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Sausage and eggs: Tom Waits upstages EVERYONE on ‘The Mike Douglas Show,’ 1976
02:33 pm


Tom Waits
Mike Douglas

Unusually among singer-songwriters, Tom Waits invented a schtick that was so original that it traded somewhat in shock value. Most everyone has a “the first time I ever heard Tom Waits” story; the palpable need of listeners to testify to Waits’ baffling qualities is unique in entertainment, I think.

Imagine what it was like as the renown of Tom Waits slowly began to seep past the cognoscenti and into the wider world. In the mid-1970s, with perhaps three albums under his belt, Waits began to appear on TV talk shows, and the interface between the observers’ naivete about what performers are and can do and Waits’ own messed-up thing began to reverberate more widely.

To be blunt: the more Tom Waits began to appear on TV, the more opportunities there were for people to say, “How did that homeless guy learn to play the piano so good?”

Case in point, Tom Waits’ November 17, 1976, appearance on The Mike Douglas Show, during which most of the questions Douglas (not unsympathetically) asked could simply be replaced with a series of thought bubbles with “WTF” inside. Small Change was the album he was supporting, but on the previous album, 1975’s Nighthawks at the Diner, Waits made the single most consequential transition of his career, adopting for reasons unknown his signature gravelly voice and also taking on the distinctive persona of a louche denizen of seedy late night dives.

What’s unmistakable is that Waits was in high form that day. Douglas asks Waits, “How would you describe what you’re doing?” and Waits answers, “I’m an unemployed service station attendant most of the time.” Later on he says that his preferred audience would be composed of “four-speed-automatic transvestites, and unemployed shortstops, that sort of thing.” Douglas asks him about the roughness of his voice, and Waits replies, “I just talk this way on the weekends.” Marvin Hamlisch, observing the exchange, allows as how Waits probably smokes too much.
Special praise, however, for Douglas’ relative equanimity, considering that a few hours earlier, Waits had not been permitted access to the set on account of clearly being some kind of vagrant, and Douglas’ own first reaction upon seeing Waits backstage was identical, according to an account of Waits’ appearance written by Don Roy King in 1999—King was producer of The Mike Douglas Show at the time. King had seen Waits perform in his carnival barker persona a couple of years earlier, and had admired the nerve of it, calling it “gutsy.” But he did think it was an act. The trouble King faced after booking Waits was that maybe it wasn’t an act at all:

Tom was asleep in the lobby. Now it was my turn to panic. Tom Waits shuffled into the studio, mumbling something about South Philly, scratching a three-day beard, balancing an inch-and-a-half ash on a non-filtered cigarette. “Oh my God,” I thought, “It wasn’t an act!!! I pushed for this guy to be on our national television show, and he’s going to panhandle the audience!!”

King adds, “Mentally, I was typing my resume.” But Waits was booked and they were just going to have to get through it as best they could.

Fortunately, everything worked out, as King describes:

Tom was mesmerizing and he knew it. We all knew it. ... In three riveting minutes the painting was done. It was harsh and hard-edged and very real. But there was an abstract rush to it, too. Some steady hand had splattered reds and blacks and yellows in a way that opened up a dark and unknown world and let us in. We’d been escorted to those back streets we fear, those alleys we’ve never seen after dark. And there we met and almost got to know some poor loser named Small Change. I almost sent flowers. Mike jumped up at the end, rushed over to Tom. I could tell he was surprised and happy and relieved (not nearly as relieved as his director, however). I seem to remember Mike putting his arm around him, probably catching his ring on the rip in Tom’s jacket. Tom mumbled a thank-you, and the show went on. ... But things were never quite the same. Every camera operator, every band member, every writer on that show did Tom Waits impressions for weeks.

Watch after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Frank Zappa solos furiously as Kenny Rogers, Jimmie “J.J.” Walker and Mike Douglas look on

Longtime afternoon TV talkshow host Mike Douglas was so square—and seemingly so self-aware of his basic squareness—that he ended up being one of the most unlikely “hip” people on American television in the 60s and 70s. Mike Douglas didn’t try to be “down” with John and Yoko, Malcolm X, The Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, The Vanilla Fudge, Angela Davis, Moby Grape or any of the other counterculture types who occasionally came on his normally staid Philadelphia talk show, but he was unfailingly friendly and cordial to them all and genuinely interested in what they had to say. That Patti Smith made a couple of early appearances on his show (she brought her mother, a huge fan of his, to one of the tapings) says much about how agreeable and open to new things the guy was, but he never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t. (Fun fact: Mike Douglas provided the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s Cinderella.)

A great example of the often incongruous people a viewer could tune in and see randomly assembled on a given day on The Mike Douglas Show occurred when Frank Zappa appeared to promote his Zoot Allures album on November 9th, 1976. The “Dy-no-mite!” co-host that week was Jimmie “J.J.” Walker star of Good Times and the other guest that day was Kenny Rogers. There’s a brief interview before Zappa, performing with the unseen house band, does a scorching “Black Napkins” one of his signature mid-period compositions. Then there’s more conversation before Frank shows an excerpt from A Token of His Extreme featuring Bruce Bickford’s freaky claymation.

Imagine how strange seeing this on TV after school was. But it wasn’t so much that it was strange as that it was the Seventies…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
James Brown co-hosts ‘The Mike Douglas Show,’ cooks ham hocks & cabbage, sings, 1971

Mike Douglas and James Brown
Mike Douglas and James Brown sing “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”

I missed the heyday of Mike Douglas, but watching this video, it’s easy to see how he was able to concoct such an enjoyable mid-afternoon chat brew every weekday. Douglas’ adoption of a groovy ‘70s-style six-petaled flower was an inspired touch, as it stamped him as the older, tie-wearing white dude who was down with the hippies and “Black is Beautiful” and funky music and all that. Douglas never seemed to mind much of anything, and his charmingly shambolic, super-easy going style helped create a talk show that’s waaaaay looser than anything you’d see today (outside of podcasts, of course).

The date on this video, very recently uploaded to YouTube and with just a smattering of views, is May 11, 1971. James Brown is introduced as co-host, and indeed Brown does hang around for the whole episode—he does three songs in all, and it must be said that he’s makes for a rather distracted co-host; he’s no Andy Richter up there. But who the hell cares, he wasn’t there for his ability to be subservient to Mike—he’s James Brown!!

His musical numbers bookend the program, starting with “I Cried” followed by, remarkably, a full-fledged duet of the old Dean Martin ditty “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You”—Brown seems mildly poleaxed at the idea, and plays along only intermittently, but Douglas is seriously into it. It’s genuinely funny when Douglas tells him to “try to find the beat, James.” Also, who’d've guessed that Douglas does way more dancing than Brown?

In the interview portion we get an actress named Betsy Palmer, who later teaches Douglas and Brown how to make ham hocks and cabbage, although, as she admits, “it’s Czech more than anything,” certainly not super similar to the authentic soul food Brown is used to. Then, hilariously, Douglas tells the home viewer not to consult the Internet for the recipe but rather to write this address:
Ham Hocks and Cabbage
Brown caps off the hijinks with a terrific rendition of “Your Cheatin’ Heart”. (By the bye, the album he was promoting was Sho’ Is Funky Down Here.)

via Classic Television Showbiz

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
James Brown meets Alfred Hitchcock

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cocaine is a helluva drug: Richard Pryor jams with Sly Stone, 1974

When Sly Stone improbably guest-hosted The Mike Douglas Show in 1974, Richard Pryor joined him to jam on the drums for a short, chaotic hash of “If You Want Me to Stay.”

What was the coke budget for this???

I can just see wide-lapelled, mild-mannered nice guy Mike Douglas knocking on the dressing room door before the show to find several of Sly’s armed “security” cronies, a few pounds of cocaine dumped on a table and Sly and Richard both looking like Heath Ledger as The Joker…

“Hi fellas!”


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Muhammad Ali and Sly Stone on the Mike Douglas Show 1974

In this compelling segment from a 1974 episode of the Mike Douglas show, a fiery Muhammad Ali spars with Sly Stone (stoned) and Congressman Wayne Hays. Theodore Bikel pretty much stays out of the line of fire.

In 1974, Ali was still adhering to the Nation Of Islam play book but a year later converted to Sunni Islam and would eventually become a Sufi.

Hays was drummed out of office two years after this show was filmed in a notorious scandal involving his secretary Elizabeth Ray.

Sly seems to be in a semi-stupor but does manage to get a few cogent licks in.

Ali is unyielding, intense and brilliant, though his comment about Jews plays into the kind of racial stereotyping and discrimination he’s railing against. But it jibes with the Nation Of Islam’s outlook.


Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the Mike Douglas Show, 1972
10:58 pm


Yoko Ono
John Lennon
Mike Douglas

For a week in February of 1972 John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted the Mike Douglas Show and America was introduced to macrobiotics, experimental film, bio-feedback, Elephant’s Memory, Yippee prankster Jerry Rubin and Chuck Berry sitting yoga-style watching it all pass before his bemused eyes.

The footage of John and Yoko playing “Johnny B. Goode” and “Memphis” with Chuck Berry is all over YouTube. It’s not included here. The clips that I’m sharing have been less available ever since they went out of print. While not as musically historic as the footage of Berry and Lennon playing together, these conversations with John and Yoko are a charming and inspiring look at one of rock and roll’s great marriages. The love and respect between Lennon and Ono is palpable and you can feel the creative energy that is sparking between them. And their earnest enthusiasm in turning people on to new ways of treating their bodies and brains is testimony to John and Yoko’s continuing journey in raising consciousness, ours and theirs. Their message is refreshingly free of cynicism and rock star jadedness.

Mike Douglas seems genuinely engaged by John and Yoko.

We begin with day two of John and Yoko’s residency, February 16,1972.

Berry and bio-feedback after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Dolly Parton fashion show on The Mike Douglas Show (1977)

I love me some Dolly Parton and I especially adore this fashion show on The Mike Douglas Show in 1977. Dolly can do no wrong in my eyes. 

(via The WOW Report)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment