What’s My Line?

I think I Could Play Both Sides

By Jeff Salter

This week, we’re blogging about (television) game shows — which would I choose and how would I do?

Well, I’m terrible at guessing prices or values, besides the fact – as one of the Resident Foxes pointed out this week – both are different in various areas of the country. I’d never do well in high pressure situations like Jeopardy, where there are both time limits and highly motivated competitors.

So I guess I’d prefer to go old-school — maybe back to around 1960 or so [roughly the middle of the 17 year run of a game show called “What’s My Line?” On this show, I think I could be both a good contestant… and a great panelist.


They had a panel of four celebrities – though that word was used differently six decades ago – who were tasked to guess the vocation of the unknown guest. For many of those years, the primary celebrity panelists were Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, and Bennett Cerf. The fourth slot sometimes was occupied by a semi-regular. In most cases, they could see the guest but he/she was a non-entity who they would have never known or seen. [I think I recall an occasional variant when the guest was a celebrity him or herself, but either they were hidden from view by the panelists… or the panel had to guess something specific ABOUT that celebrity guest which “nobody” supposedly knew. You know, like Jack Lord was an accomplished artist.]

There was also a variation in which the panelists were blindfolded and the guest was a celebrity who answered questions in a disguised voice.

Anyhow, each panelist was allowed a certain number of yes or no questions. For each exchange that did NOT result in the correct guess (about the guest’s vocation), the guest received a small sum. As I recall, it was about $5 per answer — so we’re talking really modest winnings. If the guest stumped all the panelists for the entire allotment of their questions, there was a bonus (I believe) for the guest.

Dorothy and Arlene always wore ritzy evening gowns, like they were headed to a White House ball right after the show was taped. Bennett always had a tux. These panelists were smart and perceptive and it was difficult to stump them.

Depending on the nature of the guest’s occupation and how circumspect they were at their responses, they could sometimes give the panel a run for its money.

I think the panelists also relied on visual clues – such as apparel and grooming – so if I were a guest on that show, I’d attire myself in something completely different than anything connected with my vocation. Also, I remember there were times when a guest would turn to the moderator and whisper a question about how to reply. The moderator [John Daly] would then provide the response to the panel. If I were a guest, I think I’d use that gimmick a lot, because it throws an additional wrench into the works of the panel.

The various vocations I’ve had have included (A) photo-journalist and editor… both civilian and military, (B) public library administrator, and (C) fiction author. I think I’d have a pretty good chance at fooling the panel for any of the three vocations.

I think I’d also be a pretty good panelist. No, I’m not Sherlock Holmes, but I do know a little bit about a lot of things — at least I used to. I think it would be fun to guess the vocation of someone who had to truthfully respond yes or no to all the questions asked by me and the others on my panel.

Another game that that I think would be fun to appear on (as a guest) would be the old Hollywood Squares… back when Paul Lynde was the middle.

Question: Which game show would YOU want to be on? As a guest or a panelist?

[JLS # 368]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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13 Responses to What’s My Line?

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Another thing I remember about the old school game shows was the old-world courtesies. When the contestant came over afterward to shake hands with the panelists, the men always stood. People spoke in complete sentences and used polite language – ALWAYS. I didn’t always care for Paul Lynde, but the old Hollywood Squares was fun to watch, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yes, civility and manners were fully on display in those times.
      Kinda reminds me of early air travel. When I used to fly, I’d usually wear a coat and tie. Years later, I’d see people boarding the planes wearing gym shorts and flip flops.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’d play on Password! I love word games and I adore trying to come up with things to give clues without saying the word or anything in the phrase! So fun! We play a lot of Board games and I just love Taboo. (same idea)

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      my little sister had a Password game — I think it was hers. Enjoyable to play, but it worked better with a moderator and we didn’t usually have one.
      Did you ever play the board game called BALDERDASH? each participant makes up definitions for words, or provides names for initials (like IBM), or identifies someone whose name is provided. The object is to fool other people in to guessing YOUR answer is correct… while you are trying to guess the actual correct answer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I imagine you could stump the panel, Jeff! If you came in in your flannel shirts, they’d guess woodsman or some other outdoorsy profession, not “Librarian’ and ‘Romance Writer’ or even ‘Poet’!
    Nor can I see you showing up in a monkey suit! Have you seen the audiences when they scan them on the old shows? Even THEY were dressed, with men in suits, women dressed with hats and gloves, (and girdles, I dare to guess).
    You have to realize that even though $5 was a load of money even then, $25 dollars could pay the rent on a modest house in most places.
    Good choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      absolutely true, Tonette — in 1960, $50 — the top prize if the contestant stumped the panel — could buy a LOT of stuff. I remember my parent’s mortgage (on a house that cost $10,500 to begin with) was about $67 a month. A VA loan at 2% interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That sounds like it was a fun show to watch! I wonder if they have anything like that on now. I think that would be a fun show to be on, it reminds me a bit of the twenty questions game my kids and I lay on long car trips.
    I vaguely remember Hollywood Squares. I recall watching it with my mom a few times when I was sick.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. jbrayweber says:

    Interesting choice for a game show, Jeff. Mine would be Wheel of Fortune. I’ve always been good at solving the puzzles. Family Feud would be fun to be on, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Wheel has the pressure of time / audience / and aggressive competitors. I’d likely flop.
      Family Feud would be fun to play — just for bragging rights. But if I was in it to actually win the prizes, I’d want to hand-pick the members of my team. In the few episodes I’ve seen… it appears there is usually one cluck per team. You don’t want your winnings to ride on the responses of a nincompoop.

      Liked by 1 person

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