Saturday, June 23, 2007

To Tell the Truth

[Inspired by Sunday Scribblings.]

Come on a little journey of memory and exploration.

As I was thinking about the topic,
"I have a secret," it morphed in my mind to "I've Got a Secret." This was, of course, the name of a television game show that I watched with my grandma.

Originated and produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman, this was one of their earliest TV programs. Like many other radio and television game shows, it was base on parlour games. [1] I must say, however, that it was better than any parlour game we ever played at home.

"I've Got a Secret" featured a celebrity panel. Each contestant told his or her secret to the host and the panelist attempted to guess that secret. I believe that most episodes featured at one celebrity contestant. Other contestants were regular people (more or less as we discovered from their secrets).

I remember some of the panelists. Among those I remember from various years were Orson Bean, Henry Morgan, and Richard Dawson.

And who could forget Kitty Carlisle. She was on several game shows, perhaps most memorably on all the versions and reincarnations of "To Tell the Truth." [2] She wore gowns (I never knew anyone except beauty pageant contestants wore gowns!) and always seemed elegant and classy.

Looking up info on her, I discovered that she may as well have had secrets (from me anyway). I was only aware of her as a TV game show panelist, but I find she was an actress, opera singer, Broadway performer, patron of the arts, and was married to a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Moss Hart). Sadly, I also learned that she died this spring. [2]

As much as I remember what Kitty Carlisle looked like and dressed like, I don't remember much about what she said. That place in my memories of TV game shows is reserved for Nipsey Russell.

I don't remember what Nipsey Russell dressed like. I don't remember whether he guessed right on the panel. I do remember I could hardly wait until he provided a little poem. As quoted on IMDB, he said, "I've always had the ability to manipulate words and communicate ideas and thoughts. Writing poems is very simple to do ... I start with the joke line and write backward."

They weren't great epic poetry; they were often groaners. But I didn't know anyone could make people laugh like that. It is possible that was one of my earliest exposures to poems recited aloud.

This is from his October 2005 obituary in the New York Times:

He had begun reading Shelley, Homer, Keats and Paul Laurence Dunbar when he was 10 and sometimes quoted from Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Hip, glib and conspicuously intelligent, he attracted downtown crowds to Harlem, becoming a standout attraction at the Baby Grand, Small's Paradise and other cabarets with quips like "America is the only place in the world where you can work in an Arab home in a Scandinavian neighborhood and find a Puerto Rican baby eating matzo balls with chopsticks."
I learned that he obtained the rank of Captain in the Army during World War II, the same as my dad.

Thanks for coming on my somewhat-random tour spawned by the prompt "I have a secret." In honor of these folks (and especially Mr. Russell) I give you this poem.

To Tell The Truth

Questions and answers
and glamourous Kitty,
but the best of the show
was when Nipsey was witty.

[1] Museum of Broadcast Communications (

[2] The Internet Movie Database (


Maria said...

I remember Kitty Carlisle from that show! And yes...she always wore those classy gowns and when she spoke, she sounded like a lady. A real lady.

And the odd thing? I have NO recollection of Nipsey Russell at all. Isn't that odd???

sister AE said...

It may depend on which seasons - Nipsey was on during the 1970's, while Kitty was on during each season. Who knows what our brains decide we are going to remember?

sundaycynce said...

Wow! You have a great memory! I couldn't have begun to remember all those people's names, except of course Kitty's, but once you named them I remembered them all.
Yes, Kitty was always elegant and proper, and I was aware of her other accomplishments; tho' again, I couldn't have named them without your reminder, except maybe that she was an opera singer. I always found that tidbit fascinating.
And Nipsey, yes, I loved him too. Loved his humor, tho' I did not recall that it was often in poetry.
Thanks for the fun trip down memory lane!!

sister AE said...

Thanks, sundaycynce.
What can I say - I spent far too much time in front of the TV. I still do.