The Mike Douglas Show
Music | October 3, 2017
The Mike Douglas Show went into syndication in 1963 and was a staple on American television until 1981. Douglas was a former big-band singer turned TV host whose 7 million viewers tuned in to see the celebrity guests that would be on the popular show on a daily basis. At the height of its popularity, in the late 1960’s, it was one of the most watched shows on television.
In 1967, his show became the first syndicated show ever to win an Emmy. “Dishes go unwashed and shirts remain unironed when Mike Douglas comes on,” TV Guide once quoted, referring to the show’s audience of which the majority was made up of housewives at the time.
“Mike is the glue,” his producer Ailes said in 1967, the year the show won its first of five Emmy Awards. “Without him the show would fall apart.” Larry Rosen (another producer of the show) called Mike “a piece of clay, you can do anything with him.”
Mike introduced famous musical acts and singers that included Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and The Turtles to name a few. Liberace, Little Richard or Frank Sinatra would stop by for a chat with the host. He also featured celebrity co-hosts such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono or Fred Astaire. Mike Douglas estimated that he was a host for more than 6,000 programs and interviewed more than 40,000 people in his career. Along with the celebrities, Mike also had more serious and controversial guests on such as Malcolm X, Richard Nixon, Martin Luther King, Jr., Black Panther leader Bobby Seale and the imperial wizard of the KKK on his show.
The show was a mixture of entertainment featuring singing, dancing, comedy and cooking segments. Mike once told Time magazine: “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I get home every night. I’m square.” Which made him the perfect choice for the singing voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s animated classic “Cinderella” in 1950. Burt Reynolds, who was a frequent guest on his show became a good friend of Douglas: “He was so loved by everybody. I never heard anybody say anything negative about Mike.”
When a 3 year-old Tiger Woods did a golf demonstration on the show, fellow guest and golf enthusiast Bob Hope was quoted as saying, “I don’t know what kind of drugs they’ve got this kid on, but I want some!”
Mike Douglas was born Michael Delaney Dowd Jr. on August 11, 1925 in Chicago. He was the son of a railway freight agent. At the age of 9, he started earning extra money for his family by singing for the patrons of local taverns. “I just started singing Irish songs; you know they never miss,” he told Irish America Magazine back in 2000, “and the coins just started flying at me. Even some paper money.”
By the age of 11, he was singing on a Chicago radio station on an amateur program called “The Irish Hour.” After graduating from high school, he worked as a singing master of ceremonies aboard a cruise ship on the Great Lakes. He attended Oklahoma City University during the day and sang at night on a local radio show before serving in the Navy during World War II. After the war, Douglas was a featured singer with the Kay Kyser band. Kyser changed his last name to Douglas, Douglas recalled in the 2000 interview with Irish America. “I was about to do a number, and Kyser introduced me as Mike Douglas. I had to look behind me to see if there was someone else about to go on.” He then returned to Chicago as the host of “Hi, Ladies,” a radio show aimed at housewives. He was singing in a piano bar when Westinghouse offered him his own television talk show in 1961. The rest, as they say, is history.