A posting yesterday reminded me of a story. It's one of my favorites moments watching the Tonight Show, but one that never made an anniversary special.
As you may recall, Johnny Carson would have a segment called "Stump the Band." Someone in the audience would give the name of an obscure song, and someone in the band would half-heartedly try to make up the song and usually do a pathetic job.
One day, the audience suggested a song named, "She Likes Basketball," and when the band dismally failed, the guy started to sing this silly song with silly lyrics, and the audience broke in laughter at its silliness even more than usual. I started laughing too, because I had a sense where this was leading, if only things played out right. And they did.
The first guest on the show that night was actress Angie Dickinson, who at that time was married to composer Burt Bacharach. After she sat down and pleasantries exchanged, the first thing she said to Johnny was what I'd hoped. "You know that song that stumped the band, the one 'She Likes Basketball'?" she asked. And just the mere mention of the name got the audience laughing again, and Carson, too. Chuckling, he said he did.
"Burt wrote that," she replied. And the room exploded into laughter, some of the most uproarious I've heard on the show. My recollection is that Carson even slid down in his chair he was laughing so much.
She explained that it was from the musical, Promises, Promises (which I had a song from yesterday). The thing is, the song is silly, but it's supposed to be. It's such a fun song, though, that it's the number they used on the Tony Awards when the show was nominated as Best Musical back in 1969. In the song, the main character, played by Jerry Ohrbach on Broadway, is simply over-the-heels giddy that the woman he has a crush on finally agreed to go out with him, and it's because...well, she likes basketball. So, it's his joy overflowing that expresses his giddiness. And the result is this silly, but enthusiastic song.
Alas, I don't have that Tonight Show moment. But I do have Jerry Orbach singing the song on the Tony Awards. So, for all you people who only know of the good fellow as Det. Lenny Briscoe on Law & Order -- and those of you who know of his legendary Broadway career -- here 'tis. And later that night, he won the Tony Award as Best Leading Actor in a Musical.
(I should note that Promises, Promises was one of the first musicals I ever saw on Broadway, and Jerry Orbach was indeed in the cast. And he was absolutely wonderful. As this clip shows.)
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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