Herbie J Pilato’s ‘Dashing, Daring, and Debonair’

LB’s NOTE: One of TVWriter™’s Grand Original Contributors (“GOC?” What the hell kind of acronym is that? Memo to staff: Come up with something better!) isn’t just writing interviews these days, he’s giving them. And, yeah gang, that’s how things should be:

by Anthony C. Hayes

Herbie J Pilato is the author of Dashing, Daring, and Debonair. (Dan Holm Photography)
(Dan Holm Photography)

 Elizabeth Montgomery rarely gave interviews after her show Bewitched ended its run. And David Carradine – the star of Kung Fu – remained aloof for most of his life. But both iconic television stars would talk with Herbie J Pilato. Pilato (“no period after the J in my name”) is the author of several books about the classic age of television. In his latest tome, Dashing, Daring, and Debonair: T.V.’s Top Male Icons from the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Pilato takes a sweeping stroll down memory lane as he highlights the careers of such notable stars as Robert Conrad, John Ritter, Adam West and Burt Ward, David Selby, Bill Bixby, John Travolta and Robert Vaughn.

We spoke with Herbie – who has a new show premiering this fall on the Decades network – about his life-long interest in television, and about some of the performers he profiled in his latest book. Dashing, Daring, and Debonair is available in local bookstores and on Amazon.

BPE: Thank you for taking some time to speak with us about your new book. Leafing through the pages, I’ve found myself eagerly hopscotching from one life story to another. You have the actor bios sectionalized, but a reader can open it in the middle and not miss a beat.

HP: That is so nice to hear, because that’s exactly how I wanted the reader to perceive it. I wanted to produce a book where the reader wouldn’t wonder what they had missed but rather look forward to what they would discover next.

HP: I grew up in Rochester, New York – a very cute kid, by the way – and my parents didn’t have a lot of money. So, like a lot of people in the ‘60’s, I embraced television as a form of escapism. I liked the magic shows, I Dream Of Jeannie and so on, but I really gravitated to Bewitched. The character of Samantha fascinated me, because she loved Darrin for who he was, not what he could buy her. She didn’t need him – she could conjure up anything she wanted. That’s not the way women were generally portrayed in those days.

BPE: Before we get into the book, tell us a little about yourself. Obviously, you are a TV fan. When did you really start to watch television, and what are some of your fondest childhood memories?

Some years later, when I was a page at NBC, they did a reunion movie of I Dream of Jeannie. I thought they should have done Bewitched first, but Elizabeth Montgomery was not interested in doing that, so that’s when I decided to write a book about the show, and became an author. I followed with books which had a common thread. These books were all about prejudice. Samantha was a witch in a mortal world, Caine was an Asian in a western world and so forth. The show Life Goes On really brought the theme home, so I didn’t want to write trivia books. I wanted to write about how these shows and the actors in them were important. My book, Glamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door dealt with the girls in more of an encyclopedic fashion, and Dashing, Daring, and Debonair naturally grew out of that.

BPE: My next question was going to be, ‘Did you have any favorite shows from the classic era?’ I’m guessing Bewitched was that favorite show.

HP: Absolutely.

BPE: But this book deals with the dashing men of TV. Did you emulate any of these actors when you were growing up?

HP: I think everybody wanted to be Robert Conrad. He was just so cool. I wanted to be Captain Kirk, too. At some point, I wanted to be Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows, which maybe wasn’t such a good thing.

BPE: Guilty!

HP: (laughing) Did you also want to go around biting people when you were a kid?

BPE: I guess I imagined doing something like that as a kid, though once I started dating, the neck biting took on a slightly different dimension.

HP: (more laughter)

BPE: But it’s kind of the same idea, to be this tragic, romantic figure.

HP: I also wanted to be Lee Majors. I remember doing those “beep-beep-beep” bionic sounds as I lay under my sheets at night. Growing up, people always asked if I wanted to go to Hollywood. With the way my career developed, I was actually doing just that, but it came with a price. One of my desires was to have my children grow up with the children of my friends. That didn’t happen. While my friends were getting married and buying homes and having children, I was off, following my dreams.

Speaking of which, since the last book came out, I am hosting a new TV talk show.

BPE: Your talk show?

HP: It’s a classic TV talk show called, “Then Again with Herbie J Pilato”. It will debut later this year on the Decades network. Everything I’ve done with my books and with my nonprofit have led me to this moment. I’m just thrilled. We’ve already shot the first six episodes, with stars like Robert Conrad and Burt Ward. We did a tribute to Garry Marshall with Eddie Mekka, Deborah Pratt, Cindy Williams and Marion Ross, and one to Mary Tyler Moore, with Ed Asner. We also shot a Dark Shadows episode….

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