July 21, 2011

"Ed Flesh, Designed the Wheel of Fortune, Dies at 79."

An obituary for a man with a fabulous name and flashy achievement:
Mr. Flesh used eye-catching details like enormous light bulbs, Mylar surfaces, pastel color schemes and shag carpeting in his game-show d├ęcor of the 1960s and 1970s. His large, bright sets lent shows a sense of luxury that the utilitarian designs of the 1950s and early 1960s lacked....

But Mr. Flesh’s most lasting creation may be the blinking carnival wheel that eventually mesmerized the nation. In the pilot for “Wheel of Fortune,” the wheel stood upright and was rather small, making it difficult to see on screen. Mr. Flesh laid it flat and made it big enough so that home viewers could clearly discern its markings.

The first wheel he created, in 1975, was a humble affair of cardboard, paint and light bulbs; the current incarnation is steel and Plexiglas and weighs more than 2,400 pounds.
Let us acknowledge the importance of Mr. Flesh as an artist: He made a vivid sculpture that impressed itself into American consciousness as what the 1970s look like and, beyond the 70s, what color TV is supposed to look like... all glitzy and flashy and kinetic. Before TV went wild like that, quiz shows looked like this:

20 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Eventually we all spin "bankrupt."

Chip S. said...

Alas, the way of all flesh.

sonicfrog said...

As a kid, I loved password... That, and Match Game! Great banter on that show!!!

NYTNewYorker said...

It was the wheel?...Oh, so Vanna White was chopped liver, eh?

Curious George said...

F _ C K M Y H E _ R T

Death bed exclamation

David said...

I love Vanna White's career.

Proof of American greatness/

ricpic said...

Stanley Elkin wrote a novel, The Franchiser, in which the franchiser is named Ben Flesh. A great novel, by the way, about a small businessman, his joys and travails.

urpower said...

Ha! Garish & bold! He was gay!

Rick Lee said...

Back in the 80s I took a tour of the NBC studios in Burbank and saw the Wheel of Fortune set pushed over into a corner of a soundstage. It was shocking what it looked like in person. Dirty, scuffed and tired. I wonder if that might not fly in the age of HD television where we can see so much more detail.

Chip S. said...

However much Ed Flesh's legacy may lie in the Wheel, he got his Emmy, inexplicably, for "the set of a Lifetime channel version of Supermarket Sweep, in 1993."

Seriously, just how creative do you have to be to come up with this set design for a show called "Supermarket Sweep?

And not a push broom in sight!

EDH said...

Consider how much show time is spent as the "Wheel" spins and the contestants and the audience mindlessly stare and clap.

Talk about mind rot.

ndspinelli said...

Jeopardy was good w/ Art Fleming..Trebeck is French Canadian pompous trash and unwatchable.

edutcher said...

I think I first noticed his name on the credits of "Days of Our Lives".

My first reaction was that he was right at home on a CA-based soap opera.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Amazing how vulgarity became the norm in the 1960s.

Christy said...

"His large, bright sets lent shows a sense of luxury that the utilitarian designs of the 1950s and early 1960s lacked...."

Luxury? I genuinely don't get it. First off, one doesn't get much more of a sense of luxury than Kitty Carlisle and friends in gowns on "What's My Line." Second of all, bright sets scream lower middle class. NTTAWWT.

BTW, Thank you, Althouse, for returning to the old sign in. I tried for 3 days to comment and always found myself in a loop that wouldn't let me do anything other than close the windows in frustration. Guess it happened to lots of folks, huh?

What was everyone else's secret to getting through? I was trying to use my google acct.

EDH said...

Luxury? I genuinely don't get it. First off, one doesn't get much more of a sense of luxury than Kitty Carlisle and friends in gowns on "What's My Line.

Within the Goodson-Toddman axis, Arlene Francis was the grand dame of What's My Line.

Kitty Carlise, I think, was the grand dame of To Tell the Truth, although looking at YouTube she was the mystery guest on one episode of WML.

A. Shmendrik said...

Bobby Stack and Nanette Fabray. Some quality celebrities right there. I think Nanette is still kicking at nearly 90. Of course we know that Stack is gone, and Betty White would never let the world forget that Alan Ludden is posthumus.

Shows like this (as well as some shit hosted by Bill Cullen and Wink Martindale) were what you got to watch when you were home sick. Back in my day.

Christy said...

EDH, you are right, of course. My bad.

Popville said...

Password with Elizabeth Montgomery was to die for. She was definately the best regular celeb the show ever offered us. Better than Betty White, even tho she obviously had the inside track.

Elizabeth Montgomery v. Jim Backus, Dec 1966"

In comparison, The Wheel is a very nice diversion like Concentration (competitors as the longest running game show). Though Concentration was my favorite "play along at home" game as a kid.

Popville said...

The women of What's My Line were Arlene Francis and the Algonquinesqe columnist Dorothy Kilgallen. A veddy, verily Manhatten centric show.