As a child I was a television addict. There was no “I Love Lucy”, “I Dream of Jeannie” or “Little Rascal” rerun that I didn’t watch. Summer Time and the TV was easy…. My parents were not financially set enough nor insightful enough to compulsively plan day camps, internships, sleep away camps or classes for us. My urban neighborhood was my camp and don’t come home until the street lamps were lit.
One of those shows was The Gong Show- an outrageous, slapstick of a contest where contestants vied for ridiculous prizes. Hosted by Chuck Barris, a dry, short ethnic guy who was the antithesis of the plastic Mitt Romney –type TV game show hosts.
Whenever my Mother saw us watching that show she would yell, “Get that crap off.” “I don’t want you to watch that.” “He’s dirty.” “I don’t get this.” You knew she was serious when she would get up ( no remote in those days), leaving the ever present burning cigarette behind, and physically turn off the TV.
It was one of those things that you knew would irk your mother so you did it anyway. There were many things in my armamentarium and The Gong Show was just one.
But what I did to circumvent her was a valuable lesson in growing up. She was my obstacle in watching something I really thought was funny.
I simply went upstairs to watch it in my sister’s room.
No harm no foul. My mom was not always right. An early lesson for an adolescent.
Children need to disobey their parents. In a way, parents want them too. In small steps. Baby steps. When there is still a safety net. Children need to know they can step out of bounds and still play the game safely.
Some would argue vehemently that The Gong Show was obscene. Morally corrupt.
I though it was just funny. Even the episode when Jaye P. Morgan pulled up her shirt. Your couldn’t get more outrageous on 1970’s daytime TV than that.
But I survived. Laughed. Mimicked Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. Made a paper bag to ape the Unknown Comic. Did “The Worm.” But then turned the TV off and went outside to catch butterflies with my best friend Melanie.
It was just TV.
Rest in peace Gene Patton. You are the Dancing Machine. Thank you for reminding me NGC. And please take a lesson from this AHB. But baby steps, please. You will always have a safety net if you ask, but sometimes you have to ask. I am not always a mind reader.