Oral Histories

Interview of Stu Billett

Co-founder with Ralph Edwards of Ralph Edwards-Stu Billett Productions. Creator in concert with Ralph Edwards of the court TV series “The People's Court.”
Ralph Edwards Productions
Film and Television
Biographical Note:
Co-founder with Ralph Edwards of Ralph Edwards-Stu Billett Productions. Creator in concert with Ralph Edwards of the court TV series “The People's Court.”
Collings, Jane
Billett, Stu
Persons Present:
Billett and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Steward Billett's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and senior editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.Collings prepared for the interview by reviewing archival material on the history of the company and reviewing published sources on the life of Stu Billett.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Billett was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
1.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Ralph Edwards Productions series seeks to document the history of the Ralph Edwards Productions company by interviewing persons who had worked closely with Ralph Edwards in the early years of the company. Ralph Edwards Productions produced This is Your Life, as well as Truth or Consequences, a seminal program of the audience participation genre. Additional materials on Ralph Edwards Productions are held in Performing Arts Special Collections and the Film and Television Archive at UCLA.
Early life—Father's ability as a mechanic—Billett's disinclination to work as a mechanic—Serves in Marines in Korea—Begins reading voraciously while in Korea—Attends New York University on the GI Bill—Begins working in the game show business—Billett's exemplary work ethic as a youth—Quiz show scandals—An instance of suspicion of a conspiracy on the set of $64000 Challenge—Billett's intention to be a writer—Refurbishes old cars while a high school student—A business towing cars that are stuck in the snow—Grandfather's work as upholsterer for well-off clients, including the Roosevelt family—Family background—Works with Johnny Carson on Who Do You Trust?—Assists Salvador Dali in producing an artwork for Who Do You Trust?—The audience for Who Do You Trust?—The writers on the show—Impact of Roy Kammerman's work on Carson's career—The heavy scripting of Carson's performances—The attraction of Johnny Carson for audiences—Ed McMahon—Carson's personality—Ralph Edwards's Truth or Consequences on radio—This is Your Life on radio—Monty Hall—Works for Monty Hall in Hollywood on Split Second—Jeopardy—Elvis Presley's delight at meeting Monty Hall—Presley's confusion over the name "Stuart"—Opens own office and begins work on Fantasies Fulfilled—Meets Ralph Edwards—Edwards's appreciation for the Fantasies Fulfilled concept—Billett's respect for and appreciation of Edwards—The egalitarian nature of opportunity in show business—The evolution of The Oprah Show—King World sells The Oprah Show as a package with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy—Evolution of the idea for The People's Court—Similarities between the garment industry and show business—Launches The People's Court in syndication—Produces additional shows to package with The People's Court—An amusing episode at one of Edwards's annual Christmas parties.