In this adorable 1968 clip from The Dating Game, a very young and dashing Steve Martin competes against two other (super creepy) bachelors for the affection of sweet Marsha Walker, the real-life sister of Martin’s childhood friend, Morris Walker.
At this time Martin was a comedy writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and had already made a couple of appearances on The Dating Game. Using his clout as a writer, he was able to convince Dating Game producers to bring his “long lost” friend, Marsha, onto the program; the idea being that she wouldn’t know that one of the bachelors was, in actuality, her old friend, Steve.
Of course, Marsha Walker was indeed aware of Bachelor Number One’s identity in advance. The two had gotten together and planned possible questions according to Morris Walker’s book, Steve Martin: The Magic Years:
This was a great opportunity for a professional comedy writer like Steve to write some great material. Steve and Marsha got together and came up with some hilarious questions and answers.
Marsha asks the stumped Bachelor Number Three,“If you were a holiday, how would you like to be celebrated?” When he thoroughly drops the ball, Marsha quickly redirects the question to Steve who responds, “I’ve always had a great respect for Arbor Day. I’d love to be Arbor Day and be potted.”
Another question allows Martin to get in a fantastically biting jab at the nonplussed (not to mention, incredibly lame) Bachelor Number Two.
Considering the vast inferiority of his competition on this particular episode, even if Marsha Walker had not known Steve Martin in advance, it’s fairly obvious the two would have ended up together by show’s end.
Things being rather different in 1968, the pair was awarded an all-expense-paid trip to ever-romantic Tijuana to watch the bullfights(!?)
Morris Walker states in his book that he believes this trip served as an enormous inspiration for Martin’s film The Three Amigos. Walker relates that the pair witnessed a very upsetting goring at the bullfight and afterwards took in a pornographic movie. It being 1968, porno movies were the kind of thing you’d have to go to Tijuana to see. Later, Marsha Walker confided to her brother that her and Steve’s previously platonic relationship was taken to the next level at the hotel in Tijuana. According to Walker, Steve Martin’s “performance between the sheets was as entertaining and fulfilling as his wild and crazy performances in front of the curtain, only without the white suit.”
Here’s Steve and Marsha getting one over on ‘The Dating Game’:
H/T Robin Bougie at Cinema Sewer