Nancy had the privelege to interview many celebrities while working on her television show.
I did several TV shows with Tammy Faye Bakker just before she died. These were just a few months before her death. The TV show was broadcast from Channel 16 in Greenville, S. C. The name of the show was “You Can Make it” which was a bit of a play on words as she was trying to make it physically and we were trying to make it in the kitchen. The other person in the pictures is Joanne Thompson, the host of the show and the owner of the TV station, along with her husband. Joanne created this show to showcase Tammy Faye. She then invited local chefs, etc. to be on the shows with Tammy Faye. It was a very unique experience for me!
The Nancy Welch Show started out from 9:00-9:30 and my lead in was the children’s show, Captain Kangaroo. Bob Keeshan was a wonderful lead in as the young women would let their children watch their show and then put them to bed for a nap when I came on. I met Bob in Los Angeles during those days and we did some joint promotional spots together where he promoted my show and I promoted his. He did the interview in character with his Captain suit on, which, I might add was very unusual for most actors. Most didn’t want to be in character as they wanted people to know the difference between the character they played on TV and the real person. Not Bob!
I met Phil Donahue several times but one trip to Chicago stands out as very memorable. When it was time to go backstage, his producer came and got me and took me to Phil’s office. Phil was on the phone with the Pope (don’t remember which one) and they were discussing the abortion issue! He was on hold, and holding the phone, turned to me and said, “Aren’t you the home ec. gal from South Carolina?” I nodded that I was. He said, “Do you have a needle and thread? I have split my pants and I have to do another show in a few minutes and I don’t have anything else to wear.” I said, “If you can find a needle and thread, I can certainly sew up your pants.” Still on hold, he called for his assistant who came through the door with a needle and thread in hand! She gave it to me and I wondered when I was going to get the pants to sew up. By this time, Phil was on the phone with the Pope and he was looking at me as if to say, “Start sewing!” I looked at him as if to say, “When are you going to give me your pants?” About that time, he motioned to his leg and pointed to the place that was split. It was about a three inch split just below the bottom of his pants pocket. He motioned for me to start sewing with them still on him! That was a first. Not only sewing up Phil Donahue’s pants but doing it with him still in them! On a later trip to Chicago while I was President of the S. C. Chapter of the American Women in Radio and Television (AWRT), I was to introduce the panel at the National Convention being held in Chicago. Phil was to be the moderator and Marlo Thomas was on the panel. I introduced them and that was the first time they had met. As they say, the rest is history!
On still another trip to Chicago, I had been nominated to receive an award for a series of shows I had done on Men’s Fashions. The Men’s Fashion Association invited me to Chicago to receive the award. The night of the event, Oscar de Larenta came on stage and showed his new line of men’s fashions. At the end of the show, a drawing was held to receive “a little something from Oscar!” He reached into the big bowl and drew out my name. He later mailed me a beautiful navy and silver full length gown that was absolutely wonderful! I was truly the bell of the ball when I wore that gown.
Each year I would go to Los Angeles to interview the stars of the upcoming CBS shows. There were always names and faces that were familiar like Dick Van Dyke who was very funny even when he was not being interviewed. Dick Van Dyke seemed to be in character as Rob always. He was a most delightful gentleman and just loved being “on stage” even for an interview.
Mary Tyler Moore was warm and welcoming and wanted to put a plug in for diabetes and exercise. She said she had had diabetes since she was a child and that the way she stays healthy is that she dances and exercises everyday and has always done that. She was and still is quite an advocate for education about diabetes.
Buddy Epson was quite a character and was up in age when he was on The Beverly Hillbillies, a big hit for CBS. All of the stars of that show were great and a real joy to meet. Epson was in great demand to be interviewed and I remember him sitting there drinking orange juice that was boosted with a little sugar to give him a boost as the day wore on. I was one of the last interviews and he was getting very tired but once the cameras started to roll, he was the consummate professional and gave it his all! He even got up and showed us a little soft shoe from his early vaudeville days!
Of all the stars I ever met, Robert Wagner was the best dressed, at least for my interview. He had on a chocolate brown silk suit, white dress shirt with gold cuff links, tie and brown alligator shoes! Wow, was he great looking. And what a gentleman. He was just as you would think he would be. At that time, he was starring in “Switch”, a humorous detective show co-starring Eddie Albert. I interviewed him in about 1977, and autographed a cookbook to Natalee Wood.
Telly Savalas and his famous line, “Who Loves You Baby”, which he wrote on the picture he autographed for me, was also a lovely man. Also quite the gentleman. On his show, Kojak, he gave out suckers and so he did the day I interviewed him!
Betty White was and is a lovely, funny lady. She had been in several CBS shows and at the time I interviewed her was starring in The Betty White Show. While in Los Angeles, I attended the taping of one of the shows and there was a whole show that went on back stage that because of the open set, the audience could see. Betty really played to the live audience and would come on stage laughing at something that happened during the break. The home audience would have no idea what was happening during the taping! She continues at 87 years of age to be in great demand and will star in a movie coming out this year.
Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson were just great. I remember Sherman Hemsley, Mr. George Jefferson, showing up for the interview in LA in jeans and a Superman T-Shirt. Isabel Sanford, Mrs. Jefferson was most delightful just as her character was on the show. Others from the show I interviewed were Marla Gibbs who played Florence, and Roxie Roker, who was the neighbor upstairs and the Jefferson’s son’s mother-in-law! They were all so much fun. It was easy to see why the show was a hit.
During all of the years of Dallas, I interviewed most of the characters on the show: Larry Hagman who played J.R. Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Susan Howard, Ken Kercheval, Victoria Principal, and Charlene Tilton. Larry was a fanatic about catching something from someone so he sat with a small fan blowing in front of his face so that he wouldn’t breathe smoke or air that someone else might have exhaled! All of the other stars were quite receptive and always were eager to help us get good interviews.
What was not to love with the cast of Dynasty! John Forsythe who played Blake Carrington and his screen wife, Linda Evans, were both lovely as they gave interviews.
All In The Family cast members were always eager to be interviewed. However, when I interviewed Jean Stapleton, Edith, I asked her to do a commercial for my show in character as Edith. She declined. She said she was more than just Edith, though I doubt that she will be remembered more for any other role than as Edith Bunker!
Carroll O’Connor, Archie Bunker, was quite a character but just a great guy. He requested his picture be taken with me and I have cherished that hug! I remember noticing that he (as did Dan Rather) wore a gold ring on his middle finger, not his ring finger on his left hand!
One of the hottest shows on CBS in the 70’s was the Dukes of Hazzard. The Sherriff, Boss Hogg, played by Sorrell Booke, was a show all of the kids loved. Sorrell was terrific. I had my children with me when I interviewed him and he wanted to have his picture taken with them. I interviewed several other people from the show and they were all just as down to earth as you would find. I remember asking Sorrell why he had taken this role. He said he had a Masters Degree in theatre and had always worked on Broadway, but when this came along, it was a chance to get off the stage and really have a great time!
The cast of M.A.S.H. was second to none. From Alan Alda to Wayne Rogers, McLean Stevenson, William Christopher, Mike Farrell, and David Ogden Stires, Jamie Farr was my favorite. I loved all of the others because each time I interviewed any of them, they would bring out takes from M.A.S.H. and it made the interview so much fun! Jamie Farr actually came to Spartanburg for the interview that I did. He was dressed in a beautiful brown suit and shoes. I had read his biography before he came and knew he loved to cook. So I had ingredients in the kitchen and we started making something. When we scrambled the eggs to put into the bowl, the bowl slipped and poured down his jacket and pants and into his shoes! I’ll never forget what he said. “The one time I’m not wearing a dress, I spill eggs all over myself!” He was a good sport about it even though we had to give him a robe to put on while we sent his suit to the cleaners for a quick clean!
And there were the not so familiar at the time, like Sarah Jessica Parker, who was starring in a new situation comedy, Square Pegs. The show didn’t last very long but Sarah Jessica Parker certainly did. When she burst on the scene in Sex in the City, many people thought she was just a new comer. In reality she had been working on her craft for 20 years!
Since television began, there were the soap opera. These shows got that sub title because the soap companies, primarily Proctor and Gamble, sponsored them. Many of the old shows moved over from radio days right on to the television without missing a beat. One of those was As The World Turns. Certainly one of the most popular characters on that show was Lisa Hughes, played by Eileen Fulton. Lisa and I had a little in common which helped develop into a lovely friendship for several years. Eileen grew up in North Carolina, was educated at the Women’s College of North Carolina, and was the daughter of a Methodist minister. When I met her, her parents were living in Black Mountain, N. C. where her father was the minister at the Methodist Church. Her mother was quite a fan of my show and was thrilled to learn that Eileen was going to be on my show. From then on, each time she came to visit her parents, she took time out of her busy schedule to appear on my show.
There were many soap opera stars that came to Spartanburg or Greenville through the years but none were more delightful than one of the stars of The Young and the Restless, Eric Braeden, who has played the role of Victor Newman since 1980. He was in Greenville, S. C. appearing at a BiLo Food Show where I interviewed him. His accent is hard to distinguish but it is German, where he was born and lived as a child. He plays a debonair gentleman on television and I found him to be “in character” in person and most charming.
When Haywood Mall opened in Greenville, Gene Kelly was invited to be the headliner. It was fabulous. We did the interview on the second level of the mall and with people all over the place, he danced his way down the escalator and then around the center court and back up the escalator, singing and dancing all the way. He was out of this world not only to watch but to interview. Such a lovely man.
When WSPA-TV moved its studios from Main Street in Spartanburg, S. C. out to the intersection of I-85 and I-26 (as the owner, Walter Brown called it, The Crossroads of the New South), the other Walter, Walter Cronkite, was on hand for the ground breaking and the dedication. On the later trip, I sat down with Mr. Cronkite, the most believed person in America, for a great interview. The comments I remember the most were when he responded to my questions, “What is the best and worst about being Walter Cronkite?” He quickly said, “The best is all of the great places I get to go and the wonderful people I get to meet. The worst is being in a restaurant for dinner with my family and someone recognizes me. They come over to the table and start talking. The problem is that after a few niceties they don’t know how to gracefully leave, so they continue to stay. I don’t want to be rude, but my food is getting cold. So recently I started saying, “I’m glad to have met you and if you don’t mind, I am going to continue with my meal before it gets cold.” That usually helps them get on with their business and I can get on with mine!” He was so cute as he talked. His eyes just danced on his face. Not hard to see why he is so revered.
During some of those early days at WSPA-TV a young lady right out of the University of South Carolina came to work at the station. She was Leeza Gibbons from Greenwood, S. C. She was a hard working girl and no assignment was too much for her. Several years after coming to the station, she got a call to come to Beaumont, Texas to host a local entertainment show. It wasn’t long before she was picked up by the National folks and off to New York she went. After that it was Hollywood and the rest is history. We loved Leeza and always took great pride in the fact that she started at WSPA-TV.
In addition to going to interview stars in Los Angeles each year, there was usually an Atlanta junket when the stars would make an additional stop. It was in Atlanta that I interview Tom Selleck, Michelle Lee, and others. Tom Selleck, star of Magnum PI, was a huge hit in 1980 when I interviewed him. I remember during the interview I asked him if he was married. He said, yes. The room was full of women, who all sighed! Then he said, “But we are separated!” The women all went, “Ah!” Then the whole room burst into laughter! He is currently preparing for another TV series.
Another time, I interviewed Larry Manetti, Selleck’s side kick in Magnum. He was just as delightful and had nothing but great things to say about working with Tom. In fact, at the end of the Magnum, Tom was given $350,000 as a bonus. He purchased Rolex watches and other expensive gifts and gave them all to the members of the Magnum crew!
When I interviewed Michelle Lee in Atlanta, she was starring in Knots Landing. This was a real hit for CBS and Michelle was in a role many people had never seen since her singing career had landed her in the spotlight. She did a great job on the show and I remember her wearing a bright blue silk blouse that was so light weight they couldn’t find anywhere to clip the microphone. Without hesitation, she pulled her shirt up and said, “Just clip it to my bra. That should do it!” The man that was trying to do this just about died trying to get it clipped as we all, of course, gave him a hard time about. While in New York, the Sunday afternoon of 9-9-01, just before 9-11, I was in New York getting ready to catch an evening flight back home. At the last minute we got tickets to the Sunday Matinee of The Allergist’s Wife, playing on Broadway. When we got to the theatre, Michelle Lee was the allergist’s wife! In fact, everyone in the cast except one, I had interviewed at one time during my television days. That was really cool.
Chastain Park in Atlanta is a special venue for concerts. The hot summer of 1987, I was able to be there with the camera crew to tape Sammy Davis, Jr. in concert. It was very special time particularly since he passed away in 1990.
Another great treat was going to New York each year to interview the nominees for the Tony Awards, given for various categories relating to the Broadway theatre. On one of those trips, I interviewed Anthony Perkins, who had been nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Romantic Comedy, also starring Mia Farrow. The night before the interview, I attended the play and as CBS would do, I had the best seat in the house on the second row. When the curtain opened, Perkins came on stage wearing his birthday suit and carrying a suit case! For a moment I thought I was in the theatre where Hair was playing! This “glimpse” certainly did make the interview the next morning interesting!
On that same trip, Judd Hirsch, best known for Taxi, had been nominated for a Tony Award. He was an easy interview because he loved to play so many roles and was so good at all of them.