Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler Part Three: Hollywood!

By the 1960s-killing-year of 1970, Ted had decided to seek fame and fortune in a place where a vast majority of people with that very same dream end up as drug addicts, prostitutes and off-ramp pre-loved churro vendors. But having streets paved with the shattered souls of generations of the young and hopeful did not make him any less amorous for the glamorous, so he loaded up the truck and he moved to Beverly.

            According to his son Bob, Ted personally and literally loaded up that truck. Theodore was a tad obsessive – and when I say a tad, I mean he had a case of OCD as big as his hockey-rink-of-a-forehead. He spent a feverishly month packing, labeling and mapping where each and every box would be situated in the moving van, like a three dimensional Tetris game. By the time Zeigler finished fussing and adjusting, he had magically managed to pack everything his family of six owned into the tiny vehicle with room to spare. But magic can sometimes be a double-edged sword – just ask Gavin Cox. When the intrepid travelers arrived at the first weigh station, the truck was found to be 9,000 pounds overweight and immediately impounded. Ted had to scamper off in search of a U-Haul trailer and then transfer the four-and-a-half tons of illegal heft into it before he was allowed to continue on his merry way.

            Upon hitting the big town and several homeless people, the Zeigler clan drove straight to the estate of Ted’s old pal and comedic partner, Harvey Korman.

Harve graciously put them up for that first night in the city that stabbed Sal Mineo to death and he even managed to swing Mr. Rubberface a job on the Carol Burnett show. Wow, steady employment right out of the Hollywood gate! Things couldn’t have worked out better for our hero. Nothing but smooth sailing from here on in, for sure. Only, Harvey was an odd little duck…

            The Carol Burnett Story:

Joe Hamilton – the producer of Carol Burnett and father to her three children, was reportedly a cheap son of a bitch. Ted recalled one rehearsal where the show’s dance team was tapping away and miming to a song. Joe’s voice came over the loudspeaker instructing them to just dance to the song. Their faces immediately dropped. Miming was “special business” and more money. Not a lot more but Joe wanted it all for himself, bwa-ha-ha! This petty parsimony also extended to the money he was forking out for Montreal’s number one goofball. Let’s just say his modest remittance would fall far short of keeping his progeny in solid platinum nostril-wideners (they were all the rage in the early 70s but heartbreakingly expensive). In those primeval days, the production company still handed out your pay by check at the end of each week. A couple of shows into his contract, Zeigler was staring at his humble take home when Harvey caught sight of it over Ted’s shoulder and angrily snatched it out of his hand.

            “Is that it? Is that all they’re paying you?”

            “Well, I…”

            “You’ve got a family of 4 for fuck’s sake. This is an insult!”

            “But…”

            Harvey was a masterful comic but he had a dark side. His personality was the perfect blend of crotchety and sullen and he could be very, very rude to people. Carol once had to threaten to fire him because he was so insulting and obnoxious to guest stars. She told him that she could tolerate him being rude to her but she drew the line at the people appearing on her show. One blitzkrieg of a day on set he was in an especially Harvey Korman mood and ranted and railed at anyone and everyone unfortunate enough to wander within his sightline. When he arrived back at his dressing room, he found that the crew had replaced his name on the door with a sign that read, “Mr. Warmth.” He fell over laughing.

            So, armed with Ted’s check in his disgruntled palm, Harve burst into generous Joe’s office and spent the next 20 minutes loudly remonstrating and waving the insufficient piece of paper in the showrunner’s flustered face. What to do? They couldn’t fire Harvey. He was a star. So Hamilton did the next best thing and fired Ted.  Oh well.

Mea Culpa:

In 1991, it was reported that Joe Hamilton died from cancer of the head. I remember saying at the Tonight Show lunch table that doctors were afraid that it would spread to his hat. My apologies, sir.

Back to Our Poor Fired Hero:

            Harvey may have been a complicated and tortured soul but he dearly loved Ted and must have felt terrible about getting him shit-canned because he quickly arranged for a job interview with Chris Bearde.

The infamous Mr. Bearde also began his showbiz career as a children’s TV host but in Australia. Like Ted, he ended up in Canada and produced a couple of shows for the CBC.

My father used to hang around the “Nightcap” studio and remembers Chris once holding up the ends of his suit jacket like a skirt and dancing a lively jig in the hallway because he’d just come up with a sketch idea. But, like oh-so-many talented people in Canada, he was quickly whisked away to the U.S. by the promise of actual cash and weather that didn’t have the Donner Party firing up the barbeque. First, he became a top writer on Laugh-In but quickly began producing shows with Canadian Alan Blye. In the 1970s, this team ruled the TV comedy-variety world, creating heavily sequined hit after heavily sequined hit.

Back to Our Story:

Mr. Korman may have been a troubled and tortured soul but calling Chris an absolute fucking madman would not be inaccurate or unkind. The story goes that he always took an assistant into pitch meetings. Christopher would get coked up out of his noggin and just start rapid-fire rambling. If he sold a show, without the assistant taking detailed notes, he would have no idea what it was once he left the room. I also heard from several sources that would be in-the-know, that Chris met one of his wives at an orgy.

            Working for Mr. Bearde was always a challenge. Especially for the ladies. A writer friend of mine was up for a producing job late in Chris’s career. The many years and his hillock-snortin’, whisky-slurpin’ lifestyle had taken a literal heavy toll and Christopher was veritably buried inside his own rotundity. This feeble physical state, however, did in no way dissuade him from placing a flirtatious hand upon her non-consenting knee. She was well aware that sexual harassment most often begins at the job interview but she really needed the work so resisted the urge to strangle him with his own tongue. Sure enough, throughout the production, her parts most feminine were never short of unwanted company. Oddly, no matter how sickeningly intimate he became, there was never any hint of his pokie-monster awakening.

Looking back, she felt that Bearde was just an old corpulent letch who no longer possessed a knife to spread his jam with, but he still felt compelled to touch the toast.  

My friend recently penned her memoirs and I truly hope she gets this treasure trove of television history and infamy published because she’s fantastically talented, enjoyed a long and fascinating career and had to put up with a raft of Chris Beardes at a time when show business treated women even worse than they do today.

            Really Back to Our Story!

            The meeting with Chris did not begin as anticipated. Ted became increasingly alarmed at Bearde’s hyper and erratic behavior. His prospective boss kept leaping out of his chair and leaving the room and then peering at him strangely. Zeigler was beginning to go from worrying about getting a job to worrying about his personal safety. The guy was fucking unstable. Finally, Mr. Fidgety sat down and bellowed, “So, why don’t you tell me a little something about yourself?”

            Feeling that his chances of getting a job was right up there with landing a hot date off the Ashley Madison website, he opted for the truth.

            “Well,” he smiled, “I just spent the last eight years as Johnny Jellybean.”

            Chris slammed his hand down on the desk like he was Slapchopping Brazil nuts. “By God, that’s who you are!”

            Before Zeigler could make a run for the door or shit his pants, Chris continued to excitedly rave. “For God’s sake, it’s Johnny Jellybean!”

            And that was all he needed to hear. Chris hired Ted as a series “irregular” on the “Andy Williams Show” for the princely sum of $350 a-week.

            It was a relationship that kept Ted on television for another 25 years before illness, age and desperation eventually reduced him to managing Nicholls & Vickers.

     Yet to Come: A singer with no height, a comedian with no name and a lawyer with absolutely no morals.  

=DV=

DBAWIS_Button

Darrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com

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