Friday, February 28, 2020

The S.S. United States, Philadelphia

This is a photograph taken in Philadelphia, at my request, by photographer/artist Jenny Lynn, a longtime friend. The picture was taken on Thursday, early evening, from inside the IKEA store, located on Philadelphia's Columbus Boulevard.

In the distance is the S.S. United States, the legendary passenger liner, which has been out of service since 1969, and has been docked on the Philadelphia waterfront since 1996.  The ship is, in person, a startling and remarkable sight.  At 990+ feet in length, it is more than 100 feet longer than the Titanic.

In 2011, the ship was purchased by the S.S. United States Conservancy, a group devoted to the ocean liner's preservation, and history. The Conservancy bought the ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, which had acquired it in 2003; the company had had plans--ultimately not realized--to make the ship seaworthy again.

The purchase of the ship, by the Conservancy, was made possible by a substantial donation to the group, from the noted Philadelphia philanthropist Gerry Lenfest.  Mr. Lenfest died in 2018, at age 88.

Here is the link to the Conservancy's website:

As noted previously in this space, the S.S. United States is written about in my book about early television.  The last telecast of NBC's Your Hit Parade, for the 1951-1952 season--which was, it turned out, my mother's last appearance on the program--took place on the ship.  Five days later, on July 3rd of 1952, the ship began its maiden voyage.  

(Photograph © Jenny Lynn)

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Martin Grams, Jr., and "Truth or Consequences"

Martin Grams, Jr.'s latest book--in preparation for some time--was released on January 21st. 

The book is Truth or Consequences: The Quiz Program that Became a National Phenomenon (published by BearManor Media). 

The program was created by Ralph Edwards; Edwards was its host on radio, and was the original host of the TV version of the show (when it was seen in prime time).  Bob Barker, who was host of the TV show for a number of years (for its daytime version, and then in syndication), wrote the foreword to the new book.

I've written about Martin Grams periodically, in this space; he has written (or co-written) a great many books about Old-Time Radio, and vintage television programs. The books include The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (2008); The Radio Adventures of Sam Spade (2007); The Green Hornet: A History of Radio, Motion Pictures, Comics and Television (2010; written with Terry Salomonson); Duffy's Tavern: A History of Ed Gardner's Radio Program (2018); Car 54, Where Are You? (2016); and The Time Tunnel: A History of the Television Program (2012). 

Martin is a prominent figure in the Old-Time Radio and nostalgia-oriented communities. His articles about Old-Time Radio programs appear regularly in various OTR publications--and he writes about radio, television, film, and other popular culture matters on his blog (  He's the editor of Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old Time Radio Club; the publication appears six times each year. In addition, he and Michelle Grams, his wife, have for years run the annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, based in Maryland. 

Yet he is undoubtedly best known for his book projects--and in particular, for the considerable research skills he brings to them. Indeed, the books routinely include vast amounts of archival and historical materials he has located, and mined. As such, his books often have an encyclopedic feel, in their scope, and length.  His Twilight Zone book, one notes, is 800 pages long.  His book about Duffy's Tavern is just under 800 pages.  His newest title, about Truth or Consequences, continues the tradition: it comes in at just over 700 pages. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Kirk Douglas (1916-2020)

Kirk Douglas, who died on Wednesday at age 103, was a wonderful actor.

He was also a noted film producer, and wrote many books--including The Ragman's Son, a 1988 memoir; a 2002 memoir, written after his severe 1996 stroke, My Stroke of Luck; and 1997's Climbing the Mountain: My Search for Meaning. He also wrote fiction.

Here is a quote from Mr. Douglas's New York Times obituary.  It is from an essay he wrote about aging, in 2008, for Newsweek magazine.

“Years ago I was at the bedside of my dying mother, an illiterate Russian peasant. Terrified, I held her hand. She opened her eyes and looked at me. The last thing she said to me was, ‘Don’t be afraid, son, it happens to everyone.’ As I got older, I became comforted by those words.”