Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Radio Recall," Jack French, Martin Grams, and Mitchell Hadley's "It's About TV"

In August, I began subscribing to the Old-Time Radio newsletter Radio Recall--published six times each year by the Metro Washington Old Time Radio Club.  Its editor is Jack French, who is prominent in the OTR community, and whose books include 2009's Private Eye-Lashes: Radio's Lady Detectives.

I learned, in the August issue of the newsletter, that Mr. French, who has edited Radio Recall for more than two decades, will be leaving his position as editor following the April of 2017 issue.

Mr. French announced last week, in an e-mail published in the Internet newsletter The Old-Time Radio Digest, that his replacement as editor will be Martin Grams, Jr.--"diligent OTR researcher," French wrote, "prolific OTR book author, respected blogger, and linch-pin of the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention."  Wrote French: "He promises to maintain the same excellent content, attractive graphics, timely OTR book reviews, with updates on future OTR conventions and events."

I congratulate Mr. French on his tenure at Radio Recall, and also offer my congratulations to Martin (about whom I've written on several occasions, in this blog), regarding his forthcoming editorship of the publication. (In a post last week, I mentioned the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, which Martin co-founded with his wife Michelle.)  Martin is (to echo Mr. French's words) an outstanding OTR researcher, as well as being a researcher of considerable note regarding television. (One of his best-known books is about TV's The Twilight Zone.)  In addition to the many books he's written, he writes regularly for such publications as Radio Recall and Radiogram (the latter being the newsletter/magazine of the group SPERDVAC--the Society To Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety and Comedy). He also appears throughout the country to speak about his books and his research--in addition to overseeing the yearly Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention.

By the way: in this space I've also written, in the past, about the blog "It's About TV," written by Mitchell Hadley.  Here is a September post from "It's About TV"; it's an enjoyable report, by Mitchell, about attending the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. (Mitchell and I have been in touch by e-mail, over time.  We did not, unfortunately, cross paths at the convention last month; as mentioned in my last post, I was there somewhat briefly.)

In the above post, Mitchell wrote this, about one of the convention's presentations (by author and commentator David Krell):  "David Krell had perhaps the most informative talk, at least in regards to what I do.  He spoke on the year 1962, describing how an original idea to write about that year's baseball season had evolved to discuss the many notable things that had happened that year in politics, pop culture, and history. (The Cuban Missile Crisis, Marilyn Monroe's birthday song to JFK, and John Glenn's flight were only three of that year's events.) Krell's talk helped me solidify the structure of my own upcoming book on the relationship between television and pop culture, and to understand why it takes decades to understand the impact of a particular era."

I was delighted to learn that Mitchell is working on a book about television--and I look forward to reading it, whenever it is released.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A new book by Mel Simons

Last month I was in Hunt Valley, Maryland, to attend this year's Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Though I was, unfortunately, at the convention only briefly, I spent time, while there, with a number of friends.

One of the friends was Mel Simons; I have referred to him a number of times, in this space.  He is a Boston-based comedian, entertainer and radio personality--and is the author of more than a dozen books, including titles about Old-Time Radio, Old-Time Television, comedians, movies and music.  Many of the titles are trivia-oriented, and a few--such as Voices from the Philco, and Old-Time Television Memories--are made up of interviews.  All of the books have been brought out by BearManor Media.  

Mel's newest book, released in September, is volume two of The Old-Time Television Trivia Book:

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

George Barris, and Marilyn Monroe


Photographer George Barris, best known for his images of Marilyn Monroe, died last week, at 94.

Here is an obituary, from The New York Times.

The picture above, which appears in the Times story, was the last picture taken by Mr. Barris of Ms. Monroe, during her last photo session, in July of 1962; she died the next month.

It is a beautiful picture, one of my favorites of Monroe, as is another taken in 1962 by Barris, which appeared, notably, on the cover of a 1980s book--Marilyn: Norma Jeane--featuring text by Gloria Steinem, and Barris's photographs. The image, to the left, is of the book's paperback edition (Signet/New American Library), from 1988.

(Top image photo credit:; photo licensed by IHL/InHollywoodland; image from cover of Marilyn: Norma Jeane, copyright George Barris, 1986)

Friday, September 9, 2016

"Sully," and Flight 1549

The film Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Tom Hanks, comes out today.  I'd very much like to see it.

The story of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, his crew, and US Airways Flight 1549--the flight Capt. Sullenger landed on the Hudson River in 2009, shortly after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York--remains an extraordinary one.

Here is a very fine and very moving piece about Flight 1549, from CBS's 60 Minutes, reported by Katie Couric in 2009.  She interviewed the heroes of the flight--Capt. Sullenberger, and his crew.  The program also brought together Capt. Sullenberger, the crew, and some of the plane's passengers, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The plane was headed for Charlotte, when it was forced to land on the Hudson.

The 60 Minutes story is taken from YouTube, and is in three parts.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Morgan White, Jr., and children's television hosts (including Boston's Major Mudd)

A few Saturday nights ago (actually, starting at 2 o'clock in the morning--so, technically, Sunday), I was a guest of my friend Morgan White, Jr., on Boston radio station WBZ; Morgan was hosting the station's weekend overnight shows (Friday night/Saturday morning; Saturday night/Sunday morning). These are the shows which were, until the first week of July, hosted by Jordan Rich (see July 1st post); the station has not yet named a new permanent host.

The subject of the segment with Morgan was children's TV hosts/programs, from decades ago--primarily the 1950s and 1960s--including such national programs as Bob Keeshan's Captain Kangaroo, Fred Rogers' program, and Kukla, Fran and Ollie.  The latter show, telecast from Chicago, began airing in the late 1940s, and lasted until 1957 (at least in its first incarnation--it later reappeared, in other forms and venues).  Although it was a children's program, Kukla, Fran and Ollie had, interestingly, a substantial adult audience. 

We also talked at length about local children's hosts, and because WBZ is a Boston station, a number of Boston hosts came up during the conversation--such as "Big Brother" Bob Emery, Rex Trailer, and Miss Jean (host of the Boston version of Romper Room). 

Major Mudd (Ed McDonnell), at Boston's WNAC-TV, circa 1973
Another host we discussed was Ed T. McDonnell, better known as Major Mudd. The character of Major Mudd was an astronaut; the shows ended, memorably, with Mudd declaring "I'll be blasting you!" The show--a very popular program--was seen weekday mornings, on Boston's Channel 7 (WNAC-TV).  It made its debut in 1961, and continued into the early 1970s.

While in high school, I had begun writing a great deal, and arranged an interview with Ed McDonnell, to be conducted at Channel 7, which was located in Boston's Government Center. 

There was some sort of miscommunication, however (very possibly my fault); the day I went to WNAC, Mr. McDonnell, after the taping of his show, told me the interview was not on his schedule for that day, and he was unable to do it.  I nonetheless took some pictures, including the one shown above.  McDonnell is at the center of the photo (without his signature astronaut's helmet).  The picture is likely from 1973 (I was seventeen, at the time).

Speaking of Morgan White: he hosted WBZ's overnight show last night (filling in for weeknight host Bradley Jay), and will be doing so again tonight (starting at midnight.).  He'll also be the host of this weekend's overnight shows--in addition to hosting his regular Saturday night program, The Morgan Show, from 10:00 until midnight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Actor Steven Hill

I always loved Steven Hill, on television's Law & Order.  He played District Attorney Adam Schiff, on the program, from 1990 until 2000.  He died on Tuesday, at age 94.

Friday, August 19, 2016

A detail, re: Howard Beale, and "Network"

Watched the 1976 movie Network again, recently (on TCM).  What an exceptional film.  It  was of course written by Paddy Chayefsky, and was directed by Sidney Lumet (both known for their work, by the way, in early television).  Its stars included Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall. 

I had not noticed, previously, a certain detail in the film. The detail, linguistic, is a small one, but I think it is not insignificant.  It concerns the famous "Mad as hell" scene, which featured television newscaster-turned-commentator Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch). 

I had always thought Beale had asked his viewers to go their windows, open them, and yell out: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!"

What Beale actually said is slightly different. There was an additional use of the word "as," following the first word of the sentence. 

His viewers, he said, should shout:  "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!"

I like the additional "as" very much. It provides, I think, a subtle oratorical elegance--a feeling, perhaps (near-archaic), of formality.  It offers emphasis, force, a sense of exactitude: "I'm as mad as hell..."

In the clamor that follows Beale's exhortation, incidentally, most of--but not all of--the TV viewers who take to their windows do not follow his precise usage;  most, in fact, yell what I had previously thought Beale himself had said: "I'm mad as hell..." 

Here is the scene, and Peter Finch's sensational performance in it, from YouTube: 

Finch died in 1977, at age 60, two months before he was given an Academy Award for his performance in the film.  

Network was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and received four--for Finch (Best Actor), Faye Dunaway (Best Actress), Beatrice Straight (Best Supporting Actress), and Paddy Chayefsky (Best Original Screenplay).