Recently, Kathy of the Junk Drawer Blog asked her Facebook friends if they had ever appeared on television. Tons of people replied, and many of them had made appearances, particularly on local news or shows. Reading their comments took me back to 1975, when I made my television debut. Does "debut" imply that there were subsequent appearances?
When I was growing up here in Lexington, Kentucky, everyone watched a local talk-style show—it covered events and celebrities, human interest stories, and the like—hosted by a lady named June Rollins. Each Christmas, Ms. Rollins would select a group of children from a kindergarten class to appear on her holiday special. For her Christmas 1975 show, June chose Eastland Day School to provide her with the requisite number of cute kindergarteners. Enter yours truly.
When the representatives from the show called the school, they noted that, “the kids have to be able to sit still and be quiet for the length of the show.” I always toed the line at school (based on my mother’s threats of a punishment worse than death if I misbehaved), so I was one of probably ten or so kids chosen to appear on the show. To our great delight, my BFF Shannon was picked, too. Squee! We were so excited. While our teachers taught etiquette lessons and gave stern warnings about not embarrassing our fine educational institution on television, my aunt made me a special dress just for the program: a ruffled denim pinafore with red flowers, which I wore with a red turtleneck and knee socks. My mom shined up my saddle shoes and procured the perfect red ribbon for my ‘do. I was all ready for the big day.
Sadly, many of the memories of the “big day” have not stayed with me for the last 35 years. (Except every detail of what I wore. Tells you a lot about my priorities, huh?) The main thing I remember is waiting. Lots and lots of sitting, and waiting, and being quiet. All very difficult things for a group of five-year-olds already jacked up sky-high on pre-Christmas hysteria. At last, the show began. Ms. Rollins must have been a masochist, because she aired that bad boy live. Live, with a bunch of holiday-hyped kindergarteners. We all sat cross-legged on the floor, looking adorbz, trying not to fidget while June did her thing, and waiting for our chance to tell her what we wanted for Christmas. When she came to Shannon and me, it was like we had made an unspoken pact to take over the show. We would. Not. Stop. Talking. While June tried to steer the conversation to some of the other kids, we just kept ramping it up, going on and on about the gifts we had asked Santa to bring, until Shannon issued the coup de grace: “And guess what else I asked for! A DOLL THAT PEES!!!” (That was kind of scandalous in 1975, kids.) Shannon wore an expression of exhilaration and triumph; I fell over in a cascade of giggles; and June Rollins looked like she was hoping that the floor would open up and swallow us both.
After the show, my mother was appalled that I had participated in such a performance. But, she was also very glad that, at least, I was not the one who uttered the offensive sentence. That was the beginning, and end, of my television career. I spent the next couple of years begging my mom to get me a gig on Romper Room (LOVED that show), but she always quickly changed the subject when I mentioned it. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why, but now I’m pretty sure I understand. She didn’t want to give me the opportunity to embarrass her on a national scale. I already had the local audience covered.