Paul Williams through his innumerable appearances on television shows like The Odd Couple, Fantasy Island, The Muppet Show and BJ & the Bear, oftentimes playing himself.
He was a regular on the daytime talk show circuit, a frequent panelist on the Hollywood Squares and a favorite on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was also in movies, from Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise to the Smokey & the Bandit films. He was even in a Planet of the Apes movie.
From some of these appearances, I knew Paul was also a singer, but it wasn’t until later, when I grew into a full-bore music fanatic, that I began to recognize the recurring names listed as the songwriters of some of my favorite records of the era. Names like Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Hoyt Axton, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed and Jimmy Webb. And lo & behold, Paul Williams’ name stood out among this group as well.
It was then that I put two & two together & realized that the guy whom I knew as an actor on The Love Boat was actually the guy who co-wrote the theme song to The Love Boat!
His songs have been huge hits for the likes of The Carpenters (“We’ve Only Just Begun”), Barbra Streisand (“Evergreen”) & Three Dog Night (“An Old Fashioned Love Song”), have been performed by the likes of David Bowie, Willie Nelson and The Monkees, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Kermit the Frog (“Rainbow Connection” from the original Muppet Movie soundtrack happens to be among the most selected tracks on our Guest DJ Project!).
He is also the subject of a new documentary called Paul Williams: Still Alive, running in Los Angeles at the Nuart Theatre though Thursday, June 28. It is directed by Stephen Kessler, and is an unusual, funny and poignant look at an artist and a borderline obsessive fan trying to make a movie about him.
Both the director and Paul himself will appearance in person at the Nuart Friday & Saturday, June 22 & 23, making for a great opportunity to catch up with a musical icon! (Also check out an interview with Paul & Stephen from KCRW’s The Business that aired this past week as well.
Check out a preview for the film:
ERIC J. LAWRENCE