Matt Houston (1982–1985)
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The Beverly Woods Social Club 

During a carnival fund-raiser, vicious gossip columnist Vonda Moran is blown up because someone tampered with a "strength test" mallet & ringing bell attraction. Houston is subsequently kidnapped and persuaded to investigate.


Don Chaffey


Lawrence Gordon (creator), Skip Webster


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Episode credited cast:
Lee Horsley ... Matt Houston
Pamela Hensley ... C.J. Parsons
John Aprea ... Lt. Vince Novelli
Penny Santon Penny Santon ... Mama Rosa Novelli
Jayne Meadows ... Holly Harkens (as Jayne Meadows Allen)
Michael Constantine ... Police Chief
Don DeFore ... Mayor
Bo Hopkins ... Rev. Noah Sunday
Ben Murphy ... Terry Noble
Ron Palillo ... Charley Arbis
Natalie Schafer ... Vonda Moran
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tony Brubaker ... Odell
Michael L. Kavanagh Michael L. Kavanagh ... Desk Sergeant (as Michael Kavanagh)
Gary Krakower Gary Krakower ... Brother Daniel
Tony Longo ... Johnny Gucci


During a carnival fund-raiser, vicious gossip columnist Vonda Moran is blown up because someone tampered with a "strength test" mallet & ringing bell attraction. Houston is subsequently kidnapped and persuaded to investigate.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery







Release Date:

13 March 1983 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Lovey Howell Gits Blowed Up Real Good!
13 August 2011 | by JasonDanielBakerSee all my reviews

Houston has bought expensive tickets for he and C.J. to attend a charity benefit at the Beverly Hills Social Club. A raffle is held for a chance to drop a mallet on one of those "Test Your Strength" bells for a big prize. Mean Hollywood gossip columnist Vonda Moran(Natalie Schafer) wins, slams the mallet down and ka-boom she goes from the Entertainment section to the Obituaries.

In the spirit of murder mystery novels the victim is an unpopular individual a lot of people wanted dead for a variety of different reasons maximizing the suspense up until the end. The victim is also killed in an offbeat way all to lighten the mood of what should be something tragic.

Houston's jet-set lifestyle means that he should be at home at an event like this. His presence at a high society philanthropic function ties in with the benevolence of the character as well his affluence. He has a natural place in this mystery instead of being brought in like a gumshoe out of the yellow pages, the type of introduction to a case that was not understandable or logical but nevertheless was his point of entry to a number of mysteries.

The mayor, chief of police and a notorious madam who were each at the event entreat Houston to undertake a low-key investigation though it is pretty obvious they are less concerned about who killed Ms.Moran and more concerned about the recovery of a black book containing the madam's trick-list detailing involvement of powerful men in something called the "Aphrodisia Fellowship", a high-class escort service whose clients also pool their resources to raise money for children's charities.

Houston protests even when it is made clear to him his personal expertise and discretion are a better remedy than police involvement and the publicity that sometimes goes with it. His altruism is not generally of the judgemental variety but it has its limits and something that sounds suspiciously like the supposed ring behind the Franklin Cover-Up is not his bag up until he meets one of the kids who benefits from the charity.

Houston can be a skilled amateur and here they let him be that in an episode which very nearly strikes a perfect balance that so few episodes of this series ever approached. But the whole Aphrodisia Fellowship angle did rather give me cause to raise an eyebrow. Were they trying to make some important people nervous with this episode? My only other criticism is minor as I regard this as one of the best episodes of the debut season. Houston is nearly hit by a car again that tries to run him down. My guess would be that Lee Horsley's stand-in specialized in that kind of stunt but they just did that stunt to death on this show.

As for the casting, the group assembled here was quite experienced and appealing even though their respective characters weren't. It is structured like an offbeat whodunit and several cast members were actors from old sitcoms (Jayne Meadows, Ron Palilo, Natalie Schafer) which was the way they had it in numerous episodes in the debut season. These are actors to whom Lee Horsley can play straight man to which is something he was very adept at.

That is Ben Murphy, a terrific TV actor who never really found a suitable star vehicle portraying Terry Noble - essentially a thinly-veiled version of womanizing baseball star Steve Garvey, a man who layed so much pipe off the field he could have started a plumbing service in the off-season.

Bo Hopkins (Who could have played Houston) portrays the Reverend Noah Sunday - a thinly-veiled version of other well-known playas i.e. TV evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart, who not only likes hookers but is building a $60,000,000 cathedral over a garbage dump. They seemingly milked every sacred cow they could think of in this one.

The Johnny Donato (Tony Longo - 21 years old at the time, playing the lover of a character portrayed by an 82-year old actress) character who is the younger lover of the Vonda Moran character is a version of Johnny Stompanato, a mafia-thug who became Hollywood legend Lana Turner's lover before becoming the victim of one of Tinseltown's more sensational murders. Inexplicably the character Johnny Donato is credited as "Johnny Gucci" when he is clearly called Johnny Donato throughout the episode.

In case anyone was wondering Natalie Schafer was 82 years old when this was shot and she continued acting in a few productions after this. The joy of doing what you love never gets old for some people even long after they do.

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