Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spectrum Files #1: In Which I Salute Chuck Barris

Volume 1:  The Gong Show Movie

Not too long ago my wife and I sat down to watch George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind".  It's the supposed autobiographical journey of one Chuck Barris. 

Yes, he of "The Gong Show" fame.  

Now it's pretty well known that he wrote the hit song "Palisades Park" that Freddy Cannon made famous and was a game show genius producer being behind "The Dating Game" among others including "The Gong Show".  What this film (based upon Barris' own book) is trying to tell you is that besides all of those credit-deserving ventures, he was once a highly successful assassin for the CIA. 

I won't give any more credence to that voluminous tidbit other than acknowledging that it made for a hell of a premise and an even greater movie. 

As a kid in the early 80's Spectrum showcased "The Gong Show Movie".  I was completely confused, as other than catching a few moments at the end of an episode that was an early evening lead-in to prime time television, I had never seen the show.  (Later when my parents eventually got cable, I caught some reruns on the fledgling USA Network, however.)

The movie mystified it me.  The premise of "The Gong Show Movie" is that it is a fictional week in the life of Barris, as he tries to put together episodes of the show for impending broadcast.  I remember a lot of weird things happening including bizarre auditions,  Jaye P. Morgan with a ridiculous strip-tease, and a "Doors"-like venture into the desert as a result of a nervous breakdown for Mr. Barris.  Also, one of the auditioners sang a song about legalizing prostitution that his wife danced to, resulting in my friend and I getting into trouble for singing later.

Hey, I had no idea what we were singing about. I was 10. 

I didn't make much out of the film other than the fact that Barris was a really strange guy.  Overall,  he confused me as a kid, entertained me as a teen later in those affore-mentioned reruns, and then completely had me twisted around as an adult thanks to "Confessions".  

What an INSANE story!!  CIA??  Really?  I think he claimed something like the CIA never came down on him for speaking up, as no one would believe him anyway.  Seems unlikely,  but I digress.

Chuck Barris passed away this past week at the age of 87.  Say what you will about the man, but he accomplished several lifetimes worth of craziness (minus the CIA assassinations, you include those, it's a whole nother story) in his single one.  Plus, he made me laugh. I will always see him doing that repetitive and predictable clap that the audience did with him as he introduced guests.  I'm sure they did it out of insult and affection both.  The way he tipped his head back during the intros like Drew Brees does just before a throw.  The difference being I think Barris' eyes were closed. 

I guess you could say I admire him in a weird way for all of that, and he entertained millions during his lengthy show biz career.  I'm no Chuck Barris expert, but I know a dynamo when I see one. 

Now here's some Gene Gene the Dancing Machine:  (For a late 70's variety show, the editing here is big-league)

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