They were two of the most famous people in Czechoslovakia in 1958 – one American and one Czech. But in America, while those in Athletics were well aware of Harold and Olga Connolly, the mass market was not. That likely changed when they appeared on the very popular American game show, “To Tell the Truth”, on June 10, 1958.
The objective of “To Tell the Truth” is to have four celebrity panelists identify the “real” person out of three, by asking questions. In this case, Olga appeared at the opening program alongside two others who claimed to be Olga. They all spoke with an Eastern European accent and they all had the letters CS on the sweat shirt they were wearing. The program started with an “affidavit” from the actual person. Here is how Olga of Prague, and Harold of Boston were introduced by the host of To Tell the Truth, Bud Collyer.
I, Olga Fikotová Connolly, am a Czechoslovakian athlete. A week before the start of the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, I met an American athlete, Harold Connolly. Our friendship continued throughout the course of the Games. Both of us set new Olympic records in our events. I won the gold in the women’s discus throw for Czechoslovakia, and Harold won first place in the hammer throw for the United States. Three months after the Games, Harold Connolly came to Prague and asked me to marry him. The authorities hesitated to grant permission until I made a personal appeal to the president of Czechoslovakia. We were married in Prague on March 27, 1957. 20,0000 people came to the wedding. We are now living in this country. Harold is teaching school and I am continuing my studies. Both of us are still actively engaged in active competitions. Signed Olga Fikotová Connolly.
The panelists consisted of known celebrities of the time: actress Betty White, actor Jackie Cooper, singer/actress Kitty Carlisle, and entertainment reporter, Hy Gardner. In the first segment of the show with Olga, some of the questions were probing and some were silly and entertaining.
Kitty Carlisle asked #1 (the real Olga): What is the biggest shoe manufacturer in Czechoslovakia? Olga replied, truthfully I presume, “Batta” (although her pronunciation was more like “Battia”). Carlisle also asked a question that Olga had trouble with, and to be honest so did I because she used an American idiom I was unaware of.
Carlisle: When you want to be a clinging vine and you want to tell your husband, um, something like “the vacuum cleaner is too heavy to pick up”, or “I can’t lift the bag,” what does he say? “If you can’t lift it, throw it?”
Connolly: “What does the vine have to be? I didn’t understand what I have to be.”
Carlisle: “When you say this is too heavy to lift,” will your husband help you with it?
You can see she’s nervous at first because she doesn’t understand the idiom, but she doesn’t shy away and quickly recovers with a sly smile and reply.
Connolly: “Oh yes, I say ‘Oh’, and my husband picks it up.”
After the panelist question round ended, Jackie Cooper and Kitty Carlisle correctly selected participant #1, the real Olga Connolly. And in a twist, after Olga Connolly and her imposters left the stage, Collyer asked three men to join the stage. One of the three was Harold Connolly, the hammer-throwing husband of Olga. In the end, only two were able to guess Harold’s real identity. Carlisle picked #2 (the real Harold) because of his Boston accent. Gardner also picked #2 because he and Olga gave the same name when asked about Harold’s best man at their wedding – famed runner and four-time Olympic champion, Emil Zátopek.
For every mis-identification, the real-life participant wins $250. Since two of the panelists mis-identified Olga, and two mis-identified Harold, the Connolly’s could have pulled in a cool $1,000.
But the Connollys could not accept the award, according to Olga. Immediately upon their arrival to the United States, Mr. Ferris, the chief of the Amateur Athletic, contacted them with warning that should they accept any payments for their appearances. Should they accept any, they would immediately lose their amateur status and would be disqualified from all amateur athletics and the Olympic Games.
Thus they could safely join the Olympics in Rome and Tokyo.
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