Sam Schmoe, Part 2 November 10. 1994
Last week I introduced you to Sam Schmoe, an "adorable" chimpanzee, and a former "Cheetah" in the MGM Tarzan movies.
Sam was to be a regular on a new TV program I was starting in Los Angeles, in 1950. Before I could get Sam on the first show, he broke out of his newly built home and climbed a lofty transmission tower, dragging one of my staff members with him.
As first guests on my new program, I had booked good friends, guitar wizard Les Paul and his singing wife, Mary Ford. It was also to be Sam Schmoe's introduction to live television.
MARY'S NEW DRESS...
Les reminded me, when booking them, that Mary rarely made guest appearances, remarking, "She usually would rather stay at home, but she decided to come, 'cause she likes you." Les also informed me that Mary was going to her dressmaker to have an "expensive new outfit made", just for her appearance on the inaugural telecast. They also both "loved monkeys," Les stated, and they "looked forward to appearing with Sam on my new show--especially Mary, so she could show off her new duds to Sam and all of Hollywood."
BIG TIME STUFF...
Frank Bressee, who was the head of my creative staff at the time, and I, recently discussed the episode at lunch. Frank, one of today's top radio and TV executives, recalled his participation during Sam's first appearance. Getting through lunch was a chore, attempting to ruminate between guffaws, as it were.
Sam Schmoe's former owner/trainer suggested that we should hold Sam on a chain (off camera) while on the air. Frank and I decided we really didn't think the viewing public would appreciate Sam with a restraint--especially a chain--on the show. So Frank offered to be there to "handle" Sam, sans a chain--he would simply "hold Sam's hand to control him." Who needs to hire a trainer?, we rationalized.
The time arrived for the first telecast and the instant the red on-air light flashed, Sam lunged into action. Frank, holding the recalcitrant chimp by the hand, was literally yanked all across the stage within an instant. Bresee was heard to utter, in passing, "Helllllllllp meeeeeee!" Studio technicians pounced upon Sam and Frank, subduing both until a rope could be placed around Sam's neck. Mind you, this is all during the first few seconds that we were on the air. I immediately went to a live commercial in another studio, following which, I resumed the program. We tried the opening again, this time with Frank holding Sam by a rope off-camera. I attempted to mask the mini-lasso from view by standing in front of it.
SAM MEETS MARY...
I introduced the chimp to Les and Mary. Sam vehemently pushed Les and me out of his way and again yanked Frank with him as the raging animal reached for--guess who?--Mary! Mary barely got the words out of her mouth, "Hi, Sa..." when the chimp grabbed at her brand new, costly blue dress by the top hem and ripped it down, all the way to the floor. Les, his trusty guitar in hand, stepped in front of Mary, covering her exposed front. Needless to say, it was a total debacle, as funny, though, as it as.
Recently, I visited Les Paul in a New York nightclub at which he appears regularly. His first words were, "Did you bring that crazy chimp with you?" I assured him that the day following that show, I had peddled Sam back to the owner/trainer who in turn re-sold the Tarzan cimp to the St. Louis Zoo. Following Les's performance at the club that night, he and I reminisced about that marvelous episode during those "early daze" of television. "Those things don't happen today," Les reminded me. "Yes'" I answered, adding, "Who needs violence?"
© 1994 Jim Hawthorne