On our internal video newscast this week, we are highlighting our Branded Entertainment program where Southwest features prominently in a television series or in a movie. Thanks to our Branded Entertainment Team, Southwest is featured prominently in the new movie Going the Distance which opens on September 3. One of our most successful Branded Entertainment relationships was the A&E Network show, Airline from a few years ago. Each week cameras would follow our Employees as they did their daily jobs, and the show lives forever on the cable channels.
However, Flashback Fridays isn’t about current and trendy, it’s about retro and the past, the obscure and/or forgotten. Following up to last week’s post about celebrities flying Southwest in our early days, I have found what is probably our first instance of Branded Entertainment—and it was a biggie.
Anyone who lived through the 1960s and 1970s will instantly recognize Jim Lange and the set of The Dating Game. (More about the women by his side in a minute.) Each episode featured a trio of “eligible” bachelors or bachelorettes who were kept hidden from an equally eligible single individual. Sometimes a single man chose from three women, and at others, a woman would chose from three men. I guess it was revolutionary to have women “asking” for dates—but cultural significance was never the highlight of The Dating Game. The featured “dater” was given a few minutes to quiz the trio of “datees” by using humorous (at least that was the intent) questions filled with double meanings. At the end of the quizzing, a datee was chosen to go on a date (chaperoned, of course) with the dater. This process was repeated in the second half of the 30-minute episode with four new people. Some of the soon to be famous and already famous people to appear on the show included: Farah Fawcett, Steve Martin, Burt Reynolds, Phil Hartman, Michael Jackson, Sally Field, Ron Howard, and yes, Paul Lynde. In addition to these luminaries, two of our Flight Attendants, Deborah Franklin (to the left of Jim) and CJ Bostic appeared on the show in 1973.
The date on the negatives is January 24, 1973, and this would be our first formal instance of Branded Entertainment. For a little airline operating between three cities in Texas, this was a big pop culture event (although we didn’t call it pop culture back then). A photographer recorded the big day; however, I understand that ABC only kept a small amount of the video tapes from this timeperiod. The photo above shows CJ and Deborah with the production staff.
CJ looks on while Deborah is made up.
One of these lucky guys will be Deborah’s date.
Deborah is on the other side of the wall asking questions, and they won’t be able to see each other until she selects her date.
At the end of the show, the two couples join Jim onstage, and here he is shaking hands with CJ and her date.
And then the photo above shows the big finale when Jim sends the couples off on their dates. The show always closed with everyone throwing a kiss to the audience. Jim and Deborah must have finished before the rest and she looks bemused or a bit embarrassed. It would be another seven years before Southwest flew to California, but already our fame had spread nationwide thanks to our Employees and this early version of Branded Entertainment.