Many thanks to all who attended the first two TV on Film screenings at the historic Westdale theatre in Hamilton, Ont. It was great to meet the very enthusiastic TV buffs who braved the, well, really great weather to join these afternoon TV parties. I threw away my notes and just took questions at the second show and was amazed at the strong connection this audience had to these classic shows from TV’s golden age.
Hats off to Hamilton resident Bruce Button who aced the TV trivia part of the proceedings at the Wednesday afternoon gathering. Bruce not only won prizes (A CBC toque and a pair of CBC socks), he brought a little something that completely took me by surprise — a pristine copy of TV Guide Canada from 1985. What was the big deal about that? It was the issue with my very first cover story, a profile of the then new Canadian — Teri Austin — on the long-running CBS primetime soap, Knots Landing.
Bruce even asked my to autograph it for him, which will bring the value down considerably.
I still remember that Teri Austin interview, conducted in the offices of PMK, then the hottest public relations company in Hollywood. Austin previously made a name for herself co-hosting the CTV series Thrill of a Lifetime. She played Jill Bennett on Knots, a character not exactly embraced by the other ladies on the cul de sac (played by Michele Lee, Donna Mills and Joan Van Ark).
Austin had a brief relationship with one of her male co-stars, Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing). This didn’t sit well with Lee, Mills and Van Ark. When her character met a bitter end in the trunk of a car in 1989, it was curtains for the Canadian.
For me, however, it was a fun interview with Austin. She joked about LA, the highways and the culture, and how crazy it was to see young moms carrying babies in the crowded heat of Disneyland.
The interview was later topped with a cover shoot conducted by one of the original American TV Guide’s top photographers, Mario Casilli. Mario, who routinely shot all of the magazine’s Fall Preview issue cast shots throughout the ’80s, also shot for Playboy, aiming his camera there at, among others, another Canadian — ill-fated Dorthy Stratten. Casilli was so connected to that model/actress he was asked to be a consultant on the film about Stratten’s short life — “Star 80.”
Casilli was doing so well when I caught up with him he picked me up in his Rolls Royce. When I told him I’d never been in one before he looked at the Vans I bought for ten dollars out of a trunk at Venice Beach and said, “That’s okay, I never had anybody in my car with chekered sneakers before.”
Mario had style. The Cleveland-born photographer bought the Spanish-styled library in Altadena, the town just north of Pasadena, and, complete with pool tables for visitors and magazine photo editors, turned it into his photo studio. He bathed his subjects in light, using a soft lens technique that took all the wrinkles out. This made him the darling of the prime time divas of the ’80s. On my one visit to his house high up in the hills of Altadena, it was impossible to miss the strategically placed and enormous bouquets of flowers from Linda Evans and Joan Collins.
One last TV Guide note: the woman who set up the interview with Austin, Annett Wolf, still has at least one top TV client — Kiefer Sutherland. By the way, she married Shackleford, in 1991.
Back to TV trivia master Bruce Button. He could have won many more prizes if I hadn’t cut him off at two. Hey, others deserved a shot at the wonderful items provided by CBC and Paramount+, including Ferris Bueller and Austin Powers T-shirts. Bruce scored his items for knowing which cast member from the Beverly Hillbillies is still alive, as well as the name of the actress who played the daughter on Maude. (Answers below). Both of those shows, along with several others, were featured in the 1963 and 1972 CBS fall preview reels that were projected in 16mm at the two September screenings.
Test your knowledge of TV trivia when I’ll be back hosting two more rare 16mm promotional films: the 1977 and 1978 ABC Fall Preview reels. These are loaded with sitcoms and dramas from the so-called “jiggle era,” including Three’s Company, Charlie’s Angels, and the never-surpassed Battle of the Network Stars. The ’77 and ’78 films also feature ABC’s killer lineup of Garry Marshall comedies, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. Stick around to the end of each reel when various cast members gather to sing “Still the One!”, a special, ABC version of the catchy hit for the band Orleans in 1976.
Those next screenings are scheduled for Saturday, October 14 and Wednesday, October 18, both also at 1 p.m. We’re going to up the prize ante for those two shows, including subscriptions to the Paramount+ streaming service — the home of the new reboot of Frasier, premiering Oct. 12 — so come ready to test your TV smarts.
ANSWERS to TV trivia questions: Max Baer, Jr. (Jethro); and Adrienne Barbeau.