Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Monday, March 12, 2007

That Original Brewster Boy (Eddie Firestone, Jr.), RIP

That original Brewster boy, Eddie Firestone, Jr., the first actor to play title role Joey Brewster in the old-time radio hit (NBC, 1941-45), died 1 March, of respiratory and heart failure, at age 86, in Sherman Oaks, California.

That Brewster Boy was one of two title roles the San Francisco-born (1920) actor played in radio, the other being the shorter-lived situation comedy Harold Teen, the third actor to play the role following Charles Flynn and Willard Farnum. Firestone was one of three actors to play Joey Brewster; future Bewitched co-star Dick York was the third and final Joey.

Long enough considered to be something of a second-hand version of The Aldrich Family, That Brewster Boy would be overhauled in 1945 into the short-lived Those Websters. According to third Brewster boy Dick York, the move was made because the show's sponsor objected to writer/directors Pauline Hopkins and Owen Vincent having sent bundles to Communists fighting Nazis in World War II. (Only three of the Brewster cast played in Those Websters.)

Firestone enjoyed an active radio career with at least one intriguing case of turnabout: he was succeeded as Joey Brewster by Arnold Stang . . . whom Firestone himself succeeded as Seymour Fingerhood in The Goldbergs. He also had roles in several radio soap operas, including Hawthorne House (as the first Billy Sherwood), One Man's Family (as the fourth Pinky Murray, following Richard Svilus, Dix Davis, and Vic and Sade co-star Bill Idelson), The Story of Mary Marlin (as the first Dennie McKenzie, succeeded by Bill Lipton), and Woman in White (as Tim Barnes, the only actor to play the role).

His other radio credits include appearances in Suspense and The Halls of Ivy.

Firestone moved on to a long career as a character actor in television with credits including Dragnet, Four Star Playhouse, Medic, Ford Star Jubilee, Playhouse 90, Studio One, Disneyland, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Dick Van Dyke Show (as Thomas Edison, in "Sally and the Lab Technician"), Perry Mason, The Fugitive, The Big Valley, Hogan's Heroes, Gunsmoke, The Rockford Files, and Dallas.

He was buried 10 March in Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, in Hollywood.


FRANKIE LAINE---Born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio in Chicago's Little Italy, the jazz-and-blues rooted popular singer of the 1940s and 1950s ("Mule Train," "High Noon," "That Lucky Old Sun," "Moonlight Gambler," others, not to mention the voice singing the theme from television's Rawhide) was a frequent guest on Tallulah Bankhead's legendary radio variety, The Big Show. (NBC.) Died 6 February, age 93, of complications following hip surgery.

After several years' struggling to make it through the Depression and the early war years, Laine got his big break when New York radio station WINS let him audition, leading to a $5 a week gig singing on a local half-hour program in the 1940s . . . and the name under which he would become famous.

Laine's first major hit, "Desire," in 1947, took almost a year to hit big. He was 34 years old. Legendary Columbia Records artists and repertoire autocrat Mitch Miller fashioned Laine into a pop singer, though Laine fretted at first that he'd lose his hard-won jazz following while Miller convinced him he'd gain a larger pop following.


Blogger Ivan G. said...

Sad to hear about Eddie--especially after seeing him in one of these Dobie Gillis episodes that came forth from my DVD player this weekend.

Eddie was also a member-in-good-standing of Jack Webb's repertory company. I've heard (and seen) him on many a installment of the show that changed the names to protect the innocent.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

He seems to have been one of the harder working young men in classic radio and television. I guess we can put the emphasis on working and content ourselves to know that he was smart enough to keep himself employable over many years, even if not at star level. In that line of work it says plenty enough that you could just keep getting work and doing it well enough to keep getting more of it until you'd finally had it.

8:28 AM  

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