Sunday, June 16, 2013


Last year for Father's Day, I posted photos of a few of my favorite TV dads from the past. Later, I realized I forgot one of my favorites, Danny Williams of Make Room for Daddy. I have never been married and I don't have any kids, but I do identify with on one level. Danny, played by Danny Thomas, was a singer and performer, but nobody seemed to give him much credit or respect. The early episodes of the show was based loosely on Thomas' life as a touring nightclub performer and having to make the most of his time at home with his kids.

The show changed networks after a few years and it was revamped. Danny was a widower, but soon remarried a widow named Kathy, who had a little girl. He started performing regularly at a a popular nightclub, so he was at home more often. The running gag that makes me identify with Danny Williams comes into play. In these shows, the kids would need help with a school project or Kathy would need to find someone to entertain for the P.T.A fundraiser. Danny would act like he didn't want to help or would volunteer, only to be told "We knew you were busy so we got _______." You can fill in the blank with many well known personalities of the day. Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Jack Benny appeared more than once in this capacity.

Another scenario was to have a famous singer like Dean Martin or Frankie Lane. While everyone is bragging up Lane or Dino, Danny would casually mention that he was also a singer. Then somebody would say something like "Yeah, but he's good."

Danny's Uncle Tonoose comes to ask Danny to talk his Cousin Stephen (Tony Bennett) out of becoming a singer, because Stephen's parents "don't want him to end up like you." (BTW, I think Borat is the illegitimate son of Uncle Tonoose).

When Danny tries to give advice to the lady directing the kids in the school play, she tells him that all he does is "tell jokes in a saloon." An investigator for A.F.S says the Williams can't host an exchange student because they aren't "representative of a normal American family" since Danny is an entertainer.

In one of the more famous episodes, Danny gets mad after being stopped in a small town called Mayberry for running a stop sign (Danny says there wasn't an intersection, just a stop sign). He tells the sheriff, played by Andy Griffith (Who else?), that he will be sorry for giving him a ticket, because his driver's licence will prove that he is "somebody." Sheriff Taylor exclaims, "You know, I knew that the minute I laid eyes on you. Yes sir, I've never seen a car yet that wasn't being driven by somebody."

This pattern was continued in the short lived 70s sequel Make Room For Granddaddy. The bossy manager for a conseeded singer (Diana Ross) ask "What does he do?"

Of course, what made these gags funny were Danny's blustery meltdowns in reaction. He would yell and wave his arms before Kathy would calm him down.

Why I identify with the Danny Williams is that he was portrayed as the sort of a Rodney Dangerfield of show biz. He is in the shadow of other well-known performers or can be upstaged by a teenager (usually played by young pop stars like Paul Anka, Bobby Rydell or Brenda Lee). Other times, people don't realize he is an entertainer or don't think he has a job.

As a radio personality, I identify with people not recognizing me. They usually say "I thought your voice sounded familiar" after you tell them your name. 

I have also had the problem of people in the industry, who tend to put you down to make themselves look good. I should point out that these people, usually, didn't go to college or a broadcasting school, but, at some point, decided that they could do a better job than you, your veteran co-workers, the local TV news people or most of the national media people. These people seem to think they are more important than anyone else in the building. I actually told a person like this that he needed to have more respect for experienced professionals like myself and my co-workers. He threatened to sue me.

You also get disrespect from people, who have no reason to hate you other than they subscribe to a politaical philosophy that hates entertainment and media people. There is nothing that could lead me to a Danny Williams-style meltdown than being disrespected by the manager of a Kum & Go store that the soda fountain never works and the floor is dirty or some jerk from Mansfield that post links to Newsmax on Missouri Radio Message Board.

Danny Williams was not by no means the perfect dad. He had a bad temper, which lead to loud tirades, he had an inflated ego and he had a habit of doing downright goofy things, like trying on his wife's girdle. What of course made Danny Williams a memorable TV father was the fact that Danny Thomas based the character on himself. His daughter, Marlo, has said that he even worked things that happened at their home into the show.

For someone of my age, who only knew of Danny Thomas as the pitchman for Reader's Digest sweepstakes, coffee makers and the spokesman for St. Judes Children's Research Hospital, watching these shows on DVD (I recommend the episodes made between 1957 and 1961), you also understand the show and Thomas' popularity.

As Danny Williams would say, "Holy Toledo!"

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