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CBS Sports Spectacular (1964)

Rod Taylor was one of the celebrity tennis players in this star-studded segment produced for "CBS Sports Spectacular."

The segment, titled "Professional Tennis at Dean Martin's," was recorded in June 1963 and aired on Sunday, Feb. 16, 1964.

Although this was a special for CBS, tennis matches at Dean Martin's Beverly Hills estate were not uncommon. Dean's wife, Jeanne, was one of the founders of a charity called SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly), and she hosted events like this to raise funds. Friends turned out for the charity tennis performance and paid $100 a seat to watch the proceedings.

The CBS special opened with Rod teaming with professional tennis player Pancho Segura to play Dean Martin and professional Pancho Gonzalez. (Dean's team won.)

Next, Pancho Gonzalez teamed with Janet Leigh to square off against Pancho Segura and Rhonda Fleming, who were the victors of the mixed doubles match. 

Comedic actor Phil Silvers refereed the pro-am games. Five Hollywood starlets, including Ursula Andress, served as ball girls.

Finally, the two Panchos hit the court for some a game of high-level, professional tennis.

During an interview with CBS broadcaster Chris Schenkel, Dean Martin said that Janet Leigh was stand-in for Jeanne Martin, who was not feeling well. A newspaper item around that time had reported that Jeanne had suffered a relapse of a slipped disk in her neck and was in traction.

Regarding the CBS segment, TV columnist Kurt Wachenheim was not amused. As he wrote for the Albany, N.Y., newspaper on Feb. 17, 1964:

Martin, Taylor, Leigh and Fleming played "funsy" games, allowing tennis greats Pancho Segura and Pancho Gonzalez on the court to lend an aura of expertise.

Five top-heavy, scanty-panted starlets flitted around mid-court as ball girls.

Only when the Panchos were left to their own devices, with inconspicuous ball boys in attendance, was there sport.

That account did a disservice to the event, which entertained viewers while it boosted support for children with disabilities.

It's also an important appearance for Rod, as he was elevating his game of tennis as his star rose in Hollywood. He enjoyed playing on Dean Martin's court at 601 Mountain Drive, even as Dean was encouraging him to get into golf.

For more about Rod's tennis expertise, please visit the tennis page >>




Rod playing tennis
(Not necessarily on this show)


Video clip, on the Phil Silvers Channel at YouTube, of the doubles match between Pancho Gonzalez and Janet Leigh and Pancho Segura and Rhonda Fleming.