GETTING GONGED BY CHUCK BARRIS
Reading that Chuck Barris died, reminded me of when our paths crossed in the Sixties.
My starter marriage had ended, I still had some leftover wedding-gift money, and I had a vacation from my teaching job at a community college, so I decided to visit my cousin Judy in Los Angeles. My only other contact in L.A. was Chuck Barris, creator of “The Dating Game” and “The Gong Show.” I had never met him, but my ex-mother-in-law knew his mother and had given me his address.
Before my departure, I wrote Chuck to say I was coming. From the airport, I went to Judy’s to drop my bags and change into a silk blouse with one too many buttons undone, suede moccasin boots, and hot pants that were actually my sister’s 15-year-old faded green camp shorts still with her sister’s name tag sewn to the elastic waistband.
Then I made my way to the TV studio. Chuck looked older and shorter than he did on my portable television. After chatting with him for ten minutes, I noticed that he was jittery and inattentive. Nonetheless, when he offered me accommodations in his apartment, I accepted.
Had I been a bachelorette on the “Dating Game,” with Chuck as one of my three choices, I am not sure I would have selected him to be my date. Yet it took only a few couple of nights for me to advance from the sofa in his living room into his king-size bed.
Was I really so taken in by the razzmatazz of Hollywood? Or was it simply the same response, say, a hamster would have had after slumbering in such close proximity to another hamster? While I was impressed to find myself inside the pajamas of the big shot producer and host of the most outlandish game show on TV, I can’t say I was proud of what I was doing. And it was not made any easier by the fact that I was supposed to be staying at Cousin Judy’s, whose husband was a rabbi.
Even though I hung around the studio for hours each day, I saw Chuck only at night. He would regale me with tales of movie stars, like the one in which he alleged he’d had an affair with Julie Christie. It impressed me that he wanted to have an affair with me too.
Since there was not enough time to arrange for me to be a contestant on “The Dating Game,” I was offered a slot as a “Dating Game” chaperone for a couple who were only a few years younger than I was. Our date was a weekend in Colorado Springs with my only instructions being to make sure the girl did not get pregnant.
When I returned to Hollywood, I rode the elevator up to Chuck’s apartment, where a note was taped to the bedroom door:
A girlfriend from New Mexico is coming to visit
Since she lives a lot closer than you, chances
are that I’ll see her again sooner than I’ll see
you. So you’ll have to clear out.
I had been gonged.
Check out my books:
Still Standing: How an Ex-Con Found Salvation in the Floodwaters of Katrina
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