Posts Tagged ‘C.W. Post’

‘That’s that Jackie Gleason thing, huh?’ (Joe Franklin, 1926-2015)

January 25, 2015
A stupendous! Colossal! Life. Big! Big big big!

A Stupendous! Colossal! Life. Big! Big big big!

Last night (Saturday, Jan. 24), when I shared the New York Times and New York Daily News obituaries of the great Joe Franklin on the Book of Faces, some of the comments I got included the standard “I didn’t know he was still alive!” variety. Well, the man was a month and a half shy of 89, and, let’s face it, he was born old. And he gave up The Joe Franklin Show, his record-length talk show of 42 years, two decades ago already. Yes, that long ago. So excuse those who didn’t realize he’d been whistling past the graveyard all these years. And now he’s another great New York institution that’s disappeared.

If you didn’t grow up in the Tri-State Area, or see Billy Crystal’s impersonations during his lone year on Saturday Night Live, Joe was the King of Television, the King of the Talk Show, the King of Late-Night and King of Nostalgia. He pretty much gave us the talk-show format as we know it when he started on the tube in 1951 — sitting behind a desk and chatting with a couch full of guests. He also gave us the concept of nostalgia as we came to know it — regaling viewers and guests with stories of performers such as Sophie Tucker and Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson on his many travels down Memory Lane.

And along the way, he interviewed an estimated 300,000 people. A handful were bona fide legends, such as Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis, Joe Louis and his idol, Bing Crosby; some others were up-and-comers who caught a huge break early on from Joe and his show, such as Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby and Bette Midler; some were regular guests who could be called upon in a pinch, such as Joe’s longtime producer and trivia quizmaster, Richie Orenstein, or Morris Katz, the world’s fastest painter, who created works in a minute or less using a palette knife and toilet paper. As a rock and pop music fan, there were other great names along the way, such as Tiny Tim (another quasi-regular), The J. Geils Band (who made a paint-splashed mess of his studio one Friday night my senior year of college) and The Ramones.

But most of his guests were everyday people who would fall into the categories of never-weres, never-gonna-bes and wannabes. And from time to time, they shared the couch with the greats. Thus, the show sometimes ran toward the mundane, or even the surreal. But the democracy of the panel of guests was one of the most endearing qualities of Joe’s show. For even a few minutes, anyone could be a star. And Joe was perhaps the most accessible TV host of all time — his number was in the Manhattan White Pages.

And that leads to my personal experience with Joe Franklin, and how he could launch something Big! Big! Big! with the exposure from his show.

Let’s just say that without Joe, fans of The Honeymooners would never have seen the “Lost Episodes.” read on …



Musical War Stories: Open Up Your Door (to the garage)

March 25, 2013
This was the song that started it all.

This was the song that started it all.

(c) 2013, Fran Fried

It was a Friday night, late winter 1983, the last semester of my senior year on the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. (I thought it was mid to late February, but my usually reliable memory might have been off; I remember that Sunday being the launch of the United States Football League, which would’ve made this the first Friday of March.)

I was wiped out after a long week, and, without a car and with nothing huge going on that I knew of on campus — and it being pretty damn cold for late winter — I did something unusual for me: I took a nap after dinner. Just flat-out crashed on my bed in the Nassau Hall room (123) I occupied all four years there. (Yes, I got out with my diploma in four.) Right on top of the bedspread.

It had been a pretty blissful Z session — at least until the phone rang. And the black New York Telephone-issued phone anchored to my wall was pretty fucking loud by anyone’s standards. And even louder when you’re asleep.

I mumbled something along the lines of “Who the fuck’s calling me?” and stumbled off the bed and to the phone and slurred in my best groggy voice, “Helllllo?”

I keep hearing there are no coincidences. And this call — entirely out of the blue, from an acquaintance who had never called me before — would take me on a trip that did nothing less than change the course of my musical tastes for the next … well, rest of my life.