WJZ’s “People are Talking”

The following post was written by guest blogger, Eli Pousson, of Baltimore Heritage.

peoplearetalking

One of the many unique shows in the WJZ-TV collection recently acquired by MARMIA is “People Are Talking”—a morning program most famously hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Richard Sher. Then 24-year-old Winfrey’s popularity as a co-host of the program led her to relocate to Chicago in 1983 to host AM Chicago where her continued success led to the creation of the nationally syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.

Of course, the show (and Oprah Winfrey) did not achieve popularity and success overnight, however. The show borrowed its’ name from a “man-in-the-street” show hosted by John  Bartholomew Tucker between June 1964 and December 1965. Then in the summer of 1978, Chanel 13 announced plans for a new version of “People Are Talking” hosted by reporters Oprah Winfrey and Richard Sher. Long-time Baltimore Sun television critic Bill Carter panned the show when in an August 1978 review calling it a “wall-to-wall morning-show cliche” with “a lot of silly, forced questions and hyperactive cuteness.” Carter granted that Winfrey handled the “unfortunate assignment” with “unusual grace, giving this tacky little gimmick about as much class is is possible.”

Four weeks later, writer Gerri Kobren, gave a more sympathetic account that highlighted Winfrey’s struggles after winning and then losing a seat as the co-anchor for WJZ’s evening newscasts in spring of 1977. That fall, WJZ-TV won approval from the city zoning board to add a large addition to their offices on Television Hill to housing their growing news operation. The station’s investment in Television Hill and in the new program paid off by 1980 when “People Are Talking” beat the nationally syndicated ratings powerhouse “Donahue.” Stan Rudick, WJZ’s programming director, bragged that the show’s hosts were “the best talk show team I’ve ever seen.”

Despite the local success, the station’s later effort to launch “People Are Talking” as a nationally syndicated program failed in 1981. In 1983, Winfrey moved on to Chicago and Beverly Burke worked alongside Sher as the co-host through the end of 1985. Unfortunately for WJZ, their competitor picked up The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 and began airing the show in direct competition with “People Are Talking”. Baltimore audiences picked Oprah Winfrey over WJZ and, after a slow slide in ratings, “People Are Talking” ended in 1988.

Fortunately, the preservation of over 150 recordings from the program provide more than just a record of Winfrey’s early success. The collection includes Geraldine Ferraro talking up her 1985 book Ferraro: My Story; Malcolm-Jamal Warner (better known as Theo Huxtable on NBC’s The Cosby Show); Jackie Pflug, a victim of the 1985 hijacking of EgyptAir Flight 648; John Waters on the same day as the 1988 premiere of Hairspray; and even Governor William Donald Schaefer at the end of his first year in office. As a window into the recent history of Baltimore and local broadcasting, we hope “People are Talking” will be appreciated by historians and Baltimoreans alike for years to come.

Take a look at our inventory of “People are Talking” below. Please keep in mind these may be inaccurate as we are transcribing the information from the tape labels. We will be up and running for digitization requests a few weeks after we reach our fundraising goal. Donate now to get us there more quickly!

Please Note: Cover labels may differ from tape label – both have been included here, with tape label in brackets

Box 1:

Oprah Winfrey on All My Children & People Are Talking Show
Dynasty Dub 9-10
Note on Tape Case – Opening Animation
10. Great American Teen Scene
Promos + ID
Queen for A Day
Note – Bernize Dole
TV – Sex + Kids
Wedding Dub
Note on Tape – [Unintelligible]
Halloween Show [Witch; Jorge Gonzalez]
Joe Travis
Goldie Hawn Interview
 9. Program Opens [City Line, Square Off, Baffle, Baby Love Upon Pennsylvania Avenue, Baby Cove – Follow Up
Note on Tape – Martinique]
Robot as Slackers; John Waters; People Are Talking; Al Folson of Highlandtown]
June 20 -Friday Magazine

Box 2:

September 11 – (Master)
November 18 – B.J. Thomas; Warren Einstein Pet Therapy
October 19, 1984 – Little Richard
February 7, 1985 – Peggy Cass; Bob Murphy; Jeff Pylant
May 24, 1985 – Talent Search
May 6, 1985 – Sandy Westerberg, (? Suicide or Murder?); Tiny Tim
September 13, 1985 – “People Are Talking Back”
October 9, 1985 – Linda + Richard
October 25, 1985 – Darcy O’Brien (Hillside Stranglers) & BSO Props
Taped – October 20, 1985; October 28, 1985 – Cooking Around the World
November 6, 1985 – Geraldine Farraro
November 8, 1985 – Judy Carne

Box 3:

November 26, 1985 -Dub – Chippendale Dancer Auditions
December 16, 1985 – Max Maven (Mentalist)
January 10, 1986 – Elvis Presley
January 28, 1986: Special Edition – Space Shuttle Disaster
Aired – January 29, 1986 – Miss Gay Pageant
February 20, 1986 – How to Become a Model
March 7, 1986 – Couples in Russia
March 13, 1986 – Jerry Falwell
April 10, 1986 – Pet Tricks; Jack Hanna (Columbus Zoo)
April 25, 1986 – Pit Bull Stand-Up [Myron Horris]
May 5, 1986 – Dr. Buzzard (Witch Doctor); Joe Hunter (Ford Modeling); Robert Veauchamp
May 12, 1986 – Robin Leach
May 30, 1986 – Lady Maxine (Wrestling)
May 30, 1986 – Follow Up – Nothing But the Best
June 26, 1986 – Rock Hudson Story [Captain Wilhelm Hanson]

Box 4:

Aired – September 10, 1986 – Dr. Jaiyce Brothers Dub
September 11, 1986 – Reed Steward; Jay Nickerson; Drug Testing in College; Karen Owens – Second Hand Smoke
September 16, 1986 – Street Kids
September 26, 1986 – Marvin [Hamlisch]; Professor Irwin Corey
September 29, 1986 – Nice Guys Sleep Alone; Rubber Band Workout [Bruce Feirstein; Dr. Sommerfield; Tamilee Web; Nice Guys Sleep Alone; Single Straight Men; Rubber Band Workout]
October 1, 1986 – My Husband is Abusing My Child – Guests – Dr. Dennis Harrison; Dr. Elizabeth Morgan
October 3, 1986– Robin Weir; 5 Makeovers
Taped – January 28; Aired –May 13, 1987 – Sharon Komlos – (Survivor of Rape)
February 6, 1987 – Return to Toni; Malcolm Jamal Warner [Malcolm Jamal Warner]
Taped – February 26, 1987 – Marley Station [Robin Weir/Maron; Spring Fashions]
Taped – February 26, 1987; Aired –February 27, 1987 – Marley Station [Robin Weir/Mike Maron/Spring Fashions]
March 30, 1987 – Oscar Preview
Taped – April 3, 1987– (Fat Women)
April 3, 1987 – Nancy Roberts; Breaking the Rules & Being Overweight

Box 5:

April 23, 1987 – Should Gay Schoolteachers Go Public
May 4, 1987 – People Are Talking – Black Homicide
Taped – May 7, 1987 – Gay Clergy
May 20, 1987 – [Ex-husbands and Ex-Wives]
June 5, 1987 – Drag Queens + Cicada Cooking
June 8, 1987 – People In Touch With AIDS
Air Check – June 12, 1987 – “I Moved For My Wife”
Taped – June 18; June 18, 1987 – Diet or Die
June 22, 1987 – The Bronstein Decision
June 25, 1987 – 60’s Revival
June 22, 1987– Far Out For God [May 5, 1987]
July 6, 1987 – “Live-In-Lovers”
July 8, 1987 – Debate on Circumcision
July 9, 1987 – Soooo Tall! Soooo Short!
Taped – July 7, 1987; Aired –July 10, 1987 – Teens Who Get Pregnant

Box 6:

Taped – July 16, 1987; Aired –July 22, 1987 – Men Who’ve Been Dumped
July 27, 1987 – Married Transvestites
July 28, 1987– Jackie Pflug
July 28, 1987– Women Who Killed Their Husbands
July 30, 1987 – Pit Bull Special
August 5, 1987 – Wives of Death Row Inmates
Taped – August 27, 1987 – Families of Missing People
September 2, 1987 – Lucky To Be Alive
September 9, 1987– Catholics – (Prime-Time)
September 16, 1987– How to Analyze Your Dreams!
Taped – September 17, 1987; Aired –September 24, 1987 – Epilepsy
Taped – September 18, 1987; T.B.A. Drug Addicts
September 22, 1987 – Thrill seekers
September 23, 1987 – Does Marriage Make You Fatter

Box 7:

September 25, 1987 – Pregnant “Junkies”
September 28, 1987 – People Are Talking – Pregnant Junkies; Drug Addicts
Taped – September 30, 1987; Aired –October 5, 1987 – Black Education; Baltimore Hospital, City School Black Education
October 1, 1987– Children of Rape
Taped – October 19, 1987; Aired –October 23, 1987 – Don [Hardister] & Bobbie [Oren]; Inside the P.T.L.
Taped – November 2, 1987; Aired –November 6, 1987 – Hot Hunks
Taped – November 3, 1987; Aired –November 5, 1987 – Heal Yourself
Taped – November 9, 1987; Aired –November 12, 1987 – Premenstrual Syndrome
Taped – November 16, 1987; Aired – November 20, 1987 – Uncoupling
Taped – November 23, 1987; Aired –To Be Announced – Nutrition; Celebrity Pets; Consumer Info
Taped – November 24, 1987; To Be Announced – Abused By Spouse
Taped – December 7, 1987 – Polio
Taped – December 9, 1987 – (Dubs); Willis B; Elena & Yura
Taped – December 14, 1987 – Celebrity Cooking
December 22, 1987– Ritalin

Box 8:

Taped  – October 21, 1987; Aired –January 1, 1988 – Art Donovan
Taped – January 4, 1988– Prisoners on the Run
Taped – January 11, 1988 – Marital Rapes
Taped – January 12, 1988; Aired –January 14, 1988 – Weight Loss through Brainwashing; Brainwashing
Taped – January 18, 1988; Aired –January 21, 1988 – Psychics
Taped – January 19, 1988; Aired –January/April 22, 1988 – Friday Magazine Edition
January 19, 1988 – Self Love [Betty Dodson; Jaye P. Morgan]
January 25, 1988 – C-Section Controversy; C-Section Death
Taped – January 25, 1988; Aired –January 28, 1988 – S.A.D.
Taped – January 26, 1988; Aired –January 29, 1988 – Friday Edition
Taped – February 2, 1988; February 5, 1988 – Friday Magazine Edition
February 2, 1988 – Cooking Segment
Taped – February 8, 1988; February 12, 1988 – Friday Mag. #2 Segment 4/5/6
Taped – February 8, 1988; February 12, 1988 – Friday Magazine #1 Segment 1/2/3
Taped [?] – February 16, 1988 – John Waters; Charles Guns

Box 9:

Taped – February 16, 1988; February 19, 1988 – Friday Magazine
Taped – February 22, 1988; February 25, 1988 – Black History
February 22, 1988 – Church vs. State
Taped – February 23, 1988; February 26, 1988 – Friday Magazine
Taped – March 1, 1988 – Gays In The Military
Taped – March 7, 1988 – Don’t Get God Started
Taped – March 8, 1988 – Eating Disorders
Taped – March 8, 1988 – Tim Reed
Taped – March 9, 1988; March 11, 1988[?] – We Don’t Die
March 10, 1988 – Head Injuries
Taped – March 14, 1988; June 28, 1988 – POW’s In Vietnam
Taped – March 15, 1988; September 16, 1988[?] – Schizophrenia; Letter From Author Included
Taped – March 21, 1988; March 24, 1988 – Child Abuse
Taped – March 22, 1988; March 25, 1988 – Friday Magazine [Pet-Look-A-Like]

Box 10:

Taped – March 24, 1988 – David Toma
Taped – March 29, 1988 – No More Fears
March 29, 1988 – No More Fears [May have been taped over June 3, 1987 – Germaine Gardner; Peggy Cass; Elle MacPherson]
March 30, 1988 – Women + Friendship
April 12, 1988 – If I’m So Wonderful Why Am I Still [Single]
Taped – April 18, 1988 – Endometriosis
Taped – April 19, 1988 – Love Relationship; Pests
April 20, 1988 – [Vexita] Van Caspel; Kiddir [Fasaens]
Taped – April 25, 1988 – Esther Rolle; Mood + Healer; Baby Bonder
Taped – April 27, 1988 – The Order (Ex-Racist)
Taped – May 3, 1988; May 6, 1988 – Queen For A Day
Taped – May 3, 1988; July 18, 1988 – UFO
May 9, 1988 – Satanism
May 10, 1988 – (Master)
May 16, 1988 – Family Sexual Dynamics
May 26, 1988

Box 11:

6/19/85: Terra Metcalf & Roger Brown
11/19/87: Parents Who Abuse
2/17/88: What Man want/what women wont
May 31, 1988 – Men Who Can’t Love People Are Talking
May 31, 1988; Aired – June 2, 1988 – Microwave; Arlinda; Mirage Girl; Final Chapter
June 8, 1988 – Women Who Date Too Much
June 13, 1988; Aired – June 16, 1988 – Overrating; GMA Hosts
June 14, 1988 – Teacher Abuses
Taped – June 15, 1988 – Final Live – Gloria Heidi; Dr. Joyce Brothers; Mother/Daughter Makeover
Taped –June 27, 1988 – Black Slave Masters; Black Leaders Are Slave masters
Taped –June 29, 1988 – Unusual Religions
Tom Hanks Interview #1

Box 12.

3/19/82: Inter-racial identity
May 4, 1986: Recovering from Crack /January 20, 1987: Sexual deviances
1/27/88: Dabney Coleman; Woman & Abortion/2/3/87: Androgynous Male Models; Harry Horn
2/2/87: Soap Stars – Ian Buchanan & Grant Aleksander;28/88 – Communism in America
10/29/87: Ghostbusters
11/16/87: Can Murder be Rehab/9/23/86: Darlene Garza
2/18/88: Nutra-Sweet Face Off
3/9/88: Hare Krishina
5/30/88: Body clock/ Bob Heironim
10/4/88: Kennedy & the Mob
4/1/88: Friday Magazine
5/12/88: Gay  Birth
2/15/88: Governor Schaeffer
6/10/88: Friday Magazine

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