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NYC Cocktail Reception
The Cibo Restaurant, Second Ave, SW corner of 41st St., will be hosting a cocktail reception for me and my new book, BUT YOU MADE THE FRONT PAGE!. A presentation, book signing and the hospitality of owner Ray Gilmore is on the agenda.
I would be pleased if you have the time to stop by.
A new autobiography that presents Sonny Fox, the legendary TV host and EMMY-winning producer’s story in a way both lifelong fans and those new to his world will thoroughly enjoy.
With a wealth of fascinating details, Fox recalls his Depression Era childhood in Brooklyn, the Battle of the Bulge and his resulting stint in a German POW camp, the live and loony days of early television, hosting what may be the smartest children’s program, “Wonderama,” the show that LISTENED to kids better than any other program. Breezy, often funny and unpretentiously insightful, the book depicts a unique American life that remains creatively engaged well into the 21st.
Fox vividly recreates Brooklyn of the 1930s—horse drawn wagons, ice boxes, radio, street games, the kid culture and the way it was growing up in the depression. Leaving Brooklyn as a self-described ‘wimp’ at 18, his battle experience in the infantry in Europe and as a prisoner of war in Germany turned him into someone with confidence in himself; always willing to step up to a challenge – and to learn from the failures that sometimes result.
Fox knew nothing about producing or hosting TV, or even much about kids, when he landed his first gig on the St. Louis educational channel show “The Finder” in 1954. Despite lack of experience his audition convinced the station he’d make more of the opportunity than slicker candidates would, and he did.
Six months after he started on KETC in St. Louis, he got a call from CBS that led to his three years of live remote adventures Let’s Take a Trip. Sharing the spotlight with his young companions, first Pud and Ginger, and then Joan and Jimmy, this pioneering, weekly live remote production showed the way for the sports departments and others on how to leave the studios and work from locations long before the equipment for remote feeds was invented.
In a few years, Fox had substituted for a number of game show hosts and was considered ready to headline his own: simply the biggest televised quiz broadcast in America, “The $64,000 Challenge.” But he was not ready, and was removed from that show. Fox movingly evokes what it feels like to go on with the very public awareness of this failure.
He’s just as stirring in regard to his greatest triumph: the New York kids show “Wonderama,” which Fox hosted for much of the 1960s. He filled four hours every Sunday with a variety of entertaining and erudite elements. He realized that his young audience was capable of understanding just about anything as long as he treated them with patience and respect.
Fox learned as much from the “Wonderama” fans as he taught them. Their candid, guileless conversations and letters are some of the book’s highlights, containing surprising wisdom about life as well as poignant descriptions of dysfunctional homes.
And some, of course, are darned hilarious.
During his tenure as Chairman of the Board of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Fox describes the always present problems presented by clashing egos, regional rivalries and awards governance.
Fox was asked by NBC to help get The Tomorrow Show on the air in 1973. This was another pioneering effort—this time to open up the 1-2 AM slot following Johnny Carson. Sonny’s book takes inside the NBC world of “suits” while he was guiding them through his plan to originate an hour episode from a nudist colony. This section reads like a pilot for a new series co written by Aaron Sorkin and Larry Gelbart.
Another inside the web section deals with his time as Vice President of Children’s Programming at NBC.
This chapter could be entitled ‘Sonny in Wonderland’, as this independent force tries to come to terms with the bureaucracy of a huge network.
For insight into creativity, little compares to the chapters on producing “The Golden Age of Television” documentary, for which Fox won his EMMY Award, and “The Song Writers” series, which profiled such towering tunesmiths as Alan Jay Lerner, Yip Harburg and Kander and Ebb.
For the closing chapters, Fox writes in intriguing depth about his work with Population Communications International, the Centers for Disease Control and other official and non-governmental organizations to place important messages regarding health, human rights and reproductive issues, among others, on shows and broadcasts throughout the world.
In his book’s preface, Fox writes ” . . . you will not find a lot of self-examination and introspective musings, since I was not brought up that way, nor am I inclined to examine my emotions too closely even today.”
Throughout “But You Made the Front Page!” Fox charts one man’s ever-growing commitment to independence, fairness and respect for all.
And all kid kind.