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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Allen Challenge: The Way It Was, 24 October

1948: FIGHTING FIRE WITH . . . ---Boy, did Fred Allen find a grand way to open what proves to be his final season hosting his own singular old-time radio show: at the hoped-for expense of the burgeoning giveaway shows he believed (hoped) would not withstand the detest of time.

Ladies and gentlemen, stay tuned to The Fred Allen Show. If within the next thirty minutes you or any listener in the continental United States answer a telephone call from any giveaway program, and, because you are listening to this show, you miss an opportunity to win any gift then being offered, Fred Allen guarantees to make good by furnishing an equivalent gift; or, its value, up to five thousand dollars.

National Surety Corporation guarantees that Fred Allen shall perform this agreement up to a total of fifty thousand dollars. Notice of any claim under these guarantees must be mailed to Mr. Fred Allen, by registered mail, care of the National Broadcasting Company, Radio City, New York; and, postmarked not later than midnight, October 25, 1948.

Relax. Enjoy The Fred Allen Show.

---Kenny Delmar, Fred Allen's announcer (and immortaliser of Senator Claghorn in "Allen's Alley," of course), making the stupefying announcement before The Fred Allen Show, 24 October 1948, began in earnest.

The master satirist may have outsmarted himself at long enough last, however.

This was a tactical misstep. The announcement, a latter-day restatement of the ingenious ploys Allen practised in vaudeville, received massive publicity, but the scheme backfired. Obviously, the audience had to hear Stop the Music in order to know what it was losing; and radio critics quickly pointed out that fighting giveaways with giveaway offers undermined the aims of protest. The insurance offer spawned fraudulent claims and Allen cancelled the bond after a few weeks.

---Robert Taylor, in "Radio: Stop the Music," from Fred Allen: His Life and Wit. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1989.)

The indispensable New York Herald-Tribune radio/television critic John Crosby soon enough reports a dispute involving a giveaway fan and a Jack Benny fan, in Ohio, arguing over whether to listen to the giveaway show or to Benny . . . an argument that ended when the Benny fan---who happened to employ the giveaway fan as a farm worker---disappeared, returned with a gun, and shot the giveaway fan dead. "Things have come to a pass indeed," Allen will crack to Crosby, "when a man in Ohio has to shoot his way to the radio to get at Jack Benny."

The giveaway phenomenon takes up the first half of tonight's show. "Allen's Alley" having been converted to a "Main Street" presentation, possibly in deference to new sponsor Ford (for whom Allen was depicted as pulling up and parking along Main Street in a brand-new ford), Fred and Portland (Hoffa) get a few of the usual suspects (Delmar as the short-lived Russian music critic, Sergei Stroganoff; Minerva Pious, as Mrs. Nussbaum; Parker Fennelly as Titus Moody; Alan Reed, this time as Humphrey Titter) to answer questions regarding giveaway shows.

Meanwhile, Fred finds relief for his insomnia, malfunctioning toaster and coffeemaker, and delinquent bills---his psychiatrist's counsel to read Dale Carnegie's How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; and, Carnegie himself, who signs Fred's newly bought copy before Fred drops a little surprise on him.

Music: Al Goodman and His Orchestra; the Five DeMarco Sisters. Writers: Fred Allen, possibly Nat Hiken and Larry Marks.


2003: FAREWELL, DINO---Dean Anthony, 68, a 22-year programmer for Long Island WHLI but remembered best as "Dino on Your Radio," one of the classic WMCA Good Guys in the 1960s, dies of cancer.

Anthony premiered on WMCA 29 November 1964 and went on to become the Good Guys' overnight disc jockey, familiar especially for his weekly "Actors and Actresses" game---which yielded no prizes (not even one of the coveted Good Guy sweatshirts) but drew in trainloads of listeners; Anthony would give the initials and you had to guess the performer.

Dino on Your Radio left WMCA in 1968 when a group of incoming consultants dumped the Good Guys style temporarily in favour of a "Power Radio" talk/music format. Anthony---along with Ed (The Big Bad) Baer and Jack Spector---returned after Power Radio was dumped in favour of a stab at reviving the Good Guys in the fall of 1969, but the Strauss family that owned the station still pushed to convert the station to all-talk and did so in 1970, ending the Good Guys era once and for all.

After tours with WTFM in New York and WWDJ in New Jersey (before that memorable rock and soul alternative went to an all-religious format in early 1974), Anthony hooked on with WHLI as a disc jockey and its programmer.

The sad irony: Anthony still held both jobs when his fellow former Good Guy and incumbent WHLI host, Jack Spector, died of a heart attack in 1994---at the microphone, during his show.

1943: LET'S HIT HITLER ON THE AIR---Soldatsender Calais, a clandestine, anti-Nazi radio station based in Germany, hits the air for the first time.


1939: THE CITY OF FLINT IS STILL MISSING---It isn't the Michigan town but an American ship that collided with an Italian ship not long after the U.S. Senate repealed an arms embargo. Also, updates on the early weeks of war; rumoured activities by Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union; and, the annexing of three more territories as Soviet Socialist Republics, on tonight's edition of Elmer Davis and the News. (CBS.)

1943: THE WATER WORKS BREAKS DOWN---Water commissioner Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) learns the hard way about horrible timing when he offers to show Marjorie (Lurene Tuttle) and Leroy (Walter Tetley)---whose homework involves writing about what Uncle Mort does for a living---exactly how the water works works, on tonight's edition of The Great Gildersleeve. (NBC.)

Leroy: Walter Tetley. Marjorie: Lurene Tuttle. Birdie: Lillian Randolph. Hooker: Earle Ross. Writers: Sam Moore, John Wheedon.

1948: THE SURPRISE PARTY---What a surprise that this crowd, planning a surprise birthday party for their favourite English teacher (Eve Arden), borrows five bucks here and five bucks there to buy Connie a special present---if they can stop her from buying it for herself first, that is, on tonight's edition of Our Miss Brooks. (CBS.)

Boynton: Jeff Chandler. Mrs. Davis: Jane Morgan. Walter: Richard Crenna. Conklin: Gale Gordon. Harriet: Gloria McMillan. Writer: Al Lewis.


1879---B.A. Rolfe (as Benjamin Albert Rolfe; conductor: The Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra; Believe It . . . or Not), Brasher Falls, New York.
1894---Kid Lewis (as Theodore Lewis; bandleader: Live Band Remotes), London.
1904---Radie Harris (gossip: CBS Radio), New York City; Moss Hart (librettist/panelist: Who Said That?), The Bronx.
1911---Sonny Terry (as Saunders Terrell; harmonica player/blues singer: A Roomful of Music), Greensboro, North Carolina.
1925---Terri Keane (actress: Big Sister; The Second Mrs. Burton), New York City.
1930---J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper, as Jiles Perry Richardson; disc jockey/singer: KTRM-AM, an old-time radio rock and roll pioneer and artist), Sabine Pass, Texas.
1936---David Nelson (actor: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), New York City.


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