For my second installment of shows from The Hollywood Palace, we look at offerings from 1966. For those who missed the first go-round, in August I brought you Hollywood Palace 1965.
These variety shows are a unique snapshot of where are hearts and our minds were during the pivotal 60’s. Musically, the top 5 singles of the year were:
1 Frank Sinatra Strangers in the Night
2 Nancy Sinatra These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
3 The Beatles Yellow Submarine
4 The Beach Boys Good Vibrations
5 The Beatles Paperback Writer
While the psychedelic 60’s hadn’t quite made it to mainstream America, the first hints of real change were beginning to show up, with new bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream coming onto the scene.
Still, crooners like Sinatra, and Como, and Al Martino managed to carve out hit records. And less radical rock groups, like The Lovin Spoonful, Herman’s Hermits, and The Hollies dominated the Top 40 market. Other big hits of 1966 included:
"The Sound of Silence" - Simon & Garfunkel
"We Can Work It Out" - The Beatles
"I Got You (I Feel Good)" - James Brown
"Turn! Turn! Turn!" - The Byrds
"Let's Hang On!" - The Four Seasons
"Secret Agent Man" - Johnny Rivers
"Hanky Panky" - Tommy James and the Shondells
"Lil' Red Riding Hood" - Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
"Born Free" - Roger Williams
An eclectic collection, to be sure. But it was still possible for `crossover hits’, between country and rock, R&B, and pop in the mid-60’s.
At the Academy Awards, The Sound of Music won Best Picture, Lee Marvin copped the Best Actor award for his role in Cat Ballou, and Julie Christie won for Darling. The Best Screenplay and Best Original Score went to Dr. Zhivago, and the The Sandpiper won best Original song with The Shadow of Your Smile.
A big change - Networks shifted to nearly all color programming in 1966, although much of the country was still watching on older B&W sets.
On TV, The Monkees debuted in the fall of 1966, as did the first episode of Star Trek (The Man Trap), and Mission Impossible would begin a 7 year run.
Batman had burst onto the scene at the start of the year, and influenced (and not necessarily in a good way) many other TV shows that suddenly decided that they had to be `camp’ to be popular.
1966 would be the last year for Rawhide (1959), Shindig (1964), The Addams Family (1964), Ben Casey (1961), Mister Ed (1961), and The Donna Reed Show (1958).
It was also the year that we lost Walt Disney, Ed Wynn, Gertrude Berg, and William Frawley.
That year Lyndon Johnson was President, the Vietnam War was bogging down but the tide of public opinion hadn’t turned against it yet, and Russians manages to crash land a robot space probe on Venus.
A B-52 bomber collides with another plane over Spain, dropping three 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs near the town of Palomares, and 1 into the sea. Sniper Charles Whitman kills 13 people and wounds 31 from atop the University of Texas at Austin and Richard Speck murders 8 student nurses in their Chicago dormitory.
It was a turbulent, sometimes difficult time for America. With race riots in some cities, a growing counter-culture movement, and an ever widening generation gap.
It is against this backdrop that the following 4 variety shows were aired. The clothes may look a little funny 40+ years later, and the music a bit dated, but this is how we saw the world around us through the magic of TV.
Host: Song & Dance man Donald O'Connor who proves from the opening number he can still dance, followed by Chinese acrobats The See Hee group.
Roger Williams plays the Flight of the Bumblebee followed by Bach’s Minuet in G Major (Which was also a big Rock hit in the 60’s). The Three Bragazis (European Clown/acrobat act) are followed by Shecky Greene doing standup comedy. Jane Morgan does an Al Jolson Medley, and Paul Anka sings a medley of his songs.
Host Martha Raye (host) sings "Lover" & "Little Girl Blue" while British rock Duo Chad and Jeremy sing "Distant Shores". Sgt. Barry Sadler, who had a huge hit with - "The Ballad of the Green Berets" also sings “The 'A' Team". MGM musical dancer Ann Miller does a routine to "Slap That Bass".
George Carlin performs long before he let his hair grow long, and Steve Rossi sings "The Impossible Dream" and he and Marty Allen perform a lion tamer comedy routine.
(Marty, now in his 80s, still performs!).
Hosted by Judy Garland who sings- "What the World Needs Now Is Love" & "By Myself Alone" and does a duet with Van Johnson - "Mr. and Mrs. Clown".
Johnny Rivers, who had a big hit that year with "Secret Agent Man" does that and "The Snake". Jack Carter does standup, and Columbian acrobats round out the hour.
Hosted by the show’s producer: Bing Crosby (who hosted 31 times in the 7 year run), this was the fall opener for the 1966-67 season.
For the teenagers they had The Mamas & the Papas "Dancing in the Street". Bing Crosby gave us "Strike Up the Band" and George Burns sang "Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil" --Bing and George do - "You're Nobody till Somebody Loves You".
Also Lola Falana , Jane Marsh (soprano) - "Mi chiamano Mimi" (aria from Puccini's "La Boheme"), a French comic magician, and the Rhodins (aerialists).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these shows is that they represent an amalgam, of the old Hollywood stars of the 1940’s and 1950’s along with the new and up and coming acts of the 1960’s.
In any event, if you were there, and old enough to remember 1966, these are 4 terrific time capsules. If you are too young to remember them, they give you a great opportunity to see America’s taste in entertainment from nearly 45 years ago.