Milwaukee Journal, June 21 1987
WHY DID Fox Broadcasting zap Frank Zappa's scheduled spot as guest host of the network's struggling "Late Show" two Fridays ago? As Zappa explained in a recent interview, it wasn't because Fox feared that the musician, who's been known to thrive on the outrageous, would do something unseemly on the air. The real reason, Zappa said, was his choice of guests: National Public Radio commentator Daniel Schorr and Gerard Thomas Straub, former (and fired) producer of Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club" and author of "Salvation for Sale."
According to Zappa, his short life behind the scenes at Fox began serenely enough. When Zappa was approached to do the show, he said, it was "based on the concept that they would have the guests that I wanted. Originally I suggested Prince, Wynton Marsalis and the group Cameo."
Fox seemed pleased with the suggestions, but none was available, Zappa said, "so I suggested my machine – the computer I make my music on – as a guest." Fox approved that idea, but wanted to know what to do visually while the machine performed. Zappa suggested the Pilobolus modern dance troupe, which featured "contortionism, acrobatics and just plain weirdness," but the group was out of the country. "So I said, 'Then let's go to a vaudeville agency and get jugglers or a dog show or maybe just get people out of the audience and let them dance around,' " he said.
Fox "thought that was kind of cheesy and 'Gong Show-ish,' " Zappa said.
Ultimately, Zappa invited Schorr (a former CBS newsman), with Fox's lukewarm approval: "Fox wasn't thrilled with that idea; they didn't even want to pay for his ticket. They wanted me to interview basketball and football players. But I don't know anything about sports!"
Things went from bad to worse when Zappa met "Salvation for Sale" author Gerard Thomas Straub and proposed him as a guest. Straub, a CBS producer-turned-born-again-Christian, was fired from his job producing "The 700 Club" and had written a book about his experience.
"(The book) is not an indictment of Robertson," Zappa said, "but it deals bluntly with some of the aspects of the Christian Broadcasting Network."
Zappa thought that Straub and Schorr would be lively guests.
But Fox officials apparently did not. "They absolutely panicked when I brought up Straub," Zappa said. "They said 'Another book guy? No way! The viewers will be nodding out.'"
Zappa disagreed, "What I would have brought on was not going to be 'educational'; I perceived it as good entertainment. But they seem to think that anybody who watches late-night television has a brain the size of a microbe."
Even though Zappa agreed to not use Straub on the show, he was notified June 10 that a rerun had been scheduled in place of his show.
"I'm not angry, I understand what's happening over there," the musician said. "We had a difference in philosophy. I thought it could have been fun, but it was something that wasn't meant to be."
Zappa chuckled. "It's par for the course. After all, this is Hollywood ... and that's television."
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