On a more respectful note, Merv was indeed my intro, along with the daytime hosts (Mike Douglas and, locally, Joe Franklin), to the wonderful world of vintage talk shows. During my childhood, Merv's program was on in prime time, and when the networks were awful, there was definitely always something to catch on his show. In seeing the recent DVD collection of his shows, I was struck by how cursory the interviews were (even in his most probing mode, Merv was definitely a predecessor to today's "softest" interviewer, Larry King). I still was exposed for the first time to many of the "old guard" on his show, as well as some of my latter-day favorite comedians (from Pee Wee Herman to Bobcat Goldthwait). His show certainly became an institution as it went on, and it was the Tonight Show for those who couldn't stay up late (or, in the case of a kid like myself, weren't allowed to).
The footage below (more to come!) is the last recorded TV appearance of Orson Welles, who came to do some magic ("whamming" — I love it), talk with Merv in an informal mode, and also do a bit of plugging for the new Orson bio by Barbara Leaming. I won't upload the middle segment, as it is availble on the DVD box, but the first and third portions are not.
Orson does his "whamming" best:
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