Friday, April 10, 2009

Ernie & "Tonight!": Another "Nairobi Trio": EK DVD Box Set On Hold

Good morning Kovacsians. As the title of this post indicates I have several EK items to share with you today.

I receive emails from time to time asking about Ernie's stint as permanent guest host of "The Tonight Show", on Monday and Tuesday nights from October 1st, 1956, through January 22nd, 1957. Ernie replaced the venerated Steve Allen who was so exhausted from the rigors of hosting five nights a week AND hosting a Sunday night variety show that so NBC could compete with Ed Sullivan on CBS, that he informed the network he would need the first two days of the week off to recuperate and prepare material for the following Sunday's show.

There's an interesting article I found on The Kansas City Blog's TV Barn which discusses the fact that in anticipation of Conan O'Brien taking over "The Tonight Show" from Jay Leno on June 1st 2009, NBC has posted a timeline of "Tonight Show" hosts which skips right from Steve Allen to Jack Paar without bothering to mention Ernie. I've posted comments on the piece so that you can learn more about Ernie's involvement as a "Tonight Show Host." In my humble opinion NBC needs to acknowledge his hosting of the program.

The number one jazz group in New Zealand is named "The Nairobi Trio" but they didn't get their name from EK's iconic sketch. The writer of this piece mentions EK and then goes on to discuss how the band got the name. It's interesting to think there are two well known "Nairobi Trios", albeit completely unrelated. I wonder who swings more, the band or the apes?

Back in November, 2008, Ben Model (who contributes here regularly) announced that he had been hired to put together a box set of 15 hours of EK material not seen in years and never before available to the general public. This set was slated for release sometime late in 2009. On April 6th, 2009, Ben announced on his own EK website that the project has been put on hold. This is sad news as so many EK fans (myself included) were looking forward to this release. We never say never in Kovacsland, however, and Ben assures me that there is a contingent that really wants to get the EK material out. Keep your fingers crossed; when there is more news you will hear about it here.

We have some great EK items available directly from The Paley Center For Media. The Vision Of Ernie Kovacs T-Shirt and Book come from a retrospective the Center (formerly known as "The Museum of Broadcasting" and then "The Museum Of TV And Radio")did on Ernie back in the 1980s. They're one-of-a-kind and you can only get them here.

Thanks for stopping by folks. Until next time, "Its Been Real!"

EDITOR'S NOTE, Wednesday, April 15th, 2009: According to the book "Inventing Late Night: Steve Allen And The Original Tonight Show" by Ben Alba, the first time Ernie hosted "Tonight" was for two weeks in August 1955 and it was during this hosting stint that he introduced "The Nairobi Trio." According to Diana Rico's book "Kovacsland: A Biography Of Ernie Kovacs", "The Nairobi Trio" was introduced on "The Ernie Kovacs Show" on April 21st, 1954. "Kovacsland" states that it was during Ernie's hosting stint of October 1st, 1956, through January 22nd, 1957 that the character Eugene was introduced in a sketch called "Library Bit." This bit would be repeated throughout the stint and Eugene would eventually get his own 1/2 hour special, "The Silent Show", in both 1956 and 1961.

I wanted to present both sides of the story as I discovered this after I commented on the TV Barn's "Tonight" post; I generally go with Diana's book for anything related to Ernie Kovacs.


Al Quagliata said...

Mark Evanier, of POVOLINE, wrote a great response to an email I sent him. It brings up some interesting points regarding the issue of Ernie as a "Tonight" host.

This is a great site by the way. Mark discusses many interesting subjects.

Al Quagliata said...

Blogger Bob Cesca also put up a great post regarding our campaign to get Ernie recognized by "Tonight." Thanks Bob!

Al Quagliata said...

Here are a couple of links to the catalog info, from The Paley Center For Media, to Tonight Show segments featuring EK as host. This will help you easily find them should you decide to visit. These are not full shows, but will give you an idea of what "Tonight" with EK was like. I enjoyed both very much:



Al Quagliata said...

Some segments are also included on "The Ernie Kovacs Collection" Bonus DVD, which you can get by pre-ordering the set before it's April 19, 2011 release date.