25 May 2008

Texaco Star - Uncle Miltie




The Texaco Star Theater began on radio in in the late 30s with Ed Wynn and Fred Allen, moving to television in 1948 starring Milton Berle. remaining the sole sponsor of this classic variety show until 1953. Each show on TV opened and closed and had commercial segments featuring the dancing Texaco men in their uniforms with the star logo. Yes Virginia, there was a time when gas station attendants wore uniforms.



Milton Berle was the best known host of Texaco Star Theater. Berle took part in a television test version in 1948. In June of that year he was selected as host, and the first East Coast broadcast of the TV series began in September. Within two months, Berle became television's first super-star, with the highest ratings ever attained and was soon referred to as "Mr. Television," "Mr. Tuesday Night," and "Uncle Miltie." Restaurants, theaters, and nightclubs adjusted their schedules so patrons would not miss Berle's program at 8:00 P.M. on Tuesday nights. The show was so popular that even though the pay scale was minimal, virtually every well-known entertainer of the time was eager to appear just for the public exposure.

The one-hour live shows typically included visual vaudeville routines, music, comedy and sketches. Other regular features included the singing Texaco station attendants and the pitchman commercials by Sid Stone. Berle was noted for interjecting himself into the acts of his guests, which, along with his opening appearance in out-landish costumes, became a regular feature.

Milton Berle's only real later competition in the early variety was Sid Caesar. A movie from the 1980s, My Favorite Year captures some of the madness that could occur in doing live TV on a weekly schedule.

There is a great eight part interview with Milton Berle done in 1996 when he was 88 that starts Here and covers virtually the whole history of television, but the interviewer doesn't get around to asking about his most "rumored" claim to fame that made him a "Star" with the ladies until the very END which is somehow very appropriate.

11 comments:

crazy working mom said...

Very interesting take on the theme this week. I learned some things about these "stars" that I didn't know! :)

Thanks for stopping by. Happy Manic Monday.

Cheerio said...

Oh yes! I do remember him. He was a great star. I do loved him during my times.

Desert Songbird said...

I remember when gas stations were "service" stations. Wow - that really dates me.

the teach said...

Uncle Miltie was part and parcel of my family's TV watching in those early days. Wow! that takes me way back! :D

Travis said...

I do still remember when you could pull up to a gas station and wait in your car while someone came out and pumped your gas while someone else cleaned your windows and checked your oil.

Then I remember when you could choose full service or self service.

Excellent post here with lots of history.

WillThink4Wine said...

Oh, yeah.. Way back when TV was actually worth watching. Funny & entertaining has mostly gone out of style now.

Mariposa said...

Very informative post...I had to google it for more information, thanks for sharing!

Have a nice week!

Linda said...

"My Favorite Year" was one of my favorite movies and I thought Peter O'Toole did a fantastic job in it!

By the by, thanks for the shut-out over on Don't Look Down! I couldn't for the life of me figure out where all those people were coming from until I found that you had left a link to my Memorial Day post over there. Thank you so much!

Linda said...

Ooops ... I meant "Better Not Look Down"! I have a mind like a steel trap ... a wide open steel trap!

Gattina said...

I don't know him but he seemed to be very funny !

This Eclectic Life said...

Oh, Milton Berle was a favorite of mine. I'm slightly too young to have seen these shows, but they seem to be a part of my consciousness. Were they in re-runs, or do I just remember the stories my family told? Maybe I just absorbed it. Well done.