During the mid 1980's, Nickelodeon was slowly becoming one of the most popular television networks for children. The show that is most credited for putting Nickelodeon on the map is the 1986 kids' game show, Double Dare.
The game involved a team of two kids competing for cash and prizes by answering questions and doing challenges. The challenges would include doing something extremely messy and slimy. Then at the end of the game, whichever team won would go through the obstacle course. It contained 8 obstacles that must be completed in 60 seconds so they could be able to win the main prize. The game show became a huge success! TV Guide had named Double Dare as one of the greatest game shows of all time, ranking it at #29. Around October 6, 2011, Double Dare was officially 25 years old. To this day, it's still regarded as one of the best shows that Nickelodeon ever aired! It is still as fun to watch today as it was those many years ago! It has been called by many as a classic. What really pulled this show together was the host, Marc Summers.
Born Marc Berkowitz on November 11, 1951 in Indianapolis, Indiana, he was a radio DJ, a magician, and a stand up comedian before he became a game show host. After hosting Double Dare for more than 7 years, he hosted other shows such as What Would You Do?, History IQ, Pick Your Brain, and It's a Surprise. He was also the executive producer of the short lived reboots of Double Dare and Wild and Crazy Kids. A few years later, Marc Summers had revealed that he had obsessive compulsive disorder.
Regardless of the condition, he was able to host Double Dare just fine with no setbacks. He even got slimed or got messy multiple times throughout the show. He also wrote an autobiography of his OCD experience called Everything is in Place: My Trials and Triumphs with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Marc had made many appearances in The Oprah Winfrey Show and The View bringing awareness to people who have OCD. On June 1, 2001, Marc Summers became the host of a show on the Food Network called Unwrapped. The show took us behind the scenes into the factories where foods such as candy, cereals, frozen foods, and snacks are made. To this day, Unwrapped is the longest running show on the Food Network. Today he's an executive producer of Food Network shows such as Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible, both hosted by chef Robert Irvine.
For many people who grew up watching Double Dare and What Would You Do?, they've called Marc Summers their childhood hero, Kevin and I included. For people who have OCD, they look up to him as a role model. To make this retrospective of Double Dare even more special, I had the opportunity to interview Marc Summers over the phone, thanks to his representative Justin Leonard. I hope you enjoy!
Patricia- Hey, how are you doing today, Marc?
Marc- Uh, I'm alright! I have a mini crisis going on. You have 15 to 20 minutes and then I have to go back to my problems here, but I'm happy to help you up to that point.
Patricia- Oh wow! Um, well, thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Marc.
Marc- Sure! What's this for?
Patricia- Well, the thing of it is is that we're in the middle of doing a blog talking about almost everything Nickelodeon. It's going to be its 35th anniversary!
Marc- Oh really?
Patricia- Well, technically it was called Pinwheel, but then it changed its name to Nickelodeon in 1979. So, that's what we're doing. It'll be 35 years old this December.
Marc- Interesting! So what can I answer for you?
Patricia- Well, before we begin, I just wanted to let you know that I use to watch you all the time on Double Dare and What Would You Do? when I was a kid and I loved every minute of it. You have been one of my childhood heroes and I'm honored to be talking with you. My friend Kevin is also a big fan of yours and he sees you as his hero too.
Marc- Aw, thanks. I really appreciate it.
Patricia- You're welcome. Anyway, let's get to the questions because I know you're racked up on time.
Patricia- Okay, so first thing and foremost, let's start off from the beginning. What was your childhood like growing up?
Marc- Oh my gosh, uh, I had a great childhood. Everything was pretty darn good. I was a child of the 50's and 60's, loved television. I started doing magic when I was in 6th grade and there was a magic club at junior high I went to. I was always trying to find a way to get on stage, so, uh, magic was my first opportunity to do that. So I started doing birthday parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, dog shows, any shows that involved me getting up on stage to do my magic act. I became a disc jockey at the age of 15 up at Elwood, Indiana at a place called WBMP and I worked weekends from 6 to 11. I ended up working at my place, which was pretty funny.
Patricia- Oh wow, really? That's really interesting.
Marc- And I was really aggressive. Long before there were computers, I figured a way to talk myself into children's television shows in Indianapolis at the point. You know, in the 50's and 60's, each channel had their own kids' show and there was one called Dante Magic Set that was out on the marketplace and I tracked this guy who was a business manager in Rochester, NY. I don't remember how I did it, but I found him. I called him and I said "Hey, can I be your spokesperson?" He said "Sure, but I can't pay you. But if you want to go on television and advertise my product, then go right ahead". So I would called up all these children's shows in Indianapolis and would say to them "Hey, my name is Marc. I represent the Dante Magic Set and we would like to know if you would like us to do a segment". So I talked myself unto television at age 11/12 and then I did one independent station Popeye and Janie WTTBTV and they said "Do you have any other magic tricks you can do? Because if you do, we would love to have you back every couple of weeks".
So, for the next couple of years, my mom would pick me up from school and drive me up to the station where I would go live at 5:00 and do magic tricks on a kids' TV show. So, yeah, I knew Indianapolis was a great starting off point, but I knew that I had to get the heck out of there pretty darn quick. My goal was to go to either New York or Los Angeles.
Patricia- Hmm. Interesting. So who were your influences being a DJ, doing magic tricks, and, some people don't know this, but you were a stand up comedian before you hosted game shows.
Marc- Yeah, I was at the Comedy Store in 1976. Well, Johnny Carson was the guy I looked up to. He started off as a magician in the Midwest and he was a disc jockey. All of the things that I was sort of doing Johnny had done way before I did, so I figured that was the way to get to where you were going. There was one disc jockey, well first of all, my real name is Berkowitz. I woke up one day and my agent called me and said "You better change your name!" That was because there was a report on the news about a murderer named David Berkowitz, also known as Son of Sam.
Dick Summer was a DJ in Indianapolis and I always admired him. I thought that he was a good air personality when I went to school in Boston. He was working there and I met him. I took his name, added an "S" to it, and became known as Marc Summers. It sort of changed my life in many ways. That was when I started to work. So, I say, professionally, I looked up to stand up comics from The Johnny Carson Show, The Tonight Show when it was an hour and 45 minutes long back in the 60's. I watched The Ed Sullivan Show, Buddy Hackett, Jack Carter, and all these comics that I use to love and emulate. But Johnny was the one guy.
I also watched Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, and other people like that. Game show hosts were my idols, certainly Bob Barker. I would come home and watch Truth or Consequences when it was on the NBC network. My first real job as a writer in L.A. at 1973 was at Truth or Consequences.
There is a point in which you can't show the whole "seeing you sweat" situation when you're on TV. I did an interview with Johnny Carson when I was 14 or 15-years-old, which still exists. I have a copy of it. You can hear the quivering in my voice. I'm shaking in my boots.
Marc- There's a certain novelty and cuteness of a young person asking a big star questions. But you get to a point where you can't be that person anymore and you lose that cuteness when you reach your late teens and early 20's. At that point, you better know what you're doing or else you're not going to move up to the next step.
Patricia- Yeah, that is true. Especially nowadays when people are being nitpicky on every single aspect of what you do.
Marc- Yup. It's true.
Patricia- But I think you're doing just fine. Whenever I see you on Unwrapped or when I use to see you on Double Dare or What Would You Do?, I didn't see any nervousness at all. I think you did great.
Patricia- You're welcome. Anyway, speaking of Double Dare, how did you get the opportunity to host the show? What were your first impressions about this upcoming game show for Nickelodeon?
Marc- Well, um, it all happened by accident. I got a call from a friend of mine named Dave Garrison. He was a ventriloquist back in Indianapolis and moved to L.A. He kind of wanted to work behind the scenes and not be on camera anymore. He called me and said "I got called for this audition for something called Nickelodeon, I don't know what it is. There having some sort of game show. Why don't you go instead of me". I said "Alright". So I showed up at this audition, instead of Dave Garrison, it's Marc Summers. They said "We're doing a game show" and I said "Great". I did the audition and walked out and said "This
is fantastic. I nailed this". I called my agent, well prior to cell phones of today, I used a pay phone on the corner and said "Hey Richard, I nailed this. I know I'm going to get this job". He said " I got 8 other clients there. Don't count your chickens before they hatch".
So, by the end of August, I hadn't heard back from them. One thing I would do when auditioning for something is get the name of the person in charge and find out the situation. So I called Mike Klingoffer, who was the executive producer of the show, and said "What's the deal? Have you guys selected a host yet? I know you're getting ready to shoot." He said "We haven't." I said "What's holding you up?" He said "We don't know if they're good with kids because when we did the audition, there were adults playing the parts as kids." I said "Oh, well I use to be a magician and I can relate well to kids." He said "Yeah, but we don't know that." Then I said "How many people do you want to do on this audition?" He said "It's you and someone else". I said "Why don't you fly us to New York and put us on the studio with kids, play the game, and let the best man win." He said "That's a great idea, let me call you back."
Then they called me back and said "We're bringing you to New York on Labor Day." They did and we both auditioned at seperate times. Two days later, they called me and said that I got the job. Then I said "Wait, I have a question. You auditioned over 1200 people in New York, 1000 people in Los Angeles, then you narrowed it down to me and the guy. Why did I get the job?" They said "Well, you were both pretty equal, but at the end of his audition, he looked at the camera and said "Is that it or do you want me to do
something else?" while I said "We'll be back with more Double Dare after this" and threw it into commercial. They said that what I did was more professional and that's why I got the job and it changed my life.
Patricia- Wow, sounds great. I couldn't imagine another host of Double Dare other than yourself. So what would a typical shooting day be like?
Marc- Well, when we started, we would shoot five shows in one day. We would shoot two full game shows in the morning, then go to lunch, come back and do three. Then we realized that we could shoot three upfront games in a row, three obstacle courses in a row, go to lunch, then do three more upfront games and obstacle courses. We got to a point where we did six shows in one day.
Patricia- Oh wow, that sounds like a lot of work.
Marc- We were doing 30 shows a week.
Patricia- Wow! Another thing to mention is that you weren't the only person that people knew from Double Dare. There was Robin and Harvey, the announcer. What was it like working with them?
Marc- Oh, great. Harvey and I were dear friends, actually we're still friends pretty much. John Harvey and I just celebrated our 60th birthdays, we hang out together, and we don't live very far away from one another whenever I'm in Philadelphia. Robin and I just did a personal appearance together in Pittsburgh at a giant Eagles store where we replicated a Double Dare episode. So, we're all good friends and it was a ball working with all those people. We had fun constantly.
Patricia- Sounds like it was a lot of fun. Another question that I've been wanting to know is how does one become a contestant on the show?
Marc- They use to go to schools and let them come on board. We would test them for personality interviews and then find out what their pop culture and general knowledge was. Then, like most game shows, they would choose who were the best and put them on the show.
Patricia- Well, I got to say, that show was pretty messy and slimy. Everyone got messy, including you. What was it liked getting slimed or getting hit in the face with a pie? Especially since you revealed later on that you have OCD and you like to keep things neat and clean.
Marc- That has nothing to do with anything. It never affected the show in any way, shape or form. It was just fun and we played the moment. There were times in which Robin would trash me and the kids would trash me.
Marc- Yeah, it was just part of the show. There was never a question of anything going on. It was just fun all the way around. People love to delve into that and hope that there's these stories that I was tormented or whatever, but it never happened.
Patricia- Wow, I didn't know that. Thank you for letting me know.
Patricia- Now, I don't know if anybody brought this up, but the clothes that you use to wair on the show; the suit jacket, the tie, the jeans, and the sneakers are now iconic. Maybe back in the 80's, it would have probably been considered as goofy looking, but today it has become a trendsetting style. People, like for example, Ellen DeGeneres is doing that with the suit and the sneakers. How does it feel being ahead of your time?
Marc- (laughs) It kinda was, but those weren't my choices. There was a wardrobe person who decided that that was the look. The suit jacket, tie, jeans, and sneakers. It certainly at the time got a lot of notice and we had a pretty good wardrobe budget. We would go to stores and purchase a bunch of that stuff. The lifespan for the clothes would be three to five episodes because after a while you can't dry clean it because there's eggs, whipped cream, and God knows what else.
Marc- So, every six weeks or so, we would go and buy new sports jackets, jeans, ties. I mean, the ties got pretty trashed, but it was mostly sports jackets.
Patricia- Do you still have some of the ties?
Marc- You know, I have one tie. When I did the Good Charlotte video a year or so ago, I wore that tie in the video.
Patricia- You know, I was just going to ask you that question about the Good Charlotte video, Last Night. What was it like doing that?
Marc- It was crazy! I mean, they had watched a lot of Double Dare episodes online and they knocked it out of the park when it came to replicating the set as far as the set pieces and making it look exactly as it should. I've never done a music video before. I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like I was out of my element. But it was cool meeting all the guys from Good Charlotte cause they were sort of nervous meeting me which was absolutely hysterical.
Marc- So I went to New York City and did that. It was kind of fun. We trashed some guy's apartment, I couldn't believe it. We slimed all those people and I said "Don't you guys mind?" and they didn't. They really wanted to shoot this. So, once again, it was fun. It was great meeting meeting people who grew up watching you and helped your career.
Patricia- Yeah, so you went from Double Dare to What Would You Do? In What Would You Do? there was a bunch of different things like the Pie Pod, doing little obstacles, sticking feet into dog food, or something like that. What was it like hosting that?
Marc- I never enjoyed hosting that show, quite honestly.
Marc- I never understood it. There were a bunch of crazy things that happened on that program. We did 90 episodes and I guess there's a soft spot for some people. I would get people approaching me saying that they loved What Would You Do? I don't know if they were younger than the ones who grew up watching Double Dare. I just thought it was an odd show. I was never a huge fan of that program, but we did it for a couple of years and it was another job. What can I tell you? It wasn't a show that sticks to my mind as one of my favorite things I ever did.
Patricia- Wow, that's quite surprising for people who actually loved watching What Would You Do? growing up. However, I was more of a Double Dare fan.
Patricia- So, in Nickelodeon, you did Mystery Magical Special where you were actually a magician.
Marc- That was so much fun. I wrote that and I produced it. You can go online and see it. There's such good memories that people discuss all the time about that show and how much they liked it. Because my roots were in magic, needless to say it was a fun time and then Lance Burton, who became this Las Vegas star, got to do his magic for us. I had a great time.
Patricia- Sounds great. Now, as you know, Nickelodeon has changed drastically over the years. It's not the same as it once was. What do you think of Nickelodeon now or have you not watched it in a while?
Marc- You know what, I haven't watched it in a long time. There's nothing for me to watch for my age and I don't have kids that age, so I couldn't tell you two things about it.
Patricia- Yeah. So, last year Double Dare celebrated its 25th anniversary. How do you feel about that?
Marc- Well, you know, I wish that Nickelodeon would've gotten behind and done something a little bit more. But people who run the place don't have a clue.
Marc- So, it was a little frustrating. However, I had gotten a lot of nice e-mails and phone calls with various people. I think that Viacom dropped the ball and I think they should have done something. But, they're in charge and they can do whatever they want.
Patricia- Well, trust me. I don't know what they were thinking. I mean, if they're not going to do anything about it, then I'm sure we can think of something.
Patricia- Yeah, but don't expect anything fancy. None of the bells and whistles, but we'll do our best. Anyway, so you went from doing game shows on Nickelodeon to hosting and producing shows on the Food Network like Unwrapped, Dinner Impossible, and Restaurant Impossible. What made you decide to go into Food Network?
Marc- I don't think I made a conscious decision. I was out of work. The lady who had fired me when I was at Lifetime took over programming at the Food Network and I called her and said "Judy, I'll pay you to get me back on TV." She threw a program my way called It's a Surprise. The surprise was that nobody was watching it and they cancelled it rather quickly. But they took it to a focus group and they said "We like the guy who was hosting it, but we don't like the show." They had done a couple of specials with another host named Marc Silverstein on Unwrapped. They showed me the special and said that if I could
do it as a regular series. I said "I think that this show could be the Biography of Food Network". At the time, A&E's Biography was the #1 show. Sure enough, it became that and it's been on for 11 years. It's the longest running show on the Food Network and it's been a big success.
Patricia- Yeah, I enjoy watching that show. It's always fascinating to learn some interesting facts about food and to go behind the scenes on how the food is made and the history behind the companies that make it. There's also holiday events and1 hour specials in which you go into the theme parks like Disney World. What is your favorite Unwrapped episode?
Marc- You know what, I have no favorite. They are what they are. When we use to do them inside the diner and then the fake diner set. Then we would do it outside. I mean, this is a fun job. If someone were to ask me what was my favorite episode of Double Dare, I couldn't tell you. They were all fun. I mean, the fact that any of these things have lasted as long as they have. Some of it has been a tribute to the format, a tribute to me, a tribute to the time spot, and a tribute to why people go to certain hosts and like what they do.
If you're a one-hit wonder, that's one thing, but I'm lucky enough to do segments on The Chew on ABC now, I was on The View, The Home Show, The Today Show. I've been on The View for 9 years now.
It's just what I do. You're not special because you're on TV. I like hosting things and people, thank heavens, hire me. I do all this stuff for free. It just happens to be my job.
Marc- So, viewers, thank God, look at it at a different point of view. I'm just hoping that when I wake up in the morning someone would call me and hire me and let me work again.
Patricia- So, what are the pros and cons working at the Food Network as oppose to working at Nickelodeon?
Marc- There are no cons. I love all the people. It's probably the best job I've ever had. I'm great friends with Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Paula Deen, and obviously, Chef Robert Irvine. I get great perks from restaurants when I travel across the country. I've got to travel and do great personal appearances. I can't think of one negative thing working at the Food Network. It's been a fantastic experience.
Patricia- Wow, sounds great. You just mention Robert Irvine. I know that you produce his shows, Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible. Is he really that intimidating in real life?
Marc- No, he's a pussycat.
Marc- He's a really nice guy. He's really passionate on what he does and the cool part about it is is that he wants to people to succeed. He gets upset when they don't have what he feels they should have. It's always fascinating to watch. He's like a cartoon character come to life. He's got these big muscles and he's a fascinating TV personality. He jumps off the screen, so it's been fun. We've been working together for six years.
Patricia- Yeah, I mean, I love his tough love personality whenever he goes into the failing restaurants and tries to bring everything back up.
Patricia- The one episode of Restaurant Impossible that I found to be hilarious is the episode in which there was a teenage chef...
Marc- You mean The Chatterbox Cafe in New Hampshire?
Patricia- There you go! That's the one! The guy was just a smart aleck thinking that preparing frozen foods in the microwave is the best way to eat as oppose to fresh foods. Then Robert comes along and says "That's not the way to do it. Fresh foods is the best way." I just kept thinking when watching it "Man, Robert is going to school him. He's going to put that kid down."I like to see this kid feed a whole bunch of celebrities or the mayor in less than 8 hours. Then all of a sudden, rain starts coming down when they're cooking outdoors or the ovens don't work. I like to see him try to do that.
Patricia- You have mentioned in the show The Best Thing I've Ever Ate that some of your favorite foods was that chili dog at Carneys in West Hollywood, CA and that sandwich at that one place in Philadelphia, I seem to forget what the place is called.
Marc- Tony Luke's?
Patricia- Yeah, that's it. Any more favorite foods you like to mention?
Marc- Pizza is always my favorite food. I could eat pizza 7 nights a week. I think it's fantastic. I went to a place in Indianapolis called Pizzaology, they had killer stuff. Whenever I go on the road, I track down the best pizzas in every city. But, you know, once again, being on Food Network has its advantages. You walk into places that they don't expect you to walk into and then they want to bring you more food than you could possibly eat. You have to watch your weight because you tend to eat more food in one day than any human could eat in a week.
Patricia- Yeah, I think for some people, that might be a con for working at the Food Network. They want a healthy weight, but they're surrounded by all this delicious looking food. How do you do it?
Marc- I try to exercise, try to watch myself, but it is really tough.
Patricia- Yeah, it's extremely hard. They tell you that it's easy, but it's not. I mean, I've struggled with it for a long time, Kevin's struggled with it. For people who say that losing and maintaining a healthy weight is easy, I would just punch them.
Marc- (laughs) Yeah, I've never met anyone who said that it was easy.
Patricia- Definitely. Let's bring up the subject of your OCD. I read your book and it was very fascinating. I glanced at it when I was at Barnes & Noble. What made you decide to finally open up about it?
Marc- I went on TV and discussed it, the next thing I knew I got Howard Stern, People Magazine, Oprah, and other people called me and saying "Will you talk about this?" You kind of have to weigh the positives against the negatives. I think the amount of people I've been able to help in a number of years can get help and don't have to live with it. It's been the most rewarding part of it.
Patricia- Kevin himself actually has OCD.
Marc- Oh yeah?
Patricia- Yeah, he has an extensive amount of DVDs. He has hundreds of them. He organizes them in alphabetical order and in genre. If someone was to mess up his collection, he can notice right away. When he found out that you had OCD, he looked up to you even more. He found you as the father figure he never had. It became official to him that you are one of his heroes. He said "Finally, someone who understands me." What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with OCD and can be able to control themselves?
Marc- Well, I've never done drugs or alcohol. But I think it's a similar situation. You can't get better unless you want to get better. I've met many people who have some sort of OCDish kind of situation. If they don't admit that they need help, then they're not ready. I think you have to wanna get better. It starts to develop all sorts of problems, intrusive thoughts, you're given about 19 different directions, and such. I think when you hit rock bottom and you decide that you don't want it to take over your life again is when you want to get better. But, it takes some people many years to get the point, you know.
Patricia- Yeah, definitely. So, whenever you're out and about doing something on the Food Network, do people approach you and say "Oh my God, it's Marc Summers! I use to watch you on Double Dare when I was a kid. I was a big fan of yours."
Marc- My entire life.
Marc- Yup. It's always nice for people who grew up with Double Dare come up to me and saying that they were fans of mine, they were really big fans of mine, and such. Sometimes, they even get nervous approaching me, which I find really hilarious. It guess it would be like if I met Soupy Sales.
Patricia- That's pretty neat and fascinating. Have you had anyone approach you saying that they were once contestants in Double Dare or What Would You Do?
Marc- Oh yeah, I had one kid who was a waiter in Los Angeles who looked at me and said "Oh my God, do you remember me?" I said "No." He said "Oh come on." I said "No." Then he got upset that I didn't remember that he was on Double Dare when he was 12-years-old. But I didn't recognize him. Then I said "How old are you now?" He said he was 22. Then I said "Ten years ago, chances are you look nothing like you look right now. Why in the hell would I remember you right now?" Then he got even more out of shape. I thought it was just ridiculous.
Patricia- Wow, I mean, wow. I didn't expect that.
Marc- Yeah, I mean, if he was 12 ten years ago, there was no way I could have recognized him. I thought it was funny.
Patricia- Yeah, if you were a kid, you would look completely different as an adult. But if you're an adult, then you would
look the same, except older.
Marc- Exactly. Your hair could be a different color, longer, shorter, whatever. But yeah, it's kinda silly.
Patricia- Heh, yeah. Just a few more questions and then we're done. Here's a question off topic. You and your wife have been married for almost 40 years. First off, congratulations.
Patricia- Nowadays, we don't see a lot of successful marriages with celebrities. How were you able to make your marriage successful?
Marc- That I've been gone half that time.
Patricia- (laughs) Really?
Marc- Yeah, we've been married 37 years and I've been gone for 14. When I get home, it's like we get together, catch up, go out for dinner or something, and then afterwards, I have to go back to work. We've been very understanding of each other and I think that's what made it last as it has.
Patricia- One final question, Marc. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a successful game show host?
Marc- Oh wow, that's going to be tough nowadays. I mean, game shows aren't as popular anymore and usually, they find a young, good looking celebrity to host a game show. So, I wouldn't know what advice to give to someone who wants to pursue a career like that. But, I guess I would say to be yourself, act natural, have fun, and smile.
Patricia- Great. Marc, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I really appreciate it!
Marc- You're welcome.
Patricia- Well, take care and have a nice day.
Marc- Thanks, you too. Bye bye.
Patricia- Bye, Marc.
To make this even more special, I even requested that he send me an autograph photo for me to have in my room. One week later, Marc was so nice to give me one for free! Thank you, Marc!
Well, that's all for now. This interview is only the beginning of a dozen others. Who did we get? Well, you'll have to check Old School Lane out for the rest of the summer and see. Take care.