In the 1950′s, the popular TV game show What’s My Line? cemented America’s relationship with celebrity culture. It ran for 17 years on the same network with no repeat broadcasts. The premise of the show was simple. In each episode, a contestant would appear in front of a panel of blindfolded culture pundits—a regular lineup of columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, actress Arlene Francis, Random House founder Bennett Cerf, and a fourth guest panelist—who would try to determine their line of work or, in the case of famous “mystery guests,” the person’s identity, by asking exactly ten questions. A contestant won if he or she presented the panel with 10 “no” answers.
Over the 17-year run of the show, nearly every iconic cultural luminary of the era, from presidents to pop stars, appeared as a mystery guest.