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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

There's Johnny. 3.

I left off on this one telling you about my approaching Johnny Carson at the foot of the stage at the Little Theatre on 44th Street, just off Times Square, in 1959, with my crummy torn envelope, and my stubby pencil, to get his autograph. And Johnny, taking one look at what he was being handed, and saying to a couple of his staff members ".....neat!"
This, of course, left an indelible mark on me, as it would on any eleven year old.
Meanwhile, my mother was mercilessly schmoozing the interviewers, in the best Willy Loman tradition, to get herself booked as a contestant on Johnny's game show, "Who Do You Trust?"
Well, she won the day.
She was asked to come back, with my father, in exactly one week, so they could appear as contestants.
My father had no problem skipping work, as he was a cab driver who was on strike.
This was why they were booked.
My father was topical.
At least in New York, where the cab drivers were on strike.
They wanted a reaction from a typical New York cabbie.
A crude reaction from a typical New York cabbie.
What's the opposite of the word ""non-plussed""?
I guess it's "plussed"
That described my mother.
She was plussed.
She had done all the grunt work to get them booked on the show, and they were only interested in my father.
It didn't go down too well.
They asked me if I wanted to come along.
That's roughly akin to asking me if I wanted to continue breathing.
So I was there, one week later, backstage at the Little Theatre on 44th Street, just off Times Square.
From the moment the invitation by the show was extended until the following week, my mother watched the show religiously the following Monday through Thursday, as it was broadcast live on ABC at 3:30pm.
She had a vested interest.
The couple that won the most money in the quiz every day had a chance at the Jackpot Question.
The Jackpot Question started out at $200.
An additional $100 was added every day until somebody won the jackpot.
It was a scrambled name anagram game.
Usually pretty easy.
Easy enough for my mother to nail it every day.
But for some reason, everyone kept missing it, allowing the jackpot to build and build.
I'll never forget watching the show on TV that Thursday.
The day before my parents were to make their appearance.
The jackpot was $3100.
Enormous money for an afternoon quiz show in those days.
You never saw anyone rooting for people to fail as much as my mother did when that Thursday couple missed the $3100 question.
This caused my mother, to create a self-composed ditty called "We've Got a Chance", polka'd and mamboed, and cha-cha'd, and Rocketted around the house.
Of course, they'd still have to beat out the other couples, but for my mother, as smart as she thought she was, this was already a done deal.
So we get to the Little Theatre around noon on Friday, and my parents were immediately handed scripts to learn.
This was not to be an ad lib interview.
We learned that this was standard procedure on this show..
As we had heard that it was standard procedure on "You Bet Your Life", Groucho Marx's quiz show.
My parents were there to basically play straight for Johnny, who had most of the snappers.
I suppose that's fair.
It WAS his show.
My mother was non-plussed by this.
She was plussed when she realized that my father had most of the lines.
All that fine acting that my mother had put into those P.T.A. Show appearances that she had made was going down the sewie hole.
But she was powerless to do anything about it.
My father was a bit plussed when he was asked to overdo his New York accent, and sound less educated than he was, which wasn't much in the first place.
But he was a good sport about it.
After all, there was a potential $3200 to be made that day.
The show started, the first couple came on and tanked in their quiz.
Then my parents came on, my father did his crude cabbie, set up Johnny very well, and then my father singlehandedly nailed the quiz.
My mother stood there, doing her best impression of a frozen guppy.
Although uneducated, my father was very well read.
He did the New York Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle in ink.
Sometimes, just to show off, he did it in India Ink.
So he was quite knowledgeable.
The third couple didn't stand a chance.
Thus, my parents were headed for the jackpot question.
They revealed the board for them. It read DR H CLEAN.
The clue was "former governor".
They stared at it.
As did I.
None of us had a clue.
Time was up.
Johnny had to tell them the answer: Chandler.
You know---the former baseball commissioner. Happy Chandler.
The man almost as responsible as Branch Rickey for getting Jackie Robinson into the major leagues.
"Former governor". What a crappy clue. How about "former baseball commissioner"?
No. Then they might have had to give away the money.
So my parents went home with the $280 they won in the quiz.
But no $3200.
There were no polkas that night.
No mambos.
No cha-chas.
No Rocketting.
Not even a gavotte.

Next time, my final encounter with Johnny, some seventeen years later.


My books, "Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.




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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."