The Dark Underbelly of the 1971 Doris Day Special

Well, I rented the Doris Day Special (1971) hoping for a little light-hearted nostalgic bliss, but instead it got me thinking about horrible things like Charles Manson and AIDS.

I know you're probably thinking Gilligan has finally lost his grip on reality. On the contrary, I assure you that I am in full control of my senses. Bear with me as I walk you through it...

First of all, I should've known things were a bit "off" from the very beginning. The Doris Mary Anne Kapplehoff Special? WTF? Why did she use her real name? I listened to the director's commentary and the question was never answered satisfactorily. Something about Doris being tired of bland titles for specials. Yeah, right. I think it had something to do with the controversy and tragedy surrounding Doris and her son at this time.

Two years prior to taping this special, Doris' husband had died and she found that all of her vast fortune had been squandered. The legal proceedings would last for years, and it was never really resolved whether her husband (and her crook bastard attorney) had orchestrated the whole thing, or whether he was just naive. Either way, Doris was flat broke in 1968.

The 1971 special was a contractual obligation set up by her late husband which Doris still had to honor (maybe that's why she chose the funky title). The special itself is pretty boring and lame with an intro involving Doris pedaling a bike to the tune of a "Feelin' Groovy"/"Ob la di, Ob la da" montage. She also works in her animal rights interest with a skit involving a bunch of puppies. How adorable.

And of course, there's Perry Como...

Before I get back to the disturbing stuff, let's get one thing straight that I've been meaning to bring up: the 1970s were not all Six Million Dollar Man, Foghat and Evil Knievel - there was lots of Lawrence Welk and Perry Como to go around too. TV and radio weren't exclusively centered around hippie Baby Boomers and their slacker children - there was a big market for the older generation as well. For every dirty hippy there was a guy in white golf shoes with an ascot. Case in point: "My Love Is Blue" by Paul Mauriat was a #1 hit right before the Doors' "Hello, I Love You" hit #1 in '68. What a contrast!

Anyway, also in 1968, Doris Day's son hooked up with Charles Manson...

That's Doris' son Terry in the picture above. He was quite the talented producer and musician who worked with hot bands like The Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Around this time, Melcher was auditioning an up-and-coming musician named Charles Manson.

When Melcher declined to sign him, Manson continued to visit Melcher's home -which he shared with his girlfriend Candice Bergen...

Melcher had leased his home to Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate. Manson family member, Susan Atkins, stated before a Grand Jury that the house was chosen as the scene for the murders:

"... to instill fear into Terry Melcher because Terry had given us his word on a few things and never came through with them".

Melcher went into seclusion following the murders and resurfaced in 1970 to completely ruin a Byrds album (often referred to as "Melcher's Folly"). Around this time, Melcher produced several of his mother's specials including this one in 1971.

In this special we get a look at one of Doris' good friends, the still-in-the-closet Rock Hudson...

Around this time, Hudson was starring as a depraved gym teacher in Pretty Maids All In a Row (I told you I can't stop coming back to this insanely intriguing movie -see post ). About 15 years later, Hudson would once again join Doris on a TV special, but by this time AIDS was showing its signs (from Wikipedia):

His gaunt appearance, and his nearly incoherent speech, were so shocking it was broadcast again all over the national news shows that night and for weeks to come. Day herself stared at him throughout their appearance.

And so there you have it - a seemingly innocent little TV special is turned upside down in the hands of your humble blogger. Oh well. Did I mention this was my 200th post? Hooray!


  1. Wow - never even knew this special existed. How different something can look, though, looking at it from the future. Odd...

  2. Maybe the poor name was like Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" which I understand he thought was too blatant to be a hit, and his ex-wife stood to gain from the sales. He figured he'd put out a bomb and screw her. I guess he should have done a polka album?

    As far as the old folk stuff goes, weren't Grease and "You Light Up My Life" two of the biggest things in the seventies? They are a far cry from youthful cool, in my book.

    1. I understood Gaye's Motown album, HERE, MY DEAR was the recording whose proceeds were to go to his former wife (Berry Gordy's sister)

  3. Wings - I love looking at the backstory to things like old records and odd little TV specials. I know it's strange, but it makes my day.

    Darius- Audiences in 1971 must have been mighty confused when they saw Doris Day riding a bike with "The Doris Mary Anne Kapplehoff Special" splashed up on the screen. Couple that with the Manson connection to her son still fresh in the news, and her bankruptcy an ongoing public scandal... I think it made even Perry Como's singing entertaining.

  4. Hey Gil. I've never seen this special. Don't really know that I want to now.

    I had no idea that about her husband and son. I don't know that much about Doris Day. I've seen her in a few movies with guys like Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.

    I hate to admit that I always like Perry Como. :-)

    I'll be honest that whenever I think of Doris Day I think of Rock Hudson and AIDS. I can always remember when it all came out.

  5. Congratulations on post 200. Great work really. I am back on like #125 or so :(

    I know a little about the Manson murders and that Terry Melcher was a producer and Brian Wilson introduced Charlie to him, but I did not know Melcher was Doris Day's son. That's why I love site like this. Great.

    BTW (cool internet abbreviation language there) I added a great graphic to my Kiss post that i think you will want. At:


    It is an animation and fro some reason unknown to me Gifs will not animate on Blogger sites. What is up with that?

  6. AnonymousJuly 09, 2011

    what HORRIBLE things to say about this GREAT TV Show and Doris Day! first of all, the Charles Manson murders had NOTHING to do with Doris-save they were indirectly related to Doris' son. but that was several years earlier. and though Rock Hudson DID contract the AIDS virus and consequently die from its complications, it should NOT be his total identity! these purient (sp) views do NOT reflect this totally pleasurable, amusing, delightful, charming outing with the universally appealing, Iconic Doris Day! give it a chance and view the Special. if you enjoy it 100th as much as i, you will find it well worth your hour and will probably want to see it again!

  7. I don't think there was anything derogatory about Doris Day here. As far as the Hudson/HIV thing, he is very identifiable because he was such a man's man to the public but had to deal with his homosexuality privately. He was one of the first publicly known homosexuals not of the Paul Lynde variety. (I love Paul Lynde, btw, and it took a lot of strength to be that open at that time).

    I'd keep going, but my thumbs are killing me ;-)

  8. It must make you all so sad that no one ever
    Dug up anything on Perry Como
    He was human, not perfect
    So if they ever do
    I will still love him for what he was a charismatic man and a wonderful singer