Saturday, October 7, 2017

October 7, 1950, "Your Hit Parade"

In 1950, on this date, Your Hit Parade began its weekly broadcasts on NBC-TV. There had been four experimental telecasts of the show in the summer of 1950. The show then began its regular telecasts on October 7th.

The show's primary singing stars, from 1950 to 1952, were Eileen Wilson, Snooky Lanson, and Dorothy Collins.  The show also featured the Hit Parade dancers, the Hit Paraders choral group, announcer Andre Baruch, and Raymond Scott, who led the show's Lucky Strike Orchestra.

My mother, Sue Bennett, was a featured singer on the program during the 1951-1952 season; she left the show after the end of the season, as did star Eileen Wilson.  Singer Russell Arms was also featured from 1951 to 1952; he later became one of the show's primary stars.

Friday, September 22, 2017

"The Vietnam War"

Five installments of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary The Vietnam War have now aired, on PBS; there are five episodes still to come. It is, simply, a remarkable, and riveting program--deeply informative, and deeply emotional to watch.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More from Mel Simons

There is yet another book out by Mel Simons (who has been written about a number of times in this space); it is titled The Old Time Television Trivia Book III.  The book, his seventeenth, was released in August.  It is published (along with his other titles) by BearManor Media.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"The Vietnam War," by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, on PBS

The first three installments of The Vietnam War, the ten-part documentary directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (airing each night on PBS), have been just superb.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"The Vietnam War," documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, beginning tonight

Am looking forward to watching the new documentary, The Vietnam War, by the immensely talented Ken Burns; the film's co-director is Lynn Novick  The film, which is in ten parts, begins airing tonight (Sunday) on PBS.  It is written by Geoffrey C. Ward.

Here is a review of the film, from the New York Times, September 14th:

Monday, September 11, 2017


Remembering September 11th, on the sixteenth anniversary...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Singer Bea Wain

The great Bea Wain, a wonderful singer, died on August 19th.  She was 100 years old

Ms. Wain reached the height of her fame during the big band years. She was, in the 1930s and 1940s, one of the country's most popular singers.  

In the late 1930s she recorded a number of very big hits with Larry Clinton's orchestra, including "Deep Purple," and "My Reverie."  

Bea Wain, with Larry Clinton's Orchestra, 1939 short film

She starred on the radio show Your Hit Parade, during two periods--from 1939 until 1941, and then again from 1943 until 1944 (as noted in John R. Williams's 1973 book This Was Your Hit Parade).

She was married to the legendary radio and television announcer Andre Baruch, who for years was the announcer on the Hit Parade (for both the television and radio versions).  

I had the great pleasure, and honor, of meeting Ms. Wain and Mr. Baruch in 1981, during a trip I made to California. Mr. Baruch died in 1991. 

Here is Ms. Wain, singing "Heart and Soul" with Larry Clinton's band, from a 1939 short film featuring the orchestra.  The record Wain and Clinton's orchestra made of the song was released in 1938.

Here, too, is an obituary from The New York Times; videos of Ms. Wain (including the one above) are featured as part of the story.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Dave Garroway, and "It's About TV"

There's a nice interview, on Mitchell Hadley's "It's About TV" blog, concerning the subject of Dave Garroway. The interview--with Jodie Peeler, Ph.D., a professor of communications at Newberry College in South Carolina, who is co-writing a book about Mr. Garroway--was posted on August 23rd.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell was a great singer, and a great guitarist.

Here is a very pretty version of his beautiful hit song from 1968, "Wichita Lineman," written by Jimmy Webb.

The performance is from a PBS concert; I believe it was taped in 2001.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Garroway at Large"

I recently happened upon this brief video, on YouTube.  It is of Dave Garroway's Chicago-based television variety program Garroway at Large, which aired on NBC from 1949 until 1951. (I don't know the specific date of the telecast.)  Later, at the start of 1952, Garroway became the first host of NBC's Today show.


Garroway was a captivating performer, and personality.  The video, below--or, more precisely, the video made from a kinescope--is less than two minutes long, but it provides, very quickly, a nice sense of Garroway's calm, leisurely, intimate and witty style.   

There is a particularly charming moment, in the video, featuring Faye Emerson, who was one of early television's biggest stars.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Morgan White, Jr., and Donna Halper

My friend Morgan White, Jr., who hosts The Morgan Show, Saturday nights (10 p.m. to midnight) on Boston's WBZ Radio, will be sitting in tonight for host Bradley Jay, on the station's overnight program (midnight to 5 a.m.).

At midnight, his guest will be broadcast historian Donna L. Halper.  She's the author of the 2011 book Boston Radio: 1920-2010.  The book is part of Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series.

Another of her books is Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting. The book's second edition was brought out in 2014 by the academic publisher Routledge. The book was originally released in 2001 by the publisher M. E. Sharpe; in 2014, M.E. Sharpe was bought by Routledge.

Halper--who is an associate professor of Communication and Media Studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.--is one of the people behind an excellent Facebook page which has been referred to previously in this space: "New England Broadcasting History":

Monday, July 17, 2017

Martin Landau

I cannot count the number of times I have seen the outstanding 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest, which starred Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.  The film never disappoints.

One of its great supporting performances was by the wonderful actor Martin Landau, who played Leonard, the right-hand man to James Mason's Phillip Vandamm.  

Mr. Landau died on Saturday, at age 89. 

Another of my favorite performances by Mr. Landau was his supporting role--for which he received an Oscar nomination--in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). 

Mr. Landau's obituary in The Washington Post noted this, about his Crimes and Misdemeanors role:  "Newsweek arts writer Cathleen McGuigan spoke for many critics when she wrote that his 'delicate, tortured performance as a successful man caught in the web of his deceits is a tour de force.'"

Here, lastly, is part of a scene from North by Northwest; the scene includes Cary Grant, James Mason, and Mr. Landau.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Bill Dana

Bill Dana, who died on June 15th, at age 92, was a very funny comic actor and comedy writer--best known, certainly, for his "Jose Jimenez" character, which he first performed on The Steve Allen Show in 1959.

Here is an enjoyable sketch--or at least part of a sketch--performed in the 1960s by both Mr. Dana and Ed Sullivan, on Mr. Sullivan's television show:

Bill Dana, performing as astronaut Jose Jimenez, with Ed Sullivan, 1960s

There are a couple of very interesting things I learned about Mr. Dana, after he died (via obituaries about him).

I had never known that Mr. Dana--writing material for comedian Don Adams--came up with the idea for Mr. Adams's "Would you believe?" routine, later made famous on Adams's 1960s television series Get Smart;  I also never knew that the routine had been seen on television prior to Get Smart.  

Here, from YouTube, is part of an episode of The Bill Dana Show, which aired on NBC from 1963 until the start of 1965, and featured Mr. Dana as Jose Jimenez; it also featured Don Adams, in a supporting role. (Get Smart would make its debut in September of 1965, eight months after The Bill Dana Show left the air.)  

A "Would you believe?" joke can be seen at approximately 1:30 in the video.  Also seen in the video, in addition to Mr. Dana and Mr. Adams: actor Jonathan Harris, a regular on the program, who later starred on the series Lost in Space. (He appears at about the four minute mark, in the video.)

I also had not been aware, until Mr. Dana's death, that he wrote one of the funniest episodes of the TV series All in The Family (and probably one of the funniest episodes in television comedy history): the 1972 episode which revolved around a visit to the Bunker household by Sammy Davis, Jr. 


Here is the full episode, titled "Sammy's Visit," from YouTube:

Lastly, here is an obituary about Mr. Dana, from The New York Times:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Latest book by Mel Simons


This is my friend Mel Simons' latest book--the fifth in his Old-Time Radio Trivia series. (That is, of course, comedian Eddie Cantor on the book's cover.)

Here is a page, at the BearManor Media website, featuring the sixteen books by Mel that the publisher has brought out.

Here, too, is Mel's web address:

Friday, May 12, 2017

"Your Hit Parade," Peabody Award video

The following link is for a video, from 1953 (actually, to be more precise, it is from a television broadcast, and so would therefore be a video made from a kinescope), of Dorothy Collins, one of the stars of Your Hit Parade.  In the video, she is accepting the Peabody Award that the Hit Parade was given, for the year 1952, in the entertainment category (along with NBC's Mister Peepers, which starred Wally Cox).

Monday, May 8, 2017


This was a publicity photo, from my mother's time on television in New York; it was taken at some point between 1949 and 1952.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Lucky Strike Papers

A new edition of my book about early television will be coming out in the near future. The book will largely remain the same, yet will include some modest revisions, some additions, some elucidations (yeah, that sounds a little pretentious, but what the heck), and some corrections.

Updates about the revised edition will be posted in this space.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dorothy Mengering

Dorothy Mengering, David Letterman's mother--who was an enjoyable and memorable presence, over time, on her son's TV programs--died on Tuesday, at age 95.

New book about David Letterman

A good review, below, of what sounds like a good book:  Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night, by Jason Zinoman:

Here is the book's amazon page:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Upcoming book co-written by Martin Grams, Jr.

I was on amazon a few days ago, simply browsing--and looked up books by Martin Grams, Jr., who has been referred to a number of times in this space. (He has written many books, over time, about classic radio and television shows.)

I learned about a title he has coming out in November, written with Carl Amari: The Top 100 Radio Shows of All Time (Portable Press).  Am looking forward to reading it.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

"Breakfast with Music," WNBT-TV, 1952, and a recording of "Fugue for Tinhorns"

From October through December of 1952, after her time on the television program Your Hit Parade, my mother sang on a weekday morning TV show, Breakfast with Music, which starred comedian Morey Amsterdam.  It was a local show, seen on New York City's NBC station, WNBT-TV (now WNBC). The show also starred musical director Milton DeLugg, who oversaw a small ensemble of musicians, on the program, including pianist Dick Hyman, and bassist Eddie Safranski.  The show was seen for an hour each morning, after the Today show, which had begun airing in January of that year, with host Dave Garroway.

Breakfast with Music was the last television show my mother was affiliated with, during her New York career.  In January of 1953, my parents left New York for the Boston area.

Left to right: Milton DeLugg, Sue Bennett, Morey Amsterdam, 1952
(Photo copyright: WNBT/WNBC-TV)

After one of the Breakfast with Music telecasts, in 1952, my mother joined Milton DeLugg and the legendary composer and lyricist Frank Loesser, DeLugg's good friend (DeLugg and Loesser were also periodic songwriting partners) in a recording session; Loesser wanted to put on tape some demonstration recordings of his songs. Singer Stubby Kaye, who was starring on Broadway, at the time, in Guys and Dolls (the songs for which were written by Loesser; the play had had its debut in 1950) was also at the recording session.  

One of the songs recorded that day featured Loesser, DeLugg and my mother singing "Fugue for Tinhorns," from Guys and Dolls. (Stubby Kaye--as "Nicely-Nicely Johnson"--was, famously, one of the singers of the song, in both the play, and, later, the film.)

Forty years after the recording session, a CD was released, titled An Evening with Frank Loesser (DRG Records).  It featured demo recordings, over the years, of Loesser singing his own songs--from Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella (1956), and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961). The CD included the recording of "Fugue for Tinhorns" that my mother was a part of in 1952.

Here is the recording, via YouTube. The first voice heard on the song is Frank Loesser's; he is joined, in turn, by my mother, and then Milton DeLugg. 

In addition, here is the well-known performance of the song in the 1955 Guys and Dolls film. Stubby Kaye sings first, followed by Johnny Silver (seen at the right), and then Danny Dayton (at the left).  (A note, by the way, about a particular moment in the video. As Johnny Silver is about to sing, at approximately :30, he flicks his cigarette out of camera view. It is, I think, a nicely-executed gesture.)

I don't know the exact date of the 1952 "Fugue for Tinhorns" demo recording. Milton DeLugg would have been 33 or 34 years old, when the recording was made; he died in 2015, at age 96.  Frank Loesser died in 1969, at age 59. At the time of the recording, in 1952, he was 42. 

Morey Amsterdam, who died in 1996, at age 87, was 43 or 44 when the above Breakfast with Music photograph (which appears in my book about early TV) was taken.

My mother was 24 at the time.  She died in May of 2001, at age 73, almost sixteen years ago. A little more than a week ago, had she still been alive, she would have turned 89.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Jacks," "Jackies," and Allan Sherman

As mentioned previously, in this space, I was the host of an online radio talk show between 2011 and 2014.  During that time, I did a little (emphasis on "little") comedy bit on the program, once or twice (probably twice; I tend to repeat myself), about The Ed Sullivan Show. 

I said, on the radio program, that it seemed like most of the guests on Ed Sullivan's show, over the years, had either the name "Jack," or "Jackie":  Jackie DeShannon,  Jackie Wilson,  Jack E. Leonard, Jackie Vernon, Jack Carter, Jackie "Moms" Mabley, Jackie Mason, Jack Jones--and so on.

Recently, I read a 1965 book, A Gift of Laughter (Atheneum Publishers), an autobiography by the supremely talented song parodist/comedian Allan Sherman. I enjoyed coming upon the following, in the book:

"Willie Weber [an agent] handled the careers of several dozen comedians, most of whom were named Jackie. Willie, as far as I could tell, had only one single show-business instinct: he was one hundred percent dead certain that the only good name for a comedian is Jackie. You couldn't argue this point, because he was making a fortune.  If a Sam, Alvin, Clyde or Montmorency walked into Willie Weber's office and signed a contract, he walked out under the name of Jackie, and somehow Willie kept his Jackies busy working all the time. Willie wasn't too happy when I insisted on remaining Allan, but he figured it would be real good if he could have somebody like me around to supply jokes and funny songs to his stable of Jackies, which included Jack E. Leonard, Jackie Miles, Jackie Winston and Jackie Gleason."

While writing this post, I went online, to see if there were other Jacks or Jackies I had forgotten--and found an enjoyable/interesting passage from a 2015 book by Kliph Nesteroff, The Comedians (published by Grove Press).   

Mr. Nesteroff wrote about the recurring names of comics, years ago: "There were guys like Buddy Lester, Buddy Lewis and Buddy Hackett; Joe E. Brown, Joe E. Lewis and Joe E. Ross; Joey Adams, Joey Bishop and Joey Forman.  An inexplicable number of them were named Jackie--Jackie Clark, Jackie Curtiss, Jackie Gayle, Jackie Gleason, Jackie Heller, Jackie Kahane, Jackie Kannon, Jackie Mason, Jackie Miles, Jackie Wakefield, Jackie Whalen, Jackie Winston, Jackie Vernon, Jack E. Leonard..."

Here is a link to the book, on amazon:

Here, too, via YouTube, are three Allan Sherman songs.

The first is Mr. Sherman's most famous record, 1963's "Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh." Mr. Sherman (who died in 1973, of emphysema, not long before he would have turned 49) was perhaps not a "trained" singer, but I loved his voice; he had a very appealing and distinctive singing style. And his lyrics (often co-written by Lou Busch, his musical arranger and conductor): they were entertaining, and very funny--and always scanned so beautifully. 

Another song--according to the YouTube video, the recording is from a 1963 live performance, in California--was titled "Overweight People" (to the tune of "Over the Rainbow"):

And lastly, from 1964, one of my favorites--"Shine on Harvey Bloom":   

Friday, March 17, 2017


I recently switched my car's main odometer to the "Trip" odometer. Forgot to switch it back to the main one, and as a result missed when it reached 100,000.   :(

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Robert Osborne, of TCM

Turner Classic Movies is certainly one of television's best networks, and Robert Osborne was its signature host--from TCM's inception in 1994, until early 2016, when he left the air due to illness.

It was always a pleasure watching his broadcasts; Mr. Osborne was a very fine, likeable and informative host.  He died on Monday, at age 84.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Singer Bobby Freeman

The New York Times ran a story Monday night about the singer Bobby Freeman.  He died on January 23rd, at age 76.

Though Mr. Freeman was undoubtedly best known for his 1958 hit record "Do You Want to Dance," which he wrote, and which came out when he was seventeen (it was subsequently recorded by a number of other artists, including The Beach Boys, John Lennon, and Bette Midler), his 1964 hit, "C'mon and Swim," was a particular favorite of mine, during childhood.  It was released in 1964 (I was eight), and I played it endlessly, as I recall, on the very small, portable record player I had.  Though I still have the 45, it got warped, somewhere along the way, and is unusable.  In recent years, I've enjoyed listening to the song, periodically, on YouTube.

There is a nice photo, in the above New York Times story, of Mr. Freeman performing in 1964 on the ABC show Shindig.  The video, below, is clearly from the same telecast.

"C'mon and Swim," incidentally, was produced (and co-written) by Sylvester Stewart--who later became better known as Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Photo, after visiting The Salvation Army store

I went to The Salvation Army store today, to donate some books.

I currently have a rather long beard, which has a decent amount of gray in it.  As seen in the picture above, I was, while at the store, wearing a somewhat festive-looking winter cap.

A customer at the store said to me (I thought this was pretty funny):  "You look like Santa Claus."

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore

CBS-TV will be airing a special on Thursday (9-10 p.m., Eastern time), about the incomparable Mary Tyler Moore.

Here is a nice scene from The Dick Van Dyke Show, from 1961 (the show's first season).  It features Ms. Moore and Mr. Van Dyke singing and dancing to the song "You Wonderful You."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech

This is a video of the remarkable and powerful conclusion of the last speech given by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

His closing remarks--among his best-known--were hauntingly prescient.  He delivered the speech in Memphis, on the night of April 3, 1968; he was killed in Memphis the next day.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dick Gautier

I read, a little while ago, that the actor Dick Gautier died on Friday, at age 85.

He was so darn funny on Get Smart, as Hymie the Robot. 

Here's a story about his death, and life, from the Daily News in New York. The story includes a brief, and very funny, excerpt from a Get Smart episode.

In 1960, on Broadway, Mr. Gautier originated the role of Conrad Birdie, in Bye Bye Birdie, for which he received a Tony nomination.

He made a great many television appearances during his career, which included lending his voice to a number of animated programs; he was also seen, periodically, in films.  I was surprised to learn, however, from looking at his IMDB page, after reading about his death (this is also mentioned in the Daily News story, above), that he made only six appearances on Get Smart, the show with which he is certainly most associated.  Yet his appearances on the program were so memorable, and so entertaining--I can still laugh, decades later, just thinking about his affectless/deadpan portrayal of Hymie--that (for me, at least) it feels as if he had been on the program a lot more.

Here is the IMDB page about Mr. Gautier's television and film career: