Mike Douglas, R.I.P. … VIVA Show-Biz
By Kent Manthie
So long Mike, we’ll miss ya. Friday, August 11, Mike Douglas, the talk show host from the 70s died, after being in the hospital about a week, after initially becoming dehydrated after a round of golf. The really sad thing is that he died on his 81st birthday. What a terrible day on which to expire. There seems to be no cause of death revealed as yet, but my guess would be heart attack or related cause. He is survived by his loving wife, Genevieve.
When I was a young boy I remember seeing, on late afternoons in the 1970s, The Mike Douglas Show, a thrilling 90 minute jamboree with the Hollywood fun crowd. Looking back, I realize they were either up-and-comers, big stars, aging has-beens. But what a cavalcade of whimsy it was; there was never any kind of rhyme or reason for the placing or grouping of guests, like the time when Muhammad Ali got into an argument with a congressman, or when Zsa Zsa leveled an off-color insult at Morey Amsterdam, which, incidentally, caused the show to go from live productions to taped affairs.
I remember one time, at the height of their popularity, just after Duncan, the singing drummer joined, the Bay City Rollers appeared on the show, an idiosyncratic booking that resulted in a studio packed with screaming young girls who were mad about the Rollers and wanted to see them lip-synching one of their big hits on the Mike Douglas Show. I recall that Parker Stevenson, Shaun Cassidy’s older brother on “The Hardy Boys” TV series. I have very few other genuine memories of the show, but I do remember that I saw it from time to time, that it was a part of my psyche. There is a little fold in my brain that is from the images that were burned in my mind from that show.
I remember that Merv was the other guy on the air in the afternoon variety show era. The game show magnate was once a hands-on, in front of the camera kind of guy, who had his own show, “The Merv Griffin Show”, Merv was also a singer too, just like Douglas, who had a singing talent. Douglas could’ve pursued that angle of show biz further, having sung for a time with Kay Kyser and his big band, but wound up on television, doing a local gig in Chicago; a little of this a little of that, eventually winding up with “The Mike Douglas Show”, which ran an amazingly long time: from 1963 to 1982.
Among the big-time famous people he had there were seven former, sitting or future US Presidents, sports stars, musical acts, even an ancient, barely alive-by-a-thread Groucho Marx appeared, it was actually kind of pathetic to see that once-hilarious comic genius reduced to a doddering, old fool. But, hey, so go us all. Also, a preschool aged Tiger Woods appeared on the show in 1978, alongside Bob Hope, who quipped on the show, “I don’t know what kind of drugs they got this kid on, but I want some!”
Usually things went pretty smoothly on the show, it wasn’t like it is today, where it’s a boon for ratings to have conflict, screaming, bickering, etc, doing whatever one can to be obnoxious, shocking or just plain rude. But there is one time, in particular, when an appearance by John Lennon caused a bit of a stir, but then, in the 70s, Lennon was all about confrontation. John & Yoko were, of all things, guest-hosting with Mike one week, a thing Douglas would do now & then, bring on someone to co-host the show for a week at a time – this was around the time when Lennon was shunning the limelight and hanging out with new-found friends in Los Angeles. Well, one of Lennon’s guests that he picked to come on the show was 60s relic Jerry Rubin, late of the Chicago Eight, later downsized to Seven. Things got pretty heated and Lennon had to intervene and use his magical Liverpudlian accent to smooth things over and calm down the incensed counterculture icon.
Mike, on the other hand, lived his life to the fullest, still married to his wife, still going out, having fun, playing golf, et cetera. Like I said, a cause of death was still not stated in the newspaper reports I saw, but I’m sure by the time this is printed/posted it’ll be known. Douglas did have prostate cancer in the late 80s, early 90s and was successfully treated for it in 1990, so he was at least lucky enough to not be taken down by cancer. So long, Mike, thanks for the good times –KM.