Nick Edenetti, the Johnny Carson for severe insomniacs, was smoking. So was his first guest, journeyman actor Ben Frank. The exhaust fumes from their cigarettes blanketed their ruddy faces like a dense fog.
"So," said Edenetti, the smoke trailing from his lips as he turned to face Frank, "what's it like working with Charlie Bronson?"
"Oh, he's beautiful," said Frank, blowing an equally impressive cloud into the air.
Smoke plays a big part in the "All Nite Show," a freewheeling five-hour television program that broadcasts live during the unlikely hours of 1 to 6 a.m. on Sundays. Edenetti's world is one in which ashtrays are filled faster than water glasses and coughing essentially goes hand in hand with breathing.
But, hey, no one ever said this was prime-time television. When it's later than late and darker than dark and most people are sleeping, a man can do as he pleases, even if it means blowing smoke rings until doomsday.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 8, 1987 Home Edition Westside Part 9 Page 5 Column 1 Zones Desk 2 inches; 56 words Type of Material: Correction
In the Nov. 1 Westside section, The Times reported that James Bacon, Pat McCormick and Chuck McCann failed to appear for a live broadcast of a television program called the "All Nite Show." AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, later told The Times that the three men had been ordered by the union not to appear because of a dispute over the non-payment of fees to performers.
"The secret to success is being yourself," Edenetti said. "People have to like you and you have to like yourself. I don't put on airs."
What Edenetti mostly puts on his program are his old pals from show business--people who share his appreciation for an earlier era. Who you were is far more relevant than who you are when it comes to landing time on the "All Nite Show." As Steve Allen once told him, "This is just like the '50s, Nick."
Perhaps that's why Edenetti's program stands out against the broad backdrop of television chatter shows. While other hosts fill their chairs with people who are hot, Edenetti contents himself with those who are slightly warmed over. He would gladly trade 10 Madonnas for just one Connie Stevens.
"This show is different," said Edenetti, 49. "Let Johnny Carson get the Dolly Partons and Burt Reynolds. I go for the ones that people remember."
Edenetti's five-hour foray into time-warp television arrives by way of KSCI-TV, an independent West Los Angeles station that usually broadcasts foreign-language programs. The "All Nite Show" caps a Saturday lineup that includes "Bombay Broadcasting Network" and "Tokyo Housewives."
Guests start arriving at the tiny studio next to the San Diego Freeway near Olympic Boulevard about 12:30 a.m. On a recent night they included singer Hank Ballard, comedian Stu Gilliam, the Amazing Kalamar, actress Eve Plumb and the Swaggart Brothers, Trinidad natives who perform psychic photography.
Edenetti could be seen stalking the hallways in his suede jacket as his publicist, Lou Condrone, frantically typed out the guest introductions.
"This is going to be a great show," Condrone had said a few days earlier. "These people have thousands of years of show business experience among them."
However, there were problems as show time approached. James Bacon, Pat McCormick and Chuck McCann, Edenetti's cohorts who are supposed to provide the show's "madhouse" atmosphere, were not there. All three had taken a powder.
The resourceful Edenetti called an old friend named Jimmy Allen at home and woke him up. Could he come to the studio immediately and fill in? Sure.
With seven minutes until air time, a sleepy-looking Allen took the chair next to Edenetti's and practiced his opening lines. Edenetti, who had changed into a black sport coat with a black and red striped tie loosened at the neck, paced across the cramped set that contained a desk, a row of chairs, some plants and a three-piece band set against a solid sky-blue backdrop.
At three minutes until show time, Edenetti picked up his microphone and asked the stage crew for a sound check. When his request went unanswered, the eyes of the host of the "All Nite Show" narrowed.
"Tell 'em to drop everything," Edenetti told his producer, Candy Castillo. "I want a sound check now!"
The star was accommodated, and as the television lights went up and the introductions were made, he could be found next to a piano with his three-piece combo singing "After the Loving" in a voice that was made to croon.
Nick Edenetti became one with show business 30 years ago. The New York City native was driving a cab in Miami in 1957 when Joe E. Lewis, one of the hottest comedians of the time, stepped in for a ride. Lewis took a liking to the young Edenetti and made him his regular driver when he was in town.
As they became friendly, Edenetti started trying out his material on the comedian and Lewis eventually helped land him a job at a local night club, a place Edenetti describes as a "really high-class strip joint." The job provided Edenetti with a chance to sing and tell jokes and do impressions.
"I caught the bug," Edenetti said. "And I've been bugged ever since."