THE HAMBURGER HOUR By Tom Soter
THE CHRISTIAN DOHERTY SHOW used to wrap up our ACD broadcast days. Unlike the other TR programs that were pre-recorded, this variety show was done live, the coda to our collection of prepared material. It was meant to be a free-wheeling variety show in the style of THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW or THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, with a little bit of THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JOHNNY CARSON thrown in on the side. As such, it closely aped their formats: musical guests, comedy sketches, celebrities spotted in the audience, and occasional interviews with TR stars. But it was actually a snapshot of our youth. It could be called "Christian Doherty's Hamburger Hour."
The show typically opens to a theme song that I think was lifted from a SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS soundtrack album (hence the end credit, "Music by the Seven Dwarfs Orchestra"). It is sweeping, dramatic, variety show-like, promising momentous things. What you actually end up with is Doherty goofing around with me as his sidekick, and with such guests as Alan Saly, Tom Sinclair, and Charles Daggs (all friends from high school), and also such luminaries as Patrick Johnson (played by Doherty), Hedwig Zorb (played by me), and Ty Phillips (Doherty). There were also musical guests Shirley Bassey, Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye, and the Limelighters (all culled from tapes and records).
Doherty being Doherty, however, the series reflects his idiosyncratic personality. For instance, a "comedy" sketch on one episode – complete with canned audience laughter – finds Alan Saly and Ty Phillips stalking Doherty and me and ends with the two of us as targets on a shooting gallery pleading for our lives (funny, isn't it?). In another sequence, Doherty announces that I am going to sing a song – which was news to me – and I quickly improvise a ditty with Sinclair called "The Big Man" (its lyrics are pretty awful, sung in a non-rhyming call-and-response style: "What do you do with the Big Man?" "You feed him to the vomiting drunk"). Bizarrely, this song is preceded by Christian leading all of us in a rendition of "America the Beautiful."
The show is goofy, informal, and downright bizarre, with Doherty bantering with guests Alan Saly (he calls him a fine "specimen"), Patrick Johnson, Mandy Johnson, and Ty Phillips (these last three, of course, being played by Doherty himself); supposedly leaving near the end of one show to go home to his Christmas dinner; listening to "Mandy" talk about the script and production problems of his ACD series TALES OF MYSTERY; and asking Sinclair and me to each "say one word" (we both say three: "Edgar Rice Burroughs," indicating our obsession with the author of the Tarzan books).
And, of course, through it all, reality keeps breaking in: I complain that there are no more potato chips left, and Doherty asks for a hamburger and laughs at the goings on, unable to keep a straight face in the world he created. It is the world of our childhood innocence, now gone forever.
Listen to: The Christian Doherty Christmas Special Episode 1. Taped: 1969 Chris welcomes Nat King Cole, Stubby Kaye, Hedwig Zorb, and Patrick Johnson. Songs include "The Ballad of Cat Ballou." With Tom Soter.
The Sound Effects Show Episode 2. Taped: 1969 Guests include Hedwig Zorb and Louise Sorel from Planet of the Nuns; Patrick Johnson; Ty Phillips; and Shirley Bassey, who sings "Goldfinger."
Alan Saly and Other TR Specimens Episode 3. Taped: 1969 Guests Alan Saly and Ty Phillips perform in a sketch in which Chris and sidekick Tom Soter are targets on a rifle range! The cast also eats hamburgers. Also appearing: Tom Sinclair, who joins Tom in singing "The Big Man."
Blunt Talk from Mandy Johnson Episode 4. Taped: 1970 in the season finale, Mandy Johnson talks about script problems on Tales of Mystery and The Limelighters sing "Move Over and Make Room for Marty." With Tom Soter.