Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pendleton secretary stumps game show panel

When tiny Tammy Thorne appeared on “What’s My Line” in May of 1967, it wasn’t her day job as secretary of the Pendleton Chamber of Commerce the show’s panel of judges was tasked with figuring out. Her sideline gig as a weightlifting instructor left the panel completely in the dark.

Thorne was unaware her name had been submitted to the show until a representative of “What’s My Line” told her an anonymous person had sent a Yellow Pages ad for Thorne’s Health Spa, a reducing and bodybuilding business in downtown Pendleton she co-owned with husband Lewis, to the show’s scouts. Within days she was winging her way to New York to appear on the famous program that pitted people with unusual occupations against a panel of celebrities from 1950 until 1967.

For each show, “What’s My Line” host John Daly introduced each contestant and revealed their odd occupation to the studio and home audiences. Panelists were given limited information about each contestant: whether they were salaried or self-employed, and whether they dealt in a product or service. The panel was allowed to ask only yes or no questions. If a panelist’s question was answered by a yes, they could continue to ask questions. A no answer moved the questioning to the next panelist and $5 was added to the prize. A contestant won the top prize of $50 by giving 10 no answers, or if time ran out.

As the first guest for the May 28, 1967 broadcast, Thorne was able to stump actress and talk show host Arlene Francis; actress and singer Phyllis Newman; actor, radio and TV personality Robert Q. Lewis; and Bennett Cerf, founder of the Random House publishing firm. None of them could guess that the 5-foot-2, 100-pound Thorne was a weightlifting coach, and could deadlift 175 pounds or do 30 squats with 170 pounds on her back. Following the taping Thorne was able to chat with the panelists and, mindful of her responsibility to represent Pendleton and the chamber, give each of them a Pendleton Round-Up wooden nickel.

Following her appearance on the show, Thorne toured Washington, D.C., and stopped overnight in Chicago for an interview on the Don McNeill Breakfast Club radio show. She returned home on May 30 to a celebrity red carpet welcome at the Pendleton Airport amid a volley of gunfire, courtesy of Pendleton’s Main Street Cowboys and Side Saddlers.

Pendleton's Tammy Thorne demonstrates her ability to lift 125 pounds in high heels prior to a May 28, 1967 appearance on the famous "What's My Line" game show. (EO file photo)

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