Wednesday, 12 June 2013

You Can Marry Robert Q. Lewis

At first glance, the idea of Robert Q. Lewis advertising for a wife seems a little odd. Robert Q.’s reputation today is of a man who wasn’t all that interested in women, shall we say. But on closer observance, it’s evident Bob’s ad campaign was entirely satiric and he wasn’t interested in walking down the aisle at all. Bob was having a bit of fun with the stereotypical husband-wife relationship of the post-war years. “Fey wit,” as the New York Times described him in his obituary.

The wife-for-Lewis ads were developed after CBS tried yet again in 1949 to boost the former Bob Goldberg’s stardom, this time with a late Sunday afternoon radio show. The network couldn’t sell it, so Lewis and his writers cleverly filled the commercial time by advertising for a wife. Lewis took his wife-hunt to the pages of the Radio and Television Mirror in February 1949 in a self-penned article with a title that was borrowed from a show tune (it was a song in “Annie Get Your Gun”). The article will seem a little corny to today’s eyes but it shows you how unserious Robert Q. was in his quest for matrimony.

The Girl That I Marry

WANTED . . . WIFE. By radio humourist just over draft age. Girl must be breathing, anywhere between ages of twenty and twenty-one. Should have poise, charm, ability, personality and oil well. If possible send picture of oil-well. Box Q.
THAT'S it! In a nutshell. . . . That's the ad I've been using on my commercial-less CBS program for the past couple of weeks.
Am I kidding? No . . . not really. Every day, people keep asking me why I'm still a bachelor. Actually, there's no good reason. I'd get married in a minute . . . only nobody's asked me. And frankly, I don't enjoy being a bachelor at all. I'm so dam helpless around the house. Especially when I iron my own shirts. I never seem to know when to turn the iron off. And while we're on that subject . . . does anybody know anybody who'd like to buy some open-toed shirts . . . cheap? I'm not much good at housecleaning either. I hate that darn dusting . . . and I look so silly with a red bandanna wrapped around my noggin. I'll never forget the day I really got ambitious. I scrubbed the floors, massaged the ceilings and washed the walls. And you know something? I discovered two rooms I never even knew I had! So I've given up thorough dusting ... I use the old rug system ... as a matter of fact, in the past six months I've swept so much dust under my carpet that I'm now listed at the Soviet Embassy as "Hill No. 137"!
A poor batch can get so weary! Like the other morning I read in the papers that "now is the time to clean out the refrigerator." It sounded logical, so I spent all morning doing just that. First the grapefruit, then the eggplant, then the milk, then the bologna, then the eggs, then the yogurt . . . honest, by the time I got through, I thought I'd burst. You need a wife to help you out with little things like that.
And gee ... if I had a wife, I wouldn't have to go through that awful business of shopping for my food. What prices! It's tough when you have to pay a dollar a pound for meat ... of course, I must admit that when you pay only forty cents a pound . . . it's even tougher! But meats aren't the only things that are high. Like the other day. . . . My bill from the fruit store had an extra charge of ten cents. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was for! Then I remembered that on my way out of the store I'd stepped on a grape. Honest.
And some of those clerks ask the dopiest questions. Take my butcher (and believe me, he's yours with my blessing). I asked him for a small chicken. . . .
"Tell me, Mr. Lewis," he asked, "do you wanna pullet?"
"Of course not," I told him, "I'll carry it."
Oh . . . and what I wouldn't give for a wife who could cook a delicious meal.
Not that I can't do a little cooking myself. The other evening I tried some eclairs. I have never seen eclairs so light. It was sensational. My secret is filling them with helium instead of whipped cream. Of course, I still haven't tasted my light eclairs. I can't get them down from the ceiling.
Lately, I've also been trying my hand at dinner dishes. I had my uncle over for dinner and decided to try a Welsh rarebit. I'll never forget what he said when he ate it. He said, "This is the best Welsh rarebit I've ever eaten!" Those were his last words.
It's not that I haven't tried to get a girl to marry me. I have. I think of wonderful things to say to a girl . . . and when I start, she giggles!
Maybe I just don't appeal to girls.
Maybe . . . and this is the thought that kills . . . maybe they're mad at me for conducting a radio show that doesn't give anything away. You see, I have no refrigerators, no washing machines, no B-29s. Not even a little six-week jaunt to Pago-Pago. All CBS allows me to offer is what we hope is entertainment. It's so embarrassing!
Yes, that may have something to do with it. I feel awful about the pretty girls who come to a broadcast, and all the girls tuned in. I feel as though I’m cheating them, being cruel and inhuman. The thing that hurts most is when I have to notify my studio audience just before a broadcast to go out to the street and dismiss those empty moving-vans they've got parked there. It hurts me!
THIS summer I really got a little desperate. So I decided to try my luck in Europe. I had a wonderful vacation in Paris and London. Paris was delightful. I saw all the sights . . . The Champs Elysees, The Folies Bergere, the Eiffel Tower, The Folies Bergere, the Arch of Triumph, The Folies Bergere . . . And then it happened. It was a lovely dimanche evening in Aout at about dix heures. (English translation: Sunday night in August at ten . . . I think.) Her name was Marie . . . and she was charmante! We had had a magnifique diner, followed by le cinéma. Walking along the Champs Elysées with the moon shining brightly on nous, I popped the question. ”Chérie, voulez-vous marier avec moi?” I'll never forget her ravissant reply. With a bright twinkle in her pretty yeux bleu she whispered: "What kinda jerk ya think I yam, ya shmo!" My conclusion: The only difference between French girls and American girls is . . . the Atlantic Ocean.
I haven't gotten many responses from the ad on my program. Ten percent of the replies I did get were from girls who were under-age . . . But the other ninety percent came from girls who were under observation.
I don't know. Maybe I made the requirements a little too tough. I asked for charm, poise, ability and personality and an oil well. "That is a little demanding of me. So, just forget about the charm, poise, ability and personality. And, the oil well doesn't have to be brand new. All I want, girls ... is a gushing bride.

Bob went on to a fairly steady career on television on game and panel shows into the early ‘60s before packing up his little poodle and relocating to California and a late-night show on KFI radio. He never really made the transition to colour TV; his career was mainly in the black-and-white era. I enjoyed watching him and it’s a shame he’s not better remembered today. Robert Q. Lewis died in 1991. He never did find a wife.


  1. I never gave one moment of thought to Robert Q Lewis (or his private life), but I do recall his numerous game show appearances in the 1960s. And who could forget his small role in HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS. A quick scan of IMDB shows he was never without a small part on some sitcom. He was there when CAMP RUNAMUCK, GRINDL or THE HATHAWAYS called! A good steady trooper!

  2. I think I mentioned this before, but I got so used as a child to seeing Robert Q. Lewis playing Robert Q. Lewis on early 60s game shows, it was kind of a surprise to see him playing someone else -- and someone driven a bit crazy by magic -- in the first color episode of "Bewitched". I didn't really think of him as an actual actor, just as someone who appeared on game shows (even if the role of a cranky, temperamental photographer was in Lewis' wheelhouse for his normal TV persona).

  3. I mainly remember him from "Play Your Hunch" when he, quite suddenly, replaced Merv Griffin as host. Merv apparently sang on one of Robert Q.'s TV shows in the '50s.

  4. May his memory be eternal!

  5. Great article - it's so Robert Q - just as I remember him from games shows … so matter of fact with that dry wit … such charm, poise, ability, personality - no oil well though … no wonder he remained a lifelong bachelor ...

  6. I have always enjoyed him on WHAT'S MY LINE , and his small role in AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER !!

  7. I am convinced was a homosexual, but it was illegal to be one. Creative, funny, smart, and seemingly caring about other's, he had to publicly pretend his whole life. The hunting for a wife stunt was really borderline sarcastic. However in NYC and California, his private life was probably not without 'romance.' RIP, to a born entertainer.

  8. My mom was his secretary for many years and actually wrote an article for the TV and Radio Mirror Magazine of the time about him being an eligible bachelor.

  9. Yes, Robert Q was gay in an era where such a thing would of course have ruined his career if known, and was actually illegal. Cops were raiding gay bars, where all men were doing was drinking and meeting each other. Once you are aware of his sexuality you can't help but notice how he disguises it on game shows & such by gushing over beautiful women, to a creepy extent.

  10. Replies
    1. Naw, it didn't mean anything. I don't think it's any different than when Perv Pullen called himself Horatio Q. Birdbath. I think they both thought 'Q' was a funny initial.

    2. He once said it stood for 'Quizical.'

    3. Yes... He was gay. We all knew it. Picked up trash on 42nd St.