One of my guilty pleasures is watching old game shows. I’m particularly fond of the original “What’s My Line?” (1950-1967), especially because it gives us a glimpse into post-war New York life. The panelists, such as Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, and Random House publisher and wit Bennett Cerf (see photo), were actual members of New York high society. The contestants, many from the outer boroughs, try to help the panel guess their odd occupations. All of the men wear suits, the women wear pearls. It seems funny today, but I find it comforting.
I bring this up because last night I went to a stage production of “What’s My Line?” at the Acme Theater in Los Angeles. Every Wednesday night (the show is on hiatus until next month), there is a live attempt to capture the flavor of the original show, using regular Angelenos with strange jobs, and a celebrity for the special “blindfold” round. Yesterday, the most interesting round was about an L.A. couple that produces their own vodka, and the celebrity was Brett Butler. The panel themselves consisted of B-list celebrities.
My only real complaint about the evening was (at least on my night) the panel didn’t capture enough of the wit and banter that made the original so much fun. Maybe sophisticated banter is a lost art, as much as wearing pearls to the theater.
All in all, it was a fun evening and recommended, but where is Bennett Cerf when you need him?