August 1, 2020

This week in TV Guide: August 1, 1964

The most important thing on TV this week isn't in the TV Guide. It takes place just before midnight Eastern time on August 4, when President Lyndon Johnson addresses the nation on a conflict in the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam. According to the president, two American ships had been attacked by the North Vietnamese in two separate attacks, and LBJ had ordered appropriate and timely retaliation for this "unprovoked attack."  "It is my belief," Johnson concluded, "that firmness in the right is indispensable today for peace; that firmness will always be measured." The speech took all of six minutes, and stations returned to their regular programming.

Thus, three months before the 1964 election and nearly four years before he would announce that he would not be a candidate in the 1968 election, the downfall of Lyndon Johnson had begun.

Entire books exist about the subject, and it's difficult to boil it all down to one paragraph here, but it was apparent almost immediately that there were serious doubts about the authenticity of the attacks, even among naval personnel in the Gulf. As reported here, "A later historical study by the National Security Council would conclude that the 2 August incident was initiated by the [American vessel] Maddox, and the 4 August incident [an attack on the Maddox and the C. Joy Turner] was not an attack by North Vietnamese forces but a salvage operation gone wrong." Nonetheless, the Johnson administration is overcome by what might be considered the "fog of war," and events rapidly escalate.

The Los Angeles Times refers to the attack as "the most serious incident since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. President Johnson sends a message to Congress on August 5, recommending "a resolution expressing the support of the Congress for all necessary action to protect our Armed Forces," and on August 7 Congress overwhelmingly passes the Tonkin Gulf Resolution (with votes of 416-0 in the House and 88-2 in the Senate), extending the president’s power to use "all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the United States and to prevent further aggression."* It's the moment when the United States makes a complete and total commitment to the conflict—the commencement of open warfare against North Vietnam—and it sets the precedent for Congress giving the president a broad range of military authority without the requirement of a formal declaration of war, an issue that continues even to this day.

*In one of those coincidences that appears too good to be true, the commander of the American fleet during the incident, Rear Admiral Herbert Morrison, was the father of Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. Said Admiral Morrison of his son, with whom he had a "difficult" relationship, "I had the feeling that he felt we’d just as soon not be associated with his career. He knew I didn’t think rock music was the best goal for him." History truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident inspires a public consolidation around LBJ, culminating in his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in November. Well into 1965, a majority of college students support the war in Vietnam. However, as the war expands, and an increasing number of American troops become increasingly bogged down in a guerrilla war, it touches every part of American life, including television. And, as we saw a couple of months ago, the Democratic Convention in Chicago kind of unites it all, putting on display the vitriol against an incumbent president who, three months from the date of this TV Guide, will be elected to the presidency by a near-record vote.

Not for me to say, but think of how history might have been without this late-night speech.


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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Ed Sullivan: Ed's guests are jazz trumpeter Al Hirt; Metropolitan Opera soprano Roberta Peters; the Kim Sisters, vocal and instrumental group; violinist Itzhak Perlman; singer Frank Ifield; tap dancers Peg Leg Bates and Conrad "Little Buck" Buckner; the Trio Ariston, acrobats; and comics London Lee, Bob King and Georgie Kaye.

Palace: In a rerun, host Groucho Marx stars in a musical sketch about a doctor with a bevy of assistants who look more like chorus girls than nurses. Then he introduces flamenco dancer José Greco and his troup; Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie of The Dick Van Dyke Show; the Andrew Tahon Puppets; Bertha the Elephant; songstress Jennie Smith; roller-skater-comedian Lee Allen; and French pop singer and pianist Gilbert Becaud.

Close call here. Groucho goes a long way, and he's aided by Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie, the two funniest cast members of the Van Dyke show (in my opinion anyway, which, face it, is what matters when it's a website that has my name on it), but in the end they can't catch the trio of Al Hirt, Roberta Peters and Itzhak Perlman. Your mileage may vary, but I see the race ending with Sullivan winning by the tip of Groucho's cigar.


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Have I ever mentioned here that I'm a recovering baseball fan? Baseball was never my favorite sport, but I always enjoyed it, and when I watch old World Series games, the drama is as indescribable as anything sports has to offer. It's been several years since I've even watched a game on television though, let alone seen a game in person; between the crippling slowness with which it's played  (pitcher makes pitch, batter steps out of box, pitcher steps off of rubber, batter unfastens and refastens his gloves, pitcher makes pitch, repeat) and the way sabermetrics have destroyed the organic development of the game, I'd much rather have multiple teeth pulled without anesthetic but with pliers than spend one-fourth of my waking hours watching one game. Thus, I have warm appreciation for a Letter to the Editor from Mr. Charles M. LaPiene of Springfield, Massachusetts, who, while praising Charlie Finley's idea for holding the World Series in primetime when people can watch it (July 18 article), notes that "The people who run baseball beneath the impenetrable crust of obsolete tradition certainly aren't doing an iota to make the game more desirable."

Also in the July 18 issue, TV Guide's technology expert, David Lachenbruch, mentions the potential for a home video recorder, then known as HVT (home video tape), which we know and love as a VCR. Mrs. J.G. Nicholson Jr. of Shreveport, Louisiana, points out the enormous potential for this machine, something which even Lachenbruch overlooked: "that of permitting the viewers to enjoy a program in the den and tape the one they are missing in the living room. This would also help stop the rat race for ratings."

And even though the media came under fire at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco—at one point, when former President Eisenhower accused the press of trying to divide the party, delegates turned toward the TV booths booing and shaking their fists at the anchormen—they get nothing but huzzahs in this week's letters. In TV Guide's own inimitable way, they print three letters: one  praising each network.

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Well, there must be something on this week; let's see what we can find.

Corinna Tsopei of Greece,
Miss Universe 1964
Saturday evening gives us a provocative episode of The Defenders, if that's not redundant, since almost every episode of the courts some kind of controversy. This week, E.G. Marshall and Robert Reed defend Dr. Mayer Loeb, who shoots a German speaker at a medical society banquet, claiming that the doctor was responsible for the deaths of Loeb's wife and son in a Nazi concentration camp. In 1964, that's still very much a topical issue. (7:30 p.m., CBS.) At 9:00 p.m. (same network), it's something that, at least in 1964, was far less controversial than The Defenders: the Miss Universe Pageant, live from Miami Beach. Jack Linkletter is the emcee on-stage, and John Daly and Arlene Francis are on-hand to interview the contestants backstage.

We're used to baseball teams broadcasting virtually all of their games, home and away, on television, but back in 1964 such was not the case, as we see on Sunday afternoon, when a pair of network games are blacked out in the Twin Cities because the Minnesota Twins, the local team, are home. It's done to protect the gate, since lazy bums like me would prefer to sit on their bums in front of the television if given the chance. The games: Los Angeles at Philadelphia (12:15 p.m., CBS) and San Francisco at Pittsburgh (1:00 p.m., NBC). By the late '60s, the blackouts had been lifted, although the Twins still couldn't appear on network TV if they were playing at home. Culture shock, I know. Sunday night features Jim Backus appears in a rare dramatic role on Arrest and Trial (7:00 p.m., ABC).

Monday night is filled with reruns featuring recognizable stars, so let's get to them. Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney and George Raft star in the murder mystery Black Widow on Monday Night at the Movies (6:30 p.m., NBC), while Nick Adams and Nancy Malone participate in "Fun and Games," a sinister episode of The Outer Limits (6:30 p.m., ABC). At 7:30 p.m. Bobby Darin is the guest trying to stump the panel of I've Got a Secret on CBS; that's followed by the summer series Vacation Playhouse with Van Johnson and Jan Sterling in a pilot first aired in May 1960. Neville Brand is a frontier scout on Wagon Train (7:30 p.m., ABC), and Shirley Temple is the guest on Sing Along With Mitch (9:00 p.m., NBC). That's not a bad lineup.

Nowadays a sizable portion of the American population would welcome communist invaders with open arms, but in 1964 the Cold War is as hot as ever, and on Tuesday NBC News correspondent takes a look at what it's all about in a Primer on Communism (9:00 p.m.) that divides the movement into four stages: ideology, revolution, totalitarianism and imperialism. Perhaps they could rerun this special on MSNBC sometime? Nah.

Lew Ayres, the original Dr. Kildare in movies and on radio, changes doctors tonight, visiting Ben Casey (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., ABC). He's a hard-driving businessman who wants to finally kick back and relax, and he may get his wish; his chart says he may only have a short time to live. I suppose he could always give himself a second opinion. . . Later, Eartha Kitt is special guest on Rudy Vallée's summer series (9:00 p.m., CBS); other guests include singer Adam Wade. I don't suppose you could call this a Vallée-cat show, could you?

Thursday sees the debut of The New Christy Minstrels Show (8:30 p.m., NBC), a five-week summer series replacing Hazel. And Johnny Carson returns to The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC) after a month-long vacation-night club stint in Vegas. I don't usually think of Johnny that way, though he was, of course, a comedian, and he basically did a stand-up routine every night; I wonder how many such gigs he'd do as his tenure on Tonight progressed? I'm sure someone out there knows. Johnny's guest hosts while he was out were Allan Sherman on Monday, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé on Tuesday, and Ed McMahon and music director Skitch Henderson on Wednesday.

On Friday night, Rita Moreno is the guest on the primetime version of The Price is Right with Bill Cullen (8:30 p.m., ABC); Kate Smith and Sam Levenson chat Jack on The Jack Paar Program (9:00 p.m., NBC). Meanwhile, the College All-Stars take on the defending NFL champion Chicago Bears in the 31st annual College All-Star game, live from Soldier Field in Chicago (9:00 p.m., ABC), with Curt Gowdy, Paul Christman and former Heisman winner Johnny Lujak* behind the mics. The crowd usually pulls for the underdog collegians in this game, but with the hometown Bears as the opposition, things might be different (even though the Bears still play at Wrigley Field; they don't make the move to Soldier Field until 1971). One thing isn't different though: after falling behind early, the Bears rally to defeat the Stars 28-17, before a crowd of 65,000.

*As of this writing, Lujak, who won the Heisman Trophy for Notre Dame in 1947 before playing quarterback for the Bears, is the oldest living former Heisman winner, at age 95.He and his wife have been married for 71 years.

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The building you see above is the home of Mrs. Arnold Kirkeby of 750 Bel Air Road, Bel Air, California. It's known as Chartwell Mansion, except for Wednesday nights at 8:00 p.m., when it becomes known as the home to the most colorful residents of Beverly Hills, the Clampett family.

Back in 1961, Paul Henning paid Mrs. Kirkeby* $500 a day to use the mansion for the Beverly Hillbillies pilot. She was happy to oblige, donating the money to her favorite charity, and didn't think too much of it since it was only a pilot. But then the nation went and made the show the #1 series in America, and the rest is history.

*Her husband, the hotelier Arnold Kirkeby, whose holdings included the famed Beverly Wilshire Hotel, was killed in an airplane crash prior to the premiere of the program.

Facsimiles of the front door, kitchen, entrance hall, drawing room, and half a swimming pool were constructed for a cost of $65,000, and they're used for the scenes in the show. Notes set designer Howard Campbell, the interior rooms were embellished and made more ornate for effect on the small screen. You can see an example of their work below.


Mrs. Kirkeby is amazed, rather than angered, by the hoards of tourists who come by the mansion, forcing them to keep the gates shut. "They honestly think the Clampetts live here," she says, and when she visited the set recently, she told Buddy Ebson, "Gee, I wish you'd buy another house." Please, I hope this was a joke, that there are those who think the Clampetts are real people. As Malcolm Muggeridge noted here, they're actually more real than most people on television, but really—this is taking things to extremes, don't you think? TV  

6 comments:

  1. Mitchell,

    1964 would be the last year that Major League Baseball would impose a blackout of all network games to affiliates that housed a MLB team (50-75 mile radius) regardless of whether your local was playing or not. In other words, if you lived in a Major League city, no network game for you.

    In 1965, ABC got exclusive control of Saturday Game of the Week(not the All Game and World Series which NBC had a contract for), except for a few Saturday Yankees games, as CBS, then owner of the Yankees, had their own package. In that year, networks could air a Major League game in Major League cities, but an alternate game would be shown if your local game was being broadcast by the network. In 1966, NBC regained the rights all network games, including the Yankees. Network games for the Playoffs and World Series were never blacked out, and starting in 1969 local playoff games could coexist with the network. However, once the World Series began, only the network feed existed, but local stations could and did simulcast the World Series.

    In 1976, when ABC gained a Monday night and later a Sunday afternoon package the rules were slightly relaxed, allowing road games to be shown in market (e.g. Houston at Los Angeles, Houston gets game, L.A gets alternate game). Also, in extreme circumstances, the home team could be shown on ABC Monday Night Baseball/ NBC Game of the Week. An example was the 1979 game with the Orioles vs. the Yankees just after Thurman Munson died.

    In 1984, broadcast networks had exclusivity on the games they covered. This stems from the time the Atlanta Braves made the playoffs in 1982. Ted Turner and (W)TBS wanted air their own coverage of the National League Championship Series. The only thing was (W)TBS had become a superstation with a national following. MLB said no on the grounds that the TBS game would dilute the national audience. Both MLB and Turner went to court before MLB emerged victorious. Since 1984, all network games featuring your team locally are not blacked out. The only exception was during the 1994 and 1995 season when the abomination Baseball Network (MLB's time buy of ABC/NBC)had control of national games (two team markets had to choose one game to air; the other game unseen locally, no game if your an East Coast team playing on the West Coast and vice versa, all playoff games played simultaneously leaving only one game shown per night).

    Blackouts only appear now on cable non-playoff network games: ESPN weeknight games (though that is somewhat eroding, Sunday Night Baseball being exclusive to ESPN since 1990) TBS, and some Fox Sports 1 games. Blackouts also appear on a market basis on MLB away game packages such as MLB Extra Innings (cable/satellite) and MLB.tv (internet). If you live in a major league city, you are not affected that much since you can get the game locally. However, if you are in flyover country (such as Iowa) you can have up to six teams being blacked out per night. Though unpopular, the cable blackout rules are intended to protect the local broadcaster.

    More about MLB blackouts here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_blackout_policy

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    1. Belatedly (thanx Google):

      I do remember that ABC 1964 Baseball package.
      The network had three teams out covering games:
      The A Team: Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher.
      The B team: Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson.
      The C team: Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich (He was a Yankee mainstay from the'30s-'40s).
      Then, now, and ever, there's always a pecking order.

      I've been forced offline for a week by tech problems, and I'm easing my way back in; have patience and mercy.

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    2. Great information from both of you - I love that level of detail! Thanks!

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  2. Henry 'Bombastic' Bushkin, in his tell-all book 'Johnny Carson', goes into detail about Carson's Vegas performances, which lasted from the mid-60s to mid-70s at the Sahara,taking up much of what most people assumed was 'vacation' time,and also including weeks where Carson commuted to and from Burbank between tapings. Later in the '70s, Carson switched to Caesar's Palace, eventually performing weekends only, and finally, only on Saturday nights.
    Starting in 1976, NBC paid for Carson's annual visits to Wimbledon, which were usually followed by stays in France or Italy.
    In 1979, Carson threatened to leave NBC, and in response, the network broke the bank to keep him. By that point, he didn't care about 'extra exposure' from nightclub gigs. He wound up his Vegas career, without a lot of fanfare, in 1980.

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  3. You didn't identify the people on the cover of the TV Guide, from the Today Show in 1964. After a little research I found out they are, from left to right, the recently departed Anchorman Hugh Downs, Today "Girl" Maureen O'Sullivan (otherwise known as the mother of Mia Farrow), News Anchor Frank Blair and Panelist Jack Lescoulie. The appellation "Today Girl" never sat too well with Barbara Walters and she called it "tea pourer."

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    1. Yeah, "Today Girl" wasn't the most flattering title, but then again Walters is the one who changed the definition of what the "Today Girl" did. I think she and Downs were a good team; she and Frank McGee, who I think wanted more of a hard news edge, were not.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!