Barkley played absolutely deadpan straight, apologizing for the error…and Steve Allen, who hadn't seen the punchline coming, got hysterical as only Steve Allen could. Finally, when Steve stopped laughing, Al and Roger said that they had a gift for Steve to apologize for the dreadful error they'd made. They'd commissioned a top artist to create a portrait of Steve's spouse and they brought it out and unveiled "…this painting of your lovely wife, Audrey Meadows." Allen collapsed again in laughter at the painting of his sister-in-law and it was one of the funniest things I ever saw on television.

There were loads of spots like that and boy, I wish I could see those shows again. The last time I mentioned it here, someone wrote to tell me they'd heard all those tapes had been wiped and there were no copies of any episodes in existence. The Paley Center (I checked) doesn't have any. If they were a third as good as I remember, a real treasure has been lost.