Friday, March 28, 2014

The Shadow: Secret Society Bulletin

Now here's an oddity that I was never aware of until a friend of mine, Alex Daoundakis, brought it to my attention. In fact, he recently bought one and handed it to me to check out. It seems in the late seventies, a fan club for The Shadow generated a newsletter that members received for free. These were the days when the internet did not exist so fan clubs like these rarely reached the 1,000 figure. According to most estimates, many of these clubs rarely reached the 100 figure. The newsletters are not easy to come by and when they are offered for sale, the prices are sometimes astronomical. A friend of mine who does research on pulp art said newsletters and fanzines from the 1970s and 1980s often provide information you cannot find elsewhere. 

Case in point: this issue reveals conventions Walter Gibson was featured as a celebrity guest, collector edition posters for sale (I saw one of these once and wondered who made it and when they were made), the Steranko paintings and the cover art for new paperback reprints, and a tease for the up-coming Shadow Scrapbook authored by Walter Gibson. Here's a scan of issue number 3 (courtesy of Alex) for your amusement. Click on each page to enlarge.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Mr. Peabody and Sherman: Movie Review

I have to disagree with most of the film critics here. Mr. Peabody and Sherman is not only faithful to the original Jay Ward cartoon, but of all the movies made in the past three years that were adapted from established pop culture, this one is the best. We all joke about how Hollywood cannot do anything these days that doesn’t involve a remake of some property with established success… and then messes it up, disappointing the fan base that are counted on to buy the movie tickets. 
Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie poster
Mr. Peabody and Sherman movie poster
As a fan of Rocky and Bullwinkle, you can imagine how much cheering I did when I heard they were making a movie based on one of those cartoons, Peabody’s Improbable History. The segments, created by Ted Key, featured the voice talents of Bill Scott and Walter Tetley. Every week the educated dog and his boy went back in time through his WABAC to help set straight the course of actions that led to a historic event. Every cartoon ended with a bad pun… often encouraging the television viewer to cry “boo.” If you haven’t watched those five-minute cartoons in the last decade or two, YouTube might provide a quick recap. (Or do yourself a favor and spend the $60 for the complete box set of all five seasons of Rocky and Bullwinkle.)
Director Rob Minkoff wanted to make the movie back in 2003 as a live action film. This never met fruition until 2006 when he succeeded in securing a contract for an animated movie at DreamWorks Animation, production starting in 2007. No stranger to Hollywood politics, casting and production kept pushing and delaying the movie. Robert Downey, Jr. was originally slated for the role of Mr. Peabody, but Ty Burell replaced him in early 2012. The release date was originally November 2013, then pushed to February 2014, then early March 2014. This, of course, kept making me wonder if there was something wrong with the film.
And in retrospect, Hollywood’s success rate of producing remakes of established franchises are worse than batting averages. Producers in Hollywood keep thinking that making changes to a format, which a loyal fan base branded in their minds, will be received with applause. Why tamper with a formula that is already geared to the fans? You don’t see Batman flying through the air in pink tights, do you? Name me a Batman movie that flopped in the theaters… you cannot.
Peabody's Improbable History
Peabody's Improbable History
So with Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the local theaters, my wife and I made an effort to go watch the movie. And I am proud to say that all you loyal fans of Rocky and Bullwinkle… go see the movie. The director did not tamper with the formula. Bad puns fill the screen, adult jokes are tame enough to laugh at but goes over the heads of young children, and a number of scenes were reconstructed from the old cartoons. Remember the episode with Leonardo Da Vinci trying to get the Mona Lisa to smile and Peabody came along to help set the course of history? They reconstructed that episode in the middle of the movie. Like the original cartoons, young children will also receive brief history lessons proving this movie of educational value. No vulgarity. Violence is kept to a minimum and usually as a chase sequence as Mr. Peabody and Sherman try to escape Egyptians and Romans.
Peabody's Improbable History
Peabody's Improbable History
Tiffany Ward, daughter of Jay Ward, one of the creators of the original series, served as an executive producer, whose job was to make sure the film stayed “true to the integrity of the characters.” When she was approached by Minkoff ten years before the film’s release, she was enthused by his intention to respect the legacy. Lengthy pursuit to make the adaptation “perfect” took them a long time, but she was pleased with the end result, which stayed “very true to the original cartoon.” With DreamWorks’ acquisition of Classic Media’s ownership of the Classic Media Library (which includes all of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons), it is assumed that DreamWorks is already planning the next adaptation. Rocky and Bullwinkle perhaps?
Peabody's Improbable History
Peabody's Improbable History
By the way, I cannot resist in pointing this out. If you are a geek of Hollywood movies, you might remember a character in the 1985 motion-picture, Back to the Future, named Otis Peabody… and his son named Sherman. A tip of the hat to the cartoons that proved time travel was cool.
Mr. Peabody and Sherman won’t be the best film of the year. But it is worth paying for a ticket, thus supporting the producer and director. It is the only way we can tell them how much we appreciate the fact that they made a movie faithful to the original material.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Clara Bow on "TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES"

Clara Bow, silent screen actress
Hollywood celebrities participating on a radio quiz program was not uncommon during the forties. In 1946, when Jack Benny prompted an "I Can't Stand Jack Benny because..." contest, inviting radio listeners to submit the closing half of the statement, screen horror icon Peter Lorre was one of the three judges. (Ronald Colman read the prize-winning submission.) But when it came to stunts, you could look no further than Ralph Edwards and his quiz show, Truth or Consequences, which is regarded as one of the most popular audience participation programs of the forties. Little did he know at the time the program first premiered in the airwaves, on the evening of August 17, 1940, he would ultimately become host to one of the most popular sex symbols of the silent cinema.... Clara Bow.

Sponsored by the Procter & Gamble Company, Truth or Consequences originated out of New York City with Ralph Edwards as master of ceremonies and Bill Meeder at the organ. Participants were picked from the audience and on mike was asked a question. If the contestant answered correctly, they received $15. If they answered incorrectly, they received $5 -- but they must pay a consequence -- which was usually submitted by the radio audience. The best consequence act of the evening, as shown by the applause meter, won a $25 Defense Bond. Contestants who were chosen from the audience but did not get a chance to appear on the program received $2. Each contestant, whether appearing on the program or not, received five large cakes of Ivory Soap. (Procter & Gamble had to inject their product placement somewhere…)

Highlights of the program included the April 5, 1941 broadcast, which originated from Hollywood instead of New York City. During the program, Mrs. James Hays, winner of the Grand Prize in the Ivory contest, spoke a few words. On the August 2, 1941 broadcast, Martin Lewis, editor of Movie-Radio Guide magazine, presented a trophy from the magazine to Ralph Edwards for his program.

Ralph Edwards at the radio mike.
Beginning with the March 17, 1945, broadcast, Truth or Consequences originated out of Hollywood instead of New York. The format of the program also changed with the times, offering unique ways of awarding prizes to contestants. On the evening of December 29, 1945, Edwards began what was intended as a spoof of giveaway shows but soon propelled into a phenomenon. Each week a veiled mystery man, known only as "Mr. Hush," gave clues to his identity in doggerel. Edwards wanted Albert Einstein, who wasn't interested: he settled for Jack Dempsey, which took five weeks for a contestant to guess correctly. The pot built week after week, providing the winner of that contest a total of $13,500.

A subsequent "Mrs. Hush" contest began on the evening of January 25, 1947. The stunt was tied in with the March of Dimes. Listeners who heard the woman's voice and thought they could identify the owner of the voice could send their letters to "Mrs. Hush, Hollywood, California." (Back then the U.S. Post Office was able to deliver letters with such addresses. And letters were delivered almost overnight. Talk about the inefficiency of today's system!) Listeners were instructed to completed in 25 words of less the following sentence, "We should all support the March of Dimes because -----." Radio listeners had to make sure their name, mailing address and telephone number were printed plainly in the upper right-hand corner of the paper upon which their letter was written. They were also required to include a contribution to the March of Dimes. Any amount was allowed. From a penny to a $100 bill, submissions and donations poured into the Mrs. Hush office. While the donations were accepted, an estimated ten percent of the submissions were thrown out people listeners did not write their name and phone number clear enough to be understood. (Hey, sloppy handwriting is more common than you think.) 

The radio announcer explained that two weeks from tonight, the writers of the three best letters would have a chance to answer a telephone call from Ralph Edwards and have a chance to identify Mrs. Hush. The prize for identifying Mrs. Hush was a 1947 Ford Sportsman Convertible automobile, a Bendix washer, and a round-trip ticket to New York City for two with a weekend reservation at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel while in the city. Who could not resist mailing a donation to the March of Dimes for a chance at that?

For every week contestants could not identify Mrs. Hush, three more prizes were added to the pot. It was requested of the radio audience not to include the name of Mrs. Hush in their letters -- that would be reserved for the phone call broadcast "live" on the air. Listeners could submit a donation every week if the contestants could not guess correctly.

Because the program was not transcribed and a repeat broadcast for the West Coast was "dramatized," the West Coast radio audience was instructed to be at the phone during the East Coast broadcast, in case they were to receive the call. Only one attempt would be made to reach the listener. On a technical side, before the radio contestant went on the air, a representative of the radio program sought verbal permission to re-enact the on-air conversation for the West Coast broadcast.

The judges in the contest were Federal Judge J.F.T. O'Conner, Roy Natiger, head of the Los Angeles County Chapter of the National Foundation of the March of Dimes, and Dr. Vierling Kersey, Superintendant of Los Angeles City Schools. This was for the slogan contest and the choosing of the contestants. Entries were judged on the originality, aptness of thought, and sincerity. (And of course, whether the handwriting could be read.)

Clara Bow at the radio

It was specified that Mrs. Hush could be from anywhere, and not necessarily from Hollywood. On the January 25, 1947, broadcast, Mrs. Hush read the following four-line jingle:

"Two o'clock and all is well;
Who it is I cannot tell;
Queen has her King, it's true,
But not her ribbon tied in blue."

A celebrity guest did assist with the January 25 broadcast, actress Louise Arthur, but she was not Mrs. Hush and that was clarified for the radio audience. For the February 1 broadcast, it was specified that any letters received through February 4 would be counted in the February 8 broadcast when Ralph Edwards phoned three lucky contestants. Letters received after February 4 and up through the next week would be used on the contest for February 15, etc. 

Clara Bow during the silent era
On the February 1 broadcast, two of the famous Basenjis dogs, the barklessof Africa (Belgian Congo), were used in a contest. Ralph Edwards commented upon the growing popularity of the dogs as household pets in the country. He referred to the Magazine Digest January issue which had an article about the dogs. The dogs used on the program were flown in from the Hallwyre Kennels in Dallas, Texas. Three more prizes were added to the pot for this broadcast, even though Edwards did not call any contestants. A $1,000 full-length silver fox coat (provided by I.J. Fox), a Columbia Trailer, fully equipped and sleeps four, and a $1,000 diamond and ruby Bulova watch.

During the February 8, 1947 broadcast, the three people who were phoned had failed to identify Mrs. Hush, so three more prizes were added to the pot. These included a Tappan range, a Jacobs Home Freeze Unit packed with Birdseye Foods, and a 1947 RCA Phonograph-Victrola combination with 100 records. Edwards reminded the radio listeners that Mrs. Hush was heard from "Shang-ri-la," an unknown place somewhere in the United States. The remainder of the program had a "reducing stunt" in which two contestants were presented with $15 each and a card entitling each to take a special reducing course of 12 lessons at Terry Hunt's Health System on La Cienega in Hollywood. Also featured was a stunt titled "Baby Pig." The pig was presented to a contestant, complete with nursing bottle, diaper, etc. so the contestant could care for it properly.

The February 15, 1947 broadcast originated from the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco. The voice of "Mrs. Hush" remained unidentified and once again three more prizes were added to the pot to hold over for the next week. These included an electric refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner with accessories, and a week's vacation for two in Sun Valley with air transportation both ways.

The program resumed in Hollywood with the February 22, 1947 broadcast. "Mrs. Hush" was again unidentified and three additional prizes were added: a Brunswick billiard table installed in the winner's home and complete with all sporting accessories needed to play the game; a $1,000 art-carved diamond ring designed by J.R. Wood; and a complete Hart Schaffner Marx wardrobe of clothes for each adult man and woman in the winner's family. There was a guest during the broadcast, Miss Clair Dodson, an Earl Carroll show girl, who assisted Ralph Edwards by entertaining one of the contestants.

Clara Bow
The March 1, 1947 broadcast featured a stunt whereby guest Dick Moorman, a veteran now working and trying to find a place to live in California, dictates a letter to his fiancee back in Long Island, New York… or so he thinks as he dictates that he will send for her so they may be married as soon as he rents an apartment or a house for them to live. Actually, the fiancee, Miss Gloria Minay, was the girl to whom he was giving the dictation. She was aptly disguised by Hollywood makeup artists who made her hair blond and used blue contact lenses to make her brown eyes appear blue. Gloria and her family were flown to Los Angeles and all expenses were paid by the producers of the program. In addition, the couple after their Hollywood marriage would be sent to Chicago where they would enjoy an all-expense-paid honeymoon in a Celotex pre-engineered home built by the Celotex people on Seventh Street next to the Stevens Hotel in Chicago. The trip to Chicago and back would be made on the Superchief and when the couple returned from their honeymoon, they would find a Celotex house waiting to be put up for them wherever they wanted to live -- the house would be just like the one in which they spent their honeymoon. Ralph Edwards told the audience that the house would be furnished with furniture as well. (When the contestant discovered that his fiancee was right on the stage with him, he said, "Oh, Christ!" which did not go over well with the network censors.)

The "Mrs. Hush" voice is once again unidentified and three more gifts were added for next week's program: an Oil-O-Matic burner completely installed with a year's supply of fuel, a Piper Cub airplane, and free maid service for one year. Due to a faulty line connection, at 8:54 p.m., the "Mrs. Hush" portion stopped momentarily and the two words, "has her," was lost over the air.

During the March 8, 1947 broadcast, "Mrs. Hush" was once again unidentified. Three additional prizes were added to the pot: a 144-piece china set, a typewriter, and a complete house-painting job inside and outside with Sherwin Williams paint. 

Finally, on the broadcast of March 15, "Mrs. Hush" was identified. Mrs. William H. McCormick of Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, answered her telephone call from Ralph Edwards and she said "Clara Bow." Mrs. McCormick's winnings, valued at the time between $17,590 and $18,000, included: a 1947 convertible car, an electric washer, round-trip plane ticket for two to New York City with a week and a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria, a $1,000 full-length Silver Fox fur coat, a house-trailer fully equipped for four people, a $1,000 diamond and ruby wrist watch, a home-freeze-unit stocked with frozen foods, a Tappan gas range, a 1947 RCA Victor console radio-phonograph with 100 records, a refrigerator (Electrolux), a full-size home-billiard table with all equipment and installation, a furnace with a year's fuel supply to complete the home-heating unit; a 144-piece china set, free maid service for one year, complete house-painting job inside and out with Sherwin Williams paint, a typewriter, an all-Metal airplane, a week's vacation for two at Sun Valley, Idaho, with transportation both ways, a $1,000 diamond ring, an electric vacuum cleaner with all the attachments and a complete Schaffner Hart Marx wardrobe for every adult member of the immediate family.

Mrs. McCormick said she planned to divide her winnings with her neighbor, Mrs. A.H. Timms, and her sister, Mrs. William Harmon, both of whom helped identify Mrs. Hush. Following the identification, there was a pick-up from Las Vegas, Nevada, for the special guests: Clara Bow (Mrs. Rex Bell), who told about the way she was heard as Mrs. Hush every week, broadcasting from an auto park near her Las Vegas home. With Clara Bow, appearing on the program, was her husband Rex Bell, and her two children, George and Toni Bell, who never knew their mother was Mrs. Hush until this very evening. Clara Bow then told how she kept her identity known from her family, including the nearest neighbor who almost surprised her just when she was starting out to the "Shang-ri-La" where she made her broadcasts. Ralph Edwards told Clara Bow that he was sending her a special award, as a way of saying "thank you." A golden statuette, in behalf of the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis, was going to be bestowed to Clara Bow as a result of the letters and contributions to the March of Dimes from contestants and radio listeners who sought to identify "Mrs. Hush." An estimated total of $400,000 was raised as a result of the contest. According to a representative of the March of Dimes, this was the largest single radio contribution ever received by the March of Dimes Fund. More than one million letters were sent in by contestants, each with a donation.

During the broadcast of March 22, the guests were Mrs. William McCormick and her husband. Having won the Mrs. Hush contest the week prior, she and her husband were flown to Hollywood for the broadcast. They talked about what they planned to do with the prizes. The McCormick family included three sons (the oldest was 14 and the baby was 18 months). The boys were back home listening to the broadcast. The evening's program featured a take-off called "Mrs. Hush's Mother-In-Law" in which the mothers-in-law of three contestants were hidden in the studio. Each told their in-laws what they thought of them but the in-laws had to identify their respective mother-in-laws. Another stunt featured a girl sent to the corner of Sunset and Vine to organize a Community Sing. She received one dollar for every person who joined her singing group. The program had a pick-up from the corner so listeners could judge the success of the singing group.

Later in the year, starting October 4, Truth or Consequences stopped re-enacting the repeat broadcasts and instead recorded each episode for later playback. This system was dropped in August of 1948 and then reinstated in August of 1949. The program made a quick jump to CBS under sponsorship of Pilip Morris, before returning to NBC for Pet Milk. The radio program expired in 1956.

The "Mrs. Hush" contest also served as a clever marketing ploy to promote the radio program. Numerous periodicals covered the contest, hoping to convince their readers to tune in and try to guess the identity of the mystery woman. Perhaps no other contest on Truth or Consequences gained such momentum until 1948, when the secret identity craze peaked with the "Walking Man" contest, which built to a then-fabulous jackpot of $22,500. That's right, folks had to guess who the mysterious man was simply by the way he walked. That man turned out to be Jack Benny.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Dorothy Lamour Disaster

Dorothy Lamour at the radio mike.
Ghost voices, technical difficulties and an overenthusiastic opening night crowd bedeviled a radio broadcast featuring Dorothy Lamour as the “femcee” at the premiere opening of oilman Glenn McCarthy’s Shamrock Hotel in Houston, Texas. On the evening of March 17, 1949, Glenhall Taylor, producer of The Sealtest Variety Theater, agreed to allow the program to originate from the Herald Room of the new Shamrock Hotel. The usual format of the program involved two guest spots each week: one performed a comedy sketch, the other a dramatic sketch in which Lamour herself usually took part with the guest star. Music was provided by Henry Russell and his Orchestra with vocals by the Crew Chiefs Male Quartet. For the evening of March 17, Hollywood screen actor Van Heflin and comedian Ed Gardner were in attendance to appear on the broadcast. What followed was a scrambled program which faded several times and was off the air completely at others, now considered one of the biggest disasters for NBC in the calendar year of 1947. Thankfully for Glenn McCarthy, Dorothy Lamour’s nation-wide radio broadcast was the only “casualty” of the glittering formal opening of his twenty million dollar Shamrock Hotel. While Lamour told the press the whole thing was “unavoidable,” her name was briefly tarnished in newspapers across the country that week.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people jammed into the 18-story hotel’s dining rooms for a $42-per-plate dinner marking the formal opening. The confusion was too much for Lamour’s radio broadcast which was scheduled at 9:30 p.m. Eastern. As the radio show began, many guests were still hunting for their seats and the hubub was so great that Lamour and her guest stars, Heflin and Gardner, had to shout over the microphone to be heard. “The crowd was still entering the room at the start of the program and we had trouble getting started,” Lamour explained. “Later the public address system failed and we departed somewhat from our script.”

NBC Publicity photo
The program suffered numerous line breaks and was of low quality with the actors’ conversation repeated when they obviously thought they were off the air. The continuity of the program suffered most with ad-libbing in an attempt to keep the show moving. At approximately 9:32:42, a telephone conversation going on at the source of the program came over the air and, although muffled, was intelligible. Radio listeners might have wondered if they had bad frequency on their own radios. Because the attendees arrived late, instructions were never given to prevent the high background noise that was picked up by the microphones. Lamour herself made several attempts to get the cast back on the script but to little avail. Gardner ad-libbed freely after an attempt to tell his “Two-Top Gruskin” routine failed. Instead, Gardner announced the names of prominent guests in the ballroom for the benefit of the radio listeners. The dramatic spot between Van Heflin and Dorothy Lamour suffered most with little of the actual script broadcast.

At Chicago, NBC officials said line failure, “probably at the Shamrock Hotel,” forced piano standby music to be used during most of the first 12 minutes of the show. The direct cause of the error was never reported publicly, to avoid pointing full blame toward the correct source. In Hollywood, it was an NBC spokesman who blamed the whole thing on an “over-enthusiastic opening night crowd,” adding that, “at one point, two diners seized the microphone and shouted into it.”

In New York, another spokesman said network executives were conducting an investigation to determine whether any profanity went out over the air. Dorothy Lamour insisted no profanity was involved.

The network at Chicago, the controlling point of the broadcast, stayed with the show for the first five minutes, during line breaks and low quality, in the hope that difficulties would clear momentarily. NBC delivered multiple “One Moment, Please” announcements, then cut to the piano music as filler until 9:43:15 when NBC brought the chaos back to the air.

Dorothy Lamour press photo from NBC.
Under contract with the sponsor and the radio network, the advertising agency made sure a recording of every broadcast be transcribed. It is for this reason that every episode of The Sealtest Variety Theater exists in recorded form... including this episode. Fans of old-time radio and vintage Hollywood have sought out this recording to listen to. Yeah, there were complications during the broadcast. Without knowing the history behind the recording, fans of vintage radio broadcasts would question what they were listening to. Larry and John Gassman provided a superb 45 minute presentation about this broadcast, with audio samples, at the recent REPS convention in Seattle, Washington. Attendees first hand were able to learn about this program and laughed as they heard the excerpts, with full understanding of what was going on behind the scenes. 

As for Ed Gardner, who flew to Houston early that morning to participate in the broadcast... He flew back to New York City the morning after and, a week later, took his entire family on a probably much-needed vacation (Honolulu or Miami, depending on varied sources). 

Ironically, this was not the first time the Sealtest radio program suffered technical difficulties. For the broadcast of October 3, 1946, similar technical difficulties occurred on the same program. AT&T trouble between Denver and Omaha prevented the first two and a half minutes from being broadcast nationwide. Meanwhile, due to Chicago operating error, an announcer apologized to the listening audience and music filled the remaining minute and a half. The WEAF program portion failed to go through for the same reasons, resulting in a standby announcer apologizing and introducing a transcribed orchestra which failed to go out due to engineering trouble. WEAF also had dead air for the first minute and a half.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Charlie Chaplin's Vintage Year: The History of the Mutual-Chaplin Specials

Chaplin's Vintage Year
Even with hindsight and romance temporarily shelved, it remains impossible to overstate Chaplin's popularity during the time period when he signed a precedent-setting contract with the Mutual Film Corporation and subsequently produced twelve comedies that fans refer to as "The Chaplin Mutuals." According to author Michael Hayde, several theaters made a point to include one of his films on every program, in an era when lineups changed no less than three times a week. "Not even Beatlemania had as great an impact on its generation," Mike writes in his prologue. "A Hard Day's Night (1964) didn't open in 130 New York metropolitan area theaters simultaneously. Chaplin's The Floorwalker (1916) did."

If this kind of fascinating Ken Burns-style narrative is what you like (and who doesn't), then you'll be pleased to know that Michael Hayde wrote a superb book that was recently published titled Chaplin's Vintage Year: The History of the Mutual-Chaplin Specials. With 464 pages documenting the history of these twelve comedy shorts, you can be certain that this book is going to be welcome on the bookshelf of all the Chaplin fans across the globe. 

The book tells the full story of the Mutual comedies, the famous $670,000 contract, and the various acquisitions and releases those comedies have enjoyed for nearly 100 years. Dozens of trade advertisements are reproduced with the best scans, including Chaplin's registration card for the draft, initiated shortly after the U.S. entered World War I. Vintage comics from newspapers, Billy West vaudeville ads and... well... you get the idea. Tons of great photographs.

Whether you want to know the dates of filming, the cost of production, cast lists not included on the screen, alterations done to the shorts over time, length of film, copyright registrations and what the exhibitors said, this book has it all. If you are not a fan of Charlie Chaplin or was casually interested, this book is an excellent guide to watching the shorts one by one and then consulting the book to receive a film school education on the best that Charlie Chaplin has to offer. 

With only so many bookshelves at home to fill, I find myself becoming selective in what kinds of books to have. Well-researched, well-documented reference works are always worthy of shelf space. (Books that were haphazardly slapped together from a cut-and-paste off the internet are discarded through various forms... statistically three out of every four books I receive in the mail.) I am happy to state this book will remain on my bookshelf for decades to come.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Jack Benny and The Walking Man Contest

Jack Benny
The date was December 20, 1947. Radio’s popular quiz program, Truth or Consequences, recently concluded another Miss Hush Contest, this time revealing Martha Graham, a professional dancer in New York City, as the elusive voice heard weekly on the program, stumping radio listeners for weeks. For the holiday season, Ralph Edwards and Ed Bailey, the producer of the program, established a special three-way set-up to present a special broadcast from the Long Beach Naval Hospital, in Long Beach, California, and a pick-up from Greenville, Tennessee (with several different locations in Greenville). Through this three-way set-up, a wounded veteran in the hospital, Hubert Smith, received a surprise visit from his mother and father and his fiancĂ©e, Lila Morrell, and with cut-ins from his home town of Greenville. From 8:41 to 8:44 p.m., the program originated from Greenville, Tennessee with friends of Hubert Smith, providing warmest wishes. These remote pickups originated from a high school party, the George R. Lane & Co. Department Store; Main Street; and the Asbury Methodist Church where the bells of Asbury were heard ringing, and Ida Ripley, church organist, said “hello” and played for the Christmas carolers, who sang during the program. Rev. M. Guy Fleenor, of the same church, extended Christmas greetings to Hubert Smith. Smith’s high school principal was at the high school party pickup. Naturally, Smith was brought to tears.

Back in the Hollywood studios, Ralph Edwards made the first announcement of a new contest soon to be explained in detail. And a sound effect was heard over the microphone, footsteps of a man walking, and Ralph Edwards asks the audience, “Who is the Walking Man?” For the next two months, Truth or Consequences kept faithful listeners glued to their speakers and a craze that became the talk of water coolers. Today, fans of old-time radio know who the Walking Man was: Jack Benny.

Broadcast of December 27, 1947
As with most of the Truth or Consequences, this broadcast originated from the Hollywood Studios at NBC (Sunset and Vine). Offering the usual “stunt,” which varied every week, this broadcast featured a cut-in from a Hollywood home in Bronson Avenue where a live camel is delivered in a lady’s kitchen while her husband talks to her in a two-way set-up between the home of the couple and the radio studios. The husband made arrangements about the camel but the wife did not know.

Meanwhile, the “Prizeless Christmas Wish” letters which were requested the week prior, were discussed on this program. According to the producer’s handwritten notes, more than 75,000 letters were received in answer to the “Wish.” The ten top “wishes” were read: Peace, Understanding, Faith, Love, God, Happiness, Contentment, Tolerance, Health, and Friendship as the “one gift” a person might choose to give the world at Christmas time.

The program concluded with the Walking Man, who was once again heard over the air. Listeners were told that full details would be given next week when the contest officially opened.

Broadcast of January 3, 1948
From the Hollywood Studios with a two-way set-up to the home of Jack Dempsey, who lived at 5254 Los Feliz Blvd., in Hollywood. Jack Dempsey, ex-heavyweight boxing champion of the world, took part in the stunt with contestant Jack Bayuth, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bayuth was sent to force his way into Dempsey’s home without realizing that he was being sent to the home of the boxing champ. Announcer Charles Lyon appeared on the broadcast, taking part in the scene from the Dempsey home.

Contestants listening to the program the last two weeks were not surprised to hear the Walking Man’s footsteps again. But now the details of the contest were finally revealed. Ralph Edwards read the rhymed riddle, which had clues to the identity of the Walking Man:

            “Bing – Bong – Bell! It’s ten and only one can tell.
            Master of the Metropolis, fits his name quite well.”

The Walking Man was described as a well-known American male, not a female. To enter the contest, radio listeners were asked to write a letter to “Walking Man, Hollywood, California,” completing in no more than 25 words the statement: “We should all support the American Heart Association because…” Contestants were instructed not to state the name of the person they believe was the Walking Man. Included with the completion of the statement, listeners were instructed to include their name, address and telephone number in the upper right hand corner of their letter. They were to include a contribution to the American Heart Association. The judges of the letters would not see the financial contribution, because the amount of money donated was not taken into consideration. Only the closing half of the statement was considered. The winners of the three best letters each week would be telephoned and asked to give their guess at the identity of the “Walking Man.” This particular qualification was no different from the prior “Miss Hush” contests. According to statistics, 9.5 percent of the contestants did not submit their letters as instructed. Some failed to include their phone number. Others did not provide their mailing address on the envelope or the letter.

The first of the listeners would be called during the broadcast of January 17. Letters received by Monday of each week would be judged in the contest for the following Saturday; those letters received after Monday will be held over for the next week. Listeners could continue to submit letters every week, provided they followed instructions and made another donation to the American Heart Association. Any amount was accepted.

Prizes to be awarded to the winner of the contest included a Bendix Home Laundry (washer, dryer and automatic ironer), a $1,000 Diamond and Ruby Wrist Watch, and a four-door Cadillac car. For each week the contest continued, three new prizes would be added to the pot. All listeners who were telephoned during the contest would receive a set of Sterling Silver flatware, regardless of whether they won the contest or not.

Broadcast of January 10, 1948
Once again, the Walking Man is heard. Ralph Edwards repeats the jingle clue. Three new prizes were added to the pot this week: a Tappan Kitchen Range, a 16mm picture sound projector and screen with a complete reel for the picture I Walk Alone (and arrangements for the winner to receive film for one moving picture for each month during an entire year), and two weeks paid vacation for two in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Producer Hal Wallis, whose movie I Walk Alone was about to be released theatrically, took advantage of the free publicity on the quiz program with this special offer.

The celebrity guest for this broadcast was Lizabeth Scott, who took part in a stunt by serving as the real date for a high school student at Fairfax High. She went to the ROTC ball at Fairfax with this student after his “date” called off the original date and it was learned that he had no girl to go with to the ball. One can only imagine what went through the minds of the other students that night!

Broadcast of January 17, 1948
The first three telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. All three were incorrect: Harry Truman, Louis B. Mayer and J. Edgar Hoover. New clues in the contest were added: the whinnying sounds of a horse, the howling of wind, rushing of water, and growling noises of cats and dogs. Added to the pot was a vacuum cleaner with attachments, a 1948 console FM and AM radio-phonograph combination television set, and a $1,000 diamond ring.

The celebrity guest for the evening was William Bendix, star of radio’s The Life of Riley. The stunt involved a hotel maid who called her hotel for a reservation as part of the stunt. She actually got a suite with all service for one week at the Town Hall Hotel, where she was employed.

Ralph Edwards publicity photo
Broadcast of January 24, 1948
Three more telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. All three were incorrect: James E. West, Boss Ed Krump of Memphis, Tennessee, and the third person did not provide an answer. They hesitated too long. Prizes added to the pot included a Sevel Refrigerator, Art-Craft Venetian for every room in the house, and a Sherwin Williams Paint Job inside and out for the entire house. Clues included the sounds of a horse cantering.

The celebrity guest for the evening was Jerry Colonna, who took part in a stunt about the song My Honky Little Donkey and Me. As a special “gift,” Ralph Edwards presented Colonna with a live donkey. And yes, the donkey was on the show. (The donkey also made a mess on stage and had to be cleaned up, but this factoid was not disclosed over the air.)

Broadcast of January 31, 1948
Three more telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. Two were incorrect: Herbert Marshall and Henry J. Kaiser. The third listener called did not answer the telephone. Contestants were notified in advance by telegram to be ready for the phone call and instructed on what time the call would be placed. That contestant was not phoned the next week. They lost their chance. Prizes added to the pot included a complete wardrobe of women’s clothes for every season in the year (Fay Foster design), a new 15-foot Coolerator home freezer filled with Birdseye Frozen Foods, and a Luscombe Silvaire Standard 65 airplane made in Dallas, Texas. Birdseye made a similar donation for the prior “Miss Hush” contests, understanding the value of advertising on the program.

The celebrity guest for the evening was Frank Sinatra, who was cut-in for a few words from the NBC studio where he was doing a warm-up previous to going on the air for his own show, Your Hit Parade. A contestant from Truth or Consequences was sent to Sinatra to collect a “kiss” from Frankie. She asks for it over the air and gets it. Sinatra’s verbal response after the kiss was also broadcast over the mike.

Broadcast of February 7, 1948
Three more telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. All three were incorrect: Richard Dix, Edward J. Baker and Bing Crosby. Added to the pot were three more prizes. Complete installation of “Pomona Space-Rite” tile in the kitchen and bathroom, complete Ida-O-Pine furniture for both the living room and dining room, and a $2,400 Normel Trailer coach equipped with modern kitchen and sleeping quarters for four.

The feature stunt for the evening was a surprise reunion of members of a barbershop quartet which had been disbanded 20 years prior. The members, after the reunion, sing several numbers. They also received weekend entertainment, all expenses paid, in Hollywood. The four members of the original quartet were Thomas Rawlings of Santa Monica, California, Carleton Scott of Birmingham, Michigan, Joseph Jones of New York City, and Herman Smith of Highland Park, Michigan. The members of the quartet talked about the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartette Singing in America. They also told about the way this society really exists throughout the land and about the fact that President Truman was one of the members.

Broadcast of February 14, 1948
This broadcast originated from the Masonic Auditorium in Davenport, Iowa, where the cast was entertaining at the Mississippi Valley Home and Food Show. (Commercials originated from Hollywood.) While in the Midwest city, Edwards was the star attraction of the Home and Food Show and acted as “guest manager” of the NBC affiliate station there. Special guest for this broadcast was Arthur Kropach, Mayor of Davenport, who took part in a stunt in which a contestant “runs for Mayor” (for one week, the contestant ran errands for the Mayor.) The special stunt featured Iowa’s animals: an Iowa mule, two puppies, and a trained monkey. The monkey appeared with his master and organ grinder, William, who came from Chicago for this personal appearance.

Three more telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. All three were incorrect: Walter Huston, Eddie Cantor and Winston Churchill. The new clues added were sounds of gun shots and the statement, “Go back to your field -- will you walk again next week?” Prizes added to the pot were a Remington Noiseless typewriter, an Outboard Motor Boat and a $1,000 full-length Persian lamb fur coat.

Broadcast of February 21, 1948
This broadcast originated from New York City. (Commercials originated from Hollywood.) Ralph Edwards announced that he was in the Big Apple to attend the current dance recital presented by Martha Graham, the Miss Hush of the recent Truth or Consequences contest, which ended shortly before the Walking Man contest began.

Three more telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. All three were incorrect: James Petrillo, Robert E. Hannegan and Joe Louis. Prizes added to the pot included two years’ supply of Lady Pepperell Sheets, $500 worth of electrical equipment for the winner’s home (equipment chosen by the winner and installed free of charge) and a brand new piano. The clue added to the contest was the whistling of Annie Laurie.

The stunt concerned orchestra leaders and special guests included Guy Lombardo, Horace Heidt, Frankie Carle, Dick Jurgens, Louis Prima and Larry Clinton. The boys played their favorite instruments and, with one contestant from Brooklyn, Mrs. Brook, “leading” the orchestra without realizing how famous her orchestra members were until after the fact.

Broadcast of February 28, 1948
Program originates from Hollywood, having returned from New York City. Three more telephone calls were placed to contestants on this broadcast. All three were incorrect: Alvin C. York (Sgt. York of WWI), Andy Varipopper, and Bulldog Drummond. The last guess referred to the radio actor, Ned Weaver, who played the role on radio and whose footsteps were heard on the weekly program. Clues added to the contest included “Remember we say the Walking Man, not the Waking Man, or the Laughing Man” and “Listen to the squeak of his shoes – doesn’t the squeak tell you anything?” A third clue was provided: “Bing-Bong-Bell, when do bells ring Bing-Bong-Bell?” A Fiddler plays the scales during the delivery of the rhyme.

Prizes added to the pot included electric blankets (one for every bed in the winner’s home), three Coronado suits for every male member of the winner’s family, and an electric sewing machine.

Special program guest was Jim Backus, who did his “Hubert Updyke” characterization. The feature stunt was a Leap Year stunt in which the contestant was sent out with a real live kangaroo named “Bouncing Betty,” and instructed to collect girls who will leap through life with him. He received $10 for every girl who returned with him to the studio. The feature contestants were Mr. and Mrs. Bob Dyer of Sydney, Australia, who talked about the land “down under.”

During the week of February 23 to 27, Jack Eigen, a disc jockey at WINS in New York, brought down the wrath of Ralph Edwards (among others) on his head for revealing the identity of “The Walking Man” on his radio broadcasts. A number of newspaper columnists and radio broadcasters had, on occasion, learned the identity but refrained from publicizing it because of the charity angle. Eigen attempted to justify his actions by stating “freedom of the press,” but after pressure from his employer, offered a public apology. As a result, however, Edwards and his staff had to make the hard decision whether or not to include radio contestants from the state of New York, fearing unjust and unfair practices to contestants residing in other states. The decision was ultimately made to randomly select contestants without bias, as it had been done weeks prior, since radio listeners of Jack Eigen could have phoned friends in other states. A winner to the contest was expected on the evening of February 28, as a result. Surprisingly, no one guessed correctly. Nothing has been found to verify whether Florence Hubbard, on the broadcast of March 6, took a wild guess, an educated guess based on the clues, or heard the rumor leaked as a result of Eigen’s radio broadcasts.

Broadcast of March 6, 1948
The Walking Man was correctly identified on this broadcast: Jack Benny. The winner of the contest was Florence Hubbard, widow, of 40 North Waller Avenue in Chicago, where she was employed as a dress checker in the Carson-Pierie-Scott department store, commonly referred to as Carson’s. Mrs. Hubbard and Jack Benny were both heard on the program.

Special studio guest was Brig. Gen. Leonard D. Weddington (retired), who took part in a stunt that received an appeal to young men to make a career in the Army.

Over $1,500,000 had been gained for the American Heart Association from the Walking Man contest.

Ralph Edwards, Florence Hubbard and Jack Benny with all the prizes.

Broadcast of March 13, 1948
Special guest was Florence Hubbard, winner of the Walking Man contest. She described herself as 68 years old and told the story about the way she became interested in the contest because the proceeds of letters entered went to the American Heart Association. Her late husband was a physician who died of heart disease. She sent in a total of 30 letters to the contest, with each contribution of one dollar. She paid tribute to her employers, the Carson-Pierie-Scott Department Store in Chicago and told how they gave her a luncheon and had the store stylist outfit her in a complete new wardrobe for her trip to Hollywood. "I can hardly believe it happened to me," Hubbard told a reporter for a Chicago newspaper, explaining the same details on this radio broadcast. "I came home Saturday from work, wet from the rain, hungry and tired. I took a hot bath and just had an opportunity to get into a bathrobe when the telephone rang. It was conductor Ralph Edwards of the Truth or Consequences program, sponsors of the ‘Walking Man’ program. He asked me who was the ‘walking man’ and I replied: ‘Jack Benny.’ Mr. Edwards congratulated me and told me I was the winner.”

A critic for Variety magazine remarked in his April 5, 1948, column, “Every season is made noteworthy by an incident, character or even a punch line. Year’s best yock in our book was delivered by a non-pro, Mrs. Hubbard, who won ‘The Walking Man’ contest. Her show-stopper was, ‘I’m lonely but loaded.’”

An announcement was also made on the program that Truth or Consequences was given the Radio Mirror magazine award for the Best Quiz Program on the air, according to a Radio Mirror listeners’ poll. Ralph Edwards hinted that a new contest would begin soon but provided no details or dates, suggesting it might be the “The Laughing Lady.” The next contest, however, would be “Microphone X,” inviting the radio listeners to guess the mysterious sound and where it originated.

Summary
The origin of the “Walking Man” contest began in December of 1945, when Ralph Edwards began the “Mr. Hush” contest, originally intended as a spoof of giveaway shows. Each week a man whose identity was kept secret, whispered clues to his identity. Radio listeners were given a chance to guess the identity and win prizes. Jack Dempsey was the first “Mr. Hush,” which took five weeks of broadcasts for someone to win the contest. After a number of “Mr. Hush” contests, Edwards tried a variation-on-a-theme with a “Mrs. Hush” contest, which culminated to a jackpot between $17,500 and $18,000. Her identity was that of silent screen actress Clara Bow. The ratings (according to which service you consulted) verified Truth or Consequences as one of the highest-rated quiz programs of 1946 and 1947. The Clara Bow stunt was phenomenon and only once did Edwards ever top his stunt… with “The Walking Man” contest.

The mail department provided an accurate count and it was evident that The Walking Man contest outdrew all prior “Miss Hush” contests. By May of 1948, C.E. Hooper revealed a startling statistic that Ralph Edwards was already aware of: Truth or Consequences was the second highest rated evening program, falling behind Fibber McGee and Molly, especially during the months of January and February as a result of the Walking Man Contest. As expected according to Hooper (another ratings system), the Truth or Consequences radio program, when the contest was blown, millions turned off their sets to learn who the Walking man was. They were correct. Ratings dropped the week after the contest concluded.

Many radio producers believed their programs were worth the cost factor when they paid off better than one Hooper point to each $1,000 of program cost. After the success of Truth or Consequences, radio producers started wondering if the answer came from contests with immense giveaways.

According to multiple inter-office memos at CBS and NBC, the Miss Hush and the Walking Man contest set a bad precedent, claimed a growing number of radio executives. The Truth or Consequences hooplas, with their spectacular rating and publicity payoffs, touched off the most widespread prize contest and giveaway epidemic on record. “Most feel it’s approaching the critical stage, that it’s unhealthy for radio advertising in general – an artificial stimulant to listening and buying; that it’s giving people a feeling that radio’s a big lottery, and it isn’t helping to raise broadcasting standards.” A great bulk of the merchandise given away was donated by manufacturers for free advertising, which Ralph Edwards accepted with open arms. The only exception was medicine and drugs since the weekly sponsor for Truth or Consequences, Procter & Gamble, was a drug manufacturing firm (promoting their popular product, Duz). The sponsor also had to approve of all the prizes before they were officially accepted.

Ralph Edwards
According to newspaper columnist Ed Sullivan (years before he became a major television personality), the contest put a strain on the relationship of Jack Benny and Mary Livingston. 

On the third Saturday night on which he came home late, Mary Benny said to her husband: "Jack, I’m getting fed up with this every week. What’s the alibi this time?" She looked at him with the curious glint in her eye that husbands accept as the last calm before the storm. "I haven’t any alibi, Doll," said Jack weakly. Jack pledged not to tell even his wife the truth. 

Every Saturday afternoon, Jack Benny drove from the house to play the "Walking Man" for the quiz program. As a result, he was late for dinner each Saturday night, and as Sullivan described, "he was rapidly getting himself into a peek of trouble with the irate missus. The tension started easing about two weeks ahead of the formal revelation. At that time, in Los Angeles, enterprising hawkers were peddling handbills in the street, price $1, giving a regular racing sheet rundown of the possibilities. Mary bought one of them, saw that Jack was high on the list of probabilities. From then on, when he came home late Saturday nights, she just looked at him coldly but stopped bawling him out."

“I got a call from Mickey Rockford, of MCA, to rush to NBC to discuss something he couldn’t divulge over the phone," Jack Benny later recalled. "He met me and told me to follow him to an office. He unlocked the door, looked up and down the corridor, entered quickly and beckoned me in. When I saw Ralph Edwards alone in the place, I figured that it was one of Ralph’s contests, and it was. . . . ‘This is the only time I’ll ever talk to you, Jack,’ said Ralph. ‘From now on, we can’t ever be seen together.’ Then he gave me my instructions and I had to pledge I’d never reveal our secret to a soul.”

“It was funny at Hollywood parties,” Benny laughed. “Van Johnson is a nut on mystery contests, and this contest really drove him batty. One night, at the Billy Goetz house, Van was sitting with me and saying how exasperated he’d become at his failure to identify ‘The Walking Man.’ He wouldn’t talk about anything else. ‘Ding, dong, bell,’ reasoned Van, ‘must be a church. Do you think it’s Winston Churchill, Jack?’ I said it probably was. Weeks later, after the announcement, I met him at a party. Van looked at me and whispered: ‘You no-good louse.’”

Jack Benny's radio writers started suspecting that it was their employer, laid a Saturday trap for him instigated by Mary’s brother, Hilliard, (Benny’s program is written every Saturday afternoon). Hilliard and Sam Perrin, pretending they’d left their cars at home, asked Jack to have dinner with them after the program was drafted and then drive them home. Throughout dinner, Jack couldn’t look at his watch. Then he drove them home, and after dropping off Perrin, he drove away very slowly. Once around the corner, Benny tore at high speed up to the house in Hollywood hills, reaching his destination moments before he was needed for the broadcast.

“If a motorcycle cop had grabbed me, I’d have been a dead pigeon,” Benny recalled. For fear of tipping off contestants, the Benny program following Ralph Edwards’ announcement could not be written in advance. On Saturday afternoon, the Benny writers completed the regular Sunday night program. A few hours later, Ralph Edwards named the winner. Benny had to assemble his writers and, with the exception of the Phil Harris spot, they had to write a whole new program. They finished it at 2 a. m. Sunday.

On the evening of March 14, Florence Hubbard made an appearance on The Lucky Strike Program, starring Jack Benny. Her radio appearance was courtesy of her employer. After winning the contest, she told Ralph Edwards over the phone that she would come to Hollywood only if her employer would give her the time off. Considering the publicity value to the department store, there was no hesitation. Jack Benny and his writers rated a low curtsy from the trade for his hastily thrown-together show that featured Florence Hubbard. As described above, the script in advance for the usual Sunday evening broadcast was shelved as a quick script had to be quickly drafted as a result of the contest. The program was built around Benny’s “Walking Man” character and made full capital of the lighter side of the contest. Tradesmen in multiple newspapers and magazines agreed that it was one of Benny’s funniest shows of the season.

As for Florence Hubbard, winner of the contest, mistakenly referred to with the wrong prefix as “Mrs. Florence Hubbard” in newspapers (remember, she was a widow), spent the remainder of March in Hollywood at the expense of the producers of Truth or Consequence. She was provided a tour of the Paramount lot and reportedly somebody sold her a ticket for a $15,000 drawing to be held at the St. Timothy Parish. Seems even after winning the contest and all those prizes, she could not resist buying a one dollar ticket for a drawing. The total estimated value of the prizes she won on the radio quiz contest was $25,000.

Topping his own mark of eight weeks to a contest, the radio competition raised more than $1,500,000 for the American Heart Association and staggered mailmen with over 2,000,000 letters for an average contribution of 70 cents per letter.

Ralph Edwards later explained his clues thusly: “Bing, bong, bell could mean Sunday church bells, Big Ben or the NBC chimes; ‘10 and only one can tell’ refers to a deck of cards, eleventh card being the jack, or J is the tenth letter; ‘master of the metropolis’ refers to his man-servant, Rochester. Benny was chosen as the Walking Man because Waukegan is from the Indian of ‘walk again.’ The heavy tread of Benny’s walk was to indicate that he carried his money in his shoes.”

The system was set up carefully to ensure the least number of people were in on the gag. Even Mary Livingston did not know Jack Benny was the Walking Man. Every Saturday evening Benny was hidden away with an NBC engineer in the Laurel Canyon home of producer Al Pascal. The engineer set up the microphone and floor mat to ensure the sound came through perfectly. No recordings were used. Benny supplied his own shoes.

In late February 1948, what had been a good-natured rivalry between the contending camps of Truth or Consequences and People Are Funny took a rancorous turn with the announcement of a new “Raleigh riddle” on the Art Linkletter radio program. Somehow or other the word leaked to the Compton Agency and Procter & Gamble radio executives that the giveaway device too closely resembled the Ralph Edwards format for the “Miss Hush” and “Walking Man” contests. A protest was lodged with NBC in New York, which was said to have given its blessing to the John Guedel, producer of People Are Funny. According to the agency, this setup would follow the same general patter of Consequences even to the three phone calls made during the show. Louis Titterton, radio director of Compton, flew to New York to consult with executives at Procter & Gamble on the demands to be made to NBC.

In late March 1948, a proposed exploitation stunt for the Molle Mystery Theatre radio program was slated for the junk pile as a result of complaints by Ralph Edwards. Truth or Consequences, also on NBC, bleated to Niles Trammel, president of the network, on the grounds that Molle’s projected “Shaving Man” contest, a sort of satire of his “Miss Hush” and “Walking Man” gimmicks, would damage his “Laughing Lady,” which was being readied next fall. Molle’s “Shaving Man” contest, with a $25,000 giveaway, and a letter gimmick on “Why I like Molle shaving cream,” was to have been a gag for publicity and mail pull, with Fred Allen obviously the unknown man to be identified.