August 31, 2016

Remember when

I know, that isn't much of a title, but they can't all be gems, so bear with me. You've probably noticed on occasion a reference in the Monday TV listings to "Debbie Drake," and perhaps you've wondered from time to time who she was. After all, there were enough local personalities on television, especially back in the '50s and '60s, that you can't keep track of everyone.

In fact, and this was news to me when I first started going through these issues a decade or so ago (before the blog even existed!), Debbie Drake was host of her own syndicated exercise program, similar to that of the more famous Jack LaLanne (with some obvious differences, of course). For those of you who, like me, were ignorant of the finer points of early interactive television, it's nice to know we weren't the only ones in the dark, as you can see in this clip from What's My Line?

In the interests of historical reference. here's an excerpt from one of her shows.

All kidding aside, it's always nice to see the appearance of a familiar name before that person becomes well-known. It happens more often in the early days of TV than you might think (such as in the famous case of astronaut Neil Armstrong), and it's fun when it does.

On the other hand, it's also fun to see a famous name from the past appear on television as a sort of living history. On this episode of To Tell the Truth, for instance*, the first guest is John Thomas Scopes, and if that name sounds familiar to you, it should - he was the defendant in the landmark Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, in which he was defended by Clarernce Darrow.

*Coincidentally or not, this episode also features Debbie Drake.

And then there's this episode, which I think I might have shared before, in which this man's secret is that he was an eyewitness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. (No, Debbie Drake is not in this clip.)

What's most remarkable about these pieces, I think, is that figures from what must have seemed even then like ancient history actually appeared on television. Had they lived long enough, I imagine the Wright Brothers might have done the same. Now that would have been something.


  1. Drake appeared on THE TONIGHT SHOW, and when asked Johnny Carson to join her in an exercise demonstration, he responded "Do you want to phone the desk and leave a call?"

  2. I saw her on the Mike Douglas Show.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!