I wanted my standup act to get me on “The Tonight Show.” I got “The Dating Game” instead.
The invitation was a mixed bag, part cool, part square, but it was something at least, an acknowledgement of sorts. I was fresh out of Tufts, Boston and the Comedy Connection, and I had never been on National Television. Yes, I was a basket case.
They made the contestants arrive at the studio early so we could get acclimated. Bachelors and bachelorettes were separated, each in their own Green Room. There was a modest spread. I don’t really remember what they served. Had too much else on my mind. Probably cheese and crackers… We could have used wine… I’m pretty sure there was no wine.
With no bachelorettes in site, the bachelors peacocked for each other instead. A producer coached us on what to expect. We were not to get out of our chairs for any reason for fear of being able to see the bachelorette. The seats in the studio had extra high backs to make it harder for the audience to hold up fingers to signal who to choose. In fact it was said if someone actually held up fingers, they would stop the round. Frankly, I couldn’t see shit. The lights were like a crime drama interrogation room.
The caterpillars in my stomach hatched into butterflies as I was marched out in front of millions of Americans. Sure, the show was taped, but I didn’t have the clout to make them edit out throwing up on myself, so whatever would happen would happen for posterity. Echoing in my ears was the last piece of advice given us: It didn’t matter what was said, but over the history of the show, it seemed the person who held court the longest tended to win. I was good ad libbing on stage as a comic, so I figured I could do that (as long as I could quell the butterfly infestation).
Backstage we filled out questionnaires about ourselves and the show’s writers quickly paraphrased them. To hear it now, it is a little embarrassing to have Jim Lange timestamp my life goals so early in it. He announced, “…And Bachelor Number 3 is into advertising…”
I wasn’t “into” it, but my first job in LA was a clerk at Avco Embassy Pictures in the Coop Advertising department. (It was another “waiter’s job.” I did my best, was promoted to film distribution and eventually become an Assistant Branch Manager with an expense account and a company car. But I digress…)
“…he hopes to one day produce or direct his own motion picture…” (Yes, I was waylaid. Getting to it now.)
“…he collects old films…” Before DVD, before laserdiscs, before VHS and Beta, my brother and I collected 8mm and 8mm sound movies, studied them and showed them every chance we got.
“…plays the piano…” You can hear some of that in my compositions for “The Catalyst” website behind the ghost stories.
“…he is Alan Fine.” My first Network Television close up. Note the nervous hands as the camera pulls away…
Next, out comes the bachelorette, Doug McClure’s daughter, Tane McClure. (Yep, that’s how she spells it.) A singer, she is best known for a long and I assume profitable career in made-for-cable type Adult movies. This is her IMDB page. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0566044/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Familiar with the show’s format, I knew my next close up would be when I said “hello” to Tane. I wondered what I could say that no one else in the history of “The Dating Game” had ever said. I went with, “Hello, Tane. And say hello to Jim. No one ever says hello to Jim…” Before I could finish with “…let’s everyone give Jim a big hand!” someone in the control room got nervous and played me off with their theme song. Ah well. At least it was recorded and Jim heard me. “Wasn’t that nice,” Jim said to Tane as we went to a station break.
At this juncture in the video, you will notice I mercifully edited my opponents answers. This wasn’t vanity, but a desire to respect my viewer’s time which would be better spent working out, getting more sleep, or trying to put “Selfie” back on the air. (It’s “Pygmailian” in a modern office setting, dammit! Come on, ABC!)
I was asked my first question. “Let’s hear what you were yelling at, at the last girl you got mad at?” Hmmm… How do you even parse that sentence? Okay, go with it, I thought… I wasn’t married at the time, so I had no reason to even yell at a woman yet. (That’s a joke, Teri.) I seriously HAD NO ANSWER. My mind was a blank. The shot clock was ticking. If you watch the video slowly, you can’t see me flip through all possible answers and saying to myself, “You need to buy time, dude!” But you can see me jump at the double entendre I needed. But I wasn’t off the hook by saying, “If I repeat the question, I’m not trying to buy time… Trying to purchase an idea.” I still needed to keep talking. I’m ashamed of the rest of my answer, because I lapsed into male/female stereotypes. To make matters worse, the scenario I invented — of being cut off by a bad woman driver — was not understood by my inquisitor, bringing me to another stereotype of which I am ashamed, that my bachelorette was possibly blond.
Skipping to my second question, what I find interesting here is how time can move at different rates for different people, like the characters in the movie “Interstellar.” I heard the start of the question, “I like secret romances…” and I had my answer IMMEDIATELY, but I actually took what seemed like ages to decide whether to cut her off. Would I appear a jerk? In the molasses of the moment, I realized I better speak up, or the mood would change and I might not come up with as good a joke. That was the best decision of the day for me.
She continued with the question. “What’s the longest you ever keep a secret in a romance…? ”
Gimme a giant freaking break… I had no romantic secrets to divulge. I was still just coming out of my “momma’s boy” phase, so the secrets were more from my parents, not wanting them to worry about my LA antics. I “bought some more time” and fortunately my time ran out.
So we went to commercial, and Tane thought about her choice. I figured I blew it. I mean, I practically insulted her intelligence in the first round for not understanding my fictitious bad woman driver story.
Again, knowing the format of the show, I knew they would pan over the bachelor’s faces when Jim would say, “Who will it be? Bachelor Number 1? Bachelor Number 2? Or Bachelor Number 3?” So I practiced the face I’d use in the mirror. I didn’t really, but I knew I had to do something, and whatever it was, I had to find the camera with a red light and stare down its barrel. That shot cracks me up the most.
When I was picked, a certain surreal deafness befell me. I actually had to ask Bachelor Number 2 what was said. Seems Tane’s reason for picking me revealed an entirely different interpretation of my joke. I meant, if we WERE to have a secret romance, I wouldn’t tell anyone. She interpreted it as we ALREADY HAD a secret romance, I was still sworn to secrecy, but just revealed it to millions of people. Jim Lange couldn’t figure out what the hell she was thinking.
So here is further proof I was still freaked and uncomfortable. I just won and I still didn’t know what to do with my hands! One was miming, “Gee, I’m glad that’s over” while the other reached in my pocket. I remember asking myself why I was reaching in my pocket when I knew there was nothing in there. In retrospect, I’d given myself a bit of stage business to seem cool, as if I was so above it all, I was already checking for my car keys and was outta there.
So then Tane met the other guys and was introduced to me. Whatta ham. Up went the eyebrow. I took a sigh. Looked right in the camera, and then around like, “Where the hell is that music coming from?” When I crossed the stage and walked around the partition, I made sure I didn’t trip, saw Tane and we did the obligatory kiss. I’d like to think neither of us was too disappointed. Still, this was such a weird moment, I had to say SOMETHING to break the ice. If you listen as I clasp my hands, I’m wisecracking, “Now what do we get?”
As Jim describes the Zenith tapes, you see a twinkle in my eye. I always needed tapes as I used them to study TV and movies. I was pretty happy about it. Today, the equivalent prize would be from Seagate and include the word “Terabyte.” The Pusher Modular Video Tape dispenser was a joke. Made of cheap plastic, it had levers above each tape which would break when pushed to eject the cassette. As you can probably tell, Tane and I were both genuinely happy about winning a trip to Lake Tahoe. I shook Jim’s hand and went backstage with my date. We chatted amicably until the second round ended, then were called out for the “goodbye kiss.” I still dance like that, by the way. Not good.
So now here is the part everyone wants to know. What happened next?
I don’t think I was a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) yet, so I don’t think they were required to pay me the minimum day rate, but I did have to sign a release so they could use my likeness and I could appear on TV. Part of that contract stated if either party were married, that person would forfeit the trip and the other would be able to take whomever they wanted. A while later, but before the trip, Chuck Barris’ company contacted me to say that Ms. McClure had married. (I learned since she married some Rock and Roller… Really? And not go to Tahoe? He must have had a hit album.)
So the fifteen minutes backstage turned out to be my date with Tane and a sticky situation was avoided. Say she didn’t get married? How would I break it to my girlfriend that I was going to spend a weekend with someone else? Breaking it that we were going to Tahoe was much easier. (Interesting side note: I have been married to Teri for so long, I almost feel as if SHE went with me, but this trip predates her.)
The release I signed also explained that a chaperone would be assigned to travel with us. (Boy, have times changed. Do you think MTV wastes a penny on that payroll item?) She was a nice old lady who told me she did this for a living, which means there was a squad of these women out there under Chuck Barris’ employ. So my girlfriend slept with “Myrna” and I had my own room. Fortunately for us, Myrna announced she would make herself scarce in the afternoons so she could gamble. We didn’t gamble, we used protection.
Lake Tahoe was the first and only place I ever water-skied, and I learned the hard way to let go of the handle after you wipe out. The CalNeva Lodge still exists, but is closed for renovations. (http://www.calnevaresort.com) I remember it as being terrific. What I loved most was its pool; the line through the center meant you could swim across the California/Nevada state line, hence their name.
Then, as now, I was a night owl, and since I had my own room, I was able to be up late, haunting the casino. I was no stranger to casinos, since my grandfather was pharmacist to the Mob, and he would take me to Las Vegas on gambling junkets when I was seventeen. I lived and experienced the Scorsese movie “Casino” first hand, but that’s another blog… 🙂