Mike Douglas Held Hostage!

New video relives the surreal week that John and Yoko co-hosted America's most popular daytime talk show

"Louie Nye's a Funny Guy" reads the graphic touting this snore-filled segment. Billed as a comedian/actor, all I can remember about this forgotten luminary is that he did a few guest shots on The Munsters. John and Yoko look extremely bored during much of this segment, with John slouching in his chair and both lighting up cigarettes.

Not content with just having the studio audience reach out and touch someone, for the next performance-art piece, the panel picks random numbers out of the phone book and tells these strangers they are loved.

While this segment may have given Stevie Wonder the inspiration for "I Just Called to Say I Love You," it could've just as easily given Johnny Lee the impetus to write "Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places."

According to the set's accompanying text, taping had to be stopped numerous times during this segment because these random people were telling Yoko to fuck off. Nye wins John and Yoko over by calling Philly Mayor Frank Rizzo's office to spread the love. Mike goes one better, love-calling David Frost's office and asking if his assistant will call up Merv, Johnny and Cavett to do the same. Later, on a set that looks like the fumes a genie coming out of a bottle would make, John rips through "It's So Hard." Amazingly, as uptight as network censors were in those days, a line like "it's so hard, it's really hard, sometimes I feel like going down" escapes undetected. Also undetected in the ranks of the eminently forgettable Elephant's Memory band is the Lennons' "political adviser" Jerry Rubin, banging a mean African drum. Rubin will really make a big noise on Day Two.

Score: The suits win this one.
Day Two: Today finds the Lennons playing hardball, making Day One's concessions seem like a distant memory, which makes Mike's opening song "With a Little Help From My Friends" seem like a commercial for a couple of Valium. Even the newest performance-art piece, getting the audience to shout the first thing that pops into their head, makes Mike long for yesterday, when everyone just touched one another. Now he needs a place to hide away.

"When my co-hosts perform, it makes my life very easy," the harried host admits. That's what he thinks! It's the first day Yoko gets to sing in her rock-lobster manta-ray style. Then you have every open-mike's nightmare, Yellow Pearl, a third-generation Asian-American couple singing about the plight of their people. "We are the offspring of the concentration camps," they sing with all the glee of turtlenecked types singing about the letter "C" on Sesame Street. When they describe themselves as "movement singers" who do their thing at churches, on street corners and beaches, you're tempted to say it's because no one would pay to see this slop.

About the only compromise made to the Douglas camp is having Nixon appointee surgeon general Jesse Steinfeld, for whom John and Yoko momentarily stop their chain-smoking jamboree. Steinfeld's main reason for being on is to talk about the effects of TV violence on youth and his hopes that TV shows will soon carry a rating. Gee, that didn't take forever. The closest we get to a Jerry Springer moment is when a clearly rankled Steinfeld tells an ungrateful Rubin about how good this country's been to immigrants, to which Rubin replies, "Tell that to the Indians. Or the blacks that came over as slaves."

Although Rubin is dead right about a lot of the injustices of the Nixon administration, his whole antagonistic demeanor makes the Archie Bunker in us all want to call him "Meathead."

Score: The kids win this one. However, Lennon's association with Rubin was all the Nixon administration needed to have the Immigration and Naturalization Services order him to get out of the country on March 6, a mere three weeks after this show aired.

Day Three: Douglas stops his daily barrage of massacring Beatle tunes to sing "I Whistle a Happy Tune." Mike's incessant mugging and eye rolling suggest he must've watched today's guest, Chuck Berry, rehearsing. But forget Mike. It's this show that reminds you of just why you hated Yoko so much in the first place.

Although she emerges as likable during her art pieces, whenever John starts waxing enthusiastic about Beatles or rock 'n' roll, Yoko steamrollers in to change the subject. It seems to irk her that rock music is still a passion of John's, even though he's reduced to playing on her amateurish folk songs like "Sisters O Sisters." While John's role as supportive husband is admirable, it's a conflict of interest that muddies up his own musical identity and makes you embarrassed for both of them.

Berry and Lennon had never met before, and John is clearly in awe of performing with him. What a wonderful moment, you think, pupil and mentor getting it on like a mutual admiration society, until "Memphis, Tennessee" gets an unexpected visitor. Watch closely as Yoko, beating an inconsequential African drum, rips the mike away from the drum's head and lifts it to her caterwauling yapper. See how Berry's eyes pop out, as if somebody just poured an ice-cold beverage down his pants. What evil lurks in her heart that she needs to upstage Berry, as if to remind John that she's his first love, not this duck-walking has-been. To someone's credit, her mike is switched off on the next number, thus preventing "Yoko Too Bad" from ruining "Johnny B. Goode." You can see where she'd chosen to step all over Berry's lead vocals, mouthing incongruous syllables that have nothing to do with playing guitar just like ringing a bell. Whew!

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