Who remembers the Democratic telethons?

In the 1970s, the Democratic party ran a series of annual telethons to pay back debts dating back to the 1968 election. They usually ran about 20 hours each and featured guest appearances from dozens of celebrities. The only problem is I’ve never found an account of what actually happened in these telethons. Were they mostly speeches? Was the entertainment similar to other telethons, or was they somehow politically oriented? Do you remember any specific stars, and has anything been saved on video?

I remember one where former Vice President Hubert Humphrey (Ted Baxter moment from MTM) did a lot of the hosting. He talked to a lot of people such as Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii on how wrong Nixon was to veto some bill spending $19 million on education. I maybe be wrong on the figures. But that Nixon veto, which Congress couldn’t overturn, came early in his administration so that’s what they specifically talked about (filmed segments at shopping lines in supermarkets and such).

There was another section that had Eddie Albert (Douglas. Oliver Wendell Douglas) and another actor sitting on a porch, doing some dialog written several decades earlier on how much better the Democrats were for working people than Republicans. Kind of a folksy manner to it.

My best recollection is that they were run similar to PBS fund drives, although I don’t remember any gift premiums ("If you give a $100, Humphrey will come to your house and talk for an hour. If you donate $200, he’ll only talk for 30 minutes!). The Democrats had something like a $9 million deficit from 1968 which was considered huge at the time.

I remember Jackie Cooper in his hosting duties saying–as he was going down the state totals–about my home state “You still might make $35,000!”

Yeah, I remember them, vaguely. They ran from 1972 through 1975. Like most telethons, they were a mix of straight-up entertainment, light humorous sketches, and tear-jerker fund-raising appeals. Except that instead of “Help us prevent this horrible disease”, it was “Help us take back the country from these horrible Republicans.”

I remember a little take-off on those E.F Hutton commercials that ran in the 1970’s, where a guy said “My party is the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party says . . .”, and then everybody cocked their ear to listen. I’m not sure why that stands out in my mind after all these years, because it wasn’t that funny.

On the eve of the 1973 telethon, Johnny Carson said that George McGovern (who had just been destroyed by Nixon) was their “poster child” for that year. It got a laugh on the Tonight Show.