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I'll Take Annabelle Gartwick to Block
By Annabelle Gurwitch

When I tell my son that television used to be black and white, had only four channels, and no V.C.R., he looks at me as though I had just said you could pee out of your ear, sprout wings and take flight, or grow a second head. But I am old enough to remember those things, and embedded in my D.N.A. is the distant memory of the shows I watched in my childhood: I Dream of Jeannie, Petticoat Junction, and, of course, Hollywood Squares. So I admit I was intrigued when I received a call from the producers of "the new Squares" offering me a chance to become a staple of the show. It would be good exposure for me, I was told, and could prove extremely lucrative. I was invited to shoot a week's worth of shows on an upcoming Saturday, and if it worked as well as they expected, I would eventually bank five shows a week on two Saturdays a month, whenever I wanted, at a negotiable rate, and all I would have to do is be quick-witted, charming, make all of America love me and want to play my square.

Now, I've done some surreal things in my career, like the TV movie I did opposite Barbara Eden, directed by Anson Williams: Potsie-Jeannie-Potsie-Jeannie -- that was surreal. Or the time Don Johnson called me into his trailer when he was directing me in Miami Vice and he actually thought I was not only playing a prostitute but actually was a prostitute who had come to service him -- that was surreal . . . but Hollywood Squares, wow, that's been on since 1966! That was before I was born depending on what age I happen to be saying I am. Plus, the show was so, so, so Hollywoody! It always had a ribald, decadent air -- like a poker game in a Hollywood nightclub back room. They used to smoke cigarettes in their squares, and maybe my imagination fails me, but I think they used to drink in those squares. I remember them with like highballs and shit. Paul Lynde, Buddy Hackett, Rose Marie, people who seemed like the life of the party. Now, I've never been a life of the party gal, but at one time I might have been the lay of the party, and wouldn't that make all of America love me and want to play my square?

The day of the taping, I readied myself to step into TV history. As it turned out, what I was stepping into was literally a piece of junk! It was kind of like meeting Dick Clark or climbing up to the Hollywood sign itself: up close and personal they're much smaller than you thought, appear to have had a lot of work done, and are whiter than one might have reasonably expected. A squat, rickety, metal contraption, which looked like it was adorned with makeup light bulbs -- I couldn't believe all of us b- to c-level celebrities, or celebre-lites, were willingly climbing into this piece of crap in California, the earthquake state, no less. This thing can't be code, I thought! I believe I saw a Band-Aid wrapped around the scaffolding as I ascended the flimsy spiral staircase to my square.

The show started. With the music blaring and lights flashing it seemed more like the Squares I remembered, but then I started to get nervous. Being introduced on Hollywood Squares really brought home how far I had come from my original dream of taking off my clothes in provocative, financially strapped adaptations of German expressionist dramas in unheated black box theatres in Off-Off, nowhere-near Broadway productions where one could reasonably hope to have sex with the majority of the cast. Yes, I had loved those avant-garde theatre company days, and as I looked at my fellow squares -- Bruce Vilanch, Gilbert Gottfried, and Whoopi Goldberg -- it was clear . . . I wouldn't be having sex with any of them.

The show started and I knew I was fucked. The other celebre-lites had jokes, zingy one-line jokes, which sent the audience into fits of laugher while I had planned to take a different tack. I was going to wing it using my charming off-the-cuff delivery and kooky personality. So when I was asked my first question -- something about Australia -- owing to my complete ineptitude at following the order of the questions and my inane need to be funny on my own terms, damn it, instead of referring to the card of one-line jokes I was provided, I saw it as an opportunity for a two minute dissertation about the hilarious similarity of kiwi fruit to the testicle -- which went over like a lead balloon. That was when Super Dave Osbourne started chanting,"You suck Gurwitch" in the direction of my square. I was instantly transported back to my freshman year of college where my dorm roommate Mindy Mascony from Teaneck, New Jersey, was cranked up on coke playing David Bowie's "Young Americans" over and over, while I was stoned and listening to James Taylor. Clearly we were just on two different wavelengths. And now, once again I had smoked when I should have snorted.

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