'Masquerade Party' revived the concept of an earlier TV show (with the same name) from 1952. I haven't seen any kinescopes of the earlier version; this review refers solely to the 1970s incarnation, which had the benefit of elaborate facial makeup in the form of latex appliances.
Richard Dawson was the ultra-slick grinning compere, and there were a panel of three semi-celebrities who did the guessing. One member of the panel was usually Nipsey Russell, who also served as the 'poet laureate' of this show. At the beginning of each edition, when Dawson introduced the members of the panel, Russell would offer one of his brief poems dealing with an issue of the day. Nipsey Russell was a deeply talented performer who never quite achieved the success he deserved, partly because he seemed to be a conventional 'gag' comedian but actually did material which required the audience to do some thinking.
There would be two masqueraders per show, each of them a mid-rank celebrity by 1974 standards. Dawson would announce to us (but not the panel) the masquerader's identity, while the camera cut to an insert head shot of this person as he or she normally appeared. (If you wanted to play along with the panel, this was the point where you would look away from the screen and turn down the volume.)
The masquerader would arrive onstage wearing an elaborate costume that was meant to be an oblique clue to his or her identity, with the celebrity's face concealed beneath elaborate latex prostheses. Some of the makeup jobs were very impressive. Just occasionally, the masquerader would be cross-dressed as someone of the opposite sex, but the person's real gender was always obvious.
The masquerader would stand on a small mock-up set which, again, allegedly offered some clues to the masquerader's real identity. The members of the panel would ask Twenty-Questions type queries: 'Are you a movie actor?' and so forth. If the panel were too baffled, the masquerader would periodically offer a verbal or visual clue.
One fairly easy example: a masquerader appeared in costume as Captain Andy, the captain of the "Show Boat" in Jerome Kern's musical, standing on a steamboat's deck. When the panel failed to pierce his disguise, he offered this clue: 'We've got a lot of STARS on our boat.' The masquerader turned out to be William Shatner, who had formerly played the captain of a (star)ship. Geddit?
A less obvious example was the masquerader who showed up disguised as a giant blue rabbit, hopping up and down on a set representing a carrot patch. When nobody guessed his identity, he flexed his arms and uprooted a giant carrot. This rodent turned out to be Peter Lupus, the former champion bodybuilder. Apparently the rabbit disguise was meant to suggest his name 'Lupus'. (Surely 'Lepus' would be more accurate?)
There was always a brief moment of grossness each time the masquerader was called upon to unmask, as this required them to dig their fingers into their own grotesque faces and peel off large quantities of latex.
'Masquerade Party' was hardly the worst (nor the most insulting) idea for a game show, and it avoided the huge displays of greed and vulgarity which some of its brethren have spawned. A revival of this game show would be welcome.
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