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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10, 1982

Last week, we started off the brand new Tuesday Timeline feature, which is a day where we go back in time to take a look back at significant events that have happened in the world of Hollywood, and other places.

Last week, we took a look back at the life of Dallas starlet Victoria Principal, and some of her achievements over the years. The reason being that we flashed back to the date when she was born.

This week, we're going to be looking back on a date that is a little more morbid. Because the date that we are flashing back to in this edition is one where an actor passed away.

Fear not though. Although he may no longer be with us in body, his work still lives on. Matter of fact, there's one animated series that is currently on the air that seems to embody his spirit quite well...particularly with one specific character.

But, we'll get to that.

For now, let's hop into our time machine and transport back in time exactly thirty years from now.

The date? January 10, 1982.

Granted, I can't really tell you about my own personal experiences about that date, as I was barely eight months old on that date. But 1982 was a year in which quite a bit went on in the world. It was the year that the World's Fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was a year in which Michael Jackson released 'Thriller', which would become his biggest selling album of his career. And, here's something you may not have known, but apparently 1982 was the year that the 'emoticon' was created!

The things you learn on this blog, huh?

On January 10, 1982, Hollywood said goodbye to one of its finest character actors, who later became a game show panelist. He enjoyed a career that lasted over three decades before he succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 55.

So, who is this person?

Paul Lynde. The man who had a prominent role on Bewitched, starred in Broadway in the musical 'Bye, Bye, Birdie', and was the center square in the television game show 'Hollywood Squares' from 1968-1981.

So, what do we know about Paul's early life?

Paul Lynde was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio in 1926, going to school for drama at Northwestern University. Turns out that Northwestern must have been a great school for budding actors and actresses at the time. Some of the students who attended the school while Lynde was there included Patricia Neal, Claude Akins, and future 'The Facts Of Life' stars Charlotte Rae and Cloris Leachman!

Wow...who knew that Mrs. Garrett and Beverly Ann went to school together in real life? Go figure. The things you learn from, huh?

Anyway, back to Paul Lynde.

As it turned out, Paul Lynde just happened to be in situations where he was always surrounded by celebrities. When he got his first big break in 1952, with the Broadway revue 'New Faces of 1952', he wasn't the only new face in the act. He co-starred with Alice Ghostley, Carol Lawrence, and a young Eartha Kitt. He would later star in a short-lived sitcom, 'Stanley', in 1956 alongside Buddy Hackett and Carol Burnett.

Clearly, Paul Lynde was in brilliant company.

By 1960, Paul Lynde was back on Broadway in the role of 'Harry MacAfee' in the musical, 'Bye Bye, Birdie'. His role must have been quite the success, as he was also cast in the 1963 theatrical version. That same year, Lynde recorded a live album, 'Recently Released'.

Shortly after filming the movie version of 'Bye, Bye, Birdie', Lynde began making guest appearances in various sitcoms of the 1960s, including 'I Dream Of Jeannie', 'The Munsters', and 'The Phil Silvers Show' before landing a role on the television sitcom, 'Bewitched'. And here's the funny thing about his time on Bewitched. Did you know that he ended up playing TWO roles in the show? It's true!

Lynde was first brought on the show during the twenty-sixth episode of the series. In that episode, he played a driving instructor named Harold Harold. But that role was only a one-off. It wouldn't be until a few episodes later that he would end up playing the recurring (and more well known) role of Samantha's Uncle Arthur. Check out this clip of Lynde in action below as Uncle Arthur, teaching Darrin how to do a magic trick!

It should also be known that Lynde also lended his voice to animated cartoons, and (here's a little hint for tomorrow's entry...he voiced a rat in the animated movie of the book that I'll be talking about, so keep an eye out for it!)

Perhaps the one television show that many people seem to associate Paul Lynde with was the original version of Hollywood Squares.

For those of you who may not know what Hollywood Squares was, think of a life size version of the classic game Tic-Tac-Toe. The celebrities in the grid would be asked questions, and they would give an answer that were either true or false. If the player answered correctly, they would get a mark on the grid. If they got it wrong, the opponent would get the mark instead. Whoever got three X's or three O's first would win the round. At the end of the game, whoever had the most rounds won, or the most points at the end of the game would win the game and go on to play a bonus round.

In recent years, we've seen celebrities such as Joan Rivers and Whoopi Goldberg in the center square of the grid. Back in the 1960s, the center square was occupied by Paul Lynde. And, would you believe that there were a number of rumours going around as to why Lynde was always featured in that spot?

The most common one that was heard around that time was that Paul Lynde was deathly afraid of earthquakes, which given that Hollywood Squares taped in Hollywood, earthquakes were prone to happen. It was widely believed for a number of years that Paul Lynde was put in the center square because there was the belief that if an earthquake should occur, the center square was the safest spot to be in. Even today, some people still believe this to be the case, even though an A&E Biography special on Lynde stated that Lynde remained calm when an earthquake really DID happen during a taping. He was so calm that it was reported that he was sitting in his seat, tapping his fingers, asking when the show would continue.

Whatever you believe about how Lynde ended up in the center square for so many years, the truth of the matter is that he was put there by the producers. I can see why. Just researching his time on Hollywood Squares and the number of answers he gave when he was asked various questions, it's easy to see why he earned his spot on the grid. His one-liners and quick wit were legendary in the game show world. And, yes, I have provided several examples of this below. Just click on the links below.

This was some funny stuff. Even forty years later, it's still somewhat relevant.

It's also interesting to note that a lot of the jokes that Lynde made seemed to hide a secret (albeit open secret) that he had lived with his whole life. And, no the secret isn't that he had a drinking problem, although that was one thing that WAS known about him.

The 'open secret' was about Paul Lynde's sexuality.

These days, it's no big deal if a celebrity is out and proud (despite the fact that in 2012, homophobia is still very much present, sadly enough).  Back in the 1950s and 1960s however, the prejudices towards gay people were very much amplified. It was widely believed and not a huge secret that Paul Lynde was gay.   It was just not advertised, so to speak. It was never acknowledged or talked about. It just simply wasn't done back then. As a result of this, Lynde never officially came out as being gay.

I think the reason why he didn't was because Lynde knew that it would spell the end of his career. Yet, there were a couple of instances in which his career almost did end.

In 1965, he was involved in the investigation of the death of a 24-year-old man, Bing Davidson, who fell off a hotel room balcony eight stories to his death, due to being intoxicated. Although the death was witnessed by a couple of policemen, the news about the death was kept out of the press. The reason why Lynde was involved? He was in the room at time time, and the man was widely reported to be Lynde's companion at the time of his death. The fact that the news was kept out of public view meant that Lynde's career was spared. But one has to wonder if his alcohol abuse was triggered by the whole incident as well, as he had a number of arrests during the 1970s as a result of him abusing substances.

Lynde did end up beating his addictions, and by 1981, he was clean and sober. So for him to die just months later was tragic.

Today, Lynde's work has been forever immortalized in various clips on YouTube and DVD sets of Bewitched, which can still be sold in various places. And when the animated show 'American Dad' debuted, there's definitely a Paul Lynde vibe going on within the character of Roger. Have a listen for yourselves.

So, what life lessons can we learn about the life of Paul Lynde? It's hard to say. I do think that Paul Lynde might have probably been born a little bit late in life. It must have been really hard for him to have to hide who he really was from everyone because of social mores and customs that kept him from truly being himself. It must have been a really horrible thing to go through. Yet, somehow, Paul Lynde managed to go to work each day and do what he wanted to do, which was entertain people through television and film. Yes, he did have some personal demons in his life (some of which may or may not have been caused by the secrets he was forced to keep in his personal life), but by the end of it all, he managed to beat them. I imagine that had Paul lived past 1982, he would have kept up his healthy lifestyle, because I think he was starting to come to terms with the inner peace inside of him.

And that's what I think Paul Lynde could teach us. To find that inner peace and hold on to it. And, I think if there's anything that Paul Lynde could teach all of us during his lifetime, it's that we shouldn't let anyone tell us what is right or what is wrong for us. We should live our lives the way we want to, and if people don't agree, well, nuts to them.

I only wish that things could have been different for Paul Lynde...but hey, what a difference thirty years makes.

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