Once upon a time in a seacoast town, three fearless leaders of great renown summoned the men, the women, and the young to do battle for glory, for honor, and pride. The lines were drawn, the intent was clear: those that gathered would clash without fear. Their soldiers came not on foot nor horseback but by jet and limousine, as befitted their station. They came girding for battle to hurl themselves against each other in mortal combat, all lusting for victory at any cost. And when they met, it was called… the Battle Of The Network Stars!

The preceding paragraph was taken word for word from the opening minutes of the very first installment of Battle Of The Network Stars. The program, which made its debut on November 13, 1976, offered an athletic competition between the prime-time stars of the three existing networks at the time: ABC, CBS, and NBC. As you can probably tell from the tone of the introductory narration—which was intoned by William Conrad, no less—the idea of actors turning athletes was being treated as something so completely absurd that it could only be introduced to viewers with a wink and a smirk. That’s how the majority of the participants in the first year of Battle approached their participation in the competition, but it didn’t take long for them to start taking it seriously.

Advertisement

With the return of Battle Of The Network Stars to ABC after a nearly 30-year absence, The A.V. Club reached out to a number of participants from the original installments of the program, including both the actors-turned-athletes as well as the supervising producer on every Battle between 1976 and 1985. Prepare yourself for a story featuring the thrills of victory, the agonies of defeat, and the financial incentives that drove these actors to push themselves beyond common sense and make their way into the winner’s circle whenever possible.


The participants:

  • Bill Garnet (supervising producer)—all installments 1976-1985
  • Melissa Sue Anderson (Little House On The Prairie)—NBC, 1976
  • Karen Grassle (Little House On The Prairie)—NBC, 1976, February 1977, May 1980
  • Scott Baio (Happy Days)—ABC, May 1979, May and December 1980, May and December 1981, May 1983, May 1984 (host)
  • Adrienne Barbeau (Maude)—CBS, 1976 and November 1977
  • Shari Belafonte (Hotel)—ABC, December 1983, May 1984, December 1984 (as host), 1988 (host)
  • Todd Bridges (Diff’rent Strokes)—NBC, May 1979
  • LeVar Burton (Roots/One In A Million: The Ron LeFlore Story)—ABC, May 1977/CBS, November 1978
  • Greg Evigan (B.J. And The Bear/My Two Dads)—NBC, May and November 1979, December 1980, 1988
  • Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H)—CBS, November 1977, May 1979, December 1980
  • Neil Flynn (Scrubs)—NBC, 2003
  • Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Welcome Back, Kotter)—ABC, May 1977
  • John James (Dynasty)—ABC, May & December 1982, May 1983, May 1984
  • Ann Jillian (It’s A Living)—ABC, December 1980, May and December 1981
  • Hal Linden (Barney Miller)—ABC, 1976 and May 1977
  • Tim Matheson (The Quest)—NBC, 1976
  • Tim Reid (WKRP In Cincinnati/Simon & Simon)—CBS, November 1978, May and December 1981, December 1984
  • Jimmie Walker (Good Times)—CBS, 1976, November 1977, May 1978
  • Demond Wilson (Sanford And Son/The New Odd Couple)—NBC, 1976 / ABC, December 1982

In the beginning...

Bill Garnet (supervising producer, 1976-1986): Battle Of The Network Stars was sort of a spin-off, if you can call it that, of The Superstars. It was a competition that we did for ABC that pitted professional athletes against each other in events that they didn’t normally do. So out of that grew the idea of doing Celebrity Stars, and out of that grew Battle Of The Network Stars.

Shari Belafonte: When Battle Of The Network Stars first started, it was a totally different ballgame, because it was just the three networks: ABC, NBC, and CBS. At that time, Fox wasn’t even in the picture. So the battle was really about the top shows on those three networks and for promoting their celebrities. It was just part and parcel of what you did if you were on network TV in the ’80s.

Advertisement

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: They were cross-promoting a lot of television shows in those days, so they’d have you come on the variety shows, which were big back then, or they’d have you to do game shows or whatever. With the Battle Of The Networks Stars thing, that way you got to see the stars outside of their makeup and characters, doing their thing.

Bill Garnet: It wasn’t hard to get competitors. We wanted to be athletic but not too athletic. When we sat around and came up with ideas for the events, we created them in such a way that the people weren’t really going to get hurt. We had standard insurance for the production and the competitors, but looking back at it, I think the worst thing that happened was a sprained ankle or a pulled muscle. Nobody ever really got that hurt. The networks actually were quite cooperative with us. It was great exposure for their shows, so they liked it.

Jamie Farr: The producers of the shows weren’t so crazy about it. Some people would sprain an ankle or bruise a wrist or something, and then usually after filming the events we’d go on the various talk shows, like Dinah! or The Mike Douglas Show, and they’d have their arm in a cast or a bandage of something. And, of course, you had to go back to your series like that, too! So, yeah, they weren’t particularly thrilled about us doing it.

Advertisement

Hal Linden: That first year, I think everybody was probably convinced by their PR people!

Demond Wilson: At the time, I had a PR firm in Beverly Hills, and when you’re paying a PR firm two grand a month, they’re supposed to keep your name in print. So I think that’s how that’s how it came to me in the first place. Of course, I don’t give a rat’s ass about that stuff now.

Advertisement

Karen Grassle: When they offered it to me to do it, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. And I did get very weary always dragging around in prairie skirts, so an opportunity to do something that was not that, I was always glad for. [Laughs.] And they were paying us, too! So, yeah, I was all for it.

Advertisement

Tim Matheson: I think I jumped right in when it came up. It looked like a lot of fun, it was just for a weekend, and I think ego-wise I fashioned myself a pretty good athlete. [Laughs.] So I thought, “Yeah, this’ll be great!” And I’ve got to tell you, I had never done one of those celebrity things, so it was my first experience at doing it. I was, like, “Wow, they pay us for this? Okay, great!”

Hal Linden: None of us were athletes. They were just starting to sprout gyms on each corner, so nobody stayed in shape, we didn’t have trainers… and I never was a good athlete to begin with! On top of that, I was much older than most of the other people. What year was that? 1976? I was in my 40s already. They were in their 20s! I said, “What am I going to do? I can’t run fast, I can’t lift… What am I going to do?” But I said, “I’ll do it.”

Karen Grassle: I don’t think anybody was very well prepared the first year. Everybody was, like, “Oh, this’ll be a lark.” But after that, after people saw it… I mean, you don’t want to look like an idiot! [Laughs.] So I think people made a little more of an organized effort. Also, I think people realized, “Gee, that is a lot of money…”

Advertisement

Melissa Sue Anderson: I didn’t find the experience to be a great one, but keep in mind that I was around 13 at that time, and not a very welcome addition to any team of surprisingly competitive TV actors. While fairly athletic, I don’t perform well under pressure, and this was quite serious, so it wasn’t exactly the fun, good-natured sports day I believe I was told it would be.

Advertisement

Adrienne Barbeau: I know I went to compete, and I wanted to win, so I know I would’ve done the best I could, but… I have a feeling I embarrassed myself. [Laughs.] As I’ve gotten older, I’ve certainly gotten strong. I’m still strong at this age! But I’ve never been terribly athletic.

I know I took it seriously, though, in much the way I took The Cannonball Run seriously. When I did that, I was there to create a character and to act, and everybody else around me was, like, “Let’s finish by noon so we can go party!” I was, like, “Are you kidding me?” To the point where, if you look at the outtakes, everybody else is laughing and I’m frowning and looking like I’m about to say, “Can we get back to work?!”

Advertisement

So I know I would’ve approached Battle Of The Network Stars the same way. But I think I was terrible. Of course, it wasn’t until years later that I became aware that… it really wasn’t about the competition, was it?

John James: Were the women selected for the jiggle factor? I’m going to say “yes and no.” That would probably be about 80 percent weighted to the “yes.” [Laughs.] There was a lot of jiggle in the ’80s on television!

Bill Garnet: I wouldn’t say we were going for the most attractive stars. Obviously, we wanted the biggest names and stars we could get. Television was vastly different in those days: There were only the three networks, and we just wanted the best and biggest-name stars that we could get, because that would ensure good ratings, obviously. But to have Lynda Carter and Farrah Fawcett… I mean, that’s always helpful!

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tim Matheson: Right when Lynda Carter stepped up and onto the platform, she pulled her suit out—she was wearing a one-piece—and let it slap back, and… that was the best moment of the whole thing for me. It was, like, “Okay, she won!” [Laughs.] It was pretty spectacular.

Ann Jillian: A lot of the ladies were athletically talented. We also had nice-looking people. And we had some older people who were willing to try this stuff and to go out there, have fun, and keep the ball rolling. So everybody went out there and had a good time… and if they didn’t, it was their own fault!


In it to win it… the money, that is

Ann Jillian: I was brought onto ABC by the grand dame of casting at that time: Joyce Selznick, from New York. I was in the original company of Sugar Babies, and they were doing a lot of auditioning at the time because they wanted to do the type of stable of stars that they used to have in the golden era, but they wanted to have it for the network. And at one point when I was doing It’s A Living they called up and said, “Okay, we’re going to be doing the Battle Of The Network Stars!”

Advertisement

Advertisement

Now, I was never an athlete, because while other people were doing things like basketball, that really wasn’t for me. I was taking dance classes and stuff like that. So my first time on the show, John Davidson was the captain, and I remember we all got together and we started practicing, except… I looked at it as a rehearsal. And he said, “Oh, boy, we’re gonna have fun here…”

Greg Evigan: I don’t specifically remember being pitched on doing Battle Of The Network Stars, because B.J. And The Bear was the show I was doing at the time, and we got a 47 share when we went on the air. We had half the country watching us! So I was mostly paying attention to what I was doing on the show and how we were going to finish all of the episodes for that season, because we had gotten so backed up. So when I did something like Battle Of The Network Stars or anything like that, it was just a straight offer: “Do you want to do it or not?” There was nothing else to it. So I said, “Yeah, okay!”

LeVar Burton: I recall being excited that I was invited, because it was one of my first celebrity outings. In fact, I think I had to cancel an appearance on Soul Train to attend, if I’m not mistaken!

Advertisement

John James: I felt like I’d arrived when they invited me to be a part of it. And when I showed up at Pepperdine that first time, to have Bill Shatner as our captain… I just chuckled every time I said, “Yes, Captain.”

Tim Reid: I did four of ’em. The first year I did it, it was with David Letterman, McLean Stevenson, and the Incredible Hulk [Lou Ferrigno]. Won first place on one, got two second places, and a third place. But back then it was a little different. Sports celebrity-hood wasn’t as strong. Of course there were sports stars, but they didn’t have the same stature. So for an actor to pretend to be a sports star was almost like bringing a little glory to sports, as opposed to the opposite. [Laughs.] So we all did it, and it was fun, and we took ourselves probably a little too seriously, but we all did it for the money.

Advertisement

Greg Evigan: I remember they were paying a lot of money then, too. And if you won, there was an incentive. You got paid more if you won.

Advertisement

Todd Bridges: That’s why it was so competitive. People were trying to win. They were trying to kill people out there! [Laughs.] Whatever it took to win, that’s what they’d do.

Greg Evigan: The money was good in those days, too. I can’t remember exactly what it paid, but if you’re young and you’re making money, you’re not always paying attention. That’s how you lose money, too, by the way!

Jamie Farr: I’m trying to remember what the prizes were. I’m looking at one of the two trophies I had as a captain, but it doesn’t say how much money we won! I thought it was $5,000 just for showing up, $10,000—I think—for coming in second, and I thought it was $20,000 for the winner.

Advertisement

Bill Garnet: In those days, you basically got $10,000 just for showing up, because each member of the third place team got $10,000. If you were on the second place team, you got $15,000, and if you won, you got $20,000… and in those days, that was a substantial amount of money! One time Howard Cosell said, “This is the only real sport on television, because all the other athletes do it for money but they say they’re not doing it for money. On this show, we know why they’re doing it!”

Advertisement

Demond Wilson: The only thing I can say about my time on Battle Of The Network Stars is that I won $20,000 twice. [Laughs.] I’ve got a golf buddy who watches all those old things, and he said, “Hey, Demond, you were pretty good!” I said, “Hey, you get $10,000 just for showing up and $20,000 if you win!” Howard Cosell was a buddy, and he used to tease me and say, “Demond Wilson is too old! He is too old to be out here competing with these young kids!” And I went, “Yeah, but Demond Wilson is going home with 20 grand… and these young kids aren’t!” I don’t even remember what teams I was on, because I did it twice, but I worked for three networks. I did Sanford And Son on NBC, Baby I’m Back for CBS, and The New Odd Couple for ABC. Whatever: $40,000 is $40,000. I don’t give a rat’s ass what network they were for!

John James: Yeah, it was a nice weekend if you won. That was real money back in the day. It’s real money now!

Advertisement

Jamie Farr: If you won, the money was more than what some of us were getting for the series we were doing. Some of these kids today, they make in one episode what some of us made in a whole year, for crying out loud!

Tim Reid: At that time, most of us were not making the kind of money that people thought we were making. We were doing well. I mean, come on now. [Laughs.] But not the kind of money they’re making today, that’s for sure! And it wasn’t just, “I got my money, I’m gonna go out and drink and have a good time!” I remember one time when we came in second, I took my prize money, I went out and hired some musicians, and I recorded a spoken-word album.

Everybody was going for that money. We really wanted to win that top prize. As a matter of fact, I think the most depressing time was when our team came in third. It was not fun. [Laughs.] People couldn’t run, they were falling down… We had a horrible team. I can’t remember who all was involved… and that’s probably best for everyone concerned! But it was fun times. Looking back, I can’t say anything other than that we did it for the money, we made the best of it, we made some friends, and we had fun.


“I’m Howard Cosell, your host!”

Bill Garnet: At the time, there were not many people on television bigger than Howard Cosell, and Cosell loved doing the show. He thought this was one of his favorite things because, for one, he liked being around the stars. And they liked being around him.

Advertisement

Advertisement

John James: My father worked with Howard Cosell. My father is in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and he was a disc jockey at WABC and worked with Howard and knew him quite well. But Howard was great. I kind of grew up knowing who Howard was, and I think I met him when I was a young kid. He was very nice to me, and he gave me a lot of airtime, which I appreciated. And he was a legend! Howard Cosell was the man!

Shari Belafonte: He was fantastic, so funny, so bright, and so articulate. And I have to underline that he was so funny. When we went to New York to do the wraparound voice-over stuff, we could barely get through the session because he would just have all of us roaring and crying with laughter over his diatribe about whatever at the moment had struck him as funny. Usually it was as you were looking at the monitors, and he would talk about bouncing breasts and packages that were showing!

Greg Evigan: Howard was great. I got some great pictures with him. You know, he was so much bigger than life that, even when you’re talking to him on sort of a personal level, it always still felt like you were being interviewed, you know? Because he just had that voice, he had the sarcasm, and… he just had a way about him that he controlled the situation all the time. And that was his job.

Advertisement

Ann Jillian: There was something that Howard Cosell called me out for, and he had a great deal of fun doing it, too, bless his heart. In the swimming competition in one of them, I remember they had all the guys going out first, and I came in, and… I’m a California girl, I don’t have any problem swimming. But he said, “Ann Jillian all but drowns!

LeVar Burton: I was and to this day remain a huge Cosell fan, and having the opportunity to interact with Cosell was a great joy and one of my fondest memories. It’s like being heckled by Don Rickles, you know? Having Cosell insult you or even just mention your name was the Holy Grail for me.

Todd Bridges: I can still hear Howard now: “We have young Todd Bridges here…”

Tim Reid: One of my shining moments was winning the obstacle course, because I got to have a wonderful one-on-one with Howard Cosell. And we actually became friends! But Howard, in the airing of it, during the relay race, I could hear him going, “Timmy Reid runs like a deer!” [Laughs.] Howard would give you a hard time, but he was very happy when I set the record on the obstacle course. He thought that was the greatest thing.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Scott Baio: Either my first or second time doing it—I did it about six or seven times—as I was going into the production trailer, I was singing a Sinatra song, just goofing around or whatever. And I walk in singing “New York, New York,” and I hear, “Hey, Baio! C’mere.” And I turn around, and it’s Cosell. And I say, “Hey, Mr. Cosell, how are you?” “What are you singing?” I say, “It’s Sinatra!” He says, “Let me show you something.” He takes off his watch, he turns it over and says, “Read the back of my watch.” It says, “To Howard, Love Francis Albert.” He says, “You know who that is?” I said, “Yeah, Sinatra.” He said, “Yeah, he’s a friend of mine.” After that, the guy loved me, and I loved him.

Cosell was so good to me. And he always sang “New York, New York” when I would win the obstacle course… on camera! He could be a gruff guy, he could be a pain in the ass and all that, but he was so sweet to me. I remember one year I couldn’t do it because I was hurt, so I hosted it with him, and after hosting it, he goes back and he does the play-by-play. Because I was his sidekick, I did the play-by-play with him. I think they flew me to New York, or wherever the heck it was we recorded it, and he’d not seen it, but we go into the studio. It’s pitch black, we’ve both got a microphone and a headset. We’ve got a television sitting in front of us, and he goes, “Okay, let’s go!” And we started from the beginning, and I’m telling you, for an hour and 40 minutes, he did not stop. And it was all off the cuff. All of it. And he’d throw it to me, “Baio, what do you think about that?” “Great, Howard!” “Okay!” [Laughs.] It was like a walk in the park to him. To watch him do that was one of the most truly awesome things I’ve ever done. He just knew everybody’s name, he knew the events, he knew the scores… He knew everything.

Tim Reid: When Howard got in trouble for one of his comments—about Alvin Garrett, I guess it was—he was just emotionally destroyed by that. I was with him the following year or something, and he was wondering how I was going to respond to him, because it hadn’t been that long. But he was interviewing me, and he was telling me off-camera how emotional it had been, and that he felt so bad. But we were joking together during the interview, so during the interview I said, “Oh, Howard, you little monkey, you…” He lost it. I just remember that laugh and the look on his face, and then he said something like, “Touché!”

Advertisement

Bill Garnet: Dear Howard: He used to say, “I’m the biggest star out here. They all want to be around me!” But he loved doing the show.


The events

Bill Garnet: If you go back to the first one and look at it over the course of time, we always did the sort of standard events—the swimming, the kayaking, the baseball dunk, the running relay, the obstacle course, and the tug of war—and those core events would generally stay the same. We would try different events, and we tossed them if they weren’t overly working. We did bowling once, we did a Frisbee toss once, and we did golf a couple of times. But somebody knew Lou Goldstein, who was the social director at Grossinger’s in upstate New York, so Simon Says became a regular part of the old show. And we ended up doing three-on-three football for quite a few shows, which actually worked. We also did the tandem bike race, which was actually sort of the scariest event: the track wasn’t banked, and it wasn’t really made for bicycling. As far as how well people did… There were some athletes that were better than others, let’s say. [Laughs.]

Advertisement

Advertisement

Shari Belafonte: In those days, we shot it over a two-day period, and the first day was the fluffy events. They edited it differently, so that they’d intersperse the hard events with the fluffy events, but we did all the hardcore stuff the second day, and your adrenaline is so pumped by the time you’re doing the second day that you’d run into more moments of twisting an ankle or falling on your head. I think they had the medics working full-time on the second day!

Swimming

Tim Matheson: I was one of the younger guys there and perhaps one of the more athletic guys. I remember doing well at swimming. I think I did two laps? The anchor lap, I think.

Advertisement

Tim Reid: When Dave [Letterman] and I were on the swim team, along with Charlene Tilton, LeVar Burton, and Valerie Bertinelli, I, uh, wasn’t the greatest swimmer in the world. [Laughs.] David was certainly better than I. But I had to lead off and swim to the opposite end, and then the next person had to jump in. And, of course, we came in last, because when I jumped in, I went down like a rock. I mean, it was, like, “Submarine down!” Before I got to the other end of the pool, everybody was already coming back toward me. Yeah, Dave never let me live that down…

Advertisement

LeVar Burton: Dave was certainly funny, just not very fast in the water. But I can’t talk. I don’t even think I swam! I was definitely a handicap in the pool.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: I tried to do the swimming thing, but I’m not the greatest swimmer, so that was, like, “What am I doing in the water?” [Laughs.] I remember Jimmie Walker hollered at me, “Don’t let Lawrence near a pool. Keep him away from the water!”

Kayaking

Ann Jillian: When I was in the kayak, I’d never sat in a kayak before, much less tried to operate one! But there we were, and I was doing pretty good at one point, but then I started going around… and I came back! I knew that one was gone.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Greg Evigan: I think kayaking was one I was really strong in. Pretty strong, anyway.

Tim Reid: I flipped a kayak. They never let me live it down. [Laughs.] Not only would millions of people watch you flip over in a kayak, but even when it was over, nobody who was actually there would ever let you forget it.

Shari Belafonte: I remember it being cold and foggy and the pool just looking gigantic, the rubber kayaks being a nemesis for me. When I did the show this year, I kept talking about kayak redemption, how I needed to be redeemed for my kayaking 30 years ago!

Baseball dunk

Bill Garnet: The dunk tank was one of the highlights, because it became the thing where, because everyone was in such close proximity, they began taunting each other. A couple of them—I know Gabe Kaplan was one of them—tried to get Cosell to sit in it… and, of course, he would never do that in a million years! So the dunk tank was an event, but it was the great fun part of the show. Ann Jillian actually went three for three with the dunk tank. There were some men who did that, but I think she’s the only woman who actually had a perfect three for three.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Ann Jillian: Three in a row, each time. Jim Sikking and Tom Selleck went down. [Laughs.]

Running relay

Tim Matheson: They had me in the track event, and I had run when I was in the service, but I hadn’t really gotten to my marathon strength yet, y’know? I hadn’t really run that much. Of course, when we were shooting, I didn’t have time to do anything. But I think I had the 220-leg of a relay race, and I didn’t know how to pace myself. I remember starting, and I did okay for the first 110, and then… “Oh, my god, this is a lot longer than I really imagined it was going to be!” [Laughs.] Even Cosell commented on it. You could see the carbon dioxide building up in my body and my legs. But I finished!

Advertisement

John James: The hardest thing I did was running against Mark Harmon, who… I believe he was an All-American football player at UCLA, wasn’t he? So to have him only just beat me by a heartbeat was pretty good!

Tim Reid: My wife [Daphne Maxwell Reid] did the Battle Of The Network Stars, and it was a tragedy. I kept telling her, “You need to go out and jog or something,” but she did nothing. I mean, I don’t even think she did a pull-up. She just went out there thinking, “Oh, I’m cute!” So they put her on the relay team, and I’m going, “I’ve never seen my wife run.” I’d never seen her run to anything. Not to the bathroom. Not to anywhere! So I’m there cheering her on, and they gave her the baton, and… I realize in the first few steps that my wife can’t run. [Laughs.] She didn’t know how to run. She’d never lifted her knees higher than a shuffle! She had to run 110 yards, and by the time she got 30 yards out… I can’t remember who the actress was that was competing with her, but she went by my wife like she was going in the opposite direction, she went by her so fast. Daphne shuffled around the 110, and she was so far behind that they’d almost looped her. They were so mad at her.

Advertisement

Jamie Farr: When I was captain, I put Lou Ferrigno in the track race, and everybody thought he was too heavy and too big, but I remember Scott Baio’s face when Louie came by. It was like a thundering herd of buffalo coming by!

Advertisement

Todd Bridges: Back then, I was the fastest person out there running. Actually, the only person who was on my heels during that race was Lou Ferrigno. I was way out ahead, and I hear, “BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!” And I didn’t want to look back, but I finally did look back, and Lou Ferrigno was about five feet behind me! So I had to turn the guns on and make sure he didn’t catch me! Can you believe that? That big dude was fast! But you think about it, he had a long stride, and that made him faster. I still won, though, but Lou made me work for it!

Obstacle course

Scott Baio: I think I held the record for the obstacle course.

Tim Reid: I held the record for years for the obstacle course. I held it till Scott Baio took it away from me.

Advertisement

Advertisement

LeVar Burton: I remember doing the obstacle course against Kurt Russell. I don’t remember how I did, but I’m going to say for the purposes of this conversation that I smoked him.

Todd Bridges: The last time I did the obstacle course, my foot got stuck in the stupid rope ladder thing, and I couldn’t get over it. Leif Garrett beat me. I would’ve had him if my foot hadn’t gotten stuck. When I did it for the new Battle, I finally got through it, but I was so nervous running through it, and I was going, “Please don’t get stuck, please don’t get stuck…”

Karen Grassle: If you see the video of me and Adrienne Barbeau on the obstacle course, she was on CBS, and I think they were expecting her to win over the old prairie mom. [Laughs.] Howard Cosell was there at the finish line, ready to interview us just as if we were real athletes, but during the race, he was going, “Adrienne Barbeau, blah blah blah blah blah, Adrienne, Adrienne, Adrienne.” And I just beat the pants off her. So that was very satisfying!

Tug of war

Hal Linden: That first year, nobody took it seriously until the tug of war.

LeVar Burton: Hal Linden is right. The tug of war… That’s when the shit got real.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: The tug of war was fun, but it hurt! Because you had people like Robert Conrad, but you also had people like Dan Haggerty, these big, brawny people. We hung onto that rope, but to hang on with that kind of ferocity and that kind of strength, you’ve got to use everything you’ve got. By the time we let it go, my whole body felt like it was numb, my hands were shaking, and I remember saying to LeVar Burton, who was also there, “This isn’t about being macho, this is about brute strength!” The tug of war was no joke!

LeVar Burton: NBC beat us, by the way. How can you lose when you’ve got Grizzly Adams on your side? [Laughs.]

Tim Matheson: The tug of war… I mean, it’s, like, now you’re 12 years old again, like you’re back at camp or something. The other things, you can really just look at them and say, “I can do this, I don’t know how to do that.” But everybody figures they can do the tug of war. It really comes down to who’s the most macho team, and… I think we got our asses kicked on that, as I recall. [Laughs.]

Advertisement

Hal Linden: It doesn’t take any brains, it’s just how dedicated you are. So it started, and then you started to get tired, but then you looked around you… and nobody wanted to be the first person to say, “Oh, this is ridiculous. What am I killing myself for? I quit!” So nobody walked away. Everybody gave every ounce to that last event. We went past the point of exhaustion, every single one of us. I remember I was so exhausted that all I could do at the end was put my weight on the rope. That’s all I could do. I couldn’t pull anymore! I remember being on top of Robert Hegyes when we were pulling the rope. [Laughs.] But nobody wanted to be the one who quit, y’know? On both sides! I don’t know how long it took. It seemed endless. I was absolutely drained. But we ended up winning. I guess we pulled them over.

Greg Evigan: I’m sure Lou Ferrigno did good in the tug of war. I would not want to be on the other team if Lou was doing the tug of war. I made a difference on the tug of war one year. That was kind of my moment of glory, getting that last tug pulled. Howard Cosell made sure he pointed me out, too, which was kind of cool.

Advertisement

Shari Belafonte: I remember Howard Cosell talking about the fact that “it’s the women who are going to win the tug of war, because it’s all in the hips.” [Laughs.] The only reason I remember anybody on my team is because they were also on ABC. Jill Whelan was on the tug of war with me, and I remember going, “Oh my god, do we have gloves? Do we have anything for our arms?” Because those ropes were horrific! But you’re fighting for thousands of dollars, so you sort of dig in your heels and just go for broke!

Advertisement

Ann Jillian: Doing the tug of war, Donna Dixon—who I thought was one of the most beautiful girls in Hollywood at the time, hands down, and such a sweet lady—she was behind me, and I was in front of Scott Baio, and we started to pull. Well, we had no idea what a vicious thing this was going to be. This was a terribly vicious event! Our nails were breaking! [Laughs.] Seriously, though, you’d be holding on for dear life, and you’d get these involuntary spasms in your hand, and you’d be pushing against the sand. I remember the rope kind of gave way, and we all went into Scott’s back, and all of us were going, “Oh my god! Oh my god!” Especially me, because now my feet are on his back instead of in the sand! I’m sure it was painful for him, especially with the weight of everybody coming in, pushing me forward into his back.

John James: When we were going into the tug of war, and Bill Devane was the captain of the CBS team. You were limited to a certain amount of weight, and to pick your team, you mixed and matched to keep under that weight. Well, Bill weighed in the team… and they were one pound over. You know, anybody else would probably just say, “Well, let’s just reshuffle the players,” but he ordered his team into the Porta-Potties and said, “Don’t come out ’til you’ve done something!” True story. But they came in under weight! [Laughs.] From that moment on, I was fan of William Devane’s.

Bill Garnet: By the time of the tug of war, you knew the two teams who were vying for first place, and I think of the things that came out of the show—I’m not going to say proved—was that actors, like everyone else, are competitive. When they got to the tug of war, they wanted to win!

Golf

Hal Linden: I was in the golf tournament, which consisted of just one chip shot to a green, and whoever came closest won. Something like that. Maybe we had three or four shots. But I didn’t do very well. I wasn’t a good golfer then… and I’m still not!

Three-on-three football

Bill Garnet: One of the nicer moments that I remember was when Mark Harmon was doing the show, and we went to do the three-on-three football, and I looked up… and Mark was playing wide receiver, not quarterback! And I actually went over to him and said, “What’s the deal?” And he said, “Well, it wouldn’t be fair if I was quarterback!”

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tim Reid: Mark Harmon would always win at football. He was a very good football player. The year we lost, I remember playing against him. We definitely took that seriously. It was pretty much arena football. [Laughs.] You could walk away with a bloody nose if you weren’t careful!

Jamie Farr: I think I was in a football game where I was a receiver, and I think Larry Wilcox was covering me, and I ran out for a pass. I was the Fred Biletnikoff of the actors: I was slow, but I had good hands. And I think Larry Wilcox cold-cocked me in getting a reception, and he got a penalty called on it. And we got a touchdown because of that.

Scott Baio: We always got upset that there had to be women on the team because none of them could catch a football, and they were always upset about their makeup. Well, most of ’em, anyway.

Advertisement

Ann Jillian: In this one football game, Scott was supposed to throw the ball, and he did, but it was almost like a Hail Mary, because I was supposed to be the one to catch it, but nobody thought that I was going to catch it. I was in the farthest corner diagonally from where he threw it, and I ran toward it with Erin Gray, who was on the NBC team. She and I jumped up, but this is where some of my dancing skills came in, because I probably jetéd across the field. [Laughs.] And then I jumped up. Both of us did. Now, Erin, she was beautiful and feminine, but she was also a jock. She was very athletic. And the two of us are going up, going up, stretching, stretching, and we both had our hands on it… but I prevailed. And I turned it toward me, into my chest, and landed on the ground. And then there was silence. And then there was this cheer, because nobody believed that I had caught that ball and that I’d been able to twist away and keep it. I was thrilled. It was crazy, but it just goes to show you that I can do anything, even the things I think I can’t do. All I need is an audience!

Tandem bike race

Hal Linden: Nobody wanted to ride in the bike race. And since I didn’t want to run or do any of the other strenuous things, I said, “I’ll ride. I can ride a bike!” But I ride a bike recreationally. [Laughs.] I think I came in last! I pedaled as fast as I could, but I was behind all these kids.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Ann Jillian: I did the tandem bike with John Davidson, and that’s when the dancer’s legs and the thunder thighs got into it and helped him. [Laughs.] So we got the championship record for that one.

Tim Reid: My wife couldn’t run, so they put her on a bicycle! She doesn’t ride a bicycle, either! [Laughs.] But in order to get paid, you had to be in at least two events, and they hadn’t used her wisely, so they put her on this bicycle with Lorenzo Lamas, and he had to peddle them both around this whole thing. Oh, I was so embarrassed…

Bill Garnet: There was one time where Lorenzo Lamas went off the track. He didn’t quite make the turn, went off the track, and went head over teakettle. But everybody was fine, and nobody got hurt. I also remember one time that Charlene Tilton was in the back of the bike, and she lost the pedals and couldn’t get them back, and for three-quarters of the lap, she basically ended up sitting on the back of the bike not doing anything.

Advertisement

Karen Grassle: I was terrible at the tandem bike. Larry Wilcox, who was my partner, was so nice. He was a really good bicyclist and he knew it, and he was in to win. And of the people there were to choose from, I guess I was the one who was the most game to do it. [Laughs.] So I was behind him on this tandem bike and we took off, and he was going so fast that my feet slipped off the pedals. And I knew at that point that if I tried to put them back on, I’d probably just gum up the works, so I just lifted up my legs so that he could bike away… and he carried me to the finish line. It was hilarious!


Getting competitive with Bob Conrad

Jimmie Walker: I loved Battle Of The Network Stars. It was the stupidest show in the world, but I took it very seriously. A lot of people didn’t. But I took it very seriously.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tim Matheson: It got very competitive, and I’m sure people started going into training after that first year, but I liked it because it was just a goof. Except for Bob Conrad. [Laughs.] Who was very competitive and very serious.

Bill Garnet: Robert Conrad was incredible. When he would captain a team, he would actually get his team together the week before the show just to find out who could do what and who was good at what. He would work ’em. He would work ’em pretty hard. He wanted to win! But he was great. He was totally into it, he got into it, and he was incredibly competitive. There were a couple of guys like that. Scott Baio was in it a bunch of times, and he told me it got to the point where the night before—we would always shoot on Saturdays and Sundays out at Pepperdine—he would get so nervous and anxious about the thing that he would end up getting nervous just from his desire to do good.

Scott Baio: We were serious as a heart attack. I remember one morning we were sitting in the trailer, the whole team, except one guy was missing. I think it was Jimmy Farentino. But we were sitting in the trailer going, “We’re gonna kill ’em! We’re gonna do this!” And Jimmy walked in and went, “What the hell?” And he turned around, walked out, and left! Because he thought it was just going to be a publicity stunt.

Advertisement

Jimmie Walker: [CBS] got our asses kicked every year by Penny Marshall [and the ABC team]. She fucking destroyed us, every year. So one year, Bo Svenson got in contact with everyone, and he said, “We are gonna win this fucking thing!” We went out, and we took rowing lessons, we took swimming lessons, we took basketball lessons, and son of a sea dragon, when the actual game came, it was easier than the training! We destroyed everybody. And I loved it. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s one of the highlights of my career, winning the Battle Of The Network Stars. Thank god we finally got ’em. We kicked Penny Marshall’s ass!

Bill Garnet: Nobody was a bad sport. When people came out, they knew what they were getting themselves into. For the most part, I’d say everyone had a good time doing it. Everyone was really into it and had the best interest of the show and promoting themselves and putting on a good face. I don’t remember anyone who gave us a hard time.

Advertisement

LeVar Burton: Of course, you get a bunch of actors together and roll cameras, and at some point the egos do kick in. And nobody wants to look bad on national television! The competition was real.

Advertisement

Greg Evigan: There’s no way that you don’t take it seriously to some degree. You have to. Otherwise you’ll get hurt worse, so you’d better pay attention… although there’s nothing better than watching celebrities fall on their faces, is there? [Laughs.]

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: I don’t remember anybody getting out of hand, other than Robert Conrad’s ego getting kind of carried away. When Conrad was trying to talk all that macho stuff with me, I was 22 or 23 then, and I was a tough little New York kid, so I didn’t react. I wasn’t intimidated by him!

Greg Evigan: Robert Conrad was our captain one year. He was definitely competitive. [Laughs.] He was that kind of guy. I mean, fuck, he did the battery commercials, with the battery on his shoulder! But, yeah, I remember sitting in the motor home with him, because we were all hanging out, getting ready, and he was pretty intense, making a plan how we were going to be training.

Advertisement

Todd Bridges: Robert Conrad was always trying to talk crap to people. That was something he used to always try to do. He used to say, “I can beat you running.” And I was, like, “No, you can’t, Robert.” “Yes, I can.” “No, you can’t!” So everybody said, “Why don’t you guys race?” I beat Robert Conrad so bad. He said, “Okay, you can run.” [Laughs.] I beat him so bad that he had to be quiet.

Jamie Farr: Wasn’t there a rift between Gabe Kaplan and Bob Conrad? Didn’t that go on? I think Kaplan was the captain of the ABC team, and he was a rough guy, too. He could be mean. [Laughs.] I stayed away from them. I was a courageous captain hiding behind Lou Ferrigno!

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tim Matheson: I remember Gabe Kaplan was really a good runner, because he beat Bob Conrad in some event, but it was close to a tie or whatever.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: Conrad felt like it wasn’t counted right, and he said, “Right here and right now, I will challenge Gabe Kaplan to a race to prove who’s the better man.” And Gabe was real quiet. Gabe was just, like, “I don’t want to do that!” But Gabe was the captain of our team, and Robert Conrad, he wouldn’t let it go, so he made the cameras stop so that they could film this. And they got on the racetrack: “On your mark… Get set… GO!” I didn’t even have any idea that Gabe could run. But Gabe left him way in the dust. Way in the dust! I was, like, “Oh, my god!” [Laughs.] So Robert Conrad, he had to eat a little crow that day, ’cause Gabe just dusted him. It was crazy!

LeVar Burton: Score one for Mr. Kotter!

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: Conrad ran his team like he was his character on Baa Baa Black Sheep, regulating them like he was their general, trying to control them. [Laughs.] So when they got beat by little ABC, he just couldn’t stand it. His ego was beyond logic.


This one time at Battle Of The Network Stars…

John James: The line of limousines filling up the place at 8 a.m. was always impressive. Because we were all given a car and a driver, it looked like the Academy Awards or something. It was crazy.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Bill Garnet: When Battle Of The Network Stars first started, the co-hosts were all sorts of ABC Sports people. For the first one, we had somebody from ABC Sports who had some sort of connection to each sport—we had Bruce Jenner at the track, at the pool we had Mark Spitz, and at the obstacle course we had Cathy Rigby—but as the show went on, we decided to go more with the celebrity co-hosts rather than the sports co-hosts. For the most part, we tried to get somebody who had done the show before and could talk to what the participants were going through. That was the thought process: it would add another celebrity to the mix, but it would also be somebody who could talk about what it was like to be in the show.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: I only did Battle Of The Network Stars once, and when I did it, it was still a brand new thing—I think they’d only done it once before—and when I did it, Bruce Jenner and O.J. Simpson were the co-hosts! It’s kind of funny that they were the top athletes in their fields at the time.

Karen Grassle: I remember when we came out to the beach for the tug of war, there was O.J. Simpson. I guess they had him doing some announcing or something like that. He was so gorgeous. He was like a god. You know how some people just glow? That’s how he was. He was one of the most beautiful human beings I ever saw in my life, just physically. His radiance, it just came off of him. It was, like, “Oh, my god, that is a star.”

Advertisement

LeVar Burton: O.J. certainly was charismatic. In one of the competitions, he was one of the commentators, and he told the story of how I outran him in one of the takes of Roots, and that was certainly a highlight at that time of my life. I was a kid, and I was new to show business, so I was certainly star-struck.

John James: My first year, Joan Collins was on my team, and I’ll never forget her running the relay in pantyhose. That was… interesting. Heather Locklear was just a real little dynamo. I had no idea. Heather Thomas was, too. But Heather Locklear really impressed me. She was quite the athlete. Bill Moses impressed me. too. And Mr. T. Man, I didn’t think he’d be fast, but he was fast! But Joan Collins certainly was not. [Laughs.]

Advertisement

Ann Jillian: I remember Robert Urich was in one of them, and oh, gosh, so many people! Willie Aames was there, too. Arte Johnson was so funny, and he had us all laughing and enjoying ourselves.

Advertisement

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: Bobby Hegyes, may he rest in peace, he brought his dog with him, and his dog’s name was Reefer. [Laughs.] It was, like, “Well, the world knows where you’re coming from now, brother!”

Greg Evigan: Clifton Davis was on Amen at the time he did it [in 1988], but being into music, I remember working with him because he wrote “Never Can Say Goodbye,” which is one of my favorite songs of all time. He’s a really talented guy.

Demond Wilson: When [William] Shatner was out there, he was just starting to get fat. Now he looks like a blowfish. Whenever I see him, I just want to say, “Bill, c’mon, you’re too old to be this fat. Stop eating!” [Laughs.] “You need to step away from the buffet!” People go on my Instagram or Facebook and say, “What happened to age?!” I say, “Well, black don’t crack if you take care of yourself!”

Advertisement

Tim Matheson: I did the show the first year, but Kurt [Russell, Matheson’s co-star on The Quest] did it the following year, who’s a much better athlete, much more aggressive, and I’m sure that the NBC team probably won when Kurt was there, because he knows how to motivate people and get people cranked up. He would not take it in any way other than seriously. If he’s there, he’s there to win!

Advertisement

Lawrence Hilton Jacobs: Kurt Russell was the nicest guy. I remember when I saw him there, I went up and said, “I heard you were going to play professional baseball.” He said, “Yeah, well, easy come, easy go.” He had no ego. He was not threatened. He was real nice, but he was good at what he did. He was just there to promote his show, but when it came time to compete, he was at full strength.

Bill Garnet: It’s funny in looking back at it, because there was one of those moments which you don’t think of at the time as a big deal, but… there was an obstacle course that year that was run by Billy Crystal and David Letterman!

Advertisement

Jamie Farr: Howard Cosell absolutely adored Billy Crystal. He used to say, “You know, Jamie, that Billy Crystal, he’s gonna be a big star,” and he just went on and on and on. He certainly prophesized that one correctly!

John James: Helen Hunt was on the team one year. So was C. Thomas Howell. Just looking through who was there and what they’ve done since… I mean, Mark Harmon was kind of just starting out, and now he’s one of the highest-paid guys in television!

Tim Reid: Robin Williams did the show. He and I were friends because of the comedy circuit, and we stayed friends a great deal. But when you look back and think of where we were and how young we were. We were all excited about this thing. We hadn’t been jaded. None of us had reached the “stardom” that was destined for any of us, so there was an openness about us and a naïveté about us.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Bill Garnet: When we were booking the show, one of the ABC executives said, “We want you to get Tom Selleck.” At that point, Selleck was a pretty big star. What happened was, I happened to know somebody who was working on Magnum, P.I., so I called my friend who was working on it and said, “We’re doing another Battle Of The Network Stars, somehow I need to get in touch with Selleck.” And he basically just said, “Hold on,” and handed the phone to Selleck! And I said, “Tom, you don’t know me, I’m Bill Garnet, I’m one of the guys doing Battle Of The Network Stars…” He said, “Oh, my god! Do you know I went to USC on a volleyball scholarship? I want to do that!”

Jamie Farr: Tom Selleck was doing Magnum, P.I. in Hawaii, and I was calling him, asking him, “So you’re a good swimmer, right?” He said, “Yeah, yeah,” so I put him in the swimming event. Tom was a lot of fun. When it aired, we were all at Diane Ladd’s house, those of us who were in the California area at that time, and we called Tom long-distance in Hawaii to ask if he was watching the show. He said that he was.

Bill Garnet: I went back and looked, and Charlene Tilton, when she came out and did the new Battle Of The Network Stars, she now holds the record of doing the most Battles of anyone in the history of the show. I think by doing this new one, she’s now done eight of them.

Advertisement

Off the top of my head, probably the only one I can say that we wanted to get but who never ended up doing it at the time was John Travolta. We did have Gabe doing it a bunch of times, Bobby Hegyes did it, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs did it, but Travolta ended up never doing it. I don’t really know what it was. I think when Saturday Night Fever came out, I just think that his management or whatever probably thought he was a big enough star that he didn’t need to do it or whatever. I don’t know. I didn’t have that conversation with him.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: I can tell you the truth about that, because I asked John about it, and I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this. I don’t care if he minds. [Laughs.] When I asked him about it, I said, “Why don’t you want to do the show, man?” And he said, “Man, I don’t want to do something that I won’t be good at.” He was not an athletic dude—other than he danced—and that was it. And I got it. That’s the reason he didn’t want to do it—he just felt like competing in that stuff, he wouldn’t be able to be do it 100 percent. I heard it from him verbatim, because I asked him. And that’s his right. I respect that. Not everything needs to be done because you’re asked to do it. Not everybody has to go on The Tonight Show. Not everybody needs to do a guest star shot on Donny And Marie. You don’t have to. You have choices in life.


A new beginning

Bill Garnet: I think that, like anything else, it ran its course. When you watched television in the ’70s and early ’80s, you watched television on ABC, CBS, and NBC. By the time ’88 rolls around and into the ’90s, with cable, there were just a lot more channels and a lot more things to see and watch. It was just one of those things where, like all things in television, it ran its course. And when it was over, it was over. But because it worked, they tried to bring it back.

Advertisement

Advertisement

All in all, the show had a heck of a run. In those days, we ran it as a two-hour prime-time special, and ABC always put it on in sweeps, because it always got a rating. I think it’s fair to say—and this is not egotistical, it just so happens to be this way—that I was probably there for more of them than anyone. For me, I did a lot of stuff in my day, but this was right up there as the most fun thing that you could possibly do.

I know they tried to bring it back in other incarnations—the Battle Of The Network Reality Stars, for one—but I think that over the course of time, just because television has changed, it became a different landscape, so it didn’t work.

Neil Flynn: I did the 2003 revival that was done for NBC, which I think ultimately aired on USA Jr., or some other off-network. I was new to network TV, and it was the first time I’d been asked to do anything based on my newfound “star” status. Scrubs was still a new show, and I knew it could disappear at any time, and me with it. I wanted to do something fun while I had the chance. Our version could have been called Battle Of Some People You May Have Seen On TV. I had watched the show when I was young, so it was a kick to participate as an adult, even if ours was a pale imitation of the original, and even though I wasn’t really a star. I knew even as we were shooting that it wouldn’t be a big event. It may have been kind of a test-run to see if they could get bigger names the next time, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had never aired at all.

Advertisement

Bill Garnet: They decided to give it another go this year, though, and they brought me in on the new series as a consultant. I’m not the producer, but they asked me to come and be there. I was there to help the hosts with what happened at the track, who did this and who did that. So there is a reference to the old show in the new show.

Jamie Farr: Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters honors people every month with a luncheon, and they just honored [ABC sportcaster] Al Michaels. At one point, they introduced Fred Dryer, who was in the audience, and they mentioned that he was going to be part of the new Battle Of The Network Stars. I said, “How’d it go?” He said, “Oh, it went great. We did it over at Pepperdine, and it’s going to be airing soon.” And then when I looked online to see who was in it, I saw that they’d gotten some people who’d been in the original. I told my wife, “Well, it looks like they were only using people under 70, fortunately.” [Laughs.] Because I’m way beyond that now!

Advertisement

Shari Belafonte: Barbara Donahue, who is a sports producer and who’s a good friend, we met on Battle Of The Network Stars 30 years ago. She was one of the segment producers. But Barbara and I would ask over the years, “Why isn’t Battle Of The Network Stars on anymore? That’s something that should come back around. We should address that!” And only a few days after we last talked about it, my publicist texted me and said, “Call me right away: they’re doing Battle Of The Network Stars, and they’re interested in you being on it.”

Advertisement

Kate Spitzer, who was the talent coordinator on it this time, I immediately called her and started out by saying, “This is so fucking funny, because we’ve been talking about it…” And then it turned out that she lived across the street from a friend of mine who’s now my financial adviser, but 30 years before she’d been a talent wrangler for the network! So when Kate told her that she was going to be doing another Battle Of The Network Stars, she said, “Oh my god, you have to get Sheri Belafonte on that show!” And she said, “Oh my god, she’s already on my list!” [Laughs.] So I guess you can’t keep an old sports fanatic down.

Bill Garnet: I believe it’s 17 of the people in the show this time who did the show in the old days.

Shari Belafonte: When I went in to talk to them at the office—because at one point we were talking about whether I was going to be a co-host again—their bulletin board had 300 faces attached to it. I said, “Are you calling all these people?” They said, “Yes, we are, and almost every one of them has said ‘yes’!” So I felt honored to have made it onto one of the teams!

Advertisement

Todd Bridges: It was great just to go back and re-do it again, but the funny part about it is, you don’t realize how old you’ve gotten until you go back and try to do it again. Man, it was rough! But I had a good time doing it. And it was still was a lot of fun, man. It really was.


Looking back

Tim Reid: When I think back to that show, I think of the friendships that developed. A few of them still exist. Tom Selleck and I had the same business manager, and he and I became friends and stayed friends. I met his mother and father. Things like Battle Of The Network Stars were the way, back in the day, that we’d hook up off-camera or away from our regular gigs, and our respect and friendship would grow.

Advertisement

Advertisement

John James: When you do television or even just when you work in Hollywood, you’re always stuck away in a studio. So it was a real carnival event, which made it a lot of fun. It looks like it was easy, but I can guarantee you that on Sunday afternoon, when it was over, I was sore and I was banged up.

Ann Jillian: We all went home sunburned. Sometimes some of us went home slightly injured. I remember we had an obstacle course during one of the three I was in, and I was never good at the obstacle thing. Ever. Not even when I was a kid and we had to do that for P.E. But I was making it across, and everything was good, and then I got to the monkey bars. They had built platforms on either end, they were kind of rough-hewn, and I was swinging back and forth… and my lower ankle hits the back of this 2x4 that’s jutting out. It did not feel good.

Adrienne Barbeau: Driving home from Malibu after however many days of competition it was, I was truly afraid I wasn’t going to be able to raise my leg off of the gas pedal and onto the brake. And that was when I first thought to myself, “Well, your body’s not going to take care of yourself anymore: you’ve got to start getting to the gym!” And that, in turn, started my appreciation of going to Gold’s Gym and working out!

Advertisement

Karen Grassle: For me, it was so fun to have a chance to be with some other actors, because we all worked so hard and we worked such long hours that we hardly ever got to see each other. But with this, you’d spend a weekend getting to know each other in this environment where we were changing clothes three or four times a day, doing things that we weren’t good at, and still having a good time at it. We wanted to be good competitors, but it was just so fun to meet these people that were on the air the same time as you were.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs: There were a lot of people hugging, a lot of photo ops. It was a friendly competition, and it was a way to blow off stream. And, of course, it was during a simpler time. It was in the ’70s, and… [Hesitates.] Well, I don’t know if it was simpler, but it was a little more civil than today. If you wanted to talk to someone, you talked to them. We didn’t have no cellphones, we didn’t have Instagram or any other social media, so we just dealt with each other.

Advertisement

Tim Reid: When I think back on those things, I think about those moments, because you’re away from the set, and it was a relaxed environment. Of course, there was the agony of defeat… [Laughs.] But we didn’t take it too seriously. We didn’t do like they do on Dancing With The Stars. There weren’t a whole lot of weeks of trying to get into shape. But the production values were high, they gave you nice outfits, and you got to keep the suits. So it was a wonderful outing for us.

Advertisement

John James: I look back at it and I laugh, because it was just a different time. It was very much just innocent and fun.

Bill Garnet: That was really the thing that was very present on our minds—we wanted everybody to have fun. It became serious sport for some of them, I will say. But for a lot of them, I’d even say more of them than not, it was just, “Come out there and have fun, laugh, and have a good time!”