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]