About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Minneapolis Christmas: Mary Tyler Moore Show

I'm such a huge Peppermint Patty fan! These Charles Schulz-inspired sculptures were an important destination.

This Spring, I had the wanderlust again and hit the road. This was my first time in Minneapolis, Minnesota and there were so many pop culture attractions! Of course, I toured Prince's home and recording studios at Paisley Park. The downtown features a colorful mural of musician Bob Dylan--honoring his time spent in Minneapolis. I also made a quick jaunt across the river to St. Paul to visit the seven statues of Peanuts characters--honoring the hometown of comic artist Charles Schulz. But you know one of the first locations I hunted down when I arrived in Minneapolis, right? Yes, I went looking for the home used in the exterior shots of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show home--Minneapolis, May 2018.

It wasn't difficult to locate at all. The home is a private residence so I stayed off their property to snap my pics. (I needed the distance to capture the whole home anyway!) Very little has changed over the decades. You can see that the tree in the front yard has grown, and the house is a different color. But these are minor changes, in my opinion. It sits in an amazing neighborhood filled with large upscale homes.

Screen shot of the home from the first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Compare the two images of the home. The above screen shot from the first season must have been captured in 1970. The house has been well cared for over the decades. Travel tip: take a screen shot of your destination and save it on your phone when you travel. It makes it much easier to identify your TV location when you arrive.

Can you image Phyllis, Lars and Bess living on the first floor? Mary on the second floor? and Rhoda on the third?

If you're a fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a trip to Minneapolis must also include locating the statue of Mary as well. In 2001, the TV network TVLand donated the life-size statue to the city and it was placed on the street corner of 7th and Nicollet where the sequence used in the opening credits was originally shot. You know--the iconic sequence of Mary spinning around and throwing her hat up in the air? The statue recreating that inspiring and iconic image of Mary with her hat is located at that intersection! I just had to find it.

You can't LOOK at this statue without hearing the theme song in your head!

For a while, the statue was moved from the corner of 7th and Nicollet because of street construction. I had read that the city made it available to tourists in a temporary indoor location during limited hours. But I'm pleased to report that it has since been moved back to the street corner at 7th and Nicollet. She looks fabulous!

The base of the statue.

Those of us that love pop culture travel know that TVLand dedicated several television-inspired statues throughout the country. I've already visited Fonzie in Milwaukee, Bob Newhart in Chicago, and now Mary Richards in Minneapolis. I still need to visit Andy and Opie in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Samantha Stevens in Salem, Massachusetts, and Ralph Kramden in New York City. Have you ever visited any of these TVLand statues too?

We might just make it after all :)

1970's "Christmas and the Hard-Luck Kid II" episode from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Christmas TV fans will remember the first season Christmas episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. To see my discussion of that episode again, click HERE. I've also written about the fifth season episode "Not a Christmas Story." See that essay again HERE. Moore fans fondly remember her in the 1963 holiday episode from The Dick Van Dyke Show too. See that essay again HERE. Did you know that Mary Tyler Moore appeared in several Christmas TV movies too? She appears in 2002's Miss Lettie and Me and 2005's Snow Wonder. Moore makes a guest appearance on Danny Kaye's variety TV show at Christmas in 1963. And, she lends her voice as Granny Rose in the 1996 animated TV special How the Toys Saved Christmas.

If you're looking to re-watch a special treat--check out the 2001 episode "Ellen's First Christmess" from DeGeneres' second sitcom The Ellen Show. The holiday installment features a Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion, of sorts. Special guests include Mary Tyler Moore as Ellen's aunt, and Ed Asner as the mall Santa Claus. Cloris Leachman plays a recurring character, Ellen's mother. It's so great seeing the actors who play Mary, Lou Grant, and Phyllis together again in this Christmas episode that is filled with Mary Tyler Moore Show in-jokes and references!

from 1975's "Not a Christmas Story" episode from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sure looks like Christmas to me!

Curious about my other pop culture/Christmas destinations? Feel free to click through to the following links:

John Denver statue/Mork & Mindy House in Colorado
Perry Como's statue in Canonsburg, PA
Dean Martin's hometown of Steubenville, OH
Rosemary Clooney's home in Augusta, KY
The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA
It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY
Lucille Ball's birthday celebration in Jamestown, NY
A Christmas Story House & Museum in Cleveland, OH

A few months ago, I recorded a podcast with travel writer Lisa Iannucci for her series Reel Travels. Listen again HERE.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DVD.com/Netflix Paper Dress

I have a new adventure underway! As my readers know, I've been researching and writing about everyone's favorite Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies for almost twenty years. One resource for my research is Netflix and their DVD subscription service DVD.com. I've been a subscriber since 2005 and continue to receive DVDs in the mail (I also subscribe to Netflix's streaming service). Thirteen years ago, when I received my first DVD in the mail, I noticed that the paper of the envelopes was an interesting texture. (It seems to resist moisture--which is a good idea since the envelopes go through rain and snow before reaching mailboxes). Rather than discard the envelope front that one tears off before returning the DVD in the mail, I saved the red sheets of paper and began collecting them. Here it is, 13 years later and I have more than 1500 envelope fronts saved in a box. THAT'S an awful lot of Christmas DVDs!

In 2018, DVD.com/Netflix is celebrating their 20th anniversary. A few months ago, I saw that Netflix/DVD.com was looking for interesting subscriber stories to promote their anniversary. I shared my quirky tale of saving more than 1,500 envelope fronts, and they responded! Asking a very reasonable question, they inquired why I would save them. I explained that the texture of the paper impressed me, and I dreamed that maybe one day I would make a dress for Halloween from them. DVD.com/Netflix was so impressed by my collection and the outrageous idea to make an outfit from them that they have now generously offered to sponsor the dress. After I have a designer and dressmaker, they'll share the finished outfit on their social media. Doesn't this sound like fun?

A local news station--WKYC-TV in Cleveland, OH--shared my story this week. Watch the video below:

I'm interviewing Kent State University fashion students (and recent grads) who are interested in this project. If you are a fashion designer and are interested in this unique project, please email me your resumé, a link to on-line portfolio, and send sketches. This project is moving along--Halloween 2018 will be here before you know it.

Please feel free to follow along with this project on social media. I'm on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tistheseasontv/

I'll keep you up-to-date with this fun adventure!

Myself (right) with WKYC-TV newscaster Amani Abraham (left)

Some of my collection of envelope fronts.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Christmas Records, Part 3

In the process of creating the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV, I learned that writing about Christmas on TV also means I research and write about holiday music quite a bit. Christmas TV episodes, specials and movies are loaded with music and carols. As a pop culture junkie, I love searching out soundtracks to holiday programs and collecting vintage record albums. As a researcher, I often turn to these official releases for help in the identification of songs and to get more information about the music. They're also cool to have and display in my office.

My collection is focused on Christmas records with a film or television tie-in. I've shared some of collection before. Here's a link to Part 1 and Part 2. Here's the original post that started it all--the Christmas records from my trip to Detroit last year. And, here's a post about my Christmas CD collection. Below is more from my collection of vintage records.

I finally found it!!

The Alcoa Hour in 1956 offered TV viewers an outstanding holiday experience. The original musical The Stingiest Man in Town was a lavish production featuring an all-star cast, including Basil Rathbone, and Vic Damone, with music by Fred Spielman and book and lyrics by Janice Torre. It's a musical adaptation of Dickens' classic tale A Christmas Carol. The live TV production was filmed--but lost for decades. A kinescope was found and released on DVD just a few years ago. I wrote about this 1956 Christmas TV special before. You can read about it again HERE.

For many years, all fans had to remember the original 1956 production was this LP soundtrack by Columbia Records. I finally acquired my own copy of the vintage record purchased for me by my friend shopping in a record store in Chattanooga, TN this past spring.

The musical was later adapted by Rankin/Bass for the 1978 animated Christmas TV special, also titled The Stingiest Man in Town. In my previous post about Christmas records, I showed off my Alcoa Singers recording that features art work from the animated special. Click HERE to see that vintage record again.

Didn't I share this LP before? NOPE--this RCA/Victor soundtrack is different!

I previously shared the soundtrack recording of 1951's Amahl and the Night Visitors from my record collection. You can see it again HERE. Amahl was the very first opera written specifically for television AND it was the very first Hallmark Hall of Fame production. That's significant Christmas TV history!

While looking through Christmas records in a store in Minneapolis last week, I found this record (black cover above). It is the soundtrack recording from the December 1963 staging of Amahl which aired on NBC, another Hallmark Hall of Fame. This is a new cast and a new production--different from the 1951 recording. I'm so lucky--this LP still includes the libretto booklet that originally came with the 1964 record.

1966's A Merry Mancini Christmas (RCA Records)

Also in Minneapolis, I picked up my very own copy of A Merry Mancini Christmas. This 1966 record isn't very rare, and my local library has it on CD in their collection. But I still wanted this because the vintage record includes a very special track. The first song on Side B is Carol for Another Christmas--a Mancini composition created for the soundtrack of the movie by the same title. Talk about Christmas TV history, the movie Carol for Another Christmas is another example of an outstanding TV production.

The 1964 movie was funded by the Xerox Corporation to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations. Carol for Another Christmas was written by Rod Serling (yes--THAT Rod Serling!). It is another adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol but this version includes a post-apocalyptic vision of Christmases Future. I know, right! And, it features an amazing cast: Sterling Hayden, Ben Gazzara, Peter Sellers, Steve Lawrence, and tons more. The outrageous movie used to be viewable only in museums but now can be found airing each December on Turner Classic Movies. You have to go looking for it, and it often only airs in the early morning hours--but it's there on the schedule. Seek it out--it's worth it. And, listen for the melancholy Mancini soundtrack.

1964 Christmas music from the Singer Company. Recognize that family?

 At first glance, this record may look like so many others. The 1960s and 70s saw many companies in America producing their own collections of Christmas music--a way from them to promote themselves and provide their customers with quality entertainment. Doesn't everyone have at least one Firestone Christmas record in their collection? I'm still dying to find the Christmas record put out by Kentucky Fried Chicken with Col. Sanders on the cover! And, the above record is another in the same genre. It was produced in 1964 by the Singer Company (they make sewing machines). The vintage record features traditional holiday favorites, arranged by George Siravo. But it now resides in my collection because of the TV family on the album cover. That's the cast of The Donna Reed Show after Mary (Shelley Fabares) left for college and the Stone's adopted young Trisha (Patty Petersen). Yes--Singer sponsored The Donna Reed Show in 1964. The Donna Reed Show includes one Christmas episode, 1958's "A Very Merry Christmas" starring silent film superstar Buster Keaton. Read my discussion of it again HERE.

Both Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen from The Donna Reed Show had solo recording careers. Wouldn't it have been fantastic if they had recorded Christmas music for a release such as this? Oh, what could have been!

Movie fans may remember that actor Donna Reed also starred It's a Wonderful Life. I wonder if that movie ever had a soundtrack release?

1955 RCA/Victor The Voices of Walter Schumann

Another record I found in Minneapolis recently is The Voices of Christmas featuring the chorus group The Voices of Walter Schumann. The album features traditional Christmas tunes, both sacred and secular. The music of the chorus group reflects a typical 1950s style, while familiar it isn't particularly noteworthy either. Except for one tune. "Christmas Gift" on Side B is a lost treasure that I only stumbled across last year. "Christmas Gift" is the only song on the album with a soloist taking the lead vocals among the chorus group. While the back of the album credits choral director and arranger Jester Hairston with writing the song, it certainly sounds like Hairston as the solo vocalist as well. And, the song sure does swing! It stands out from all the other tracks on the album not just as the only one with a solo vocalist, but also its tempo and embrace of jazz.

You know why this song first attracted my attention, right! I've written about Jester Hairston before. Not only is he the composer of the original Christmas standard "Mary's Boy Child," but he also did arrangements for the soundtrack of the movie Lilies of the Field--music which continued in the 1979 TV movie Christmas Lilies of the Field. You may also recognize Hairston as an actor--he appeared on the 1980s sitcom Amen as the elderly Rolly Forbes. Check out my essay on the 1987 Christmas episode of Amen which features Hairston singing. 

Give the song "Christmas Gift" a listen. See if it doesn't impress you as well.

7" record RCA/BMG (1994)

In a previous post about Christmas records, I shared my 1982 record Soap Opera Christmas. See that again HERE. I accidentally overlooked this 7" record also in my collection in that previous post. This 7 inch record entitled A Soap Opera Christmas features two songs. Side A is "Merry Christmas Wherever You Are (Radio Version)" performed by the Soaps and Hearts Ensemble, and Side B is "O Come All ye Faithful to the World-Medley" performed by Martha Byrne, who played Lily Grimaldi on As the World Turns. From the text on the reverse side of the sleeve pictured above, this 7" appears to have two singles from the larger 1994 project also entitled A Soap Opera Christmas, released on CD and cassette by BMG. Much like the 1982 record I previously wrote about, the 1994 record features holiday music performed by soap opera stars of the era. The Soaps and Hearts Ensemble appears to be a chorus consisting of 30 soap actors. The list of participants is too long to include here but I recognize a few outstanding names, such as Eva La Rue (from All My Children), Kristoff St. John (from The Young and the Restless), and Louise Sorel (from Days of Our Lives). I don't have the CD or cassette of the 1994 album A Soap Opera Christmas, only the two singles. But I bet somebody else has it! Let us know in the comments below how you like it :)

Salsoul Record Corp (1978) Cuchi Cuchi!

A Charo record!? Yup. I recently picked up this Christmas 12 inch here in Ohio. On Side A is the disco song "(Mamacita) ¿Donde Esta Santa Claus?" sung by Charo, and on Side B is the instrumental version of the same tune. Of course, "¿Donde Esta Santa Claus?" is the familiar 1958 holiday song--here it is covered by the musician and TV personality Charo with a Latin/disco beat. 1978 was a magical time, wasn't it?

John Schneider's White Christmas Scotti Brothers Records (1981)

Bo Duke made a Christmas album!? YES! Actually, this is John Schneider's first Christmas album. It includes traditional carol such as "White Christmas," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Winter Wonderland," "Silver Bells," "Silent Night, Holy Night," "The Christmas Song," "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and more. I think my favorite is "Katey's Christmas Card" a song with a touching narrative. The back cover of the album also includes an address to join the John Schneider fan club. Hhhmmm...I wonder if that group is still active?

John Schneider of course portrayed Bo Duke on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard. You can read my discussion of the 1980 Dukes of Hazzard Christmas episode again HERE. Schneider also lent his voice to the Saturday morning cartoon series The Dukes. Read my discussion of the 1983 Christmas episode of The Dukes HERE. And, Schneider has appeared in several Christmas TV movies over the years. My favorite of those is 1987's Christmas Comes to Willow Creek. Read about that movie again HERE.

Do you own any of these musical titles? Do you have other records in your collection that were adapted from Christmas programs? Share the titles below.

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned here can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com