ERATH COUNTY (KRLD-AM) – Television history was made 50 years ago Saturday.
“Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” made its debut September 9, 1967, in what was originally intended to be a one-time special. But the response was so overwhelmingly positive that it was made into a series that lasted six years.
The show introduced catchphrases that quickly became part of the American vernacular, including “You bet your sweet bippy,” “Sock it to me,” “Very interesting” and “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.”
Of all the stars that appeared on the show, only four were on from start to finish — and one of them lives in North Texas.
Ruth Buzzi says with Laugh-In being the number-one show in all of television, anyone and everyone who was a someone in Hollywood wanted to come on the show.
“Everybody that came on the show loved working on our show,” says Buzzi, 81.
And she says the two stars, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, were wonderful to work with.
“They were like my uncles,” says Buzzi. “What was really lovely — they made me feel like I was welcome anytime in their dressing room, because their dressing room was like one big living room.”
Like most other cast members, Buzzi played a wide variety of characters — most notably Gladys Ormphby, the brown-clad spinster who was the object of affection of Arte Johnson’s dirty old man, Tyrone F. Horneigh. And poor Tyrone’s efforts would always culminate with a thorough beating by Gladys’ handbag.
“I know that it’s not hurting anybody, so I attack a person like a wildman.”
Buzzi recalls an incident in which she, as Gladys, was beating John Wayne with her handbag.
“I was hitting him, and everybody was laughing,” says Buzzi. “And I was hitting him and hitting him, and I couldn’t believe that they didn’t say ‘Cut!’ So I just hit him harder and harder. And I just turned around and said, ‘Please, say cut! I don’t want to hit this man anymore!’ They put that on the air.”
Speaking of that handbag — Buzzi still has it to this day.
“If somebody told me, ‘Ruth, tomorrow morning, you’ve got to play that character, and don’t forget to bring your purse,’ it’s the same purse.”
Today, Buzzi and her husband live on a massive 660-acre working ranch in Erath County, about 15 miles north of Stephenville.
As for the show that made her famous, you can see it every weeknight at 5:00 and 8:00 on Decades, a free over-the-air digital subchannel of CBS-11.