On his boss, Mark Goodson:

“I’ll never forget…In the beginning, Mark Goodson used to write these long memos to the producers saying, ‘What is Rayburn doing? He’s getting laughs! He’s getting laughs!' He thought that was terrible because he thought that the most important thing was the game.”

 “Mark Goodson…could take a bad idea and turn it into a good one. He could take a good idea and turn it into a blockbuster. He had that talent.”

“My favorite (moment) was…Some time in the 1970s, Match Game hit the highest rating in the history of daytime television. And (Mark Goodson) came out…I used to do a lot of flying in those days because I lived in the east and worked (in Los Angeles). And he came out and gave me a needlepoint bag. I used to do needlepoint back in those days because flying got to be boring."

On his Broadway career:

“It was a little traumatic because I had to learn to sing and dance in 20 minutes…I ran into an agent one night at the opening of some show, and he said, ‘Listen, you wanna audition for a Broadway show?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So he set me up for an audition, and for three or four weeks, I hired a hall, a choreographer, and a voice coach and I worked like crazy. I got to the audition and there were 200 guys auditioning, and I thought, ‘Well, I’m not gonna get this job because there are too many good guys out there. And I auditioned…And they hired me. “

 “And a long time after that, I had a drink with Charles Straus who wrote the music, and I assumed they had hired me because I was a well-known public figure and I could sell a few tickets. He said, ‘No, we hired you because you did the best audition.”

 On being a game show host:

“The whole idea is to amuse the people sitting in front of you.”

"I enjoyed being in charge...You had more control over your own life."

On how to construct a good game show:

“Get a good host…like me!”

On why he was much more active on “Match Game” than other emcees might have been:

“Well, the reason for that was it was a rotten format. I figured we had to do something to keep it going.”

 “There was resistance from Goodson in the beginning. It was a weak format that needed to be goosed up in some way. My way was to do it with humor.”

 On why Match Game worked, against all odds:

“It was really a very dumb format. I mean, (the) celebrities were so terrific, and when we couldn’t think of anything amusing to do, we just played that dumb game. And that’s one of the reasons—because it was spontaneous wit, it lasted so long.”

 

“I didn’t know it would last that long. I had no way of judging. But I just knew as long as the numbers were good, we’d last.”

 

“We were just a bunch of good people who got together and had a good time.”

On the hazards of hosting:

“I had a contestant who got excited and jumped up and down next to me…And she had long fingernails; when she jumped up, she caught her nail right here on my lip and I bled for three days.”

 On why Match Game was eventually cancelled:

“Match Game should have had a much longer run than it had.”

 “Our rating went down because we were on at 10:00, then 1:00 and when we were finally back at our regular time at 4:00, our ratings never came back and then they cancelled the show. Network vice presidents are brilliant men. Brilliant.

On his famous blooper:

“(I made a mistake) only once! Remember, I’m almost a perfect person. But that one mistake was a colossal slip of the tongue…I was absolutely paralyzed. Nothing like that had ever happened to me. And did you notice? When I tried to correct myself, I said, ‘She has very pretty dimples in her cheeps.’”

“In the climate of the times, CBS edited that out of the tape. But it was so funny…Dick Clark got a hold of it, he used it for (TV’s Censored Bloopers). Somebody got a hold of me once and said they saw the blooper played in London.”

“I just wanted the earth to open and swallow me up. I was embarrassed…I knew I said it, and everything was different in those days.”


Gene sits on the panel for a game show segment on Howard Stern's first TV show in 1988.

On meeting Howard Stern for the first time:

“He walked up to me once and said, ‘You know, when I was a little kid, I used to watch you every day.’ Made me feel great.


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