Here’s a clear cut example of two competing morning shows – one that “got it” and one that did not. It’s from my KTLA Morning News days. The KTLA lot is located at Sunset Blvd and Van Ness. At that time, the location of KTTV, the Fox affiliate was literally across the street from us, but its entrance was buried in a bizarre location that caused many people to become lost because it intersected with the 101 freeway and there were overpasses and dead-end streets and all kinds of confusion. KTTV had just begun airing Good Day L.A., a light morning show that was modeled somewhat after what we were doing. I think they even had SkyFox up in the helicopter around this time.
Anyway, we’re on the air with our show. It’s about 7:10AM. I get a call in the control room from Toni Molle at the assignment desk.
“David Cassidy is at the gate”, she told me.
“Well, C’mon get happy” was my default response. “He’s not booked on the show, what’s the deal?” I replied.
“I think he’s supposed to be a guest on the Fox show but the limo driver brought him here instead. Should I give them directions to Fox?”, she asked, kinda frazzled from all the goings-on at the assignment desk.
“No! No, no, bring him in, escort him into the studio ASAP”, I said with a devious smile that Toni could read on the phone.
“Uh Oh, OK”, she said.
Moments later, David arrived in the studio. I went up to him and introduced myself.
“David, I think there’s been some kind of mix-up”, I explained. “You’re probably booked to be a guest on the Fox morning show, but since you’re here, we’d love to put you on air for a few minutes to chat you up. We won’t make you late for your other interview, OK?” I asked.
“Absolutely, can I just get a few dabs of makeup first?” David asked.
While a production assistant was leading David to makeup, I had a quick pow wow with the on-set hosts, Barbara, Carlos, Mark and Sam during a commercial break.
“Look, Cassidy is here by mistake. He was supposed to be on Good Day L.A., but the limo driver mistakenly brought him here. Let’s put him on. Let’s talk about how we kidnapped the competition’s celebrity guest and have some fun with it”, I suggested to the anchors.
“Cool, let’s do it”, said Carlos, turning back to the camera as the show returned from a break.
Moments later, David returned to the studio and was led on-set. He was promoting his appearance in Blood Brothers, if I recall correctly. He was up for anything. The hosts had a field day, taunting Good Day L.A. with “Looky who we got… your guest du jour“… They talked about Blood Brothers and other things and they then sent David off to keep his appointment with Fox. It was a fun diversion, a little jab at the Fox competition, and perfectly harmless, right?
The phone rings again at about 8:15AM.
“David Cassidy is back at the gate”, Toni said before I could even say “Hello”.
“What’s the deal?”, I asked.
“Apparently, Fox refused to put him on their show since we already had him on ours”, Toni reported.
I could not believe how Fox totally missed an opportunity and then threw one right into our lap.
“Escort him to the stage ASAP”, I said.
I told the hosts through the IFB (their earpieces) that we had a surprise guest coming to visit them momentarily. Right on cue, David returns to the studio, the audio guys mics him up, and David walks out on set.
“They dumped me! Do you believe it? The Fox people wouldn’t let me on their show”, David said in mock astonishment.
“Oh my God”, said Sam, and explained to the viewers that because we had hijacked David from Good Day L.A., they refused to put him on their air, so David returned to us.
It’s was great TV! Barbara consoled David and told him “You’re always welcome here”. The viewers got to hear the behind-the-scenes drama that led to David being kicked off of Fox. It was so comical it couldn’t have been planned.
Bumping guests from shows was a common practice on the late night talk circuit between Leno, Letterman and the others. Same thing happened on GMA, Today and CBS Mornings. If an A-list guest was booked on, say Leno to promote his new movie, he would not also be booked on Letterman because Leno already had him. That’s all fine for those shows, but these are two rinky dink morning shows. It was just idiocy for Fox to refuse to put him on. They could have had a field day talking about how the “evil” KTLA show tried to steal their guest, etc. Nope. Left-brainers must have been in charge over there.
So, lesson learned. Producers need to take these types of opportunities when they’re handed to them. Viewers love hearing about these behind-the-scenes battles and putting David on the show both times he arrived at the gate was a prime opportunity for my hosts to show just how “cut-throat” we are in battling for morning show guests – even David Cassidy. OK, not really, but it was another unexpected incident that paid off on the air.
A few years later, I ran into David backstage at my friend Roch Voisine’s concert in Las Vegas. We laughed when we first saw each other as neither of us will forget that screwball morning.
Just for good measure, here is a later 1995 interview we did with David at KTLA.