Daytime TV, July 1975
It is hard to tell who gets more excited about winning money, the contestants or Nick Clooney, the handsome host of The Money Maze. Watching Nick with contestants, especially when they win $10,000, you see a man genuinely happy he has been instrumental in bringing good fortune to other people.
As Nick puts it, "The show is terribly exciting to me. I had never done a game show. I had never been able to change people's lives." The most rewarding part is when he hears contestants say to him, "That's my house," with tears in their eyes.
"It's not difficult for me to think about the people," says Nick. "I feel good to be around them."
Nick was born in Maysville, Kentucky, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Clooney, and has three singing sisters, Gale, Betty and of course, Rosemary. It was only natural that he follow their footsteps into show business.
After a stint in the Army, where he attained the rank of corporal, Nick decided to move to Hollywood and become a "movie star." Unfortunately it didn't work. He spent a year in California, doing mostly theatre, one dog food commercial (which kept him in food and clothes), and four movies as a bit player. When he ran out of money, he moved to Lexington, Ohio, judged a beauty contest and married one of the contestants, Nina.
In 1966, he and Nina moved back to Cincinnati. There they struggled together, with Nick starting his career on the local stations. He now has his own variety show and radio show in addition to The Money Maze.
Since Nick's variety show involves interviewing guests, he is very aware of television interviewers who monopolize converations.
"I hate interviewers who answer the question within their question, leaving the person winterviewed with nothing left to say. The whole point of an interview is to bring out someone else's point of view. If you are only interested in stating your own you might as well do a monologue," he says emphatically.
Nick knows how to put a person at ease and draw out the points the person wants to make. This has made his show one of the top rated in the Cincinnati area.
About a year ago, ABC in Miami wanted The Nick Clooney Show to move there. Everything was set, and the whole crew was ready to move, when a hitch was thrown into their plans. The unions in Miami insisted the show use local musicians, and not the band on Nick's show. Because of the family feeling, Nick and the show withdrew from the offer. Now Nick and his co-workers own and produce the show.
Since Nick is part of the daytime scene, he readily admits he likes serials and tries to watch them whenever possible. "I love them! I can always find something that is interesting or informative. I am amazed that people spend so much time criticixing them. I remember when radio was put down, and now we look at radio as the great art form!"
Tall, six feet, with bright blue eyes, his prematurely-graying hair is an asset, since it offsets his warmth with a gentle authority.
He is proud of his two children, Ada and George, but is aware that in each generation there is a possible communication gap. He feels he had one with his parents. "Each age rejects their parents values. I wanted to do it with my parents' values, but in so doing, I came very close to my grandparents'."
Aware of this, he won't be too surprised if he finds moments of rebellion in his own children. "I try to be aware of the view that there is a difference in values. It won't be traumatic to me when they (Ada and George) react to me negatively."
When his children were young-Ada, in particular - resented that Nick was a public person. Being children, they wanted their daddy all to themselves and not share him with the general populace. But over the years they have adjusted to the fact.
One small crisis occurred when Nick lost a job several years ago. It was embarrassing to Ada, since everyone knew about it. But Nick very wisely sat down with her and explained that she loved to bring her friends to the studia and liked the popularity, but now that he was without a job, she had to take the bad also.
"Ada now asks, 'Have you been renewed?'" says Nick, knowing his daughter is now able to understand the ups and downs of TV life.
Nick, himself, has fond memories of his grandfather. He was a self-made man who taught himself to read and write Greek. "He was also very funny and very stubborn."
Grandfather Clooney was the mayor of Maysville, and had brought about the building of the bridge in the town. At the opening of the bridge, there was a big celebration and the then Secretary of State, Harold Dickey, attended.
Now Nick's grandfather also had prematurely gray hair. "He thought he was much too young a man to have gray hair, so he got black show polish and put it on his hair. Now show polish turns hair bright purple. Well he put on his straw hat over his purple hair. But he forgot about the Star Spangled Banner," Nick laughs. "There he stood, all 6'2" and stared at everyone, daring someone to say something about his hair being purple."
Nick, too, can be stubborn. But not in the way his grandfather was. One of his big vices was smoking.
"I started smoking at 14 and was up to three packs a day." Well, Nick realized smoking wasn't doing him any good, so he decided to stop about seven years ago. "I got so mad when I realized it was stronger than me. It was very hard to quit," he says, "but both my parents had emphysema. I am not an advocate and an apostle of not smoking!"
He had only one relapse, and that was through no fault of his own. During the time he was without his own show, he was asked to do regional plays for an Equity theatre.
"I did Barefoot in the Park, and I was scared as I have never been in my life." This was the first time he had acted on the stage. "I then did The Odd Couple and played Oscar and loved it. I was hired to do Felix, but Oscar is more like me. The last play was Mary Mary, and the whole point of the play is a heavy smoker.
"Nobody can fake smoking," he continues, "and I had to smoke again for eight weeks. I got right back into it and it scared me. The play ended at 9:45 p.m. on a Sunday, and I vowed at midnight I wouldn't smoke again. And I stopped."
Nick and his family lived on a farm until recently. They just bought a house in a very small town and love it. His family is most important to him, and he always has time to listen to his children and is not afraid to back them up when they want to experiment.
Not too long ago, Nick's son George visited a meat house and was greatly upset when he saw the young pigs slaughtered. He came to his father and asked the family become vegetarians. Everyone said they'd try it, but eventually they found the grocery bills going up 40-50 percent and they are again including meat in their diet. But it was an invaluable experience.
Nick Clooney has just about everything a man could want. He has a zest for life and that is infectious, and is not afraid of hard work. When asked how he gets the energy to maintain three different shows five times a week, he simply replies with a broad grin and deep chuckle, "I don't want to be poor again."