- Because no one could make kid-me laugh quite like Paul Lynde. And he still makes adult-me laugh my ass off as well. So is the power of Paul Lynde and his wonderful humorous ways.
Now, the thing is, my very first memory isn’t until I was two years old and even though it didn’t involve TV, it was still a doozey of a memory and proves to me that we must have past lives (and wouldn’t you like to know what my first memory is, but I’m not telling). But anyway, my point is, that even though my first memory wasn’t until I was two and didn’t involve TV, I’m almost positive that from the moment my parents took newborn-me home (back in the dinosaur/caveman days, or otherwise known as, 1972) from the hospital to our lovely single-wide trailer (we are Southern after all, home of the trailer loving people, even if we were living in South Florida right next door to the very wealthy and sometimes very famous and even sometimes mingling with them, we were still very poor and very un-famous, although some of us were infamous) that the very first thing newborn-me did when they carried me inside that trailer was notice the TV. Even if it wasn’t on, I betcha I was already wondering what it was and when was somebody going to use it and when they finally did, I’m pretty sure I then suddenly remembered what heaven was like (because remember, I got that weirdly insightful first memory to go on), because the more I live, and the more I write about movies and TV shows, the more I discover what an incredibly profound affect television has had on my life. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but still it is a thing about my life.
We had a little 13 inch color TV on one of those old TV stands that had wheels on it, so you know, you could wheel the TV around the living room (which being a single-wide trailer, of course the living room was just SO big that it needed a TV on wheels) to your area of choice, usually right in front of the couch to watch the TV while we were trying to eat (but usually failing) my mother’s lovely cooking. She even burned TV dinners, so let’s just say my dad, big sister and I still console each other when we get suddenly triggered by my mom’s really bad cooking even though we haven’t eaten it in years now. So anyway, my dad being a red-blooded, all-American, former Marine Corps (although he would say, “Once a Marine, always a Marine”), Vietnam veteran of the baby boomer generation, he was in charge of the TV viewing habits in our trailer. So, a lot of this TV watching that I did when I was real little, was all based on my dad’s interests. So, I watched a lot of World War II movies with John Wayne and a lot of western movies with John Wayne and the nightly news, both local and national, and 60 Minutes (yes, two year old me would watch 60 Minutes, which I’m not sure is a good thing for a brain so young to be exposed to how awful people can be), and In Search Of… (which, also, I’m not so sure a two year old should be watching because I spent the rest of my childhood worried that Hitler was still alive and living in Argentina, and that Big Foot was going to get us all at any minute, but luckily the movie Harry and the Hendersons cooled my fears about Big Foot when it came out when I was a teenager, but even though I’m an adult now with a lot of history knowledge in my head, I still kind of worry about Hitler planning a comeback while sunning in Argentina even though he’d be like 128 years old now and unable to do much of nothing, but still, I worry, so thanks Dad for being a watcher of In Search Of… for that!).
I was too lazy to go through all of my childhood pictures to find one of our old TV and rolling TV stand, but that’s what Google is for! Boy, TVs and TV stands have come a long way in 40 years, yet lately, I find that I am missing old TVs. I think because they had dials and only 4 channels to choose your entertainment options from. Nowadays its all about touch screens and fancy buttons that take forever to use and make no sense, and there are so many places to get your TV entertainment from that even movie/TV buff me cannot keep track! I swear I’m trying, but I don’t know half of what’s on TV anymore. Sometimes choice can be a burden. And sometimes I just want to use a dial, dammit! They are just easier and faster to use, and I know this nostalgic need for dials is aging me, but I don’t care.
But sometimes, my big sister got to be in charge of the TV viewing habits and when she was in charge (I was the youngest in my family, so I rarely, if ever got to be in charge of what to watch on TV), she watched shows like The Watergate Hearings (she was my dad’s child after all, so she was into watching the news too), The Bionic Woman (with the very lovely Lindsay Wagner), Wonder Woman (with the very lovely Lynda Carter), Dorothy Hamill and Nadia Comăneci during the 1976 Olympics, and, most importantly, game shows. My big sister loved game shows. I really only liked game shows when they had celebrities. My favorite celebrity game shows that she watched were Match Game, The Gong Show (boy, did we love us some Gene Gene The Dancing Machine) and the best damn celebrity game show of all the celebrity game shows of all time, Hollywood Squares.
Let’s take a time-out for a minute (or really 2 minutes and 25 seconds) to watch some Gene Gene The Dancing Machine on the craziest game show ever, The Gong Show. Even at 45 years old, I can’t stop watching this crazy man do his silly dance and loving every minute of it, which proves I have not matured past 4 years old. At least when it comes to the amazing Gene Gene The Dancing Machine and that’s fine with me. We would have a lot more happy adults in this maddening world of technology if they all took 2 minutes and 25 seconds out of their day to use that maddening technology to watch Gene Gene The Dancing Machine. And now that I’m thinking on it, I believe I just found the answer for world peace. Who knew we could obtain world peace from a man who does a silly dance?
Hollywood Squares was basically Tic-Tac-Toe with celebrities. Peter Marshall was the host and he would ask a celebrity a ridiculous question and they would always have some silly, smart comeback before giving what they believed was the correct answer. And no one could give a silly, smart comeback to Peter Marshall’s ridiculous questions quite like the brilliant, the amazing, the funny as hell, and one of my favorite people of all time, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the fabulous, the silly, the beyond talented – Paul Lynde!!!!! (And I guess this man really did mean a lot to me, because I was tearing up as I was writing that last sentence and all I was doing was saying that Paul Lynde was awesome.) Paul Lynde was the permanent center square on Hollywood Squares, so he was awesome because he was just always on my TV. Even in that single-wide trailer when my dad was in charge of the TV, Paul Lynde would always pop up on it because he seemed to be in everything. Not just pretty much every day of the week on Hollywood Squares, but Paul Lynde was on tons of reruns on sitcoms that my big sister loved watching and I did too, like, Bewitched, Gidget, The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeannie, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, among many other shows. The man was just always on the TV back in the 1970s. And when Paul Lynde was on my TV, I was in heaven and my attention never wavered from him. Because, being a kid, I might have been watching the TV, but I was also playing with my Fisher Price people or my Star Wars action figures or my Matchbox Cars, and kind of paying attention to what was on the TV, but when Paul Lynde came on, all things in my world stopped and all my attention was on that silly man who made me laugh. That is how I thought of Paul when I was a kid, the silly man who made me laugh. And in my world, where even at two, I was already beginning to figure out that I was not living in a Leave It To Beaver world and my mother was certainly no June Cleaver, I had Paul to take away all of the pain and tears from just trying to make it day-to-day in our home.
Now to be honest, I hadn’t thought of Paul Lynde in years and years until I briefly mentioned him in a review I wrote a little over a year ago for the spoof movie that started and ended all spoof movies, Airplane!. I was writing about a gay actor in that film, Stephen Stucker, and suddenly when I was writing about Stephen, Paul popped into my head and just like that, Paul was in my world again and making me laugh out loud just by thinking about him. I just kept thinking about Paul after I finished that review and how much he meant to me as a kid and how much I loved Hollywood Squares because of him, and how I would stop everything when he came on my TV because he just felt so much like home to me. Probably because he was just like me, or at least like me when I was a kid (and sometimes I’m still like this as an adult when my depression has calmed and I’m myself, once again) just silly and zany and only wanting to laugh. And gay. Because I’ve been doing a lot of looking back lately on me when I was a kid, and I’m beginning to see that I knew I was gay when I was a real little kid, I just didn’t have the words or understanding for it. Only as I got older, as in when I hit about 5 or 6 years old, did I begin to lose this knowledge of my gayness as a sort of self-protection, because I think I started to see that being gay was not a safe thing to be, especially not in the 1970s in Florida even if we lived near very rich and very famous people. But when Paul came on my TV, it was all okay because I didn’t have to worry about anything, because I’d be too busy laughing with Paul because he felt so much like me. And he was in many ways…
Paul was gay, like me.
Paul was funny, like me.
Paul was silly, like me.
But Paul let his demons get the better of him, sometimes, sadly, just like me.
When Paul popped into my world again, he just stayed there, almost haunting me, but at least in mostly a funny way, because as he followed me around, making me laugh, as usual, he also kept making me cry. I just couldn’t figure it out. Why was Paul making me cry? I finally decided to look up Paul to see who he really was and what his history was, because even though I always felt such a connection to him, I had never done any research on his background before. And that is unusual for me, because being a history buff, I like finding out about people and who they were and what made them into historical figures. I just never once did that with Paul. I had no clue who he really was until just last week when thanks to that technology that I curse all the time, I turned on YouTube and found a documentary about Paul, and boy, did he then really make me cry.
Paul was just like me. Full of insecurities. Full of issues about being gay. Full of laughter on the outside, but tears on the inside. He was a nice guy who let life get the better of him. And the part that made me cry the most, because, unfortunately, that part was just like my mother, he was a raging alcoholic who would lash out at those he loved when he drank, and he drank because of his horrible insecurities. Even after all of his success, he still considered himself to be “the fat kid from Ohio.” And I bet he would have said, “the gay, fat kid from Ohio,” but Paul came from a time when you couldn’t say “gay” at all. EVER.
Paul was a gay man on my TV and this gay man showed me that being gay was a really cool thing to be, so no wonder I loved Paul when he was on my TV. He was the first gay man who came into my little lesbian life and showed me how awesome gay men were and could I be a gay man too when I grew up because he was just that awesome. Nothing and nobody could get to me when Paul was on my TV. My nightmare life disappeared when it was just me and Paul laughing and being silly.
But then Paul did something that he was never supposed to do, ever. He left me. Paul was supposed to stay by my side always, making me laugh, making me forget about my awful mother and her awful mood swings (a lot of times because of alcohol) that you never knew when they were going to happen and who to, but by God, you KNEW they were going to happen. But when Paul was on my TV, my mother’s awful, alcoholic mood swings would just disappear from my fears and it was only Paul making me laugh instead. When I was sad, I would just turn on Hollywood Squares and then there would be Paul to save my day. And I guess that’s why I keep mentioning over and over how much Paul kept me alive, kept me sane, kept me happy in a very unhappy home, because he was just that magical.
But then Paul left Hollywood Squares.
And then just a couple of years later, Paul died.
Paul wasn’t supposed to do that.
Paul wasn’t supposed to leave me like that.
I can still remember when I found out that Paul had died. My heart fell into the pit of my stomach and my soul cried out, “Why?!!” I was only 9 years old. 9 year olds don’t have their best friend in the world die on them. But he did. And I believe it was on that day that I forgot about Paul. I pushed him away to the deep, deep recesses of my sad brain, because it was just too sad to think about Paul no longer being around to make people laugh. No longer being around to make me laugh.
So for years and years and years, I went around in the world without Paul by my side, and let me tell you, that was the wrong thing to do, because, boy, did I get SAD when I pushed Paul out of my life for leaving me. I shouldn’t have done that, because the thing is, he never really left me. He’s still on my TV all the time, but now he’s just on my TV on this crazy app called YouTube, because I can turn on YouTube any damn time I like and watch Paul on Hollywood Squares. All those years I forgot about him so he wouldn’t hurt me, I could have been watching re-runs of him instead. But that’s okay, because I have Paul back in my life now.
Just before Paul died, he got sober and was actually starting to enjoy life. Many people in the documentary talked about how sad that was, that he only had a couple of years of sobriety before he passed away. I can see that being sad, but at least he found peace before he died, and that is one hell of an accomplishment to make, even if it only lasted a short time. And now I’ve found peace once again too, thanks, as always, to the amazing, funny, smart as hell, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first gay person who ever made me feel proud about being gay too – Paul Lynde!
I love you, Paul.
I miss you forever.
But at least I now have YouTube, so thanks to technology being everywhere, you’re never not by my side to keep me laughing and surviving this life. 🙂
And here are a few of those famous zingers of Paul Lynde’s from Hollywood Squares. Still making me laugh my ass off, Paul. Except unlike when I was a kid, I actually get the jokes now. 😉