News from the Archive

Remembering Marty Pasetta

May 26th, 2015
Marty Pasetta

We're sad to learn that director/producer Marty Pasetta passed away on May 21, 2015 at the age of 82. Pasetta's first job in television was at San Francisco's KGO-TV in 1952. He moved up the KGO ranks from stage manager to multifaceted producer before moving to Los Angeles, where he soon became a director for several variety series, including The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Pasetta enjoyed a long association with The Grammy Awards (from 1971-78), where he was hired for the show's first live telecast. He also had a long stint as director of The Academy Awards (from 1972-88), where he instituted the live nominee screenshots and the use of seat-fillers. Several memorable Oscar moments occurred during his run as director, including the 1970's streaker, Charlie Chaplin's appearance, and John Wayne's final appearance. Pasetta directed two presidential inaugurations (Carter's and Reagan's), and his favorite project was Elvis's 1973 comeback special, Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii

Below are some excerpts from his 2007 Archive interview:

On Charlie Chaplin at the 1972 Oscars:

On my first Oscars, we brought back a legend. He hadn’t been back in this country in years and years and years: Charlie Chaplin. They said we had to have a grand, grand entrance for him. And he had a hard time walking. So I get Jack Lemmon backstage and I said, "Jack, you better stand behind him. Help him, because he wants to be able to make it out there." "How do we make an entrance?" I said, "We're going to run a film before him." I said, "Stand him right behind the screen. Right after he’s finished, we're going to raise the screen." Screen went up and there he was. All the lights went down to him. Major, major moment. That had never been done before. That was a first. Hasn’t been done since. So at that point, we had to get him to the podium. He was blinded and he was pretty up in age. We took him down to there – that was a genuine standing ovation that lasted for a long time. That was a major, major landmark that happened on that first Oscars. Not only the big production numbers, in the pits, all the dancers and everything else… we capped it with Charlie Chaplin. You couldn’t have asked for a bigger finale. 

On the Academy Awards Streaker:

Well, the streaker came at a time in the U.S. when everybody was streaking everybody. It was all over the place; it was the thing to do, I guess. It happened to everybody. And everybody was saying, "Oh, nobody’s going to streak at the Oscars." We never thought it was going to happen. They accused us that we planned this. It was never planned. At least not to my knowledge. I never heard about it at all. We found out eventually that the streaker came in with a press pass. He had gotten his hands on a press pass and got backstage. The Academy had just bought a big cyclorama that year, and he came in with like a razor blade box cutter. He dumped his jump suit behind the cyc and sliced it right down and he came out of there and it was right in line behind where David Niven was. Now David Niven – we kidded about it in the afternoon… When the guy went running across the stage, David Niven says, “And he didn’t have any shortcomings.” That was his line. I also said, to everybody in the booth, "Well, let me tell you something - he also wasn’t Jewish." That’s a true story. 

On John Wayne's final appearance at The Academy Awards:

He was on with Sacheen Littlefeather and we said we gotta get him back because he doesn’t have much more time. He wanted to come and we all said we should do that. We brought his mobile home right down next to the backstage door. He came in, we sat in the afternoon, and he’d talk for an hour giving stories. I mean he was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful man and we knew that we didn’t have to do anything. Because all we had to do is let him come out there and the place would come unglued and that’s exactly what happened. It was incredible timing because he didn’t last much longer after that. It would have been a terrible shame if he didn’t come on the air that year. They would have missed this incredible man. That’s what he was - an incredible man. 

On enjoying his work:

I enjoy every show I do. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s a game show. I enjoy anything and everything because it’s a challenge. Every show is a challenge. If you go in there, if you don’t love, live, and breathe the show that you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it. I mean that sincerely. I don’t care what it is. If it’s a one minute thing, you better like what you’re doing or get out and let the person that likes it do it. 

Watch Marty Pasetta's full Archive interview and read his obituary in The Los Angeles Times.

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Remembering Anne Meara

May 25th, 2015
Anne Meara

We’re sad to learn that actress/comedienne Anne Meara passed away on Saturday, May 23, 2015 at the age of 85. Meara was one half of the comedy team Stiller and Meara with husband Jerry Stiller. The pair made many appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and raised two children (Ben and Amy Stiller) while on the road. Meara also had a successful career as an actress, with roles on Archie Bunker's Place, Rhoda, Murphy Brown, Will & Grace, and Sex and the City.

Below are some excerpts from her 2005 Archive interview:

On her role on Archie Bunker’s Place:

On Sex and the City:

On Kate McShane:

On Stiller and Meara’s first sketch on The Ed Sullivan Show:

On the legacy of The Ed Sullivan Show:

Watch Anne Meara’s full Archive interview and read her obituary in The New York Times.

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A Salute to 10 Classic TV Moms

May 10th, 2015

Carol Brady was not going to wear an apron....Everyone wanted to be a Partridge....June Cleaver wore heels for a reason....and "Mrs. C" knows how to get what she wants! In honor of Mother's Day, the Archive of American Television highlights quotes and clips from 10 interviewees best-known for their roles as iconic sitcom TV moms.

Jane Wyatt on playing Margaret Anderson on Father Knows Best
I did understand wife and mother because I was a wife and mother. Margaret was much nicer than me. I can say that. But then she had all her lines written for her. I was much more independent than she was. She was a very nice person, I enjoyed playing her. And, she had a wonderful rapport with her children.

Barbara Billingsley on playing June Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver
Some people think she was namby-pamby. But no, she used to get teed off with the children. She didn’t always refer to the father as far as punishing is concerned. She was a loving, happy, stay-at-home mom, which I think is great. I’m not for every woman having to be out in the workplace. I had two children at home and I was working. But I think the one that stays home, if she’s doing a good job, it is the best job she’ll ever have, the most important.

Interview clip: Barbara Billingsley on June Cleaver's wardrobe, high-heels, and pearls

Marion Ross on playing 50s mom Marion "Mrs. C." Cunningham on Happy Days
Between my childhood in Minnesota, and the 50’s, it’s easy for me to relate to the kind of woman who gets everything she wants, but in a very charming, feminine way, because it's just easier! That’s kind of the way I was raised and that’s what I saw in my own childhood how women love their husbands and protects her husband from the children. “Be good to your father.” He’s the head of the family, but he really isn’t, of course. She is the head of the family. But that’s the artifice. This is all pre-women’s lib. Now, I still think it's a kind of a handy way to get things done. We conceal our strength.

Florence Henderson on playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch
I know that there were certain things that I brought to the role. I think it was my experience as a young parent and the fact that I understood kids. I felt close to them. I was really the only one on the set that was married, that had children and an ongoing relationship.... I would never wear an apron. I wanted to wear sexy nightgowns. I wanted to make her as human as possible.

Interview clip: Florence Henderson on playing Carol Brady

Mary Tyler Moore on playing Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show
The sponsors had a good deal more to say back then. We had to sleep in twin beds even though we were a married couple. We had to wear pajamas with the little pockets and a shirt. We were not allowed to say pregnant. You had to say "expecting a child" or "expecting a baby." The big objection was the pants that I wore in The Dick Van Dyke Show. I had seen too many housewives on television who were vacuuming in high heels and a floral printed frock. I said, wait a minute, that’s not the way it really is and I wanted to be real. I wanted to represent something of me. And I was married and a mother, and I’ve walked around barefoot as I still do, and wore pants. So I brought that to the show. I also brought my sense of honesty, my sense of truth.

Diahann Carroll on playing single-mother Julia Baker on Julia
On television, Julia was the first non-conventional, educated, single mother who was outspoken. She dated. She raised her child...But no Black male was the argument. No father. No image for the children to relate to a father. That was a very loud criticism. It's not that Julia and her son didn't talk about situations. It may not have been his life, but we did talk about situations. Also, mother dated, and we brought the male into the house to say hello to the son. And, usually it was another professional Black that the young man was exposed to. So, I think that as we look back, that we're very proud of that, that piece of work. It represented a new thought. It represented something that was subject to a great deal of criticism.

Interview clip: Diahann Carroll discusses Julia

Jean Stapleton on her favorite Edith Bunker "mother" moment on All in the Family
The anniversary episode was one was one of my favorites. Edith was to give marital advice to her daughter. That was great. She and Gloria felt that they should have a mother and daughter talk now that Gloria’s getting married. So of course Edith said nothing. Gloria supplied all of the issues and answered them while Edith would nod in approval “yes, yes of course.” Edith was very, very shy, very timid about discussing such things. It is very funny and very much in character.

Shirley Jones on being TV music group mom Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family
She was a working mom, but wanted her children to have values. The show business thing was secondary. And they made a point of that, because the first couple of shows, the pilot in particular, they were dealing very much with the show-business angle, “where are we going to perform? Let’s rehearse every day.” And finally [producer] Bob Claver said, “we’re going to tone down the show business angle. We’re going to make them real people. We’re going to have stories about teenage sweethearts in school, and we’re going to have stories about Shirley maybe dating one of the local guys. There will always be a song, but the show won’t be built around that performance.” I think that helped because it made us real people. And it also got every teenager in America thinking that they could do this. "We can go to school and we can have a band. And we can get a bus." The sad part is that every once in a while, I would find some young 16, 15, 14-year-old, sitting on my lawn, just off a bus from Iowa or Michigan or someplace, saying, "I’ve come to be in The Partridge Family. I can play the instrument." They’d literally run away from home. I just had to tell them the truth and say, "listen, this is a television show. We don’t have a band. It’s all make-believe."

Interview clip: Shirley Jones on Shirley Partridge

Phylicia Rashad on playing Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show
She had a very normal relationship. She understood the difference in all their personalities. It was a very loving relationship, and there was discipline. She was very, very patient, but very disciplined. She understood the value of discipline. And they, as parents, understood the importance of being on the same page with those people.

Interview clip: Phylicia Rashad on working on The Cosby Show

Patricia Heaton on playing Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond
Debra’s a horrible homemaker, that was what was so wonderful about her is that she couldn’t cook, and a lot of times with the kids it was just like “whatever.” I think there’s a whole movement in our country since Martha Stewart came on the scene of being a perfect and making every small daily task a work of art, which there’s some benefit to trying to lift the mundane out of its mundaneness and making it something because every act of care that you do for your family is actually sort of a sacred thing. But when you’re packing a lunch every morning, you’re not going to cut the sandwich into smiley shapes and starfish, you just throw in that prepackaged crap in their bag and stick it in their backpack. So, I think she tried, but she was like every mom that has it up to here with everything. ...But I think she was a good mother, yeah, definitely.

Interview clip: Patricia Heaton discusses the Everybody Loves Raymond family dynamic

Happy Mother's Day!

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Keeping America Laughing At Itself: Vin Di Bona

May 4th, 2015
Vin Di Bona

The career of Vin Di Bona has been remarkable. He began as a disc jockey fresh out of Emerson College, where he’d struck up a friendship with future producing partner Henry Winkler. He transitioned from Boston radio to local television, where he produced several serious, socially-conscious documentary programs. This led to a stint as producer of Entertainment Tonight, and a special featuring Pope John Paul II where he got to work one-on-one with the pontiff.

It was during this time that Di Bona got some invaluable advice from a television giant known as Mr. Dick Clark. He never forgot it.

In 1989 Di Bona created what would become a television institution, America’s Funniest Home Videos - a show with a simple concept presented in a format that went down very easy. John Ritter was Di Bona’s first idea for host. When Ritter proved unavailable, Di Bona decided upon a comedian whom he’d seen on The Tonight Show, Bob Saget. With all the elements in place, the show was a hit, and has continued for the better part of 25 years. 

Di Bona has some favorite America’s Funniest Home Videos clips, and they might surprise you.

In recent years, the digital era has been both a headache and a boon to America’s Funniest Home Videos. On one hand, YouTube was ripe for uploading unauthorized clips stolen from AFV, but on the other hand, computers have simplified the process of submitting videos to the show - no more bulky, heavy mail deliveries filled with VHS tapes at the AFV offices. They are now all submitted digitally. In recent years, Di Bona tells us he’s embraced YouTube as a valuable promotion tool.

For its upcoming 26th season, America’s Funniest Home Videos faces a challenge. Long-time host Tom Bergeron is leaving. Somehow, we have a feeling that Vin Di Bona will find just the right replacement, and we’ll still be laughing along with AFV on Sunday nights for years to come.

Di Bona is proud of the work he’s done, and of the legacy of America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Enjoy Vin Di Bona’s full Archive interview here.

By John Dalton 

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Remembering Jayne Meadows

April 27th, 2015
Jayne Meadows

We're sad to learn that actress Jayne Meadows passed away on Sunday, April 26, 2015 at the age of 95. Meadows grew up in China where her parents were missionaries, and later got her start in show business in New York City. She appeared in several live anthology dramas (General Electric Theater, Suspense) and served as a regular panelist on the game show I've Got A Secret from 1952-59. Meadows worked with her husband Steve Allen on the acclaimed PBS series, Meeting of Minds, and made numerous television appearances with Allen (including guest spots on Fantasy Island and St. Elsewhere). She was also the sister of actress Audrey Meadows, who played "Alice Kramden" on the classic series The Honeymooners

Below are some excerpts from her 2005 Archive interview:

On acting on her husband Steve Allen's variety show:

That was the most fun. We were asked to do the show and it was an hour comedy show and we had Tim Conway and the whole gang and nobody had ever seen me do that kind of thing, and consequently I got the best reviews of all of them and didn’t deserve them. It was like, "Guess what? Jayne Meadows was good!"  

On advice to aspiring actresses:

Take every part. I read a thing where Hedda Hopper said to all young actresses, "Go to every party you’re invited to. You never know who you’ll meet." I say, "Play every part you can get, unless it’s hopeless." Look at me, taking that part because I knew I could do something if only in my costume - that made people say, "Wow, look at Jayne," because it was a comedy, it was all the comedians, all my friends. Not only "play every part," but if it’s a bad part and you’re not good in it, you’re going to learn. You’re going to learn like you’ll never learn in the greatest part in the world. You will say, "I’ll never do that again." And another thing - don’t worry about the money, because a lot of people turn down things because "they wanted to pay me less than I usually get" - that’s not the thing. You never know if you play a great part what it’s going to lead to.  

On her favorite of all the shows she was on:

I would say the happy years of I’ve Got a Secret, because that was a period in New York when everybody I worked with - they were all our best friends. I would do the show at night and the next day I would be leaving the apartment just to go to the grocery store or shopping or something and the cab drivers would say, “Jaynie, how are you? Great show last night! How’s Steve-O? How’s the baby?” It was the medium that came into your living room, every living room. Didn’t matter if it was the Rockefellers or the guy who was struggling to pay off the rent somewhere in the Bronx. They knew you as a friend. You weren’t, "Miss Meadows from the movies," you were "Jaynie," not even Jayne. “How’s Steve-O-rino?” They loved you, and the fans that were at the door every week, with all the jewelry that they had made for me. I’ve got boxes of it at home. I give it to charity, gorgeous little boys and girls that made a bracelet that matched the earrings and the necklace and they’re all back in style now. 

On how she'd like to be remembered:

As the mother of Bill Allen, and the widow of the father of Bill Allen, the genius Steve Allen. The brilliant Bill Allen and his three winners - I have three of the most gorgeous, brilliant grandchildren, and I mean brilliant. 

Watch Jayne Meadows' full Archive interview and read her obituary in The New York Daily News.

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