The Ted Mack Show, New York City, 1956- loving life!
I finished high school after winning the Mid-South Fair Talent Show, and waited about a year before I got the call to fly to New York City for my appearance on CBS TV and "The Ted Mack Show". I was 17 years old and going to NEW YORK CITY - ALONE! This was a big move for a young Southern boy. I had never been to a big city like New York.
When I arrived in New York, all i had was a letter telling me to take a taxi to the "Gotham Hotel" where the Ted Mack Show had made reservations for me. When I arrived there and got my room, I also had the address for the CBS Theater, where the show and rehearsals were held. Also listed were the rehearsal and show times for the next day. I could hardly believe I was in this big city and soon would be on a national TV show.
My first appearance was on Sunday night and on the following Wednesday, the Ted Mack Show Office called and told me I had won! I had received the second largest number of votes ever case for an individual appearing on the show. This meant I would stay another week to appear on the following Sunday night's show.
After my second appearance, I waited an entire week and called the talent office daily but no update. I flew back to Tupelo on the Saturday morning following the show with no news on whether I had won or lost. Dad picked me up at the airport and we went to MLM clothing store where he worked. When I walked in the store, my Uncle Charles Long said that The Ted Mack Show in New York was on the phone. I answered and it was Buddy Page with the Ted Mack Show and he asked, "What are you doing back in Tupelo?!" I told him that when a country boy is broke and can't get any answers from the Ted Mack Show on winning or losing, it's time to come home. He said, "You won again. Can you fly back to New York for Sunday night's show." I said, "if you can pay for it, I can." He agreed and I flew back.
My next appearance on Sunday night was okay, but not as good as I would have liked. I was tired from all the rush and travelling. I received telegrams and letters wishing me good luck from our State of Mississippi Senators, the Governor, local Civic Clubs and so many others. After my appearance, I learned I had tied with a four-year old boy that did pantomime, he was a cute kid and the audience loved him. I stayed another week, finally losing to the four-year-old kid.
ONE MONTH IN NEW YORK
I was in New York for over a month. James Kinsley was a friend and local newspaper journalist, and his mom and sister lived in the New York area and invited me to visit them while I was there. I did, it was great being with people from home. Doris, James sister, and her friend took me to one of the biggest night clubs in New York, "The Copacabana". I saw Jimmy Durante perform -he was a huge movie star - what a thrill!!!
I had other friends from Tupelo come to New York to see me on the show. Gartrell Milam, owner of Milam Manufacturing in Tupelo brought his family to see me on the show. That next week, he took us all to see three Broadway shows - that was great!!
TED MACK SHOW VOTING - PENNY POST CARDS
Votes were cast nationwide by mailing in penny post cards. Back home my sister June organized Civic Clubs, school kids and others to sign cards that clubs and people had bought. June had card tables set up on store fronts on weekends to sell post cards in different towns. Mom and Maw Long would set up tables next to TKE drugstore asking for postcard signature, with Maw Long spending most of her time sitting in the car patiently and cooling off with her funeral fan. Post cards were only a penny each, so a dollar got a hundred. We were told that the Ted Mack Show didn't count the cards, they weighted them. They knew how much a post card weighted and they weighted the bag that was to hold the cards, then put the cards inside the bag and weighed them, and the overall heaviest weight of cards decided the winner.