Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Enter and sign in please"

In 1964 Somebody at CBS happened to notice that there were two Lee Shephards doing TV weathercasts on two different stations, one in Washington and one in Detroit.

When the network game show people heard of this they immediately started looking for a third that we could all appear on “To Tell the Truth.”

If you remember, that was the show where three contestants all claimed to be .....somebody.......but only ONE of them was telling the truth. They contacted me and asked if I would be willing to appear on the show.

 I jumped at the chance.....mainly because it would allow me to finally meet my hero, superman! aka/Bud Collyer, who was the voice of the radio Superman in the 1940's.

The idea was that after the questioning by the panel, Bud Collyer would say, and now, “Will the real Lee Shephard please stand up!”

And all three of us would stand.

Great idea. The only thing wrong was they couldn’t find another Lee Shephard who was on TV.

But they still thought that two people, both doing the same thing  (TV weather casting at the time) might be a good gimmick for another one of their shows, WHAT'S MY LINE.

So, on a Sunday night in April 1964,  I found myself at 254 West 54th Street in New York backstage at CBS studio 52 waiting to be a small part of a show that for many years had been “the last bit of freedom” that I enjoyed before a new week of school began.

I met the other Lee Shephard who was very personable as were the other guests, all of whom seemed pretty ordinary, like me.

There was only one person backstage who seemed a bit strange. I say that because she arrived with her hair in curlers. But even stranger than that was that she had brought her hairdresser with her......and he followed her around ...doing hairdresser stuff....while she flitted about talking with the producer and his assistants. I figured that she must be part of the show, although I was sure she wasn’t Arlene Francis or Dorothy Kilgallen.

I tried not to stare.

As you probably recall, the panelists on the show were only allowed to ask questions that could be answered with a yes, or no. So, there was nothing much we contestants could do to screw up unless we happened to bump into the wall of the set and knock it down or something.

That was another thing. That set looked so good on TV, but in reality, it would never have been allowed to be used in one of the plays at CHS because of its flimsiness. When I signed in, I tried not to press too hard on the blackboard.

So between answering “yes” and “no”......and trying not to bump into the wall of the 15 minutes of fame went off OK. The panel guessed us pretty quickly, but the host, John Daly turned the cards over anyway.....and awarded us the grand prize which was $50.

Backstage again, I noticed that the mystery woman in the hair curlers wasn’t there anymore.

But the hairdresser was. He was standing there staring at the TV monitor looking very pleased.

The mystery woman.....turned out to be the “Mystery Guest.”

And not a hair out of place.

Incidentally, I don't believe they ever did send me that 50 bucks.

Maybe they found out that my real name wasn't Lee Shephard.