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‘TV Inside-Out: Flukes, Flakes, Feuds and Felonies’ (review)

Written by Randy West
Published by BearManor Media


Randy West is, to me, a professional announcer. One doesn’t normally think of announcers as authors, let alone authors of 500-page books, and yet here we are with Randy West’s 500-page volume, TV Inside-Out. The book is subtitled “Flukes, Flakes, Feuds and Felonies (no Oxford Comma) and the cover even adds, “The backstage blunders, bloopers and blasphemy of celebrities in search of success.”

It’s a very messy cover, too, with an odd mix of famous folks. The book is messy like that, too. But here’s the weird part. It all works!

Putting its numerous typos and misspellings aside, TV Inside-Out is a rambling, stream-of-consciousness conversation about stories you’ve almost heard before and people you’ve known for years, whether or not you knew it.

And conversation is the right word. Randy’s writing style, even on some dicey subjects, is inviting and friendly, drawing the reader in for endlessly fascinating behind-the-scene gossip and hearsay. A chapter will start out about one person but that will lead to a certain TV show, which leads to another person, then another, then another show…and all of it riveting.

If the book has an overarching theme—and I’m not sure it does, or even should—it’s game shows. Randy’s personal backstory with game shows provides numerous anecdotes that make you feel as if you know old friends a little better. These anecdotes aren’t always positive, either. Gene Rayburn, Bob Barker, Johnny Olsen, Mark Goodson, Louie Anderson, Ray Combs, Betty White, and others are all seen in somewhat different lights than usual.

It’s not just game shows, though. Among the other big players in the book, we get close-up looks at: Ernest Borgnine, Tim Conway, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Patty Duke, James Aubrey, Tina Louise, Sheldon Leonard, Johnny Carson, Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers, Dave Garroway, Florence Henderson, Jack Cassidy, Dorothy Kilgallen, Danny Kaye, the Cowsills, Judy Garland, Ronnie Schell, Jay Leno, Redd Foxx, Desi Arnaz, Ethel Merman, Rose Marie, David Letterman, and, again, others.

In nearly every case, the stories—good and bad—were new to me. Are they all true? Who knows? That’s the way it is with good gossip. Randy never knew some of these people. He got many of his anecdotes second-hand in those cases. Or third-hand. When he did get them directly from someone, it was often years after they supposedly occurred.

But to dwell on that sort of thing isn’t the point. TV Inside-Out has biographical parts about Randy but it isn’t a memoir. It has historical information but it isn’t a history. This book, as I said, makes you feel like you’re just chillin’ on your porch, kickin’ back some soft drinks (or whatever), and talking with the very personable raconteur that is Randy West.

Booksteve recommends.



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