Friday, December 30, 2016

"New England Broadcasting History," and "TV Radio Mirror"

There's a Facebook page that, for some time, I've enjoyed a great deal; it is titled "New England Broadcasting History."

I was delighted to see a nice recent item on the page (Dec. 5th) about my mother: it featured scans of a July, 1960 article about her, from the magazine TV Radio Mirror. At the time, she was the host of a weekly movie program, Cinema 7, on Boston's WNAC-TV (Channel 7).



As part of the TV Radio Mirror article, there were pictures of our family. In the top right picture, above, I'm sitting on my father's lap, and my mother is holding my brother. I was four, when the story came out; my brother was seven. 

In addition to the mostly national television and radio personalities the magazine covered (Jack Paar was featured on the cover of the July, 1960 issue, as seen here), TV Radio Mirror typically ran a handful of regional stories each month, geared to the different geographic editions of the magazine. The article about my mother appeared in the magazine's "Atlantic Edition." The same issue featured stories about Washington, DC television reporter Morna Campbell, who wrote and delivered a weekday morning newscast on station WTOP ("the only woman news reporter in Washington TV, and one of the few in the country," the article about her noted); host/performer/comedian (and a producer/director) Richard Belkin, of Albany TV station WAST; and New York City's Ted and Rhoda Brown, hosts of the long-running morning program Ted Brown and the Redhead, heard on radio station WMGM-AM.  

(Ten years earlier, when my mother was singing on Kay Kyser's television show, on NBC, Ted Brown had been the show's announcer, for its second season. Brown was affiliated with other early television programs, as an announcer and performer--yet is best remembered, certainly, for his work as a New York radio host--which included many years spent at the prominent music station WNEW.)

One of the regular posters/contributors to the New England Broadcasting History Facebook page, Jofus Jones (whose posts I have enjoyed, over time), wrote a response to the item about the TV Radio Mirror article--kindly mentioning this blog, for which I am appreciative.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


And then, in 1998, he returned to space--at age 77--as part of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery.

John Glenn

Am saddened to learn about the death of John Glenn.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The 75th anniversary

Wednesday is the 75th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor.

2335 American personnel died.  Of these, 2008 were from the Navy, 218 from the Army, and 109 were Marines.  68 civilians died as well. 

The day after the attack, President Roosevelt's delivered his "date which will live in infamy" speech to a Joint Session of Congress.  He said:  "I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire."

That day, Congress voted to declare war against Japan.

Here is a video of part of President Roosevelt's speech:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Abraham Lincoln, and the semi-colon

A few days ago I came upon a very enjoyable remark by Abraham Lincoln, from 1864.  Perhaps the quote is well-known, yet I was not familiar with it.

Mr. Lincoln said:

"With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling.  But I must say that I have a great respect for the semi-colon;  it's a very useful little chap."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Photographs from Dallas, 1963, by H. Warner King, published in 2013

In 2013, there was a story in Time magazine, regarding previously unpublished images of President Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas, Texas, in 1963 (fifty-three years ago today, as a friend reminded me, in an e-mail; I had not realized it was the anniversary).

The pictures were taken by an amateur photographer, H. Warner King, a Dallas jewelry wholesaler.  Mr. King died in 2005.  His daughter Sonia, an artist, said the following, in the piece in Time, about the aftermath of her father's death:

"As we were going through his possessions, I didn't want all his old slides at first, because I worried it might be some giant burden and I'd never look at them again.  But I took them, anyway."

She said, in the article:  "Recently, I began to sort through them, and came across a long red box labeled 'November/December 1963 Kennedy.' I found these pictures right away."  She said: "Now, fifty years later, his photographs of the Kennedys finally see the light of day."

Ms. King said that her father had photographed the motorcade near the Turtle Creek section of Dallas, as it headed toward Dealey Plaza.  Mr. King then drove to the Dallas Trade Mart, where the President was scheduled to speak, to take additional pictures; the speech, of course, never took place.

A couple of the pictures by Mr. King, seen here, are startling, in their sense of intimacy, and proximity--how close the onlookers appear to have been, in relation to the presidential limousine.

Here is the 2013 article, from Time, which includes additional pictures by Mr. King:

(Photographs, above, by H. Warner King)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Billy Preston, "My Sweet Lord," and the "Concert for George," 2002

This is a video I really enjoy.  It is of a live performance of the George Harrison song "My Sweet Lord," with the lead vocal by Billy Preston.  Preston, as is well known, played with the Beatles at the end of their career--and he was one of the musicians on Harrison's original recording of "My Sweet Lord," released in 1970.
The performance in the video--at the "Concert For George," at London's Royal Albert Hall--took place on November 29, 2002, the first anniversary of Harrison's death, at 58.  Next Tuesday will mark the fifteenth anniversary of his death. 

Billy Preston's vocal is vibrant, rich, wonderful. The three female backup vocalists-- who, according to Wikipedia, are Katie Kissoon, Tessa Niles, and Sam Brown--are terrific (and they are accompanied, vocally, by some of the musicians). 

The musicians performing on the song include Preston (on organ), Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Ringo Starr, Dhani Harrison (Harrison's son), and Paul McCartney.

Here is the video, from YouTube:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The election

So, evidently (despite what President-elect Trump charged, during the campaign), the election wasn't rigged against him after all.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Independence Mall, Bruce Springsteen, and Secretary Clinton

I love Philadelphia--lived there for many years.  One of the great pleasures of living in the city was seeing/walking by/driving by Independence Hall, regularly--as well as the nearby pavilion, on Independence Mall, housing the Liberty Bell. 

On television, tonight, I watched part of the election-eve rally for Secretary Clinton, taking place on Independence Mall.  Seeing Independence Hall--shown, most often, in the distance--made me miss being in Philadelphia.  

I did not see all of Bruce Springsteen's performance, at the rally, but saw him sing "Long Walk Home," and "Dancing in the Dark." His band wasn't with him--he simply accompanied himself on the guitar--and his low-key performance was, I thought, moving and beautiful. 

After his performance, there were fine speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama--and a nice speech by Secretary Clinton.  It is a precarious moment, in America's history--and I wish the Secretary the very best, in Tuesday's voting.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Kay Starr, and "Wheel of Fortune"

Kay Starr--who sang the very popular song "Wheel of Fortune," a number one hit in 1952--died on Wednesday, in Los Angeles.  She was 94.  

Here is an obituary, from The Washington Post:

"Wheel of Fortune" remained Ms. Starr's signature number, for many years.

The story in The Washington Post noted that she "never wearied — even decades later — when aging audiences requested that she trot out  'Wheel of Fortune.' "

The story, quoting Ms. Starr, continued: " 'Wheel of Fortune' has been good to me.  How could I get tired of it? That's like saying you get tired of the person who gives you everything in the world,' she said. 'And when I see the expressions on the faces of the audience, as they remember, maybe, the first time they heard the song...the pure, unadulterated pleasure it gives them makes it all worthwhile." 

The song was recorded by many other singers, but Ms. Starr's version is certainly the best known.  Here is a link to her recording of it, on YouTube:  

Also, from Ms. Starr:  the song "(The) Rock and Roll Waltz," recorded in 1955, and which reached number one, on the charts, in 1956.

Here, too, is Dorothy Collins, one of the stars of Your Hit Parade, singing "Wheel of Fortune" on a 1952 telecast of the program. (The audio quality, unfortunately, is less than pristine):  

Though my mother was part of the Hit Parade cast, at this time, she did not perform "Wheel of Fortune" on the TV show.  She did, however, sing the song while making a guest appearance, in April of 1952, on the NBC Radio version of the Hit Parade. (While the TV show aired on Saturday nights, and featured bandleader Raymond Scott and the Lucky Strike Orchestra, the radio show, at the time, aired on Thursday nights, and starred Guy Lombardo and his orchestra; each broadcast featured a guest female vocalist.)

Here is an excerpt of my mother singing the song with Guy Lombardo's orchestra:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Comedian Kevin Meaney

Kevin Meaney has for years been one of my favorite comedians.  He was extremely--and uniquely--funny.

I loved his style, as a comedian, and always loved, in particular, his imitations of his mother--a well-known part of his act, featured in the video below, from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Also featured, toward the end of the video:  Mr. Meaney singing a song, "I Don't Care," another well-known routine he did.  ("I don't care, I don't care, My jokes don't go over I don't care...")  It's just hysterical.

(I don't know what year the video below is from. Mr. Meaney first appeared on The Tonight Show in 1987, and made--according to his website--a dozen appearances on the program after that.  For a moment, at the start of the video, you can see Jay Leno--and so the appearance is either from the late 1980s or early 1990s, when Mr. Leno served as Johnny Carson's regular guest host.)

Mr. Meaney died last Friday, at age 60, and I was so sorry to learn about it.

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).

Friday, August 12, 2016

Patti Smith, and television crime shows

Noted, with pleasure, when reading writer/singer/songwriter/artist Patti Smith's 2015 memoir, M Train (Knopf):  her periodic references to (and affection for) television crime shows.  Such as:

Yesterday's poets are today's detectives. They spend a life sniffing out the hundredth line, wrapping up a case, and limping exhausted into the sunset.  They entertain and sustain me.  Linden and Holder.  Goren and Eames.  Horatio Caine.  I walk with them, adopt their ways, suffer their failures, and consider their movements long after an episode ends, whether in real time or rerun.   (p. 32)

Clouds move past the sun.  A milky light pervades the skylight and spreads into my room.  I have a vague sense of being summoned.  Something is calling to me, so I stay very still, like Detective Sarah Linden, in the opening credits of The Killing, on the edge of a marsh at twilight. (p. 37)

The warm drone of a Law & Order marathon was exactly what I needed. Detective Lennie Briscoe had obviously fallen off the wagon and was gazing at the bottom of a glass of cheap scotch.  I got up and poured some mescal in a small water glass and sat at the edge of the bed drinking along with him, watching in stupefied silence, a rerun of a rerun... (pp. 163-164)

The book will be released in paperback this month: 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

More about Newton Centre, Mass., and the Samuel Francis Smith House

In a July 4th post, I wrote of the Samuel Francis Smith House, in Newton Centre, Mass., my hometown.  Smith, in 1831, wrote the words to "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."  He lived in Newton, a suburb of Boston, for several decades, until his death in 1895.

In the past few years I've bought a number of old postcards of Newton (one of which was a postcard of the Smith house, shown in the July 4th post). 

My family moved to the Newton Centre section of the city the month before I was born, in 1956; we lived two miles from the Newton Centre business district.  Twenty years later, while I was in college, my parents sold our house, and left the city for an apartment in a nearby town.

One of the postcards I've purchased, in recent years (below), shows the end of the main street of the Newton Centre business district--which included, to the right of the picture, an F.W. Woolworth store, a favorite destination in childhood. 

Postcard of Newton Centre, Mass.; date unknown.  F.W. Woolworth store, at right. 

I don't know what year the postcard is from, though the green car, near the center-right of the picture, looks like it might be from the early 1960s.  (If anyone knows the year the car was made--the image can be enlarged by clicking on it--please let me know, at

Though it is not seen in the postcard, there was, to the right of the Woolworth store (for at least a part of my childhood) a small (and, as I recall, very lovely) bookstore, The Langley Book Shop, named after a nearby street.  To the right of the bookstore--and separated from the store by a pathway, or driveway--was the Samuel Francis Smith House.

Here is a picture of the house, circa 1930, that I found online.

Samuel Francis Smith House, circa 1930.  Copyright (c) Leslie Jones (1886-1967), from the Leslie Jones Collection, at The Boston Public Library.

I mentioned in my post last month that when I was a young boy, the Smith house seemed to me to be somewhat scary. 

Below is a photo of the house from 1958, two years after I was born.  In the picture, the house, in its disrepair, does indeed look scary--though I don't remember it looking this run-down.  

Samuel Francis Smith House, 1958. Photo is from the Collection of the Watertown Free Public Library, Watertown, Mass., and is used by permission

In fact, according to the biography Samuel Francis Smith: My Country 'Tis of Thee, by Marguerite E. Fitch (Mott Media, 1987), restorative work was done on the house in the decade after the 1958 picture was taken.  Perhaps, by the early 1960s--by which time I would no doubt have been aware of the house--its exterior was in better shape than it had been in 1958. Yet I just don't know; I only know that a childhood memory of the house has been retained, that of being a little frightened by it.

Wrote Marguerite E. Fitch, in her book: "Smith descendants continued to live in the house on Center Street until 1954, when the property was left vacant. Soon it became shabby and needed repairs.  In 1958, a sign posted in the front yard announced that the Smith homestead would be sold at auction. Fifty concerned Newton residents immediately formed the Samuel Francis Smith Homestead Society, Incorporated.  They aimed to restore the property as a national landmark.  No federal funds could be used, however, since Samuel Smith had not been born in the house. It was up to the people of Newton to supply the money and manpower to restore the old house."  Fitch wrote that in 1958, on the 150th anniversary of Smith's birth, thousands of Newton school children took part in a fundraising effort.  (Fitch lived for many years in Newton Centre, and worked there as a school secretary. Her book about Smith is geared to children in grades 4 to 7.)

She wrote: "It took eleven years to restore the Smith home to some likeness of its original condition.  Then it served as a museum for Smith memorabilia, including copies of most of Samuel Smith's books and diaries, irreplaceable material."  Unfortunately, as noted in my prior post, a fire destroyed the home in 1969.

Here is a link to Fitch's book about Smith, on

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Post by Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette

Here's a nice blog post by Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette, independent historian, and Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution Archives.  The post, from July 19th, is about advances in technology, in the 1960s, which affected the coverage of political conventions. 

When I last hosted a radio talk show (it aired on a nostalgia-oriented Internet station), I spoke on two occasions with Dr. LaFollette.  On one of the programs, we discussed her excellent 2009 book Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television (University of Chicago Press).  

On a later broadcast, we talked about her fine follow-up book, 2013's Science on American Television: A History (also published by University of Chicago Press).

Another of LaFollete's books--which I have on my shelf, but have not yet read--is Reframing Scopes: Journalists, Scientists, and Lost Photographs from the Trial of the Century (University Press of Kansas, 2008).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Samuel Francis Smith, and "My Country, 'Tis of Thee"

This is an old postcard, which I purchased on ebay. Though the precise age of the card is not known, the ebay seller noted that it was "pre-1920."  It pictures a house in the city where I grew up (Newton Centre, Mass.).

I passed by the house routinely, as a child (in the 1960s). It was located just after the last store on the main street of the Newton Centre business district, and was set back from the street.  It seemed mysterious, and, as I recall, a bit scary.  I'm fairly sure it was unoccupied, during those years, and I walked up to it a number of times, to look at it--though I don't remember when, in childhood, I became aware that it had been the home of Samuel Francis Smith, who wrote the words to "America" (a/k/a  "My Country, 'Tis of Thee").  As the link below notes, the house burned down in 1969, but I don't remember this happening (I was thirteen, at the time).

Here is the Wikipedia entry about the song:,_%27Tis_of_Thee

Here, too, is a brief video, from YouTube, of a performance of the song by Marian Anderson; it took place in 1939, during her famous appearance at the Lincoln Memorial.

Happy July 4th!

Friday, July 1, 2016

"The Jordan Rich Show," Boston's WBZ Radio

For two decades, Jordan Rich has been the weekend overnight talk show host on WBZ Radio, the legendary Boston station. He announced several weeks ago that he had decided to leave his weekend programs. 

This weekend's shows will be his last--though he will continue to be heard on the station, via recorded features: his daily "Connoisseur’s Corner" segment, as well as his "New England Weekend" feature. This Monday evening he will also--as in the past--anchor the station's annual July 4th special; the program airs from Boston's Esplanade, and features a concert by the Boston Pops. 

His weekday work as co-owner of Chart Productions, an audio production company outside of Boston, will continue.  He co-founded the company--which also provides marketing and voice-over services--in 1980.

His last Friday/Saturday show airs tonight, on WBZ, from midnight to 5 a.m.  His final Saturday/Sunday program can be heard from midnight to 3:30 a.m.

Jordan Rich is a terrific broadcaster--warm, funny, insightful, engaging.  Along with so many others, I will miss, very much, his immensely enjoyable weekend programs.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Harold Russell, and "The Best Years of Our Lives"

Tonight, as part of its Memorial Day Weekend programming, Turner Classic Movies will be airing the outstanding 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, directed by William Wyler.  Its stars included Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Teresa Wright, and Harold Russell.

The film earned eight Academy Awards in 1947, including the award for Best Picture.

Harold Russell,  Photo © 1946, MGM
Harold Russell, a World War Two veteran, had previously made only one film appearance; he was featured in a brief 1945 War Department film about disability and rehabilitation. Yet he received 1947's Best Supporting Actor award, for The Best Years of Our Lives. Director William Wyler said that Russell "gave the finest performance I have ever seen on the screen."

Russell was also given a second Oscar in 1947, an honorary award, for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans."

As The New York Times wrote, upon Mr. Russell's death, in 2002:  "After basic training [during World War Two], he volunteered to become a paratrooper, and he learned that skill as well as demolition.  The United States Army made him an instructor.  On June 6, 1944, while some of the men he trained were involved in the D-Day landing, Mr. Russell was teaching demolition work at Camp Mackall in North Carolina and a defective fuse detonated TNT that he was holding.  The next day what was left of his hands were amputated three inches above the wrists.

"Walter Reed General Hospital offered him a choice of prosthetic devices: plastic hands or steel hooks.  He chose the hooks, proved unusually adept at mastering them and eventually made a training film for soldiers who had lost both hands. The film, 'Diary of a Sergeant,' showed Mr. Russell in daily activities.

"Wyler saw the film after he had been asked by the producer Samuel Goldwyn to direct 'The Best Years of Our Lives.' Wyler urged Goldwyn to hire Mr. Russell, and after some coaxing Mr. Russell, who was then attending business school at Boston University, agreed to appear in the film."

The Best Years of Our Lives--and Mr. Russell's extraordinary performance in it--can be seen tonight at 10:15 (Eastern time), on TCM.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Julius La Rosa, and Arthur Godfrey

In October of 1953, singer Julius La Rosa--who died May 12th, at age 86--was part of one of the most interesting, and most peculiar, moments in broadcasting history.   He was fired--live, on the air--by his boss, television and radio giant Arthur Godfrey.

The show was Arthur Godfrey Time, a morning program simulcast on CBS Radio and TV--although La Rosa's dismissal, from the Godfrey family of entertainers, was not seen by television viewers. The TV portion of the simulcast had ended, for that day; the firing was heard only by Godfrey's radio listeners. 

At the end of the show--after La Rosa, at Godfrey's request,  sang the song "Manhattan"--Godfrey told his audience the following:

"Thanks ever so much, Julie.  That was Julie's swan song, with us.  He goes now, out on his own, as his own star, soon to be seen in his own programs.  And I know you wish him Godspeed, same as I do."

Andy Rooney, who wrote for the program, said, in an interview years later for A & E's Biography program, that La Rosa asked, after leaving the stage, "Was I just fired?"  

Godfrey later said that the dismissal took place because La Rosa had come to lack "humility."  

The relationship between Godfrey and La Rosa had deteriorated--at least in part--as a result of a couple of incidents.

Godfrey, during this time, had insisted that his family of performers take dance classes, to help with their sense of movement, on-stage.  La Rosa--who in addition to appearing on Godfrey's morning TV/radio show also appeared on the weekly TV program Arthur Godfrey and His Friends--missed one of the classes, due, he said, to a family matter.  Godfrey then suspended him for a day.

As Arthur J. Singer writes, in the biography Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster (McFarland & Company, Inc., 2000):  "La Rosa insists he had gone to see Godfrey to tell him he had a family conflict and that Arthur had seemed to understand but told him to try to get back if he could."  

Singer continues, regarding the suspension:  "La Rosa was enraged.  He went over to the Lexington Hotel, where Godfrey lived, and had the operator ring his room.  He was told Godfrey was out.  But Julius had seen his car on the street and decided to wait for him to come down to the lobby.  Finally, according to La Rosa, Godfrey came down with two of his assistants and brushed by La Rosa without acknowledging him.  'I said to myself, Okay.  So I went and got a manager agent."

Godfrey did not want his "Little Godfreys"--as the performers on his shows were called, collectively--to hire agents or managers; he preferred to deal with his performers directly, and had made this known.  Soon, Godfrey received a letter from the agent, Tommy Rockwell, of General Artists; the letter, Arthur J. Singer summarizes, said that "in the future, all dealings with La Rosa would be handled through the agent's office."  In an interview, years later--seen on A & E's Biography--La Rosa spoke about the letter.  It was, he acknowledged, a "big slap in the face" to Godfrey.  Godfrey--with the approval of executives at CBS--decided to fire La Rosa; it was agreed the firing would take place on the air.  

The public firing, and Godfrey's subsequent remarks to reporters about La Rosa's lack of humility, were not well-received.  For years Godfrey had been known for his generally easygoing, genial manner.  His public image--as commentators have noted, over time--was certainly affected by the controversy; the episode, to many, suggested an unlikeable, perhaps imperious, side to his personality.  

Here is a YouTube video featuring part of the 1996 A & E broadcast of Biography, about Arthur Godfrey (its Executive Producer was Godfrey biographer Arthur J. Singer, referred to above).  The video includes the audio recording of the firing, as well as interviews with La Rosa, and others, about it:

Here, too, is an obituary about Julius La Rosa, from The Washington Post:

Monday, May 9, 2016

"The Girl on the Train"

Saw an ad on television, Sunday night, for the upcoming film The Girl on the Train. It stars Emily Blunt, and will be released in October. I loved the novel, by Paula Hawkins--was really taken by it--and hadn't known a film based on it was forthcoming.  Am looking forward to seeing it.

Here is the page about the film:

And here is the novel's amazon link:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Author Robert McLaughlin, Wakefield's Pleasure Island, and a new book

Robert McLaughlin is the author of two enjoyable books about a subject I have great affection for:  the theme park Pleasure Island, which was located in Wakefield, Mass. (1959-1969), not far from Boston.  To many New Englanders, Pleasure Island is legendary.

One of Mr. McLaughlin's books--titled, simply, Pleasure Island--was brought out in 2009, as part of Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series; its pictures (nearly 200) are in black and white. His follow-up book--Pleasure Island: 1959-1969--was published in 2014, for Arcadia's "Images of Modern America" series, and features 160 images, most of them in color.  (I wrote about Arcadia, and another of its authors, Boston historian Anthony Mitchell Sammarco, in a recent post.)

One of the best-known attractions at Pleasure Island--something I experienced, in childhood--concerned Moby Dick.  One rode in an open boat, and I recall, vaguely (and perhaps inaccurately; I was five or six years old), seeing a cove, of sorts, in the distance.  Soon, an immense Moby Dick facsimile rose from beneath the water. The experience terrified me; I've told people about it for years. (And spoke with Mr. McLaughlin about it; he appeared, twice, on an online talk show I hosted for a few years, until 2014.)

Moby Dick, from Pleasure Island: 1959-1969 (Arcadia Publishing, 2014)

In addition to researching and writing about Pleasure Island, Mr. McLaughlin--who lives in Wakefield, the town where Pleasure Island was located--is the President of the group "Friends of Pleasure Island," and gives periodic walking tours of the former site. (Please see:

Mr. McLaughlin has also written about Freedomland, the 1960s theme park in the Bronx, for Arcadia, and  his latest Arcadia title, about the Golden, Colorado theme park Magic Mountain, is being published today (April 25th). (All three of the venues he has written about--Pleasure Island, Freedomland, and Magic Mountain--were designed by the same firm, Marco Engineering, of Los Angeles.) 

Here are links to his Pleasure Island books:

(Please note:  the paperback edition, included in the above amazon link, is of Mr. McLaughlin's 2009 book; the Kindle version, part of the same link, is for the 2014 book.)

Here is a link to the paperback version of the 2014 book, from the Barnes & Noble website:

Lastly, this is the amazon link to Mr. McLaughlin's book about Colorado's Magic Mountain, released today: