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Sid Caesar, RIP; and a Side of Ronald Reagan You’ve Probably Never Seen

Sid Caesar died today at age 91. He was one of the brightest stars of television’s early days, and my family often watched his show. My father thought he was hilarious, and he was. Having time on my hands these days as I am recuperating from surgery, I poked around on YouTube for a while. Sure enough, there are lots of clips from Caesar’s old television shows. This one is pretty typical; Sid and his co-star, Imogene Coca, go to a health food restaurant in New York:

Of course, once you start doing YouTube searches that bring up television programs from the 1950s, it is hard to stop. I ran across “What’s My Line” segments–another show that my parents enjoyed. The typical contestant was someone with an oddball occupation, and the celebrity panel would try to guess what it was. But once on each show there was a mystery guest. The panelists were blindfolded and they would try to guess the guest’s identity. Just about every star or starlet in Hollywood was a mystery guest at some point; Jayne Mansfield, Raquel Welch, and so on. Other major cultural figures, like Eleanor Roosevelt, made appearances too. But I was a little startled to learn that Ronald Reagan was a mystery guest on “What’s My Line” in 1953. This was well before Reagan’s political career got underway, and around the time, I think, when he began to move to the right. I wonder whether even a Reagan expert like Steve (author, as you probably know, of The Age of Reagan) is aware of the future president’s “What’s My Line” appearance:

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