Wednesday, March 22, 2017
RIP CHUCK BARRIS... WITH FEELINGS...
The first thing I heard on the radio this morning was that Chuck Barris had died. Nobody wants to hear that kind of news to start off their day. Barris had been something of a hero to both Shelley and myself since we saw him decades ago on The Gong Show. Part of my daily ritual after walking home from Kindergarten was to pop on the TV and watch Gong Show in the afternoon. The mature content was way over my head at that age, but I fell in love with the insanity of the show. Barris' completely unprofessional manner and bad jokes, as well as his unbridled adoration of Gene Gene The Dancing Machine, had me in stitches.
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy called the show today and Shelley asked him what he thought about The Gong Show. Ledge said he hated it because they just made fun of people that were out there trying. I can see where he would feel that way. He's faced his share of critics and people that have been unfairly cruel to his career. To me, though, it always seemed like everyone was in on the joke on the show. There was always the chance that they might get gonged if the judges didn't like their act, but it wasn't always the polished performers that scored the highest. Sometimes the left field performers went all the way, too. Shows like American Idol use the acts that might not have professional skills as something to ridicule and demean, but the same act on The Gong Show could walk off the stage a champion.
Of course, Chuck Barris was more than just a celebrated talent show. He wrote the song Palisades Park, created more successful Game Shows like The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, as well as less celebrated ones like Three's A Crowd. Three's A Crowd's premise was "Who knows a man better: His wife or his secretary?" Public reaction was savage, and the fact that the contestants seem to hate being there resulted in the show being pulled, along with three other shows produced by Barris. The experience caused Barris to retreat from television entirely.
The shows he created were influential and memorable, and sometimes they were so memorable that they practically became urban legends. For instance, there's the moment on The Newly Wed Game, where a couple was asked what the strangest place they made whoopie was. For years it was thought that this was just a wild story until the clip finally surfaced. And who could forget the Popsicle Twins, who's lurid Gong Show act (which didn't get gonged!) aired live on the East Coast, but was immediately removed from the taped broadcast for the Mountain and Pacific time zones? HOW DID THEY MAKE IT TO AIR?
There's another side of Chuck Barris' life that's even more intriguing because it is both insane and completely fictional. In 1984 his book Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind was published. In it he details his life and career in entertainment, as well as his exploits as a CIA operative and hitman. The stories are sensation and wild, yet they read like non-fiction, and the book is very entertaining. It didn't sell well upon release, but it was rediscovered when George Clooney made his directorial debut on the film version of the book. That film is a blast, and Sam Rockwell nails Barris' persona. I recommend you watch it.
Rest in peace, Chuck Barris. If you really did do all the things you said you did, then you're probably looking up right now and marveling at all the tributes pouring out for you.
The classic ALL FEELINGS episode (with poorly synced audio)
GENE GENE THE DANCING MACHINE!
The hour long All-Star Episode!
Chuck is drunk!