Joel Hodgson between flashbulbs on the red carpet at the Paley Center for Media.)
Preparing for the Kovacs panel event on April 12 found me cramming like this was the Kovacs LSAT’s. Re-reviewing less-common content from the new set and boning up on facts in the Kovacs chronology from the three books on Ernie as well as notable facts I’d figured out in my own research. And then the question came up – what about Lollos?
My good friend, photographer Steve Friedman, had introduced me to John Lollos a couple of years back when I’d begun doing research for the Kovacs set. If you’re a credit-reader, you’ll know this name. John Lollos is the guy who conceived and produced “The Best of Ernie Kovacs” that aired on public television in 1977. He’s had a long and varied career in TV and theater as well, and graciously chatted with me at length about the back-story of making “Best Of” and getting it on the air.
So, when Steve posed this question to me, I had a “D’oh!” moment – John lives in the tri-state area and could certainly get to Paley. It was only fitting that the man responsible for the forty- and fifty-somethings’ having discovered Kovacs through the “Best Of” series – to say nothing of the next generation down who’d found the show on home video or in pieces on YouTube – should be in the house that night. I had bought a block of tickets the moment they went on sale, and had one for Mr. Lollos, and as it turned out he was able to attend the Paley event.
The “green room” for us panelists was upstairs in the executive offices where there was a large antique card table and bookcases whose shelves also hosted many radio mike frames with call letters of stations long gone. When I entered I found Mr. Olbermann chatting with the Schlatters, exchanging stories of classic broadcasting comedy…Bob & Ray, Laugh-In etc. Paley Chief Curator Ron Simon invited me to sit at the table and, after being introduced, I basically nodded and smiled while stories were told. Smigel and Hodgson arrived soon after, and I chatted with them a little. I'd been in touch with Joel in the late 90s when he was doing an online ant farm website. After that I hovered in the background, being a little more comfortable hanging out with curator folk.
Photos were taken, and then we were escorted downstairs where we were miked just outside the Paley’s video control room. (Mr. Schlatter disappeared inside for a few minutes...I'm sure it was hard to resist.) We then entered the auditorium to applause, and the evening began.
The clip reel, assembled by Paley curator Barry Monush, ran 17 minutes (impressive, considering how much material there is) to a great response. It won’t really be necessary to go into details on what was discussed during the panel here. I noticed when I took my seat onstage that there were two young-ish people in the back row typing on laptops. Turns out the event was being tweeted live on the Paley’s Twitter feed. Rather than make you go there and try to find April 12 on it, I got screen grabs of the evening’s feed, and have posted them here (scroll way down to the bottom).
Ron Simon and I had coordinated running a pair of Dutch Master spots during the panel, but the discussion and Q&A went on without an opportunity to run these. I managed to point out John Lollos, seated in the second row, during the evening and he got a real nice hand. During the Q&A John spoke and talked about the challenge of including the DM spots on the “Best Of” shows, as commercials were not shown on PBS in 1977. Olbermann picked up on this and made it a segue to the DM spots, which we then ran.
We each made a final statement to wrap up the evening, with Keith’s closing being a warm call to arms for all us fans to share Kovacs programs with people, now that we all have our hands on them.
In the end, many of the Kovacs facts I'd crammed my cranium with went unused, and I managed to hold up okay alongside everyone else on the panel who had way more credibility, fame, etc than I did. Part of what helped was the way Olbermann addressed me and asked questions. My agenda was to make sure we all acknowledged Edie Adams and the work she did with Ernie and later, saving his shows. I managed to work that in, and Keith pointed out Josh Mills in the audience. The evening was a spectacular success and I think we were all floating for a bit for a few hours after it all ended.
With all the pre-ordered DVD sets arriving in fans' mailboxes this week, my hope is that the euphoria over Kovacs will expand and ripple outward...once you've all come up for air after what will probably be a number of marathon viewings of the 15+ hours of Kovacs shows (not 13 hours – you did order from Shout, didn't you?).
It's really been real.