James Earl Warren Ray Jay Johnson Panama Red Dutch Masters "Jim" Jones ( May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978 ) was an American game show host, best known as the original host of the popular game show Family Feud from 1976 until his death in 1978. He was also a highly successful paid spokesperson for Kool-Aid, coining the catchphrase "Kool-Aid Knocks Me Out!"
Little is known of Jones's early years. Jones himself claimed in 1977 that he was "the bastard child of Herbert Hoover and Jean Harlow." Although Hoover and Harlow did enjoy a torrid love affair, there is little evidence to suggest that this affair produced children. Jones also reportedly told friends that he was the Lindbergh baby, pointing to his partially crushed skull as "evidence." Again, historians have found nothing to support this claim.
One thing most historians agree on is that Jones was an unrepentant liar. Indeed, Jones's skill as a fabricator was one of the keys to his entree into the world of broadcasting. Some time in the fall of 1962, the thirty-one year old Jones walked into the corporate offices of Kentucky Fried Chicken and boldly claimed to be the grandson of Colonel Sanders. Beating on the receptionist's desk with a cane and threatening to "whip it out and piss on y'all," Jones demanded a job as the KFC spokesperson. In a subsequent meeting with Jones, Colonel Sanders confessed, "I don't know who this sombitch is, but I like his moxie. And he was gon' piss on y'all, which is funny as hell." Jones got the job, and the "We Choke Chicken Right" campaign that followed helped put Kentucky Fried Chicken on the map.
I've Got A Terminal Illness
By 1964, Jones was receiving offers throughout the entertainment industry. One intrigued him most of all: an offer from NBC to host a brand-new game show called I've Got A Terminal Illness. Terminal Illness was designed as an attempt to capitalize on the success both of game shows and medical programs like Dr. Kildare. The central premise was simple: Celebrity panelists asked questions of a "mystery invalid" and attempted to guess what terminal illness the invalid suffered from.
The first episode of I've Got A Terminal Illness, sponsored by Benson & Hedges, aired on August 9, 1964. Although critics praised Jones's relaxed hosting style ( in particular his catchphrase "Dead man walking!" ), the show did not garner high ratings and was canceled within two months.
Kids Are Stupid
Devastated by the first professional failure of his career, Jones hesitated before re-entering the world of television. However, in the summer of 1965, ABC approached him with a brand new hosting offer. Inspired by the success of the "Kids Say The Darndest Things" segment on Art Linkletter's House Party, ABC had created a new program, tentatively titled Kids These Days Sure Do Say Some Funny Things. Enthused about the project, Jones agreed to host on the condition that he would have "creative input." He quickly exercised this option by changing the title of the show to Kids Are Stupid.
"I've always hated children and I'm not alone," Jones explained in a 1975 interview. "I thought that a title like Kids Are Stupid would appeal to people like me, who can't stand those goddamned little brats. It's a family show for families who hate their children."
The format of Kids Are Stupid was very similar to "Kids Say The Darndest Things." The primary difference was Jones's taunting, mocking questioning style, as typified in this exchange with a child named Billy in a 1968 episode:
Jones: So Billy, where do babies come from?
Jones: Oh really? Well, I'm God, and I don't send babies.
Billy: You're not God.
Jones: Are you calling me a liar?
Billy: No, sir.
Jones: So you think I'm God?
Jones: So you're calling me a liar?
Jones: Well then. If I'm not a liar and I say I'm God, I must be God, right?
Billy: I... guess.
( laughter )
Jones: Ha ha! Idiot! I'm not God! Boy, folks, these kids sure are stupid!
Kids Are Stupid quickly became the second most popular show in ABC's lineup, just behind Bewitched. Jones was pleased. "I've always wanted to get behind Elizabeth Montgomery," he said. Jones would remain with the popular program for the next eleven years.
On July 5, 1972, Jones was summoned to a top-secret Madison Avenue meeting with the Kool-Aid Man. The notoriously reclusive Kool-Aid Man had not made a public appearance since the disastrous Kool-Aid Rock Festival at Altamont in 1969, when a group of angry Hell's Angels had beaten the living punch out of him. Desperate to improve Kool-Aid's PR, Kool-Aid Man asked Jones to become the new public face of the company. Jones agreed to take on the role for $25 million. According to historian Bob Bastard, "Kool-Aid Man thought for a moment. Then he looked up, said 'Oh yeah!!!' and ran through a wall."
The first run of ad campaigns capitalized on Jones's hit TV show. A child would run up to Jones and ask for "koo-waid." Jones would laugh and say, "Boy, kids sure are stupid. But I'm not stupid. I love this stuff. Kool-Aid is full of flavor and it'll shut your kids up. Everybody loves that. No two ways about it: Kool-Aid knocks me out!"
The Kool-Aid ads were massively successful; Kool-Aid sales improved by nearly 25% and Jones became the "King of Kool-Aid." He would remain Kool-Aid's primary spokesman until 1978, even briefly hosting a summer-replacement variety show, The Jim Jones Kool-Aid Variety Hour.
Noone is allowed to tell Jim Jones jokes any longer. The punch lines are too long.
However, a rogue group of comedians called "Suck My Poison Kool Aid", led by the volatile head comedian of the Gaza strip, Hebrew McMichael, has set a standard on Jim Jones funnies. Jokes about Jim Jones are confined to these limits as set by the 1999 International Comedian Convention:
- ) Jim Jones jokes pertaining to Kool Aid must not reference the Strawberry-Kiwi flavor.
- ) Jim Jones jokes must end convincing the listener that a patriot missle ended Jonestown, not suicide
- ) Jim Jones jokes have to tell the truth, and the truth is that Jim Jones went down on men like circus seals.
In 1976, Jones collaborated with producer Mark Goodson on a new program called Family Feud. "The show is designed," Jones explained at a press conference announcing the show's launch, "to split families up. When you split families up, when you take away those familial bonds, it's so much easier to control their minds."
Families were split up prior to the show into groups based on factors such as age and sex. They were then "surveyed," with most of the questions designed to humiliate other members of the family. Popular questions included:
"Name a phrase your mother used to describe your father's inadequate genitalia?"
"Name something your father wishes he had done instead of making love to your mother and creating you little brats."
"Name a reason your children hate you."
"Name a reason why your husband let his father die in a nursing home."
The final round of play, called the Lightning Round, was based on the experiments of Stanley Milgram. Two members of the winning team would be asked a series of questions; every time a question was answered incorrectly, the other members of the team would administer electric shocks of increasing severity. Throughout the Lightning Round Jones would egg the teammates on, introducing his latest catchphrase, "Shock the failure!!!"
Jones was proud of the success of Family Feud, bragging that it had "destroyed at least 200 families" in its first year alone. But the success, for Jones, would be short-lived.
The circumstances of Jim Jones's death remain shrouded in mystery. On November 19, 1978, Jones was scheduled to appear at CBS Television City for a taping of Family Feud. When he didn't arrive, an associate producer was dispatched to Jones's home in Beverly Hills. It was immediately clear that something was wrong; there was a giant pitcher-sized hole in the wall and an unidentified red fluid was splashed all over the property. Afraid to enter the home, the associate producer called the police.
Two officers from the Los Angeles County Police Department entered Jones's home at 12:15 PM. They quickly discovered Jones's lifeless body. "It appeared as though he'd been beaten to death with a giant spoon, the kind you'd mix a giant pitcher of Kool-Aid with," said one officer. There were signs of a struggle but only one real clue, a scrawled note on the living room wall that repeated the phrase "Oh YEAH" five times.
James Earl Warren Ray Jay Johnson Panama Red Dutch Masters "Jim" Jones was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park on November 22. Jones had chosen his own epitaph: "I Hate Children."
Who Killed Jim Jones?
The most likely suspect in the murder of Jim Jones has always been the Kool-Aid Man. Jones had abruptly ended his ties with the Kool-Aid Company in October of 1978; some have speculated that Jones was threatening to expose the Kool-Aid Man's "alternative lifestyle" in a tell-all book and had to be eliminated.
Oliver Stone has theorized that the Cubans, the Mafia ( which doesn't exist ), LBJ, the CIA, the FBI, the BBC, the COD, the PLO, the GNP, and GNC were involved in a wide-ranging conspiracy to kill Jim Jones. But he suggests that about everything.
Some conservative commentators include Jim Jones in their lists of "The Clinton Murders," citing the fact that Bill Clinton makes no mention of Jim Jones in his autobiography My Life and the fact that Jones died while Clinton was alive as clear evidence of the former President's guilt. Others include Jones in their lists of "The Cosby Mysteries," though this is probably just a typographical error.