Dick Clark in drag

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Oct. 19, 2001 at 10:19 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Showbiz veteran Dick Clark will dress in women's clothing on his new daytime talk show, "The Other Half" -- not as part of a return to pre-Sept. 11 frivolity, but to make a serious point in a fun way.

Clark -- along with former child stars Danny Bonaduce ("The Partridge Family") and Mario Lopez ("Saved by the Bell"), and Dr. Jan Adams -- are the regular co-hosts in what has been described as a male take on the popular ABC daytime talk show, "The View."

On Halloween, Oct. 31, Clark and company will dress up as their favorite "View" co-hosts, with Clark as Barbara Walters. They won't have to stay that way for the whole hour -- producers promise that, after opening the hour in drag, the guys will dress as themselves for the rest of the show.

The segment brings to mind the infamous moment when Phil Donahue dressed in women's clothing on an episode of his long-running daytime TV talk show. In this case, it fits in with what Clark said is the mission of the new show -- to present issues of interest to women through the eyes of men.

"It's a broadcast show," said Clark, "so you've got to get a broader audience. We're trying to be someone's companion, likable amusing."

Clark is clear on his role in "The Other Half," to be the old friend that viewers can instantly relate to.

"The whole secret of TV is to be likable," he said. "List all of the long-running successful people on TV and you'll see they've all had a likeability quotient."

The 42-year-old Bonaduce, married and the father of two, is best known for his first high-profile showbiz gig, playing Danny Partridge on the 1970s ABC comedy, "The Partridge Family." He's also well known as one of Hollywood's "bad boys," but he says he's "all grown up" now.

Bonaduce spent a month at a rehab center in Malibu for treatment of alcoholism this summer, coming out 25 pounds lighter and ready to get started on "The Other Half." Bonaduce also hosts a morning radio show in Los Angeles -- which means he gets up for work each day at 3:30 a.m.

But he laughs at the suggestion that he might be headed for a burnout.

"I napped from 1974 to 1988," he said. "I'm all caught up."

Bonaduce insists he was never a "bad guy," but he admits that he engaged in behavior ranging from rude to illegal when he was "out of control." Today, he refuses to blame anyone but himself for his problems and his reputation.

"None of the things happened to me when I was a child," he said, "it all happened when I was an adult. I don't believe for one second that show business is responsible for people ending up in rehab. I did the talk show circuit with former child actors, and I'll tell you something -- what really bothers them is they couldn't get a job."

Bonaduce resists the temptation to think of his show as "the answer" to "The View."

"We're not the answer," he said. "We're the same question posed differently."

In the name of using men's eyes to explore women's interests such as fashion, relationships, child-rearing and sex, the guys on "The Other Half" have already subjected themselves to a ritual Mel Gibson inflicted upon himself in last year's box-office hit, "What Women Want" -- the sudden and violent ripping out of leg hair.

During the November sweeps, executive producer Alan Winters said the show would subject the men -- as much as possible -- to the tribulations of pregnancy and childbirth.

"Obviously we can't produce actual birth of children by our guys," said Winters, "but one of the key creative thrusts is our guys experiencing pregnancy -- not in a trivializing way, but it will be fun."

Like several other new syndicated TV shows, "The Other Half" premiered on Sept. 10, the day before terrorists attacked the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon. The new reality prompted an instant change in the show's agenda.

"We felt really strongly ... that our show had to be responsive to what was important to our viewers," said Winters, "and that was relating to the events in New York and Washington, D.C."

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks, guests on "The Other Half" have included a woman armed services officer and an expert on travel security. Celebrities have been encouraged to talk about how they and their loved ones are handling their reactions to the attacks.

"Tone-wise," said Winters, "our guys were pretty reverent with respect to the fact that the viewers didn't want something frivolous when they turned on their TV.

"Slowly but surely we have turned back into the show that we intended to be -- a lighter entertainment kind of show that provides a respite from the issues of the world."

Of course, in many markets, syndicated daytime shows didn't even get on the air for many days following the terrorist attacks, because so much air time was given over to wall-to-wall news coverage. For new shows in particular, that compounded the already daunting challenge of finding an audience and showing enough ratings muscle to warrant staying on the air.

Winters said managers at stations carrying the show, and brass at NBC Studios -- which produces the show -- seemed to understand that, under the circumstances, the show wasn't going to put up good numbers in its first weeks.

"They're cutting us and others a break," he said. "Everybody knows that this has been a very strange launch of new television shows."

Whatever slack programming executives are willing to cut for "The Other Half" for now, Clark knows that the show needs to prove itself sooner rather than later.

"The odds (against becoming a hit) are horrendous," said Clark. "Our only hope is to get somebody to sample us and if you find the four of us engaging, we'll succeed. If they don't sample us were dead in the water."

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