---Back in New York after a previous week's broadcast from Hollywood, a stirring performance of scenes from the revival of Green Pastures---with William Marshall as God, Ossie Davis as Gabriel, and Alanzo Bosan as Noah and Abraham---highlights a show that also features musical comedy from Rudy Vallee and Jimmy Durante (when they're not trying to bag dates with women in the eighth row, that is), comedy comedy from Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa, and a satire of the vintage radio soap John's Other Wife . . . prodded by the special appearance (you'll have to listen to discover precisely why) of legendary New York Herald-Tribune radio/television critic John Crosby. (His Out of the Blue, a collection of choice radio/television/miscellaneous criticism, is a treat if you hunt it down in your favourite used book stores.)
Additional guests: Vivian Blaine, Jane Morgan, and a second special presentation from scholar/diplomat/Nobel laureate Ralph Bunche. Music: Meredith Willson, the Big Show Orchestra and Chorus. Writers: Goodman Ace, Fred Allen, Selma Diamond, George Foster, Mort Greene, Frank Wilson.
AIRWAVES . . .
2004: FAREWELL, TREVOR, HELEN, SY, NAT, VIC, AND EMILIO---Trevor Traffic, Sy Kology, Mr. Nat, Victor Verse, Helen Copter, and Emilio Percolator die at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, all of multiple myeloma---because they were all the old-time radio brainchildren of comedian/disc jockey Gene Klavan, whose partnership with Dee Finch from 1952-1968 was, all things considered, the edgier cousin to New England's Bob & Ray. Even if neither Bob nor Ray could have been called the straight man that Finch was content to remain.
Not bad at all for a fellow who came from Baltimore/Washington to New York on a television invitation, allowed a friend to cut him off at the proverbial pass, and took said friend up on the news that Rayburn & Finch, WNEW's popular morning team, were splitting up after five years because Gene Rayburn was jumping to NBC.
[I]f I died up here on TV, I was really dead; on the other hand, if I died on New York radio, nobody'd be the wiser.
---Gene Klavan, to the New York Times, in a 1971 interview . . . three years after Dee Finch decided to retire.
Klavan stayed solo on WNEW after his partner's retirement. (Finch died in 1983.) If you care to consider him such, call him New York's first genuine shock jock, his exuberant ad-libs and zingers a contrast to the station's customary servings of American pop music standards.
Like Fred Allen and Henry Morgan before him, Klavan loved to zap his sponsors now and again, though perhaps he'd learned a lesson from those two and, while sometimes stunning them, never veered over the cliff entirely. He also loved to mix up WNEW's music style---he was likely to follow a Broadway musical selection with art-rockers 10cc, which must have seemed anathematic to pop traditionalist William B. Williams, who followed his solo show for a time.
The Times said in 1971 that, at one point, an estimated third of WNEW's earnings tied directly to Klavan & Finch or to Klavan in the Morning, as the comedian called his solo program until leaving WNEW in 1977.
Klavan's style was popular enough in New York that when he once threatened to can Trevor Traffic, WNEW was smothered with calls of protest.
Klavan kept it up until 1980, when he left radio entirely following three years on WOR. You may remember him as an American Movie Classics host; he also wrote a column for Newsday and offered comic commentaries now and then on New York WCBS-TV.
I would like to speak to you briefly, if I may, about your financial situation. I have several ways for you to economise, and to save your money. One of these ways is for you to send me all of your available cash and let me invest it for you. This way, at least if I make the mistake, you can't blame yourself.
Keep away from your friends, because your enemies are gonna find you anyhow.
---Klavan, from the same show, giving a horoscope reading as Helen Copter.
Klavan has also bequeathed something to the world of crime fiction: one of his three sons. Andrew Klavan
, a one-time journalist, has become a best-selling crime novelist and screenwriter. His best-sellers include a little tome called True Crime
, with which you may be familiar as the novel that inspired the Clint Eastwood film of the same name.
CHANNEL SURFING . . .
FAMILY THEATER: TOLEDO SMITH (MUTUAL, 1948)
---Siblings from a broken home reunite, but the elder (Dan Duryea) lures the reluctant younger (Skip Homeier) into his shady dealing. Norma: Ann Tobin. Mabel: Rita Lynn. Judge: Cy Kendall. Host: Shirley Temple. Writers: Mark Carney, Lewis Reed.
MY FAVOURITE HUSBAND: DEMAND YOUR RIGHTS (CBS, 1949)
---Liz (Lucille Ball) has to light a fire under George (Richard Denning) to get him out from under his morning paper for a morning kiss . . . but she flinches when George tries firing her up to be more assertive whether cancelling maid Katie's Saturday off, reproaching the milkman for a prematurely sour bottle of cream, or demanding money back on a defective gumball machine. Katie: Ruth Perrot. Officer: Possibly Frank Nelson. Writers: Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh, Jess Oppenheimer.
1882---Lulu McConnell (panelist: It Pays To Be Ignorant), Kansas City.
1887---Walter Connolly (actor: Charlie Chan), Cincinnati.
1896---Yip Harburg (as Isidore Hochburg; lyricist: Columbia Presents Corwin), New York City.
1900---Bert (The Mad Russian) Gordon (comedian: The Abbott & Costello Show, Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen, Duffy's Tavern), New York City.
1905---Ilka Chase (panelist/hostess: Leave It to the Girls, Luncheon at the Waldorf), New York City.
1915---Fred Flowerday (director: The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Challenge of the Yukon), unknown.
1919---Virginia O'Brien (actress: Blue Ribbon Town), Los Angeles.
1930---Dorothy Tutin (actress: Before the Party), London.
1941---Peggy Lennon (singer, with the Lennon Sisters: Music on Deck, Guest Star), Los Angeles.