Politics is Everybody’s Business: Resurrecting Faye Emerson, America’s Forgotten First Lady of Television
Before the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Johnny Carson, Steve Allen and Jack Paar, there was Faye Emerson, one of America’s original TV personalities from broadcast’s nascent years hosting CBS’s 15 minute, 3 nights-a-week late night talk show, The Faye Emerson Show (1950-1953). While largely forgotten today, Faye Emerson once dominated the media conversation as “The First Lady of Television” with her informed and engaging on-air, political dialogue concerning the hot topic issues of her day including war with North Korea, nuclear arms and equality for women. This presentation utilizes Emerson’s rich archival collection at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research which consists of seven cartons of clippings and personal files, plus nearly 3000 photos, recordings and show kinescopes, which Emerson herself ensured were recorded and preserved. In the preservation, revival and historical mining of Emerson’s archives including the repair and digital preservation of key kinescopes, Amy Sloper and Maureen Mauk reinvigorate the radical contributions of ‘Television’s First Lady’ and the impact of The Faye Emerson Show’s socially responsible on-air discourse and audience viewer interaction, the imprint of which remains in late-night television today.
Amy Sloper is the Film Archivist at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison, Wisconsin. Her work involves managing the preservation, cataloging, and access to a diverse collection of over 30,000 moving images on film and video ranging from the collections of Hollywood Studios, directors, actors, writers, and producers; the works of independent and documentary filmmakers; and regional collections of home movies, government films, and industrial films. In addition, she teaches courses related to archiving and advises graduate students in the UW-Madison Information School.
Maureen Mauk is a PhD student in the Communication department at University of Wisconsin-Madison focusing on Media & Cultural Studies. She carries a decade of experience serving in Los Angeles as a Television Standards & Practices executive and environmental activist. Her research interests include the study of women’s television history, media policy and parental effects surrounding children’s content in the digital space and the use of social media for social and environmental betterment, particularly by mothers.