This whimpering, sniveling exercise in down n' dirty broadcast begging was on the air from 1956 through 1964 and prior to that was on radio starting in the mid-forties. I blame programming like this for preparing the national mind set that accepted the unparalleled welfare spending that started under President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in 1965.
These women would come out with the most incredible, heart breaking stories of personal hardship. It was choreographed commiseration, a cacophony of catastrophe, a televised pity orgy. And of course the winner was the sob sister who generated the most audience response on the applause meter:
The show opened with host Jack Bailey asking the audience—mostly women—"Would YOU like to be Queen for a day?" After this, the contestants were introduced and interviewed, one at a time, with commercials and fashion commentary interspersed between each contestant.
Using the classic "applause meter", as did many game and hit-parade style shows of the time, Queen for a Day had its own special twist: each contestant had to talk publicly about the recent financial and emotional hard times she had been through.
Bailey began each interview gently, asking the contestant first about her life and family, and maintaining a positive and upbeat response no matter what she told him. For instance, when a woman said she had a crippled child, he would ask if her second child was "Okay." On learning that the second child was not crippled, he might say, "Well, that's good, you have one healthy child."
Of course the verification process for these stories is unknown; the important thing was that you, the viewer, were guaranteed a long, satisfying bawl session. Corporate sponsors were used to supply the prizes, but of course these costs were merely passed on to the consumers who purchased their products. This program sounds like the original focus group for the Democrats. But now the taxpayers are forced to provide the prizes and bawl when they see what's left in their pay checks.
The harsher the circumstances under which the contestant labored, the likelier the studio audience was to ring the applause meter's highest level. The winner, to the musical accompaniment of Pomp and Circumstance, would be draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe, given a glittering jeweled crown to wear, placed on a velvet-upholstered throne, and handed a dozen long-stemmed roses to hold as she wept, often uncontrollably, while her list of prizes was announced.