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I have fond childhood memories of the Dave Garroway "Today" show from the early to mid-50's. I watched it every morning as I was preparing for school. I enjoyed seeing all those people in New York City standing in the street looking in the window as they were being shot live by the "Today" cameras. Members of the crowd held up signs with such homilies as hello, Mom, or Bruce, or folks back home, or whoever was watching their first appearance on national TV. Whenever the camera panned them, they would do crazy things such as distorting their faces, jumping up and down, screeching, winking an eye, and incessantly waving as if they had just landed on the moon.
The early "Today" show centered on the eccentric personality of Dave Garroway, who became almost a cult figure to some of his viewers. His signature trademark was to hold his right hand up at the end of the program and softly proclaim, "Peace." This tall, bespectacled host was certainly different than others of his ilk. He tended to be moody yet conversational while drinking a cup of coffee. Dave's nemesis was the so-called co-host J. Fred Muggs, a spoiled and pampered chimp. Obvious to viewers was the enmity Dave felt toward the chimp. Also obvious: the feeling was mutual. Dave and the chimp pretended that it was all in fun. One reason for this pretense was the popularity of the chimp over Dave. Dave let the chimp make a monkey of him because it kept the ratings up.
Almost as popular as Dave and the chimp were the other members of the "Today" morning team. Jack Lescoulie gave the sports, served as reporter, and participated in the hijinks with J. Fred and Dave from time to time. He was a colorful character with a gift of gab who did his job well. He would sit in for Dave when needed. The news anchor, Frank Blair, was the most laid back of the "Today" staff. He was droll in his humor but Like Jack Lescoulie often participated in the fun and games. As I recall he also gave the weather.
Dave was gifted in several ways. His intellect enabled him to communicate his ideas and feelings with ease yet in a way that seemed informal and genuine. He conducted many of the best interviews of early television. He had an innate sense of what world work and what wouldn't work on early morning television when choosing guests and topics. Because of his tortured personal life, the gifts he possessed sadly began to wane till he was dropped by NBC and drifted into oblivion.
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