The Wonderful Life of Herbie J Pilato

We’re always happy when another publication recognizes the talents and achievements of TVWriter™’s Contributing Editor Emeritus, Herbie J Pilato. You know, like this:


Herbie J and Then Again with Herbie J Pilato guests Barry and Stanley Livingston of My Three Sons. Photo by Dan Holm Photography

by Mary Frances Barstow
via “Maine Seniors Magazine”
(Feb 2020 issue)

In chatting with Herbie J Pilato, there’s a moment when you realize that you just might be talking with an angel.

A professional of the entertainment and publishing industries, the host of his own TV talk show, the author of several critically-acclaimed books about pop-culture, and the founder of nonprofit dedicated to the positive influence of classic TV shows, Herbie J is as endearing, as he is prolific.

As an author, screenwriter, actor, singer/songwriter and executive, Herbie J heads his own TV production company, Television, Ink. [which, along with Joel Eisenberg and Steve Hillard, of Council Tree Productions, and producer Lorie Girsh Eisenberg], presents Then Again with Herbie J Pilato, a classic TV chat show streaming from Shout! Factory TV on Amazon Prime (and several other media outlets).

Where does Herbie J find the time to do it?  Where does he get the energy?  Exactly who is Herbie J Pilato?

“I guess the answers have to do with making the time. Whatever energy I have is filtered through the Universe because I am open to embracing it. Basically, I’m just a guy trying to do some good,” he replies, smiling.

His career began in 1984 as a Page for NBC in that network’s former legendary Burbank studios. Herbie J went on to write the original Bewitched Book (first published by Dell in 1992), followed by later revised editions titled, Bewitched Forever. Other TV companion books followed including The Kung Fu Book of Caine, The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom, The Bionic Book, Life Story – The Book of Life Goes On, NBC & ME: My Life as a Page in a Book, Twitch Upon Upon a Star, a critically-acclaimed biography of Bewitched icon Elizabeth Montgomery, and Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Story, the latter of which is being rebooted for the fall of 2020 (the 50th Anniversary of TV’s groundbreaking sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show).

After performing in several minor roles on television shows like Highway to Heaven, The Golden Girls, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful, Herbie J began serving as an on-screen cultural commentator and the behind-the-scenes consultant on TV and DVD documentaries, such as 1999’s Bewitched: The E! True Hollywood Story, which remains one of the 7th highest-rated True Hollywood Stories in E!’s history.

Herbie J has served in the same capacity for A&E’s Biography segments on Elizabeth Montgomery and Lee Majors, TLC’s Behind the Fame special on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show, Bravo’s hit five-part series, The 100 Greatest Characters, and the DVD release documentaries of retro shows like CHiPs, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Kung Fu.

“I love what I do,” Herbie J says.  “I love my work, and I love my life, and in many ways, my work is my life, and vice-versa.” He thinks his work “…focuses on the positive.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“I’m very conscious of and sensitive to my following,” Herbie J continues, “…whether they stem from social media, or my books, or some of the shows that I’ve been fortunate to be associated with or appeared on.  When you’re in the public eye, or manifesting a presentation of some sort that will be observed in the public eye, even in the smallest of ways, I feel you have an obligation to speak with or present a positive voice.”

That positive voice includes many family-oriented, fantasy-geared completed scripts that Herbie J has “waiting in the wings,” he says with a wink, as two of those projects have to do with angels. (There’s that word again!)  The others, he promises, are also family-oriented, including an action-geared sci-fi drama, a comedy, and even a few reality shows.

“It’s all about diversity,” he says, “…just like life, which at times, can be quite magical…if we let it be.”

Certainly, life has its challenges, and Herbie J has experienced his, along with what he defines as “countless flaws.”

“I’ve made many mistakes,” he explains, “and I am in no way perfect.  But I try to do the best I can because I care.  I care about what I do.  I care about what other people do.  I care about people.  I care about my family…my friends…my colleagues…my country.  I care about this planet.  It’s in my make-up to feel that way.  It’s my nature.  It’s how I was raised.”

Herbie J grew up in the inner city of Rochester, New York in the literal shadow of Kodak’s global home office, within a large and loving Italian family.  Both of his parents had ten brothers and sisters in each.  According to Herbie J, his mother Frances (maiden name “Turri”) and father Pompeii (which he later changed it to “Herbie”) are both now “dancing in Heaven.”

“They were hardworking, sweet people,” he says.  “And whatever good is in me was placed there by God through my beautiful parents.  They were and remain a blessing to me.”

“We can cherish the past,” he concludes, “…but we must embrace the present, and look forward to the future with as much loving-kindness for others as possible.”

Yeah. An angel.

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….

Read it all at Baltimore Post Examiner

Time Now for a Few Words About Herbie J Pilato

That’s right – about our longtime Contributing Editor, not by. Cuz we here at TVWriter™ aren’t the only ones who think Herbie J has something important to say:

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THE WONDERFUL, MAGICAL WOMEN OF BLOOMING TELEVISION

I know I’m not alone in my childhood fantasy of being able to nod my head or twitch my nose to make things better. I wish I could say it ended with childhood, but truthfully, I still consider those options when things get tough for the ones I love. If I could, I would blink them into a shiny world with rainbows and puppies. But probably not until I blundered it somehow. That was the beauty of these paranormal “girl next door” lovelies—they taught me that nothing is un-fixable . . . with a little love and a smidge of magic.

Every week, I sat rapt as the ladies of blossoming television showed me how to navigate through life. I aimed to “borrow” something from each of them and incorporate it into my own life. I wanted Samantha’s nose, Jeannie’s hair and navel, Goldie Hawn’s giggly joy and innocence, That Girl’s drive and energy, and June Cleaver’s pearls and patience.

I am old enough to have experienced the unequaled pleasure of growing up with them, as the world went from black and white, with the national anthem signing me off for the day to full-technicolor, on-demand, streaming madness we watch today.

The smell and sound of the tubes warming up on the television set brought intense joy to my young soul as I waited breathlessly for the pictures to appear. The instant gratification we have now deprives us of that joy. Instead of allowing our imaginations to fill in the blanks, we are spoon-fed graphic images that rob us of the belief that every problem can be solved in 22-23 minutes, plus commercial sponsorship.

Enter Herbie J Pilato, a self-made savant and expert in the field of classic television, to the rescue!

My early TV role models, Elizabeth Montgomery, Barbara Eden, Marlo Thomas, Barbara Billingsley, and Goldie Hawn, are only a few of the subjects of his books and the life he is making to preserve the values represented in their programs.

Through his studio experience and exhaustive research, he has brought us a more intimate look at some of our favorite icons.

I was thrilled to be able to get to know him better through our correspondence and interview, which I present to you here:

Read it all