I grew up loving game shows. Being sick from school and having summer vacation meant getting to watch Concentration, You Don’t Say, and the often off-color wit of Paul Lynde, Charley Weaver, and Wally Cox on Hollywood Squares.
There was I’ve Got a Secret, sponsored by Winston cigarettes, where the likes of Garry Moore, Jayne Meadows, and Betsy Palmer (and many others) seemed to have a wonderful time playing a rather silly game to figure out the contestant’s secret. If a bunch of the sponsor’s cigarettes were smoked on air in the process, it only added to a certain party like atmosphere for the program and linked fun with smoking in the eyes of its impressionable audience of future nicotine addicts.
The most sophisticated one was What’s My Line? with its game of figuring out the occupation of the contestants with a series of questions—a premise as silly as the one for I’ve Got a Secret. But the regular panelists were comprised of New York bon vivant types: Bennett Cerf was publisher and co-founder of Random House, Dorothy Kilgallen was a columnist who wrote “The Voice of Broadway”, and Arlene Francis was an actress who found greater success appearing on radio and television by just being herself.
This trio, along with a weekly guest panelist, were dressed for the evening, with the ladies in gowns and jewelry and the gentlemen frequently in black tie. They gave the impression of having stopped by to do the show on their way to a cocktail party, exchanging bon mots before getting back to the pitcher of very dry martinis.
After Dorothy Kilgallen died under decidedly murky circumstances in 1965—she had written about the Kennedy assassination and her skepticism about the Warren Report—it fell to none other than Kitty Carlisle to fill in for Ms. Kilgallen on the first episode of What’s My Line? after her death.
Kitty Carlisle was on the panel of To Tell the Truth, and she was the star of that show as far as I was concerned. Sure, the other panelists (Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and others) were funny, but it was pretty much all about Kitty. A one woman fashion show, she didn’t look like she was going to a party—she was the party.
To Tell the Truth was a variation on the theme of What’s My Line? in which the celebrity panel tried to pick the person whose occupation is identified by the host from a group of three contestants, two of which were imposters. Still silly, to be sure, but entertaining enough that this game show is still being produced in a current incarnation. In fact, a schoolmate of mine appeared on the show earlier this year, fooling the panel not once, but twice, and proving the value of a good Liberal Arts education.
But To Tell the Truth made an unexpected venue change this week, showing up on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Liz Cheney, congresswoman from Wyoming and daughter of the former Vice President, told the truth about Donald Trump, the insurrection, and the Big Lie—noteworthy because she is actually a Republican. Of course, she had to pay for that.
Ms. Cheney was voted out of her position as chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-highest job in leadership but not as important as, say, first runner-up to Miss America. Some folks, prefacing their remarks with a disclaimer about how they don’t agree with her politics, applaud her taking a principled position and suffering its resulting political penalties. Maybe, but I personally wouldn’t trust her as far as I could kick a lemon pie.
There is no way of knowing Ms. Cheney’s motivation of deviating from what passes as normal in Republican politics these days, and it very well may be the result of her principles, her political calculation, or a combination of the two. It may be that Democrats are best served sitting on the sidelines being bemused by the whole thing, recognizing they don’t have a dog in this fight.
I’ve wondered for some time how long it would take the country club Republicans, of which Ms. Cheney and her family are practically charter members, to have enough of those folks they let in with only social memberships. Sooner or later, those with access only to the pool but not the greens would seek to overrule the full members of the club and want to pave over the golf course and put up a Walmart.
Now, it looks like the resistance inside the Republican party is finally starting. To tell the truth now isn’t going to save them from what seems to be coming. But Kitty, I’m sure, is dressed for the occasion and ready for the games to begin.