Every weekday morning at 10:15 a cheerful middle-aged man named Johnny Olsen bounds up the aisle of NBC's Studio 6B in New York to warm up the audience attending the telecast of a program called Play Your Hunch. One of the first principles of warming up an audience is to make sure everyone applauds, and Olsen relentlessly ferrets out delinquents during commercials. Not long ago he upbraided a man who hadn't been clapping. The man showed Olsen his empty right sleeve. "Well, snap your fingers," Olsen told him. "Everybody works on this show. It's a wing-a-ding-a-ding-a-ding-ding." In more reverent moments Olsen reminds the audience that Play Your Hunch "is brought to you by two very talented gentlemen who give us more enjoyment on TV than anyone else—Mark Goodson and Bill Todman. Ring-a-ding-a-ding-a-ding-ding." Out of a sense of duty or appreciation the studio audience invariably applauds, although, as Mark Goodson has remarked, "We're kind of faceless celebrities. When people see us together they say, 'What? You guys actually exist? I thought you were like the Smith Brothers.' "
Whether Goodson and Todman give us more enjoyment on TV than anyone else is arguable, but they certainly give us more TV—almost twice as much as any other independent packager or producer, 17½ hours a week. Each of their 35 half-hour shows concludes with the credit: "A Mark Goodson Bill Todman Production." In case the mouth readers are slow getting the message, an announcer recites it at the same time. Early in their partnership Goodson and Todman billed themselves as Todman and Goodson every other month. "It was a point of ego more than intelligence," Bill Todman admits. Nevertheless, their names present an almost insuperable phonetic obstacle. Goodson once purchased a pair of shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue, signing the charge slip "Mark Goodson." "Thank you, Mr. Todson," the clerk said. "Mr. Todman is my partner," Goodson said. "I'm Mark Goodson," "I'm sorry, Mr. Goodman," the clerk said. "No," said Goodson, "it's Goodson and Todman." "Yes, I know," said the clerk. "I adore and respect all the Godson and Toodson shows."
Physically, Goodson, 48, and Todman, 47, present no problem. "I have been called 'lean and alert,' " Todman says, "Mark 'gentle and round.' One writer compared me to an Irish wolfhound. An Irish wolfhound! A Russian wolfhound, maybe, but an Irish wolfhound?" Both are of modest height and have careful, resonant voices. Both worry about their weight, Goodson because he feels he is too heavy, Todman because he feels he is too light. Todman is more articulate than Goodson about his weight problem and, indeed, all health matters; at one time he contemplated becoming a doctor. "I have a terribly, terribly great regard for medicine," Todman says. ("Illness disturbs Mark," one of their friends says, "but it kind of refreshes Bill. It brings out all the best in him.") Both Goodson and Todman are modish, tanned and agreeably scented. In the dressing room that connects their offices on the 30th floor of New York's Seagram Building—its walls are covered with gray flannel and it is furnished with Directoire pieces and towels monogrammed "G-T"—there are seven varieties of cologne.
There are, at present, eight G-T programs on the air: What's My Line?, To Tell the Truth, Password, I've Got a Secret, Play Your Hunch, The Price Is Right, Say When and The Match Game. They are all game or audience-participation shows, in which contestants or panelists guess the value of merchandise (say, a home freezer or 100 cases of Yoo-Hoo Chocolate Drink) or someone's occupation ("I drill the holes in bowling balls") or someone's secret ("I invented a machine with 10,000 moving parts that do nothing") or someone's identity ("Will the real Joyce Shelley please stand up") or plain, ordinary words. G-T shows do not depend upon intellectual virtuosity as do quizzes, which have all but vanished from television, nor do they award great sums of money. On only one G-T program, The Price Is Right, where contestants have won merchandise worth $50,000, are the prizes of major value. "It's a game. Smile. Have fun," Bruno Zirato Jr., the associate producer of To Tell the Truth, which has a top prize of $333, begs his contestants. "You get at least $50. It's better than a kick in the head."
June 23, 1963
"Americans love games," says Bill Todman appreciatively. Indeed, What's My Line? has been on the air since 1950, I've Got a Secret since 1952, To Tell the Truth and The Price Is Right since 1956. G-T games have become part of popular culture if not the public domain. A recent crossword definition in The New York Times read: "Standard of size, a la What's My Line?" (Answer: breadbox.) Several political cartoons have utilized the famous To Tell the Truth tag line. In the 1960 presidential campaign, for instance, a cartoon depicting three Richard Nixons seated at a table was captioned: "Will the real Richard Nixon please stand up." The other day Todman was scowling at an ad for Mother's Gefilte Fish in The New York Post. It depicted a fish inquiring, "What's my line?" "What a nerve!" said Todman. "Last year that damn fish was saying, 'I've got a secret!' I'm going to call my lawyer. I want to stop this Mother."
Another indication of the popularity of G-T games is that the home version of Password is the biggest-selling box game in the U.S. In 1962 two million Password boxes were sold. The Milton Bradley Co., which puts out the boxes, expects to sell three million this year. G-T royalties on the boxes for November-December 1962 amounted to $70,000. Still another gauge of the shows' appeal is the more than $5 million G-T received when it sold What's My Line? to CBS and I've Got a Secret to CBS and Garry Moore in 1958. G-T continues to produce these programs, however. Their other packages are leased to the networks under long-term contracts.
G-T, which has offices in both New York and Hollywood, employs 150 people and grossed $20 million last year. Besides game shows, G-T (actually 19 separate corporations) packages filmed TV series, has extensive real estate holdings and owns four newspapers—the Trentonian (of Trenton, N.J.), the Elizabeth (N.J.) Journal, the Pawtucket (R.I.) Times and the Delaware County daily Times of Chester, Pa.—a Seattle radio station (KOL), and has an interest in Bernard Geis Associates, the book publishers.
On the basis of the Nielsen ratings, G-T programs are watched by 125 million Americans each week, and the majority of the shows command the largest audience in their time slot. Password is frequently the second-highest-ranked daytime show; the first is a CBS soap opera called As the World Turns. One G-T man has said: "Ratings never bother us at Goodson and Todman—unless they're bad." "If you don't get a rating—bye-bye, Charlie," says Goodson with feeling.
Since Goodson and Todman hooked up in 1946 they have said bye-bye, Charlie to Winner Take All, Hit the Jackpot, Beat the Clock, Spin to Win, By Popular Demand, Rate Your Mate, It's News to Me, The Name's the Same, Two for the Money, Judge for Yourself, What's Going On?, Make the Connection, Choose Up Sides, Split Personality and Number Please. The G-T filmed shows—The Web, Jefferson Drum, The Rebel, Philip Marlowe and One Happy Family—have all faded from the picture tubes over the years, too. "Americans can become disenchanted," says Todman. "They get that tired feeling."
"Like a familiar broad," says Goodson. "You look across the room at a cocktail party and one day you realize the broad you're with has had it."
"Yeah, like the first day," says Todman.
Beat the Clock still lingers in Great Britain and West Germany, however, while The Rebel is now being shown in Japan, Canada, Australia and Latin America. Versions of G-T shows, licensed or unauthorized, have been put on in almost every country that has a TV station. What's My Line? is at present playing on Formosan radio. "I don't know what kind of occupations they have in Formosa," Good-son says. "Rice planter, rice picker, rice eater. Rickshaw mender, that's a tough one." Some years ago Goodson saw a pirated copy of What's My Line? in Havana. He called on the producer and asked him where he got the show. "We took it from a kinescope of a show like it in New York," the Cuban affably explained. "I created this show," Goodson said. "You created this show?" the Cuban said. "You must be very intelligent."
Over the years Goodson and Todman have developed new game show techniques and formats which were startling to those brought up on Uncle John's Question Bee but now seem old hat. Even such signals as the bell and the buzzer, at present almost de rigeur on game shows, were G-T innovations. For their first show, Winner Take All, which appeared in 1946, Goodson created what he calls "the basketball technique," two or more people trying to answer the same question at the same time. "It was like throwing a basketball in the air and seeing who can get it first," Goodson says. Winner Take All was also the first program to hold a contestant over for subsequent shows until he was defeated. "Keep playing as long as you keep winning," Todman says. "I wrote that sentence. It's like king of the mountain." What's My Line? was a major advance. "A group of celebrities were put in opposition to the man from the street," Goodson says. "He became the puzzle rather than an abstraction. It was no longer an attempt to see what was in someone's brain. The panel show also brought into play extra-game conversations, bits and pieces of humor, entremets. The barbs became as important as the game." Even the furniture of panel shows was a daring novelty. "Tables and chairs were considered unique when we first used them," Todman says. "There was tremendous resistance." Password, which went on the air in 1961, represented yet another step forward, that of a celebrity playing with a contestant. Heretofore the celebrity and the contestant had always been in opposition.
Although the G-T games have become more ingenious, their basic appeal remains constant. Perhaps the primary attraction is what Todman calls "the unknown, the unwritten qualities of games." "Sports and our type of game are very close," Goodson adds. "They are based on reality, not fiction. When you watch a game you sense this is real, this is not Cary Grant cast in the role of a quarterback and I've seen this before. It has a life sense. The unexpected is why people like games." All G-T shows are either live or taped no more than a week in advance. The tapes are edited only in rare cases of obscenity or outrageous boredom.
Another reason for the game show's popularity, according to Todman, "is that the audience can identify vicariously with the dynamic few [the panelists], as the baseball fan identifies with Mantle or Mays. There is a continuity of recognizable players. They don't always have to be successful. Casey Stengel still has enormous appeal. The audience also has to be for certain people, against others, as in sport. The negative quality becomes positive."
"I have a theory," Goodson says, "that one of the main reasons men want to be contestants on our shows is that there is so little area left in life where they can be heroes. 'They'll never get me,' they say. 'Really, I'm going to beat them.' It's this illusion. Money is way down on the list of motivations. We get as many requests to get on What's My Line?, where the top prize is $50, as on The Price Is Right. Texans have offered me $5 for every dollar they win on our shows. It gives men a chance to show they can do something. It looks easy. They're middle-aged, have a pot belly, they can't be Mickey Mantle anymore. On an early radio show of mine a woman defeated an old man. The prize was a radio. I see the old man's very upset. 'I'm terribly sorry,' I told him. T don't care about the radio,' he said. 'Don't you understand? My son was listening! He's going to think I'm an idiot.' I felt very bad and walked him outside the studio. His chauffeur was waiting with his limousine.
"A show should also be a natural, hit at a kind of chord in a person where there's an instantaneous response. The Price Is Right has instant curiosity. What's something worth? It's a universal concept. What's My Line? What's a man do for a living?
Password was the closest to a genuinely made-up idea. It's a grandson of the charades concept but a tremendous improvement. The trouble with charades is that tricks and techniques of communication developed which were extra-game. On TV, too, they have celebrities competing against celebrities. Who cares who wins? We've forced the celebrity to communicate with a stranger at a level shared with the public. There is an essence in that game, a reaching out, a straining to communicate. It's like the dribble in basketball. It's a painful restriction. But the straining can't be too painful. That's why I felt the big quiz shows would have played out in six months even without the scandals. They were a gladiatorial contest. You lost and they threw you to the lions. Every week they would have to hypo it up, increase the flagellation, the sweating of the forehead."
Both Goodson and Todman are quick to defend the value and quality of their game shows. "We're not a dictatorship," Todman says. "The dial is as democratic as a vote. You don't have to like it, but to attack us.... "
"You don't walk up to the guy who runs a great French restaurant," Goodson says, "and tell him he's appealing to people's baser instincts. We have a strange, puritanical obsession with justification in America. We must justify every second. I hear, too, that TV has stopped conversation, reading. What were they talking about before TV? 'Hey, Joe, you want to go bowling?' 'Yeah, I want to go bowling.'
"Password is used in schools, for remedial work, to teach foreign languages, but it would be pretentious to claim educational collaterals for our shows. Entertainment is our contribution. We communicate without degrading. Our shows have taste and integrity. We are not Eug√®ne Ionesco, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett. We're trying to do Oklahoma! We want a large audience to stay in business and make money." "I love money," says Bill Todman. "It's a beautiful commodity."
"A good game show is far better than a stuffy, pretentious, second-rate documentary," Goodson says. "I say to hell with people who say, 'I hate those guys and I hate game shows.' It's like saying, 'I hate music, I hate plays.' What plays? What game shows? It's almost like racial prejudice. Judge the individual show! Newton Minow said TV was a vast wasteland. I presume he meant that too much time is given to light, frivolous shows, not enough time to educational, informative shows. But to what extent do you give people what's good for them? To what extent do you appeal to the majority, to the minority? You can extrapolate to political campaigns. Why give the people the President they want just because they want him?
"One of the secrets of our success is that we take the game show as seriously as if we were painting a Picasso, or making an ashtray. You can't say, 'Who cares about all those housewives?' The snobbery about game shows is Midcult snobbery. The real egghead doesn't tune in Ben Casey or McHale's Navy. He watches serious discussion shows, sporting events and our type of shows."
"The game show," says Todman, "is television's only unique, creative contribution to American culture."
Goodson and Todman do not accept outside ideas for their game shows. For one thing, there is the constant danger of becoming involved in lawsuits. For another, the average suggestion is so inadequate the creator makes it complicated to disguise his inept, hackneyed idea. "The sign of a good game," Todman says, "is when you don't have to explain it every day. The key is not simplicity, but apparent simplicity. Password looks like any idiot could have made it up, but we have 14 of our people working on that show. There is great complexity behind the screen. It requires great work to keep it simple."
"Our problem," says Goodson, "is that everyone thinks they're as good as us. The same person wouldn't call up a doctor when he's watching an operation on TV and say, 'Hey, doc, I think you ought to be cutting a little to the right there.' 'What is this business of Goodson and Todman?' people say. 'Four chairs behind a desk and a moderator and they get paid for it! Big deal!' Only when you try it yourself are you aware how difficult it is. 'Password,' people say, 'how can you compare it to Bonanza? Bonanza's got horses, it's got plot.' This very thing makes people treat our type of show with off handedness. No one goes to the Yale School of Drama and says, 'I'm going to learn the game show business.' It looks so ridiculous. Around the middle '50s, when we were making a lot of money, the networks said, why bother buying it from Goodson and Todman? CBS hired away one of our men and put him in charge of a game-show project. Not one of their programs succeeded.
"In 1940 I was doing a show called Pop the Question in the basement of a San Francisco newsreel theater. You threw darts at red, white and blue balloons. The balloons were worth different amounts of money, and if you burst one you got that much if you answered a question correctly. It ran a short, unremarkable time. A few months ago an adman wrote me that a friend of his had a great idea and I should examine it. The idea was for a show called Pop the Question. I told him I did it 23 years ago and it was terrible then. People on the outside have no idea how much we've come along."
"The secret ingredient of our business is creating and developing new games and keeping them fresh and live," Mark Goodson said the other day.
"Boredom is easy. Excitement is hard," said Bill Todman.
"The secret ingredient—" Goodson began again.
"The Secret Ingredient," Todman interrupted. "Good title for a one-shot. Mark's secret ingredient is work. W-O-R-K."
"Just a second, Billy," Goodson said.
"Sorry, Marko," Todman said. "I just finished giving this guy the whole scoop on Mark Goodson. Now you're here and I'm inhibited." (Later, when Goodson had left the room, Todman added: "It's impossible for me to talk in the same room with him. I know he's not putting me down, but I sound silly to me. We really shouldn't try to overtalk each other.")
"May I finish?" Goodson asked, and went on. "When you start out to develop a game," he said, "you must hit on some new element to work on, not merely a carbon copy. The surest way not to be successful is to try to imitate a success. Oddly enough, people want to buy a brand-new, thoroughly established idea. What we did was to take the players' games and make them into watching games. Gin rummy is an excellent game, but not to watch. It's all internalized. We have to develop a game as players. The question is: Will it be amusing to watch as well? Meetings where people kick things around don't work. You must have something to start with."
A good example of this is the creative process behind The Match Game, G-T's newest program. In The Match Game two teams, each composed of two contestants and a celebrity, are rewarded if the answers of any two teammates match. Sample question: "Name an Ivy League college." If two or more teammates write down the same school, say, Harvard, they win points. "The essential concept we had," says Goodson, "was, can you come up with the most likely answer? It was the old Italian game of matching fingers or matchsticks. There is a certain amount of real skill involved. Once we determined that, we had to decide on the format. At first we had three people playing with one celebrity. We just sort of added the celebrity in. Each contestant would bid and risk points. It was full of bugs. We found that opponents were also partners. The celebrity never worked. What was he there for, anyway? And a betting game has little interest for an audience. They can't keep track. They don't know what's inside the contestant's head. People don't care about betting. They care about the answer. Then we came up with a system of elimination. We put six contestants in a room. Name an American President not living. Say three named Franklin Roosevelt. We eliminated the other three like in a spelling bee. We'd then ask a question to those who remained. The trouble with that, once you're down to three, two must match. It might take forever. It was impossible, plus the physical problem of getting people on and off without unnecessary movement. Then I came up with the team idea. The celebrities now had a reason; they were the team captains. The teammates were always partners. We still felt a lack, however, so we developed the idea of the audience match. Before the show the studio audience answers a question like, "Name a song Al Jolson made famous," and the teams try to guess the most frequent answer. It made for a change of pace. In essence, it allowed the viewing audience to say, 'You're all crazy.' It gave them a feeling of triumph if the contestants didn't get it. It was more definitive.
"Our people try this idea and that idea on me. We had a xylophone game idea. Hand the contestant a list of numbers. The keys of the xylophone are numbered. The idea is to hit the keys, following the numbers, and try to figure out what famous song you're playing. How about the parlor game where one person pretends to be a celebrity and you try to find out who he is by asking his opinion on various topics? Say I'm Jimmy Hoffa and you ask me about the New York Yankees—"
"Great idea," said Todman.
"Hold on, Billy," said Goodson.
"I think it's fascinating, but not for TV," said Todman.
"I'm Hoffa," Goodson continued. "I say, T think the Yankees are an industry that must be organized' and so on. There are two problems to this game. The man in the middle has no point of view. Is he supposed to be helping you or hindering you? There's no direct conflict, and it skirts the edge of dangerous libel. Do we have a right to say what Liberace's views are?"
"Great idea," said Todman. "Great promise. Didn't play. Great challenge."
"To Tell the Truth has an interesting developmental line," Goodson said. "In 1953-1954, What's My Line? was going into a slight drop-off. I came up with a gimmick. Bring three people out. One of these is a psychiatrist, the others are impostors. Each panelist was allowed to ask each contestant one question. Then we'd make a phone call to someone and if he guessed correctly we'd give him money. It was lousy. It was going to cheapen the show. I'm convinced phone-call shows won't work anymore. You're trying to seduce an audience but you're only affecting a tiny minority. The audience doesn't tune in in the hope that they might be called, but to find out what happens when someone is called.
"Anyway, the ratings on What's My Line? picked up, so we put the gimmick aside. One day I thought, let's take that gimmick and make it into a show. In 1955 we discarded it on purely theoretical grounds. It was impossible. A panel would be so expert, how could three ordinary contestants ever get away with it?
"In 1956," Goodson said, "we hired Bob Stewart to work on The Price Is Right. We were kicking ideas around and I mentioned my gimmick. Stewart said it was fantastic, that he'd have three people in our office at 11 the next morning. We walked into the office, and sitting opposite us were three people. They all said their name was Jerry Something, that they used to sing with Frank Sinatra and that they were expert gardeners and painters. 'Boy,' I said, 'this is going to be a cinch.' We cross-examined them for 20 minutes. Then all of us picked the wrong one. I said it was a freak. The next day Stewart brought in three more. One of them had won a photography contest, received his award from Ike and worked for the fire department. We all picked wrong once again. Within a matter of five months the show was on the air. We worked on the format, how to score it. At first the studio audience voted by pushing a button. We cut it out. There was no time. No one cared about the audience anyway. We worked out little devices like the affidavit. Then came concepts of execution like how do you get the people to lie? Once, one contestant got so brainwashed he forgot his own name. Now we have a little card in front of them: my name is so-and-so, I work in a brewery."
According to Bob Rowe, who produces Say When, the ideal contestant should be "wholesome, have integrity, a good outlook on life, a certain degree of morality. He should have a face that displays that he's well adjusted and at peace with the world." Says Goodson: "If you want to cast a contestant whom the audience can identify with, be sympathetic to and understand, you wouldn't pick the guy who just inherited $10 million, whose real problem in life is whether to go to the south of France or the Far East and whose job is working to improve his golf game. The very poor are no good either. 'What do you do, sir?' 'I've been unemployed for five years but I'm working on a way to cure my glaucoma.' If the poor guy doesn't win it can be very painful. Here comes one in a wheelchair whose job is selling prosthetic devices. We don't take the blind or the maimed on our shows. Why should we introduce the element of macabre sympathy?
"Basically, we won't use ethnic caricatures. We won't use a Negro who's a Pullman porter or a maid, even if these jobs do represent the norm. We feel that obligation to a minority group. Southerners make the best contestants. They are raised on a tradition of talking. They are the most natural extroverts, they're gregarious, exposes. It goes up and down through all social grades.
"Doctors, soldiers, flyers, cops all make good contestants. Teachers are ambivalent. The audience likes them because they don't make much money but dislikes them because they represent childhood authority. Lawyers are unpopular. Think of all the negative pejorative terms. Teen-agers make rotten contestants. They are inhibited, shy, unwilling. The very young are cute, excellent players. And we get some great, garrulous old people. Sometimes they can't hear, though, which isn't too good."
"In Mark Goodson," says Bill Todman, "you have one of the industry's greatest picker-overs. I'm primarily involved in being a sounding board. Basically, Mark's in charge of production, I handle the contracts, sales, economy, budget; the minutiae. We complement each other. Mark's a little more pessimistic. In a negative way he makes a very positive contribution. Mark and me are very interesting chemistry. We argue constantly. If we both agree, one of us is not doing anything. I am very, very beholden to my partner."
"I'm a pretty good comer-upper with ideas," says Goodson, "and I'm a shaper. In the game field I go to the workroom and become an artisan. The hydraulic machinery used on Password. The size of the printing in the words themselves. The position of the MC. The theme song. The tone of the announcer's voice. I am concerned with the smallest detail. Someone once asked me what I do in the film business. Worry, I told him. But I like to put on my suede shoes and walk through the studio.
Creativity requires two opposing tendencies. You have to be loose for ideas and critical for form. I am a person who is basically very critical. I am the chief pounder. I do constant breast-beating. It's my Slavic spirit. I'm a perfectionist who, above all, hates to be exposed in public. I am more terrified of failure than anxious for success. If anything, I'm too critical. I hate failure. I loathe it. This makes things difficult in my personal life. I don't ski or golf as a result. I don't do too many things. It may not make me such a great guy to live with. I'm an introvert. I'm really afraid that people won't like me. I'm passive. In a group I'll go off in a corner if the rest of the people are doing something I can't do, rather than blunder. What I do, I do aggressively. I'm a darn good dancer. I play the drums. What I can't do, I retreat from rapidly. I'm never satisfied. My lack of satisfaction is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness.
"I have a strong fraternal sense. I like the sense of being connected to an organization. That's why I locked up with Todman. I have a congenital need for partners, associates, though I may try to be dominant. Our shows require bouncing off. It's a social experience.
"I'm really quite helpless at a cocktail party, a real schlepper. I feel most comfortable of all in an office or the studio. I feel I belong there; I truly come to life. Bill is much better than I at small talk—his medical problems, Acapulco, rainfall. Bill is kind, generous, somewhat dismayed by me. We have our own groups, but we are certainly friends. He would be the man I'd come to instantly in time of trouble. My tendency is to give a man a raise according to his merit. The way to get a raise from Bill is to need it."
"I'm basically complex," Bill Todman says, "multifaceted. I have an exaggerated concern for our people. I'm troubled when they come in with their problems. Knowing a little about medicine has helped me. If the other guy has pain, sorrow, he needs a pat on the back. I don't think the only time you should talk to another person is when he's done something wrong.
"I love the challenge of translating and transmitting an idea of ours to the uninitiated person on the outside. A game show is never a bound book. It is looseleaf, rather. We are always adding and subtracting pages. A live program is kind of an amoeba. It has the same genetic strain, but the highlights are constantly changing.
"I have a fantastically scientific mind, both environmentally and genetically. I come from a methodical background. I'm terribly, terribly orderly. This job is not easily put away. You go nowhere, meet no one who isn't an expert on what's good and bad in television. You're in the water spigot business; you close shop and you're not in the water spigot business. Here you're always in the office. I like to fish, to hunt, to ride. I like my home, my family, my dogs. I love broads, I'm a dope addict and that's all there is to it," he adds facetiously. "Mark may be more self-analytic, but I'm aware of me, too. I may seem more outgoing, but I may hold more in me."
Mark Goodson was born in Sacramento and now lives in a New York apartment with his second wife, a former Miss Birmingham; he has three children. Bill Todman was born in New York and lives in the suburb of Scarsdale with his wife, a Georgian; he has two children. "East met West despite Mr. Kipling," Todman says.
"We were very poor," Goodson says of his childhood. "My father was a Russian immigrant, a masseur. When I was 14 he bought a chicken ranch in Hayward [Calif.] which failed miserably and he lost it in the Depression. My memory was always of where to eat, who would pay the rent, five-day-old bread, secondhand clothes. I loathed that idea. There was a whole feeling of catastrophe right around the corner. Then we moved to Berkeley, where Father, who was a health-food faddist, opened a health-food store. Money never became to me things I could buy; nor the ability to purchase a boat or 50 watches. Money to me gave me an overwhelmingly strange sense of security. It is a symbolic sense of achievement and control of the world. There's something I must confess, although it sounds cocky. Environment controlled me; I was helpless in it. I want to control it, have authority, not be at its mercy, have dignity.
"My parents were determined that I would become a lawyer. I went to the University of California, majored in economics and was Phi Beta Kappa. But when I graduated I got a job as a radio announcer in San Francisco at $30 a week. I went from there to a network job. First it was announcing, then little quiz shows and newscasting. Dad became reconciled. He was unhappy when I became a producer. He couldn't hear my voice."
Goodson eventually moved to New York. He was The Answer Man for a while, directed Portia Faces Life and wrote and directed the dramatic spots on The Kate Smith Show. For a time he was MC of a show called The Jack Dempsey Sports Quiz. "I didn't know anything about sports," he says.' 'I bluffed my way through for 26 weeks. Then they told me the real money was in describing ball games. I bought a book called The Rules of Baseball."
"This is another way of telling that Mark's a fraud," says Todman.
"I finally chickened out," Goodson says. "But I knew baseball theoretically."
"The first time Mark took his son to a ball game it was the first time for Mark, too," Todman says. "But Mark explained baseball to him. It's a very warm story."
Bill Todman was born and raised on Park Avenue. His father is Frederick Selden Todman, one of the top men in brokerage accounting. He went to private schools, military academy, Europe in the summers. "I was privileged," he says. "It can be detrimental as well as helpful." Todman attended Johns Hopkins, took a premed course and got his B.S. in chemistry and psychology. Since he had written for the school paper he talked his way into a job as a junior copywriter with a small ad agency in the CBS building. "I was making very tiny money," he says, "so I ate in the cafeteria where the radio people hung out and got a job to free-lance a couple of scripts." Eventually Todman became the head writer and director for The Connie Boswell Show.
Goodson and Todman met in 1941 on a show called The Battle of the Boroughs. "Mark had an idea for a show called Winner Takes All" Todman recalls. "I changed it to Winner Take All. We auditioned the show for $15 including breakfast at Longchamps. And we went our way. In 1946 I called Mark. 'I got a sale,' I told him. Winner Take All was on for three 15-minute periods a week and $150.
"Mark once asked me, 'What drives you?' " Todman says. " 'The same as what drives you,' I said. I've competed against my environment, too; to match it or surpass it. I want achievement, too. The little guy with the nice adequate way will always be the little guy with the nice adequate way. I once told Mark, 'One day we really ought to sit down, take our shirts off and try to figure where we're going.' Do we want to build or do we want to stay where we are? There's a whole, big world out there, not just show business."
"We have yet to find our truest expression," says Mark Goodson.