Behind the Scenes
This article originally appeared in Vol. 1, Number 1 of The Hollywood Squares Quiz & Contest Book, August 1979.  It provides another behind the scene glimpse...this time from the point of view of the studio audience.  It also retells that often-incorrectly-told story about the earthquake that shook the Squares set.
    The five weekly segments of Hollywood Squares, like all daytime game shows, are shot one after another on a single evening--and occasionally in two, for the convenience of one or another of the stars who may have prior commitments.
     Starting at 5:30 PM, the stars and crew take a 15-minute break between each show taping and a dinner break.  Hollywood Squares, incidentally, has a reputation in Hollywood game show circles for catering the best dinners in town.  Just one more reason why so many stars are so eager to appear.
     During the show's 15 minute breaks, the show's staff conducts preliminary interviews with those eager beavers in the audience who want to be contestants and take home a bundle of prizes.  The would-be contestants are given applications to fill out and, if they are among the lucky ones, they are asked back for a pre-show interview.       
   While the audience is having its 15-minute stretch, the stars make a frenzied dash back to their dressing rooms to change clothes for the next show.  Their costumes are often a little bizarre.  Some wear jeans, jogging shorts, skirts, slacks, and some even appear on the set barefoot.  It's what shows from the waist up that really counts since that is all that is seen by the viewing audience at home on their screens.  Consequently, the shirts, blouses and hairdos get a careful scrutiny by the wardrobe and make-up department for each of the five shows. 
    Before each taping, host Peter Marshall comes out and chats with the audience to "warm them up".  He introduces each guest individually.  Then the stars make their way up the two stairways to their seats and the magic begins with the lights, action and cameras grinding away.
     Contrary to what many viewers may think, each one of the stars really puts everything he or she has into playing the game.  Everyone tries to come up with the right answer, even those who go for a quip first.  This means the starts have to do their homework beforehand by boning up on current events on both the foreign and domestic scenes.  Most of the stars try hard, but when they don't know the answer they bluff.  John Davidson and Robert Fuller have earned reputations as being the best bluffers on the show.
     Hundreds of questions are used each week, and they are all carefully researched by producer Jay Redack, associate producer Harry Friedman and a staff of five writers.  These experts have to read hundreds of newspapers and magazines to get just a handful of questions which will prove both interesting and provocative.  The staff is extremely security conscious, being careful that no contestant hears a question beforehand.  If the audience happens to call out an answer, or even whisper it, the question is immediately thrown out.  The stars, too, have no idea what questions they will be asked, although they are given minimal clues to enable them to come up with jokes or bluffs.  For example, the staff may tell Paul Lynde that there will be a question about expectant mothers.  In this case, for example, the actual question was, "Why do some mothers have electrodes on their bodies while giving birth?"  Paul's answer was "It makes the babies light up."  He never did get the correct answer to that tricky one but when told "It relieves childbirth pain" he retorted in an outraged voice, "I want that stopped."
     The taping of the last of the week's five shows ends at about 10 PM and most of the guest stars make it a point to linger around the set to talk to fans, sign autographs and, in general, just be friendly.  That is the hallmark of Hollywood Squares.  It is a friendly show.
     There have, of course, been hundreds of anecdotes involving the show over the years but the one best-remembered incident is what happened during the big earthquake of '71.  There were dozens of aftershocks during the day and a particularly intense one hit during a taping.  As might be expected, everyone made a mad dash to go out of the building.  That is, everyone but Paul Lynde.  The clown prince of quips couldn't unfasten his mike.  Trapped by his electronic umbilical cord, Paul Lynde was the only one left in the entire NBC building.
Home | History | Square Facts | Square Rules | Peter Marshall | Paul Lynde | Charley Weaver | Rose Marie | George Gobel | Kenny Williams | Heatter & Quigley | Other Regulars | Guests | Politically Incorrect | Square Sights | Square Sights II | Square Sounds | 1970 article | 1979 article| Links | Update | Dixon's Wish List