Who Wants To Be A Mid-two-figures-aire?


First I called the Museum of Television & Radio in New York. They couldn’t help but did suggest calling the Game Show Network. The Game Show Network couldn’t help but referred me to a company called Pearson Television in California, which owns the rights to “What’s My Line?” I left several unreturned messages, then got through to a person who said that it cost $300 up front even to begin looking. Plus, they would need the exact date of the show. My mother could get no more precise than sometime between 1951 and 1954. My aunt remembered watching it while she was at summer camp at the age of 16, which meant the summer of 1952. Getting close, but not close enough.

Enter the World Wide Web. If the Internet serves any great purpose as a communications tool, beyond selling books and cars and plane tickets, it is to help people like me find other people like me who have access to things like this. If quantum theory and the interconnectedness of all things are represented anywhere, it’s here. This tool of the modern age has made time travel possible.

I found many Web sites devoted to “What’s My Line?” There are a lot of fans out there willing to put time, money, and effort into spreading the love of “WML?” On one site, I found a message board; it held a notice from a woman named Sandy looking for the episode her ailing aunt had appeared on, around the same time as my father’s spot. I e-mailed her to ask if she’d had any luck. She had run into the same obstacles as I had. “Two months almost have passed and still nothing,” she wrote. I gave up. Weeks passed. My brothers and I still had no ideas for our dad’s seventieth. Clearly we were Bad Sons.

Then, out of the ether (or, more accurately, the Ethernet), came an e-mail:

Dear Mr. Levine:

I was referred to you by Sandy whom you contacted via the “WML?” Web page. I just helped Sandy obtain the show she was looking for and perhaps I might be able to help you find what you are looking for.

I have the complete show logs and every “WML?” program aired on Game Show Network since 1994.1 understand all but a hundred or so shows exist on tape.

If you can give me some specifics as to the date your dad was on along with what his occupation was, I might be able to help. And if you can recall the celeb. Mystery Guest, that would help too. Be aware that practically no “WML?” shows exist from its inception in 1950 through mid-1952. However, all but 19 exist between mid-1952 and September of '67. Let’s hope your dad appeared during that time.

Please let me know, and I’ll see what I can do for you.

Best, K.

I hit Reply instantly and told him my father’s name, his occupation, and that our best guess was that he had appeared in the summer of 1952. Send.

The next day:

OK, Chief, we’re set. Your dad was on a year later than you thought: 6/21/53 Show #160. He was put in the fourth slot (usually the one they never had much time for) after the Mystery Guests, Olsen &c Johnson. Well, ever staying consistent, they didn’t have too much time for his appearance that night—meaning simply the show was about over and time was short. However, you’ll be interested to hear what the panel had to say about him.

Some background first: From the first telecast of “WML?” in February 1950 through the telecast of April 10, 1955, each member of the panel was allowed a free guess as to the occupation of the contestant. Your dad was given the chance to state where he was from. He did. He then walked past the panel and sat down next to Day. The panel took their guesses, and the best one came from Steve Alien, who said “a radio announcer.” Well, your dad did have a very pleasant, deep tone to his voice. I wish they had given him more time to speak given that gift.

Where may I send it? I’ll try to dub it tonight, and if you give me your address, I’ll get it out regular mail to you.

Best to you. K.

There’ my dad,, on TV, standing in the middle of it all, with a big grin on his face.

We had the tape three days later.

K. wishes to remain anonymous. We exchanged more e-mails, and he explained his interest in “WML?”: how he had randomly come across an old kinescope from 1954 and begun collecting. He himself has taped almost every episode of “What’s My Line?” that has been rerun by the Game Show Network. He has gathered additional programs by trading with other collectors.