"We'll be right back with more stuff."
That was the promise for which I sat still, in front of my parents' TV, waiting for The Gong Show to return from commercial break. I didn't want to miss a second. This was as real as television got back in the seventies, or at least for me. I watched singers, dancers, singing dancers, magicians and a steady stream of physical oddities that never ceased to amuse/nauseate. I watched them all, waiting for that moment when one of the celebrity judges would be moved to rise from their seat, with over-sized mallet in hand, and interrupt the act with the eponymous gong.
Thanks to the Gong Show, I was introduced to such luminaries as Rip Taylor, Jaye P. Morgan, and Murray Langston. I know, I know: Who is Murray Langston? It is not surprising that you don't know him since he was the Unknown Comic. The Gong Show was also responsible for keeping the careers of Jamie Farr and Arte Johnson alive in between guest appearances on The Love Boat.
And there was Milton DeLugg and the Band With a Thug. Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. And there was Chuck. Introduced once upon a time by Carol Burnett: "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce a man with the charm of Cary Grant, good looks of Robert Redford, and the acting skills of Laurence Olivier. I'd like to meet that man, but until then, I'm stuck with Chuck Barris." I didn't mind being stuck with Chuck Barris. Even if all he had done was created The Newlywed Game. Even if he had only written Freddy Cannon's hit, "Palisades Park." Even if he had only been an assassin for the CIA. I wouldn't mind being stuck with Chuck Barris.
Sure, you could say that Chuck helped lower our standards with his gonging and Treasure Hunts and $1.98 Beauty Show. I probably wouldn't argue, but Chuck Barris offered us a chance to see ourselves on television. He offered me a chance to see what it would be like if I hosted a game show. He also introduced me to The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo. And Paul Reubens before he was Pee Wee Herman. These are gifts enough. Thank you, Chuck. You stomped on the Terra, and brought me all even more stuff. Aloha.