"People USA", hosted
by Bill Bishofberger,
Then ALEX HALEY was scheduled to give a speech at the campus and I arranged an interview. That was the start of my entertainment interview program, titled “People USA”. I was very nervous to do the interview, but it came off quite well. RALPH NADER followed and although it was a short interview, it was enough to include with another guest for a full program.
Here are some of my thoughts/remembrances from other celebrity interviews:
During the summer of 1977, I went to a “Broadcasting School” in Hollywood to get my First Class Radio License. Before going to Hollywood, I had written to two people that I wanted to do interviews with and they both wrote me back and set dates and times.
MEL BLANC was a kick! You have to remember there was no Wikipedia or
internet back then, so I had to do all of my pre-show homework by reading
books. I knew that Mel always started his interviews doing Bugs Bunny
(eh-What’s Up Bill?) and ended them all with Porky Pig (T-t-t-that’s all
folks). It’s the voices he does in-between that are determined on how he
liked you. I started talking about the “Jack Benny Show” and he did the
bear growl and the Maxwell. He did different dialects and then I asked him
about “The Happy Postman” character that he did. He told me that he never
did that character and I said that I was sure he did…on the “Burns and
Allen” radio show. He then said “Yessss…Yes I did.” He then did the
character and kept doing more and more. Halfway through the interview
(when we got to the Warner Brothers and other cartoon characters), I began
to giggle. He stopped and asked what was wrong. I said “Nothing…I am just
hearing my childhood being played out right in front of me.”
CASEY KASEM was an interview that was pre-set via KJOY, as they began running “American Top 40” during its’ first year. I met Casey at the Hollywood studio where he recorded his show. He was on his way out the door, but agreed to do the interview. Seems someone forgot to tell him that it was set up. He was in a bit of a hurry until I told him that we were with him from the first year. He then told me to ask all the questions that I wanted. Turned out to be a great interview.
Next door to us in Hollywood at the apartment that we rented, was a gentleman named Ted Joyce. He used to be a publicist in the movie industry. He took an interest in my show and started making phone calls on my behalf to entertainers. I watched him make one of the calls. He just dialed a number without looking up a number and said “Milton? I have a young man here who would like to interview you”. Of course it was Milton Berle. He was leaving the country to tape the “Muppets Show”, so I did not get to interview him. Ted did, however, set me up with several interviews.
ART LINKLETTER was one of those people. I drove to his home and had a wonderful interview with him. At the end, he showed me his Emmy Award and let me take a photo of him with it in his backyard.
WILL SAMPSON, best known as Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was another. This interview did not go as well. I had several questions for him, but I seemed to only as yes-and-no questions, and that is how he answered…yep-and-nope. I only got 7 minutes of tapes after asking twenty-some questions. After I packed up my cassette recorder and microphones and got into my car, he began to open up and talked non-stop for 30 minutes with me sitting there with the car running and no recording going on. I found out later that he (like many American Indians) did not warm up to people right away, but once he did, watch out. Lesson learned.
I got off on the wrong foot with RICHARD DAWSON. When I arrived at his house, he greeted me and took me out to his backyard to his pool area. We sat at a poolside table and his St. Bernard dog got out of the pool, came over to me and slobbered all over my clothes. Richard threw me a towel and we began the interview. One of my first questions was “Do you enjoy announcing Family Feud?”. He said with a bit of disgust in his voice, “I am the HOST, not the Announcer…Gene Wood is the Announcer!” Although I got a lot of materiel for the show, we just did not connect all that well.
RAY BOLGER was a wonderful person to interview. I arrived at his house and his wife, a cute small woman told me to go out back to the “Studio” where I would find Ray. It was his dance studio/office. He spent a lot of time with me and whenever he smiled, you could see the Scarecrow of Oz face and I realized that I really was interviewing someone that I had grown up with. What a thrill it was for me to be sitting a few feet away from him. Here is that raw interview:
DAVID BIRNEY was another interview set up by Ted Joyce. I drove out to the Birney house and was met at the door by Meredith Baxter Birney. She was at that time on the TV show “Family” and I was speechless when I saw her. I would have loved to interview her too, but I was there to interview David about his “Serpico” TV show.
Interviewing JERRY PARIS came with a bonus. I knew of Jerry, as many did, from his years on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. At the time of my interview, he was directing “Happy Days”. I got to go onto the Paramount lot and to the sound stage where the show was taped. It was a rehearsal day for “The First Thanksgiving” episode. I arrived early (with my 2nd cousin along with me) and we got to watch a lot of the rehearsal. We were sitting in the audience bleachers by ourselves, and all of a sudden I heard “Hi. Are you enjoying the rehearsal?” next to me. I turned around and it was Henry Winkler. He came up just to say hi. We chatted with him for a while and he could not have been nicer. Then it was time to go down to the set, sit on the Cunningham couch and do the interview with Jerry.
STEVE ALLEN was another amazing man to talk with. I met him at his home and just sat in awe of his talent and knowledge. He was another person who gave me all the time I needed to get the interview I wanted.
ROYAL DANO. I am a Mickey Mouse memorabilia collector, so interviewing the man who did the voice of Abraham Lincoln at Disneyland was a treat. From the first word out of his mouth, you knew the voice. This was the longest interview that I had ever done for the show. Royal enjoyed talking about his life, the movies and Disney. I kept flipping and changing cassettes. The interview turned out to be over 2 hours long and became my first 2-parter.
MILT LARSON was another interview set up by Ted Joyce. I did magic as a youngster, so being able to go over the Magic Castle was special. I just walked right in the front door and was met by Milt. We went to his office where I did the interview and then he walked me outside and back into the front door where the famous bookcase was now set up for the evening. I had to use the magic words to get in and then he gave us a tour of the Castle. A year later, Milt invited me to see his “It’s Magic” show (which, by the way, is still on a yearly tour) and to do interviews with the magicians of the show… SHIMADA, THE GREAT FALKENSTEIN and the host of the show, HARRY ANDERSON, who had yet to star in “Night Court”. I still have fond memories of my time with Milt.
JACK KINNEY was an animator with Walt Disney. He is often considered the 10th of the 9 Old Men. I visited with him at his home and he could not have been nicer. I told him of my collection and he drew me a Mickey Mouse and a Goofy that I still have hanging in my home.
Another place that I did a lot of my interviews was at the California
State Fair in Sacramento. It was about an hour drive from my house and an
almost daily trip for the 2 weeks that the Fair lasted. I would walk
around the Fair for a bit, catch a bit of the first show of the person I
was interviewing…they did 2 a day…and then went to the Media Room where I
would interview the performer between their show.
PETER MARSHALL talked about his singing career as well as hosting “Hollywood Squares” (I made sure not to call him an announcer.)
BOBBY GOLDSBORO was a hoot! Once he begins telling stories about being a klutz, he has you laughing non-stop…until it comes to the big toe story.
Also interviewed at the Fair were THE LOCKERS (which included FRED “RERUN” BERRY), THE HAGER BROTHERS from “Hee Haw”, JERRY REED, JOSE FELICIANO, LYNN ANDERSON, WILLY TYLER & LESTER (see below), LOU RAWLS, and SANDLER & YOUNG.
JERRY VAN DYKE was the Fair exception. For whatever reason, they put him on a houseboat in the Fair Canal between shows instead of the main office, where all the other interviews were done. I went to the houseboat to do the interview and was invited in with the provision that I “didn’t mind getting sick.” Jerry was not feeling well, but was kind enough to do the interview. He was a joy to talk to and we shared Jerry Paris stories.
There were some interviews that were done elsewhere. Those included interviewing RONALD REAGAN and JIMMY STEWART on the same evening. This was during President Reagan’s campaign. He flew into Stockton for a fund raising breakfast and I was able to ask a few questions. He brought Jimmy with him as a guest, so I was able to ask him a few questions too.
BOB BARKER was a telephone interview. We had set it up and when I called the number given, I found it to be his mother’s house. Her house had just been burglarized, but Bob took the time to do the 20 minutes that I needed.
I began working at KJOY in Stockton. Hired as a call-in talk show host, I also became a disc jockey. The call-in show (that I took over), was set up as a 3 hour Sunday night 9-Midnight program with one guest for the full 3 hours. I asked if I could reduce it down to 2 hours with 2 guests (one each hour) and then provide them with my “People USA’ show. They were fine with that and this ran for several years.
One of the musical
groups that stopped by the station were members of THE SPINNERS. After a
quick look through the Billboard list of songs and no other background
information, I did the interview.
I also had set up a telephone interview with magician DAVID COPPERFIELD. I found out that he was going to be performing in Lake Tahoe a day before the interview, so I went up to see the show. Afterwards, where he meets the audience, I told him I would be talking with him tomorrow. When I made the call, he remembered me and we had a great interview.
ARTHUR DUNCAN and
ANN CASTLE both performed together in Lodi. I went to the show to do the
interview. They were not the only Lawrence Welk performers that I
interviewed. They seemed to be very popular with the many Germans in our
town. KEN DELO, MARY LOU METZGER and SANDY GRIFFITHS were very nice to
GEORGE SHEARING came to town for a concert and I got to go backstage to meet him. I still remember asking him “Have you been blind all your life?” and he answered “Not yet.”
SHARI LEWIS did a benefit performance in Sacramento. I went backstage and
I felt like I was talking with a first-grade teacher. She was so nice and
polite. She even let me put Lamb Chop on and try my hand at ventriloquism.
When I asked her “What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?” She turned it
around and asked “What do YOU hope to be doing in 10 years?”
Another ventriloquist was WILLIE TYLER, who's sidekick was
MICHAEL DAMIAN and his family became friends of mine. I first met them when I was doing a midnight-to-6AM shift at KJOY. The station had a huge window facing the street. At 2:30 AM, a van pulled up and stopped. Out jumped 9 people. It was like watching the clown car at the circus. How many people could they fit in there? They came up to the window and showed me their album cover (The Weirz). I let them in and played a few cuts from their album on the air. Michael went on to do “The Young and the Restless” and the station was going to host a Walk-A-Thon. We invited Michael and his family to come up from L.A. to perform. They agreed. I hosted a dinner for them at my house, and the next day, they rode around with me in the KJOY van as we made various stops to visit with the walkers. Then it was off to the Delta College campus for the performance. They did their show and, at the end, Michael and I ran to a small room where we were going to set up a table where Michael would sign autographs. Before we could get the table set up near the door, we could hear screaming girls pushing against the door. It was just the 2 of us in there at the time and I asked him “What do you normally do in this situation?” He said “I don’t know…my family is usually here to help.” His family did show up and we got things going. At one point he signed a Pepsi can and the girl went crazy. He gave a kiss on the cheek to another and she said “I’m never going to wash my face again”. I looked at him at that point and said…”Oh that’s right, you used the bathroom at my house. I’m never going to clean the toilet seat again.” I did several interviews with Michael and his family and they were nice enough to host me at their home too.