We were lucky from the very beginning in finding new, fresh talent. Dody Goodman, for instance; the French pixie Genevieve; and Pat Harrington Jr., who is now so popular on TV's "One Day at a Time".
Dody was the first big hit on "Tonight" and had a great deal to do with the original success of the program. Dody had been a dancer in such shows as "Call Me Madam", "Wonderful Town", "High Button Shoes", and something called "My Darling Aida" in which she played a cooch dancer and wore a large black diamond in her navel.
However, she seemed more like a bird-brained housewife than a ballerina as she came into my office to talk about the possibility of being on the show. She wore a black skirt, a demure, ruffled blouse with a black-string tie, and spoke in a distracted manner that defied description. I greeted her and we began to chat. To answer a simple yes or no, she would twist her mouth into a knot, scratch the end of her nose, and open her large blue eyes to the size of fried eggs. She began to tell me a long rambling story about a Cary Grant movie she and her mother had seen in her home town of Columbus, Ohio. The story had no perceptible point, but her Midwest twang and hesitant, naive manner were highly amusing in a baffling sort of way.
"Look honey", I finally interrupted. "Just answer me one question. Are you for real? Or are you putting it on?"
She twisted her mouth, patted the top of her pink hair, widened her eyes, and said, "A little."
She was, it soon became apparent, indeed real, and the more she talked the more obvious it became that no one could have made up Dody Goodman. She came on the show my second night, and soon millions of TV viewers were asking each other whether this seemingly dumb blonde was actually real. Her hesitant delivery gave the impression that her picture tube was on but her sound wasn't. Dody never seemed to try to be funny; she just stumbled into it. The things she said really weren't particularly funny, but as she talked, fidgeting, fluttering her hands and smiling happily, she achieved a wackily endearing quality. It is not easy to explain her appeal.
Dody is very bright in her circuitous way to the truth. She is terribly witty, in a droll way, with a natural sense of the ridiculous. She is a tireless talker, and before long I began to feel like the announcer on "The Dody Goodman Show."
One night on the show, about a week after New Year's, she said good night in these words, "Good night, and a Merry Christmas to all. I know it's too late to say that, but I just thought of it."
Another night in the dressing room she said to me, "You have a speck on your eyelash."
I couldn't see anything but batted at my eyelashes to brush it away.
"You still didn't get it," she said, brushing at my left eye. I still couldn't see anything.
"Oh, mercy," she finally said, touching her forehead. "It's on MY eyelash."
Dody feels that her cockeyed outlook on life may be inherited since, according to her, everyone in her family is a little odd. After Dody's success on the show, her family gave a party for her in Columbus. Mrs. Goodman danced with various young men. Finally she confided to one with a smile, "I'm Dody's mother."
"I know," the young man answered. "I'm her brother".