(Above: Johnny’s not sure what he signed up for.)
50 years ago tonight – December 15, 1966 – a classic Christmas moment took place on The Tonight Show.
Mona Abboud, an actress who performed children’s voices in commercials, got her chance to sit on the panel with Johnny Carson. She performed a song about the ultimate Christmas gift – a doll that was so realistically lifelike that it passed out from drinking, got sunburn, and went through puberty on command. The song brought down the house.
Ordinarily, that would be the end of the story. But the song took on a life of its own on Chicago radio. Every year Wally Phillips would air the song on his morning program on WGN. That’s where I first heard it as a kid. Years later, Bob Collins and Spike O’Dell carried on the tradition of airing the song on their shows on WGN. I did, too, on my own radio shows. When I came to Grand Rapids in 1998 I brought a copy of the song with me and aired it on my show on WODJ-FM. The good people of Grand Rapids had mostly forgotten about it, but some remembered. Many others would call up in the days leading up to Christmas asking “could you play that song about the doll again?” I did so every year after that, on stations in Rockford, Illinois, in the Chicago suburbs, and back in Grand Rapids. (While I’m very happy in my new career as a college professor, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I do occasionally miss having the ability to make a few people smile each morning, especially around the holidays, with recordings like these.)
The song’s inclusion on one of Dr. Demento’s Christmas compilation CDs (which I recommend that you own) widened its appeal as well. It’s not the sort of thing that your local “all-Christmas-all-the-time” station will play, but if you like your holiday music spiced with just a touch of subversive, you’ll appreciate it.
So what ever became of Mona? She’s still around. The Daily Herald newspaper did a nice piece on her this week, which is worth the read.
See if you can keep a straight face like Johnny Carson. Click here to watch the original broadcast from 1966.