With Volumn I of Redux coming to a close, I wanted to do something different. Since I can do pretty much anything I want with this blog, instead of gripping about politics, youth, and philosophy, I’m going to publish my stories.
I’ve had some strange obsessions over the years. Some dark, some weird. My current obsession is a little bit of both.
The 1970s were a strange time for America. A good time too. Some call it America’s “hangover” from the 60s. That sounds about right. The 60s was a busy decade. The Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, political assassinations, Summer of Love…it was certainly a turning point. The 70s came about and suddenly Americans were no longer innocent. They were bitter, depressed, and wanted to get IT ON. It was the birth of modern American cynicism.
For that alone, the 1970s deserve a reassessment. The decade greatly reflects our own time. After 9/11 and a fraudulent war, Americans elected Barack Obama who perhaps fulfilled the legacy that John F. Kennedy promised us. This ignited a Civil Rights Movement Part II, which temporarily made Americans feel good about themselves. But such a sudden shift in ideals offered a violent pushback. The result was Trumpism, which provides a similar “hangover” effect that caused the election of Richard Nixon.
To understand the 70s, we musn’t look to the great artists of those days….not the ground-breaking film and television that leaves a lasting legacy. Nay. Although those things reflected what the people thought of THEMSELVES in the 1970s, it didn’t reveal to them what they WERE.
To get those answers, we must look at what is perhaps the 1970s greatest achievement: the perfection of game shows.
Now I don’t know what this Phil Whistle story might reveal. But if I wish to be a storyteller, then I must tell a story.
Plus, give me a fucking break. I just came up with this thing on Sunday.
August, 1975- Beverly Hills
“Great news Phil! Guess My Line wants you on their celebrity guest panel. Come to the office and let’s get the paperwork done!”
“Charlie, it’s 8 in the fucking morning. I went to bed four hours ago.”
“15 grand per episode. Want it or not?”
“Fucking shit”. I thought. I hung up the phone and crawled out of bed. I realized my pants were missing.
I also realized that there was some red-headed sweetie lying next to me. I think she was a contestant on the show a few weeks back.
“Sweetie, I gotta go meet my agent. I’ll drop you off wherever you need to go.” I say to her.
“Can’t I stay here?”, she asks.
“Alright, but if you’re going to steal any of my shit, don’t steal my Jack Harper autograph.” I grab my pants and turn around.
“Or my Oscar”
I meet Charlie at his office in Burbank. I tell his secretary to get me a bagel and a Bloody Mary.
“It’s 9:30, Phil.” Charlie says to me.
“I know, I’m getting started late. So that toupee’d son-of-a-bitch is willing to share a stage with me?”
“Yes, George is willing to have you on the show. Since your program aired, George’s has been slipping. ABC is shitting a brick and Luke is desperate to get it back on its feet. He toyed with the idea of having a Family Showdown: Celebrity Edition with George and his family appearing.”
“George’s family hates him”, I say
“Which is why you’re appearing on HIS show. And the deal is for the rest of the season.”
“Fuck it”, I said. I signed the paperwork.
Before each taping of Family Showdown, I light up a cigarette. Then I light up another one for good luck. For this particular taping, a contestant, forgot his name, came up to me.
“Mr. Whistle, uh, I’m a BIG fan. But can I ask you a favor? In my family, we’re Christian, so I’m just wondering if you could not kiss my wife?” He asks me.
“Well, that’s kind of my thing buddy. But I tell you what…how about I just kiss her on the cheek. Will that work?”
“Absolutely! Thanks Mr. Whistle!”
I kissed both his wife and mother. I should have kissed his father too. But I buttoned up my three-piece suit and got ready for the call.
“Welcome to FAMILY SHOWDOWN! With your host….PHIL WHISTLE!” The announcer calls. I run up on stage and everyone goes apeshit. After the crowd laughs their balls off at a few lame jokes, I introduce the contestants.
“The Towler family flew all the way over here from Texas! What part?” I ask the father.
“Phil, we flew in here from San Antonio and we watch your show every night. We have to get away from that Texas heat every once in awhile! Know what I’m saying?”, he responds.
“Say no more”
Because I don’t care. Then I walk across the stage to kiss the big-titted family from Minnesota and we’re ready to play:
“Tell me, Mike, name something that a police officer uses every day?”
“So Lisa, at what age do women stop being interested in sex?”
Between commercial breaks, I smoke two more cigarettes. When we stand on the stage at the end of each recording, a grandmother will sometimes sneak me her panties. At the end of this particular episode, I decide to take a nap in my dressing room. I was still hungover and was hoping to sneak one in before the next recording. Unfortunately, the associate producer Amber Lindenwood, daughter of show creator Luke Lindenwood, interrupts me.
“I’d like to go over some show notes.” She says, “Dad wanted me to clear this with you before his meeting with the studio.”
I then decided to forgo my nap. “I can’t, I’m on my way to the set of Guess My Line“, I respond. I didn’t have time for that shit.
“But he wanted me….”
“Don’t worry about your dad. I can handle him.” I interrupt. I undo my tie and rush to the next set.
“When would be a good time to meet up with you then?” she asks. Amber was, I dunno, 23? Long-haired brunette. Nice legs. “I can meet you at your place tonight.”
“Amber, your father would sock me square in the face if he found out you were at my house.” I tell her.
“There are just a few things that I’ve been wanting to discuss with you. Just hear me out. Please.”
“Shit” I thought. This girl has grown a crush on me and I might do something that I will probably regret.
“Fine. I’ll make you a nice dinner”, I say. “Scallops, or salad, or whatever people eat these days. I’ll have my butler make it. But don’t tell your dad. Be there by 7.”
I rush down to the set.
Unfortunately Luke also ran Guess My Line. He was there waiting for me.
“Did you talk to Amber?”, he asks.
“No. I had to get out of there. What’s happening, Luke?”, I ask as I give him a buddy-slap to the back.
“Big news from upstairs. We desperately need to talk.”
“We’re talking now baby!”, I walk over to the bottle of scotch and help myself.
“We want you to take over Guess My Line.”, Luke informs me. I take a big sip of my drink.
“So you’re firing George?”, I ask.
“We’re letting him go at the end of the season.”
“Why don’t you go talk to Charlie about this?”
“I want to discuss this with you before we start cutting deals and getting the agents involved.”
I just shrug my shoulders. “There’s nothing to discuss! You have a massive hit with Family Showdown. Everyone’s getting rich! Why fuck with a good thing Luke?!”
“I know. This is why we need to have a meeting. Maybe toss some ideas around on how to improve the show if you were to come back. How about if I swing by your place tonight?”
“No can do, good buddy. I’ve got a convention tonight at 7.”
“Where at? We’ll meet up for drinks afterwards.”
“Uh, it’s in Riverside. Look, I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of this idea. But I promise you that I’ll entertain it. Get with me on Sunday, I’ll have you over for a few cocktails, I’ll have my butler grill us up a few steaks, maybe have a few broads over. We’ll have a great time when we discuss this. I promise.”
I rush Luke out of my dressing room and down the scotch. Then I pour another one to bring to the set. I walk behind the stage and there was the entire gang.
“Hey Phil! I haven’t seen you since you got your own show. I wouldn’t mind getting another blow on THAT whistle.” Norma said to me.
Norma Lynn is a regular guest on the celebrity panel. She hadn’t been funny since 1967 but had to pay the bills somehow. She got George and me drunk one night and convinced us to run a train on her. George probably realized that I had a bigger dick than he did and has been hostile to me ever since.
Others on the panel were Tom Oswald, another unemployed comedian that has yet to realize he’s going bald. Dana Walsh, an actor that co-starred on Walker’s Wishes with me. And Betty….Betty…..I forgot her last name.
Yet the one I didn’t know, but wanted to know, was Jillian Jonah. A model I suppose. A tall, blond firecracker of a woman.
The stage director showed us to our seats. I was stationed in the front row between Jillian and Betty. I hid my glass of scotch behind my name card. Finally George Hammerscmidt decided to show his face.
“Well well well, as I live and breath. Phil Whistle. How are you, you magnificent bastard? I see that you still have your hairline.” George says to me.
“Yes, and I see that you still have a show!”. We share a few laughs.
“You know”, George says, “I am always surprised that you were once a British guy.”
I wanted to punch those fake teeth right out of his fucking mouth. But I continue to be jovial with him. The stage director then called for everyone to the set.
“Welcome to GUESS MY LINE! With your host GEORGE HAMMERSCMIDT! Featuring Dana Walsh….Norma Lynn….Betty”…and the announcer goes on. Finally he gets to my name.
“And welcoming back to the studio, FAMILY SHOWDOWN’S very own………PHIL WHISTLLLLLLLLLLLLE!”
The crowd goes wild.
George came out and did the same bullshit shtick he’s always done. He bumbles around like the old idiot that he is, pretending not to understand this current generation despite getting blowjobs from hookers and doing coke with Dennis Hopper. Then they wonder why his ratings are tanking.
I phoned it in for most of the show. All I had to do was open my mouth and people laughed. I could tell George hated it. Eventually he walks over to me on the air and grabs the glass that I had hidden away then takes a sip. What a fucker.
“How do you like that ginger ale George?”, Norma asks him.
“Whew! Go easy on that Phil. Call a taxi if you’re driving home.” he replies.
There might’ve been a few gasps in the audience. But all of LA knew that I was drinking. The entire panel was drinking for Christ sake!
After the taping, I drive home to the Hills where I discover that my Rolls-Royce was missing. When I advised that red-headed sweetie on what NOT to steal from my home, I probably should have included the Rolls. But when I walked in the house, I found her passed out buck naked in the Jacuzzi.
“Hey, did you see anybody come to the house and steal a car?” I ask.
“Yeah, some one came in and said that they were your son. He didn’t look anything like you though.”