Howdy folkses! Well, it's that time of year again. No, not your annual STD screening and proctological exam. It's Halloween! Time for spooky movies, latex masks and buckets of candy! To be fair that's pretty much every Saturday night here at Million Monkey Towers, if you substitute booze for the candy and add a pair of handcuffs and a bathtub full of mayonnaise. No judgment, please folks. Everybody's into something.

This year we bring you a musty relic from the disco age, from a time when comedy variety shows still featured prominently across the three major TV networks. These shows had been a well-loved staple of television programming for decades, yet by the 1970's they were showing their age, routinely struggling to capture a lasting audience in a changing entertainment landscape. Variety shows of the era rarely lasted more than a season or two, with many being cancelled after only a handful of episodes had aired.

I'm looking at you, Pink Lady and Jeff (1980)

Sonny & Cher had one. So did Tony Orlando & Dawn, The Jackson family, the Captain & Tenille, Donny & Marie Osmond and comedy mime duo Shields & Yarnell. Even the Brady Bunch got in on the act with their short-lived, critically reviled The Brady Bunch Hour (1976-77).

Easily the best and most enduringly popular example was The Muppet Show, which ran five seasons from 1976-81, when Kermit and company crossed over into theatrical films and entertainment history. Ironically the Muppets' radical approach, simultaneously honoring and parodying television variety, helped to accelerate the format's demise. With their wildly offbeat combination of English Music Hall antics, subversive messaging, and broad, anarchic humor, the Muppets ruthlessly exposed how stale and anemic the broader form had become.

The Muppet Show, was still less than two months old, though when on October 29th, 1976 ABC gave The Paul Lynde Halloween Special its first and only airing.

With his fey, camp-laden delivery and mischievous, impish persona, Lynde had been a popular supporting performer since his 1960 appearance in the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie and its film adaptation in 1963. He'd made dozens of guest appearances in film and television including a recurring role as the trouble-making Uncle Arthur on the sitcom Bewitched (1965-71), and had lent his distinctive voice to a number of well-loved animated productions. He was arguably at his best, though when playing himself, serving up quick-witted insults and his signature censor-defying double-entendres, as he did during his astonishing 15-year run as the Center Square on the game show The Hollywood Squares (daytime and evening, variously from 1966-1981). Enjoy, for example his sparkling response to the question "This part of the human body is the most neglected and abused. What is it?"

I've got to admit, that's a pretty good description of mine as well.

Less successful were his leading-role forays into cookie-cutter sitcoms. Both The Paul Lynde Show (1972-3) and The New Temperatures Rising (1973-4) were critical and popular failures and he was never given a third opportunity to headline a series. His recurring appearances on Donny and Marie (1975-9), however led ABC executives to offer him a package of one-off specials, of which The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was the second...and "special" it certainly is. Lynde winks and bon-mots his way through chintz-drenched monologues, disco-tinged musical numbers and deeply unfunny comedy sketches with a mind-boggling line-up of guest stars who should damn well have known better, all gamely undermining their careers and squandering their cultural relevance in what may be the highest concentration per-minute of 1970's cheese ever put on television. Obviously it's fucking amazing.

We open on a shot of a Christmas tree, and the camera pulls out to show our sardonic hero dressed in an ill-fitting Santa suit, singing "Deck the Halls" in his inimitable mincing drawl. His housekeeper comes in, arms crossed with a sour look on her face and glares at him sternly. This is Margaret Hamilton, best known as perhaps the most famous witch of all time, The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Hamilton had reprised that role just a few months previously for an episode of Sesame Street, but it was never rerun due to parents' concerns that her performance was too frightening for children.

The storyline involved Oscar the Grouch developing a crush on her. No, really.

Margaret has to break it to Paul that he's got the wrong holiday, sending him into a sneering grump. As she runs off to attend to her duties, however, he looks straight into the camera and smiles mischievously. Next we cut to him dressed as the Easter bunny singing "Here Comes Peter Cottontail." Once again Margaret enters to shut him down before he further embarrasses himself. Next we see him in a smoking jacket holding a big heart-shaped box of chocolates and singing the opening lines of "My Funny Valentine." All Margaret has to do this time is give him the stink-eye to make him stop singing and beg to be informed what holiday they're supposed to be celebrating. She says "I'll give you a hint. It's full of witches and spooks and strange creatures of the night" to which he responds "Sounds like Hollywood Squares!"

If you already know Paul Lynde you totally heard that in his voice while you were reading it.

Lynde finally relents and acknowledges that he knows it's Halloween, and we get our cheesy opening titles teasing the impressive roster of guest stars. I'm not going to list them because I think it'll be more fun to reveal them as they appear.

So we open the special itself with Paul mugging from the nose-hole of a big jack-o-lantern cut-out. They say you should always lead with your best material, but apparently Lynde's writers never got the memo. He introduces himself and steps out to deliver a corny opening monologue that's probably the lowlight of the special. He's also wearing an absolutely hideous pumpkin orange sportscoat and dark brown sweater, so that sure doesn't help either.

He looks like a turd wrapped in a sweet potato.

The routine is seriously awful, careening from jibes about Avon ladies to Soap-on-a-Rope to how Lynde was so fat as a kid that his mother dressed him in a shower curtain and send him out to trick-or-treat as the Hindenberg. In two minutes and fifteen seconds he doesn't land a single decent joke, unless you count the one about the really scary holiday coming up being election day, which unfortunately in 2020 is perhaps just a bit too on-the-nose to be funny.

Dreadful stand-up spiel complete, we segue into an equally dreadful version of Lynde's signature song from Bye Bye Birdie, "Kids" with new lyrics apparently written by a dyspeptic octogenarian with chronic piles and a 24-can-a-day Old Milwaukee habit. After a couple of verses solo a bunch of Halloween devils, witches and ghosts rush out and do a little interpretive dance, tormenting Paul with tinsel-bedecked plastic pitch-forks and singing about soaping windows, throwing toilet paper over tree limbs and emptying trash cans on people's lawns.

To be clear, this entire song is really about Mischief Night, not Halloween itself, and like almost all of the "topical humor" on display here it's hopelessly dated. A quick internet search reveals that Mischief Night (traditionally October 30th, where kids wander the streets trashing their neighbors' yards and egging each other's houses) just isn't really much of a thing anymore. Outside of New Jersey of course, because New Jersey is the hell where all bad ideas go when they die.

Eventually the dancing pranksters tie Paul up and stick him in a trash can, and who should show up to slam down the lid but:

Donny and Marie Osmond!

The Osmonds were something of an entertainment juggernaut with a long-running television show and impressive lineup of easy-listening pop hits. They were revered by millions of God-fearing families for both their dulcet vocal stylings and their carefully-cultivated wholesome image. They were also good friends with Paul Lynde, who appeared as a running guest on their show for its first four seasons until a combative 1978 public intoxication arrest outside a gay bar in Salt Lake City made his appearances with the toothy Mormon duo untenable.

As Donny and Marie scamper away to pick up their paychecks, the trash can lid blows off in a smoky explosion. A charred and bedraggled Paul emerges with a sour face as we fade to the first commercial break.

This is what passed for entertainment when I was a kid.

When we return Margaret is driving Paul in an old jalopy down a dark road somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It seems they're heading to Margaret's sister's house to spend Halloween away from all those pesky kids with their pranks and pitchforks and pipe bombs. Margaret assures Paul she's packed everything he needs for a relaxing trip, including his "Doctor Dentons," which are those one-piece fleece footie pajamas everybody seemed to have back in the 1970's. As they approach the house Paul is dismayed to see a gothic castle straight out of a Hammer Dracula film.

They step into a dank, foggy courtyard only to be accosted by a turkey vulture named Rover that barks like a dog. They knock on the door and who should answer but:

Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo!

Regular MMT readers know that I love Sid and Marty Krofft's batshit psychedelic fantasy TV show H.R. Pufnstuf (1969). I reviewed the 1970 movie back in January and spoke then of my admiration for Billie Hayes' frenetic portrayal of its high-energy, low IQ villain Witchiepoo. This special was Hayes' final appearance in the role, having previously reprised it for an episode of the Kroffts' strangest program, Lidsville in 1971.

Lidsville is about giant anthropomorphic hat people. It stars Butch Patrick from The Munsters (1964-66) and Charles Nelson Reilly from The Match Game (daytime and evening variously 1973-82). If that doesn't make you go all tingly I'm afraid we can't be friends.

So this is where the show really starts to kick up the cheese factor, as Paul turns in horror from Witchiepoo only to discover that his housekeeper Margaret is actually the Wicked Witch of the West!

Don't tell me you didn't see this coming, people.

It turns out the Witch Sisters are looking to rehab the image of witches in the media, and being as Paul is a big Hollywood star and all they were hoping he could help them out by showing the world that Witches are actually pretty decent people.

Paul isn't convinced, and brings up all the horrible things a witch did to Snow White. Margaret insists they were all "distortions!" Paul asks "What about Hansen and Gretel," and Witchiepoo claims "We were framed!" He then turns to confront Margaret about poor little Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Margaret concedes, but insists "She asked for it! And her little dog, too!" It's a funny exchange and the three seem to be having a blast playing off of each other.

Paul makes a break for the door but quickly steps back inside to escape the furious barking of Rover. As he walks slowly back to the wicked sisters, resigned to whatever dark fate the night may have in store for him, a diminutive butler enters with a tray full of steaming goblets and asks if he'd care for a drink. Who should this be but:

Billy Barty!

One of the most famous and successful little person actors of all time, Barty's career began in 1927 when he was only three and continued until his death at the age of 77. He was also an outspoken and forceful activist for people with dwarfism, founding both the Little People of America in 1957 and the Billy Barty Foundation in 1975. He was a regular cast member of several Sid and Marty Krofft programs, most notably as the titular beast in "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters."

Paul declines refreshment saying "No thanks, I don't smoke. It stunts your growth." The butler gives him a surreptitious little kick in the shin as he passes by.

The Witch Sisters tell Paul that before they get down to business they've got someone they want him to meet: Miss Halloween 1976, who turns out to be:

Living legend and future Golden Girl Betty White!

If I really need to tell you who Betty White is just please get off my site.

Well it turns out the top prize for winning the Miss Halloween contest was supposed to be a date with Paul Newman and Betty is pretty miffed to see Paul Lynde standing there instead. She asks the Sisters why they couldn't get Paul Williams, or Paul McCartney or Les Paul, or any of about a dozen other famous guys named Paul. "Why," she moans, "did it have to be Paul Lynde. The Sisters respond in unison "he was available."

Betty decides to cut her losses, quipping to Lynde before she vanishes "we'll meet again...when you're somebody."

Sadly, this concludes the Betty White portion of our evening.

So the Sisters want to hire Paul to be a spokes-human for witch PR. Paul asks why they chose him and they butter him up a bit, saying it's because he's a big television star and a personal friend of Donny and Marie Osmond. They also mention that as payment for his services he will get three wishes to use however he sees fit.

They ask him what his first wish is going to be and he tells them he wants to be a trucker, with a brand new 18-wheeler and a snazzy CB handle. Witchiepoo gives a little wave of her wand and we cut to:

Big Ruby Red, the Rhinestone Trucker.

You might be asking yourself at this point why in the hell anyone would ever waste an anything-you-want-in-the-entire-universe wish on something as stupid and random as being a trucker. The short answer is because this was the 1970's and the 1970's were fucking weird, but there's also a long answer.

In 1975 an ad agency vocalist named Bill Fries wrote a song mythologizing cross-county truck drivers as bold outlaws of the open road, recording it with the assistance of future Mannheim Steamroller composer Chip Davis under the pseudonym C.W. McCall. "Convoy" became a huge crossover hit on both the country and pop charts, initiating a bizarre, almost fetishistic American obsession with big rigs and CB culture that inspired music, movies and television into the early 1980's. Films such as Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Breaker, Breaker (1977), The Great Smokey Roadblock (1978), Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Convoy (1978) raked in cash at the box office and TV shows such as the risibly-named BJ & the Bear (1979-81) delighted audiences at home. "The Rhinestone Trucker" routine not only jumps on this peculiarly 70's bandwagon but also takes a dig at Glen Campbell's hit song "The Rhinestone Cowboy" which had topped the country charts the previous year.

I told you the humor was dated.

So Paul decides he's gonna be a trucker for awhile, cruising along the highways and by-ways of America in his red, white and blue rig, but of course he's not the only "knight of the road" out there on smokey patrol. We also meet "Dynamite Dan the Suicide Man," hauling "a load of TNT and heading east on 33." This serves, of course, to introduce our next special guest star:

Tim Conway, multi Emmy-winner for The Carol Burnet Show (1967-78).

Big Ruby Red notices that Dan seems nervous, and tells him to light up a cigar, have a smoke and relax...which as it happens is a shitty idea when you've got a tractor trailer full of high explosives in tow. Dan blows up real good and Big Red quips "At least he went out like a real trucker--all over the road."

If that brief cameo seems like a waste of a good guest star, not to worry: after a brief musical interlude Conway is back, sans mustache and clad in plaid, playing another trucker named "Long Haul." He and Red chat on the CB about where they're headed, and it seems they're both supposed to get married at midnight. A bit of chatter reveals they're both headed to the same place, "Dandy Don's Diesel Dorm and Diner," and that they're both engaged to the same waitress, one "Kinky Pinky." They angrily hang up their mics and burn rubber, each hoping to get there first and steal the gal from the other.

We cut to the diner to find Kinky Pinky herself, slinging hash and cracking wise, and who should she be but:

Roz Kelly, who'd played the Fonz's girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero in three episodes of Happy Days (1974-1984) earlier that year.

I'll admit she doesn't seem like much of a big deal in retrospect, but at that particular juncture she'd just been announced as the newest regular cast member on one of the most popular sitcoms of the era. Unfortunately she was quietly dropped from Happy Days before the next series went into production and never returned to the show, though she did reprise the role for a single episode of the short-lived spin-off Blansky's Beauties in 1977.

The clock strikes midnight and Pinky waits breathlessly to see which of her competing beaus will arrive first to claim her hand. As the final bell tolls Long Haul rushes in and tells her they'd better get hitched double-quick. Thankfully a black-clad cowboy preacher is there ready to perform the ceremony atthe drop of a trucker hat. Just as he gets to the part about somebody speaking up if they think these two lovebirds oughtn't get hitched, Big Red's cab comes crashing through the wall.

It's a good thing there was a big empty space in there or this could have been a very abrupt shift in tone.

They spend a couple of minutes trying to explain to dumbass Kinky that she can't marry both of them, since that would be illegal, so she's going to have to choose. She says they'll have to decide "the intelligent way" and proposes an arm-wrestling match, or perhaps some other test of strength.

Long Haul goes first, demonstrating his prowess by breaking apart a chair with his bare hands. Kinky is impressed, but Red tops the feat by breaking a table into three pieces with a double karate chop. Kinky swoons and chooses Red.

Just as they're about to celebrate Billy Barty steps out in a chef's uniform. This is Dandy Don, the owner of the diner, who shouts angrily about the huge truck somebody just left in the middle of his restaurant. He walks over and pushes it clear out of the building with one hand.

He's "little but feirce" as they say on The Dodo.

Kinky decides that since Dandy Don is clearly the strongest she's gonna marry him instead. Tim Conway says "He may be the strongest but I'm the smartest! I know all my numbers and colors!" Red responds by pulling out a huge wad of cash, claiming "He may be the strongest and he may be the smartest, but I am the richest."

"Eat shit, Conway."

It seems Hollywood came a-calling and plan to make Red's life story into a movie. Furthermore they want him to play himself. He figures now that he's getting married Kinky can play his wife, and because he's such a stand-up guy he throws Long Haul a bone and offers him a role as his best pal.

Next we cut to the wedding, which is presented in the form of a corny musical number with a square-dance theme. Yeah, square dancing was kind of big in the 70's, too.

Oh, sweet decade of wonders, will your bounty never cease?

The preacher comes out and does his thing, and Red says to Kinky "If my movie makes its money back I could be bigger than Billy Jack," which is a reference I'll leave you to look up for yourself.

We return from a commercial break to find Witch Margaret reading "Rosemary's Baby" and having a good chuckle over it. We pan over to Witchiepoo having a similarly jolly time reading "The Exorcist." Suddenly Paul appears between them, his first wish-fantasy at an end andfamished from all that square dancing and table smashing.

The Butler runs off to make him a pizza and the Witch Sisters suggest that Paul might enjoy "a little chamber music" while he waits for his food. Paul asks where the musicians are and Witch Margaret quips "locked up in a little chamber!"

She offers to summon them up to "play something a little peaceful for Mr. Lynde." Sirens and smoke bombs go off and an old-fashioned cage elevator descends in the far corner of the great hall. It reaches the bottom and out steps:


This was actually a really big deal at the time, as it was the first appearance of Kiss on prime-time television. They were huge in 1976--almost inescapably so--and it was considered something of a coup when ABC signed them to appear on this special. I was only six when this aired but I still remember the commercials for the special touting Kiss's appearance as its main selling point.

So Kiss jump around a lot and pretend to play as they lip-synch to their hit "Detroit Rock City." Cameras are spun, flash pots go off and the studio fog machines get so much use they decide to unionize and demand overtime pay. It all ends with a flourish of smoke and exploding amplifiers, and we cut to another commercial.

I'll admit that when I was six this shit made a pretty big impression on me and I remembered it vividly for decades until I was finally able to see it again. As an adult...well it's just kind of there. I don't dislike Kiss, but I don't particularly like them either.

Kiss meets the Phantom of the Park (1978) is still some primo shit, though.

When we return Paul and the Witch Sisters are playing "Witch Monopoly," which is like regular Monopoly except you have a choice between buying a property or blowing it up. I can't stand Monopoly, but if it came with its own explosives I'd be willing to reevaluate my position.

Witch Margaret is bored and says she thinks she'll head into town for a movie, and Paul says he wishes he were in the Sahara desert instead of spending the evening with two Witches so childish that they abandon board games when they're losing. He suddenly realizes that he said "I wish" and when he discovers that he can't take it back he asks that if they must send him to the desert could they at least make him a wealthy sheik and a great lover? Witchiepoo waves her wand again and poof! We're in a lush desert tent with our next special guest:

Every 70's kid's favorite tv mom Florence Henderson!

Florence Henderson is, of course best known as clan mother Carol on The Brady Bunch (1969-74), but she also appeared in a bunch of commercials for Wesson cooking oil. She was...a diverse talent.

The setup for this sketch is that dashing and irresistible Sheik Paul has kidnapped ice queen Lady Cicely Westinghouse, wealthy English heiress. It's a parody of the Rudolph Valentino film The Shiek (1921), which was still part of the social lexicon as shorthand for an ideal screen romance. It's not too bad a sketch, actually. At least not as bad as the trucker bullshit earlier. There's a pretty nice joke early on where Lady Cicely asks Paul why he's wearing an earring, and he explains "because I'm a very chic shiek...that's why they call me Florence of Arabia."

Sheik Paul tells Lady Cicely that when he saw her milking a cobra in the town bazaar he knew that he must have her, that he kidnapped her and brought her here to make her his own. She insists that it's no use to tempt her with talk of love as she is a proper Englishwoman, without passion or emotion of any kind. He offers her a goblet of "hyena wine," hoping to thaw her frosty heart, but she takes one sip and hands it back to him without so much as a glance in his direction. He peers into the goblet, pours it out on the table and ice cubes drop out.

"I must have kidnapped a Westinghouse Frigid-heiress!"

Lady Cicely vows that he will never bend her to his will, but he says he can melt her with the overwhelming power of his burning lips, claiming to have not only thusly inflamed the hearts of hundreds of concubines but to have single-handedly attacked both Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983) on-camera.

I wonder if those lips had the same effect on Lenny and Squiggy,

Eventually she yields to the fateful kiss and it's a whopper, replete with a dramatic musical crescendo, but Lady Cicely stands unmoved, coldly stating when it's over "I'm ready whenever you are!"

Shiek Paul decides that if he can't woo her with his kiss he'll try bribing her. He offers her a ring made from "precious jade from Hong Kong," but she dismisses him with a shrug. He offers a priceless diamond from Cape Town, but is similarly rebuffed. Finally he offers her "a Cockatoo, once kissed by Baretta.

Actually that's a scarlet macaw.

Somehow the promiscuous parrot does the trick. In a trice they're making out like a couple of horny teens parked at lookout point, and Lady Cicely pledges him her everlasting love.

Unfortunately it was all a setup, as we discover when Tim Conway reappears, this time in the guise of a French Foreign Legionnaire named Seymour.

We never learn his surname but I hope it's "Butz."

Sheik Paul realizes he's been betrayed, that Lady Cicely was the honey trap set up to capture him. She claims she didn't want to do it, but explains "you never know where they're going to send you when you're a Kelly Girl."

Hooray! Another joke that means absolutely nothing in 2020!

Lady Cicely asks if she can keep the cockatoo (it's still a scarlet macaw) as a token of their love, but Sheik Paul snatches it back from her. She begs Seymour not to take her lover away, she even grabs hold of the Shiek's leg and tries to physically restrain him, but all to no avail. "What have I done?" she cries as he's torn from her, ostensibly forever.

As she thus laments Shiek Paul suddenly reappears, apparently free from bondage. She asks how he got away and he tells her "He let me go. I gave him the cockatoo." (Scarlet macaw, people! It's a fucking SCARLET MACAW!) The Shiek explains "a man gets mighty lonely in the Foreign Legion."

Thus the scene ends with a good old fashioned tongue-scope and boob-grope.

Mind where you're putting them paws, mister.

Another commercial break and we return to the spooky old house where Witch Margaret is asking Butler Graves (the first and only time we hear his name) if Mr. Lynde has yet returned from his wish-fantasy. Graves answers that he has not, and Witch Margaret asks him to please remember to put out the cat before going to bed. Graves exits through a portal and we hear the sounds of an angry lion roaring, graves shouting to "stop scratching!" and the cracking of a whip. When he returns his clothes are in tatters, but he continues his dusting as if nothing unusual has happened. Witch Margaret reappears and asks if he put the cat out yet, to which he replies "No, madam. I just put your mother to bed."

It's a terrible joke, but Billy Barty sells it hard and gets a pretty good laugh.

Paul returns and grudgingly admits to the Witch Sisters that he's been having a good time and that witches maybe aren't so bad after all. He even magnanimously offers to give his third wish back to them so they can have a little something nice for themselves.

The two have a little huddle and tell Paul that what they really want is to go to a Hollywood Disco...and as soon as you hear the "D" word you just know the already unhealthily elevated cheese factor is about to go through the roof.

Paul grabs the wand from Witchiepoo, gives it a quick wave and voila! The mansion is now a groovy-ass Halloween discotheque, full of groovy-ass dancers in groovy-ass orange wigs snorting groovy-ass lines of Columbian coke and smoking some groovy-ass PCP.

It's not a truly authentic 70's disco experience without some hard drugs and a little bit of stinky fingering on the dance floor.

The cage elevator descends with Paul and the Sisters. They thank him for making their wish come true, and ask if he might do them one more favor. They've never hosted a party before, so they ask if he'll play the part of an emcee, telling a few jokes and introducing Florence Henderson who's waiting upstairs to do a little song. There's a nice bit here where Paul tries to tell some jokes but each time he's about to drop a zinger one of the Sisters steals the punch line and gets a big laugh. Again the chemistry between these three is terrific and you kind of wish the show had focused more on their interactions and less on screwball set pieces and off-the-cob music numbers.

After a couple of these interruptions Paul finally manages to finish a joke himself, which goes over like a fart in an elevator, rendering the entire disco silent. Witch Margaret nudges him and says maybe they'd better get Florence Henderson out there, stat. She appears at the top of the balcony dessed in a black sequined cat-suit, singing a cheesed-up version of "That Old Black Magic."

The dress may be black and the magic may be black but the performance is just about the whitest thing I've ever heard.

Another commercial break brings us to the second appearance of Kiss, introduced by Paul and the Witches with a rather forced exchange regarding the now-rarely-used term "number one with a bullet," meaning a song or album that rapidly shoots up to the top of the Billboard charts.

This time it's Peter Criss, a.k.a. The Catman, lip-synching what would become the band's biggest commercial hit in the United States, "Beth." It's a tender, romantic ballad about a self-absorbed man-child who ditches his wife to go play with his band buddies and drink beer in a basement somewhere while she's stuck home alone all night watching the kids. It features the haunting refrain "I think I hear them calling, but Beth what can I do?"

You can grow the fuck up and tell your pals you're married now and have adult responsibilities, that what the fuck you can do.

After the song Paul and the Witch Sisters go over to meet the band and there's an incredibly awkward and unfunny sequence where Paul makes stupid jokes and mugs at the camera while Kiss stand stony faced, towering grimly over him in their giant platform boots. Finally Paul makes a quip about their make-up, asking Gene Simmons how long it takes to put it on. Gene replies "We don't wear make-up."

Fun fact: Gene Simmons was born in Israel and his birth name was Chiam Witz. That doesn't exactly scream "legendary rock star." It's more like "Borsht-belt comedian who did a lot of entertaining in the Catskills in the 1950's."

"Oi! I'd like to rock and roll all night and party every day, but who has the time?"

Paul asks the Witch Sisters if they could find it in their hearts to grant him one more wish, and he uses it to get KISS to perform another number, which being as there's only five minutes left in the special had better be a quick one. A wave of the wand and a puff of smoke later, and Kiss are back on stage delivering another unconvincing, uninspired lip-synch performance.

This time it's a truncated version of "King of the Night Time World." Meh.

It might seem rather quaint today, but there was quite a controversy about Kiss in the 70's (and Alice Cooper as well), with evangelicals accusing them of being devil worshippers and parents' groups concerned that they were a potentially degenerative influence on their kids.

Nowadays we just laugh when Pat Robertson tries to tell us Harry Potter is gonna make you go to hell, or Jerry Falwell Jr. gets his hands out of his pants long enough to complain about Gandalf turning us into Satanists, but in the 70's a lot of just regular people actually took that kind of thing seriously. Meanwhile my parents bought six year-old me and my eight year-old brother a copy of the then-current Kiss album "Destroyer" without so much as a passing thought about whether it would rot our brains or indoctrinate us into some kind of blood-drinking devil-cult.

You remember "Destroyer." It's the one with the elaborate gatefold sleeve featuring the band dancing gleefully atop a barren crag with their hairy demon-nipples exposed and backed by an apocalyptic hellscape of burning cities and mass-casualty human suffering. Totally age-appropriate for young children.

The song ends with lots of explosions and Gene doing his fire-eating shtick, and we segue immediately into the semi-triumphant return of Pinky Tuscadero, rather more wailing than singing a rancid little number called "Disco Baby." Her vocal stylings are fiercely adenoidal, like a gargantuan, disembodied proboscis descended from the heavens to scour clean the Earth with the awesome power of its massive, deadly nasal canal.

She's like one of those sonic weapons that can make you spontaneously shit yourself from a thousand yards.

So it's pretty much just a free-for-all now, where the various guest stars wander back in and everybody mingles and dances and pretends they're all having a swell time, like it's a real-life Halloween party at a real life discotheque, and like they're not all dying to get out of their pancake makeup, go home, put on their slippers and pretend this was all a bad dream.

Meanwhile Kiss are up in the gallery wondering how the hell they got talked into it.

We fade out for a final commercial break and when we return Paul steps forward to deliver his parting message, where he thanks his guest stars for appearing with him and thanks the audience for inviting him into their homes. It's more than a perfunctory nod to TV etiquette, it's a completely sincere and grateful speech with more than a touch of genuine melancholy. Lynde manages to smile and jape his way through it but the sadness still seeps through, as though he's afraid to say goodbye lest it be forever. He eventually rejoins the group behind him for a final reprise of "Disco Baby" as the closing credits roll.

The End.

Final Observations:

--Despite his success as a performer, and his routinely topping audience polls of TV's most liked performers, Paul Lynde was a lonely and often unhappy man who struggled with his weight, struggled with alcoholism, struggled with drugs and struggled with having to hide his homosexuality in order to maintain his Hollywood career. There are moments during the special where his self-deprecating humor and brief asides reveal a desperate need for love and validation, including a particularly raw moment during the final speech where he thanks the studio audience and viewers at home "for making me feel wanted."

--Lynde's standing in the gay community has been somewhat ambivalent over the years, with some viewing him as representative of a self-loathing culture of the past, and others admiring his ability to create a career out of his natural flamboyance. In the words of drag queen BenDeLaCreme, who chose to portray Lynde during the "Snatch Game" segment of an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race "Paul Lynde's success was not in spite of, but because of how queer he was when it could not be spoken."

--Lynde used part of the considerable fortune he'd earned from The Hollywood Squares to purchase and restore a mansion which had previously belonged to Errol Flynn. He lived there with his dog Harry MacAffee. When Harry died Lynde was so distraught he felt he could no longer stay at the house and subsequently sold it.

--In 1965 Lynde was involved in an incident at a San Francisco hotel where after hours of drinking together a young actor friend named Bing Davidson fell from an eighth-storey window to his death. Despite two police officers witnessing the accident and publicly clearing Lynde of any wrongdoing the incident haunted him both personally and professionally for the remainder of his life.

--By early 1980 Lynde was sober and drug-free, but his career seemed to be winding down. He had left The Hollywood Squares in 1979 but was persuaded to return when the show experienced a downward ratings trend. Unfortunately it was cancelled permanently the following year. On January 10th, 1982 Lynde was found dead of a heart attack by a concerned friend who had expected to see him that day at a birthday party. He was 55 years old.

As always, cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in October, 2020.

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