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Friday, 25 April 2014

The Dark Side Of Sports

NHL Hockey
The NHL (National Hockey League) has 30 teams. 7 of those teams are in Canada and the other 23 are in the US. Without a doubt hockey is Canada’s national sport which isn’t the case in the US where it lags behind pro and college football, professional baseball, basketball, and auto racing. Still there are some hot beds for hockey in the US. There are also NHL teams, particularly in the south, that struggle with attendance like Florida, Tampa, Phoenix, Carolina, Atlanta, and Columbus.
Owning any professional sports team is an ego thing. This is not exactly surprising. It is another way for a very wealthy person to show that they are the big dog. Pro sports have several sources of revenue aside from putting bums in the seats including television and merchandising.
In 1993 Gary Bettman was brought in by the NHL team owners to be the league commissioner. He is a lawyer by trade and previously to his tenure with the NHL he was a vice president of the National Basketball Association. For some strange reason the commissioners of 5 of the major sports in the US are Jewish including Gary Bettman. Bud Selig runs Major League Baseball, Paul Tagliabue runs the National Football League, David Stern (Bettman’s former boss) runs the National Basketball Association, and Don Garber runs Major League Soccer.  
In the little over 20 years that Bettman has been in charge of the NHL he has increased revenue from 400 million per year to over 3 billion per year. He has also expanded the league by 6 teams. For many years selling NHL franchises was a big source of income for NHL owners. Bettman was determined to see the NHL expand in the US South.
There have been times that I and some others have wondered if some Americans really understand hockey. Are they watching and waiting for some kind of blood lust because hockey is the only team sport where fighting doesn’t equal automatic banishment?  Some American spectators seem think it is quite OK to bang on the glass as an opposing player goes by them like it is part of their rights in purchasing a front row seat.
Bettman has been responsible for 3 player lockouts in the past number of years including the 2004-2005 season when the NHL was shut down for the entire season. If hiring Bettman was about making everyone involved in the NHL more money he certainly has met those expectations and then some.
There have been some confusing things about how the NHL has gone about their business since Bettman took over the reins. In 1996 a guy named John Spano agreed to buy the New York Islanders for 165 million dollars. He claimed to be worth 230 million dollars, had built a company that employed 6,000 people over 6 years, and had inherited a fortune from his uncle Angelo. It turned out that these stories were all lies but for the best part of a year Bettman bought into the con artist’s stories. Spano ended up in jail.
The lockouts were mostly about revenue distribution. The owners thought the players were getting too much of the money. The last NHL lockout was in the 2012-2013 season. There was a settlement in January of 2013 and the playing season was shortened to 48 games followed by the playoffs.
In the NHL there is something called “Free Agency” which allows players past a certain age with expired contracts to sign a new contract with their own team or another team. The basis of the 2012-2013 lock out by team owners was supposedly about reining in costs. Last year’s free agency turned into a frenzy with the owners spending over 375 million on new contracts on the first day alone. So much for reining in costs.
A New Jersey player, David Clarkson, was probably the most coveted player in free agency last year. The Toronto Maple Leafs signed him to a 7 year contract at 5.25 million per year. He was to score all of 5 goals for the Leafs this past season.
During the 1994-1995 season Gary Bettman secured a 5 year television deal to broadcast NHL games with FOX Television. The deal was worth 155 million dollars which was a lot more than the NHL had received in American TV revenue previously. This was the era of the glowing puck on FOX. Despite failing ratings Bettman got a 5 year TV deal with ESPN and ABC in 1998 worth 600 million dollars. In 2011 Bettman managed to put together a 10 year TV deal with NBC/ Comcast worth 2 billion dollars.
Hockey Night In Canada has been an institution in Canada for over 60 years. For many years Canadians could only see 1 live hockey game a week on TV and it was on a Saturday night. The games were broadcast by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), a government owned corporation. Older Canadians will remember the greats from the past that they saw on Saturday nights, the exciting playoffs year after year, the Summit Series between Canada and the USSR in 1972.
Canadians went from watching the excitable Howie Meeker to the bombastic Don Cherry for in between period entertainment.
Somewhere along the line Canadian NHL hockey teams and American NHL hockey teams started selling the local TV rights to their games and sports networks also got into the action. Some teams like the Vancouver Canucks also introduced pay TV for a package of selected hockey games or one game at a time. The pay TV thing didn’t last long in Vancouver and most fans resented it.
For the last several seasons Canadian hockey fans have been able to see every game their home team plays including road games. Most of the colour commentary is done by ex NHL players. Canadian sports networks spend endless hours on hockey including panel discussions. Most of us are totally OK with how the hockey product has been presented to us with the exception possibly of one or two annoying commentators like Glenn Healy.
In November of 2013 the NHL announced that a new TV deal for Canadian NHL teams had been agreed to with Rogers Sportsnet. The deal has been valued at 5.2 billion dollars and is to last for 12 years. Rogers is A Canadian owned company that markets cable and cell phone services. Part of the deal was that the CBC and Hockey Night In Canada would continue for 4 more years but Rogers would control all of their content and get all of the revenue.
Rogers Media president, Keith Pelley, promised that “It will be the NHL like never before.” Hockey Night In Canada host Ron MacLean said “I think that’s great and I think the 5.2 billion dollar deal is tremendous for the league and the players. It just shows, you know, what hockey in Canada has meant. It’s a great day.” In my opinion Ron MacLean is a professional ass kisser who many Canadians have seen being bullied by Don Cherry over the years.
NHL hockey players will get about half of the 5.2 billion and the teams will have their salary caps increased by several million dollars. Unlike the NFL all contracts signed by NHL players are guaranteed and salaries range from a half a million a year for fringe players to as much as 14 million dollars. The average NHL salary is 2.4 million per year. Not too shabby when you consider that an NHL player often has a much longer career that other pro sports athletes.
It has also been announced that the CBC’s hipster interviewer George Stroumboulopoulos, a Montreal Canadiens fan, will take over hosting Hockey Night In Canada next year. The general consensus is this move is about getting George’s young fans interested in following hockey. Personally I think this is very unlikely to happen because George's forte has been getting the confidence of rock stars, actors and political activists in his interviews. My guess is that a lot of George's fans could care less about him interviewing hockey players. I predict that the Rogers deal won't bring with it a larger audience.
Up until this new 5.2 billion deal, hockey on TV in Canada was available from a number of Canadian TV networks. The new deal will cut the CBC’s revenues in half and the network has already had staff cutbacks with or without hockey.
What we are seeing here is the American corporate model. Take over as much of an industry as possible and gain absolute control. Cause lay-offs of employees by former competitors. With no competition and having a monopoly, customers who want the product then become at the mercy of those in control.
5.2 billion dollars is a lot of money. How is Rogers going to recoup their investment? NHL hockey in Canada is pretty well at its saturation point. Most Canadians can’t afford to buy seats at a game anymore. Even though 6 of the 7 Canadian teams failed to make the playoffs this year most Canadian NHL games are sold out.
Contrary to what some might think, watching hockey on TV isn’t free. First of all cable TV isn’t free and second of all neither is advertising. If you watch a commercial you are a potential customer.
If you have been around the block a few times you know what is coming to pay for Rogers 5.2 billion dollar deal. Pay TV!  Only total hockey nuts will go for this and there just aren’t enough of these folks around. At 12 or 15 bucks a pop for hockey a lot of fans might just wait to the late sports shows and watch the highlites and watch the big games or the play-offs in a bar. 15 bucks is at least 2 beers.
I think the NHL and Gary Bettman have grossly underestimated the Canadian public perhaps in the same way the American Target stores have in coming to Canada. Most of us don’t want to pay 15 bucks or so a shot when we didn’t have to pay that fee before. George Stromboulopoulos just isn’t going to cut it! We certainly don’t give a shit about NHL players making more money either. I’ve seen Derek Roy’s house and he doesn’t need a bigger one.
NFL Football
Pro football and college football in the US are nothing more than an organized racket. Yes I know football is the #1 sport in America and people go nuts for it but that doesn’t mean that the sport doesn’t have its scummy side.
Unlike team sports like hockey and soccer, or individual sports like golf and tennis, playing football at a higher level often involves taking drugs like steroids. A lot of positions on a football team require bulk and strength and steroids will provide both of those. Weighing 280-315 pounds may work when a player is in their early twenties but as they get older that weight will most often cause health problems and quite possibly a shorter life. Owners and fans won’t have to share in future medical difficulties. The list of current NFL players and ex-NFL players getting in trouble with the law during and after their careers seems endless and sometimes the mitigating circumstances are “ roid rage”.
The average NFL career only lasts only 3.3 years. Most players, other than the stars, are disposable. Contracts are often not guaranteed. The money may be great for a short while but the wear and tear on the body takes a toll on every player. Football is a hard contact sport and repeated concussions can leave a former player in a sad state of affairs as they get older.
Most pro football fans could care less what goes on behind the scenes. They just want to back a winner and have bragging rights. Many fans live a good part of their lives through their team. They wear the jerseys, paint their faces, carry their signs, have their bar-b-ques in the stadium parking lot, and pay huge bucks for their seats. They might not care for the prices for the fast food in the stadiums but a lot of them will still buy $7.00 dollar hot dogs and $5.00 pop.
NFL owners know that they have a good thing going for them. They don’t have to finance farm teams and they get their players for free from the college ranks without having to give the colleges a dime for teaching the players how to play the game. In almost every city in the NFL the stadium has been mostly financed by taxpayers. Many of these same taxpayers will never set foot in their local stadium. Some have called this “corporate welfare”.
Every now and then some owner or another will threaten to move the team to another city unless a new stadium is built with mostly taxpayer’s money. Robert Irsay actually followed through with his threats a number of years ago and moved his team, the Baltimore Colts, to Indianapolis.
More than any other sport, professional football can get out of hand very quickly. If one team is up by 3 touchdowns at the half the game is pretty well over. Very rarely does the team that is down 3 touchdowns make a full come back. A fan could very well sit there for another hour or more knowing that the game has been over for some time. Dandy Don Meredith used to sing about this situation on Monday Night Football….”Goodnight, the party’s over.”
As big as pro football is the US I find it interesting that probably 90% of the fans don’t know the names of more than 10 players on the team they root for.
US College Football
US college football is no different than any other sport including the biggest sport of them all, soccer, in the sense that being a fan is often about kicking the other team’s ass. When it comes to college football there are a number of rivalries between states. I’m guessing that most Catholics who follow football have a soft spot for Notre Dame. Fans completely forget the fact that their favourite team is stocked with a number of players from out of state. Who cares they think, if they think about it at all, after all every religion is open to converts.
For some reason college football and basketball are big draws whereas baseball isn’t. You would be hard pressed to find someone who knows who won the 2013 College World Series. It was UCLA.
College football in the US has 25 stadiums that hold over 80,000 people and 6 of those stadiums hold over 100,000 people. College football is a big deal. Last year total revenues were over 2 billion dollars. In 2013 the Texas Longhorns had gross revenues of over 109 million dollars and profits of over 92 million dollars.
So where does all of this money go? We are told by college and university spokesmen that the money is reinvested in the team with things like stadium and practice facility upgrades, sports scholarships, and propping up other college sports, like golf, swimming, wrestling, and gymnastics. If you believe this I have a bridge to sell you.
Anytime there is a lot of money around there are those that use their inside connections to slice off a chunk of money for themselves. It’s the American way. Just who gets the contract to build new facilities, the contracts to run the concession counters, the contracts for sports equipment and uniforms, and a whole lot of other expenses to do with the football team, is all decided behind closed doors by a close knit old boys network.
During the 2013 college football season over 70 coaches and 3 assistant coaches made over 1 miilion dollars. College football is the ideal business model. Almost everyone, other than the players who bring the crowds in, the cheerleaders, and the bands, make off like bandits. It’s hard not to make money when you have free labour.
Picture this. You are really good athlete just out of high school. Chances are, particularly if you are black, that you have come from a low income area like the inner city and that your family was financially challenged. You are about 19 years of age and now find yourself living on a campus with big lawns and old tall trees. You are totally away from the environment you are used to. On campus there isn’t the constant honking of car horns or the threat of a drive-by shooting. This is a peaceful place for the most part with lots of pretty young gals and people your own age that admire you.
Yes the coach and his staff are pretty tough on you and the days practicing are long. You know that you can be replaced quite easily if you don’t perform well on the field and each year there is a new crop of football players trying to take your spot on the team. If you are black you very well may not have had a father figure in your life. In many cases the coaches become that father figure. You listen to them intently because if you don’t you could easily find yourself back home without an education with the choice of working at McDonalds or selling crack on the street. Statistics show that only 22% of black college football players graduate from college.
These kids are between 19-25 years of age. They aren’t wise to the ways of the world or familiar with business. They are totally at the mercy of those in charge of the football programs. These kids are not going to organize and demand a piece of the profits. The old reasons used for not paying college athletes are that they are amateurs and the college is giving them an expensive education. There is nothing amateur about college sports.
Not only do the players not receive any compensation, there is no money put away for them once they leave the school. The players don’t even own their own likenesses. They are not even allowed to make a bit of money through endorsements. In some cases, if they are stars, they are given some cash under the table from wealthy alumni, which of course is against the rules. Friends of the team will also get star players laid on occasion.
College football fans can become blinded in their allegiance to their team. Over the decades there have been dozens and dozens of rapes by college football players. Victims have been as young as 13 years of age. It is often a double edged sword for women and girls who have been raped. First they suffer the trauma of being raped and then if they come forward and press charges they are often harassed and ridiculed by a number of the fans. In many cases these women have no choice but to leave the college they were attending.
Very rarely does a college football player who has committed rape receive any jail time. When they are convicted it is usually by pleading to a lesser charge than rape. The penalty is often a small fine, probation, or community service. There are numerous cases where the rapist has been reinstated by the football team.
What it comes down to is that college football is a reflection of many corporate business practices. When it comes to making money and being successful, ethics often go right out the window.
Golf: The Masters
Canadian golf pro Mike Weir getting his green jacket from Tiger Woods
The Masters Golf Tournament is held every year in early April at The Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia. The course was built in 1933 by Bobby Jones and some of his friends. Bobby Jones was one of the all-time greats in golf and back in the 1920s and 1930s he was one of the biggest names in sports. Each year the winner of The Masters receives a green jacket which is just one of the many customs associated with the tournament. The green jacket is not given to the winner of The Masters to keep and it must be returned to the club within 1 year. The Masters folks want to protect their image and they don’t want to see one of their green jackets for sale on e-bay.
The Masters and The Augusta National Golf Course like to portray themselves as examples of southern charm and hospitality but the reality is that the folks that have run this institution have a long history of racism and sexism.
It wasn’t until 1975 that black Americans were allowed to compete in The Masters. The tournament is an invitational one. Traditionally, winners of PGA tournaments in the previous year, former winners of The Masters, and golf professionals with high profiles, are invited. Charlie Sifford, a black American pro golfer, won the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open and was one the best golfers on the PGA tour in the 1960s but was never invited to compete in The Masters. I wonder why?
Up until 1983 The Masters only allowed black men to caddy at their course. Touring pros could not bring their own caddies to the event. The Augusta course also didn’t allow black people to join their club until 1990 and even today there are very few black members. In total the club only has about 2 hundred members and most of them don’t live in Georgia.
If you have watched The Masters on TV you may have noticed that all the caddies have to wear white overalls similar to what garage mechanics often wear. The idea of this is supposed to be that caddies can be differentiated from the golf pros. No other golf tournament requires caddies to wear overalls. Why? Because any moron can figure out the caddie is the guy carrying the golf bag. It is disappointing that in this day and age grown men are forced to wear overalls. But then again the south in general has never been very progressive.
The Augusta course has always been a men only golf course. That is up until a year or two ago when they gave 2 women honorary memberships. What a break through! 2 women! Yes Augusta is a private club and they can do whatever they want to do and yes it is nice to watch on TV but every time I watch, knowing the history of the club, I think that the word “Masters” is more than an appropriate way  to describe the Augusta Golf Club’s history.
Why I Watch Sports
You may be thinking to yourself, why do I bother watching sports at all if I am so critical. The answer is that I am no different than the next guy in that I like the competition. Unlike some others I just don’t get blinded by it all. If my teams lose I am not deeply disappointed. I had no hand in creating the team. Win or lose. There are a lot more important things in the world to me than which sports team ends up winning it all.
In hockey I watch almost every game the Vancouver Canucks play and most games in the play-offs whether the Canucks are participants or not. I rarely watch a baseball game other than the World Series. I might watch an NBA play-off game or two. I like the final games in college basketball because each game is sudden death. I don’t really follow soccer. Not enough scoring for me. I follow the Seattle Seahawks in football but mostly avoid college football. I watch golf sometimes when it is raining out. NASCAR, figure skating, and curling bore me to tears. I usually take in part of the big 4 tennis tournaments. I still can’t figure out why people watch darts or poker on sports TV. These aren’t sports. I’m a big fan of the Canadian Football League and think the Canadian version of the game is much more exciting than the American version.  I used to watch The Tours de France bike race partly because of the pretty scenery. All in all I’ve been watching sports for almost 60 years.
I look at watching sports like watching the TV show Survivor. Who you want to win often doesn’t happen. Sometimes who you are pulling for ends up on top but that good feeling is always short-lived. Each sports season you just start again and hope. Luckily I’m not a Chicago Cubs baseball fan.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

My Toyota Celica GTS Sports Coupe

My Toyota Celica GTS Sports Coupe

I think it was 1984 but it might have been 1983 that I bought my first brand new car, a Toyota Celica GTS Sports Coupe. Up until then I had only owned used cars.
In 1980 I acquired a two year old chocolate brown Camaro. Owning a Camaro was kind of a dream for me. A roommate in Toronto back in the early 70s had one and a rich friend of mine in Vancouver owned one when we used to chase women together in the late 1970s.
I loved my Camaro. It was the car I drove to Gull Lake, Saskatchewan to get married in 1981. It was the car we rode in on our honeymoon in the US. I remember pulling into a gas station in Winnemucca, Nevada and seeing tumbleweeds flying by the front of the car and it being so hot out that it was better to have the car windows wide open than to run the car air conditioner. We couldn’t get to the cold pop machine quick enough. Winnemucca, Winnemucca? The name kind of rang a bell and then it dawned on me. It was one of the places Hank Snow sang about in his song “I’ve Been Everywhere”.
1978 Camaro.
I went from single life to married life owning that Camaro. Prior to and for a bit over a year after our marriage we lived on Bowen Island just off of West Vancouver. We lived on a top of a hill overlooking the ocean. One day there was a really bad snowstorm and I decided to park the Camaro by the side of the road the led to town so I didn’t have to dig the car out the following morning. A snow plow came by and put a dent in the rear of the car that I never bothered to get fixed.
We moved back to Vancouver and I started thinking about getting a new car, a brand new car. I had never had one of those before and the dent was starting to annoy me. In traffic I started to look at new cars on the road and one in particular caught my eye. I just loved the way the Celica GT looked. In a way it reminded me of the 1960s Triumph TR6 but with a hard top. I wanted one.
1960s Triumph TR6
One day I mentioned to some people we knew that I wanted to buy a new Celica GTS. The wife in the couple told me that her father was a car salesman and that he could get me a better deal than anyone else. It seemed like a plan to me. I was introduced to her dad. You might say he was a bit of a huckster and a bit out there. We knew this couple pretty well and had already heard stories about the dad. It seems that he would change jobs quite frequently and was always enthusiastic about whatever he was currently up to. We also heard that when the wife in the couple was quite young her dad would shave in the nude. Supposedly he had a very big penis and claimed that a small child could stand on it. I think I said he was a bit out there.
The Toyota dealership the dad worked for was out in White Rock south of Vancouver. I drove out there one day and traded in my Camaro for my New Celica GTS. Who knows if I got a good deal or not? It was to be my favourite car of all the ones I’ve owned.It was copper in colour and had retractable headlights and with the push of a button I could open and close the sun roof. Like the Camaro, there wasn’t much room in the back seats. I liked that flat back of the car and its overall appearance. The car also had a stick shift which I was unfamiliar with using. My other cars had all been automatics. This was going to pose some problems. I couldn’t even drive the car home myself.

Side view of another Celica GTS.

 My wife and I found an empty parking lot somewhere and she taught me how to use a stick shift. I grasped most of it but once in a while at the start there would be a bit of grinding as I tried to change gears. Most of my driving was city driving with all of its starts and stops and in hindsight a stick shift is probably not the best thing to have living in a big city.
One day I was out doing sales calls in east Vancouver. I was a copier salesman at the time. I parked in a residential area and did some cold calls. It wasn’t the best area to try and flog a photocopier. I must have been preoccupied when I got in the car because I turned the ignition on without thinking. I must have been in gear because the car lurched forward and bumped the car parked in front of me. There was a bit of a bang. I got out of the car to see if there was any damage to either car. There was no damage to my car but there was a slight dent in the other car that was about the size of a golf ball. The other car was an older model and I noticed that it had a few other dings on it. I took a look around to see if someone from one of the houses near me had heard the bang. Then I got back in my car and sat there for a few moments. I wasn’t about to knock on every door on the block to see who owned the car I had hit but maybe someone would turn up in the next few minutes who either owned the car or knew who did.
After sitting there for about 5 minutes I drove away. As I was driving down the street I passed two pedestrians walking on the sidewalk who were headed in the opposite direction of where I had been parked. I didn’t give them much thought.
When I got home later that day there was a message on our phone answering machine. It was the Vancouver Police Department and I was supposed to contact an officer who had left his number. I gave him a call. It turned out that 2 people had claimed they had witnessed a hit and run and written down my license plate number. The officer asked me to bring my car down the police station at the foot of Main Street not far away from where the dastardly crime was supposedly committed.
I drove down to the police station and after waiting for a bit, a police officer led me outside to give my car a look over. There wasn’t even a mark on the bumper. The cop had a mirror with him and checked the front underneath of the car. There was still no sign of any damage. I thought he was going to say he was sorry for wasting my time but I was wrong. I was to be issued a subpoena with a court date.
I talked the situation over with my wife and she suggested that I use her uncle who was a lawyer to defend me. I made an appointment to see him and we went over my case. Her uncle was probably in his late 60s at the time and had white hair. Hiis office was in the Kerrisdale area of Vancouver and I think his specialties were wills and estates.
My court date came up and I met my lawyer at the traffic courts in the same building as the police station. You might say my lawyer wasn’t the flashiest dresser. Underneath his shirt you could clearly see a “Colour Your World” tee shirt. My case was called and no witnesses turned up including the owner of the car that was hit. My case was tossed out and words between my lawyer and the judge were very brief.
It cost me something like 250 bucks for the lawyer but at least this inconvenience was in the past. I bought my lawyer a coffee after we left the courtroom and got his assurances that the matter was completed and that was that. This was not to be the case.
A week or two later I got a call from the court prosecutor (a women) who told me the case was going to be retried. I asked her if she thought this was a good way to spend taxpayer’s dollars but she was having none of it. Later that day I went over to see my lawyer. I asked him about him telling me that there was no chance of anything else happening with this case. His response was to tell me he didn’t like my attitude and then he pretty well threw me out of his office.
The lawyer was part of my wife’s family but kind of a distant relative. Sometime later there was a bit of an apology from his wife for his behavior but I could never imagine being in the same room as him again. Once in while my wife would go over for a visit but it wasn’t with me.
So now I had to figure out what to do next. I’ve never liked lawyers in general so hiring another one was out of the question. I decided to defend myself.
I thought this should be pretty easy. After all the last time I came to court there were no witnesses. I was wrong on this count. There were 2 witnesses this time, the same guys I had spotted on the sidewalk as I was driving away after hitting the other car. The first witness got up on the stand and told his brief story. When he was done I asked him if I ever got out of my car and he said no. So now I had a lying witness. All those Perry Mason shows I’d seen hadn’t prepared me for this. It dawned on me that this might be kind of a class thing happening. A guy in a suit in a late model car comes down to a poorer area of town and prangs a local resident’s car and then tries to get away Scott free?
The second witness told his story also and when he was done I asked the same question I had asked the first witness about my getting out of the car. His response was that he thought I didn’t. The judge then interceded and repeated the question but made it sound like there might be consequences if he lied. This time the second witness said he couldn’t remember if I got out of the car or not. I kind of got the feeling that the judge was wondering the same thing I was. What the hell were these so called witnesses up to? It wasn’t as if I had maimed or killed somebody or even done significant damage to the other car.
The judge's verdict was to fine me 50 bucks. A number of phone calls, two summons, time spent by more than one police officer, time spent by the prosecutor, a paid lawyer, witnesses, court time with a judge, all for a lousy 50 dollar fine that I would have paid gladly instead of going to court. What a waste of taxpayer’s dollars and my time!
I drove that Celica GT for about 3 years. I remember racing through the Rocky Mountains and how the car cornered on curves. I remember the breeze in our hair with the sun roof open.
In 1986 I started my own business. It was a pretty simple enterprise. I had been a salesman and a sales manager in the copier business and knew that a lot of people were paying too much for copy paper. I started buying copy paper at Costco, which had just opened its first Canadian store in Burnaby, BC, and reselling it. Eventually the business grew into other products but in the beginning I would pick up the copy paper from Costco and deliver it in my Celica GTS. If I pressed it I could get about 12 cases in the car. I was making about $200.00 a load. Not too shabby.
It got to a point where I needed a bigger vehicle, a van. I put the Celica up for sale in the local newspaper for 10 grand. One day I got a call from a car salesman who tried to negotiate my price down. I was having none of it. A few hours later he called back and offered to pay exactly what I was asking.
I wanted to clean up the car and make it look as nice as possible before the salesman came over to see it. It was then that I discovered that the wheel well areas in the trunk were full over water. Apparently the trunk lid had been raised about a ½ inch from me cramming copy paper in the trunk. For months I had been driving around in an aquarium. I managed to siphon out all of the water.
The salesman was a good looking young dude and after selling him my car I hired him as a salesman for my company. I didn’t know that he was a bit of flake and he never panned out.
My Celica GTS was my last crack at owning a sports car. I went through about 6 vans in the ensuing years. At first the vans were for business but then I started using couriers. The vans then became people movers and I shunted my kids and often their friends around to sports and ballet and other activities.
Everybody should own a sports car at least once in their lives. There isn’t much that is sporty about driving a van. I sold my last van over a year ago and now share Linda’s car. The van would just sit in the driveway most days and was a V-8 gas eater. Repairs were becoming more costly and of course there was also the insurance. Getting rid of the van was a no-brainer.
But all is not lost. The other day we bought 2 brand new 14 foot kayaks. We have also purchased a roof rack and the components to carry 2 kayaks. I’m back baby! I’m sporty once more!




Monday, 14 April 2014

Late Night Talk Shows

Dave Letterman
It’s official. Stephen Colbert has been chosen to replace late night talk show host David Letterman. Personally I think it is a great move. Colbert is an extraordinary comedy talent and if the choice also pisses off right wingers I couldn’t be more pleased. Dave will be packing it in next year at the age of 68 after spending more than 30 years doing late night talk shows. With Jay Leno recently stepping aside for Jimmy Fallon and Dave’s retirement next year we are seeing an end of an era.
By the headlines you would think that the world is changing dramatically. It isn’t. Less than 5% of Americans and Canadians regularly watch late night talk shows. A recent survey showed that the average viewer watching Letterman is 58 years of age. For Jimmy Kimmel it is 54 and Jimmy Fallon it is 57.
The ideal viewing age group for advertisers is 18-49 years of age. When you get older you just don’t buy as much stuff. I think it used to be a common belief that most late night talk show watchers were college students who didn’t have to get up early in the morning and go to work. A lot of the current viewers were college students who grew up with Letterman and Johnny Carson before him but those college days were long ago.
Today younger people have more ways of getting their entertainment than in years gone by. Anyone today with a computer, laptop, or mobile device can access a wide range of entertainment and watch it when they want. Many younger people spend hours playing games on line instead of watching talk shows. YouTube lets them get their chuckles in short bursts. Social media like Facebook also occupies a lot of their time. And of course there are DVR’s where they can record Family Guy or The Simpsons and watch it later.
So who is watching late night talk shows anymore? I think in order to be able to understand who is watching we have to comprehend what happens to people at the end of the day. Most people want or need to get 8 hours of sleep at night. Some of us are capable of falling into a dead sleep moments after crawling into bed while many others read a book until they can’t keep their eyes open any more.
In some ways staying up late to watch late night talk shows is a form of rebellion. Some have decided at some point in their life that 6 hours of sleep is enough for them no matter what mom used to say and whose business is it anyway if they want to stay up a bit later and get the stimuli they feel they still need. Watching a late night talk show can be like being invited to a well-organized party. The host is their buddy and when he says goodnight they know that their old friend will be back the next night unless it is a Friday night.
There are some rules about having a late night talk show and it is a tried and true formula for the most part. First of all in order to be a host you have to be a man and over 35 years of age. (Conan O’Brien is 50 and Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson are 51, Arsenio Hall is 58.) The “man” thing is because by far most watchers are men and the age thing is that most watchers are older and they don’t want to watch some cheeky young punk without much life experience trying to be funny in ways they often don’t understand.
All hosts must wear a suit. It is written somewhere in the corporate bible. You, the viewer, may be stretched out on your bed or couch in your skivvies or jammies but it is important that your host looks like he is at work. Each show must start off with a monologue which usually covers something current in politics or makes fun of some young entertainer who has gone off the deep end.
Almost all hosts have a side kick or a band leader to make small talk with. Some of the more notable side kicks in the past have been Ed McMahon (How did he ever go broke?), Doc Severinsen, Regis Philbin, and Paul Shaffer. Today Chelsea Handler has a midget as a side kick and Craig Ferguson has his skeleton Geoff.
Each show must have some bits that the audience can identify with. They don’t have to be very sophisticated and the sillier they are the better. Some of these routines are done every night as Letterman’s Top 10 is and other routines happen just every now and then.
The biggest laughs usually come about through spontaneity. Putting an audience member on the spot often works. Going out on the street and asking morons questions that have answers that most people should know but don’t is even better.
Most late night comedians are shit disturbers and most of the viewers are keen to see some kind of friction whether it is real or not.  
More than anything else the host must make his audience feel like they would like him to be their pal, the kind of guy they could have a beer with or go fishing with.
Late night talk show TV has been around for almost 65 years now. A lot of the hosts and a lot of the guests we have seen over the years are no longer with us.
Here is my interpretation of the history of late night talk shows….

History Of Late Night Talk Shows

The first late night talk show I ever saw was Steve Allen’s in the mid-1950s. I’ve pretty well spent most of my life going to sleep late.
From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, when commercial TV was still in its infancy, any time after 11:30 p.m. was pretty well considered dead space. Some stations showed old movies while others simply went off the air until the following morning. I remember in the early 1950s in Canada that the local station would only start televising at about 5 p.m. in the afternoon and the only thing on the TV screen during the day was the Indian head test pattern.
Broadway Open House
Steve Allen wasn’t the first guy to host a late night talk show. In the early 50s (before my late night viewing time) there was a program called Broadway Open House. It only lasted for a few years. One of the hosts was Morey Amsterdam who later played a gag writer along with Rose Marie on the 60s Dick Van Dyke Show. Someone got the bright idea that it might be funny to have a large chested woman with a foreign name added to the Broadway Open House cast. She was given the name Dagmar and later took over hosting the show before the program was cancelled.
Steve Allen
Steve Allen’s parents had both been in Vaudeville (variety entertainment) so he grew up in show biz. Aside from being a comedian he was also a prolific songwriter. He wrote “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big.” He was the first host of NBC’s The Tonight Show. When he first became host Gene Rayburn, who would later host Match Game, was his announcer.
Allen was very quick witted and had boundless energy. He has been credited as being the first host to include “man on the street” interviews and audience participation on his shows. In some ways Allen was a product of the 1940s. He loved big band music but had no time for rock and roll. His comedy often included a long laugh about something followed by another zinger that could extend the joke to several minutes. His black rimmed glasses gave him the appearance of being someone who was intelligent.
After a few years of doing The Tonight Show the brain trust at NBC thought it might be a good idea that they produce another show with Allen as the host to go up against Ed Sullivan at 8 o’clock on Sunday nights. On his Sunday night show he introduced the American public to comics like Bill Dana, Tom Poston, Louis Nye, Don Knotts, and Pat Harrington.
After a while it all became too much. An hour and a half weeknights and another hour on Sunday was an awful lot for anyone to handle. At first NBC cut his weekday workload back and had the weird and crazy comedian Ernie Kovacs take his place on Monday and Tuesday nights. And then they fired both Allen and Kovacs from The Tonight Show leaving Allen with just his Sunday night spot. Allen had lasted from 1954-1957 as the host of The Tonight Show.
Steve Allen
Tonight: America After Dark

After firing Allen the NBC execs decided to take another route with their late night talk show spot and brought in veteran announcer Jack Lescoulie to host their new show called Tonight: America After Dark. Lescoulie was a nice guy but he wasn’t a comedian and if Americans were going to stay up late they wanted to see someone funny. The show only lasted several months and during that time a number of the NBC affiliates refused to air the program.
Jack Lescoulie on right with Dave Garroway and chimp.
Jack Paar
Paar got his first big show biz break as a summer replacement for Jack Benny on radio just after WW2. He also played the 2nd and 3rd banana in some movies. In the early 50s he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show as a comic and hosted a couple of game shows.
Jack Paar took over The Tonight Show in 1957 and left it in 1962. Paar was a complex individual who often wore his heart on his sleeve. He was very thin skinned and could feel slighted very easily. He had running battles with Ed Sullivan and gossip columnist Walter Winchell and walked off The Tonight Show for 3 weeks once over a joke the censors wouldn’t let him tell.
Paar was more of a story teller than a laugh a minute comedian. He worked at a much slower pace than his predecessor Steve Allen. Sometimes he would end his little chats with his audience with his catch phrase “I kid you not!” His best asset was that he was a great conversationalist. Unlike other talk show hosts, Paar kept little of his personal life way from the public. On some nights on his show he would show home movies often featuring his young daughter Randy. At least one of those home movies was about a trip Paar and his family had taken to Africa.
In some ways Paar’s show was what they used to call highbrow. Intellectual if you like. He once interviewed Fidel Castro. Peter Ustinov was a regular guest and Paar often had people on his show who were part of the live theatre crowd in New York.
Unfortunately there is very little videotape of either Jack Paar’s or Steve Allens old shows. I was pretty young back then but I remember Paar having an American writer on quite often who was married to a Japanese woman and she would mispronounce a lot of English words and make some of them sound suggestive. 
NBC knew Paar wasn’t going to last and unlike when Steve Allen left, this time they were prepared with a replacement. Paar packed it in in 1962. For most of his run, Hugh Downs later of the 20-20 TV program, was Paar’s announcer.
Jack Paar with JFK.
Johnny Carson
When I was in grade 8 in 1960 I would often come home after school and watch a quiz program at 3:30 called Who Do You Trust. The host of the show was a young skinny guy named Johnny Carson. The format of the show was a lot like Groucho Marx’s You Bet Your Life quiz show in that most of the laughs came from messing around with the 2 guest contestants and mixing them up with quick wit. I thought Carson was hilarious and sometimes brought friends over after school to see his show.
I was kind of surprised that Johnny Carson got The Tonight Show gig but thought he was an excellent choice. He brought announcer and side kick Ed McMahon along with him from Who Do You Trust to The Tonight Show. NBC had to wait about 5 months for his contract to expire with ABC before he debuted on October 1, 1962. Carson would spend the next 30 years hosting the show.
Skitch Henderson (later jailed for income tax evasion) had been the band leader on The Tonight Show when Steve Allen was host and returned to the same job when Carson took over. He was later replaced by Doc Severinsen. The show was based in New York City and moved to Los Angeles in 1972.
Johnny Carson was a very bright guy and picked up a lot of things that would help him in his comedy from other older comedians. I’m guessing but I think he got his silent cheesed off look from Jack Benny. He had also worked as a writer for comic genius Red Skelton in the 1950s.
Not to take away from Carson’s talents  buthe was very fortunate in the timing of his break in getting The Tonight Show spot. He not only had the old greats still around from the movie business like Jimmy Stewart, Jack Lemmon, Orson Welles, and others, he also had an amazing list of both veterans and new comers in comedy on his show.
The word in the entertainment industry was that if you were a new young comic making one of your first national appearances on The Tonight Show and Carson gave you the OK sign and invited you to sit down on the couch you pretty well had your career made.
Some of those comedians whose careers got a boost from being on Carson’s show included Richard Pryor, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Howie Mandel, David Steinberg, Steven Wright, Steve Martin, Jimmy Walker, Chris Rock, Robert Klein, and Martin Short.
He also had comedians on who had been around for years like Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, Bob Newhart, Rodney Dangerfield, Don Rickles, Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers, Rip Taylor, Jonathan Winters, Nipsey Russell, Flip Wilson, Redd Foxx, Paul Lynde, and Rich Little.
Carson was cool and almost anybody who was anybody in show biz wanted to be on his show. It was the place to be for many years if you wanted a good time.
Carson’s mannerisms were many. His shrug, his pulling on the knot in his tie, his golf swing at the end of his monologue, his flipping a pencil in the air, his dead pan look, were just some of them.
Every so often he would play a character that he had invented like Carnac The Magnficent, Art Fern the sleazy Tea Time movie announcer accompanied by big breasted Carol Wayne and lots of double entendres, or Floyd R. Turbo a dimwitted guy with a hunting cap.
There is so much to remember about Carson’s 30 years on The Tonight Show, the joking with Don Rickles and Dean Martin, the time Tiny Tim got married on the program, the wild animals who sometimes scared the crap out of Johnny, the sexual tension between him and Angie Dickinson, the jokes about his marriages and his lawyer Henry Bushkin, and of course his final farewell when Bette Midler sang to him and brought tears to his eyes.
Johnny Carson in his last year on The Tonight Show

Ed McMahon once said that Carson carried “a tight suitcase”. You knew that he wanted to keep his private life to himself. Apparently for a number of years he was a mean drunk. Whatever he was he was the best at what he did for an awfully long time. Singer Paul Anka wrote the theme song for Carson’s Tonight Show.
A young Johnny Carson.

 Joey Bishop
In 1967 the ABC TV network decided to take a crack at late night TV with a talk show and chose Joey Bishop who had had a situation comedy show on TV and was one of the “Rat Pack” that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford. Bishops’s announcer and side kick was Regis Philbin.
Bishop wasn’t the most interesting person in show biz and his comedy could be described as droll. His show lasted only 2 years and probably the best that can be said about it was it had a good theme song that went “Joey, ….Joey, Joey.”
Joey Bishop with Regis Philbin.
Merv Griffin
IN 1969 CBS decided to get in on the late night talk show action and chose Merv Griffin to host their show. Griffin started out in show biz as a big band singer in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Doris Day is supposed to have discovered him. Griffin had a minor hit with a song called I’ve Got A lovely Bunch Of Coconuts in the early 50s. He went on to host a number of game shows before having a day time talk show. He, along with his wife, came up with the concept for the quiz show Jeopardy. He also invented Wheel Of Fortune.
Merv Griffin was noted for his breathless enthusiasm. He seemed to be most at ease interviewing old friends from the entertainment world but he also took some chances. He got in a load of trouble for having Yippie and shit disturber Abbie Hoffman on his program. For many years his announcer was the tall elderly English actor Arthur Treacher who later had a fish and chips restaurant chain named after him.
Griffin may have been the only late night talk show host who was also a singer. He would sometimes sing with his musical guests. His late night show never took off and he went back to daytime TV. He lasted about 2 years doing late night. It wasn’t until after his death that the general public learned that he was gay.
Merv Griffin
Dick Cavett
In 1968 Dick Cavett was given Joey Bishop’s old spot at ABC. Cavett had gone to Yale and was considered by some as “a thinking man’s comedian”. He got his start on TV  writing jokes for Jack Paar in the early 60s. One of the famous lines he gave Paar was “Here they are…Jayne Mansfield.”
Out of all the hosts that went up against Carson, Cavett lasted the longest at 5 years even though he never had high ratings. When Johnny Carson took over from Jack Paar, Cavett stayed on for a while as a writer. He was quick witted and gave Carson the line “Having your taste questioned by criticized by Dorothy Killgallen (a frumpy looking game show panelist) is like having your clothes criticised by Emmett Kelly (a well-known clown at the time who dressed like a bum).
Appearance wise Cavett looked like a small good looking gymnast which he was when he was younger. You could get the feeling that he was somewhat insecure in that he often seemed to be trying to prove his worth by name dropping famous people he knew and he often seemed to want to show others how bright he was. Never the less he was one of the best interviewers on TV and always did his research on his guests.
Cavett was once asked why he had long sideburns and he replied “It’s a form of mild protest. Sort of like boiling my draft card.”
Dick Cavett with Marlon Brando.
Tom Snyder
In the early 1970s NBC and Johnny Carson decided to cut The Tonight Show to an hour from an hour and a half. Not having any competition from the other networks Carson also took time off from the show every now and then and guest hosts were brought in.
NBC decided to double down on their late night success with The Tonight Show and created a new late night talk show that would come on right after Carson said good night. The new program was to be called The Tomorrow Show and it was hosted by Tom Snyder, a laid back kind of guy who smoked cigarettes one after the other while on TV.
Snyder’s first Tomorrow Show appearance was in 1973 and his last was in 1982. He had a good run. For most of those years there was no studio audience. Snyder tried to make his show more personal and casual than others. He would sometimes have conversations with his behind the scenes crew. He also liked to wander in the topics that he discussed with guests and viewers could get the impression that he wasn’t interested in following proven formulas for having a talk show. Because of the time slot there was no rush to get the next guest on and often conversations would get stretched out if Snyder thought the topic was interesting to his viewers.
Snyder’s show bit the dust not long after NBC decided to bring in an audience and a co-host in gossip columnist Rona Barrett. Years later Snyder would return to his old late night show without a co-host.
Tom Snyder
Before there was Cable TV there were only 3 US television networks, NBC, CBS, and ABC. In 1980 ABC had pretty well given up on having a comedian being a host of a late night talk show on their network. They decided to go a different route with a news based kind of show that would be hosted by Ted Koppel for 25 years. The show was on 4 nights a week. For a while there was a Friday night comedy show called….Fridays. Two of the comedians on that show were Larry David and Michael Richards who would later have great success with the comedy ½ hour Seinfeld.
Ted Koppel
The Midnight Special
The Midnight Special ran from 1973 to 1981 on Friday nights on NBC. It certainly wasn’t a talk show but it was easily the best music show ever on TV. Anybody who was anybody in music or comedy back then appeared on The Midnight Special. Fortunately, unlike a lot of other old TV programs, all those great musical talents were recorded for posterity.
Wolfman Jack
David Letterman
After NBC dumped Tom Snyder they brought in Dave Letterman to replace him in the time slot that followed Johnny Carson. Dave has now been on late night TV for more than 30 years. If Carson was the king of late night Letterman was and is the prince.
Letterman was part of a group of comedians that got their first big breaks on The Tonight Show. He was a personal favourite of Johnny Carson and off stage they were friends. One of Letterman’s first national TV appearances was on a Mary Tyler Moore variety show along with Michael Keaton.
Dave was the wise ass with a sarcastic sense of humour. Tall and gangly with a gapped tooth smile he won over his audience with his zany antics. He was like the college guy who never grew up and by osmosis a good part of his audience, who had found jobs and now had families, could relive those days when they were younger and didn’t give a shit about much.
Before getting the late night spot Letterman had hosted a morning show on NBC that won 2 Emmy awards but it didn’t get good ratings.
Dave’s wit would get him into a bit of difficulty every now and then. Cher once called him an asshole. In the close to 10 years he hosted The Late Show there was very little of the drama in Dave’s personal life that was to come years later. Some of things he will be remembered for introducing on his late show are his top 10 list, his Velcro suit, his stupid pet tricks, and his monkey cam.
A young Dave Letterman.
Letterman and Jay Leno both started off doing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles at the same time in the mid-1970s at The Comedy Store. Back in those days they were pals. When Johnny Carson retired in 1992 he wanted Letterman to replace him. NBC decided to go with Leno and Letterman and Leno were pals no more. Dave moved over to CBS to compete directly with Leno.
When Dave went over to CBS he gave up the khaki pants and sneakers and started wearing suits. He brought most of his comedy bits with him but had to change the names of some of them. He also brought over Canadian born band leader Paul Shaffer from his old show. For the first 2 seasons Letterman beat Leno regularly in the ratings but there after Leno beat him.
From time to time before he died Johnny Carson would send over a joke or 2 to Letterman. They had similar senses of humour. For the most part The Late Show with David Letterman was a lot like his old show. Every year at Thanksgiving there would be a guessing game of what kind of pies his mom made. There were the bits with his announcer Alan Colter that would turn into a rant often with sexual undertones. Paul Shaffer was almost always the yes man to anything Dave had to say. Once in a while Dave would get into a running spat with one of his guests like Oprah Winfrey. One of Dave’s frequent guests was actor and comedian Charles Grodin and the two of them would get into fake arguments.
In 1995 Letterman hosted the Oscars and a lot of his jokes fell flat. For a number of years he would joke about the fiasco of that night. In January of 2000 Dave had open heart surgery. He would give up smoking cigars after that. He was quite grateful to still be alive and brought his doctors out on stage one night on his program. Other than the writer’s strike in 2007-2008, things were going well for Letterman and his show.
Like Carson, Letterman is a private person away from TV but a series of events over the past 20 years altered that privacy. There was the woman stalker who stole his Porsche and broke into his house who later committed suicide. There was his open heart surgery in January of 2000.
In 2005 police discovered a plot to kidnap Letterman’s son Harry for 5 million dollars in ransom. In 2009 he got a lot of grief for telling a joke about one of Sarah Palin’s daughters. He offered up a public apology on his show for that. In 2011 he received an internet death threat from a Muslim militant and laughed it off. Dave was the kind of guy a lot of other guys would like to hang out with. Nobody really seemed to care when it was revealed that he had slept with a number of his female staff. Many of his fans couldn’t see any harm and after all he wasn’t married.
One night Letterman did an open confession on his show and apologized for his behaviour to his later wife and his viewers. Personally I thought he was an asshole in his personal relationships with women. He cheated on women he was in long term relationships with for decades including the mother of his son who he would later marry. He even brought his intern Stephanie Birkitt to his homes in Montana and The Virgin Islands.
Aside from being the two best late night talk show hosts Carson and Letterman had something else in common. As they got older they stuck with the same routines hardly ever venturing away from their formats. They both also knew that once they finally said goodbye it was going to be forever.
Over the past few years I would just tune Dave in every once in a while channel surfing. At times he seemed a bit worn out and he would squint his eyes during his monologue and you could get the feeling that he might be saying to himself  “What the hell am I doing here?” Letterman seemed to also be bored at times. How many Jakes, Justins, and Zacks with their 5 o’clock shadows can you make small talk with when they really aren’t that interesting and who really gives a rat’s ass about some pretty young thing’s tiny dog?
As when Carson was in his last years on TV, Dave was at his best when old friends turned up like Steve Martin, Bill Murray, and Billy Crystal. You knew that Dave was no longer speeding down a turnpike each day to get to the Ed Sullivan Theatre. His hair, what is left of it, seems to have a mind of its own and like the rest of us in his age group he was starting to look old.
Probably the hardest part for Dave in leaving his show will be saying goodbye to his crew. They are his family in some ways and he has a long history with many of them. His exit from late night will most certainly be a long goodbye. My guess is after he leaves, like Carson when he retired, we won’t hear much more from him.
Dave with his first late night talk show guest Bill Murray.
Alan Thicke
In 1983 Canadian born songwriter and actor Alan Thicke had a syndicated late night talk show called “Thicke of the Night” which lasted all of 1 year. Among the regulars on his show were Arsenio Hall, Gilbert Gottfried, Fred Willard, and Richard Belzer who would later play Detective Munch on the crime series Law and Order.
Alan Thicke
Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers’s career as a comedienne started in the late 1950s. Over the next 25 years she appeared on a number of variety shows doing stand-up including The Ed Sullivan Show. She was also the opening act for a number of singers. Her comedy was mostly about being Jewish and she would often take shots at her husband Edgar who later committed suicide. In the 1980s she became Johnny Carson’s go to person when he needed someone to fill in for him on The Tonight Show. In 1986 Rivers jumped over to the FOX Television Network to host her own late night talk show. When Johnny Carson found out he banned her from ever appearing on The Tonight Show which was honoured by later hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. Carson and Rivers never spoke to one another again.
Rivers’s husband was involved in producing her talk show at FOX and the network executives hated him. In the end both Rivers and her husband were fired and her show barely lasted a year.
Since then Rivers has involved herself in pretty well anything in the entertainment business where she could make a buck. She was on The Apprentice, did a reality show with her daughter, and currently has some kind of fashion commentary show where she criticizes people in show biz. It is not surprising that her late night gig didn’t last long. Mean humour just doesn’t work with a wider audience.
Joan Rivers
Ross Shafer
Ross Shafer was the replacement when Joan Rivers was canned. He grew up in the Seattle area and had a local late night show there called “Almost Live” that is still on Seattle TV today. Shafer was part of the push in Washington State that resulted in “Louie, Louie” becoming the state song. His national late night talk show didn’t do well and was cancelled after a year.
Ross Shafer
Pat Sajak
Yes the host of Wheel of Fortune also had a late night talk show. It was on TV from 1989 to 1990. Other than having Rush Limbaugh sub for him which ended up being a disaster there isn’t much to say about Sajak’s show.
Pat Sajak
Arsenio Hall
The late night talk show The Arsenio Hall Show was on TV for about 5 years starting in 1989. It catered to both a younger audience and the black audience. In 2013 his show was resurrected. Hall has been a big proponent of promoting black artists on both his old and new show. He was a lot cockier on his first show than the one he has now. Personally I have never found him to be funny. He often seemed to be fawning over friends who were guests like Magic Johnson and Eddie Murphy. What really made me lose respect for him was his ass kissing on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice. Today he seems more old than cool.
Arsenio Hall
Jay Leno
Jay Leno made his first appearance on Carson’s The Tonight Show in March of 1977. Starting in 1987 he was a regular guest host for Carson. Many were surprised when Leno got Carson’s spot when he retired in 1992. There may have been a lot of controversy over Leno getting Carson’s old job and retaking his old job from Conan O’Brien but his personal life was never in the news in a bad way. Over the years he has known for his frequent stand-up shows away from The Tonight Show and it has been said that he lives on that money and saves every dime he makes on his show. Jay Leno also has a large car collection as does his friend Jerry Seinfeld.
The best bit on Leno’s show to me was his “Jaywalking” where he would go out on the street and ask people questions like “Who is the vice president of The United States?” The bits were funny and sad at the same time in that a lot of people seemed quite self-satisfied in their obvious ignorance.
Towards the end of Jay Leno’s run on late night TV he would sometimes throw in a joke or two about the Democrats. One could get the opinion that his politics are to the right but I think he is only conservative on fiscal matters. His long time wife is an advocate for women’s rights.
It is hard to say why Leno consistently beat Letterman in the ratings. Perhaps it was because many Americans who watch late night TV like to be lulled to sleep. Who knows?
Jay Leno
Chevy Chase
In 1993 Chevy Chase got his own late night talk show. If you missed it you weren’t the only one. It lasted all of 6 weeks. The funny guy from Saturday Night Live and the “Vacation” movies just couldn’t cut it doing a talk show. He was simply just too awkward.
Chevy Chase
Conan O’Brien
After Letterman jumped over to CBS Conan O’Brien was given Dave’s old spot that followed The Tonight Show. O’Brien’s forte back then was writing comedy for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. Personally I never understood why NBC chose O’Brien to replace Leno. He always seemed a bit out of his element in front of mainstream America. His kind of comedy seemed more suitable for college types. Sizzling nipples is not many American’s cup of tea.
The short conversations O’Brien had and has with his sidekick Andy Richter are pretty well always boring. To me Conan’s best bit was the inappropriate dog puppet Triumph who would insult people at will. These bits may not have been politically correct but they were damn funny.
Conan O'Brien
Craig Kilborn
For 5 years starting in 1999 Craig Kilborn followed Dave Letterman’s show at CBS. Kilborn was really tall and it would be fair to say quite good looking. The theme song for his show was “Play That Funky Music.” Before getting his late night gig he had been a sports anchor at ESPN. Kilborn’s manner was ultra-casual  and he extended that casualness when he decided not to have his contact renewed. Craig Ferguson took his place.
Craig Kilborn
Bob Costas
It seems like Bob Costas has been around forever hosting the Olympics and a variety of other sports.  For 6 years starting in 1988 Costas hosted a really late night talk show that started at 1:30 in the morning. He was great at doing in depth interviews with a single guest. If he felt that there was more meat on the bone he would continue the conversation on his next show.
Bob Costas
Greg Kinnear
Likable Greg Kinnear took over from Bob Costas doing the really late talk show spot in 1994 and lasted for 2 years. He was also hosting a program called Talk Soup on another network at the same time. If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy his movie acting career took off and he decided to give up on TV altogether.
Greg Kinnear
My Critique Of Current Late Night Talk Shows

Stephen Colbert
Not really a talk show other than with his one guest. Colbert to me is simply the funniest guy on TV today. I know he has a lot more in his bag of tricks than his conservative persona that he uses on his show. He is not only funny but you get the impression that he is a pretty decent individual.
Stephen Colbert
Jon Stewart
Also not really a talk show. His opening segment is almost always really funny and informative but after that his show kind of drops off. Most of the skits are terrible and the guest interviews are much too short. He also seems to want to show how intelligent he is when talking to his guests which makes him look a bit insecure. For a guy who portrays himself as one who is looking for truth and honesty it seems kind of strange that he never has used his real name.
Jon Stewart
Craig Ferguson
A little of him goes a long way. He is far too manic and it is not surprising that he has had alcohol problems in his past. Sometimes he borders on just being plain nuts.
Craig Ferguson
Conan O’Brien
A great comedy writer but is an awkward host. He is still catering to the college crowd he grew up with and a lot of his humour is pretty juvenile for a guy who is 51.
Jimmy Fallon
A great choice by NBC to take over from Leno. He fits all of the demographics. He’s the kind of guy parents would like their daughter to marry but is also hip enough for younger people to identify with. He knows how to keep a fast pace going that his younger viewers with short attention spans appreciate.
Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Kimmel
He’s the number 1 wise ass on late night TV today. Aside from being very funny his producers know what kind of music younger watchers want to see.
Jimmy Kimmel
Seth Myers
Former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update host. He seems like a one trick pony and a bit on the bland side.
Seth Myers

Chelsea Handler
She’s an annoying broad with a mean mouth. She has a big gay following. She should be arrested for midget abuse.
Chelsea Handler
Arsenio Hall
There has to be another black guy or black woman around who is actually funny. I get it that he likes to get a lot of black people on his show but some of them just aren’t that interesting.
Carson Daly
He is pretty well humourless and seems a bit like a Ryan Seacrest clone. If you are into Indie music you might want to stay up and watch Daly.
Carson Daly
Bill Maher
He is only on TV once a week and is easily the best American political satirist there is today. You know that he is really, really funny when you see right wing guests trying to control their laughter. Maher would never fit into a prime time late night talk show on NBC or CBS. He is far too confrontational for that.
Bill Maher
As someone who is white and about to turn 67 I think us baby boomers have had a long run of being catered to on late night talk shows. We are living in different times today even though politically and economically old white men still have a lot of influence.
Personally I think it is time for many older types to move aside and let younger people express themselves more. Yes it is nice to see Betty White now and then or some old comedy veteran but do most of us really give a rat’s ass what Barbara Walters has to say anymore?
One thing is for sure with Leno and then Letterman retiring. They both have tons of money and can do exactly what they want for their remaining years. It was fun while it lasted.