By Amy Silverman
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One of the favored few who didn't collect on Smith's largess was Clint Howard of Gentle Ben fame. "We were standing there waiting to give him all sorts of money for pictures of him and the bear," recounts Smith. "Instead, this melonhead ignored all the paying customers because he was too busy talking to Johnny Ramone. I guess he needed to talk about Rock 'n' Roll High Schoolmore than he needed our money, which is hard to believe."
Tisha Parti, Smith's wife, characterizes the shows as "a celebrity dog pound."
"You walk down the aisles and everyone's got these big puppy-dog eyes, [like they're] pleading with you to buy their autograph," says Parti, a pop culture historian who maintains a Web site on L.A. TV personalities of the past. "It's like Hooker's Row, only everyone used to be famous."
If these are the Hollywood star system's equivalent of the oldest hookers on the block, Ray Courts will be the first to point out that they've earned their proverbial respect.
"Most of these people made their money years ago," says the man who's played host to everyone from Oscar nominee Gary Busey to boxer Leon Spinks to the actress who portrayed Florence Henderson in a Fox made-for-TV movie about The Brady Bunch.
"Most actors didn't make astronomical salaries back then," continues Courts. "If they got residuals in the first place, they've long since stopped. These are not the people who you see on Friends and E.R."
Well, not for a couple years, at least.