This you have to see to believe. The only problem is that it is difficult to get your hands on. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was aired only once, in 1976. The cast in addition to Paul Lynde includes, and I NOT making this up: Margaret Hamilton reprising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Billie Hayes in her most memorable role as Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf, Tim Conway, Florence Henderson, Roz Kelly as her Pinky Tuscadero character from Happy Days, Billy Barty, Betty White and…KISS. Yes, that KISS. KISS, as in Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley and Peter Criss. Oh, and there’s a cameo from Donny and Marie Osmond.
Why the Paul Lynde Halloween Special has never been released on video is a greater mystery than Sherlock Holmes could solve. I guarantee you that it would hit the top of the best-selling DVD list if only because every gay person in America would buy it as an example of the height of homosexual kitsch. Like I said, you have to see it to believe. So, if it’s not a on video, how did I manage to come across it? A little thing I like to call alt.binaries.classic.tv.shows. If you don’t what that means, look it up. Paul Lynde is one of those forgotten 70s TV personalities of the kind that just don’t exist anymore. Like Rip Taylor or Vito Scotti, he was a mainstay of television, more instantly recognizable in 1975 than Jack Nicholson or Dustin Hoffman. The really funny thing is that Paul Lynde was a flaming queen at a time when those types weren’t given their own television shows. No, let me restate that. Paul Lynde was given his own television shows. Several of them, in fact. And in all of them he was weekly paired with a girlfriend or wife. Paul Lynde was never allowed to be gay on television; and yet he was always explicitly out of the closet. The suits who run things may have thought they were pulling one over on gullible TV audiences, but Paul Lynde knew better. The Paul Lynde Halloween Special was a far bigger step for gay actors than all the episodes of Will & Grace combined. Whereas that show’s characters wouldn’t be nearly interesting enough to place them out of context and into a show where their sexuality wasn’t an issue, watching Lynde flaunt his homosexuality in the guise of normal heterosexuality says all one ever need say about the utter stupidity of those would judge a person based on his sexuality.
But let’s get to the show. What makes the Paul Lynde Halloween Special such a must-see TV event? Where to begin? In the first place, this Halloween special begins with Paul Lynde dressed as Santa Claus and decorating a Christmas tree. Things really kick into gear with an extended sketch involving Lynde as the Rhinestone Trucker who finds himself in a battle with Tim Conway to be the first to the truck stop to marry Kinky Pinky Tuscadero! Oh yeah, Roz Kelly is doing her full-on Pinky Tuscadero shtick, having promised both Conway and Lynde that she would marry them at midnight. Wow. This sketch is worth watching for the concept alone, but when you add in Paul Lynde in a wild rhinestone outfit pretending to be a trucker, well that’s surrealism at its finest, folks. As if that’s not enough, the sketch ends with a disco hoedown number. I know that sounds like an oxymoron and it’s surely moronic, but I kid you not.
Of course, the Paul Lynde Halloween Special blazes a path into the stratosphere for the unbelievably campy when KISS takes the stage to sing not one, not two, but three different numbers. And believe me when I tell you that watching KISS perform their treacly hit song “Beth” here will give you nightmares from which you may never recover. The bantering that takes place after KISS finishes their ballad is enough to make tears come streaming down your face. It’s far more entertaining that anything you will see on Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. Need I add that this is KISS before they took off the makeup. This is, after all, a Halloween special. Of course, it is just possible you may be even more disturbed by the sketch in which Paul Lynde is dressed as a chic sheik trying to romance Florence Henderson. To give you an example of just how bizarre this little sketch is, allow me to quote the single most memorable line, delivered in that way that only Paul Lynde or his impersonators can do. When asked why he’s wearing an earring he replies, “Because I’m a very chic sheik. That’s why they call me Florence of Arabia.”
Of course, there’s only one way for a Halloween special made in 1976 to end: a disco dancing lesson from Roz Kelly to Paul Lynde to the strains of “Disco Baby” that includes the entire cast…including KISS! And believe me when I tell you that you will never-ever-get out of your mind the sound of Paul Lynde singing these lyrics: “Move it in, movie it out, move it in and about, disco baby.”