I've Got a Secret
     1976 (CBS, Bill Cullen)

In the summer of 1976, CBS gave another shot to I’ve Got a Secret as a weekly network prime time series.  The four-week run was an experiment, and a half-hearted one at that.  The first two episodes, which had served as pilots for a proposed revival, had been shot nine months earlier at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street in New York, and were gathering dust on a CBS shelf.  Two more episodes were shot on June 18, 1976 at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, originally the site of Sullivan’s legendary variety show and later the home of David Letterman’s and Stephen Colbert’s late night shows.  Still, four shows isn’t much of a sample, so from the beginning, it did not appear that anyone had any real enthusiasm for returning panel shows to prime time. 

This time, Bill Cullen took over the reins as host.  Henry Morgan returned as a panelist, as did Richard Dawson from the recent syndicated version.  By this point, Dawson had made a name for himself as the most popular panelist on the extremely popular Match Game reboot, which had been airing on CBS in daytime since 1973.  His greatest and most lasting fame, as the original host of Family Feud, would soon follow.  Very soon, in fact.  Family Feud debuted exactly six days after the final episode of this four-week experiment aired.  Actress Elaine Joyce and TV personalities Phyllis George and Pat Collins took the female slots on the panel. 

Returning the production to New York, with familiar faces like Bill and Henry, suggests that Goodson-Todman was hoping for some nostalgic appeal.  Several of the celebrity “secrets” (three out of four, in fact) were warmed over versions of games they had played on the original series.  They even invited back longtime music director Norman Paris to help with the musical secrets. The problem with this approach is that the line between “nostalgic” and “old-fashioned” is a thin one.  The syndicated version shot in Los Angeles just three years earlier had energy, color and life.  This version was so set in the ways of the past that it might as well have been in black and white. 

As they did in the syndicated series, this version did away with any sort of scorekeeping mechanism.  Contestants were presumably compensated for their time and their travel, but no mention of such was made on air, and there was no reward, monetary or otherwise, for stumping the panel. 

We have the original two pilots, an audio recording of the fourth and final episode, and vague childhood memories of the third one. 

Ep Date Special Guest Panel Notes
1 June 15 Buddy Rich Elaine Joyce, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan   Recorded September 28, 1975
2 June 22 Rodney Dangerfield Elaine Joyce, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan Recorded September 28, 1975
3 June 29 Charles Nelson Reilly Phyllis George, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan   Recorded June 18, 1976
4 July 6 Loretta Swit Phyllis George, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan Recorded June 18, 1976

Episode One     June 15, 1976 (Recorded September 28, 1975) 
Elaine Joyce, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan 

Three-year-old Jessica Santos: “I was charged with being nude on a public beach”                 
Little Jessica is joined at the desk by her lawyer Richard Ansell, who answers the panel’s questions on behalf of his client.  Jessica took off her swimsuit on a New Jersey beach on a hot July night last year.  A prudish elderly couple reported her to the police and an overzealous public servant issued a summons for her heinous misbehavior.  When her case came to trial a month later, the Seaside Park attorney quickly moved to dismiss the case, much to the amused disappointment of Ansell, who was looking forward to having his day in court.  He said to reporters, “We wanted to have some fun with this case, and we were prepared to call psychologists and psychiatrists to testify.” 

Curtis Ezelle of Wauchula, Florida beat out 23 women in a county-wide contest to win the title: “Mother of the Year” 
Ezelle’s wife died in 1966, leaving him to raise a teenage son and daughter alone.  His daughter Carmen, while a college student in 1974, entered dad in the contest put on by the Wauchula Herald-Advocate newspaper.  Her heartfelt letter (which Bill reads here) touched the judges, who at first were going to give Ezelle a special citation, but in the end decided to honor him with the award itself. 

Special Guest Buddy Rich: “I’m going to play the drums while hanging upside down” 
Which he does, with the help of a special harness.  Rich is considered one of the preeminent jazz drummers of his generation, and his skills and colorful personality made him a frequent TV guest.  He performed “drum battles” with everyone from Desi Arnaz Jr to Animal from The Muppets.  Not as well known to TV audiences was a massive ego and notorious (to his peers) temper.  Rich is joined in his inverted jam session by longtime Secret music director Norman Paris on piano, Ben Brown on bass guitar, Steve Marcus on saxophone and Richard Hurwitz on trumpet.  All but Paris were members of the Buddy Rich Big Band.  Marcus would stay with Rich for over a decade, and would take over the band after Rich’s death in 1987, renaming it “Buddy’s Buddies”  

Episode Two     June 22, 1976 (Recorded September 28, 1975) 
Elaine Joyce, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan

Six unrelated youngsters from the New York area whose grandmothers have all been studying: “Belly dancing” 
The grandmothers are taught by Christine Busini from the Serena Studios in New York City.  Busini and the grandmothers all perform. 

Dr. E.D. Mitchell from Palm Beach, Florida: “I walked on the moon (Apollo 14)” 
Edgar Dean Mitchell, usually known by his first name rather than his initials, was the lunar module pilot for Apollo 14 and spent more than nine hours on the moon’s surface.  Apollo 14 is probably best remembered as the mission during which Alan Shepard played golf on the moon, making Mitchell (as he says here) the moon’s first caddie.  Although his mission was only four years earlier, general interest in the space program waned after Apollo 11, and Mitchell was not one of the better-known names in the program (this was his only spaceflight).  Bill plugs Mitchell’s book Psychic Explorations: A Challenge for Science (Perigee 1974).  Mitchell’s interest in paranormal activities, including his strong belief that UFOs are really visitors from alien worlds, would become a controversial hallmark of his post-NASA career. He remains one of only twelve men who have walked on the surface of the moon.    

Kennita Moyer from Pricetown, Pennsylvania: “I knitted the world’s longest scarf (504 feet)” 
Kennita is 16 here, and set her record in 1974 when she was 14.  It took her just under a year to complete.  She had not knitted at all before undertaking this task.  She just took it on as a challenge.    

Special Guest Rodney Dangerfield brings along Vance Colvig, a musician with an unusual instrument: “He plays his head” 
Sure enough, Colvig pounds on his head and changes the shape of his mouth to create odd, hollow sounds that resemble music.  Colvig was the first Bozo the Clown in Los Angeles, playing the character from 1959 to 1964. He also provided voices in TV cartoons.  His distinctively rubbery face would later appear in a wide variety of odd, brief supporting roles in 1980s films and TV, often as a bum or hobo.  After his performance, a second entertainer named John Twomey uses the squeaking sound of squeezing his hands together to perform a John Philip Sousa march.  Twomey’s skills as a “manualist” (his term) first gained national attention with appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.  Trained as a lawyer, Twomey’s preferred career as an entertainer would keep him busy for decades.  Music director Norman Paris is on hand (uncredited) with a small combo to make sure everything stays vaguely musical.  

Episode Three     June 29, 1976 (Recorded June 18, 1976) 
Phyllis George, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan

Special Guest Charles Nelson Reilly conducts a group of people gathered on stage.  When they sing their own names, it sounds like the lyrics to Yankee Doodle Dandy.
This popular Secret game was first played back in 1963 ( E518 ) with Meredith Willson and the song "In the Good Old Summertime."  Secret producers went back to the basic idea a few times in the years that followed.  In 1976, America was in the throes of celebrations for the Bicentennial of American Independence.  This show aired just five days before the Bicentennial date itself, making this choice of song particularly appropriate.  One of the assorted folks onstage was Sam Unker, who naturally sang his name as "Unker, Sam."

Episode Four     July 6, 1976 (Recorded June 18, 1976) 
Phyllis George, Richard Dawson, Pat Collins, Henry Morgan
(We only have audio for this episode, so Secrets are not exact quotes.) 

Marine Corps Lieutenant Art Nolls brings with him a small bag, which contains: “The world’s smallest rideable bicycle” 
Nolls designed and built the five-inch-high bicycle himself while still a midshipman at the US Naval Academy.  A recent graduate from Annapolis, he would serve 22 years in the military, most of that time as a pilot, before retiring from service in 1998.  As a civilian, he would continue to indulge his interest in aviation by restoring and flying unusual aircraft.  Today he continues to be a popular figure at air shows in the US and Canada. (Also see E435 and E545)    

Napit Kennedy from Topeka, Kansas: “I have a twin sister…we are separated Siamese twins” 
Napit and her sister were born in a remote Thailand village in 1953.  They were joined at the abdomen and shared a liver. Given up by parents who wouldn’t be able to afford their care, they were adopted by  an American couple living in Bangkok, who took them to the United States where they were successfully separated in 1955.  It was one of the first such surgeries done successfully.  (The show incorrectly calls it the very first.)  Sister Prissana Northington and mother Florence Atkinson are on hand to fill in the details.  In 1987, Prissana would reunite with her biological parents on a trip to Thailand.  “Siamese twins” was a term popularized by the fame of Chang and Eng Butler, brothers exhibited as curiosities in the 19th century. Though the term is still used often today, “conjoined twins” is the more proper medical term.   

Special Guest Loretta Swit answers a set of rapid-fire biographical questions from Bill, then quizzes the panel about her answers in a memory test. 
Swit is about to enter her fifth season as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on M*A*S*H.  The show would become a television classic, running for eleven seasons on CBS and earning her two Emmy Awards for her role.  This memory game featuring biographical information about the guest had been played several times in the original series.