I had a little trouble deciding on which clip to use for this memory trip. In going through the videos I discovered a number of people who went on to achieve some measure of fame, including singer Alice Cooper, actress Mare Winningham, actor Paul Reubens (who later became PeeWee Herman), impressionist/comic Michael Winslow (remember the Police Academy movies?), and Steve Martin.
For those who never saw the show: Chuck Barris, creator of The Gong Show, was the host. Each act was given two minutes to perform, with a guarantee of getting at least 30 seconds to showcase their talent. After that 30 seconds, the performer(s) would either be allowed to continue performing, or any one of the three celebrity judges could “gong” the act – at which point the performance would immediately end. If the performance lasted the full two minutes, each of the three celebrity judges [Jamie Farr of M*A*S*H fame was a frequent judge] would score the performance ranging from 0 to 10. At the end of the show, the person or performing group who scored the highest point total from the judges would receive a prize check for $516.32.
Chuck Barris stated that he kept the prize amount low to keep it from being too important to anyone. There were regular acts such as “The Unknown Comic”, but to be fair professionals weren’t allowed to compete for the grand prize. Instead, they were paid the actor’s union scale for their performance – $516.32.