Dueling Zoomerangs with Groucho

Posted in TV, Zoomerang by Susan Hamilton on April 8, 2019 2 Comments

I was 10 years old when my father won the jackpot. He was my hero. It was in the spring of 1955, and the money he won (almost a thousand dollars!) saved our family once more from the wolf pacing hungrily at our door.

Groucho Marx's TV showYou Bet Your Life—the quiz show vehicle for film star comic Groucho Marx—was one of the most popular programs on television, although we children (my younger brother, younger sister and I) had never seen it. There was no TV set in our house. Our parents had banned the “idiot box” that would keep us from developing any creativity of our own.  We were allowed, though, to lie on the floor in front of our giant old radio to listen, entranced, to Sgt. Preston of the Yukon or The Green Hornet.  To my parents, those broadcasts encouraged imagination.

Then one day my mother came across an advertisement in the local Canoga Park newspaper announcing “open auditions” for the Groucho show. My father jumped at the opportunity.  Roger Alexander Hamilton was, above all, a very confident fellow.

Early on the morning of audition day my mother saw him off with a kiss on the lips as we three kids stood around and watched.  Pa climbed into the turquoise blue wreck of a Ford station wagon (the one that would lose its hood on the Hollywood Freeway a few years later) and pulled out of the driveway.  He’d left very early (a wise precaution, given his propensity for getting lost even in our little town).  My brother, sister and I ran off to play, fairly oblivious to the import of the event.  My mother must have been a bundle of nerves, fretting and worrying about our dire financial state.

When Father returned late that afternoon, we all crowded around, asking a jillion questions.  At heart a showman, he played the scene for all it was worth, hanging his head dejectedly and sadly shaking it back and forth…until he suddenly looked up with a broad grin and announced, “I’M IN!!

My mother spent our last hundred dollars to buy him a new suit for the occasion. More…