Friday, July 18, 2008

It's Delovely, It's DeSoto: You Bet Your Life Part 2

great arrangement by Shorty Rogers and Andre Previn
the personnel: Shorty Rogers - Trumpet, Andre Previn - Piano, Milt Bernhart - Trombone,
Bud Shank - Sax Alto & Flute, Bob Cooper - Sax Tenor & Oboe, Jimmy Giuffre - Bari Sax Al Hendrickson - Guitar, Jack Marshall - Guitar, Joe Mondragon - Bass, Curtis Counce Bass, Shelly Manne - Drums
The program staff was always on the lookout for contestants with unusual occupations or lifestyles. These usually gave Groucho enough material for a lively, funny interview session. The interviews were sometimes so memorable that the contestants became celebrities: "nature boy" health advocate Robert Bootzin; hapless Mexican laborer Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez and his offhandedly comic remarks; a witty housewife named Phyllis Diller; author Ray Bradbury; blues singer and pianist Gladys Bentley; strongman Paul Anderson. John Barbour and Ronnie Schell appeared as contestants while working on the fringes of the entertainment industry.
A courtly Southern gentleman, Harlan Sanders, talked about his "finger-lickin'" recipe for fried chicken, which he parlayed into the very successful "Kentucky Fried Chicken" chain of restaurants. An exotic guest purporting to be a wealthy nobleman was really a young writer named Bill Blatty; Groucho saw through the disguise ("You're no more a prince than I am"). William Peter Blatty won $10,000 and used the leave of absence the money afforded him to write The Exorcist. No one in the audience knew who contestant Daws Butler was until he began speaking in Huckleberry Hound's voice; he and his partner went on to win the top prize of $10,000. Cajun politician Dudley J. LeBlanc, a Louisiana state senator, demonstrated his winning style at giving campaign speeches in French.
Arthur Godfrey's mother Kathryn was a contestant and held her own with Groucho. Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his 11-year-old daughter Candice Bergen teamed up with Groucho and his daughter Melinda to win $1,000 for the Girl Scouts. George Fenneman got to play quizmaster for this segment. General Omar Bradley was teamed with an army private, and Groucho goaded the private into telling Bradley everything that was wrong with the army. Professional wrestler Wild Red Berry admitted that the outcomes of matches were determined in advance, but that the injuries were real; he revealed a long list of injuries he'd sustained in his career.
Other contestants were established names from entertainment, literature, and sports: Ernie Kovacs, Hoot Gibson, Ray Corrigan, John Charles Thomas, Max Shulman, Joe Louis, Bob Mathias, Johnny Weissmuller, Sam Coslow, Harry Ruby, Liberace, Don Drysdale, Tor Johnson and Frankie Avalon, among many others. Even Groucho's brother Harpo Marx showed up to promote his just-published autobiography.
The "easy" consolation prize question "Who's buried in Grant's Tomb?" actually is quite tricky. First, since Grant's Tomb is above ground, no one is technically "buried" in it at all. Secondly, it contains the sarcophagi of both President Grant and his wife, who presumably would both have to be mentioned for an accurate answer.
This question was later referred to on the TV series The Golden Girls, where two of the characters have to answer the question not on YBYL, but as the final "question" on Jeopardy!.
One often-told story recounts the appearance of a male contestant who spoke in broken English, and who was clearly an easy mark for the quick thinking Marx. In the course of the usual pre-game interview, Groucho was putting the man at ease by asking questions about his life. The contestant offered that he had eleven children, to which Grouch remarked "Eleven children!". The contestant innocently offered "I love my wife", to which Groucho responded with the now famous "I love my cigar, but I take it out once in a while!" The audience laughed for minutes. The story goes that the remark was judged too risqué to be aired at the time, and was edited out before the radio broadcast, but the audio of the audience reaction was used by NBC for many years whenever bring-down-the house laughter was called for in laugh tracks. No copy is thought to survive.\The story has taken on the trappings of an urban legend over the years. Both Groucho and Fenneman denied the incident ever took place. Groucho was interviewed for Esquire magazine in 1972 and said "I never said that." Hector Arce, Groucho's ghost writer for his autobiography The Secret Word Is Groucho inserted the claim that it happened, but Arce compiled the 1976 book from many sources, not solely Groucho himself. He probably was unaware Groucho had gone on record denying the claim a few years previously.

No comments: