Mike Douglas Held Hostage!

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

One thing that you don't see on talk shows anymore is that guests stay for the full 90 minutes, talking and participating in later segments. How else would you get to witness John and Chuck sharing an apron as they watch a macrobiotic meal being made? The kooky cook, Hillary Redleaf, at one point actually chides Joe Harnell's band for playing chaotic background music that will ruin the mellow vibes of the food. Then Chuck, John, Yoko and Mike sit down on a mat and have their alpha brain waves hooked up to a synthesizer to make biofeedback music. Judging how high Mike's pulse is, he's gotta be relieved that there are only two more days to go.

Score: Mike's posse wins this one for shutting down Radio Free Yoko!
Day Four: By this time, the broken tea cup piece from the first show is nearly reassembled. Mike, once again the heir of parent, tells the young viewers not to break Mama's china. John tells how his mama got run over by an off-duty cop, but assures viewers, "I don't have a hate-pigs or hate-cops attitude."

Better still, we learn that Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale used to be a standup comedian. Even years out of condition, Seale surely would have been funnier than the Ace Trucking Company, the alleged comedy troupe that foisted the unfunny "you can call me Ray, or you can call me Jay, but you doesn't have to call me Johnson" routine on the world. You figure the Amos and Andy delivery of these lines had to offend the Black Panthers in tow, as must have the rubber-soul stylings of Broadway singer Vivian Reed. She meets Mike's Soul Seal of Approval, turning out "Everybody's Talkin'" like it's "I Can't Turn You Loose." I'll bet it was at this moment that Lennon first thought of becoming Nilsson's drinking partner.

Score: Nobody wins. Even with a Black Panther, this is the dullest show of the lot.

Day Five: On Day One, Mike was gushing about Lennon's legendary status. By Day Two, he downplayed it by introducing John like a Dating Game contestant ("He's an accomplished singer-songwriter and also a filmmaker"). By Day Five, Mike's totally hip to the scene, baby. "My co-hosts are all tuned in to the vibrations of the world." During the interview segment, John and Yoko seem more like a married couple than ever before.

We learn that John makes better tea than Yoko and that they have great fights. "I can't win them, either," John admits. All during the week, we've seen an excerpt a day from the Lennons' film Imagine, which mostly consists of long clips of them looking at each other. Now, with the clip for "How," henpecked John rows a boat with great difficulty while Yoko just sits there like a Sphinx.

The Lennons' answers to audience questions are on the mystifying side of positive. When asked what he thought of Wings' atrocious Wild Life album, John replies, "I quite enjoyed it." When asked what they thought of primal therapy, John says they enjoyed that, too! Yoko shows where her sympathies lie by insisting that "How Do You Sleep," John's vitriolic attack against Paul McCartney, is "a beautiful song."

If that doesn't remind you that the dream is most definitely over, how about hearing John and Yoko duet on the pedestrian protest song "The Luck of the Irish." Lennon's empty-headed political sloganeering makes the improvisational "Give Peace a Chance" seem like a finely chiseled piece of songcraft by comparison. How could viewers of the time believe this peace-lovin' couple was a national threat, what with Yoko bleating "let's walk over rainbows like leprechauns and the world will be one Blarney Stone"? For that matter, what other revolutionary goes on TV and admits that his liberated wife "allows me to be weak. It's a great relief"?

Also relieved is Douglas. At the end of the show, he comes out looking like he's ready to duet with a Beatle. Fat chance! Yoko shuts him down by singing a Japanese folk song, after which Mike warbles a specially commissioned song over still photographs from the week's shows. It's kinda incongruous, Mike crooning "I'd like to thank my friends for being so helpful" while you're looking at slides of Jerry Rubin arguing with Mike and the surgeon general.

Score: Mike Douglas wins big. His ratings soared after this record-breaking week of appearances that aired February 14 through 18, 1972. As for Operation "Give John and Yoko a Chance," these shows failed to net either Middle American sympathies or a summer-replacement show for Sonny and Cher.

Lennon was coming off his most melodic and consistent solo album, Imagine, and ready to embark on his worst, Some Time in New York, the disastrous double LP he recorded with Yoko and Elephant's Memory, which officially ended his free ride as an ex-Beatle.

Some Time's failure proved that audiences were still violently opposed to the twosome in any joint musical setting. This put a strain on their marriage, as did the deportation proceedings, all net results of these five appearances. While John and Yoko would eventually record a platinum album together, it took five years of John not recording anything but phone messages to allow that to happen. But Jerry Rubin learned to love the system that allegedly killed his working-class parents by becoming a yuppie. Ain't that America?

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