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
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
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
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
Mad Doc: What is Mad-ize....is
that like taking something serious and adding the Mad-based humor
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
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
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
Q: Have you ever been in a Turkish
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
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
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
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.