The best-kept secret on CBS's “I've Got a Secret” was the one in which actor Paul Newman and panelist Henry Morgan got all fouled up at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field.
It happened back in 1957, before the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Newman, disguised as a hot dog vendor, was supposed to sell a skinless delight to baseball-fan Morgan, who was seated with a camera pointed his way, in the stands behind third base. Morgan wasn't supposed to recognize the fellow, of course. That was to be Newman's secret.
Well, Morgan didn't recognize him, but some other people did-with the result that Newman sold $25 worth of hot dogs before he even reached the row where Morgan was sitting.
Things like this have been going on for several years now on “Secret,” whose panelists and guests quite possibly have been subjected to more innocent indignities than anyone else on TV.
According to producer Chester Feldman, who likes to keep track of these things, “Secret”'s panelists (present cast: Betsy Palmer, Bess Myerson, Bill Cullen, Henry Morgan) at one time or another have been called upon to wrestle alligators, tangle with lady judo artists, or endure a pocketful of crushed eggs.
To set the record straight, the alligator wrestler wasn't really a panelist at all, but “Secret”'s host, Garry Moore. The alligator was supplied as an antagonist for Moore at the insistence of his panelists, who had grown weary through the years of the gags Garry kept pulling on them.
“Garry looked pretty good in there with that alligator,” Feldman recalls. “He got an armlock on the beast, but then he suddenly quit. He said he wouldn't be seen in the same ring with a nonunion alligator.”
The man with the messy eggs, to be perfectly honest about it, wasn't a panelist either. Again, it was Moore. He made the lamentable mistake after his blindfolded panel had been baffled by guest Don McNeill's “secret.” They were to guess that he was bouncing eggs on a rubber mat without breaking them- a gift Don apparently had acquired after goodness knows how much practice.
As each eggs bounced of the mat, Moore caught it and blithely tucked it into his pocket. When, after receiving the panel's enthusiastic applause for his unusual feat, McNeill rose to leave, Moore rose to bid him farewell. At this moment, Morgan, with his saucy eyes alight, walked behind Garry and squeezed his pockets. One shudders to recall the denouement of the scene.
Of all the panelists, Morgan seems to do the most leg work. At “Secret,” it appears that the object is to get Henry out of the studio at all costs. Get him some baskets to weave, they seem to say, or get him some beads to string. But get him out.
Besides spending an afternoon at Ebbets Field, Morgan also has gone as far afield as New York's Pennsylvania Station (Seventh Avenue and West 34th Street) where he was once assigned by Moore to entertain three females (aged 10, 20, and 30), whose identical secrets were: “I want a date with Henry Morgan.”
Morgan, wearing a droopy petunia, met his 30-year-old date in the station, lavished breakfast upon her at the Automat, and left her to her dreams. Then he met his 10-year-old friend, with whom he spent a wholesome afternoon exploring the mysteries of the Central Park Zoo.
Henry's final date turned out to be a ravishing beauty from Texas. He took her to an East Side restaurant, where the check can only be totaled with the aid of Univac- and there they danced until dawn.
The following week I had it easy,” Morgan recalls. “All I had to do was wrestle a lady judo expert. She threw me on my face.”
Inspection of “Secret”'s secret files only dictates that in its seven years its format gradually has become almost as loose as that of the floor shows at Sammy's Bowery Follies. Originally, “Secret”'s guests were people whose secrets were: “I shook hands with John L. Sullivan,” or “Henry Ford once cranked my car,” or “I have Wallace Beery's autograph.” But now many of the guests are people who don't actually have to have a legitimate secret, but whose synthetic secrets are artfully contrived by producer Feldman.
Paul Newman, for instance, can say he tried to sell a hot dog to Morgan. Ernest Borgnine's secret was that he drove Miss Meadows to work in a rented taxicab, and Jackie Cooper's secret was that he had telephoned Jayne Meadows (who was then a panelist) for a date.
Recnet guests have had some peculiar “secrets” indeed. One heavy-set fellow, a former circus strong man, maintained that he could blow up an inner tube, using only lung power, until it exploded. (He could, too; it exploded and blew him halfway across the stage.) Another impressed the panel by proudly exhibiting the seven miles of string he had collected.
“Is this your hobby?” asked Moore, somewhat dolefully.
“Oh, no sir,” replied the string collector. “This is my secret. For a hobby, I collect lead pencils.”
Typical of the lengths to which “I've Got a Secret” will go for a gag is last Wednesday's (Aug. 19th's) stunt by comic Johnny Carson. Hearing that Carson was something of an archery expert, producer Chester Feldman invited him to shoot an apple of Garry Moore's head as his “secret.”
During rehearsal, working with an apple-topped wooden dumy, Carson's aim was no match for William Tell's. Says Feldman, shuddering at the memory, “Even though the show has insurance to cover injuries, we love Garry dearly and we were really worried.”
Came time to tape the show, however, and Carson didst verily cleave the apple in twain twixt stem and cusp. Moore- protected by an inch-thick transparent shield- suffered only a dribble of apple juice in his left eye.