In case you’ve never heard of Joe Franklin, you can check him out in “The Guinness Book of World Records.” Joe Franklin was the longest-running TV talk show host in the history of the universe. Starting the first TV talk show at age 22 on WJZ-TV (that later became WABC-TV) in New York City in 1950, then switching to WOR-TV in Secaucus, N.J., in 1962, he finally called it quits in 1993 after 43 years on the air!

Celebrities such as Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby, Dustin Hoffman, Liza Minnelli, Julia Roberts and Sammy Davis Jr. made their first TV appearances on his show. Others including Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and John Wayne were among the approximately 300,000 guests (his estimate – Wikipedia says only 10,000) to appear on his program, of which there were more than 28,000 episodes (Count ’em, Wiki!).

Side notes: His best friend as a kid was Bernie Schwartz (later known as Tony Curtis). And he wrote 23 books.

All that said, yet strictly in my opinion, Joe Franklin also happened to be the worst interviewer ever on television. That was the opportunity I was looking for.

In the early years of Maine Public Television, I produced, directed, wrote and hosted a weekly half-hour program on career education. I also did movie reviews on the evening news. Then I made the first small-format video documentaries in Maine.

So when I moved to New York and first worked at a public relations agency, one of my skills offered to clients was media coaching, teaching them how to speak their views on-camera on TV or into a microphone on the radio. One of our prime household-name clients was the Harvard Business Review, and I was assigned to provide media coaching for the managing editor, Professor David W. Ewing.

Professor Ewing spent his entire career working at the Harvard Business Review and teaching as a member of the Harvard Business School faculty. So he was brilliant, naturally. The year we met, 1983, John Wiley & Sons had published his latest book, “Do it my way or you’re fired!” Subtitle: Employee Rights and the Changing Role of Management Prerogatives. In essence, it was a brave and angry assessment of corporate whistle-blowing — employees revealing illegal practices of their employers — and how this activity was being suppressed in the corporate world.

David had been invited to appear and be interviewed on NBC’s “The Today Show,” and he had accepted the invitation. Still, he was worried. He had previously been interviewed on “The Today Show,” and friends and associates had said that he seemed to be the epitome of the absent-minded professor. Wisps of white hair floated in the air while he also stared up at the ceiling and wandered through his thoughts at length.

He didn’t want that to happen again, so he asked for some media coaching. We had practice sessions, and I encouraged him to look the interviewer in the eye, listen to the question and then provide a direct answer in a couple of short sentences. Then we had a rehearsal in a small independent TV studio in Greenwich Village, and I grilled him again and again until he learned to handle anything and everything I could throw at him. At the end of that session, I told him he was ready.

But I wanted him to do another kind of rehearsal before going on “The Today Show.” So I got him booked for an interview on “The Joe Franklin Show,” where he would face a long-experienced interviewer who didn’t know what he was doing — the ultimate test! Professor Ewing gave his consent.

A whole week’s worth of “The Joe Franklin Show” (five episodes, one hour each) would be taped in one day. The “studio” was an old gymnasium in a former high school near Union Square in Manhattan. Professor Ewing and I arrived in the afternoon at a certain time, and the program he would be on was already under way. We were to sit outside in the hall, watching the taping on a TV monitor (along with several other guests and their friends/agents) until he was given the signal that it was his turn to go in.

When that time came, someone escorted him into the gym and his seat on the set all the way across the floor, and the doors were closed behind him. I stayed behind and nervously watched the TV monitor.

There were two other guests who had already been interviewed and were sitting with Joe Franklin on the set. One was a 16-year-old Italian motorboat-racing champion, and the other was a psychic nutritionist.

When the segment began taping, Joe Franklin introduced David Ewing to the audience, then introduced the other two guests to David Ewing. My eyes were glued to the screen. Joe Franklin then asked his first question of the newly arrived guest.

“So, Professor Ewing, what do you think your colleagues at Harvard would have to say about psychic nutrition?”

And that was only the beginning. As he often did in those days, Franklin had his other guests ask questions of Professor Ewing, letting them do the interview.

Sometime between the next 10 and 15 minutes, that segment was completed. David had somehow survived. The gym doors were opened, Professor Ewing was escorted to the doors (the other two guests remained), and a new guest was ushered in. As he approached the gym doors, I somewhat frantically gestured to shush him so he would not utter a word until he got out and the doors were closed.

When that happened, and he and I were next to each other leaning back against the doors, we looked at each other, then gradually slid down on our butts laughing like crazy.

After that long laugh, David Ewing looked at me and said: “Fritz, thank you, I will never worry about being on TV again.”

Fritz Lyon lives in Belfast.