Tales of Lost TV: The Las Vegas Show (1967)

Tales of Lost TV is a monthly column in which I examine a particular TV program or TV series either known or believed to be lost forever. The amount of lost TV is truly staggering–aside from a handful of exceptions everything broadcast prior to 1948 no longer exists. That doesn’t mean it all has to be forgotten.

A Forgotten TV Show from a Forgotten Network

I’ve been researching The Las Vegas Show off and on for over a decade. It’s one of my favorite obscurities from the 1960s. When it celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this month, I may have been the only person who noticed. In my post about the anniversary, I mentioned the fact that no footage from the series exists. So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that The Las Vegas Show is the focus of this month’s Tales of Lost TV column.

Few people remember the late-night variety series, which ran on the United Network in May 1967. An attempt to start a “fourth network,” the United Network folded due to financial pressure after just one month. Hosted by Bill Dana, The Las Vegas Show featured a wide variety of guests. Milton Berle, Connie Francis, Frank Gorshin, Hugh Hefner, Rod Serling, and John Wayne were but a few of the celebrities who appeared on the show.

During May 1967, 23 episodes aired on roughly 100 stations across the country. Reportedly, at least two others were taped but never aired. There are no interview segments extant, no promotional spots, no audio recordings. Only a handful of print advertisements and publicity photographs survive.

An Appeal by Network President Treyz

According to an Associated Press article, United Network president Oliver E. Treyz (formerly president of ABC) appeared in a taped “commercial” during the final episode on Wednesday, May 31st. He talked up the show and its low rates to potential sponsors. It would be very interesting to see this commercial. A network president going on the air to basically beg for money? Who wouldn’t want to watch that?

Check Your Attics & Closets

The Las Vegas Show did not air live. Episodes were taped 24 hours prior to being fed nationally to affiliated stations. The fate of the master videotapes is unknown. When the United Network filed for bankruptcy in June 1967, listed among its assets were the tapes. Sadly, I think it’s more than likely the videotapes were destroyed or discarded at some point over the past five decades.

Many stations tape-delayed some or all of the episodes, recording the national feed for later use. Unfortunately, those stations probably reused the same videotapes. I doubt any station kept copies of The Las Vegas Show in its tape library. But maybe one did. Maybe someone mislabeled or misfiled a videotape.

If you or a family member worked at a TV station in May 1967, maybe look in your closet or in your attic. Who knows? You might find a dusty 2-inch quadruplex videotape with “Las Vegas Show” written on the label. Perhaps one of the celebrity guests requested a videotape of their appearance. It’s improbable, but possible.

Even just one surviving episode–or a portion of an episode–will be a welcome surprise. I believe the longest 2-inch quad videotapes hold 90 minutes of material, which means a two-hour episode of The Las Vegas Show required at least two tapes. Half an episode is better than nothing. If a 30-second promotional spot surfaces, I’ll be over the moon.


Do you remember watching The Las Vegas Show? What are the odds a videotape with has survived the past five decades?


11 Comments

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    Like many older shows, if anything pops up it’s likely to be from an estate. Those who are old enough to remember the show aren’t likely that computer savvy enough to transfer the material to a digital format, if they even wish to do so in the first place. And of course that’s providing the material isn’t trashed by someone who don’t know what it is.

  • Mike Doran says:

    My one and only memory (?) of The Las Vegas Show:

    I would have been 17 years old at the time.

    TLVS was carried in Chicago by WGN, channel 9.

    WGN was the flagship station of both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox; 1967 was the year that the Cubs finally got good, after a long drought (Leo Durocher’s second year as manager), and the last year that the White Sox contended before beginning their drought.

    Had Vegas ran anything past May, it would have been subject to frequent baseball pre-emptions or delays, so there’s that.

    The one show I saw was about midway through the run.
    What I remember was the ending.
    After the credits rolled, the camera held a shot of The Las Vegas Show‘s logo for a long time.
    A very,very long time.
    Apparently, they just ran out of show with a couple of minutes left, and just shot the logo – full screen first, then a “close-up” panning from left to right. then the full shot again, while the band played the theme music, over and over – and over and over …
    Looking back, had I known that this would happen, I would have timed that shot; it was probably about two or three minutes, but seemed a lot longer.

    In the years since, whenever somebody does a book about Bad TV, I keep looking for an account of The Long Vegas Silence, but apparently nobody else in the country saw it – or remembers it, anyway.
    Basically, I’m just looking for verification that this happened.
    I mean, I’ve had the experience of seeing a movie in a theater where I was the only paying customer (this happened most recently a day or two ago, as a matter of fact – I won’t name the movie).
    Somebody besides me has to have seen The Las Vegas Show – what are the odds?

    • charles perry says:

      I have a feeling you are one of the few people who saw that glitch and here’s why: According to the research I have done, there were 2 versions of every episode. United sent a 2-hour same-day tape to those markets with direct satellite hookup, which as that time was just New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The rest of the country got a 90-minute condensed version which was proably shipped from the 3 flagship markets. It is no surprise that a show that long would come up short. Not too many people know this, but “The Tonight Show” was originally 105 minutes long. Carson cut it to 90 minutes in 1967 and then to 60 in 1981. BTW, I have also been the only one in a movie theater several times. I remember one time in the ’70’s where a manager refused to show me a movie and I had to wait an hour and a half before my mother could pick me up. Remember, that there were no cell phones back then.

      • Robert says:

        That’s interesting. Everything I’ve read indicates there was a single, two-hour national feed and stations either carried it “live” or recorded it for later use.

        However, Broadcasting magazine, before The Las Vegas Show debuted, indicated each episode would run 90 minutes with the first 30 minutes repeated at the end. I’ve yet to find confirmation that this actually took place.

    • Robert says:

      Thanks for sharing your memory of The Las Vegas Show. I think you’re the first person I’ve heard from who can recall watching even a single episode.

      • charles perry says:

        Robert you proably know a lot more than I do. All I know is that late-night viewers got 2 hours and daytime viewers got 90 minutes, I am also aware that the show was produced live, so any mistakes like the one Mike saw were bound to happen. Check out old tapes of “Dark Shadows” and you’ll see a lot of bloopers.

  • DuMont says:

    May 3, 1967 Variety

    Split-Week ‘Vegas’ Vs. Webs (pg.35)
    =============================

    Although the new latenight “Las Vegas Show” on United Network is generally thought to be directly competitive with NBC’s “Tonight” and ABC’s “Joey Bishop Show”, its irregular clearance pattern makes that the case only part of the time in many markets.

    WPIX, New York, designated as the UniNet flagship, has slotted the two-hour show at 11:30 p.m., head-on against the other latenighters, but only on Mondays and Wednesdays. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays it has a 9-11 p.m. berth, and the show is dark in Gotham on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    At WGN-TV, Chicago, it plays Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays after the late news at 12:35 a.m., but on Saturdays it’s beamed at 10:15 p.m. and on Sunday in primetime at 8 p.m.. Since the Chi indie doesn’t carry the show on Mondays and Tuesdays, it will debut there tonight (Wed.) after midnight.

    In Minneapolis-St. Paul, the CBS affil, WCCO-TV, has agreed to carry the “Vegas” show as a weeknight strip, but after midnight following its regular late feature. In Boston, WHDH-TV carries it in the orthodox hours from 11:30 to 1:30 five nights a week, but on a Sunday through Thursday basis, going with double feature movies Fridays and Saturdays.
    Many of the UniNet affils, however, like KDAL-TV, Duluth-Superior, have programmed it as a Mon.-Fri. strip straight up against Johnny Carson and Bishop.

  • DuMont says:

    May 3, 1967 Variety

    ‘Vegas’ No.1 In New York Preem (pg.37)
    ================================

    In its debut, United Network’s “Las Vegas Show” took the latenight rating derby in N.Y.. According to the overnight Nielsens, the Bill Dana-starrer Monday (1) night drew a 6.0 rating and 24 share of audience. That topped all the late night competition, heartening UniNet’s N.Y. outlet, WPIX.

    “Vegas Show” preem was accompanied by razzle dazzle full page ad in the New York newspapers, and received the usual ballyhoo in station promotion and news column items. So did the new “Joey Bishop Show” which also preemed strong when Johnny Carson was still away from his “Tonight” showcase. Since then, Bishop ratings have declined. Bishop, in fact, was low man on the latenight totem pole Monday night.

    The overnight Nielsens ran this way: “Las Vegas” 6.0; “Carson” 4.7; “Merv Griffin” 4.5, and “Bishop” 2.9. Griffin’s syndie show is telecast on WNEW-TV.

  • DuMont says:

    Variety Television Review (pg.46)

    THE LAS VEGAS SHOW
    With Bill Dana (host), Milton Berle, Allen & Rossi, Abbe Lane, Pete Barbutti, Billy Daniels, Dave Astor, Sarah Vaughan, others
    Exec Producer: David Sontag
    Producers: Howard Leeds, Jerry Goldstein
    Director: Win Opie
    Writers: Dana, Bob Hinkley, Bernie Kukoff, Jeff Harris, Jack Hanrahan, Leeds
    120 Mins., Mon., 11:30 p.m.
    PARTICIPATING
    United Network (WPIX, N.Y.), (tape, color)

    The new Uni-web’s new two-hour variety strip is, in reality, that old vid format known in the trade as a “spot carrier” – or, as a kind of parallel McLuhanism, money is the message.

    The Bill Dana-hosted spread packed a lot in its premiere stanza (which presumably becomes the yardstick for this show), everything but that vital momentum. For this, thank the rapidity of commercial bust-in (piggybacked to the hilt), by both web and station (Gotham outlet WPIX), which tended to make the Vegas end of it seem mere wraparound for a Madison Ave. blurb festival. By comparison, “Tonight” is an oasis of uncluttered showbusiness.

    It was all the more a pity in this case because the burgeoning network (and Ashley-Famous) have mounted a surprisingly posh production, with a preem that was often effective vaudeo entertainment. Dana cut a pretty fair host effort, and was even sharper in some sketch bits. Then there was the pick of a mighty fair crop of nitery talent that consistently dots the desert casino burg.

    The “Las Vegas Show”, in fact, is a far cry from its supposed Johnny Carson-Joey Bishop competition. In trying for separate identity (a commendable try), UniNet has fielded a supperclub frolic that belongs in primetime if anywhere; though in view of its production reach – the opener, for instance, offered 10 guest turns – two hours of plush showbiz is too much to chew no matter where the stations slot it.

    WPIX, for instance, plans to go with it starting at 11:30 p.m. a couple of nights, and in primetime the other three. Much the same quixotic scheduling is reported for many other outlets.

    On his very own, Dana’s contribution, if good all around and especially for a premiere, was most impressive in a routine as a talkback radio host. It was swift and funny stuff. The layout also boasts a sharp repertory company backed by Pete Barbutti, Joanne Worley and Danny Meehan, which in several sketches passed muster, chiefly in a Meehan-Barbutti food-in-the-kisser “sports spectacular” – the “international food finals from Prague”.

    The guest bits, in sum, were also effective. Milton Berle’s vintage gags played well. It was the vet’s turn, in fact, which produced the only Carson-like “blip” of the night, prompted by a Sinatra gag that presumably touched in gamey fashion on the singer’s ingénue bride.

    There were especially funny routines from Davis & Reese and Dave Astor (via pre-tape spliceins), and vocal stints from Sarah Vaughan, Abbe Lane, Chad & Jeremy and the Brothers Castro. Also on the big bill were Allen & Rossi (slow start, okay finish), Jackie Gayle, Big Tiny Little and Billy Daniels.

    Uni’s prexy Ollie Treyz hasn’t sold all those network positions in the spread – there was an impressive quota of pubservice spots (AMA, Zip Code, etc.) mixed with the Dial, Adolph’s, General Mills, etc. piggies. Not too disruptive, by current standards and practices, until WPIX joined the act with its localers. Pit.

  • DuMont says:

    In other articles around the May 1967 launch of UniNet, it was indicated that the new web had leased transmission lines to broadcast up to 31.5 hours a week across daytime, primetime and latenight. Deals with affiliates were program-based, that is a station like WPIX could sign on four ‘Las Vegas Show’, but other NY indies or web affiliates could sign on for other UniNet programs. It was expected that by the end of May, the network was going to begin transmission on an additional seven half-hours weekly (to complement the ten half-hours of ‘Las Vegas Show’), and four of those half-hours were speculated to include a theatrical film offering, likely a studio package.

    • Robert says:

      The United Network planned to broadcast Continental Football League games. Also in the works was some sort of daily news service involving United Press International.

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