Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Touched" By MIKE CONNORS (Tightrope and Mannix)

The passing of Mike Connors (August 15, 1925-January 26, 2017) wasn't a heavy topic in the news. Not with everyone still mourning Mary Tyler Moore. He was also 91, while Mary was 80, and Mary was still sometimes in the news, or receiving a "lifetime achievement" award. I'm not sure if "Mannix" is even in re-runs on some cable network somewhere.

I didn't realize he was THAT forgotten until I happened to mention him to a woman in her late 40's. She gave me a mildly blank cow-expression and asked "Mike Connors?" And I said, "He was Mannix. It was a 70's detective series." "Oh, she said, that was so long ago..."

Well, then, bitch, no point in me mentioning "Tightrope," then.

To be fair, "Tightrope" didn't last long, circa 1960, and I didn't see an episode till I was doing VHS TV show trading on the Net. But to not know "Mannix?" Time does pass, along with people. But yeah, SEVERAL GENERATIONS have been added to the planet since "Mannix" was in the Top 20.

I can understand not caring too much about the show. It was just filler, something to watch, and it featured a likable middle-aged guy in Connors, who lacked the pathos of David Janssen, the sophistication of Vaughn, or the eccentricities of his contemporary TV detectives like fat William Conrad and old Buddy Ebsen. He was just a throwback to the typical action hero who had a good voice, an average-handsome face, and no outstanding abilities in terms of brain or brawn. Mannix could get beaten up and he could also get baffled.

Mike Connors made it look easy. Season after season, "Mannix" stayed on the air while a lot of snappier shows with more charismatic stars failed.

Mike didn't get into the papers much. He was kind of boring; he was married to the same woman, Marylou, since 1949. About the only eccentric thing about him was that early in his career, when he had to do his share of goofy sci-fi films and rock-and-roll exploitation films, he was billed as "Touch Connors." This was the studio's way of pushing him into the same fan mags that were running photos of Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter.

No doubt the Huelbigs who nerdfully shuffled to his memorabilia table were as prone to ask him to sign a movie still from "Shake Rattle and Rock" or "The Day The World Ended" as a portrait shot from "Mannix" or "Tightrope."

"Tightrope," as a theme song, is pretty solid fare. The "Mannix" theme is a bit too lilting. Does it really sound like a detective theme, or something that could've opened "Love on a Rooftop" or "Bridgit Loves Bernie" or some other silly romantic sitcom from 40 or more years ago?

"Tightrope" is credited to Johnny Gregory, while "Mannix" appears on an album by Chaquito, which isn't an alias for Gregory himself. It's for the band. Chaquito recorded a lot of Latin stuff, to be bought by the same people bought Cugat and Esquivel lounge music. "Mannix" is on "Chaquito Plays the Themes From TV Thrillers," and the liner notes pointedly give Gregory credit as the producer and arranger. The trumpet solo on "Mannix" is credited to a guy actually named Albert Hall. John, born in 1928, is still with us. Thank you for your many albums of TV theme music and other exotica, and for doing your reliable job of stretching a quick 30-40 second TV theme past the required two minutes for an album track.

TIGHTROPE written by George Duning and waxed by Johnny Gregory and his Orchestra

MANNIX written by Lalo Schifrin and waxed by Chaquito (Arranged and Conducted by John Gregory)

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