August 11 was the natal day of tv talk show host and big band singer Mike Douglas (Michael Delaney Dowd, Jr., 1920-2006).
A post on this minor show business figure has most assuredly not been a priority of mine, but I’ve had occasion to mention him on this blog a few times (and in my book No Applause), so it seemed logical to have something to link to here.
Mike Douglas’s talk show resembled those of Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore. Like them, he was a singer from the big band era, although he was a much more minor figure than Dinah, and a much blander and more forgettable figure than Merv. The success of The Mike Douglas Show, which aired through most of my childhood (1965-1981) seems strange and inexplicable not because Douglas was odd, but because he wasn’t.
Douglas was just a good-looking, dimpled, fairly vacant guy with a good head of hair, who interviewed people and sang the occasional song. He was definitely old-guard show business, and he was known for having rock acts on his show like the Rolling Stones, or John and Yoko or Gene Simmons of Kiss (see above) and making a point of telegraphing to the blue-haired old ladies in his audience that he just didn’t “get” these rock acts. Unlike smarter interviewers, like Dick Cavett or David Frost, he didn’t seem too interested in finding out what made these long-hairs tick, probably because rock had pretty much ruined life for legit pop singers like him back in the ’50s. Douglas had sung with Kay Kyser’s band, had a couple of minor hits, and supplied the voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s Cinderella (1950). Then he was hired to host a local talk-show in Cleveland in the early ’60s and for whatever reason it took off.
Mike Douglas lasted a couple of decades in the daytime talk show game, until Phil Donahue changed that game completely, to be followed by guys like Robert Downey Jr. and Jerry Springer (or, in a more positive vein, Oprah, Ellen and The View.) At which time he learned that the culture had not even begun to change back when a guy like him was sharing a stage with Mick Jagger.
For more on show biz history, including talk and variety television programs like the Mike Douglas Show, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous