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1950s / Hal Block WML Outcast
Hal Block was a regular panelist on What's My Line? from 1950 to 1953. He started his career as a joke writer in Chicago and once toured overseas with Bob Hope. He was not well liked by the other WML panelists because of his lack of dignity. Years later Bennett Cerf referred to Block as 'a clod.' WML producer Gil Fates recalled, 'Hal was a strange man. He was rumored to have come from a very wealthy family in Chicago, where he wrote material for some of the standout, stand-up comics in the business. He was stocky with curly black hair, heavy lips, and rather bulging eyes. He wore bow ties, stood around with his hands clasped behind his back, and smiled most of the time. He seemed completely uninhibited by either sensitivity or propriety. He referred to Ethel Barrymore as 'you doll' and planted big wet kisses on both Sister Kenny and Helen Hayes as they passed down the panel to say goodbye. For our deodorant sponsor he gratuitously coined the phrase, 'Make your armpit a charmpit.' Hal was totally oblivious to the panel's distaste for his jokes or to the icy correctness with which John Daly would greet one of his appalling observations. 'You're the prettiest nun I ever saw,' he once complimented a Dominican Sister in full habit. 'So what was so wrong?' he asked in defense. 'She was a real doll.' You couldn't teach the meaning of good taste to Hal any more than StarKist could teach it to Charlie the Tuna. Hal's relationship to the show was much like that of the small-town, stay-at-home wife to her rising young corporate executive husband. Hal had served his purpose when the program was young, but now that we were a class product his gaucheries were no longer tolerable.' In March 1953 Block was quietly replaced on the WML panel by the much more urbane Steve Allen. Block died, pretty much forgotten, from injuries he suffered in an apartment fire, in 1981 at age 67.