The center square

Death of the squarest daytime talk show host of all.

By Kl

Published August 14, 2006 1:42PM (EDT)

There was a time when daytime personalities -- Merv, Dinah, Gene Rayburn -- were pitched exclusively to retirees. Faces from a bygone era, they were armed with punchlines so out of touch they seemed beamed in directly from 1958, along with their hair and clothing. But perhaps the most delightfully square of them all was Mike Douglas, who passed away at age 81 over the weekend, and whose TV talk show aired from 1961 to 1981.

Douglas was generally before our time, but below are some highlights that will give you a sense of just what you missed -- and of the gargantuan generation gaps that were at play in the 1970s. (Incidentally, The Times's obit of Douglas contained this fascinatng tidbit: "The creative mind behind the scenes at 'The Mike Douglas Show' in the 1960s, the producer Roger Ailes, became a crucial media adviser to Nixon in his successful run for president in 1968 after meeting him on the show. He went on to play a similar campaign role for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and is now chief executive of the Fox News Channel and chairman of Fox Television.")

From 1974, Gene Simmons of Kiss. (Any guess who the other guests are?):

Douglas did snare some of culture's most important performers. From 1976, Tom Waits sings "More Than Rain." The chat afterward is classic -- note the bleeps:

No chit-chat here, just John Lennon, in 1972, singing "Imagine":

And from 1968, a year before her death, Judy Garland singing a sad and weary "How Insensitive" -- with some super-groovy camera work thrown in:

By Kl


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