I don’t know anyone who I grew up with in Philadelphia who didn’t watch The Mike Douglas Show in the late ‘60s and the ‘70s. He would come on at 4 PM, and we would drift in and out of the house depending on whether or not we were playing a game of “half-ball” or “wire-ball” or some variation thereof after getting home from school (maybe just a Philly thing…I don’t know) to see if he had a good guest on. If not, we would just keep playing, and then our parents would watch Eyewitness News at 5:30 with Vince Leonard while they got dinner ready, and you didn’t even have to change the channel (wow, am I going WAY back for this).
I mean, it was just what you did, right?
The CNN article discusses, among other things, the utter zoo of a week for that show when John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-hosted, in particular Douglas’ reaction to the appearance of Jerry Rubin; Douglas’s disgust with Rubin was plain, and I didn’t blame Douglas one bit for his reaction. Also that week, Chuck Berry appeared one day and joined Lennon for a version of “Johnny B. Goode” that got off to a promising start, but quickly descended into gonzo land when Yoko Ono started caterwauling near the end of a jam session with Berry and Lennon (my dad got so angry I thought he was going to throw a steak knife at the T.V.).
Other moments that stood out for me from the years I watched the show was when Douglas questioned Aretha Franklin about her abusive childhood and asked Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers straight up about his heroin addiction. As always, Douglas exuded class and empathy and did all he could to make his guests feel welcome.
Would that more men and women in the media imitated Douglas’s sterling example from what was truly (despite the unrest of the day) a kinder, gentler time.
Update: Not a good day for boomer TV icons...