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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Santa Barbara News-Press : Talk of the town


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Talk of the town

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From left, co-host Tai Babilonia, guest Mark Stouffer and host Ken Boxer chat during a recent episode of "Ken Boxer Live," filmed at TV Santa Barbara, a community nonprofit station.


Evan Nielsen, key electrical grip, and Michele Ryan, graphics engineer, work in the control booth.

Angela Cartwright, star of "Lost in Space," "Make Room for Daddy" and "The Sound of Music," gets a touch-up before a "Ken Boxer Live" broadcast.

Guests on "Ken Boxer Live" have included, from top, Jerry Mathers ("Leave It To Beaver"), Bill Mumy ("Lost in Space") and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Bill Bertka.

October 5, 2014 6:01 AM

Ward, don't worry about the Beaver.

He's spending time with fans in a paradise called Santa Barbara.

Jerry Mathers of "Leave It to Beaver" (1957-63 on CBS) and other celebrities come from Los Angeles and elsewhere to appear on "Ken Boxer Live," which has aired at 10 p.m. Thursdays for more than a year on TV Santa Barbara's Voice channel. The nonprofit community TV station is on Channel 17 in Santa Barbara.

The show, which is supported by local sponsors, is produced and hosted by Ken Boxer, 56, a Santa Barbara resident and the owner of Palazzio, an Italian restaurant on State Street. Figure skater and former Olympics athlete Tai Babilonia, 55, is the co-host.

A combination of the popularity of Santa Barbara, Ms. Babilonia's and Mr. Boxer's Rolodexes, and the show's reputation has led to guests that include newsmakers, actors, filmmakers and athletes from the 1960s, '70s and '80s.

"A lot of these actors and singers can't get on talk shows at their home. They say, 'We can't get on "Ellen," we can't get on "Jimmy Kimmel," ' because it's a very young Hollywood, as you know," Ms. Babilonia said. "They jump at this opportunity."

Mr. Boxer said guests have fun on the show, which can have as many as 250,000 viewers since each episode is repeated daily for two weeks. "You can't avoid the three cameras in your face and the audience looking at you, but the beauty of Tai and me is we can make people feel comfortable."

Guests have included Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Bill Bertka; Kim Goldman, sister of murder victim Ron Goldman in the O.J. Simpson case; Milt Larsen, Santa Barbara co-founder of the Magic Castle in Hollywood; and actress Erin Murphy (Tabitha on "Bewitched," 1964-72 on ABC).

Mr. Mathers appeared in a February episode and said he and his wife like visiting Santa Barbara.

"It was a good interview. He (Mr. Boxer) did copious research," the "Leave It to Beaver" star told the News-Press by phone from his Los Angeles home.

It's not "Today" or "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," but Mr. Mathers said he doesn't consider any of the local TV or radio shows he does across the U.S. to be small-time. "It's not like the 'Today' show is that much better than them, and a lot of times, some of the regional shows are better."

Mr. Mathers explained "Leave It to Beaver" remains a hit 50 years later because it's based on what kids really did, then and today. "And everyone knows an Eddie Haskell. Everyone knows a bully like Lumpy. Everybody wishes they had a big brother like Wally, who's a huge athlete. A lot of people can relate."

More classic TV stars have agreed to upcoming "Ken Boxer Live" shows: Bernie Kopell and Ted Lange, stars of "The Love Boat" (1977-87 on ABC); Lou Ferrigno, who played the title character of "The Incredible Hulk" (1978-82 on CBS).

And Ms. Babilonia will interview Randy Gardner, her figure skating partner for 47 years.

Ms. Babilonia, of Los Angeles, was a guest herself in March, and she and Mr. Boxer later agreed she should be the co-host. Mr. Boxer noted her energy lights up the set and that guests love to chat with her.

"I love to talk!" Ms. Babilonia said with a laugh. "This is so different (from 'The Insider,' the nationally syndicated series on which she interviewed athletes). This is like sitting in your living room and just chatting and getting to know someone and what they're all about."

Mr. Boxer shares her passion for interviews.

The Hempstead, Long Island, New York, native grew up in Santa Barbara and graduated in 1975 from Santa Barbara High School. Four years later, he earned a bachelor's degree in communications in 1979 at UCSB. He took graduate classes until 1981.

From 1981 to 1986, he worked as a reporter for Santa Barbara radio stations KMGQ and KIST. After studying in 1987 at the Mass Media Institute at Stanford University, he became interested in TV. His first talk show, "Around the Town Live with Ken Boxer," aired from 1988 to 2004 on KCTV, a community access station in Santa Barbara.

While still a radio reporter, Mr. Boxer started working in 1985 at The Palace Cafe in Santa Barbara, working his way up from waiting tables to management. He began his own Caribbean restaurant, the Village Grill, in 1991 in Montecito, then soon turned that into Palazzio, his Italian restaurant on State Street that provides free dinners for his guests on "Ken Boxer Live."

"Why do I do television? I get to meet people I otherwise would never in a million years get to meet," Mr. Boxer said.

People like Bill Mumy. He enjoyed being on the show and recommended it to his "Lost in Space" (1965-68 on CBS) co-star Angela Cartwright, who guest-starred during the Sept. 22 taping to promote "Styling the Stars" (Insight Editions, $50.09), her book of archived photos from 20th Century Fox's movies and TV shows such as "Lost in Space." It'll be released Tuesday.

Because of a technical glitch during a recent taping attended by the News-Press, Mr. Boxer had to reshoot his introduction to Ms. Cartwright, 62, prompting her to sing softly off-camera, "Let's start from the very beginning." That's from "Do-Re-Mi" in "The Sound of Music," the 1965 blockbuster in which she played one of the daughters. She talked about how she adored Julie Andrews and how, as a young girl, she got to say smart-aleck lines before the cameras to Danny Thomas, who played her father on "Make Room for Daddy" (1953-65 on CBS).

Mr. Boxer pulled out a "Lost in Space" lunchbox and a photo of Ms. Cartwright in her "Lost in Space" uniform.

After the taping, fans in the small audience got photos taken with her. "Anybody my age had a crush on her growing up," said Skip Stecker, 58, of Santa Barbara.

Ms. Cartwright explained the interest in her sci-fi show to the News-Press. " 'Lost in Space' really captured the imagination of a lot of people. ... Nobody had walked on the moon at this time."

The moon came up when Emmy-winning Santa Barbara filmmaker Mark Stouffer appeared recently on the show to talk about his documentaries on locating the Apollo 11 engines in the Atlantic Ocean, where the capsule splashed down, and on Siberian tigers. Mr. Stouffer, 63, praised Mr. Boxer for his smooth demeanor as host.

Tim Wood, who won a silver medal in figure skating in 1968 in the Winter Olympics, is a friend of Ms. Babilonia and recently came on the show. He said he found it to be professional.

"They were really gracious and made you feel like they were so happy you came to do the show," said the 66-year-old Camarillo resident.

Mr. Boxer said he would love to get Shirley Jones and Montecito celebs Oprah Winfrey and Carol Burnett on his show and to have his talk show air on a local TV station or possibly a satellite network for global exposure.

Ms. Babilonia smiled at the thought of getting on a network.

"Now you're talking!"

email: [email protected]


New episodes of "Ken Boxer Live" air at 10 p.m. every other Thursday on TVSB Voice, Channel 17 in Santa Barbara. Shows are repeated throughout the week; check times at

The shows are taped before an audience at 6:30 p.m. every other Monday at TV Santa Barbara, 329 S. Salinas St. For free tickets, go to


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