Hollywood Palace, The
In 1963, ABC cleared two hours of Saturday night and refurbished a theater on Vine Street in Hollywood for a live Jerry Lewis talk show that was a spectacular and costly flop. Originally announced as a firm two-year deal, Jerry’s attempt was cancelled after 13 episodes, leaving the network with two problems: What to do with that two hours on Saturday night and what to do with that theater they’d purchased and rebuilt. They solved the second problem and half of the first by creating The Hollywood Palace, a one-hour variety show featuring the kind of vaudeville acts that had once placed the famed Palace Theater in New York. Though taped, the show strived for a “live” feel and acts were often recorded in one long, continuous take with little editing.
The host changed each week with Bing Crosby filling the post on the first show (January 4, 1964), the last (February 7, 1970) and twenty-eight other times in-between. Other frequent hosts were Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jimmy Durante. Durante was so popular on the show that after he hosted one that guest-starred The Lennon Sisters (December 5, 1967), ABC tried spinning-off a separate show, Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters, which also taped at the Hollywood Palace. It didn’t last long. More successful was what happened after the one time Dean Martin hosted, which was the episode broadcast June 13, 1964. Both ABC and NBC offered him a weekly show, NBC won out and The Dean Martin Show went on the air in September of the following year.
Perhaps the most memorable episodes were the two hosted by Groucho Marx — 3/14/64 and 4/10/65. The latter featured the final performance of Margaret Dumont, re-creating a scene from the Marx Brothers film, Animal Crackers.
The top ticket above — for a taping on 2/22/64 — lists “Efram Zimbalist” as host. Actually, his name was Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and the following September, he became the star of an ABC series, The F.B.I. His Hollywood Palace episode, which aired a week after taping, featured comic actor Louis Quinn (who’d appeared with Zimbalist on 77 Sunset Strip), Kate Smith, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with The Sons of the Pioneers, comedian Corbett Monica, comedy team Lewis and Christy, Alex Rix and his Trained Russian Bears, Adagio dancers Szony and Claire, and the famed high-wire act, The Great Wallendas.
The second ticket above, for an episode that aired May 22, 1965, featured host Tennessee Ernie Ford and his guests, Edie Adams, Ann Miller, comedian Jack Carter, acrobat Santos, The Gus Augspurg Monkeys and the O’Keffe comedy divers.
The third ticket is for an episode broadcast December 10, 1966. Host Jimmy Durante welcomed The Turtles, comedian George Carlin, actor Peter Lawford, singer Elaine Dunn, The Polack Brothers’ Elephants and two very famous acts. One was the great pantomime clown George Carl, not to be confused with Mr. Carlin. George Carl toured the globe with an act that no less than Johnny Carson once described as the funniest twenty minutes in the history of show business. It basically consisted of Carl attempting to perform a harmonica routine and getting himself hopelessly tangled in the microphone cord — one of those “you had to see it” routines. Also on the bill that evening at the Palace was Mrs. Miller, who had a brief, inexplicable career singing pop songs of the day, hopelessly out of style and key.
The fourth ticket is for the sixth season opener which aired 9/28/68 and featured host Bing Crosby, comedian Sid Caesar, folk singer Bob Gibson, jazz singer Abbey Lincoln and country-western singer Jeannie C. Riley and pop singer Bobby Goldsboro.
And the last ticket is for one that aired October 25, 1969 with host Englebert Humperdinck, comedian Jack E. Leonard, singer Nancy Ames, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Sid Caesar in a sketch with Maureen Arthur and Mickey Deems, and singer Lonnie Donegan.
One other performer deserves mention. At the end of each episode, that week’s host would read the list of who’d be performing on the stage the following week. The list was brought to him by the show’s “Billboard Girl,” an attractive model chosen for her poise and showgirl figure. For a while, it was a then-new actress named Raquel Welch. She went on to better things.