The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (Part One)

I've already posted about this twice before, but to be honest, this show deserves the full treatment.  Retrospace focuses a lot on oddities of the 1970's, and this one, dear readers, takes the cake.  I would be derelict in my duties as the custodian of Retrospace to not serve up a detailed and accurate account of this Mother-of-All-70's-Weirdness.  If you think I went overboard on this post, just know that I could have easily written a 20,000 page book on this, and just be getting started. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special should be adapted for film, it should be a required course at every university, it should memorized by every man, woman and child. If I were president, the transcripts of The Paul Lynde Halloween Special would like the Little Red Book in China or The Communist Manifesto in the former Soviet Union - required in every home.

Note: This show repeatedly overwhelms me and I have a tendency to shout obscenities when I'm overwhelmed.  I will try and keep things PG around here, and will replace my F Bomb Clusters with PG rated exclamations in all caps. For instance, "Holy Shit" shall hereby be replaced with HOLY HAND GRENADE!

Okay, so let's imagine it's the evening of October 29th, 1976, and you and your family are settling down in the den to watch a Halloween special on the TV.  Your dad is in the Barcalounger drinking a cold one and your mom is paging through the TV guide. She reads aloud that it's hosted by Paul Lynde.

"That's that fruity guy on Bewitched," says dear ol' dad. "This should be rich."

The commercials are over, and this is what you see....

Lynde is dressed as a Santa Claus then the Easter Bunny, evidently confused as to what holiday it is. His maid, played by Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West on The Wizard of Oz!) explains that it's Halloween. Instert canned laugh track and roll the opening credits...

Then the opening monologue.  The jokes are not just bad, they're historically bad. Here's a little taste:

"[On Halloween] I always give a prize for the funniest costume. Last year, I said First Prize will go to the first one that rings my bell.  It was the Avon Lady [insert canned laugh track]. So, I gave her a box of Ding Dongs."  [huge laughter from audience] "You know, they've got no sense of humor. She smeared my windows with soap-on-a-rope." [more laughter]


Next sings a sweet little ditty about how much he loves Halloween. Lyrics: "Kids, when they ask for goodies, they're awful sweet... I give them yummies!"  Audiences at home probably thought they were in for a special more in line with Perry Como or Andy William's numerous and blissfully wholesome holiday specials. Little did they know KISS would be performing and things were about to bite the wax tadpole... (sorry, no other euphamism was bizarre enough to fit).

As the desceptively benign song progresses, we can see sanity unraveling. Dad in the Barcalounger was about to learn real quick that this was no Perry Como special.

Suddenly, the song degenerates into this bizarre mutation of the "Kids" song from Bye, Bye Birdie (which Lynde, himself, sang in the film). Here's an example of the modified lyrics:

In Bye, Bye Birdie, Lynde sings: "Why can't they be like we were, Perfect in every way?"

Tonight, Lynde sings "Too much Alice Cooper, Not enough Alice Faye." ....Brilliant!

BTW, in case you didn't know, Alice Faye was an actress and singer popular in the 1930's and 40's.

And don't get me started on the dancers that come out to join him! SWEET FANCY MOSES IN A SIDECAR! Some of them look like the evil tormentors in The Strangers (2007) crossed with a disco dancers on Halloween in the Castro District. 

The dancers wrap Lynde in a rope and throw him in a trash can. For a brief second, I was reminded of The Wicker Man, and half expected these pagan looking dancers to light him on fire!

Anyone remember the music video for "Why Can't I Be You?" by the Cure? This dance number really reminded me of that - poor lighting, cheap set, costumes that are both cheesy and disturbing, antiquated and poorly executed dancing style. To make matters even more bizarre, Donnie and Marie Osmond appear out of nowhere as sequened witches. They put the lid on the trash can and it explodes.

Then our story begins to unfold.  Margaret Hamilton takes Lynde on a road trip to her sister's house in order to get him away from those "pesky kids".  It turns out to be a sinister manor out in the middle of nowhere.  But guess who Hamilton's sister is.... JUDAS PRIEST ON CRUTCHES WITH ANTLERS, IT'S WITCHIEPOO! 

You may recall that Witchiepoo was the creation of Sid and Marty Krofft.  These two guys were responsible for more child oriented strangeness than I have time to mention.  Throughout the whole decade, Saturday mornings were awish with bizarre LSD inspired day-glo weirdness.  Land of the Lost was great, but Lidsville, The Bugaloos, and H.R. Pufinstuf seemed like they were directed by Syd Barret [see a previous post on drug references in H.R. Pufinstuf]. Drug influenced or not, the Kroffts definitely had a prediliction for the bizarre (and often macabre). An early work of theirs was a twisted live puppet show for adults, Les Poupees de Paris. [click here for more on that]

So, Lynde,against his better judgment, enters the haunted mansion.  Here it is revealed that Margaret Hamilton is a witch as well. This is interesting because it's the first time she dressed in full witch garb since The Wizard of Oz!

Before I had a chance to catch my breath, Billy Barty strolls out (queue short people jokes from Lynde) and then Betty White. White plays the winner of a Miss Halloween contest and expected Paul Newman as her prize, not Paul Lynde.  This was right during her reign as queen bitch on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, so her role as a witch was particularly fitting, and audiences of the 70's got the connection.

Miss Halloween quickly gets out of there, and the two witch sisters inform Lynde that they want him to be the spokesman for the National Association of Witches.  Why? Because he's close personal friends with Donny and Marie Osmond (Lynde was a regular on their variety show).  In return for being their spokesman, they offer him three wishes.

What does our loveable lush wish for? Keep in mind, in 1976, Lynde lived with his pooch in an opulent mansion in the Hollywood Hills (once owned by Errol Flynn).  So, perhaps he'll wish for a delux penthouse at the The Sands? Maybe his own personal mega-yacht with plenty of  muscular manservants?  Or a sitcom of his own, in the time slot right after Mary Tyler Moore! No..... Paul's first wish is....... DEAR SWEET MERCIFUL ZESTY ZITHER OF ZEUS!!.... to be a trucker!!!

I mean who gets to wish for anything in the world, and chooses to be a "rhinestone trucker"? Lynde's getup puts Liberace to shame - I do believe anyone showing up to a truckstop bedazzled like this would have a very short lifespan.

Shortly, the Rhinestone Trucker contacts his good buddy (played by Tim Conway) on the CB and tells him he's getting married tonight to a waitress.  Turns out, his buddy plans to get married tonight to a waitress as well..... the plot thickens! Could it be the same waitress?

Indeed it is - a waitress by the name of Kinky Pink.  Now it's a race to the diner; first one there gets hitched!
The action now turns to the diner where we find that the Kinky Pink is played by Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days). SWEET CHRYSLER FORD ALMIGHTY! BY FRITH IN A TREETOP SHE'S HOT! (She also has a temper - in 1998, Roz pleaded no contest to charges that she fired a 12-gauge shotgun into the living room window of a neighbor's house after a car alarm woke her up).

And here, dear readers, is where we shall stop until the next post.  I fear this is too much to process in one sitting: Lynde as the Easter Bunny, Lynde as The Rhinestone Trucker, a pagan disco dance number, Witchiepoo, Donny & Marie, a smoking hot Roz Kelly.... and we're just getting started! Take as much time as you like to process this, and check back with me tomorrow!


  1. By the beard of Zeus, my head is spinning. What an in-depth analysis. I get shivers when somebody mentions Sid and Marty Krofft, then you hit me with Billy Barty? Ouch! That is a lot of material for one show and you are only half-way through. Looking forward to "part two". What's next, a mixture of heavy metal, disco and the Brady Bunch?

  2. BTW, congratulations! I see Gilligan has hit another milestone with 300 followers now. Keep it coming.

  3. Is it wrong? Wrong that I now desperately want to see this show?

    Wonderful post and the screengrabs are excellent. The weird kkk-clown-scarecrow is going to give me nightmares, however.

    It is with a mixture of fear and trepidation that I await your next post...

  4. Circle Gets the SquareOctober 21, 2009

    This program puts today's crap TV to shame. Too young to see this live in '76...man did I miss-out.

  5. I felt emotionally exhausted by the time we got to the trucker part, but I'm excited to read part two just to see how it all turns out and how/if comes back to Halloween.

    I want to watch this on DVD, but I'm scared at the same time!

  6. I can only thank my parents for not tuning into this horror of a show. Having spent my pre-teen years in the 1970s, this ranks as probably the worst - it makes the Brady Bunch Variety Hour look like Shakespeare.

  7. Man, this was worth reading for many reasons, not the least of which was the colorful metaphors. I'm now mourning the loss of fun on television.


    Coming soon to Classic TV's website:

    The Paul Lynde Christmas Special!!


    (poster is not affiliated with site, just providing a public service)

  9. This is available on DVD? It's like Christmas in October! Thanks Gilligan!

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. My brother-in-law was kind enough to give me a copy he'd found in a dollar-DVD bin. It brought back wonderfully horrible memories.

    Long ago, when I was into KISS for five minutes, I gritted my teeth through this special to see their promised "rock-n-roll explosion" and promptly lost my fandom... and most of my will to live.

    It's important that we preserve these TV abominations, so that we never ever forget the horror the human race is capable of.