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SEPTEMBER 23, 2009 11:28AM

"Leave It To The Women", a civil precursor to "The View"?

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In the early 1980’s there was a television show that seemed innovative at the time, Leave It To The Women.  It was a panel of women led by Stephanie Edwards, the daughter of Ralph Edwards (“This is Your Life”, “People’s Court” etc.) and former co-host of “AM America” and now the annual co-host of the Rose Parade with Bob Eubanks. 


Each show featured a panel of women who would discuss various topic together.  The idea was conceived by a master of entertainment for the times, Chuck Barris.  Many of you will recognize some of his other shows; The Gong Show, The $1.98 Beauty Show, The Dating Game, Treasure Hunt and Threes A Crowd among them.  Along with Chuck Barris was Woody Fraser, another man with a long list of executive producer or producer credits on shows including, but not limited to; That’s Incredible (which I also contributed to), Richard Simmons Show, Good Morning America and The Mike Douglas Show.  (I had early aspirations to go on the Mike Douglas Show as an author, but despite valiant efforts it was not to be.)


Suffice it to say these were very smart men who had their finger on the pulse of where television was headed; good, bad or indifferent.


I happen to have been working with C.A.T. at the time, and as their Public Relations Manager and Special Projects Coordinator I was often called upon to speak in public or appear as a guest on numerous, different television shows.  Thus, when this show was going to discuss sex, it was only natural they would call me.  


I went through several rounds of mail and phone calls to give them background information.  Finally the day for taping was set.  


My personal life (in this time-frame) included the man I would marry.  Our relationship had finally progressed to the point where I was living with him and partaking in weekly dinners with him at his parents’ home.  So, I did the natural thing; I invited his mother to come with me to the taping.  I never hid who I was while on the way to becoming who I am.  She was only too happy to come, much to my relief.  There was a live studio audience for her to sit in to watch the taping.


I drove to KTLA television station with my future mother-in-law, was admitted through the gates and found a parking place quickly.  I had been to the studio many times before, on different shows, and to ask a certain former Honorary Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant, for a donation.


Johnny Grant was the host of his own television show in those days, something to do with Hollywood...because frankly, outside of showing up at every “Star” laying, hand-and-footprint ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard, I think he didn’t have much going on. (Okay, I take it back. I just went to his official website and I take it back.)  By the time I got to know him...well, I was 26 and maybe already a tad jaded against old Hollywood guys, or even the newer ones like the other one who kept hitting on me with “odd” sexual requests merely because they knew I had worked at a brothel.  I suppose a fairish assumption considering it was Hollywood, but they were so very wrong, because I already had made a lovely segue into creating a respectable life/future for myself.  (I will say one personal thing about Johnny Grant, he paid my telephone bill gratis, no expectations.  That was a huge testament to his conviction to Hollywood and our relationship.)


One in the green room I quickly discovered the prestigious company I was to be on the panel with to discuss the guests; Shana Alexander, journalist, but most known for her “Sixty Minutes” fame, the wonderful singer/actress (best known for her role on “Touched by an Angel”) Della Reese, and a Playboy Centerfold from 1966 and wife of Dick Martin (from “Laugh In” fame), Dolly Martin.



L to R--Stephanie Edwards, Sheila Wilson, Dolly Martin, Shana Alexander and Della Reese. 


Good company I believe.  A wonderful mix of backgrounds and brains...not incidentally some beauty too.  After all it was television.


The show was taped in front of a live audience, including my future mother-in-law.  I wasn’t nervous so much as I was in awe of my fellow panel.  It just amazed me that I would be put on the same side of the desk as these muti-talented women.  Never underestimate myself was the lesson I learned.


I think it only appropriate that now, some twenty plus years later to point out the strides and the missteps of talk shows which have women portrayed as screaming, talking over each other, shrieking shrill voices saying so much yet not being heard. I can’t help but wonder if this is not one of the contributing factors to women having such a low opinion of themselves, nevermind the men won’t listen.  Until women stop and listen to each other first, they will continue to go unheard by the larger population.


There are some strides, but one look at Hillary Clinton and her own struggles, weighed down as well as buoyed by Bill Clinton, will clearly illustrate what is wrong with how women are presented.  On one hand for a woman to cry makes her too soft, but standing firm and raising her voice will have fingers pointing to her shrillness and insensitivity.  We can’t win for losing....yet.  


Personally I don’t think Hillary Clinton was the “one” to be President, close, but not yet ready.  She is quite angry, and many women believe had she not stood by Bill after his transgressions (and I say plural, because even discounting the “non-sex” he didn’t have he did lie to the country.  We would have understood the truth, not liked it, but understood it) she would have become President.  


Hopefully, by the time we can Leave it to The Women for real, the voices will be less shrill, speaking softly, compassionately, with honesty and wisdom to the people.  It sure would be something to look forward to.

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Food for thought? Bump...
Great piece, Sheila. I remember Barris and Eubanks and all those guys.

PS: Have our paths crossed? I've been living in LA since 1979.

Knowing the power and influence for good that one fine woman has had in my life, I look forward to the day when a woman's point of view and wisdom is allowed to lead this country.
Barris was a twisted genius. He could come up with enough ideas to pull a winner out most of the time. You know I'm fascinated by these stories and your encounters with pop culture hero's of mine. Your photo is just blurry enough to not quite make out your name here isn't it? Someday I'd really like to talk to you about all of that and you too of course. I'm forever thankful that O/S provided me the opportunity to kind of know such a marvelous person as you. Your wit and talent and strength are too much. Am I gushing? Sorry.
Absolutely great post. I think it's possible that women will lead the way to a better future, but only when we center ourselves for the task. Otherwise, it's everything you described.
The dumbing down of our culture for fun and profit has successfully mired intellectual and social progress while nurturing humanity's more contemptible inclinations, regardless of gender.
So Woody Fraser is the man to blame for the emergence of Richard Simmons. Well, nobody's perfect.

I recall most of those shows, but hate admit that I don't remember "Leave it to the Women". I've always loved to listen to women. Their views can be similar to men's, but something about the way we are wired differently leads women to process information differently. That has always fascinated me and gives almost any subject a look from a different angle. and that's a good thing.
I hope and pray that, by the time my two young charges (aged almost six and almost eight) are old enough to vote, they'll get to vote for a female presidential candidate and that, by the time they're old enough to run for president themselves, the presence of a female candidate will seem unremarkable. My keyboard to God's ears!
Wow. Wonderful post. First of all, brothel? Have you already written about this and I missed it? Second, this sounds like quite an interesting show. I'm wondering if our talk shows have gone backwards instead or progressing. And also, I totally agree that until we women listen to each other, we can't expect men to. A very good point.
A trip through the time machine of the womens rights movement. So far to go!!
Excellent read. What a life!
On this one, Skip Williamson speaks for me in his comment. He probably has a deeper voice, too. ;) Another great walk down memory lane with you! xoxo
Good post ... timely!

In my life, Shiela, I have known a lot of women ... but only a few I would believe in as leaders. That is true of men, too. But I am speaking of the ones who presented themselves as such, and there have been many of those. Today, there are a lot of women who have the technical training to be leaders, but seem to follow the textbooks on leadership, not their own insincts ... what I consider to be due to a collective lack of experience ... and they tend to fall short. That's because textbooks don't hold the answers. Being able to think on one's feet; acting rather than reacting; operating calmy and rationally when anger wants to guide, those are the things that all great leaders reflect. I see it in the male leaders I've known, and it is what must be true in female leadrship as well. Major decisions can not be made emotionally; they must be made rationally and with clearity. Like Tom Hanks said, "There is no crying in baseball." Leadership takes [proverbial)cajones, and quick action.

Good leaders always lead from the front, not push from the rear. They are idealists who know how to be practical. I've met a few of the female versions, truly great leaders equal to the task. Usually they are not all that well appreciated by their fellow "ladies." Big mistake.
I enjoy glimpses into your Hollywood life. You end with a true and hopeful point. Unfortunately, men seemed to have taken a cue from the stereotype "shrillness." We do pay attention to women. We just pick up the wrong lessons.

And now I can't get Fran Tarkenton's mug out of my head. And that's NOT incredible.
What a fascinating job and you're right, lots to think about.
What the world needs now is another Chuck Barris. That, I throughly believe, would solve everything - or at least make it way more entertaining.
I looked like those women once. Except I was in color. Thank God Bella Abzug made my voice sound "pretty".
I have long said that men have had more than enough chances to lead this world to prosperity and have failed miserably. It's time to let women take a swing.
OK, you get an SP (that's Sharon's Pick) for being on a panel with Della Reese and Shana Alexander. I'm sure Dolly Martin is a nice woman too but I'm not familiar with her.
I have to admit to being an emotional woman and as a result not being listened to when I get serious. I think today is a turning point for me.
Yes, as women we must listen to each other and work to gain the respect that will cause us to be heard as intelligent, knowledgeable human beings on an equal with any man.
Hey! Hope you're well!
In my dream life I would have become a linguist who specialized in working with young women, teaching them to find the full range of their speaking voices. Perhaps it's not to late to go for that PhD, but in the meantime, let's model a "non-shrill" way of speaking. Great post. Got me thinking... R.
Food for thought indeed—and very palatable. Anyone (regardless of gender) who wishes to be heard should learn to actively listen first.

I would love to view that episode of "Leave It To The Women." What a wonderful experience that must have been!
Maybe we should mix the best of Hillary Clinton with the best of Margaret Thatcher. Just a thought.