The Dick Summer (re) Connection – Chapter 16

I have committed some television in my misspent youth. I was one of those guys who had a weekend dance party show. It was at the same station that launched David Letterman’s career, WISH-TV – Channel 8 in Indianapolis. Just about all tv was live in those days, and it was a lot of fun. The show was called “Rhythm Carnival,” because the sponsor was RC Cola. Can you imagine an hour program with only one sponsor ? There were six commercials in the entire hour, three on film and three live. The live ones were fun. Nothing was written, everything was on the wing. Most of the time, I’d reach into the RC Cola cooler that was on the set, grab a bottle of the product, and enjoy drinking it.

I was a kid, and so were most of the camera crew, so practical jokes were always flying. One of their favorite “gotchas” was being sure I got a warm bottle of RC for the live commercials. Close your eyes and imagine a tight close up of the guy on the air opening a bottle of the sponsor’s product, and having it spray all over his face, the camera, and four or five nearby dancers. Fortunately, the sponsor had a sense of humor.

The sponsor also had a lot of guts. TV dance party shows in the mid- west were all white affairs in those days. This Brooklyn born kid didn’t like that. I figured we had black artists like Chubby Checker, Sam Cooke and The Drifters as guests, and I couldn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have anybody who liked their music on the show. Any body. The sponsor agreed. One of the key elements of the dance party shows was the “regulars.” You had to be good looking and a good dancer to be a regular. Our “regulars” were also good kids. I held a regulars meeting after the show one Saturday and told them I was looking for some black couples to join the show. Two “regulars” quit, but two others sent friends of theirs to audition. As of the next week, we had four new black “regulars.” There were a few nutcase hate letters, but mostly…only one thing happened. The sale of RC Cola went through the roof in black neighborhoods. Sometimes good things happen to good people.

Phillis Diller was a guest one day. She turned the show into a manic one woman circus. What a performer. Brenda Lee did her “Jingle Bell Rock” for us, looking tiny and fragile and a little lost. Raymond Burr was a surprise guest. I wasn’t a big tv viewer, and when he walked out I was totally shocked. I couldn’t believe that Al Hirt had come to visit from New Orleans. He hadn’t. Mr. Raymond Burr fell on the floor laughing when I welcomed Al.

The show was simulcast on WISH radio. And we had some pretty good local bands in Indy at the time. So when we had one of them on the show, I used to put the radio microphone on the left and the tv microphone on the right, and I told the audience that they should turn on the radio and put it across the room from the tv. I think we had some of the first stereo tv broadcasts ever done in the Midwest.

My then pre- school sons Dave, Eric, Mark and Kurt all appeared on the special Christmas show every year. They still tell their wives about having every high school girl in the studio tell them how “cute” they were. Their wives remind them that it was a long time ago. And it was. But it was a good…. “long time ago.”

Something new starting this issue. In the current “PodProgram” I told you “Summer’s Theory About Big Stuff and Little Stuff.” There’s lots more little stuff than there is big stuff. Big stuff is going to do big things to you…good or bad…and there’s not much you can do about it. But you’ve got some control over all that little stuff. So take it. That’s “THE TAKE CONTROL PATROL.” For example: You know that little voice in the back of your head that likes to tell you, “boy that was pretty dumb” when you screw up ? That kind of comment doesn’t make you do better the next time. Want to do better the next time ? Join the TAKE CONTROL PATROL. Every time that little voice says, “that was pretty dumb,” tell yourself, “that’s right, but I’ll do better next time.” Do that all the time, and you’ll start to feel better about yourself. And that will give you more control over your life. And that’s what we call “THE TAKE CONTROL PATROL.”

Some people have told me they don’t know how to listen to the ten or fifteen minute PodProgram we do every week. It’s free and there are no hooks. It’s just fun. All you have to do is click on the PodProgram icon on the upper left part of this page. This time you’ll hear about the “Intercontinental Ballistic Plastic Potato Pop Gun Threat and Make Up Melt.” You can listen live, or record it on your iPod, or just save it for playback any time right on your computer.

NEXT TIME – This year’s Political Advertising… the most incredibly ugly stuff I’ve ever seen on the tube.


One Response to “The Dick Summer (re) Connection – Chapter 16”

  1. Ray Wiede says:

    First, I want to thank you for keeping me up at night in the 60’s listening to your show on WBZ. I am also enjoyed reading about the good old days of WBZ. I am presently an XM radio listener and their 60’s channel does a station salute every Friday using airchecks. The Boston station they have saluted was WMEX. Since I lived about 45 mile west of Boston it was “BZ” we listened to at night.
    I have e-mailed them about a salute of WBZ but I was told about aircheck availablity etc. Maybe if there was a ground swell about saluting “WBZ radio 103” something can be done. It would be nice to hear Dick Summer, Juicy Brucie, Dave Maynard etc again. What do you think???