Emmy Gold by Myra Morris Jackson

On November 16, 2019, the Lone Star
Chapter of the National Academy of
Television Arts and Sciences inducted Allen
Morris into the Gold Circle of NATAS. The
Gold Circle is a lifetime achievement award
honoring people who have been working
in the television industry for fifty years or
more. I was there to witness it, as I have been
for most of the major events in his life. He
is my twin brother. In fact, it was I who gave
him his first push into world. I was tired of
having his feet in my face. I was pleased to
be asked to write about his career because
it provides an opportunity for me to brag a
little about my brother. Who better since I
was there when it all began?

Allen always loved television. He would
get up early in the morning and sit in
front of the TV staring at the test pattern
for hours. Once it signed on, one of our
favorite shows was Howdy Doody. There
were a lot of puppets on television in the
late fifties and early sixties. Art Carney
from the Honeymooners hosted
Peter and the Wolf, narrating as
puppets acted out the story set to Sergei
Prokofiev’s musical score. When he
was five, he received a marionette for
Christmas, the first of many he would
eventually collect.

We were probably in the third grade when
Allen convinced me to enter a talent show
with him. Our parents received a phone
call from Jane Carson, the owner of Story
Book Playhouse dance school for children,
who had seen us perform and was calling
to ask our parents if we might be available
to perform at children’s parties. That
is when we entered show business as
professionals. We were paid two dollars
each for every fifteen minutes that we
performed. Our father had business
cards printed that read: Allen’s Puppets
and Marionettes, Available for Children’s
Parties. Notice anything missing from
that card? I did.

The summer after eighth grade, our family
moved to Lufkin in deep East Texas. At
the start of our freshman year, Allen and
I were hired to provide voices and operate
puppets on Through Magic Doorways. That
was the beginning of his television career.
Of course, I was the one who appeared
on camera dressed up like a clown. But
Allen is the one who got a job working at
KTRE-TV 9, shooting and editing news
film, making local television commercials,
directing live news broadcasts by the time
he was seventeen and obtaining his FirstClass
FCC Broadcast Engineering license.

As a college student, Allen produced an
hour-long special featuring music and
theatre students from Stephen F. Austin
State University entitled A Journey
Through Christmas. Once again, I came to
his aid and bailed him out when he was
having trouble getting anyone to appear
on his little show. It was his first attempt
at producing a long-format entertainment
show and it was aired for two years

After graduating, Allen was hired at
KDOG-TV in Houston. There, he edited
national television commercials for Ford,
Ultrabrite Toothpaste, and others. The first
time he won a national award, a Clio, was
for a commercial he edited back then. I
know it sounds shallow, which is why I
point this out; Allen likes winning awards.

In his second year with KDOG, he
became the producer of the all-night
show, Paws for the Night, hosted by radio
personality Roger Gray, and an earlymorning children’s program entitled #26
Morning Place. Both were live programs,
featuring local talent. Allen used the
programs to create acting opportunities
for theatre students from the University of
Houston. Brett Cullen was among those
students who worked on the comedy
skits for Paws for the Night, notably
playing Hans Trio in a spoof of Star Wars.
Cullen went on to a successful career in
Hollywood. Allen commented further:

“In addition to giving young actors and
musicians an opportunity to perform, we
hosted many celebrities on that late-night
show. Carol Channing, Bob Crane, Sammy
Davis, Jr., Phyllis Diller, Robert Mitchum,
Joan Rivers, Cesar Romero, Sarah Vaughan,
and others. Frequently, I had the opportunity
to direct some of our show’s guests in public
service announcements for local nonprofits. I
found most of them to be regular people and
fun to work with. I remember an incident
with Mickey Rooney. We did a take, and I
was mesmerized watching him. When he
finished the line, he stood there looking at the
camera and then called me over. Taking me
aside, where the crew could not hear him, he
said, ‘Look, you’re really a good director, but
don’t let me intimidate you. I’m not moving
until you say CUT. Now, act like you’re
telling me how to say the line and we’ll start
over.’ We stood there for a moment talking, as
if I was giving him direction, and then I went
back to stand by the camera, and he went
to his mark on the set and we did another
take. ‘Cut!’ ‘Was that alright?’ Mickey asked.
‘Actually, I need one more take, a little faster.
You were three seconds long.’ ‘Yes, sir.’ He did
another take, which was perfect, and I yelled
‘CUT! Perfect. Thank you.’ As he left the set,
he shook hands with everyone on the crew,
and as he was leaving the studio he turned
around, and in a loud voice said, ‘Guys, pay
attention to this kid. He’s going places.’ His
graciousness and professionalism have stayed
with me throughout my career.”

In 1977, Allen co-wrote, produced and
acted in a pilot for a situation comedy,
They’d Hang You in Nashville, based
on the play by a college classmate,
William Gleason. He managed to get
an appointment with Grant Tinker (at
the time, Mary Tyler Moore’s husband)
at MTM to show this project. Tinker
advised him to throw it in the Los Angeles
River on his way out of town. But when
Tinker found out Allen had appointments
with producers all over town, he told him
to go to those and then report back to
him. At CBS, Allen met Joan Rivers in
the elevator.

“We were alone and I asked what floor she
needed, and we were going to the same floor.
On the ride up she said, ‘You recognize me,
don’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Do you want an
autograph’ she asked. ‘No, thank you.’

We both got off the elevator and immediately,
the receptionist said, ‘They’re waiting for you
Miss Rivers.’ She buzzed the gate and Joan
started through as the receptionist asked who
I was there to see. I told her I had a four
o’clock meeting with Andy Cohen in comedy
development. Overhearing me, Joan turned
around and said, ‘He’s with me!’ She pulled
me through the gate, talking rapidly, ‘I’m
not supposed to know about it, but they’re
having a surprise party for me in Andy’s office
because I’m signing a contract with CBS this
afternoon. I’m sure he has forgotten you have
an appointment. Why are you meeting with

Andy?’ ‘I have a pilot of a sitcom to show
him.’ ‘Really? What’s your name? Where are
you from?’ ‘Allen Morris from Houston.’
‘Very nice to meet you.’ And she extended
her hand for me to shake it.

By then, we were at Andy’s office. I opened
the door for her and as she stepped in, the
crowd shouted ‘Surprise!’ I don’t know
who they thought I was as we walked in
together. I can only assume everyone thought
I might be her boytoy. I joined the party and
introduced myself politely and sipped on the
glass of champagne someone kept refilling.
After about an hour, Andy Cohen walked up
to me and asked who I was. Joan then spoke
up. ‘This is Allen Morris from Houston. He’s
your four o’clock appointment. He’s here
to show you this fantastic sitcom pilot he
produced.’ ‘Well, let’s take a look at it,’ Cohen
said. Flashing back to the bad experience in
Tinker’s office, I said, ‘I hate to interrupt the
party. Why don’t I leave everything with you,
and when you get a chance, take a look at
it and give me a call.’ ‘Alright, I will.’ And
with that, I said goodbye and thanked my
host and told Joan congratulations. As I left,
she winked at me.

Flash forward one year later. Joan was
a guest on my all-night show promoting
‘Rabbit Test,’ a movie she directed. We pretaped an interview in the middle of the day.
When the interview was completed, as I
was escorting her to the lobby, she stopped

and asked, ‘What happened with Cohen?’
‘You remember that?’ ‘Of course I do. What
happened?’ ‘He returned my tape and script
with a polite rejection letter saying it was not
quite right for CBS.’ ‘He can be a real jerk.
It’s a tough business, believe me. Thanks for
having me on your show.’ Then she handed
me her card and said, ‘Keep in touch.’”

During the 1979-81 baseball seasons,
Allen was under contract to Metromedia,
traveling with the Astros producing
their out-of-town baseball games for
television. Our dad was proud for him to
be working with a professional baseball
team and would mention it to his friends
often. Allen’s friend Frank Melton was
managing KLTV in Tyler at that time and
asked Allen to move to Tyler and manage
the production department when he was
not on the road with the Astros.

“On the road, Larry Dierker, the former
pitcher who was doing the color announcing
on the games, and I became friends. He and
I began working on an idea for a baseball
movie. When I moved to Tyler, I met Gary
Hagman, an attorney who happened to be
Larry Hagman’s brother. Hagman had just
completed the second season of the hit show
‘Dallas.’ At end of the ‘79 season, the Astros
were in their first divisional playoff game
against the Dodgers. I had a brainstorm to
invite Larry Hagman to watch the game
from the broadcast booth, which would give
Dierker and I the opportunity to pitch our
movie idea. After the game (the Astros lost,
by the way), we drove out to Hagman’s house
in Malibu for dinner. We were sitting in a
therapeutic hot tub designed by Hagman’s
wife, Maj, drinking cocktails and discussing
the movie idea, when we were joined by Joel
Grey. When she was ready to serve dinner,
Maj brought us each a bathrobe. Dierker and
I were the only ones wearing swim trunks,
and as we emerged from the water, Joel
cracked, “You Texas boys are the modest type!’

I reconnected with Larry Hagman in 1982
when he hosted a gala at the Los Colinas movie
studios. I was called in to direct a television
version of a Broadway-bound musical called
‘Movie Star.’ One of the stars was Brad
Maule, who would later play Dr. Tony Jones
on ‘General Hospital.’ I knew Brad from SFA
in the early 70s. The crew was quite impressed
when Hagman walked over and spoke to me
like we were long-lost friends (so was I).

In 1984, Allen joined The Renard Group
Advertising Agency as Executive Vice
President and Creative Director. At
the same time, he began Fox Group
Productions, producing the Garner Ted
Armstrong Show, a weekly evangelistic
television program shown in 75 markets
across the United States and Canada. The
company also developed and syndicated,
Young Country, a weekly country music
program shot live on locations ranging
from Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth to the Oil
Palace in Tyler.

“In 1985, I made a film called ‘Managing
the Future’ sponsored by Frito-Lay. I called
Orson Welles about narrating it and he
asked me to send him the script via FedEx. While I was on location in Arizona
shooting, my wife got a phone call. ‘May I
speak with Allen Morris.’ ‘He’s out of town.
May I take a message.’ ‘Yes, tell him I’ll do
the film.’ ‘And to whom am I speaking?’
‘This is Orson Welles.’ ‘Yeah, right. And this
is Rita Hayworth.’ ’No, really, I am Orson
Welles’ ‘Of course you are. How do you spell
that?’ ‘O-R-S-O-N-W-E-L-L-E-S’ ‘I’ll give
him the message.’”

His career has afforded Allen the
opportunity to work all over the world. He
has produced projects in Europe, the
Middle East and South America. On
location in Egypt in 1986, Allen
produced and directed a documentary for
the Texas Endowment for Humanities,
Alexandria: Monument to Civilization. As
they chronicled the influence of the
ancient city of Alexandria on the cultural
development of western civilization,
Allen and crew received unprecedented
access to archaeological sites throughout
the country. During the Gulf War, he
and his crew traveled to Israel, coming
back with the first American interview
in which Yitzhak Rabin said he would
consider a “land for peace” initiative.
They conducted interviews with both
sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
illustrating a common theme in Allen’s
career: bringing back and giving more
than is expected. Yet, through all this
globe-trotting, not once has he invited me
to go along on one of those trips. Usually,
I don’t even get a postcard!

In 1998, Allen and two colleagues founded
Belay Media Solutions. Belay Media coproduced
a fundraising event designed to
benefit the Houston victims of Tropical
Storm Allison in 2001. The production
included a short feature, One Houston
United: The Night the Rains Came, that
was ultimately nominated for a national
Emmy Award in 2003. Allen’s wife Melinda
asked if they were going to the ceremony
and Allen said, “No. I’ll probably lose.” To
which Melinda replied, “Being nominated
is quite an honor. You should go. It may be
the only time you ever get this honor!” She
talked him into attending the presentation
in New York, and lo and behold, his name
was called. He made a fine acceptance
speech; however, he never mentioned his

Since 2001, my brother has produced a
number of fine documentaries that have
received excellent reviews, won awards and
have been showcased at several of the most
prestigious film festivals. Among them are
An American Rhapsody, a visual history of the
United States set to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody
in Blue,” performed by Leonard Bernstein;
One Man Four Lives, about Holocaust
survivor William J. Morgan who adopted
different identities to escape the Nazis; and
People Who Make a Difference: Dr. Emil J
Freireich, a film about the man who helped
develop chemotherapy and who discovered
the cure for childhood leukemia. Allen is
committed to telling stories that make an
impact on other people’s lives. During his
career, Allen’s work has received recognition
from the Addy Awards, the American
Marketing Awards, the Associated Press, the
Business Communicators Awards, the Clio
Awards, the Indie Fest. The Los Angeles
Short Film Festival, the New York Film
Festival, the Reel Award, the Telly Awards,
the USA Film Festival, five Emmy Awards,
and many others.

Allen currently serves as the First Vice
President on the board for the Lone
Star Chapter of the National Academy
of Television Arts and Sciences and as a
National Trustee for NATAS. He also served
four years as the Co-chair for the Visual
Communications Curriculum Board for the
Lone Star College System. Throughout his
career, Allen has maintained a commitment
to community service, creating films and
videos that generated over $250 million for
various community organizations. Once
again, bringing back more than expected.
I’ll say this for my twin brother, when he
gets involved with a project, he gets involved
all the way

A few years ago, Allen fell down the stairs of
his house in Houston. He is just as clumsy
now as he was when he was a kid. Maybe
more so, but apparently due to newly
diagnosed medical issues. Anyway, he and
Melinda moved back to Tyler in 2011.
He started working as creative director
for TYLER TODAY Magazine and still
handles a few of his out-of-town clients.

“I saw Larry Hagman again in 2012 when
he and Linda Gray were doing the re-boot
of ‘Dallas.’ We were scheduled for a
twenty-minute interview for TYLER TODAY that
turned into a two-hour gabfest as he told
Linda stories about the playoff game and the
dinner at his Malibu home.”

When NATAS honored Allen with induction
into the Gold Circle last November, he was
able to correct that mistake he made at the
Emmy Awards in 2003. When he got to the
podium to make his acceptance speech, he
explained to the audience about his error of
not acknowledging his wife at the Emmy
Awards all those years ago. Then, he looked
at Melinda and said, “Nina, you have been
part of my life for more than half of the fifty
years we celebrate tonight. Without you, I
have no career. I love you.”

My sister-in-law and I were both moved to
tears. He made up for his earlier “oops.” I am
glad to be the one to share a few highlights
from Allen’s career and the journey that
began more than fifty years ago.