Ten Questions with Shelley Herman
Author of "My Peacock Tale: Secrets Of An NBC Page"
1) In 25 words or less, tell me about "My Peacock Tale: Secrets of an NBC Page."
It's a funny, sexy, gossipy, celebrity-filled memoir set against the backdrop of NBC Burbank in the mid-70s. Think "Sex and the City" meets "Mad Men."
2) I guess this is the most obvious question to ask, but what is an NBC Page?
When I worked at NBC Burbank, we had numerous duties beyond giving tours and ushering TV shows, including "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "Midnight Special," and dozens of variety and game shows. We were assigned to protect the talent at press events, award shows, on limo runs, temping in executive suites. You name it; we had a chance to do it.
3) There has always been a mystique surrounding the NBC Page Program.
As well there should be! Did you know that over 16,000 applications a year are received to become a part of this 90-year-old entry-level position? Only 2% of those who apply get the job. To put that into perspective, getting into Harvard is easier than becoming an NBC Page. Being an NBC Page was like being in the best Fraternity or Sorority a bunch of young, career-motivated men and women could hope to be included in, and if we had a chance, most of us would do it all over again.
4) You were only 20 when you got the job. How did that happen?
I have to thank Elvis Presley for it. My co-workers and I made a girls' road trip to Las Vegas one weekend to see Elvis. Three of the girls took off with some guys and trust me, there is more to this story. I was left with the boring girl who happened to tell me her mother's best friend worked at NBC. Other friends of mine devised creative ways to get noticed by the HR department. Now, you must make a video, have a college degree, and survive several interviews in Hollywood or New York.
5) Who was the first celebrity you ever saw at NBC?
That had to be Janet Leigh. She was very thin, had a big scarf covering her hair, and wore dark glasses. So glamorous! She was on her way to a taping of "Hollywood Squares" and was lugging a large garment bag filled with five different changes of clothes. Most game shows tape a week's worth of shows in one day. I offered to carry her wardrobe bag; she couldn't have been nicer.
6) The book is filled with celebrity encounters. Who are the stars who stand out the most?
I also have never-before-told stories that include Frank Sinatra, Gilda Radner, Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, Robin Williams, Chuck Barris, and so many more. And, I have the inside story of what ignited the feud between Joan Rivers and Johnny Carson from someone who was there.
7) Some celebrity encounters you and your Page friends had were not so good. The name Bill Cosby comes to mind. And there were others.
Since we worked in such close proximity to the celebrities, we were often put into uncomfortable situations. Many long-held secrets were revealed when I started talking to my colleagues, including stories about Freddie Prinze and McLean Stevenson. There was no #MeToo movement then, so we were on our own.
8) It had to be fun working in a studio environment.
We had the keys to the kingdom back then. We could go anywhere and meet the executives hoping to get a job within the NBC networks. I have a funny story of how I met Dick Ebersol, best remembered as one of the people who helped create "Saturday Night Live." His assistant wouldn't make an appointment for me to talk to him, so, thinking outside the box, I found a way to get to him where he couldn't weasel out of meeting me. My inspiration for this grand gesture came from watching reruns of "I Love Lucy," Lucy Ricardo never gave up!
9) Okay, tell me about the cover photo of the book. You're standing with Johnny Carson, and he signed the picture; "Good luck, Shelley, Johnny Carson." What were the circumstances of this photo?
That moment was one of the highlights of my Page career! Johnny would go into the audience to play "Stump the Band." It was an audience participation bit where people would give The Tonight Show Orchestra, headed by Doc Severinsen and Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon the silly title of a song to guess. If the song title stumped the band, the audience member would get an envelope with, oh, free dinners or a night on the town. Something fun to do. I have several stories from my Page Pals detailing their time with Johnny and my recollections of that exciting night.
10) If you could live one Page assignment over again, what would it be?
That would have to be my night at the Emmy Awards. Imagine little ol' me, a lifelong TV buff in a limousine with iconic stars Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, hiding John Travolta from the press and helping Alfred Hitchcock get backstage in time to make a surprise appearance on the live telecast! It's all in "My Peacock Tale: Secrets Of An NBC Page."
Read more about Shelley Herman at: https://mypeacocktale.com/