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, January 14, 2009

A Few Minutes with Andy Looney: The Way It Was, 14 January

1919---He'd probably want to forget his birthday even more than I'd like to forget it. I don't know whether he wants to forget his days in old-time radio, writing for Arthur Godfrey (on radio and the tube), Garry Moore (likewise), and Red Skelton (likewise, too, I think), though I notice he doesn't talk much about his good old days in radio.

Come to think of it, I wonder whether he has good days, period. He didn't become America's favourite kvetch by spreading cheer. (OK, I'm assuming that either he is, still, America's favourite kvetch; or, he has something on CBS that keeps him gainfully employed on 60 Minutes every week.)

Anyway, I thought a fine way to say "happy birthday" was to reprint a genteel little satire I composed in his honour almost six years ago, when he got himself into a big schtink by questioning whether women belonged on the football field as sideline reporters. Forget the gender issue---the man was funnier when he was kvetching about his junk mail, his chairs, and the instructions with his new appliances.


Ever wonder how I got to be Andy Looney and you didn't? I've been wondering myself, so I figured you were, too.

After all, I can't write my way out of The Cat In The Hat. I'm as funny as a fat farm breaking off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar. And, I've run out of most of my best material ever since they told me I'd better knock it off about the junk mail or I'd be sued by the country's junkmen.

Well, now I'm in hot water again. It's funnier than when my soap gets into hot water, but I'm not allowed to make any more shrinking soap jokes, either. The soap opera people don't like grumpy old men getting smart about the product that made those people necessary.

Uh-oh. I just got this e-mail. Yes, I get e-mail. Even a fossil like me had to surrender to the computer age. Which proves that CBS are hypocrites when it comes to gun control. Not to mention reckless, if they're trusting me with a computer. Computers are dangerous enough without being in my hands.

Anyway, here's what the e-mail says: "Dear Mr. Looney: 'The product that made those people necessary?' Please stop stealing my material. My paralegal can beat up your lawyer. Sincerely, Yogi Berra."

OK, Yogi, you win this one. I'll quit stealing your material if you quit making those insufferable AFLAC commercials. I know Joe Garagiola needs the job, but the duck suit fits him worse than the leisure suits fit me.

I'll never understand why I suffer halfwit former baseball players gladly. But maybe it's because they remind me how much I love football. Football is perfect for a simpleton like me. Four quarters. Fifty guys on the field trying to kill each other like suicide bombers. All over something that isn't even shaped like a real ball. What's better than that?

And their soap never melts slowly. Come to think of it, their soap never melts. Within a foot of those guys, it disintegrates. Maybe I've been too hard on soap all these years, after all. But maybe I'm saying that now because a lot of people want to wash my mouth out with it.

You see, I've done it again. I've shot my big mouth off and got a lot of people mad at me. I don't like when people get mad at me. It makes me feel like I'm standing in for a really worthy target---like the people who still pay me six figures to rant my head off about the hotel keys I keep collecting that don't fit anyplace sensible anymore.

I just don't get it this time. All I said was that women don't belong on the football field as sideline reporters. It's not like I said they don't belong in the media, for heaven's sake. But, ok, I should have said men don't belong on the football field as sideline reporters, either. The reason nobody belongs on the football field as a sideline reporter is that there's nothing to report in the first place.

Now, if I'd said that in the first place, I'd have saved my credibility. If there's any reporter who knows when there's nothing to report, it's me. And I report nothing better than anybody else in this business.

But cut me a little slack. I'm old enough to be the father of half the countries on earth. The old gray brain just ain't what it used to be, ever since I came back from covering the War of 1812. And as long as someone needs a reporter who's as good as I am at reporting nothing, I'll have a nice paying job.


1947: NO PERSUASION NECESSARY---After agreeing that failing to persuade CBS chieftain Bill Paley would mean he wouldn't give it a try, old-time radio titan Norman Corwin---discovering Paley needed no persuasion, and spending much of 1946 traveling the world to gather its material---launches One World Flight, a CBS series in which he introduces America to the immediate, post-World War II world.

The good news: Corwin was presented the first One World Award, by the Wendell Willkie Memorial and the Common Council for American Unity, in memory of the liberal former Republican presidential candidate, before launching the sixteen-country trip that produces the series. The bad news, depending upon your point of view, will be enunciated best, in due course, by Corwin biographer R. LeRoy Bannerman: "The global odyssey formed for Corwin . . . the conclusion that, despite promising, gallant hopes for the future, the One World dream of Wendell Willkie was still as remote as ever."


THE LUCKY STRIKE PROGRAM STARRING JACK BENNY: MRS. NUSSBAUM INVITES THE GANG TO HER RESTAURANT (NBC, 1945)---When he returns to New York (the Astor Hotel, to be specific) for a couple of shows, Jack (Benny) learns one of those wishing to welcome himself and his entourage (Mary Livingstone, Dennis Day, Eddie Anderson, Phil Harris, Don Wilson) is Mrs. Nussbaum (Minerva Pious) herself---"Allen's Alley's" favourite Jewish housewife wants him to be the guest of honour at her new restaurant. ("What a romantic place---we are featuring soft lights and hard salami . . . We are also featuring a floor show which would make Sherman Billingsley turn Greek with envy.") Announcer: Don Wilson. Music: Phil Harris Orchestra, Dennis Day. Writers: George Balzar, Sam Perrin, Milt Josefsberg.

THE OLD GOLD COMEDY THEATER: NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (NBC, 1945)---Anne Baxter, Herbert Marshall, and Alan Young have a romp re-interpreting the 1941 film about a stockbroker manipulating his niece's charity drive while she asks his new partner to double his contribution---which he's staked on a bet that he can tell the truth for a full day. Host/director: Harold Lloyd. Based on the screenplay by Ken Englund and Don Hartman.

ONE WORLD FLIGHT: INTRODUCTION (CBS, 1947)---An overview of the results the master dramatist garnered from that 37,000-mile, world-girdling flight he took as the first winner of the One World Award, emulating Wendell Willkie's own "One World" international flight of 1942; and, seeking to know whether Willkie was indulging a possible or a pipe dream. Announcer: Lee Vines. Music: Lyn Murray. Writer and narrator: Norman Corwin.


1901---Bebe Daniels (actress: Life with the Lyons), Dallas.
1904---George McCoy (1930s discussion host), unknown.
1906---William Bendix (actor: The Life of Riley; Lux Radio Theater), New York City.
1908---Russ Columbo (bandleader/singer: The Russ Columbo Show), Camden, New Jersey.
1909---Joseph Losey (director: Words at War), La Crosse, Wisconsin.
1911---David Gothard (actor: The Romance of Helen Trent; The Adventures of the Thin Man), Beardstown, Illinois.
1914---Harold Russell (actor: NBC University Theater; Lux Radio Theater), North Sydney, Nova Scotia.
1915---Mark Goodson (producer/director: Portia Faces Life; Pop the Question; Winner Take All; Rate Your Mate; Battle of the Boroughs; Stop the Music; Beat the Clock), Sacramento, California.
1915---George Ansbro (announcer: Young Widder Brown; Waltz Time), Brooklyn.
1931---Caterina Valente (singer: Guard Session), Paris.
1938---Jack Jones (singer: The Steve Lawrence Show; Stars for Defense), Hollywood.


Blogger Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I didn't know Rooney once wrote for Red Skelton.

You learn something new every day.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kallman said...

Ian---If Red Skelton had had his way, nobody would have known anyone had written for him.---Jeff

3:35 PM  

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