Cool rock & roll via the un-cool Mike Douglas
I was 12 years old when my grandmother came to live with us. I guess my aunt in Manchester had told my Dad that it was our turn to live with the old bird. Annie O’Mara was in her early 80s but seemed much older to me when she arrived at our Toronto home.
It was the mid ’70s.
Dad recommended that Nana watch the Mike Douglas show every day so every day after school, I was forced to endure 90 minutes of celebrity chatter from the guy who had apparently been a big band singer in the ’40s, though when Douglas crooned pop hits of the day, Nana would say, “Oh Mike, I don’t like your singing.”
Neither did I. Mike Douglas seemed like the squarest man on the planet but there was one saving grace….his show featured the top pop singers and rock groups of the day. Mike had John and Yoko (and Lennon jammed with Chuck Berry on one episode), Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, KISS, The Electric Light Orchestra and many others, mostly lipsyncing their hits.
Who could forget Mary McGregor, torn between two lovers? I’ve tried.
Then again, we just bid farewell to David Letterman and while many of us think of Dave as cool because we’ve loved his irreverent “this is all just a goof” comedy for over 30 years, he’s 68. Probably not cool to younger audiences that prefer one of the Jimmys.
Then again…again…my Mother is 88 and she likes Jimmy Fallon. He’s nice. Dave was too sarcastic for her taste.
Douglas was inoffensive. Safe. And when something shocked him Mike would say, “Good night!” I don’t mean he ended the show. Good night was his version of holy shit.
So maybe The Mike Douglas show wasn’t the torture it seemed to be back then. Not that I had a choice. There were only a handful of channels to watch, no iPads or computers to distract from that daily viewing so it was either watch the show or talk to the ancient woman in the lazyboy, whose main purpose seemed to be keeping track of everything Dad told me not to do (Mom referred to Nana as “Eagle Eye”) and sneaking my sins into the dinner conversation.
Cheers to Eagle Eye Annie, Mike Douglas, Mason Reese, Mary McGregor, the Captain and Tennille and the rest for a unique adolescence of TV viewing. We were also forced to watch the Tommy Hunter Show instead of The Rockford Files, but I eventually caught up with that Jimmy.
I will salute Mike once more for introducing me to the guy who would become my favourite comedian. I was too young to be allowed to stay up to catch David Brenner on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, but Douglas had Brenner on frequently and that was very cool.