Dick DeBartolo
Part Two

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Interview with Dick DeBartolo

Part 2 of 2

By Dr. Keith E. Tubbs a.k.a. The Mad Doctor

Some excerpts from one of our phone conversations



Mad Doc: So, Dick, how did this whole Gadget Gizmo Guy thing start?

Dick De: Well, I had always been into gadgets, and back in the days when Bill Gaines was alive I always had them in my office. I was also working in television at the time with Mark-Goodson productions, and I was writing for a TV show called the "Match Game," which is now running on the game show network. I had a friend that left the game show to go on to start another local TV show here in New York called "Saturday Morning Live." The show featured a carpenter, a cook, and a pet person doing segments, and she asked me if I would like to come on the show, when it aired, and show gadgets for Christmas presents. Well, the station got a flood of mail from people who were interested in the gadgets I featured, so she asked me if I would like to come on again. I agreed, and finally she asked me if I would come on the program to show my gadgets every month as a regular feature.

Mad Doc: Wow, so that show really launched your career as an expert in the newest gizmos. What happened next?

Dick De: I eventually went over to the "Live with Regis" show for a few years, then "Good Morning America" for about six years, and then to the "Overnight News." I also started doing a monthly spot on Tech TV.

Mad doc: You worked on many shows besides those you mentioned so far. Didn’t you once write for "Family Feud?

Dick De: Yeah, I worked on "The Match Game," "To Tell the Truth," and wrote for "Family Feud," all of which were Mark-Goodson productions.
Mad Doc: I read in your book, "Good Times and Mad Magazine," that Bill Gaines helped fuel your interest into buying gadgets because he would send you out to buy new things at times. What was all that about?

Dick De: (laughing) Well, Bill always liked gadgets, and he knew I was really into the mainstream of it, so he would say,"Dick, if you ever see a really good gadget that a guy might like to have, go ahead and buy it and I will reimburse you for it. I would get him, like, some of the newest watches on the market, and often times he would like them so well he would buy several and give them out as bonuses to some of the staff. We got so many things...for example, when the first answering machines came out I would go purchase one and explain to Bill how to operate them, because he just didn’t want to have to read the instruction manuals. Bill would do that a lot. I remember buying one of the first VCR’s that came out, back then they cost around $1,200 and would only be able to tape about an hour. Even the tapes cost around $30!
(Laughing) On a funny note....After Bill got his answering machine I had lots of celebrities from the game show call and leave him messages. Months later he asked if I knew Rich Little (a very good mimic). I said "no, why?" Bill replied "because some guy keeps calling my answering machine pretending to be famous people...". When I told him they WERE the actual celebrities, he was upset because he had erased them all!

Mad Doc: (laughs) That is hilarious....too bad he lost all those messages..... There must have not been much of a selection of movies then, if they only could hold an hours worth of recording

Dick De: (laughs) More like no selection at all. The first ones were Betamax, and they could only be used for taping any program on TV that ran between a half hour to a hour, and that was it. Not really enough recording time to get a full length movie. They were good for taping your favorite television shows. Then, after that they came out with a two hour Betamax, where at least you could get some movies. It was not too long after that they came out with this really bizarre gadget that was a VCR which had a mechanical arm that was bolted to the side of the Betamax and would push the stop button, then the eject button actually changed tapes so you could record more. It was really elaborate the way it worked, as there were several fingers coming off this mechanical arm that would push all the buttons. Now, that feature cost an additional $300, though you could tape up to six hours of programing.

Mad Doc: It sounds like something that would break down after a while. So, you'd have to fork out another $300 for a new one?

Dick De: Yeah, that was the problem. They didn't last on the market for probably more than a year or so. I went out one day to a electronics store after they discontinued them and noticed that they marked them down to $50, so I called Bill and told him the story, and he told me to buy all of them because he knew they would break down eventually, and he wanted back ups because no one could fix the things. They were basically disposable after they broke down. (Laughs) So, I ended up buying all the guy had- which was probably like fifteen more mechanical arms.About six months later they came out with six hour tapes that were in VHS format along with better VCR’s for obvious reasons

Mad Doc: Technology sure has come a long way!

Dick De: Yes, it has. It is incredible some of the new stuff that is coming out now.

Mad Doc: I remember reading an article you did in Mad called "A Psychedelic Diary." It was even mentioned on the Mad mumblings board recently, so I guess I am not the only one it brings back fond memories too. It was so hilarious. One might think you were actually tripping when you wrote it?

Dick De: (laughing) Oh, that is so funny that people remember that so well after all these years. It was one of Bill’s favorites as well. He really liked that. I just kind of let my mind wander on that one. I actually never even smoked a joint in my life. In fact, I have never smoked anything- ever, nor have I ever experimented with drugs, so that just came from my own imagination.

Mad Doc: I get the impression you were always at the Mad offices with the other Usual Gang Of Idiots doing all kinds of crazy stuff?

Dick De: Actually, the first five years of writing for Mad I was hardly even at the offices. Today, as we speak, I am the only writer that even comes in at all, and that is only on Wednesdays.

Mad Doc: How old were you when you first started reading Mad magazine?

Dick De: I was still in High School, probably only around thirteen, when I first started picking it up and really reading it.

Mad Doc: You wrote the funny instruction manual for the Totally Mad cd-rom set in addition to contributing some funny slide shows and commentary. I am really impressed with all the work that went into that project. It is so....well, totally Mad-like.

Dick De : It was an wonderful project, and the company asked me to look over the intructions and make it look like a real Mad project. So, they had me Mad-ize it.

Mad Doc: What is Mad-ize....is that like taking something serious and adding the Mad-based humor to it?

Dick De: Yeah, it was a term we used in many different incidences. It is like one of my Wednesday assignments to Mad-ize products or what not. I wrote the text on the box. Like, for instance, the system requirements were very Mad-like. The New York Times once mentioned how everything on that product was true of Mad right down to the system requirements and instruction book. Other than that, part of my duties was to write the mailing covers that came with the subscription Mads. Each month the mailing cover would have some kind of funny Mad-like gag on it.

Mad Doc: What effect did adding color to the inside pages of Mad have on sales?

Dick De: Oh, when we started adding color everyone seemed to respond in favor of it, and our sales went way up as a result. But, of course, when you do that it needs to be a higher quality paper so it will look better, and all that was very expensive. The fact that we now take advertising has enabled us to keep doing this. The use of advertising really has more advantages for a better magazine.We got our share of complaints of course, but then we pointed out that most of the time, extra pages are added to the magazine where there are ads. That way there's still the regular 48 pages of material. For example, if there were six one page ads, it would be a 54 page MAD, instead of our normal 48 pages.

Mad Doc: So, are you the one that schedules meetings, being the creative consultant and all?

Dick De: (Laughs) I go to the meetings and usually we are all grouped together, like maybe seven or eight of us together in a room discussing what's hot on the current scene that we can spoof. We also 'gang-write' the department heads at the top of the page of each article in Mad. Then I spend some of my time coming up with those crazy letters to get people to re-subscribe when their subscription runs out. We try and make the letters as silly as possible so people don't think it's just junk mail. It's at least 'funny junk mail!'

Mad Doc: I have some questions here that have been submitted to me from some of the members of Mad Mumblings..I limited them because some of them we have already covered in the part one interview. Is that ok?

Dick De: Yes fair enough...shoot 'em at me. (Laughing)

Mad Doc: Okay, I lied..... There are a more than a few...actually ten to be exact. I will just start reading these off, and just give me the fist thing that pops into your head......Ok I am starting my stop watch now......You have less than a minute to answer all questions correctly....

Dick De : Ok......(Laughter)

. Q: What is your favorite Dessert.......GO!

Dick De: Key Lime Pie.

Q: What kind of Dog do you have now?

Dick De: A terrier mix rescued from an animal shelter. Out of all the dogs I showed a copy of MAD to at the shelter, she laughed the most.

Q: What was your all time favorite movie to spoof on the pages of Mad?

Dick De: The Poopsidedown Adventure, although writing movie take-offs is my favorite thing to write for MAD.

Q: Can You loan me some money?

Dick De: Yes. But the interest rate is 55.66% compounded hourly. Let me know if you're still interested.

Q: Have you ever been in a Turkish prison before?

Dick De: You have to specify a year because there are too many times to list.

Q: Is it true that Mad writers are administered medication. If so what is your drug of choice?

Dick De: Gummy Bears with extra vitamin C

Q: What boats do you own now?

Dick De: 3 including the 50ft house boat I use as a home office.

Q: What do you think of CRACKED magazine?

Dick De: To be honest, I haven't seen a copy in a few years.

Q. What do you think of Mad mumblings?

Dick De : You mean the website? It's very well done, and I love the fact that almost everyone there stays on topic, at least in the forums that I've read.

Mad Doc: Okay, now the most frequently asked question by our readers was .......

Q: Who or what is Max Korn and how has he or it influenced your career?

Dick De: You know Alfred E. Neuman was lifted from an old black and white movie where Alfred Neuman was the composer? MAD added the "E". Well Max Korn was a famous old time movie director, and so we just started using his name. His name wasn't as well known as Alfred Neuman, so we didn't even bother putting in a middle initial.

Mad Doc: (laughing) Ok fair enough. I think I have put you through enough questioning, and I have enjoyed talking about the good old days of Mad and the better days ahead. I thank you for all the time you have put forth in enabling me to get this story on you.

Dick De: It was great fun. Not as much fun as my last root canal, but almost as much. (Laughs)
Oh, what the hell... I'll be honest. It's great that folks like you care enough to spend their own time to write about us... or at least write about me. I mean who am I? Just some GOD-like inspired, creative writer that --- Oh, sorry....I got carried away. To be honest again: "I am thrilled to be of the UGOI and thrilled that people want to hear about us."



Comments: I really learned a great deal talking to Dick De in the past year. He seems to have a passion for everything he does. Recently Dick De flew out to California just to make a live appearance on Screen savers on Tech-Tv. Usually his live segments are filmed in NYC though he took the opportunity to go the Tech-tv studios to demonstrate some cool gadgets for sleep. Check out his website and see the real Locomotive he got to rent.....Yes, that’s right gang!....Dick De rented a locomotive to tool around in when he was done filming while out in San Francisco. http://www.gizwizbiz.com/pages/446974/index.htm

If you get Tech-Tv on Cable or Satellite check out his live segment coming up Tuesday April 13th at 7pm est on Screen savers. Also look for his spot on World News Now next week that he just taped on Thursday April 7th. Check your tv schedule for listings and times.

Discuss the interview here.

All information in this feature was provided by Dick DeBartolo over a course of six months and several phone interviews.

Images courtesy of
Copyright © 2004 Keith E. Tubbs

Publishing and Formatting: Boris A. Zharekhin

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