Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Swan Tunes In: Open All Night

Anyone familiar with my television viewing habits knows that I'm not much of a sitcom fan. I don't believe I've watched a situation comedy with any regularity since The Cosby Show was in its heyday. Even then, I didn't watch often.

There is, however, one sitcom that retains a cherished corner in my recollection, more than 25 years after it last aired. Even then, the fond memories are due more to the show's theme song — which still echoes in my cranium a quarter-century later — than to the program itself.

The show in question was Open All Night, a short-lived laffer from the early 1980s. As one might surmise from the title, Open All Night took place in a 24-hour convenience market (called "the 364 Store" because it was open every day except Christmas).

George Dzundza — later Detective Max Greevey in the debut season of Law & Order — starred as hapless Gordon Feester, the cranky yet lovable shlub who managed the store. Indie film goddess Susan Tyrrell played Gordon's airhead wife Gretchen, while talented character actor Sam Whipple (who passed away from cancer a few years ago, at the too-young age of 41) often stole the show with dry humor as Gretchen's slacker son Terry. Ex-NFL star Bubba Smith — then a hot TV property thanks to a popular series of Miller Lite beer commercials that paired him with Dick Butkus — played Robin, Gordon's assistant manager who ran the graveyard shift.

Open All Night derived most of its comedy from the motley assortment of folks who wandered into the 264 Store during the wee hours. If you've ever found yourself in a 7-11 after the local taverns lock down, you'll get the idea. David Letterman (as himself) dropped by during one memorable episode, to promote his new late night talk show. Even Cassandra Peterson — today admired by millions of horny fanboys as horror film hostess Elvira — showed up, albeit without sporting either her vampire queen drag or her bountiful cleavage. Where better for the future Mistress of the Dark to make a guest appearance than on a show called Open All Night?

As I recall, the show started off well with several hilarious early episodes, then began to peter out toward the end of its only season. But then, as I noted previously, there was that theme song. (Remember theme songs? They used to be my favorite feature of television. When I was a kid, I used to tape theme music straight from the TV speakers with my little reel-to-reel recorder, then splice in clips of myself in Casey Kasem mode introducing each selection.)

Many series back in the day attempted to summarize the gist of the show in the opening montage. None accomplished the feat as completely or as cleverly as Open All Night, which combined a catchy, piano-driven 1940s-style vocal hook with lyrics that burrowed into the human consciousness like deer ticks, never to be dislodged. Imagine the Andrews Sisters mated with Shel Silverstein, after guzzling a tankful of espresso.

Click the image below, and you can sing along yourself:

This is the story of Gordon Feester
Born in Ohio the day before Easter
Had a normal childhood, did okay in school
Graduated from Columbus High in 1962
Now he's open all night, open all night

Went away to college but he didn't do that good
So the Army drafted him and he got sent to Fort Hood
Served a two-year hitch, never went overseas
Spent a year peeling potatoes and a year copping Z's
Now he's open all night, open all night

Then old Gordon sort of drifted this way and that
At times he had some money, other times he was flat
He always seemed to manage, though he never saved a cent
Sure, it was a struggle, but he always paid the rent
Now he's open all night (yeah!), open all night

That takes us up to 1974
And now old Gordon runs a grocery store
With a wife named Gretchen who hangs around the house
And her son named Terry by a previous spouse
Gordon sits behind the counter, in hock up to his nose
In a dither, in a pickle, in a store that's never closed
And he's open all night, open all night...
Open all night...
Open all night...
Open all night...
Open all night...

I wonder what George Dzundza's up to these days. Or nights, as the case may be.

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1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger landileigh offered these pearls of wisdom...

George was recently on Grey's Anatomy. He was the character Harold O'Malley (George's father) who died after surgery.

9:17 AM  

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