We may raise an occasional eyebrow at the pop-culture gewgaws collected by the Smithsonian in the name of history. Chuck Mangione’s hat, really? Bruce Willis’s undershirt? But the items donated Thursday to the National Museum of American History in a celebration of daytime TV Thursday — now this stuff is history.
This Susan Lucci glamour gown? A precious artifact from the golden era of soap operas, now so quickly evaporating from our airwaves.
This plush “Barney” toy? A nostalgic remnant of a time when toddlers stared goggle-eyed at TV instead of their parents’ iPhones.
And this script from “Jeopardy”? Heck, that show’s going to outlast all of Western civilization.
Lucci, longtime star of “All My Children,” and “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek joined Kathy and Phil Parker, the creators of “Barney,” for the ceremony. Kathy Parker explained that the original purple dinosaur costume weighed 70 pounds — “they would have to clean it with vinegar and water every day.” It was not added to the Smithsonian’s collection with the other Barneyabilia, but “they are in the process of securing that.”
Lucci, a tiny ageless woman burning with soap-diva intensity, cued up everyone’s favorite stories about the record 18 times she lost out on a Daytime Emmy before winning. In 1999, when her name was finally called, “I didn’t hear it. After the ninth time I didn’t win, I would go numb” at that point.
Was this ceremony poignant, we wondered, considering that her soap and so many other have been cancelled? “I have never seen it that way,” she told us, noting that AMC has now moved to a Web cast. “I see some groundbreaking here. And the audience never left.”
With crisp-voiced command, Trebek hailed game shows as “the best kind of reality television: Ordinary people demonstrating their skills and making money the old-fashioned way — by earning it!”
Among his donations: A black-and-red buzzer we desperately wanted to handle, but a white-gloved curator had already shooed us away from contaminating Lucci’s sparkly late ’90s Manolo Blahniks. We’d always heard that the buzzer is the hard part of “Jeopardy.” What’s the trick?“You can only ring in when I have read the question in its entirety.” Some buzz too soon and get locked out. The only trick, he insisted: “Know the material.”
Related: Alex Trebek, thinking deep after 28 seasons of ‘Jeopardy!’, 4/29/12
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