August 8, 2013

The Love Boat Reaches Its Final Destination, Captain Stubing Writes About His Voyage


There's news that the vessel featured in the seventies TV show "The Love Boat" arrived at a scrapyard off the Turkish coast in early August 2013.  A ship recycling company in Turkey bought the old cruise liner for a little more than $3 million and will strip it for its parts and metal (news can be seen at http://usat.ly/1cMBA3u).  NPR featured a nice, short audio story entitled "Love Boat Reaches Its Final Destination" about the ship's run which can be listened to below, or by visiting http://n.pr/1eulObv:


Although taking a cruise on a ship like the one being discarded was viewed as the pinnacle of luxury nearly 40 years ago, these days, even Princess Cruises, Inc., the ship's original owner, much like the rest of the cruise industry, has moved on to what could best be described as floating resort hotels.  Cruising is a huge industry today (and "The Love Boat" sitcom arguably helped to make that happen), and cruise ships nowadays are unfathomable in size compared to the almost quaint-size of the original ships used back in the seventies, which were more akin to cruise liners like the Titanic than the floating high-rises that exist today.

Truth be told, although some scenes from "The Love Boat" were recorded on the ships or at their destinations, much of the show was filmed on sets in California — 20th Century Fox Studios for seasons one through five, and Warner Hollywood Studios for the remainder of the original series.  That certainly explains why the cabin sizes featured on the show looked more like hotel rooms than real-life cruise ship cabins actually did, especially during that era, although with the newer ships, the cabin sizes have expanded, too.

Much has been written about what was arguably one of Aaron Spelling's biggest hits in the 1970s (it shared a back-to-back timeslot on ABC's Saturday night lineup with another show that Aaron Spelling produced, that one being "Fantasy Island", catch my earlier post on that show at http://goo.gl/si7Fph).  Those two shows borrowed directly from the playbook of a prior ABC show which ran from 1969-1974 known as "Love, American Style", which became known in Hollywood as a place where struggling, unemployed (some of them older) actors could find temporary employment.  But the nonstop parade of familiar faces on the show was a key to its success, although the small, permanent cast who played the ship's crew was also popular with viewers.

The original concept for "The Love Boat" began as an original, made-for-TV movie which aired in 1976.  That was based on a non-fiction book, which was entitled "The Love Boats" written by Jeraldine Saunders, who was once a real-life cruise director.  Two more TV movies would follow before the series began.

As Ellen Seiter eloquently wrote, "No one takes The Love Boat to get anywhere, exactly. Usually the voyage serves to put things — especially personal relationships — back where they started.  What takes place on board is personal life: emotions removed from the everyday cares of work money, homes, cars, neighbors, even, for the most part, children. The work that the crew of The Love Boat performs is that of vigilant friends patrolling the ship night and day in search of passengers who need 'someone to talk to.'"

For the record, "The Love Boat" has been off the television rerun circuit for a while, and only the first two seasons of the series has yet to emerge in digital format (released in March 2008), although there is news that Me-TV will begin showing it in the Autumn of 2013 as part of its "Fall for Me-TV" fall 2013 schedule which will begin starting Monday, September 2, 2013 (see http://goo.gl/MSTRSK for details).  In truth, many fans of the show thought CBS/Paramount Home Video would have digitized the content much, much faster since its an opportunity to make money on something collecting dust in a company vault.  To date, only the first two seasons have been released (and CBS made the greedy decision to split each season into two separate volumes, thereby doubling the cost).  Some are hoping Shout! Factory will step in to pick up the pace, much as they did when Sony stopped after it released Season 1 of "Fantasy Island".  Regardless, fans were glad to see the show again, and the guest list is incredible, with everyone from comedy and stage legends like George Burns, Milton Berle, and Ethel Merman to TV staples ranging from Florence Henderson, Robert Reed and Maureen McCormick, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Audra Lindley to Dick Sargent, Bonnie Franklin, Meredith Baxter, to kid stars including Kristy McNichol, and Scott Baio.

At this point, while its sad to see "The Love Boat" vessel go to the scrap heap, its fair to say this show helped popularize cruising as a vacation for millions of Americans who might not have ever considered it.  Prior to "The Love Boat", cruise vacations was something that affluent, older people did.  Pastimes on the ships consisted of lectures, shuffleboard and fine dining, but casual sex hookups or rekindling of romances were seldom seen as an onboard activity.  "The Love Boat" changed all that, and helped pave the way for companies like Carnival to become the largest in the industry, best known for being "the fun ships".

Beyond the actual vessel heading to the junkyard, the actor who played Captain Merrill Stubing has already started promoting a new biographical memoir entitled "This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life" due to be released October 22, 2013, published by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins.   According to actor Gavin McLeod, he's coming clean about his long career in show business.

Historically, biographies tended to be written by third-party authors, partly because writing was left to authors with a track-record in the publishing industry.  However, we've seen a shift towards more self-written biographies, and more recently, the publishing industry has tended to favor memoirs over lengthy biographies.  Also, life spans are longer today, making it possible for people to write about their own lives much longer than in the past.

Nevertheless, in the last few months, there have been some pop culture memoirs from celebrities who were big in the 1970s and 1980s.  Actress Valerie Harper ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show") published hers at the beginning of 2013, and got a lot of attention since she also announced she had terminal cancer.  More recently, Academy Award winner (and star of TV's "The Partridge Family", catch my post on that at http://goo.gl/yuqQN) Shirley Jones came out with a new memoir in which she revealed having threesomes for her ex-husband Jack Cassidy (see http://goo.gl/uVxDi for a post I did on her).  Now, there's news of another memoir from the man who was best known on television for his roles as Murray Slaughter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and perhaps even better known for his role as Captain Merrill Stubing on "The Love Boat".  That man is 82-year-old Gavin MacLeod.

In an upcoming autobiography entitled "This Is Your Captain Speaking: My Fantastic Voyage Through Hollywood, Faith & Life" to be released October 22, 2013 by published by Thomas Nelson/HarperCollins, he's coming clean about his long career in show business.

As far as readability, this one might be fair, although as the title suggests, Mr. McLeod seems to prosthelytize a bit when writes about how he brought longtime friend, fellow "Mary Tyler Moore Show" co-star Ted Knight (who was also known for his role on "Too Close for Comfort" back in the 1980s) to Christ just before he died in 1986.  Whether Gavin McLeod deserves credit for this is unclear (after all, Mr. Knight was dying), but Gavin McLeod is taking credit for it.

Beyond that, there's a dose of all the usual Hollywood stuff: battles with depression and near-suicide while working on "McHale's Navy", as well as his other health issues including two heart attacks and a quintuple bypass, as well as his alcoholism which led to his quitting cold turkey in back in 1974 (he says he's now been sober for 39 years).  He also writes about his audition for the original role of Archie Bunker in "All in the Family", and of course, his divorce from his first wife, his second marriage, divorce and subsequent re-marriage to his second wife, actress/dancer Patti Steele.

He also writes about his encounters with some of the world's biggest stars, including Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan (an actor before he became California governor or U.S. President), Steve McQueen, Bette Davis and Robert Redford and others.

MacLeod writes "My life has taken one incredible turn after another. I've gotten to do what I wanted to do. I've been a captain! I've been given this incredible gift of life and now I want to use it to give back. That's why I'm sharing my story here, the fun parts and even some not-so-fun parts, in the hopes that maybe someone will take a nice walk down memory lane with me - and maybe I'll even give someone a little bit of hope."

To be sure, the book might be interesting reading, but its kind of late.  Still, for anyone who wants Captain Stubing's perspective on life on "The Love Boat" set, this might be a way to, as Jack Jones sang in the show's memorable theme song "Set a course for adventure, your mind on a new romance ..."

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