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Alan King ed i piaceri di Roma

Alan King and the Pleasures of Rome

If you have any information on the whereabouts of this program, PLEASE WRITE TO ME IMMEDIATELY!!!! Thanks so much!


In the spring of 1976, little items started popping up in the papers. Here are two from Variety (weekly) 282 no 9, Wednesday, 7 April 1976, p 4, and 282 no 11, Wednesday, 21 April 1976, p 4:


That was the quiet beginning. Then things started to happen. Witness this little item from The Titusville [PA] Herald of Saturday, 24 April 1976 (“TV Preview” section, p 3):

On Monday, the 3rd of May 1976, there was a little more, for instance this tiny little excerpt from a press release that appeared from The Bee in Danville, Virginia (“TV Showtime” section, p 7):

Then the plans changed. King and his coproducer Rupert Hitzig did not head back out for Europe until September, as we see from this announcement in Variety (weekly) 284 no 8, Wednesday, 29 September 1976, p 4:

This special was probably shot in early October, for that is about when other reports started dribbling into the press. Let’s take a look at Earl Wilson’s syndicated column as it appeared in The Doylestown Daily Intelligencer of Wednesday, 13 October 1976, p 38:

The early/mid-October date is confirmed by a listing in the weekly Variety on Wednesday, 20 October 1976, p 4, from which we learn that Alan King must have just finished taping his special and had just returned to his Manhattan office:

So far this doesn’t seem to interest us too terribly much. But then wait a minute! What’s this that we read in Variety (weekly) 284 no 13, Wednesday, 3 November 1976, pp 39, 60?

Then there’s more in The Abilene Reporter-News of Friday, 26 November 1976, p 8B:

Of course, Alan King never just comes back. That would be too anticlimactic. He comes back with witticisms. Here is a syndicated quote as it appeared in The [Benton Harbor MI] Herald-Palladium on Friday, 3 December 1976, p 7:

This special was just a small piece of a much larger plan. See Daily Variety 173 no 63, Friday, 3 December 1976, pp 1, 8:

Then there was this strange little story, but it doesn’t make any sense. Some show-biz folk had been invited to President Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Gala on 19 January 1977. If gossip columnist Earl Wilson is to be believed, those who had not received invitations felt snubbed (Earl Wilson, “Is Inaugural to Be Un-Chic?,” The Lima [OH] News, p 11). Now by that time, of course, Alan King was back in the US. So what he told Wilson was probably not true. My guess is that he was trying to tell a joke but that Wilson garbled it.

But did any of this bear fruit? Yes indeed! The morning before the première broadcast, Daily Variety (volume 175 number 14, Thursday, 24 March 1977, p 8), which had apparently gotten an advance screening or a screener, published its review:

Oh well. Here are some sample listings for the actual broadcast on Thursday, 24 March 1977. Here are two examples among countless other listings: The Sun in Lowell, Massachusetts (Sunday, 20 March 1976, TV Section’s Thursday listings, p 10), and The News in Lima, Ohio (Thursday, 24 March 1976, p 7):

Now doesn’t that begin to sound interesting? This “special” was called an “ABC Wide World Special.” A few stations (for instance, in Alaska) taped it and delayed the local broadcast by a week or more. One such station was in Canandaigua, New York, as we learn from The Daily Messenger of Thursday, 31 March 1977, p 10, which names yet another interviewee:

This “ABC Wide World Special” was given a single repeat broadcast toward the end of the year, on Thursday, 8 December 1977. Here is how the listing appeared in The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison (Sunday, 4 December 1977, TV section, Thursday listings, p 14) and in The Syracuse Herald-Journal (Thursday, 8 December 1977, p 48):

No mention of Malcolm or Tinto in these later listings. Was this a re-edited edition? Probably not. Take a look at the listing in The Nashua [NH] Telegraph of Thursday, 8 December 1977, p 38:

This program has never been issued on home video and is not available in any archive. The Paley Center (Museum of Television and Radio) does not own a copy and has no record of the show. The UCLA Film and Television Archive does not have a copy. USC does not have a copy. The Library of Congress does not have a copy. The National Archive does not have a copy. And of course it’s nowhere mentioned at IMDb. ABC does not possess a copy of this program and has no record of it anywhere in its files. So this was definitely a separate production that was licensed to ABC for a two-time broadcast. The day after the second broadcast the master tapes were returned to the copyright owner, and that would have been King-Hitzig Productions. Alan King would likely have had part ownership through his own company, Alan King Productions, 155 E 55th St, New York NY 10022, tel (212) 977-4340, but there’s no point in writing that address or calling that number now, sadly.

Another lead might be Rupert Hitzig, who is still active. RAI TV maintained non-US rights and distributed the special through SACIS. Might RAI still have any materials? How to chase all these leads after all these decades? Long process....

Now, SOMEBODY must have taped this at home — or at school. I’ve been making discoveries. I mean, did you know that the first consumer videotape recorder was put on the market in 1963? Yup. The contraption was nine feet long, weighed 900 pounds, and could be purchased from Needless-Markups Neiman-Marcus for the trifling sum of $30,000 (the equivalent of $230,000 in today’s money — pocket change). You think I’m kidding? Here it is! For a mere $700 to $1200 (half the price of a new car) you could have purchased a ½" open-reel videotape recorder, several models of which had been on the home market since 1965. (More of the story is here.) U-Matic ¾" videotape recorders, first put on the market in 1971, were in plentiful supply at every school and college. There was even a ¼" open-reel system available by 1969. A cassette system called Cartivision was available in the US in 1972, and another cassette system called Vcord was put on the US market in 1974, with the improved Vcord II available sometime in 1976. Betamax had been introduced in May 1975 and VHS was put on the market in October 1977, two months prior to the repeat airing. Remember: In the 1970s Alan King was remarkably popular, and it was difficult to turn around without bumping his name or image or books or LPs or movies or satirical commentaries which were syndicated EVERYWHERE. He was a regular on the Vegas circuit and omnipresent on television, day and night. (His type of humor seems to be a bit out of fashion nowadays, but nonetheless I find it perplexing that there’s no fan club for him.) Surely some of his admirers recorded this program. SURELY. Out of his countless millions of fans, SOMEONE must have recorded this, yes? Might you have a copy of this show buried somewhere in your collection? Or might you know where a copy can be found? If you do, please write to me. Thanks!!!

So, we know when the production of this program was first announced, we know what companies coproduced it, we know the names of a number of the people involved. Now let’s find this bloody thing!!!!!!!

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