Superman had his Lois Lane and Wonder Woman had her Steve Trevor. Before the Wonder Woman movies, Wonder Woman, the TV Show, airing for 4 years, paired Lynda Carter with Lyle Waggoner. He was a good-looking, mighty fine Steve Trevor.
And, one day, Steve Trevor came to Modesto. . .
(Rick Myers wrote this back in 1975)
Last weekend, Modesto was invaded by celebrities in tennis shorts. Comic Fred Allen once said, “A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become famous, and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.” Most of these celebrities did wear dark glasses, but they came to have fun, and help raise money.
The Lyle Waggoner-Best Chevrolet Pro/Celebrity Tennis Classic benefited the Stanislaus Association for the Mentally Disadvantaged. Twenty-four “famous” people came to Modesto and played tennis over three days at the Sportsmen of Stanislaus (S.O.S.) Club. The locals paid five dollars per match to watch the stars come out—all in all, a pleasant way to donate to a charity.
Lyle Waggoner, a star of The Carol Burnett Show, organized these charity events around the country. It was Modesto’s turn. Lyle came to KFIV several days in advance to set up the promotion, and our first meeting began a wonderful friendship. When the others at the station were introduced to Lyle, they had the usual compliments: “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” and “I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time,” “Thanks for coming to Modesto; this is quite a thrill.” Me? I went for humor (it’s my disc jockey DNA). As Lyle approached, I stared awkwardly at his feet, looking confused. Then I said, “Wow, I thought Porter Wagoner always wore cowboy boots.” Lyle laughed and said he was the other Waggoner. (I had a similar remark about Leon Wagner, the baseball player, but that joke had run its course.) However, with that comment, Lyle Waggoner and I connected.
Lyle Waggoner was gracious and witty—so few of us have both these traits—and instinctively he knew he could have fun with me. When asked to record a station promo, he was ready, “This is Lyle Waggoner, and whenever I’m in Modesto, I never miss the Radio Rick Radio Show; I don’t listen to it, and I don’t miss it.” (The audience loved it, and I aired that promo off-and-on for years.) Later that day, on the air, I asked about his future endeavors, he said, “I plan to do a little screen work this summer; my kitchen door needs repair.” We were having fun. Lyle Waggoner conducts dozens of these tournaments but while in Modesto, I became his go-to guy.
Modesto was rocking with celebrities. Friday evening found these greats and us mere mortals congregated at a party and Lyle Waggoner, my new friend, saw me first, and–happily for me–it was “Hey, Rick, I want you to meet my wife!” His wife
was the lovely actress, Sharon Kennedy. I returned his friendly gesture by introducing my girlfriend who was five-foot-ten. Then came Lyle’s marvelous, awkward miscue. He shook her hand and commented on what a big girl she was. She apologized, explaining her plans were to lose some weight! Lyle gasped, caught off guard, foot in mouth, totally embarrassed. He stammered, searching for an apology, searching his brain for a funny comeback; his brain gave him nothing, and all he could do was utter that he meant “tall” and not “heavy.” I was enjoying this. Sharon rolled her eyes and gave Lyle one of those “What does Wonder Woman see in this schmuck?” looks.
Just then, the great actor Cornel Wilde came limping by and Lyle Waggoner seized the opportunity to change the subject, and introduced us. Nice save, Lyle. Mr. Wilde had pulled a muscle and was in no condition to run through the jungles as he had in The Naked Prey. He was supposed to play tennis the next day; maybe he’d use a stunt double.
As he gazed at us, Mr. Wilde pleasantly accused Lyle and me of starting a “height conspiracy,” and limped away. Wow that was nice; Cornel Wilde, an Academy Award Nominee, was looking up to us.
My eyes scanned the room and there was Ron Ely, a mammoth of a man, who portrayed Tarzan on TV for three years. As I was wondering if he ever tired of being referred to as Hollywood’s original swinger, I noticed a celebrity I practically grew up with: Ozzie & Harriet’s oldest son, David!!
David Nelson is a good-looking young man, but extremely shy. According to Lyle, my great friend for the weekend, he and David had been neighbors for years before Lyle ever discovered his quiet neighbor’s existence. Lyle further noted this was David’s first attempt at celebrity tennis. Even surrounded by admirers, David Nelson appeared so uncomfortable I doubt he’ll attempt another.
Merv Griffen’s pudgy trumpet player, Jack Sheldon, supplied most of the humor. His jokes were non stop. And each joke was politically incorrect.
Ex-athletes play tennis, too, and they were there, returning us to the joys of our youth. Former football stars RC Owens and Bruce Gossett had put on a few pounds. They looked like they retired to the buffet table. However, Y.A. Tittle and Frankie Albert were tanned and fit. (Moral: When you retire, it’s best to retire as a quarterback.)
As our weekend with the stars came to a close, I told Lyle Waggoner I was impressed by what a sincerely nice person he was. (Yes, I could be serious for a change.) Jokingly, Lyle replied, “Well, you know, the bigger they are, the nicer they are.” I said, “Lyle, at six-foot-four, you should know. And I hope you’re right, because I’m six-foot-five.”
(Post Script: Following his acting career, Lyle created Star Waggons, providing customized location trailers used by the entertainment industry. He and Sharon were married for 59 years, until his passing at age 84.)