by John Walters

What follows is a reasonable facsimile of my daily class announcement from yesterday…

During the summers of 1975 and 1976, years that I refer to as “Peak Boyhood,” there was a show that aired on ABC titled Almost Anything Goes. Back then there were only three networks and they only baked enough fresh new television shows to run two complete cycles from September through May. Then summer would come along and they’d dump garbage programming ideas at us because no one was inside on summer nights anyway because no one had computers or smartphones, after all, so you stayed outside catching lightning bugs or pretending to not hear your mom calling you to come inside.

Anyway… Almost Anything Goes. From IMDB: “This show almost defies description. Each week, three teams (each representing a particular USA town, and consisting solely of members from the town) compete for money and prizes. The competitions vary from week to week, and include bizarre obstacle courses, pie throwing contests, swing relays, and other humorous, crazy contests.”

The host was Charlie Jones and the field reporter was an energetic young guy by the name of… Regis Philbin. I seem to recall competitors getting soaked a lot, or falling,  and that none of these events were anywhere near something you’d see in the Olympics. The events would best be described as—and this term was TV gold in the 1970s— “wacky.”

(Almost Anything Goes jumped the shark—a term that itself originated in the 1970s—when it replaced regular folk with celebrities and subbed out “Almost” for “All-Star”)

So I was think about Almost Anything Goes yesterday and about growing up in the wackiest decade of the 20th century and it hit me: “Almost Anything Goes” would be a most apt slogan for the Seventies.

In the 1970s, almost anything went.

KISS. The Pet Rock. The Gong Show. The Chicago White Sox wore shorts. The center for the Oakland Raiders, Jim Otto, wore “00” as his number. Evel Knievel jumped things on his motorcycle, occasionally not breaking bones. There was a hit song titled “Kung Fu Fighting” that was all about kung fu fighting. The Houston Astros uniforms were lit…literally, or so it looked.

(The Astros wore these in public)

Almost anything goes.

Nobody wore seat belts. Or bicycle helmets. The term “play-date” did not exist: your mom kicked you out of the house and told you not to come home until supper time. Your school bus driver would blast the radio so he or she didn’t have to listen to the tortured cries for help of first-graders and you’d be subjected to Sweet’s “Fox On The Run.”

(Sweet. Legends.)

Almost anything goes.

Streaking. People would just run around naked in public and that was a thing. Cliff diving from Acapulco: televised. The Battle of the Network Stars, in which celebs from the three major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) would compete in Olympic-style events from the campus of Pepperdine and Howard Cosell commentated with gravitas.

Or how about The Superstars, in which some of the most famous athletes from the NFL, NBA, MLB, Olympics and other sports would compete against one another in everything from swimming to tug-of-war. Could you imagine agents allowing their clients to do that today?

Almost anything goes.

O.J. Simpson hosted Saturday Night Live (and he was funny). A cult classic film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, induced moviegoers to attend repeat screenings and do weird things such as throwing toast at the screen. Renee Richards was a male doctor and then she was a female tennis player and then your dad fumbled for an explanation when you asked him how that could be (poor guy; he’d tuned in to Wimbledon to watch Chris Evert and this was what he got).

The  President of the United States was heard on tape giving the go-ahead for criminal activity. But he had to resign. Remember, almost anything goes.

By the way, the 1970s were a lot of things but they were nothing like anything you ever saw in That ’70s Show.

Demolition derbies. David Bowie. Disco Demolition Night. Freddie Mercury. Mark Fidrych. Match Game. Al Hrabosky, “The Mad Hungarian.” The ABA and its red, white and blue basketball. Tear-away football jerseys. CBS gave a mime duo, Shields and Yarnell, its own variety show. Think about that.

Almost anything goes.

But maybe my most favorite thing from the 1970s, at least in terms of sports, was the high-dive challenge, a staple of Saturday afternoons on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” This footage is from 1983 because I couldn’t find anything from the 1970s, but it began in the early Seventies.

I mean, just look at this. They’re interviewing him moments before he dives (or, omit the “v”), and then they show his wife and baby, and he might be seconds away from becoming flotsam. He’s calmly discussing his form when he should be screaming, “SOMEONE GET ME DOWN FROM HERE I’M ABOUT TO DIE OH GOD NO OH NO!”

Humans beings did this. And other humans televised it. And still others watched it on TV. And nobody cared.

The 1970s. Almost Anything Goes. What a time to be alive.


  1. Holy crap, what a crazy decade. I was watching that high diving and I was getting nervous. But, when I say crazy, this is mostly just crazy in a fun, lighthearted sense. This decade (yes, we’re only in year one of it) is crazy in a completely bat-shit kind of way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *