Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler: Part Five – Cher and Cher Alike

Life has many ups and downs. Ebbs and flows. Yins and Yangs. Windshields and wipers. Lavernes and Shirleys. I think you get where I’m going with this.  

“The Sonny and Cher Show” was a huge hit but Ted’s marriage was not. After a number of shaky years and some very frosty fluffing of pillows, his “Let no man put asunder” had finally collapsed like a Walmart garden shed. The compulsorily bachelored Zeigler suddenly found himself residing in a Hollywood apartment barely big enough to accommodate his chin, while the rest of his family continued to abide with his ex in the most Christian town this side of Nuremburg, Thousand Oaks.

“You can’t live in that microscopic shitbox, now that you’re a sleek, sinewy stallion loosed in the meadow and snorting for mare. You need to get yourself a chick-slaying palace,” Murray mix-metaphorically advised.

“A house?”

“Leave everything to me.”

Langston was comfortably ensconced at the southern end of Lankershim Blvd. at the time and started to troll his neighborhood for suitable procreationally advantageous properties on weekends. Murray was more than happy to do it as a friend and fellow entertainer. Plus, he had a lot of spare time on his hands since he’d been banned from local grocery stores for shampooing free-sample girls against their will and covering them in thin slices of pemmican.

One baking-hot Valley morning, his mighty Unknownness came upon a bungalow near the ever-alluring, garbage-strewn concrete of the L.A. River that looked perfect for various combinations of people to be naked in. Murray quickly bought his coxcomb compandre a bottle of Lancers, a family-pack of one-size-fits-small condoms and set up an  appointment.

The next day, when the door opened at 4040 Shadyglade, the attractive big-haired woman on the other side exclaimed, “Murray! Ted! What are you doing here?”

Huh? Who was this clairvoyant lady?

Langston’s other-worldly knack for beating the odds had landed on yet another jackpot. Out of all the houses for sale in the San Fernando Valley and beyond, Murray had picked the domicile of Georgia Holt. Cher’s mother! Apparently, she’d seen them at a number of rehearsals for the show but had never introduced herself. Sold!

Ted now owned a spookily cosmically aligned house that he would live in for the rest of his life – once he managed to remove all the feather boas and sequined underwear.

Back to Our Show:

            Zeigler told me that most of the guests on “Sonny and Cher” were a joy to work with but there were a few notable exceptions. Though she was well loved, Cloris Leachman had to be chased down in the parking lot after one show. She had a big clothing rack next to her car and was loading all her uber-expensive beaded gowns from the episode into the trunk. When asked what the hell she thought she was doing, Ms. Leachman replied, “Oh, I just thought you threw them out when the show was finished.”

            Tony Curtis was a favorite guest of Exectutive Producer Chris Bearde because the two of them spent the entire week as high as Tina Turner’s skirt.

            The supporting cast would fawn over Jerry Lewis. He was a slap-stick comic god. Many of them had learned to cross their eyes and walk like they’d just been kicked in the nuts from this Burgomeister of buffoonery. Murray said that he was always as nice as a faceful of pie to the cast but he would be absolutely brutal to his sons who followed him around like whipped dogs.  After one especially uncomfortable dressing-down of the Lewis brood, Murray turned to Ted and said “Boy, I’m sure glad I’m not related to him.”

            Jerry would always bring gifts for the cast when he guested. One time he gave them watches. Another time he handed out checks for precisely $19.87. Someone told them later that he made it an amount small enough that you’d never cash the check, you’d just keep it for the autograph. 

            And then there was Raymond Burr.

The Raymond Burr Story:

            On one memorable episode, Theodore and Mr. Perry Mason (who was actually Mr. Robert T. Ironside at the time) appeared together in a sketch about the Mayflower. Raymond played the captain of the ship, arriving in the New World, and Zeigler was dressed up as an oh-so-politically-correct Indian chief. As Burr descended from the gangplank to claim this new and feral land for the crown, Ted, in a squatting position, would approach him barking, “Yankee go home! Yankee go home!” At that point Ray would blithely bop him on the top of the head and Zeigler would pretend to fall unconscious. Hardly Nichols and May but Ted could squeeze a laugh out of almost any given situation. During the rehearsals, Zeigler lightly protested that Raymond was bopping him a little too hard and his scalp was sore. For the actual show, the wardrobe department kindly placed a little extra padding under his feathery headdress and one of the stagehands was enlisted to ask Mr. Burr if it were possible to tap Theodore’s pate a skosh lighter.

            Apparently, this request did not sit well with Canada’s second-nastiest citizen (until someone in Mississauga gives birth to the next Pol Pot, Paul Anka will forever hold that crown).

Fast-forward to Showtime:

In front of the live audience, Ray trudged down the gangplank, Zeigler did his squatting “Yankee go home,” bit and then winced in anticipation. But no bop was forthcoming. A confused Theodore gazed up to see Raymond’s avenging arm raised to the sky and his apoplectic face turning several shades of blood-engorged purple. He was veritably shaking with sociopathic rage as his volley-ball-sized, meaty fist hammered into Zeigler’s skull with all the force the prickly, three-hundred pound actor could muster. Luckily, the sketch called for his fellow braves to drag him off stage because that’s exactly where he came to, minutes later. Theodore said he had a series of pictures somewhere, taken by the set photographer, of Raymond’s furious feather-flattening fist and Ted crashing to the floor like a narcoleptic chicken. Alas, because of his unspeakable filing system, I never got to see them.

             Zeigler quickly became a fan favorite on the show. He was given starring roles in recurring bits, such as the uproariously idiotic Bomb Squad sketches. A cartoonish explosive device would be detected somewhere in France and the bomb squad would show up with their truck. The team would then pass the bowling-ball-with-a-wick-on-it down the line ‘til it got to Ted. Sonny would inform him, “Le bomb.” Ted would warily reply, “Le bomb?” and Sonny would answer in the affirmative.

Eventually Theodore would resignedly walk into the back of the truck, occasionally glancing at his pavid posse pleadingly for succor. The squad would then quickly slam the doors shut and the bomb would explode, followed by a blackened, smoking Zeigler emerging from the vehicle. When the humor turned classy, that’s when the executive producers turned to Ted.

            Bizarrely, when Sonny and Cher split and Bono got his own show, the “atmosphere” who dearly hated his guts, once again ended up as his supporting cast – including Teri Garr, who absolutely despised the man.

            After the “Sonny Comedy Revue” crashed and burned like a Ryanair flight to Ponta Delgada, Langston and the rest of the gang landed on “The Bobby Vinton Show” where Murray and Alan Thicke would fiercely battle over the available and unpicky women in The Greater Toronto Area.

Meanwhile, Sonny and Cher were getting back together and Ted was the only one of the old troupe willing to once again put up with the petty, pretentious prick (Not to mention puny, parsimonious and puss-filled!). But he was also the only one with four kids to feed and an ex-wife.

After this televisual effort folded like a spent dick (one of Theodore’s favorite expressions), Zeigler found himself on “Shields and Yarnell.” Yet another couple that weren’t speaking to each other (joke)! While the show wasn’t a hit, our migrant maven of madcap was finally free from the peacockean strut of a pompous, vainglorious dipshit… or was he?

One day, in the rehearsal hall, Shields called everyone to attention. He had an important announcement. “I just want everybody to know,” he solemnly began, “that I am not the star of this show.” A small pause for effect. “I am the superstar!”

            Ted burst out laughing. It was only when he saw everyone else did not follow his misguided lead that he realized Mr. Humble was deadly serious.” Yikes!

Epilady-log:

It must have killed semi-pro Bono when Cher went on to become a massive international star and all he could muster was being the mayor of a desert town full of fossilized celebrities. That and the tree. Oh well.

            Join me next time for Murray’s biggest mistake which led to his greatest success which led to another mistake that led to our biggest success.

=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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