You all owe me big time. Why?
For all of you, I dared to look a demon in the face and spit in its eye. Nay, nay, worse than that… I actually watched the Paul Lynde Halloween Special, shown on the ABC TV network on October 29, 1976. More recently, this program was actually released on DVD.
Now, I’m going to give you a small taste… and a very small taste is all you dare try, because this thing is too terrible to believe.
Okay, I’m no dope. These days Paul Lynde as an entertainer is more a punch line himself than a teller of jokes. This holiday special takes all the worst aspects of the man, crams it into an hour long special, tosses in a few bizarre guest stars, and ends up with a cocktail that is all bad 70’s. In fact, it is so much a part of its era that when you see the title of the program with narration, you may find yourself thinking this is all some ingenious SCTV bit.
I should also note that there is a strong connection to TV kid vid creators Sid and Marty Krofft. Though they are only mentioned in the end credits regarding Witchiepoo as being their creation, almost every guest is involved with a Krofft production of that era.
But how bad is it? It’s so bad that when watching it you may find yourself closing all the curtains, putting towels under the door and whatever else is necessary to avoid letting friends and neighbors know that you’re actually watching it.
So, what’s so bad? Let’s go…
The program opens with a short series of bad jokes wherein Paul dresses up for Christmas, Easter and Valentines Day, pretending to ignore the fact that it is Halloween. His housekeeper, Margaret (played by Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West) chides Paul, until he admits that it is Halloween. Cut to Paul on stage, telling bad jokes and dancing and singing. The dancers (including Donnie and Marie Osmond) finish the number by putting Paul in a garbage can, which explodes.
After the commercial break, we see Paul and Margaret driving to her home out in the country, which happens to be a creepy castle. They ring the doorbell and Witchiepoo (Billie Hayes) from H.R. Pufnstuf answers the door. She’s actually Margaret’s sister. Margaret then assumes her real self, the Wicked Witch of the West. Loads of bad jokes follow, plus a cameo by Betty White (for no particular reason) during which Paul is granted three wishes.
His first wish is to be a truck driver with a big 18 wheeler. Tim Conway appears in the awful sketch as a couple of different truckers doing jokes with Paul through their CB radios. As it ends up, they’re both supposed to be getting married to a waitress at a seedy café. The waitress is played by Roz Kelly… who was the very short-lived Pinky, Fonzie’s girlfriend from Happy Days. She’s attractive, but can’t act or sing at all… which is proved in a singing and dancing number to finish the bit off.
Back at the mansion, Paul does more shtick with the witches… which results in introducing KISS in their TV debut appearance. They do a couple of songs but remain removed from the show’s star.
Next up, comes a second wish from Paul that will challenge anyone with an upset stomach. Paul wishes he was sheik in the desert a la Rudolph Valentino. He’s trying to woo Florence Henderson. Their scenes of kissing and hugging strain the very fabric of sanity and the ability of my stomach to hang on to whatever I just ate.
After a commercial break, we see a small unfunny bit with Margaret and Billy Barty. Paul returns and decides to let the witch sisters use his third wish for themselves. Touched (in the head) by his kindness, they decide they want their home to be a disco. A disco dance number follows, with Florence Henderson singing a song and Roz pretending she has any talent at all (she still doesn’t).
Paul wants KISS to return, this time having them actually talk to the program’s star. Peter Kriss sings (or more correctly, lip synches) “Beth.” The band does another song, but there are still a few more jokes from Paul, Roz, the witches left to be squeezed out. The show ends with the cast dancing and this TV viewer drooling from the mouth while bleeding from my eyes and ears.
Oh, and Happy Halloween!