Friday, December 27, 2019

Tony Charmoli, early television, and the memoir "Stars in My Eyes"

The picture, below (from the television program Your Hit Parade), appears in the 2016 book Stars in My Eyes, by Tony Charmoli.  I had not seen the picture (a picture I like a great deal) prior to reading Mr. Charmoli's book.

The book, about Mr. Charmoli's life and work, covers his career in entertainment from the 1940s until the 1990s (including his extensive work as both a choreographer and director for television). Today, Mr. Charmoli is 98, and lives (as he has lived for years) in California.

Photograph by Roy Schatt, 1952, from 2016's Stars in My Eyes, by Tony Charmoli

The above picture is seen in the chapter of Stars in My Eyes about Charmoli's work in early television.  He first gained notice, in early TV, as choreographer for the ABC program Stop the Music; he became the show's choreographer in 1949, while dancing in a Broadway show.  In 1950, he joined the new NBC show Your Hit Parade, as choreographer, and remained with the program for several years.  

Charmoli, however, was not only the Hit Parade's choreographer. He was also--as noted, here, in previous posts--the show's stager.  The songs on the Hit Parade, each week, were not simply sung, in a straightforward manner; they were dramatized. It was Charmoli who--in addition to choreographing the program's dance routines--staged all of the show's song dramatizations; he staged the movements of the featured singers and supporting performers, whether the numbers contained dance routines or not. 

Charmoli received a 1956 Emmy Award, for his choreography during the show's 1955 season.  In the 1970s, he received two additional Emmy Awards for choreography, for specials starring Shirley MacLaine (1976), and Mitzi Gaynor (1974).  From the 1950s until the 1990s, he received a number of other Emmy nominations, for his work both as a choreographer and director.  Singer Snooky Lanson, who starred on Your Hit Parade from 1950 until 1957, told me, in a late-1970s interview, that Charmoli was "one of the greatest talents I believe I ever knew."

The 1952 Hit Parade picture, above, is not captioned, in Charmoli's book. It features (from left-to-right, front row), singer Eileen Wilson; a pianist whose name I do not know; my mother (singer Sue Bennett); singer Dorothy Collins; and the show's director, Clark Jones. Charmoli is seated behind the pianist. I don't know the identity of the man standing next to Charmoli, in the back row.

The singers and the pianist (as can be seen by the sheet music on the piano's music stand) are rehearsing the song "A Guy is a Guy," which was a hit, in 1952, for Doris Day. There is also, one notes, what looks like a folder, on the table in front of Dorothy Collins and Clark Jones. The name Bob Kitsis is printed on it; Mr. Kitsis, at this time (and for much of the 1950s), was the pianist on the Hit Parade telecasts, as part of the Lucky Strike Orchestra, led by Raymond Scott. The pianist in the photograph, however, is not Bob Kitsis.  

In that the setting of the photograph does not appear to be that of a standard rehearsal studio, I am guessing the photo was taken at Manhattan's Hotel Woodstock, where some of the Hit Parade's rehearsals were held each week, during this period.

Stars in My Eyes is published by TurningPointPress, of Teaneck, New Jersey.  Paul Manchester edited and designed the book, and is a friend of Mr. Charmoli; it was Mr. Manchester, Charmoli writes in the book's acknowledgements, "who insisted this book should be written, then took it upon himself to persuade me to get a computer at the age of 90 and start typing out my memories."  Mr. Manchester kindly provided me with a high-resolution file of the above photograph.

The picture, from Mr. Charmoli's photo archives, was taken by Roy Schatt, who worked on the Hit Parade as a still photographer.  (Mr. Schatt later became particularly well-known for photographs he took of the actor James Dean.)

Here is the page for Stars in My Eyes:

Below, too, is additional information about Mr. Charmoli's television career, at the website (Near the end of the IMDB page, in a section titled "Other Works," under the "Personal Details" category, some of Mr. Charmoli's work on Broadway is also listed.) 

Paul Manchester, editor (as referred to above) of Tony Charmoli's 2016 memoir--and a two decades-long friend of Mr. Charmoli--has told me that despite online references to the contrary, Mr. Charmoli is 98 years old, not 97, as I had written.  My thanks to Mr. Manchester; the post has been corrected.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Holidays

Happy Chanukah (which began this evening), Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Softcover & hardcover copies, 2019 Revised Edition, "The Lucky Strike Papers"

A reminder that the 2019 Revised Edition of my book about early TV (the softcover version) is available via my website.

The list price of the book is $24.95; the book can be purchased at the website for $22.95, which includes Media Mail shipping. 

Please see:

(hardcover edition)
In addition, I have, on hand, a couple of hardcover copies of the Revised Edition of the book.

The list price of the hardcover is $34.95, but it is being offered here for $28.95 (which also includes Media Mail shipping).

If you'd like one of the hardcover copies, please write to, and put "Hardcover" in the subject field.  I'll put the copies aside for the first couple of people who get in touch, and will send an e-mail reply with information about payment (via paypal).

For your reference:  both the softcover and hardcover versions can only be shipped to the U.S., and just to the lower forty-eight states. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

Blogger, and friend, Steve Albin

For years, I've taken pleasure in reading a particular blog--the "Geezer Music Club," written by Steve Albin, who, on the blog, went by the name BG (a/k/a "Big Geez").  

He wrote, in an enjoyable, easygoing manner, about music and music history--about songs, singers, musicians, songwriters, music groups.  He also wrote about other nostalgia-related subjects.  

In 2015, he stepped away from the blog, taking what he called "an indefinite hiatus." Later the same year, he released a book, derived from the blog, called Memories & Music.  

In the book's preface, he wrote:  

"As you might guess from the name [of the blog] it was music-oriented, but it was always intended to have a lot of nostalgia as part of its content. After all those years of writing it, I finally came to realize that it included a treasure trove of nostalgia of a specific kind – personal memories that reach back to my childhood and paint a picture of middle America in the second half of the twentieth century. That being the case, I thought I might be able to use those blog posts as the basis for a memoir that might offer readers a little more than just being about me.

"So I've now taken many of those blog entries and transformed them into chapters. Since the GMC was a music blog there is still a lot of that type of content, but I have edited the original posts so that the emphasis is definitely on nostalgia. (Of course, you might find the stuff about music interesting if you give it a chance.)"

During his hiatus from the blog, there were occasional brief posts, to touch base with his readers.  In late 2017, the hiatus ended; he resumed posting regularly.  Several months later, however, due to a heart attack, and then heart surgery, he took a leave of a few months. He then returned to the blog for a time, yet other serious health issues arose, necessitating another leave.  By April of 2019, he was again posting often; his last post appeared on September 19th.  

On October 8th, his family let his community of readers know that he had died the week before.  At his death, on October 3rd, he was 75.  

Steve, who lived in Indiana (he grew up in the Terre Haute area), was born in 1943, in Illinois; tomorrow, November 23rd, would have been his 76th birthday. His full name was Stephen Foster Albin; his father, he had noted on the blog, named him after the 19th century songwriter, often referred to as the "father of American music."  

In 2008, I sent Steve a copy of my book about early television, and he subsequently wrote a kind review of it.  Later, we became friends--communicating, over time (warmly, enjoyably), via e-mail.  

I'm very saddened by his death.  And (as I am sure is the case with his many readers) I'll miss encountering, on the blog, his ongoing reflections, enthusiasms, reminiscences, and good cheer.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Kay Kyser's television show, NBC, 1949-1950

I recently acquired the above 1949 photograph, of three of the performers from bandleader Kay Kyser's television show, the College of Musical Knowledge. 

The picture shows (left to right) my mother (singer Sue Bennett), comedian and musician Merwyn Bogue (better known by his stage name, Ish Kabibble), and singer Liza Palmer. 

Kay Kyser's TV program began airing on NBC at the start of December, 1949.  Ms. Palmer left the show in March of 1950; the show was telecast until the end of December, 1950.

The photograph appeared in an article in TeleVision Guide magazine, at the start of 1950.  Mr. Kyser appeared on the magazine's cover that week.  Images from the issue appear below.

Kay Kyser, TeleVision Guide, Jan. 1950
Kay Kyser, Sue Bennett, TeleVision Guide
Top right, Kay Kyser and Liza Palmer 


(Photo at top, and photos from TeleVision Guide, © NBC Studios, Inc.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Robert Freeman, and "Meet the Beatles!"

Photographer Robert Freeman, who took the legendary picture which appeared on the cover of Meet The Beatles!, died on November 8th, at 82.  Mr. Freeman also took the photographs for the covers of other Beatles albums, including Rubber Soul.

Meet The Beatles! was released in the United States in January of 1964, on Capitol Records.

The photograph by Mr. Freeman had previously been used--absent the blue tint seen on Meet the Beatles!--on the cover of the UK album With the Beatles, which had come out, on the Parlophone label, a couple of months prior to Meet the Beatles!  (I had never known until today, while reading about With the Beatles, that the album had been released in the UK on November 22, 1963, the day of the Kennedy assassination.)

With the Beatles featured a number of the songs which would later be heard on Meet the Beatles!, but also included several cover recordings (such as "Roll Over Beethoven," and "You Really Got a Hold on Me") which would appear on the April, 1964 American release, The Beatles' Second Album.

Although the cover of Meet the Beatles! asserts that it is "The First Album by England's Phenomenal Pop Combo," it was, technically (though just barely), the second album released in America by the Fab Four;  Introducing the Beatles, on Vee-Jay Records, was brought out in the U.S. ten days prior to the release of Meet the Beatles!  (In addition, the group's first studio album, Please Please Me, had been released in the UK, by Parlophone, in March of 1963.)

Here is an obituary of Robert Freeman, from the New York Times:

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Richard Tourangeau, and "The Morgan Show," WBZ NewsRadio, Boston

Richard "Dixie" Tourangeau is a regular guest of talk host Morgan White, Jr., on The Morgan Show (weekend overnights, Boston's WBZ-AM, 1030 AM); you'll perhaps recall that I've written about The Morgan Show, in this space, on a number of occasions.  

The weekend shows begin at midnight, and Tourangeau, tonight, is appearing on the program from midnight until 2 a.m. The discussion, at least in part, will concern the recently-concluded World Series.

Tourangeau--an enjoyable and knowledgeable radio guest--is a baseball researcher and historian. He's a longtime member of the Society for American Baseball Research.   

A 2007 article about Tourangeau, in the Worcester (MA) Telegram, included the following: "He seems to know everything there is to know about every baseball player who ever wore a Major League uniform..."

In his appearances on The Morgan Show, Tourangeau (whom I've come to know, due to my own affiliation with Morgan's program) also discusses, periodically, the subject of National Parks. For nearly three decades, he worked, in Boston, for the National Park Service. For the last fourteen years of his NPS career, he was a ranger, at Boston National Historic Park (which includes Charlestown's Bunker Hill Monument). While now retired from the NPS, he continues, on a volunteer basis, to lead tours of the USS Cassin Young, at the Charlestown Navy Yard (which is also part of Boston National Historic Park); the warship was built, and first deployed, during World War II. (By the way: the last tours of the season, for the ship, take place this Monday, Veterans Day.)

Tourangeau, one therefore notes, is well-versed regarding two types of parks: national parks, and baseball parks.  To date, he told me in an e-mail, he has visited about half of the some 420 National Park Service sites in the United States.  He has also visited all of the current parks of Major League Baseball.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Writer Attica Locke

The following is a quote from the novelist Attica Locke, from an interview with her which appeared in the September 1st issue of The New York Times Book Review. (I confess that I have not, as of this writing, read Ms. Locke's work.)

The quote, which I think is very nice, is from the Book Review's weekly feature about books and reading, "By the Book."

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The High Holidays

A belated Happy New Year, to those observing it...and good wishes for Yom Kippur, which begins this evening, at sundown.

Friday, September 27, 2019

More about Ken Burns' "Country Music"

Filmmaker Ken Burns' eight-part documentary, "Country Music," came to a close Wednesday, on PBS.

The program was an exceptional and compelling achievement--historically, visually, musically, emotionally.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ken Burns' "Country Music"

The first two hours of director Ken Burns' latest documentary, "Country Music," aired last night on public television.

The program--further evidence, if any was needed, of Mr. Burns' enormous talent--was terrific.

The next installment of the documentary airs tonight (at least on the public station I watch), followed by episodes on Tuesday and Wednesday; the episodes then continue next week, from Sunday through Wednesday.

Please check your local PBS listings; as suggested above, broadcast scheduling can vary.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

The annual (and always enjoyable) Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (a/k/a/ MANC) is taking place this week in Hunt Valley, Maryland.  The convention opened this morning (Thursday), and will be running until Saturday.

I've attended the convention several times, but am unable to do so this year.  There are a number of friends who are attending--and I regret I will not be there to see them, and spend time with them.

The publisher of my book about early television, BearManor Media, is represented at the convention; BearManor has, for a number of years, had a table at MANC (along with the convention's other nostalgia-oriented vendors).

Yet while I will not be there, a couple of signed copies of my book are available at the BearManor table (or, at least, were available when the convention opened; I do not know if either has thus far been purchased).

This year, author John C. Abbott is presiding over the BearManor table. Mr. Abbott is the author of multiple books, brought out by BearManor, about the Old-Time Radio series Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Here is the page which lists his Johnny Dollar titles:

On Saturday, at 10:30 a.m., Mr. Abbott will be making a presentation, at the convention, about the radio series.

Another presentation I'd like to mention will take place Friday morning, at 10:00.  Author Garry Berman will be giving a talk about the actress Thelma Todd.

I interviewed Mr. Berman a couple of times, while I was host of an online, nostalgia-oriented radio program (2011-2014); we spoke about two of the enjoyable books he has written. One of the conversations concerned his 2008 book, We're Going to See the Beatles! An Oral History of Beatlemania as Told by the Fans Who Were There (Santa Monica Press). The second interview focused upon his 2011 biography, Perfect Fool: The Life and Career of Ed Wynn (published by BearManor).

Lastly, here is the link to the page of the MANC website which lists this year's talks/seminars:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 11th

This is a photograph which was taken on September 11, 2001, but was not published until the next year. The picture, taken by Will Nuñez, appeared in the September 2002 issue of Vanity Fair, with other previously unseen images of the September 11th catastrophe, in an article titled "Two Towers: One Year Later." Mr. Nuñez's photograph also appeared in a book released the same month, Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs (Scalo Verlag Publishers).

As the caption in Vanity Fair noted, in part: "After the first plane hit Tower One, bond analyst Will Nuñez went to his corner newsstand and bought a $14.99 disposable camera, hoping to record the scene for history's sake.  Minutes later, from his downtown office window, he captured United Flight 175 as it sped toward Tower Two."

(Photograph ©Will Nuñez, and Scalo Verlag Publishers, 2002)

Friday, August 30, 2019

James R. Leavelle, Dallas homicide detective

James Leavelle was a part of one of the country's most historic moments--and one of the world's most memorable and historic photographs.

In 1963--wearing a white Stetson and a tan suit--Mr. Leavelle was one of the Dallas detectives escorting Lee Harvey Oswald, in the basement of the Dallas Police Headquarters, when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.  Oswald was handcuffed to Mr. Leavelle, when he was shot.

The remarkable photograph of the shooting--which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize--was taken by Bob Jackson, of the Dallas Times Herald.

Mr. Leavelle died on Thursday; he was 99 years old.

Here is an obituary of Mr. Leavelle, from the New York Times

The image, below, is of the front page of the New York Daily News, from Monday, November 25, 1963, the day after Oswald's death.

The photograph at the bottom of the Daily News page is the Pulitzer-awarded picture by Bob Jackson. The striking, dramatic picture above it, taken as Ruby approached Oswald, was by Jack Beers, of the Dallas Morning News. Mr. Leavelle is at the left, in each photo.

Both pictures have often been cropped, in varying ways, when seen in newspapers, magazines, books, or on television.

Below, for example, is a much wider view of Bob Jackson's photograph, as seen at the center of the front page of The Scranton Tribune:

And this is a broader view of the photograph by Jack Beers:


(Photo of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, by Bob Jackson, Dallas Times Herald; photo taken just prior to the shooting, by Jack Beers, Dallas Morning News.)

Monday, August 12, 2019


Two years ago today (August 12, 2017), the two-day "Unite the Right" rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, attended by neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Klan members, and others from the far-right, culminated in the murder of Heather Heyer, age 32, a counter-protester.

The act of terrorism which killed Ms. Heyer (and injured many others) remains a deeply sad and terrible moment in America's history.

I have mentioned, in previous posts, that I lived in Charlottesville--a beautiful, wonderful city--for several years. I moved there in 1995, to host a radio program; the program ended in 1997, but I stayed in the city until the beginning of 2001.

I think about Charlottesville often.  There are a great many things I enjoyed about living there--including getting to know (because of the radio program) a number of the city's excellent print and broadcast journalists.

One was Hawes Spencer, who during my time in the city was editor of a popular Charlottesville newspaper, the C-Ville Weekly.  He later founded and edited another local weekly, The Hook.  More recently, as a Charlottesville-based freelance writer, his byline has appeared in the New York Times, the Daily Beast and other publications.  He also reports for Virginia public radio, and teaches journalism at Virginia's James Madison University.

In 2018, he brought out an impressive book about what took place in Charlottesville in 2017, titled Summer of Hate: Charlottesville, USA (University of Virginia Press).

Friday, August 9, 2019

August 9, 1974

Forty-five years ago today, Richard Nixon's presidency ended.  During a televised speech, the night before, he had announced he would be leaving office the next day. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The podcast "On Mic with Jordan Rich"

Jordan Rich, a terrific radio talk show host, has been heard on Boston radio since the late 1970s. For twenty years, he was the very popular weekend overnight host at the news and talk station WBZ-AM. He retired from his WBZ weekend hosting duties in 2016, but continues to appear on the station--periodically, as a guest host, and, each week, through recorded features (including the food/wine/restaurant-oriented "Connoisseurs Corner").  His decades-long work in voice-overs also continues.

I have known Jordan (about whom I've written previously in this space) for a number of years, have for years listened (with great pleasure) to his radio shows, and have been his guest, on the air, in the past. 

As an interviewer, as a conversationalist, he is warm, witty, knowledgeable, insightful.  

Since 2017, he's been the host of an excellent podcast, "On Mic with Jordan Rich." On July 21st, the podcast's 100th episode appeared. The programs are recorded at Chart Productions, the audio and video production house, outside of Boston, that he co-owns with broadcaster Ken Carberry. They founded the production facility in 1978.

I was recently interviewed by Jordan for the podcast; it was an enormous pleasure talking with him. We spoke about my book about early television (the revised edition of which was released at the end of January).  

Here is a brief promotional video concerning our recent conversation, from the "On Mic" Facebook page:

Here, too,  is the full interview:

Lastly, here is the "On Mic with Jordan Rich" page, at the Chart Productions website:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"Twelve Angry Men," CBS-TV, 1954

On his "It's About TV" blog (referred to, previously, a number of times in this space), Mitchell Hadley writes about various aspects of television--including the relationship between television and the culture at-large, and television history (see, for example, his recent four-part examination of the history of television opera).

A central feature of the blog concerns TV Guide. Such posts appear weekly; they provide overviews of, and commentaries about, decades-old issues of the magazine.

A post last month focused upon the magazine's June 20, 1964 issue (the edition covering New York City and environs)--and referred to an airing, that week (on a Connecticut TV station), of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men.

In the post, Mitchell wrote of his preference for Robert Cummings' starring performance (as Juror #8), in the original, 1954 live television production of Twelve Angry Men, over that of Henry Fonda, who played the same role in the 1957 film. (The television production, incidentally, spelled out the number in its title: Twelve Angry Men.  The film version used the number 12.)

The 1954 telecast of Twelve Angry Men aired on CBS's Studio One program.  It was directed by Franklin Schaffner, and the script, written for Studio One, was by Reginald Rose; both Schaffner and Rose were leading figures in the live television era. Rose adapted his Studio One script for the subsequent film version, directed by Sidney Lumet.

In his post, Mitchell provided a YouTube link to the 1954 Studio One production.  The YouTube channel featuring the link presents restored kinescopes, from the live television period; the channel's administrator produces the restorations, and writes that the Twelve Angry Men kinescope was "cleaned and restored to the original frame rate of live television, so you may see what it looked like when originally broadcast live."

I'd never seen the live TV version of Twelve Angry Men (had only seen the film, which is superb), and watched the program, due to Mitchell's comments about it. The television version is excellent--and the restored kinescope is outstanding, in its clarity.

The YouTube page made note of instances, in the television production, in which TV cameras were accidentally seen.  Before watching the program, I also looked up the production on  Mention was made, on IMDB, of a moment during the 1954 telecast, in which a camera--with its CBS "eye" logo--was glimpsed.

The IMDB page referred to the line of dialogue which preceded the appearance of the TV camera.  The words--angry, sarcastic--were spoken by the actor Edward Arnold (Juror # 10) to Robert Cummings' Juror # 8: "You're a pretty smart young fella."  Had I not been aware, beforehand, of the words from the script, I likely would have missed seeing the camera; it appears, and disappears, quickly.

The camera is seen at approximately 12:55, in the kinescope. It is visible at the right of the screen, in the distance.  Seated to the left of the camera is actor Joseph Sweeney (Juror # 9).

Twelve Angry Men, 1954; CBS camera, to the right of the screen.

A second appearance of a camera--a much more prominent intrusion--takes place at 29:41, at the forefront of the screen.  A side view of the camera's front apparatus appears, for a rather startling amount of time--more than three seconds.  Robert Cummings is on-screen, while the camera is seen; seated to Cummings' right (our left) is actor George Voskovec, Juror # 11.  (Voskovec, and the aforementioned Joseph Sweeney, were the two actors who were featured in both the live television and film versions.)

Robert Cummings (center), George Voskovec (seated, left), CBS camera, at lower right.
When experiencing a work of fictional art--when, say, reading a novel, watching a film, a play, seeing a television program (such as Twelve Angry Men)--one wishes to become fully absorbed by, immersed within, the fictional realm.

And so, if TV cameras are inadvertently seen, the realm is breached; one is, at least momentarily, taken out of the sphere of the drama.

And yet: the unintended images, in Twelve Angry Men, were, to me, riveting.

That cameras appeared, on the TV screen, was, certainly, a reminder of the precarious nature of early TV presentations. Performers had to co-exist with, work around, the large, moving, imposing cameras. (And in this particular production, the possibility of technical mishaps was no doubt increased by the confines of the setting: the telecast, for the most part, was rooted in one space:  the relatively small jury room.)

I don't know, of course, what viewers in 1954 might have thought of such visual intrusions--witnessing, on the TV set, some of that which was intended to be invisible. Perhaps it would have been jarring, or captivating, or, as in the second instance, above, perplexing (What was that, at the side of the screen?).  Perhaps there would simply have been the understanding that such imperfections were a part of the new medium.

There is, certainly, a significant advantage, watching such programs today; one has the ability--which viewers in 1954 obviously did not have--to watch a show's scenes repeatedly, when seeking to apprehend what took place in them.

Indeed, from the vantage point of decades after-the-fact:  witnessing the specific technical accidents of Twelve Angry Men  (seeing, on-screen, cameras which transmitted the program, live, to viewers in 1954), makes the program, today (for me, at least), that much more exhilarating.

(Please note: significant changes have been made to this post since it first appeared.)

(Above images: CBS-TV, 1954)