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  • Tommy Thompson

5th Movement: "The Anniversary Game"

Updated: Jul 8


“I was smart enough to go through any door that opened.”

                                                             -- Joan Rivers




Ad in The Alameda Times Star newspaper hyping our first TV appearance



So, by far - up to this point at least - the biggest professional feather in our cap came in mid-September of ’69, about 3 or 4 weeks into the new school year, when our li’l 3-piece ensemble got asked to play on local TV.  Yessiree! 


There was this show filmed locally in SF called “The Anniversary Game.”


And by this time in our story we had already acquired a new friend of the band named Kathy Cronin. A gorgeous, stacked, sweet, polite, but completely street-smart, li’l Irish gal. Who was a tad older than us, with long blond hair, and a good head for biz.  She had gone to school in Alameda with a guy named Hank Saroyan. 


Yep.  Those Saroyans.


Hank was the nephew of William Saroyan, the famous author and playwright who not only won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940 and an Academy Award for Best Story in 1943, but was widely recognized as “One of the most prominent literary figures of the mid-20th century.”  Hank was also the producer on the TV show, and so Kathy made “the call.” 

A deal was struck.  And, in our naïve 17-year old minds, we were a’gonna be famous.  Right?  Right? 


Wrong. Oh, we was so very wrong on so many levels it ain’t a’be funny, dear reader.

The show had the same basic format as earlier shows like “The Dating Game.” Except here, it was couples who were already married and in the sack together. As opposed to “The Dating Game’s” dating couples who weren’t already married.


But, who were already in the sack together. 


The show was all about this: Let’s see how well you two really know each other. How observant you are together. How well you’re able to calmly discuss stuff which y’all jus’ might happen to disagree upon. And finally - quite frankly - whether or not either of you really even got anything ‘tween yo’ ears other than bone. 


The set-up was that the couples would watch us while we did one of our songs on “live” TV. Which in itself would be great for us. Cuz it meant our music would be shown to the whole world. Well, at least, to our local world.  Cool.  It'll be a gas. Nuttin’ bad there, Sparky…right? 

But, here was the kicker: one of the guys in the band had to wear a wig while we were playin.’  Oh, yeah.  Now, that's just totally bitchin.'  Sheesh!  So who’s a’gonna be the lucky boy here today…hmm? 


But, as it turned out, Lou got stuck wearin’ the wig.  Can’t ‘member if we drew straws. Or did Rock, Paper, Scissors. Or whether it was a call that “came from the top.” But, Lou ended up winnin' the boobie prize.



"The secret to success in show business is sincerity…

and as soon as you can fake that you’ve got it made”

​ -- Groucho Marx

Anyway, so the idea here was that after we played our tune, the couples had to: Discuss. Argue. Shout. And whatever other forms of pre-Jerry Springer "Neanderthal” behavior the host, Alan Hamel, could lure them into sayin’ n’ doin’ on “live” TV.


All of it in regards to the question of: "Which band member had the wig on?"


Simple?  You betcha ass it was simple.  Mostly cuz Lou - by far already - had the longest hair in the band. Wig or no wig.  Vince n’ my "do’s" only went down to our shoulders.

Louie?

Well, much lower than that. 


But even with all of that notwithstanding - man, it was jus’ so obvious that it was him, ya know?  I mean, the wig looked like some lame cast-off from a “Sonny n’ Cher Show” after-party. The damn fake hair went down well below his frickin’ ass, ok?  I mean, a doggone blind man coulda seen who was wearin’ the wig.  Even so, the contestants all missed it. I kid you not. And, thus, got stuck with prizes like the vegetable-juicer “in-avocado."


Rather than the 4-day cruise to the Caribbean.  Freakin’ unbelievable. 

The next day we had no idea, at least not at the time, about whether or not having played on a TV show whose format included such a silly inside joke would end up bein’ good for us in a great way. Or bad for us in a worse way. But, I’ll be damned if the local Alameda paper, The Times Star, didn’t go n’ pick up on the story n’ actually do a feature article on the band and the whole TV show madness. Woo Hoo! 


Vince and Lou were still in their senior year at AHS. I had just graduated my senior year only a few months earlier. However, I still liked to hang around the school trollin’ for trouble. And so there amongst the campus elite, we went from bein’ long-haired losers to bein’ rated almost as high as some lower-level primates. Which was an improvement of sorts, I suppose, considerin’ our previous designation. 


I mean, the football jocks n’ latter-stage “Fonzie” hold-outs who had previously taken such unbridled glee in stompin’ the livin’ crap out of us in PE class and such, now acted like we’d all been bosom buddies all along. 

Wow!  Talk about “Theater of the Absurd.”  Unreal.


But the best part was that we were actually beginning to score more n’ better gigs around town and over into Oakland and down to Hayward. And so now that we were officially “TV Stars.” And with our careers fairly flyin’ along at a Mach 4-clip. One that none of us could’ve ever imagined even in our wildest of wet dreams at the beginning of the year.


It was now time once again, dear reader,

for Cookin’ Mama to up the ante n’ raise the stakes in the game. 


I remember it was in late-September of ’69 that our roadie, Terry Fowler, introduced me to another younger musician who had started off as a drummer.


But was now aspiring to become a guitarist:


Pat Thrall.



Pat Thrall onstage w/ Cookin' Mama

@ Alameda High School Dance - 1969


©2024 Cookin' Mama



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