Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vic Damone, singing on "The Morey Amsterdam Show," 1949

The fine singer Vic Damone died on February 11th.  He was 89.

The following is a video/kinescope of Mr. Damone, from YouTube.  It is from an April of 1949 telecast of the DuMont Network's Morey Amsterdam Show.

Vic Damone, on The Morey Amsterdam Show, 1949

Morey Amsterdam's program, a variety show, made its debut on CBS-TV in December of 1948.  Its setting was the fictional "Golden Goose Cafe," and its cast included Art Carney (who played Charlie, the cafe's doorman).   

The show was cancelled by CBS in March of 1949, and reappeared the next month, on the DuMont Network  Its setting became the (also fictional) "Silver Swan Cafe"; Art Carney now portrayed "Newton the Waiter."  The show aired until 1950.

The appearance by Vic Damone took place on the show's debut broadcast on the DuMont Network. He sang with The Johnny Guarnieri Orchestra, which was featured on both the CBS and DuMont versions of Morey Amsterdam's program. 

The website lists no television appearances by Mr. Damone prior to his 1949 appearance with Morey Amsterdam. It is therefore possible that this was his first television appearance.

Here is the New York Times's obituary of Mr. Damone:

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, in The New York Times Magazine

There's an interesting retrospective piece about Rodney Dangerfield, in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

Writer AlexThe one-liners were impeccable, unimprovable. Dangerfield spent years on them; he once told an interviewer that it took him three months to work up six minutes of material for a talk-show appearance."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin

Last Monday (January 22nd), the prominent and influential novelist Ursula K. Le Guin died, at age 88. 

A few days later, I was looking through a 1998 book about television, CBS: The First 50 Years, by Tony Chiu (General Publishing Group).  The book's epigraph is a quote from Ms. Le Guin: 

"There's a good deal in common between the mind's eye and the TV screen, and though the TV set has all too often been the boobtube, it could be, it can be, the box of dreams."

The quote is from a 1980 magazine piece by Ms. Le Guin; the piece then appeared in her 1989 nonfiction collection, Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places (Grove Press).

Here is the New York Times obituary about Ms. Le Guin:

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dion, 1968 Smothers Brothers TV appearance

On Wednesday (two days after the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday), I came upon the following video, on YouTube:  it is from a November 17, 1968 episode of the Smothers Brothers program, on CBS. 

The video is of the singer Dion, performing the exquisite song "Abraham, Martin and John," which had been released in August of that year.  The song was written (by Dick Holler) in the aftermath of the assassinations of Dr. King, and Robert Kennedy. 

Dion's performance of the song, on the TV show (as on his original recording of it) is extremely beautiful--both his singing, and his guitar playing.  

I don't remember being aware, prior to watching the video, that it was Dion who played the guitar on the record itself.

The Wikipedia page about the song notes: "Dion felt during post production that the song needed more depth and added a track featuring him playing classical guitar notably at the bridge, lead ins and the close."

The record had first appeared on the Cashbox music chart near the end of October, 1968 (and on Billboard's chart the following week).  A little over a month after the Smothers Brothers appearance, the song reached #2 on the Cashbox list. It would also reach #4 in the Billboard ranking (and became a #1 record in Canada).

Here is the video of Dion's television performance:

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Morgan White, Jr., WBZ Radio, YouTube, "The Wizard of Oz," Jack Haley--and Boston accents

This past week, I was a guest of my friend Morgan White, Jr., on Boston radio station WBZ-AM. He was sitting in, Christmas night, for host Dan Rea, and I joined him for the latter half of the program. As noted previously in this space, Morgan has been with the station for years.  He hosts a Saturday evening program on the station (The Morgan Show, 10 p.m. to midnight, Eastern time); hosts the station's weekend overnight shows every third week; and fills in on other programs, most often during the overnight hours.  I've been his guest on a number of occasions, over the past several years.

One of the subjects we discussed, last week, was that of YouTube--which is, I think, one of the great developments in modern media.  The site, of course, includes (among its other features) video clips from old TV shows (or entire videos of old shows); audio from old radio programs; both brief and lengthy scenes from movies (as well as entire movies); videos of current news events and news-related broadcasts; archival/history-related films, newscasts and newsreels; videos from sports; and a vast amount of recorded music (and music performances--from radio, TV, film, and concerts). There is also, of course, a great deal of junk on YouTube--including a lot of offensive junk--yet the site's virtues are substantial.

During the WBZ program, I mentioned having seen The Wizard of Oz on TV the previous week--and that I subsequently found, on YouTube, one of my favorite scenes from the film; I wanted to watch it again (despite having just watched it, that night--and having seen it many other times, through the years).  It was the famous scene, near the film's end, in which Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion (Judy Garland, Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, and Bert Lahr) meet with the Wizard (Frank Morgan). The part of the scene featuring Jack Haley and Frank Morgan is, I think, one of the most beautiful in the film.  

As many will recall, the Wizard tells the Tin Man:  

"And remember, my sentimental friend, that a heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." 

Here is a link to the scene:

I also mentioned, during the radio show, another notable scene from the movie, in which Dorothy and the Scarecrow first encounter the Tin Man.  In the scene, memorably, the Tin Man tells them: "The tinsmith forgot to give me a heart."

Jack Haley was from the Boston area, and his pronunciation of the word "heart" has a distinct Boston flavor to it. (It sounds like "haht.")

In response, Ray Bolger (also from the Boston area) and Judy Garland appear (at least to me) to make an inside joke, of sorts, about Haley's pronunciation. They say, to the Tin Man, "No haht?"  (It sounds as if they are both pronouncing it this way--though it is conceivably just Bolger; his voice, at this moment, seems a little louder than Garland's, and as a consequence slightly overshadows her words.)

The above exchange begins at approximately 2:05, in the link below (it is followed by Haley's performance of "If I Only Had a Heart"):

I mentioned, to Morgan, Haley's pronunciation of "heart"--and in particular, the funny response by Ray Bolger and Judy Garland. Yet in thinking about it, I believe that I was, perhaps, a bit too definitive about the latter subject.  While I do believe that what I suggested was likely accurate--that this was a Boston/New England-related "inside joke"--I nonetheless wish my remarks had been expressed with a little hedging.  I mean--I could be wrong about it.  :)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

New BearManor titles (and a sale)

The revised edition of my book about early TV (which will, like the original edition, be brought out by BearManor Media) is not yet available. Thought, though, that I would make note of some new (and forthcoming) BearManor titles (which are/will be available in both hardcover and paperback):

1. Bob Hope on TV: Thanks for the Video Memories, by Wesley Hyatt.

2. Frances Langford: Armed Forces Sweetheart, by Ben Ohmart.

3. Okay? Okay! Dennis James' Lifetime of Firsts, by Adam Nedeff.

4. Petrocelli, by Sandra Grabman.  The book concerns the 1970s TV series, which starred Barry Newman.  Says writer Max Allan Collins: "Now it's time to enjoy Sandy Grabman's fun, informative valentine to the best lawyer series of the 1970s, and one of the best of all time."

BearManor, for your reference, is currently having a sale.  Its softcover and hardcover books are 30% off, through December 10th; there's a coupon code, at the following link. (The Frances Langford and Bob Hope books are not out yet, but can be pre-ordered.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Television sets...and Jackie Robinson

This is about television sets, in 1950--and one of baseball's greatest players, Jackie Robinson, of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I remember, during childhood (the 1960s), that it was not uncommon to read or hear that baseball players (in my case, players for the Red Sox) had "regular" jobs during the off-season. The game, years ago, was very different,  in economic terms.

I have a souvenir program, from the first game of the 1967 World Series--played at Fenway Park, between the Red Sox and the Cardinals. (It is the sole World Series game I've attended.)  Part of the souvenir program was devoted to the players' biographies--which included this detail about Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski: that, during this period,  he worked as an "off-season printing salesman."

Recently, in an e-mail newsletter, The New Yorker presented a group of stories from its archives. One of the pieces--a brief article from January of 1950--concerned Jackie Robinson. In 1947, of course, Robinson had made history--by breaking the Major League's barrier against African-American players, when he was hired by Dodgers executive Branch Rickey to play for the team.  In November of 1949, less than two months before the New Yorker article appeared, Robinson had been named the National League's Most Valuable Player, for the 1949 season.

The article in The New Yorker was about the off-season, part-time job Robinson had at the time:  he sold televisions, in a Queens appliance store. 

Television, at this time, was still in its relative infancy--but television sets were selling quickly. At the start of 1947, a few months before Robinson's debut as a Major League player, there were just 16,000 television sets in the country.  A year later, there were 190,000.  By the start of 1949, there were approximately one million sets in use--and by the beginning of 1950, at the time of the New Yorker article, there were some four million (in 9% of American homes). Sales, during 1950, were brisk. By January of 1951, there would be more than ten million sets in use (in nearly 24% of American homes).

Lastly, here is a piece about the subject of ballplayers and off-season jobs, from the website of The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It is by Lenny DiFranza, the Hall of Fame's assistant curator of new media.