RIP: Mike Douglas

152147__mike_douglas_lMike Douglas (at left, with comedian Soupy Sales), who died Friday on his 81st birthday, may be all but forgotten today, but for two decades, he ruled the world of daytime celebrity chat. From 1961 to 1982, The Mike Douglas Show was a must-visit promotional stop for top politicians and celebrities, as well as a hothouse for new talent. Among those who made their TV debuts on the former big-band singer’s syndicated series: Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, and Tiger Woods (who demonstrated his golf prowess opposite Bob Hope while he was still a tot). Even as pop culture was splintering into exclusive niches during those decades, the old-school Douglas appealed to everybody. (John Lennon and Yoko Ono famously served as guest hosts for a week in 1972.)

As a genial host who offered a friendly spotlight to let guests of all kinds shine, Douglas influenced numerous followers, from Merv Griffin to Dinah Shore to Rosie O’Donnell, who paid Douglas homage by inviting him to come out of retirement for a guest appearance on one of her first shows in 1996. Despite emerging once more in 2000 to publish a well-received memoir (called I’ll Be Right Back, naturally), Douglas was happy to spend his last years playing golf. Still, his influence lives on in the work of Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Isaac Mizrahi. As for Rosie, who’s about to return to daytime on The View, she’s probably glad Douglas chose to stay on the golf course all those years. As she told EW in 1996: ”If Mike came back, he’d be The King. And I’d be back working at Yuk Yuks.”

addCredit(“Mike Douglas Show: Everett Collection”)

Comments (34 total) Add your comment
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  • d.c.

    Honest and lovely guy.. fun show. Just a little naughty when great talent sought him out and anything could happen as they spoke one on one. I remember him well as my parents adored him, kind and considerate.. Opps gave away my age. Rest in Peace Mike.

  • whimsey

    As a kid, I’d run home to watch The Mike Douglas Show, which came on right before Gilligan’s Island. He was, along with Merv Griffin, the mid-day version of Johnny Carson. Among my fondest memories of The Mike Douglas Show is the edition with a then ostracized Martha Mitchell talking about her husband George Mitchell during the heated fall-out of Watergate and the Nixon resignation. Mike asked a seemingly innocuous question about her husband, and Martha recounted the week following being told about the break-in and her husband’s reactions to her queries about it. No guest dared came out while she gave intimate details about the lives of the Watergate conspirators. Classic. I was a kid at the time (maybe 13) and I was fixed on the TV. Mike, you were a pro….one of the best.

  • sam

    The fact that Mr. Douglas wasn’t currently on T.V. doesn’t make him “all but forgotten.” Many of us remember him very well and with affection. We watched his show every day after school. He was recently mentioned by several current hosts as their idol. Rest in peace, Mr. Douglas–I hope that you are interviewing all those stars in the heavens again!

  • brandonk

    Wasn’t that his show furniture that Kramer managed to get ahold of on “Seinfeld”? Other than that, I had no idea who he was…he certainly isn’t referred to much, unlike Johnny Carson, Phil Donahue, Merv Griffin, or Jack Paar.

  • Peggy

    Brandonk, it was Merv Griffin’s set furniture in Kramer’s apartment.
    Another fan who used to watch his show after school as a teen. 90 minutes back then! I loved how every year for “sweeps” he’d take the show to CA., and visit the sets of tv shows & movies. He seemed like such a class act, and down to earth. He & Carson were the best!

  • Brian

    A very nice man, especially for show biz. They don’t make hosts like him anymore.

  • Rhonda

    Yet another one who used to love watching Mike Douglas on TV after school. Especially nice touch in your choice of photo of Mike Douglas with Soupy Sales….a visual time capsule. Warm fuzzies, indeed.

  • Mark

    Mike Douglas was a pioneer when it came to daily variety entertainment and talk programming. He was a gentleman, which is no wonder that Douglas was able to attract people from all facets of politics and show business to be his guests. People like Jackie Gleason, John Lennon just to name a few.
    It’s rare for any TV show to last 21 years, let alone start out in a single market (Cleveland) and end up being carried nationwide by over 200 stations. That success can be attributed to Mike Douglas’ personality and talent.
    The Mike Douglas Show was a program hosted by someone who not only loved his profession, but made his audience feel like they were part of a family. You don’t see that type of programming on TV these days.
    Mr. Douglas must be also given a great deal of credit for refusing to allow his show to deviate from its format in order to compete with the gutter trash programs that were just starting to take off. Shows like Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones and the other copy-cats that bombarded the airwaves with profanity, adultery, and other topics targeting the lowest common denominator in television viewership.
    When the distributors of the Mike Douglas Show tried to go for a more “hip” audience, they replaced Douglas with John Davidson. No offense to Mr. Davidson, but Mr. Davidson’s foray as a TV host lasted as long as an orange on a grocery shelf. Meanwhile Mike Douglas stayed on the air until he decided to retire.
    Those of us who remember Mike Douglas and his show will miss him very much. It would be nice if one of the numerous cable TV networks would air rerungs of his program so that the current generation of TV viewers could see for themselves what a real entertainment program was like. And the rest of us can once again see a true entertainer on TV.

  • Linda

    Mike Douglas was amazing. A total class act.
    He’s been someone I’ve always admired. And, I learned a lot of people skills from watching Mike. Mike could talk to anyone well.
    I am fortunate to have grown up watching some ground breaking television pioneers, so many of them in live television formats — Ohio was the place for these kind of break-out formats: Mike Douglas, Ruth Lyons, Paul Dixon, Phil Donahue, and in Central Ohio, Flippo. And, nationally there were hosts like Dick Cavett, Jack Parr, Johnny Carson, and Merv Griffin. All these talents contributed different formats, styles, and forums, and they paved the way.
    They were all good natured, good listeners, inquisitive, open-minded, honest, and naturally responsive to anything that happened! They were all quick-witted and innately funny and comfortable to just roll into the unknown. Nothing was ever done at anyone else’s expense. And, on these shows anything could happen! Modern formats pale in comparison.
    In the 60s and early 70s, Mike Douglas was an everyman who was open to the changing times — that weekly co-host concept was just so cool and I remember Moms Mabley, Pearl Bailey, Totie Fields, Phyliis Diller, John & Yoko, Sly Stone, and the comics and the music, and his discussions were topical! Mike was genuinely engaged in every conversation. You just got these amazing insights into the people who were willing to hang out with Mike for a week. And, who might stop by — you never knew — just like a tiny Tiger Woods and his Dad!
    Mike Douglas was modern, cutting-edge, kind, and willing to roll with whatever might happen. He is someone to emulate. Thanks, Mike!

  • Larry

    Chalk up another after-school fan. And if you happened to be an aspiring jazz trumpet player at the time, quite the rush to tune in and see him chatting with Maynard Ferguson about yoga breathing techniques. Not the kind of thing you’d ever see on Merv or Dinah.

  • Harry

    Funny how when someone dies he becomes larger than life. I thought his show sucked.

  • Harry

    Funny how when someone dies he becomes larger than life. I thought his show sucked.

  • DJ

    Another after-school Mike-watcher. I remember when Alice Cooper was his co-host for the week. I was so excited, as I was a huge Coop fan. It was just so weird seeing him as a regular guy, soft spoken and funny. He even showed off his golf swing on the show.

  • Clifton

    Me, too…growing up in a VERY small town in Florida, seeing the Mike Douglas show was fantastic. Even in my naieve state at the time (mid-late 1970’s and I in my early teens), I resonate with the other posters on my enjoyment of Mr. Douglas’ persona and the “regular” nature of his interactions with his very FAMOUS guests.
    Great stuff…

  • phyllis

    i really loved mike douglas . he was so entertaing . watched him many times GOD BLESS HIM AND FAMILY>

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