Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler Part 6: On a Winger and a Prayer

Time waits for no man but it can make your colors more vibrant and your whites even white-ier. Sorry, that’s Tide. I always get those two mixed up. Forget I ever said anything.

A New Beginning:

While our rubber-faced future manager was scattering the unfunny ashes of the Sonny and Cher reunion show over the gritty-to-the-taste waters of the Ganges, Murray had a drastically different, more revolutionary idea about where his glimmering future lay. No longer would he be beholden to “The Man” for his thin, sugar-free slice of the pie. Langston Enterprises would forge its own resplendent destiny and create a veritable Marie Callender’s of fruit-filled crusts for him to feast upon. 

Thusly, our fiscally astute funnyman decided to pour the entirety of his hard, TV-earned cash into a comedy club – a business venture that traditionally has the lifespan of listing fairground goldfish.

Clubbed to Death:

While Murray’s short time as an empire builder would eventually force him to sell his neighbor’s children to pay the rent, a few interesting things did occur while Langston Enterprises was busily grinding sawbucks and Jacksons into dust.

One uproariously amusing evening, a very young Debra Winger wandered into the club with a gal pal and ordered up a couple of cocktails. And when I say “very young,” I mean underage, and the establishment was immediately shut down for liquor infractions. Having just cost our hilarious hero an Alan King’s ransom when he was already projectile-bleeding dosh, there was only one sensible thing to do with this brash, recidivistic bundle of badass.

Murray, an astonishingly successful swordsman, began dating the future Oscar-nominated actress. Although Debra later became a waitress at the establishment she’d almost driven out of business, a vast majority of her time was spent demonstrating her affection for her new boss in the back of his car in the parking lot. No wonder she had such an easy time staying on that mechanical bull!

One of the battalion of flaws in Langston’s meticulously thought-out corporate manifesto was his Godot-like attendance record. Mr. Boss was constantly absent from his cracked and thin-shelled nest egg, filming the “Bobby Vinton Show” in Canada. While Murray was convincing Toronto’s fairest flowers to allow him to pollenize their pistils, he enlisted R.B. Greaves to manage his laugh barn. Some of the older and fogyer of you may recall that Mr. Greaves was the gentleman who composed and scored the original hit with the tune “Take a Letter Maria.”

Now, being an absentee entrepreneur can present the occasional difficulty – even when you’ve entrusted the entirety of your life savings to a one-hit-wonder songwriter. Like the time Greaves got into a huge blood-spattered fistfight in the club’s bathroom with some guy who was dating Joey Heatherton. Well, who hasn’t?

One night, aspiring comedian Michael Douglas – who later changed his name to Michael Keaton – told a joke about Durward Kirby. About as unlikely as finding a leftover can of lager at a Scottish funeral, Durward’s son happened to be the audience. After his set, the son followed Michael out back and tried to beat the living batshit out of him. Let’s face it: there is nothing that will induce an unassuming, church-going pacifist to stab you in the eye with a shoe-awl faster than to besmirch the name of Durward Kirby!

It wasn’t long before Murray was broker than a biker chick’s hymen. Desperate times were on the horizon. He tried selling his sperm for cash but the kid in the booth next to him had way better-tasting lemonade.

Rise of the Baggy-Faced Comedian:

As luck would have it, Chris Bearde was in the process of firing up a brand new production… or was it? According to Chris, he stole the idea for the “Gong Show” from a tiny local station in Australia. But Chuck Barris is listed on IMDB as the sole creator. How could this possibly be possible, you may query. Luckily, I am all-knowing and all-seeing in the backroom machinations of the biz.

And the Answer Comes Back:

According to his friends, Mr. Bearde could be quite loveable but alas, he could also be nigh on impossible to love. He was a whirling, swirling, screaming Tasmanian Devil… and that was when he was rarely sober.

Despite his public persona, Chuck was a fairly centered guy and his partner’s ear-splitting and erratic drug-fueled behavior somewhat unsettled him. Once, Barris had to have Chris physically removed from the studio, for everyone’s safety, by a couple of burly guards. In the end, lucky Chucky decided to buy out Chris’s participation in the project for 3 to 5 million bucks. So, Bearde purchased a nice big house in Malibu to scream in and Mr. Barris went on to host a legendary show.

Back to our Impecunious Imp:

While Christopher was inhaling high-grade brain-bombs off the downy chests of Billionaire Beach bunnies, Murray was dining on the corndog shrapnel scooped out of an AM/PM rotisserie catch tray. As an act of charity, Chuck offered to have him appear on the “Gong Show” but Mr. Langston was somewhat conflicted. While he didn’t have any money, he did still have a couple of shreds of pride left hanging in his beleaguered closet. Still, the payday was tempting, and mustache lice only provided so much protein to his diet. There was an upside to this Sean-Spicer-on-Dancing-with-the-Stars level of humiliation. He was in the union so he would get paid much needed cash, win, lose or be-gonged. In the end, Murray invested in an anonymizing grocery bag to place over his shame-filled-but-hungry head and the rest – as they say – is television history.

The Unknown Comic (Murray’s nom-de-pun) appeared over 150 times on the “Gong Show,” garnering a grand total of 138 laughs. I jest. Overnight, he became a silly sensation.

To capitalize on his rising fame, The Unknownster decided to take his act to Vegas and four-wall it. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it means that Murray rented a showroom from the hotel, paid all the expenses (paper bags don’t come cheap!) and made his initial outlay back with ticket sales and merchandise. Only The Unknown Comic didn’t really have much merchandise to sell. Even so, the newly hot Langston was bringing in a cool five grand a week in revenues. The problem was it was costing him a freezing seven. Murray had just doggedly chiseled himself out of a bankruptcy bunker and now he was working twice as hard to tunnel his way back in.

Ted to the Rescue:

Luckily – you notice how many times I’ve used that word when I’m referring to Mr. Langston – Theodore L. Zeigler ambled back into his buddy’s lucre-leaking life to gently prod him off the penury pathway. Ted assumed managerial duties for his old pal and quickly had Murray back in the black. While Zeigler himself was as honest as a buggy full of Quakers, he got along famously with the infamously organized fellows who ruled The Vegas Strip at that time. The kind of gentlemen often depicted in Martin Scorsese films sawing through a stool pigeon’s neck.

A Brief History of Las Vegas:

Apparently, back then a number of the hotels in town were owned by a fellow – let’s call him Peter. Now Pete didn’t really own these emporiums of chance – the mob did – but their legal entanglements made it necessary to have a signature on the gambling permits that squeaked when you rubbed it. There’s a knee-slapping article from 1988 about how penurious Pete – who was just a musician at a Vegas hotel – assiduously saved up his tip-snifter money and magically convinced banks to help finance his purchase of a number of casinos. Even though the story was a piece of fluff, the author did feel compelled to mention that Petey had once been partnered on a Vegas hotel deal with a Midwest mafia family. His bilk buddies were all quickly arrested and jailed for skimming untaxed money from gambling revenues but slippery Pete managed to remain out of the pokey and was quickly installed as the un-indicted face of Las Vegas gaming.

Murray told me that Howard Hughes was the person who ruined Vegas for the bent nose brigade. When he wasn’t jacking off to Ice Station Zebra, he was demanding that each segment of his hotel empire make money. Now, if you’re laundering ill-gotten gain (check out Ozark), you don’t need to turn a profit, you just need prodigious piles of pelf – regardless of provenance – flowing in and clean money flowing out.

Back to Our Story:

Within no time at all, Ted had Murray headlining a certain Pete-owned casino and being paid big bucks rather than losing them. This completely upside-down way of doing business must have sent the Langston Enterprises bookkeepers into accounting conniptions. 

Another reason entertainers loved “The Good Old Days” in Vegas was the legendary “The Power of the Pen.” As a headliner, Murray could literally sign for anything provided by the hotel and not have to pay a nickel.

He once threw a party in his suite and ordered two grand worth of food and drink ($9,000 in today’s money), with the happy-happy knowledge that it was all completely on the house.

Yes, things were good.

Ted even landed a part-time job introducing the Jackson 5 for their Vegas extravaganza.

And Then Things Begin to Slide:

But all was not Sunburst Fruit Chews and lip gloss in the city that never sleeps… well, at least for Mr. Zeigler. Ted occupied the adjoining suite to Murray’s and was kept awake countless nights by the Unknown Comic cacophonously copulating with his female fans. Many a laugh-loving lass would throw herself at Murray after his show and he cheerfully obliged by catching them. Whatever else he caught in this selfless endeavor to connect with his audience is between him and his urologist.

Besides being kept awake by his partner’s high-volume histrionic humping, Ted was also experiencing periodic headaches and dizziness. The subsequent diagnosis was not something anyone ever wants to hear. He had a benign tumor growing on his pituitary gland.

Although it wasn’t a death sentence, the surgery to remove it necessitated drilling in through his skull. Theodore – never one to fully embrace established medical practices – decided to put off his date with the surgeon’s Black & Decker. 

Here things get a little hazy. Ted told me early on that when the entertainment community found out about his affliction, his work dried up. And indeed, if you check his IMDB, after Shields and Yarnell, his career is reduced to the occasional guest spot or voice work in animation. The weird thing is: when I asked Mr. Langston about Ted’s brain tumor, he knew absolutely nothing about it. Bob Zeigler, his son, was only informed right before Ted went in for surgery in 1984.

And if that wasn’t enough bad news to suck on, Murray announced that he was going to sign with a high-powered management team – let’s call them Miss and Stichen – and Ted’s services would no longer be required.

Side Note:

It didn’t take Langston long to figure out he’d made yet another huge financial blunder. Ted was a real hands-on manager. He arranged everything from limos to the proper flossing products for his client. Ted even escorted women up to Murray’s room after the show.

The only thing Miss and Stichen had there hands on was Langston’s cash. He wasn’t getting any more jobs than before and the management fees were staggering. When Murray found out that he was flying to his gigs in economy while Miss and Stichen were flying first class on his dime, he canned their high-priced asses and has managed his own affairs ever since.

Rock Bottom Is Hit:

And there stood poor Ted Zeigler – a sagging showbiz career, fired as Murray’s manager and cultivating a loquat-sized brain tumor behind his eyeball. So, alas, as with most people in this wretched world who reach their absolute lowest ebb, when the chips are not only down but smashed into pieces and pissed on – running into Nicholls and Vickers was inevitably just around the corner. 

Next week, a couple of idiots make a mistake that earns them 4 Emmy nominations and an invitation into the crazy world of Ted Zeigler. 



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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