UNCLE FLOYD TIMELINE by MugsyHistory | RSM on UF
Born October 19 in Paterson, NJ. Talent runs in Floyd's family. His father was a jazz trumpeter, his uncle had a famous nightclub and wrote songs for Louie Prima. Floyd's maternal grandfather performed in the Italian Theater in New York and New Jersey. Young Floyd longs to follow dad's footsteps and play trumpet but is steered towards the piano. Although trained in classical style, Floyd would later gravitate to great old standards, jazz and Dixieland.
Vivino family moves to Point Pleasant, NJ where Floyd first meets another future cast member who is living in town, Mugsy.
First public performance in piano recital at Elks Club in Point Pleasant NJ
Family returns to Paterson. Floyd had first stage role as George Washington in School #5, Paterson, NJ. Contrary to popular history Floyd does NOT sing "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie". Later the family would finally settle in Glen Rock, NJ.
Performed with brothers at NY World's Fair (NJ Pavilion)
Performed in act with brothers in Atlantic City, Hotel Roosevelt (Steel Pier). Later that year Floyd school pal Sonny Naclerio would coin a phrase which Floyd would use ten years later and become the war chant of the show, "Snap It Pal".
Worked as an assistant to a couple of carnival acts at Gaslight Village, Lake George, NY. It's here Floyd first shows his love of old time show business though Floyd had alternative aspirations of playing major league baseball or teaching history. Floyd, a voracious reader, would often study major wars and battles. While other future cast members were heavily into rock music and concerts, Floyd plays small smoke filled taverns and amasses gigantic record collection that fills an entire basement
Graduated High School with several awards for performing arts . Floyd would later attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. Tries out radio show on WHBI-FM in NY. Floyd is lifelong radio listener, not only looking for old music but commentary as well. One day while in the Times Square area Floyd will enter a magic store and spot a puppet called "The Hunter"and also sold as "Walter". On a whim he'll buy it for $27.00 and take it home where he'll work hard on material for the two to perform. Though Floyd will prove to be a better puppeteer then ventriloquist, but fans will really not care if Floyd moves his lips for they'll be too busy laughing at "Oogie".
Again tries radio show for several weeks at WRNW Mt Kisco
Works for Polack Bros. Circus and Johnny's United Shows Carnival in 15 southern states. Floyd does barker work, or in circus lingo "talker", mostly in the sideshow attractions like midget troops and Zareta the Gorilla Girl. This would later be the basis for Brisco T. Fardel character. He later meet Mario Manzini, an escape artist, and work exclusively with him. In 1974 the two would travel to Philadelphia to appear on the Mike Douglas Show TV show. Unfortunately Manzini would had a little too much of the grape before being hoisted 100 feet in the air upside down in a straight jacket. Manzini didn't escape, although his lunch did. The gasoline shortages of the coming years would cause Floyd to cut back on traveling too far from home base.
Works for Dick Richard's Wonderful World of Burlesque as comedian. Floyd would meet a lot of the last working burlesque comics who taught him quite a few classic routines. Plays several of the few burlesque theaters still yet, now all gone.
Continues circus, carnival & burlesque work. Also gets job at NYC's Catch A Rising Star, not as comic but as waiter. Floyd sees all kinds of acts, including a very strange unknown kid named Andy Kaufman.
Floyd starts Uncle Floyd & Friends show on United Artists Cable Corp on Jan 29, a small cable system in northern NJ. The first shows actually had a live kiddy audience which was quickly abandoned. In November begins the Uncle Floyd Show from 5pm to 6pm on channel 68 (then WBTB-TV) in West Orange, NJ by convincing station manager Robert Leach that he already had done a kiddy show on a TV station in Albany (which he hadn't). At the time broadcast stations were required to air at least some children's programming. The early shows at channel 68 had Floyd calling up people live and giving away prizes. The station was owned by Ike Blounder, an electronics genius who invented an early pay per view scrambled TV signal decoded by his patented box. When not inventing Blounder would travel to Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster.
The following year stock market maven Gene Inger would take over managing duties. Besides his own Wall Street show, Inger would program old episodes of Peyton Place, Dobie Gillis, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Mr. Ed, Speed Racer, Time Tunnel, the Mighty Hercules cartoon and some suspicious religious programs controlled by the stations assistant manager, Keith Hauser, who made no secret of his disapproval with the Floyd show. In June of '74 Floyd will sign autographs at show's first personal appearance at Jungle Habitat amusement park.
Garfield actor Pat Cupo joins Floyd as regular on show and will continue to argue over almost everything until he leaves in 1977. Cupo's stable of stooges include the Monster, the Lady From Brooklyn, Tom Spider and Mr. Mumbles who all have in common the trait of physically attacking Floyd every chance they get. Floyd begins to play piano at western theme amusement park, WILD WEST CITY during the weekends as Fresno Floyd where he meets Al Cavallaro who will show up at times on the show as Prof Linguini. Also rock bands begin to show up more and more as guests. MTV is still years away from starting.
Floyd drops the UACC cable show due to heavy workload but continues on channel 68. A magician/psychic entertainer named Scott Gordon joins cast. Gordon, a former rock musician, unlike Cupo is supportive and easier to work with. Also Gordon towers over the smaller Floyd which lends itself to silent pantomime bits. Scott's teaming with Floyd creates several classic bits including HAURAL & LARDY, VINNIE & VIC, CONSERVATIVE VRS LIBERAL and the most aired sketch of all time, INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK which aired every two years for 15 years with Gordon as the poppas interviewer with the jacket that never changed and Floyd as a wacky verbally attacking guest (example: Mr. Verms, the inventor of the gummy worms candy). Scott would also develop a string of bizarre "walk on" personalities like Dr. Vaz Da Matter, Mr. Brown Jeans, Officer McNanimy, Chuck Littlehat, the Crook and Flojo's Little Willie. One of Scott's most energetic roles was off camera mouthing the lines and sounds of CINEMA INTERNATIONAL ("reap rhow...bababaabababa) Later that year sees the appearance of Mugsy, first just playing songs on guitar, later creating music parodies of Bob Dylan (Bob Dilly) and Kiss (Peter Punk). Mugsy became one of the main writers of the show creating ensemble bits like WEIRD STORIES OF THE MIND, OLD TIME MOVIES and NICK HASSLE PRIVATE EYE. Cupo later leaves to explore other things. Mugsy will also leave show in 1977 to return in late 1978, missing the show's depressing "move to mornings ".
A long time friend of Floyd's two brothers, NETTO, who Floyd has known since he was 16, begins to appear on shows with a wide variety of different bands. Cartoonist "Artie Delmar" (stage name), a former "Viewer Of The Week" meets Floyd at a personal appearance and begins to show up at studio. Later Delmar will not only invent characters like Artie ("Walking Out") Delmar, the Viking and Prof. Glump, but will also book the guest bands. Jim Monaco also begins to attend shows and perform walk-on with Floyd. Looney Skip Rooney, who had appeared on show randomly in past, now there at every taping adding his laugh to the show's makeup and spurring on cast to do better by using Skip's chuckles as an approval meter. Skip is the only cast member who ever appeared on actual "kiddy show", the local Florida version of the Bozo The Clown Show. Skip also works at Elizabeth radio station spinning songs but is later hired by WABC's legendary Cousin Brucie to work afternoon drive as a lead in to Morrow's own show at local Jersey station Morrow just purchased. Skip becomes, next to Floyd & Oogie, the third most recognized part of show with fans either loving or hating his appearances. His Hula Hanna character from Don HoHum sketch becomes show stopper in live nightclub performances. WBTB purchased by Wometco Enterprises and changes call letters to WTVG. While at a diner in Bloomfield, Floyd is offered a free meal by waitress if he will use her daughter on his TV show. Cast member Kathy McDermott lasts less then a year finding ad work as a model less challenging. Although many women will appear in certain roles cast will always be thought off as male.
Thanks to the helpful assistant manager Keith Hauser show moves from popular 6pm time slot to 8am in one of the lowest points in its history. Floyd continues to turn out product. Later that year in an incredible turnaround, Floyd signs TV contract with Wometco and certain fans start to hang out at station. One in particular has an uncanny knack for voices, if not material. After having stopped touring with his rock band Dreamer, Charlie Stoddard is invited by Floyd to join cast. Charlie brings to show a wealth of character & celebrity voices including Sylvestor Cavone (Stallone), Gene Shellfish (Shallet) and Sydney (Rodney) Dangerfield. Charlie also lends his keyboard stylings to Brother Billy Bobby Booper and achieves success as Deacon Jim. Charlie also adds another dimension (along with Netto) to Mugsy's musical parodies. He also, undeservingly, becomes brunt of many jokes about his material being the least funny of the cast.
The final original core UF cast is assembled including Scott, Mugsy, Skip, Artie Delmar, Netto, Charlie Stoddard along with two quiet cast members, Oogie & Hugo. Crowds at personal appearances pick up. Show starts to be mentioned on radio shows, magazines, newspapers. Early guests booked by Artie Delmar include Ramones, David Johanssen, Rachel Sweet, Jan & Dean, Smithereens, John Bon Jovi, and Squeeze. Singer Paul Simon tries several times to get through on station phone to get message to Floyd, but receptionist refuses to believe that anybody famous would be calling Floyd and never takes the message. Show gets it's first two "big" sponsors, Drakes Cakes and Crazy Eddie. Show plays Bottom Line nightclub for first time and breaks record for fastest sell out of advance tickets. David Bowie shows up in audience and later comes backstage to tell Floyd & cast he's big fan of show, having been turned on to series by another fan, John Lennon. In the meantime on the West Coast a new comic gets an HBO special called PEE WEE's Playhouse which features at least 35 direct steals from the Uncle Floyd Show, including a pirate who draws pictures, a Hugo doll, Mr. Bones puppet on wall, a fat little kid in shorts, a bodyless head in a box and much more.
On April 14 the show begins it's one hour stint, 5 days a week from 6 to 7pm with an estimated nightly audience of 150,000. Some bits often run twenty minutes long. Show develops "in jokes" where lines are yelled out off camera, which bring huge laughs to studio personnel, but not immediately explained to home audience. Forces fans to watch every day like soap opera. Very few subjects about cast are ruled "off limits" which at times leaves to bad feelings. Singer R. Stevie Moore appears in June & August for the first of many times. Later that year Channel 68 moves it's studios from beautiful suburban West Orange to scary Newark NJ. NETTO begins to grow into deeper personality. Instead of just playing drugged up burnt out roles, his characters show a wider range like SGT. CROCK, The Box Of Wisdumb, Uncle Strange (Dull Family) and Prof. Bizzie Martinez (Intellectual Digress). Netto's musical backup styles expand too. Netto appeals to both male & female fans, although hopefully not for the same reason. He adds two often quotes phrases to the show, "Think About It" and "Swallow!" Floyd hired by Paul Simon to appear in his first movie ONE TRICK PONY. Floyd is later sentenced to cutting room floor along with the first 60 pages of the script, as Simon tries to trim down length of film one week before release. Floyd and Skip appear as guests on Joe Franklin Show where Floyd expresses great respect for Joe. Franklin jokes with Floyd about Floyd's takeoff of him (Joe Frankfurter) but acknowledges it's a parody and knows it's done in good fun, a view that he seems to forget when he sues Floyd two years later for $25 million.
Show continues to grow in popularity as personal appearances draw huge lines everywhere. Show begins to be constantly mentioned on radio by Vin Scelsa's, Tony Pigue, Meg Griffin, Don Imus, Lynn Samuels and host of college stations. Wrestlers start to visit including Classy Freddie Blasie and Larry Zbyszko who at one point attacks Hugo. Also word comes that quite a few NY TV news people watch the show. Floyd welcomes Dr. Demento who in turn starts to play "Deep In The Heart Of Jersey" nationwide on his radio show. Several high rollers express interest in national syndication including FOX and major record producers.
Brings UF show into national syndication over NBC owned and operated stations as well as independents including Philly, Boston, Cleveland, Texas, San Diego, St. Paul Minn., Connecticut and Tucson, Arizona. Station owner in Tucson pulls off show half way through on first day and writes back "I've been in television for 20 years and this is the worst piece of garbage I've ever seen!" Texas station also cancels show although it brought in highest ratings ever. Station runs lots of religious programs and several "ministers" object to Billy Bobby Booper. Show syndicators begin to run up huge editing bills even though the shows are pretty much aired the way they're shot. Mercury Records releases the Uncle Floyd Show Album, which unfortunately was also the end of syndication and sales are hurt since we can't fully promote it. Also Floyd is sued by Joe Franklin, Woody Allen, Paco of WKTU-FM and several other idiots. Although the show's syndicators are all lawyers they all refuse to represents Floyd in lawsuits causing Floyd to spend thousands of dollars of his own money. Looney skip Rooney appears weekly on WNBC-AM's new radio host Howard Stern's show. Stern tells cast he grew up watching show in Long Island and later in Washington DC. Though show still has huge ratings in New York, Jersey and Philly syndicators throw in towel. Floyd tries to make a deal with Spanish TV station to air new shows but outlet demands too much money up front.
Show moves for brief stint on Suburban Cablevision, the largest cable system in NJ. A letdown from being on NBC, but promises are made that show will be syndicated to other cable systems (which never happens). Second female cast member Eileen Martowitz has brief stint with show. Martowitz's best act is trying to dance on pedestal wearing roller skates. UF live show plays Club Bene in Sayerville, NJ for a record 4 times in one year, the 8th time to play since the first in '81. Floyd returns to annual show at Bottom Line nightclub twice in 7 weeks with only Scott and the 5 piece Vivino Bros Band. Floyd's brothers Jimmy & Jerry, already known in the music biz as top notch musicians, are soon to be hired by NBC as the house band for the Latenight with Conan O'Brien TV show.
On October 31 the UF show starts three year run on NJN New Jersey Network (PBS) as the highest rated in house program ever produced by network. The new set is actually the syndication set which was bought from Channel 68 for $7,000. It originally cost $20,000 for Wometco. Also new is live studio audience which is not welcomed change by cast. Crying babies and changing sizes of groups make small turn out shows "sound" like unfunny sitcoms without laugh tracks. However crew and equipment are first rate. Show has third female cast member, Karen "Weenie" Weiner. Weenie's married to director and Newark studio boss Jeff Friedman who originally got his start as cameraman at Channel 68. The five shows are split into two tapings, 9:00am and 1:30pm. Newark resident Yogi Narada, former circus and carnival entertainer, becomes semi regular. Show is so popular it's shown twice a night at 7pm and again at 11, and also on the weekends.
In addition to NJN, Floyd returns to channel 68, now U68, an over the air alternative to MTV where he appears with Bill Roller doing fluff new pieces. Later that year segments of the NJN show appear nationwide on Nickelodeon's Turkey TV Show. Also Woody Allen (who had threatened to sue Floyd three years earlier for spoofing him on the syndicated TV series) asks for clips of show to be used as background images on TV set in a shot. Jim Monaco pays a visit to show with friend who will later become the eternal "new guy", Michael Townsend Wright. Michael will have to wait though till CTN to join crew as behind the scenes tension surfaces.
Show suddenly stops as contract not renewed due to political string pulling. Show is criticized as being "silly" and "should not be aired on educational public TV" by cranberry grower turned politician from South Jersey. Show stops taping in July and replaced by the Nightly Business Report even though money was collected during fund raiser only 90 days before. Show still today was top money raiser ever. Also killed was popular Dark Shadows show. Spurned fans demand show be reinstated or refund pledge money. Later that year on C-SPAN Gov. Kean takes live call blaming him for canceling. Although executives regret decision to kill program they are too bogged down in bureaucracy to admit mistake, feeling then Floyd will always have the upper hand with them. Floyd's niece Donna Vivino wins the original role as Cossette in the Tony Winning Broadway production of Les Miserables. Only one year before she had been cast on the ABC TV show Hometown.
Show moves to CTN Cable Network of New Jersey. Production takes place in Hightstown, NJ. Later will move to Woodbridge NJ in the rear of giant indoor flea market where Jim Monaco, former cast member, is now using for his production work. Jim directs new show which is wildest in history of show. During the winter no heat is available in "studio" and cast has to wear coats during bits to keep warm. Also parking lot is really great swamp. Monaco buddy Michael Townsend Wright joins UF show cast and brings with him a love of old time showbiz and about four hundred celebrity voices. Floyd makes second movie with Robin Williams in GOOD MORNING VIETNAM as Eddie Kirk.
Production of the UF show moves to Nutley NJ on OBC-TV (still airing statewide on CTN) where it will continue for almost 10 years, also producing a Rock Band Interview spin-off, an interview show and, with Mugsy behind and operating the camera, a man on the street program called Uncle Floyd's New Jersey. Floyd creates Italian Radio Serenade Program, taped at Scott's recording studio and sent out to several stations in area, first as an Italian language only show playing old Italian classic songs, then switching back to English format. Floyd finds it easier to sell commercials than the comedy show had been. Floyd becomes a hit with the Italian NY communities, including the Arthur Avenue area, Little Italy and the Bronx. Ninety percent of Serenade's show listeners have never heard of the Uncle Floyd TV show or have any idea Floyd can do anything else but spin records but are very loyal to show's sponsors.
Uncle Floyd show reunites original cast and plays at Rahway Theater.
Floyd travels to other states to work in clubs and films and regular UF show begins string of reruns. Mugsy asks Netto, Michael Wright, Charlie Stoddard and Artie Delmar to join him on new two hour show on TCI cable called The ELEVENTH HOUR he begins to produce. Although early shows are weird and wacky they start to draw a eager audience. The following year women (real) are added to cast and show begins statewide run on CTN on Sat nights at 11pm. The phone lines are always open when show is on and some nights thousands of call come in.
Floyd continues to make major motion pictures like CRAZY PEOPLE and MR. WONDERFUL in which Oogie makes a cameo, and travels nationally performing from Florida with Melba Moore to California with Dr. Demento. Mugsy hosts interview show called AFTER HOUR and gets to tape guitar legend Les Paul at his house for five full hours. Later in year Peter "Herman Hermits" Noone and Cousin Brucie are also interviewed and rocker Phil Collins does promo for 11th Hour.
One of the cast comes very close to death and is given lots of support from other cast members from both shows. Full old-time original TV cast performs together at Bottom Line.
While playing at Bottom Line in NYC, Soupy Sales drops in to see show. Later tells Floyd he loved it and returns to see show again following year. Floyd continues to make movies like A PYROMANIAC'S LOVE STORY and appears on ABC soap opera LOVING as well as NBC's LAW & ORDER and CBS's Cosby Show.
In May Floyd moves show production back to original cable system, now Cablevision, one of the major systems on the East Coast. After only two months of production studio shuts down for seven weeks for summer vacation. Later in October station management decides to change format and stops studio production and thanks cast for coming but continues only with Floyd with an "Uncle Floyd's NJ" type format. Cast reunites for one last live show at the Club Bene.
TV show reaches 25th year. Cablevision serves up slow death warrant for show changing time slots and repeating the same episode the entire month. Floyd continues his 8 year run at Colluci's, a Haledon NJ restaurant, where he plays the piano as Floyd Vivino, not Uncle Floyd, to an audience that prefers music to funny characters. The Italian Radio show continues to grow.
Floyd performs in CBS's FALCON, a Donnie Brasco (undercover cop joins mob) inspired made-for-TV movie series. Unfortunately, his character, Rocky TV, is killed off 20 minutes into the first night's episode.
In March Floyd lends his name to a new nightclub/restaurant inside the Wayne NJ Holiday Inn on Rt. 46 east (Service Road, not the regular highway). Associates give him no longer then a month before the place closes stating "no one wants live entertainment anymore". Floyd's audience is mainly made up of the Italian Radio show listeners and out-of-towners staying at the hotel. Floyd adds a drummer and guitarist and a small group of "irregulars" who often sang at Colluci's. Floyd again proves his naysayers wrong.