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Where's Alan?

The real Alan Saly in 2005.The real Alan Saly in 2005.WHERE'S ALAN?
By Tom Soter

The only thing missing from SALY PLACE, the vaudeville-style sitcom that Christian Doherty and I created, is Alan Saly. It's got absurdist comedy, songs, big-name guests, and even a bit of melodrama. What it doesn't have is Alan Saly. Oh, there's a character called Alan Saly, but he has about as much connection to reality as George W. Bush does.

SALY PLACE is a show about the adventures of a teenage boy named Alan Saly who courts a beautiful girl named Emily Gould. There really is an Alan Saly, as anyone who checks out other essays on this web site can see. Alan, a teenager at the time of SALY PLACE (1971) who had a real-life crush on the real Emily, never appears in the series. His part is played by Christian Doherty, and any resemblance between the actual Saly and his tape-recorder counterpart is purely coincidental. While the real Alan was a sober, logical fellow, the SALY PLACE version is pure Doherty: goofy, high-spirited, and a wild man as Christian shoots off ideas like machine gun bullets. This is an Alan the world never made, a reimagining of Saly as a vaudeville headliner.

SALY PLACE was created as filler material; when we'd have some extra tape, we'd make a SALY PLACE. Unlike our other shows, which ran about 15 minutes apiece, SALY PLACE was generally brief (five to seven minutes a program), with false "copyright" dates (1962, 1965) to place the series closer to the more innocent era of the 1950s (in 1962, none of us knew each other, everyone being all of six years old). Most episodes open with "Alan" doing a George Burns-style monologue (inspired by the old BURNS AND ALLEN SHOW), supposedly before a live, applauding audience (the applause is supplied by Christian) that would set up the premise for the episode.

These plot lines are pretty simple (and fairly inane), usually involving celebrity guests (Patrick Johnson, Ty Phillips, Joseph Barlotta – all played by Christian, naturally) who somehow upset Alan and Emily's relationship. In one, Patrick sings a song against marriage, prefacing it with the ridiculous comment, "You know the English are against a courtship." (If he sounds remarkably like Rex Harrison that should be no surprise: the vocals were lifted from the MY FAIR LADY soundtrack record.) In another, Patrick and other celebrity guests fight over an engagement ring Alan wants to buy, this time to the strains of "With a Little Bit of Luck."

If it all sounds silly, it is and intentionally so, and none more so than the two-parter, "Spook in the Woods/Forest" (it has two titles, apparently because we couldn't remember whether we had said "woods" or "forest"). In it, Alan and two friends, Frank O'Sullivan and Jim O'Perry (no sign of Emily in this one), are taken on a journey by a mysterious knight (Patrick Johnson) whom they meet in the woods. They carry with them a portable record-player, purportedly playing the music of the David Rose Orchestra (which triggers this witty exchange: "It’s good we have the David Rose Orchestra." "My rose is your rose, Alan." "Your tulip is my head, O’Sullivan.").

This being a Doherty-influenced program, however, you take turns you'd never take in a typical 1950s TV or radio show: the bad guys plan to eat them at the next Feast of Death ("Yes, we are cannibals," says Ty Phillips, a guest star) or else put them in the acid pit. The story ends abruptly (we were apparently running out of tape) with the knight returning and saying, "You've learned your lesson. Now to get home, repeat these three words: 'There's no place like home.'"

Of course, that's five words. But, then, unlike the real Alan, logic was never a hallmark of SALY PLACE. (And neither the real nor the faux Alan ever did marry Emily Gould.)

Listen to:
The Time Machine
Taped: 1971
Alan goes back in time in Dr. My Nose's Time Machine to relive his fight with Fats Domino. Alan: Christian Doherty.

Spook in the Forest
Taped: 1971
Alan (Christian Doherty) and two friends encounter strange adventures when they become lost in the woods. Knight: Patrick Johnson.

Getting Married
Taped: 1971
Alan and Emily meet two old codgers (Patrick Johnson, Tom Soter) who advise them against getting married. Patrick sings "I'm an Ordinary Man." Directed by Finlay Currie.

The Unconquerable Alan
Taped: 1971
Alan fights with various celebrities (Ruth Chas, Ty Phillips, Patrick Johnson) for an engagement ring he wants to give to Emily. The cast sings "With a Little Bit of Luck."

Alien Invaders
Taped: 1971
Alan and Emily encounter alien invaders from outer space (Ed Booth, Joseph Barlotta). The cast sings "The Impossible Dream."