SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — As KPIX 5 celebrates the station’s 70th anniversary, we can’t possibly wrap up our party without touching upon the King and Queen of Bay Area daytime television and “People Are Talking,” the phenomenal talk show they hosted for nearly 14 years.
It was the show that did everything and went everywhere during its run from 1978 to 1992. “People Are Talking” visited a nudist colony in the Santa Cruz Mountains, San Quentin State Prison, the Mustang Ranch, Napa State Hospital, and even the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital.
“We had a lot of fun and we had a lot of serious moments,” remembered co-host Ross McGowan.
“People are Talking” lived up to the program’s name. On their roster: singers, actors, a U.S. President, human rights activists, wrestlers, writers, chefs, gardeners, exercise enthusiasts gurus, and comedians, just to name a few.
McGowan and his co-host Ann Fraser had a chemistry that you just can’t fake.
“I think we really complimented each other and we liked each other,” said McGowan.
KPIX 5 had the great pleasure of recently interviewing Ross. Ann was unavailable to talk about the show, but she sent her best wishes from her out-of-state residence.
“We did all kinds of subjects and we would cover just about anything, but it was at a time when local television was at its best,” remarked Ross.
Who came on the show? Everyone from big stars to the yet unknowns. In the “People Are Talking” archives, we found footage of actors and comedians like Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Danny Kaye, Spike Lee, Arsenio Hall, Ed Asner, Carol Burnett, Kirk Douglas, Joan Rivers, Don Johnson, Anthony Quinn, Milton Berle, Lily Tomlin, Betty White, the Smothers Brothers and Rachel Welch.
The program also featured newscasters and talk-show hosts (Larry King, Diane Sawyer and Walter Cronkite), musicians and poets (B.B. King, Lou Rawls, Harry Belafonte, Greg Kihn, Maya Angelou and Sammy Davis, Jr.) and political figures (Bishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter and his wife former first lady Rosalyn Carter and Oliver North)
The show did a lot of lifestyle and exercise segments, including bits with fitness gurus Joanie Greggains and Richard Simmons. In one clip, Richard Simmons and Ross do a workout and start to strip.
One of KPIX 5’s favorites episodes was when the actor Leslie Nielsen pranked Ann and Ross. Before the show began, he confided in Ann that he was experiencing some “bowel and intestinal issues” and made a loud flatulent sound.
Ann was worried and talked to Ross. Little did she know, that the actor was carrying a small device in his hand to make it sound like he was flatulent. During his interview, he pushed the button repeatedly and the hosts broke down in uncontrollable laughter.
Another unforgettable moment was far less funny. It happened when the punk rock singer Wendy O. Williams confronted gourmet cookie queen Debbi Fields over the sugar, butter, and chocolate Fields put in her delicious cookies.
Williams claimed Fields was poisoning people and that her cookies were causing illness and harm.
Ann piped up, and told Williams chocolate chips were not cancer-causing. Williams persisted in her harangue, Ross stepped in and asked if Williams could not drop the subject that she would have to leave. Williams left.
“People are Talking” could be controversial, but fun, as well as positive and never cloying.
The formula was broadcasting gold, even when the hosts flubbed their lines and did bloopers.
“People are Talking: – every day Monday thru Friday, we would invite 100 people to come in and be part of the show. And we would do serious things. We would do sensitive things. We would do touching stories, and we would have a lot of fun,” concluded Ross.