“Meeting of Minds”

December 20, 2013

Steve Allen, creator and first host of The Tonight Show and known as a “Renaissance man” because of his innovative work in music, comedy, and television, had many ties to the Center for Inquiry. One of his more interesting donations is his script from the pilot of the television series Meeting of Minds.

The program was a “talk show”—with the unique difference of taking four historic figures from different eras and having them discuss philosophy, religion, history, and many other topics. For example, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Paine, Cleopatra, and Theodore Roosevelt were the guests on the pilot episode. These luminaries of history were, of course, portrayed by actors. Jayne Meadows, Allen’s wife, portrayed different women from history in eighteen of the twenty-four episodes shot for this PBS series.

CFI Libraries have the pilot script as part of the Steve Allen Collection. This script was rewritten several times and has numerous edits handwritten throughout it. A curious aspect of this script concerns who the host of the series was actually going to be. Throughout the script, there are directions for “Host”; at other times, it said “Merv” (most likely referring to Merv Griffin). But the title page indicates that the host was going to be Peter Lawford. We can see at various times that one of these two was probably going to be hosting, but in the end, Steve Allen himself became the host. Allen also wrote these scripts, utilizing the actual words of these historic people as much as possible.

Prometheus Books published the scripts in book format in 1989. I understand that the scripts themselves are royalty-free for those who wish to use them for public performances.

Steve Allen was a donor and contributor to the various enterprises here at CFI, and we are in the process of completing a room that will contain all the materials donated to us by his family.