Vintage Television: Bill Cullen

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Vintage television: Who was Bill Cullen?

Bill Cullen was a well-known and very popular television personality during the sixties and seventies in the USA. He was a game show host and was often featured as a panellist on other shows, once of which was his appearances as part of the panel on I’ve Got A Secret.

But Bill Cullen had a secret of his own

Bill Cullen

Vintage Television: Bill Cullen

When he was just a small child, he contracted polio. This meant that he had problems walking. Then, when he was seventeen, he was involved in a traffic accident and was in hospital for nine long months. This increased his physical limitations. Yet audiences were largely unaware.

Undeterred by his medical problems, Bill became hugely popular on various television shows and the producers of the shows made sure that Bill rarely had to walk. They went to great lengths to ensure that the host’s disability was hidden from viewers.

Even other people in show business were unaware of Bill’s mobility problems.

See the video below in which Mel Brooks explains how he didn’t know and refers to an incident which he calls the most embarrassing moment of his life.

Bill had lived with his problems for the majority of his life so he wasn’t embarrassed about his walking problem. But unlike today, we can safely assume that it was the makers of the television shows who objected to showing his disability on screen.

Bill’s only problem when people realised about his walking difficulty was when people assumed that the reason was that he had been injured in the Second World War. They would ask him at which battle he received his injuries and when he replied that they had been caused by polio, they were strangely disappointed. Bill knew that their disaapointment was caused by sympathy — which was something he didn’t want or expect from others.

Of course, he had not been able to join the armed forces during the war but had served his country in the Civilian Air Patrol.



Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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