Opinion: Trip down video lane


The Wolfsies are moving to a new house. Finally, time to get rid of almost 40 years of accumulated stuff. Mary Ellen had to decide about whether to chuck the many books, diaries and letters that were quite worn (as well as a few dozen shoes that had never been worn).  I had a dilemma as well. In our basement, stacked up to the ceiling, were approximately 300 tapes of me on television over more than four decades, videos that no one will ever look at — even if they did still have a VCR. Decisions had to be made. And so, as tough as it was, I reluctantly trashed every tape with only a few exceptions. I hope my son will one day watch them. Many date back to before he was born. Here are the ones that survived the giant cut—my top 10.

The oldest tape saved is from 1979 when I interviewed the Columbus Zoo director, Jack Hanna (later a frequent celebrity guest on David Letterman’s “Late Show”).  It was one of Jack’s first TV appearances, and one of mine, as well. Jack hung a dozen week-old opossums on my sweater, like he was decorating a Christmas tree. That segment helped me win my first Emmy — and my last (talk about beginner’s luck!)  Jack went on to win four Emmys and international fame. I guess it’s better to be the hang-er than the hang-ee.

Dick the Bruiser’s interview will remain on my shelf. It was l992, and I arranged with the wrestling star to come to his house at 5 a.m. and pretend to roust him from his sleep. He came to the door in his typical gruff Bruiser mood (only worse), and as I proceeded to deliver forearm smashes to his chest, he quickly turned the tables and banged my head into his Weber Grill, then picked me up and threw me in his swimming pool. Rest in peace, Bruiser.

I saved a show I did with Soupy Sales at a downtown Indy hotel where I pretended I didn’t recognize him as he came out of an elevator. He promptly deposited a cream pie right in my old kisser. The late legendary Hal Fryar (Harlow Hickenlooper) had once been similarly face-plastered by the Three Stooges. We argued for years over who had been bestowed the greater honor.

Steve Allen was always my role model. I saved several shows I did with him, but my favorite moment was at the opening of Disney’s MGM park in 1988. Mr. Allen was talking about great comics of the past and I mentioned Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame). “You don’t meet people of that ilk anymore,” Mr. Allen said. I responded, “Unless you join the Ilks Club.“ A horrible pun, to be sure, but it was exactly the kind of thing my hero would have said. Steve burst out laughing. I made Steve Allen laugh. Like I’d throw that tape away?

There were so many shows that involved Barney, my long-time sidekick on WISH-TV, from 1990 to 2004. Here are two:

Oh, dear. I am out of space (or as they say in TV, “out of time“). I’ll be back next week to complete the list along with a few mentions of shows I would have saved but neglected to record to begin with.

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