This week on StoryWeb: Chad Everett’s TV show, Medical Center.
If only I could start with the theme song to Medical Center! If I were telling you this story in person, I’d risk humming a few bars, complete with an ambulance-like scream of notes. But alas, I’m left with mere words to conjure up for you the magic that was Medical Center, an hour-long weekly hospital drama starring Chad Everett as the hip, young Dr. Joe Gannon.
Chad Everett and Medical Center were literally my claims to fame when I was in college in the early 1980s at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, commonly known as UMSL. By this time, the 1970s-era television show was in late-night reruns. My boyfriend and I got hooked on the show when we’d catch it after getting home from our night shifts at work. We got home about 12:30, and Medical Center came on at 1:00. That theme song was a siren call of another sort, calling to us to put away the cares of the day and join Chad in fighting for the welfare of yet another patient. It became a game between us to see who could guess the outcome of the episode first, and I learned to play the theme song on my violin.
Both of us were involved in student government, and as we sat in the Student Government Association office one day, we wondered aloud just how ridiculous a group could get recognized by Student Affairs and become eligible for student activity funding.
My boyfriend seized on an idea. “Let’s propose forming the Chad Everett Fan Club of UMSL,” he said. “You can be president, and I’ll be vice president.”
The rest, as they say, is history. In no time at all, we developed a patter, a shtick about why a university needed a fan club dedicated to Chad Everett. We emphasized Chad’s appeal to pre-med students, theater students, and history majors who might want to trace Chad’s role in the country’s transition from the wet look to the dry look. For it was true: in the first season of Medical Center, Chad sported hair full of Brill Cream, but in the second season, he had hair blown dry into a perfect coif. And when anyone questioned the sincerity of our club, we’d sum up by saying that even a third-world country had named itself after Chad.
The club was – as we had suspected it would be – quickly approved as a recognized student organization, and while we never applied for funding, we could have. In the ensuing months, we held club meetings at our apartment and even got the Dean of Student Affairs in on things. We’d say, “Hi, Dean, how’s it going?” He would respond correctly, “We won’t know until we run more tests.”
Soon a story about the Chad Everett Fan Club was published in the student newspaper. (You can still read the original article online.) Then a national publication for university students, Nutshell, got in on the action. Before I knew it, Rip and Read wire dispatch, known for its zany stories, had picked up the news. It seemed the Chad Everett Fan Club was a sensation.
A month or so before graduation, I got an unexpected phone call. The woman calling introduced herself as Mira Velimirovic, a researcher for Late Night with David Letterman. It was 1983, and Letterman was still a relative newcomer to late-night TV. His show was a huge hit, so I couldn’t believe it when Mira said that she’d read the Rip and Read article about my club and that she wanted to book me on the show.
Everything happened at lightning speed. I sent Mira all the clips I had about the Chad Everett Fan Club, and we talked another time or two on the phone, as I regaled her with one Chad joke after another. I told her that yes, we did have club meetings and that club members liked to sport surgical smocks. (Conveniently enough, they were also a quite popular fashion item at the time.) I told her we were all thinking of getting vanity plates so that when we lined up our cars, you’d se