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Following the play of the hand, Kantar would spend perhaps eight minutes in front of a magnetized board with the hand re-created on it, analyzing what had gone wrong, if anything, and what might have been bid and what to remember if a similar situation should come up. In short, the lesson. Since Kantar teaches bridge for a living, he handled it well, and this part of the show always went smoothly.
Not so the final segment. Kantar and all four guests would reassemble on the couches for a final word—how long depending on what had come before it. Sometimes it was four minutes, sometimes a minute 12 seconds, and the cutoff had to be precise. During the early shows guests were often entangled in some comment about the cards just played when furious hand signals off-camera indicated shut up. Kantar, not unnaturally, would be looking at his guest. Retakes often numbered five, or even more, before a keeper was shot—and the freshness of the conversation became lost. Eventually Eddie learned the knack of cutting the conversation with as many as 15 seconds remaining and starting a slow winddown, "And now this is Eddie Kantar saying goodby and reminding you not to draw trumps until...." Using this technique he could sign off on the button every time.
The first day I kibitzed, Eddie had an expert group headed by bridge columnist Alfred Sheinwold and Don Krauss, a stock analyst who has represented North America in World Championship play. The conversation was lively and funny, even without Carol Lawrence. Sheinwold told a bridge joke. A player at a tournament went up to an expert and asked him where he had gone wrong in playing a hand. The expert explained. Two days later the player got a bill for $100 from the expert. Irate, the player phoned his lawyer.
"I don't have to pay it, do I?" he asked.
"I'm afraid you do," answered the lawyer. "He's a professional and you sought his counsel."
Two days later the player got a bill for $100 from the lawyer.
Krauss told a story about the legendary Oswald Jacoby. Jacoby was playing a hand in which the opponents held seven diamonds, including the queen. "Of the seven missing diamonds," said Ozzie, "I knew that five were on my left, two on my right, so I calculated that the odds were precisely 5-2 that the queen was on my left. Just then the player on my right dropped a card. It was the queen of diamonds. I immediately revised my estimate."
Sheinwold and Krauss bid and played the three hands Kantar set up for them without a flaw, as might be expected. I say three hands because while there was only one to a show, three shows could generally be filmed in one day so that most guests appeared that many times, slightly altering their costumes—sweater on, sweater off—to give the appearance of a whole new day. Perhaps Eddie should have saved the experts for last. The show's director, its producers, the whole crew knew nothing about bridge. They probably assumed that everything would always go as flawlessly as it did with Sheinwold and Krauss. I set them straight in a hurry.
It was the very next day, as a matter of fact. I had returned to kibitz again when word buzzed around the studio that Lee Meriwether had been detained. No one knew for how long. The producers, Barbara and Jack Warner, fretted. The three other guests were on hand: Gene Mako, the former Wimbledon doubles champion and now a leading builder of tennis courts; Barbara Hamman, former wife of Robert Hamman, one of the world's best players ( Hamman would wonder who the other guys are); and Don Steele, the friend of Kantar's who watches the Lakers with him. There was a brief huddle among the Warners and Kantar and then all three came over to me saying guess what, I was a substitute guest celebrity. The make-up man started putting brown stuff on my face, a technician clipped a small microphone to my collar, I said a few words for audio control and..."Welcome to Master Bridge...."
The interview was easy. Eddie asked me about commuter-train bridge and I told the great outside world about those weird but exciting games on the Long Island Rail Road in which the cards are dealt in sixes and sevens, no shuffling, so that the hands are wild and slams are frequent. Then the four of us went over to the table for our hand.