Today's Video Link
I've been writing here about how today's talk shows lack spontaneity. We have here an example of a talk show where very little was planned, even less was scripted…and all depended on the ability of the host and guests to ad-lib. Fortunately, that host was Steve Allen — a very witty man and as you'll see if you watch this, a very brave one, as well.
This is an episode from 1962 of a 90-minute late night show he did that was syndicated by Westinghouse. It was done from a theater on Vine Street a few blocks south of Sunset and very close to a funky, all-night open-air food store called The Hollywood Ranch Market. Steverino and his merry band of co-conspirators often did stunts out in the street (this video opens with one) and they frequently involved the Hollywood Ranch Market which, sad to say, is no longer there.
This incarnation of The Steve Allen Show was utterly unpredictable. Not only did you never know what was going to happen on it but it was quite obvious that Steve often didn't know. If you stick it through to near the end, you'll see Steve interview a lady who had been dubbed Miss Mattress and who was on to promote mattresses. Steve does not introduce her. The show's announcer, Johnny Jacobs, brings her on and that's the first Steve knows about the guest he's to interview. No notes. No rehearsal. Just Steve Allen winging it. And if you stay through to the credits, you'll note that this show, which ran 90 minutes, had a writing staff that consisted of two men — Mike Marmer and Stan Burns plus whatever Steve contributed.
The show also did not put much emphasis on Big Name Guests. Sometimes, they had one or more. Sometimes, not. They often didn't billboard guests at the top because they did these shows two or three at a time — that is, two or three taped on the same evening — and sometimes didn't decide until well into the taping of an episode if a given guest waiting backstage would be in that episode or the next one.
I remember watching this show — which aired from 1962-1964 — whenever I didn't have to be at school the next day. KTLA Channel 5 aired it at 11:20 following a 15-minute 11 PM newscast and an odd little five minute show on which comedian Cliff Norton would give the weather forecast. It has been rarely seen since then but I'm told the Steve Allen Estate has every episode in its vaults. I wish they'd release them because it was such a funny, wacky program. I suspect you'd see an awful lot of things on it that were later considered revolutionary and ground-breaking when done by others. This is not the best episode but at the moment, it's all we've got…