Just as the dust was settling from Christmas In July over at Ernie (Not Bert)'s blog, a former World War II vet, band singer, and talk show host died. Ernie honored the man the best way he knew how - by posting this album.
Before Oprah, before Rosie, before Springer, before Donahue, before Dinah, and yes, even before Merv (by two years!), Mike Douglas created and defined the afternoon talk show from his homebase of Philadelphia, PA. At his peak, he was seen on 171 TV stations and an average audience of 6 millions viewers.
From 1963 to 1981, Mike hosted many diverse guests. Who can forget the appearance of the rock group KISS with legendary comedienne Totie Fields?
Or the appearance of a two year old Tiger Woods doing trick golf shots and impressing Bob Hope?
Mike also lent his co-hosting duties out now and then. Such was the case of the week of February 14, 1972 when Mike asked John Lennon & Yoko Ono to co-host the show. It was hugely risky and controversial but Douglas knew it would open the show up to a whole new audience.
He was smart - it garnered the largest rating in his show's history and still ranks as a milestone in television history.
Mike can claim one HUGE discovery: he learned of a young comedian rising through the ranks of Philly nightclubs and invited him to appear on his show. Any guesses?
Around 1966, Mike decided to revive his singing career and recorded a few albums. He even scored a Top 40 hit with "The Man In My Little Girl's Life". How many people can say they had a top 40 hit during a year in which "Pet Sounds" by the Beach Boys and "Revolver" by the Beatles was released?
This album was released at Christmas, 1967 and contains ten songs. All the favorites are covered ("The Christmas Song", "Silver Bells", "O Holy Night", "Silent Night") and Mike's voice is in fine form - at times, I'm reminded of Mel Torme's style and phrasing - BONUS! My favorites include Mike's narration of "(The Story Of) The First Christrmas Carol" and the very 60s folky "Touch Hands On Christmas Morning".
The standout track is Mike's version of Gounod's "Ave Maria". Gounod's version of "Ave Maria" is seldom sung and deserves to be heard often. Douglas treats it reverently and soulfully and gets my vote for all-time favorite version of this song.
Douglas' singing career never matched the popularity of his television career but that didn't keep him from singing. He sang daily on his show, running the gamet of songs. I can remember as a tyke watching his show and he was singing his version of "Stayin' Alive"... whoa!
Mike folded his TV show tent in 1981, wrote a very good autobiography in retirement, and made his one of his last television appearances on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show". Rosie always aspired to be like Mike and his show so he repaid the complement by singing "You Make Me Feel So Young" to her.
I close this yuleblog entry by sharing my all-time favorite Mike Douglas memory. One afternoon in the 1970s, I was spinning the dial looking for something I could watch on TV. Nothing but soap operas and "The Mike Douglas Show" were on so I chose Mike.
On that very day, his guests were Carol Channing, Robert Goulet, and a young comedian I didn't know. This young comedian dazzled Mike and Bob by doing an Elvis impersonation and bringing down the house with his rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" while beating out the rhythm on a drum cymbal.
As long as I live, I'll never forget the utter look of disbelief on Goulet's face as he watched Andy Kaufman hit the final high note like an alpine yodeler.
Up strode Mike, clapping and grinning ear to ear to congratulate the performer. "We'll be right back..."
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...
p.s. give up? the young Philly comedian was Bill Cosby!