Friday, May 25, 2012


William Gargan
Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator was a mystery/detective series starring Hollywood actor William Gargan in the title role. Gargan made the move to New York and was playing the role of Martin Kane on television, another detective series. Barrie Craig, as it was revealed in the premiere episodes, was a private eye who started his career as a credit investigator for a small clothing house in Brooklyn and later as a bodyguard for a large protective agency. When he was 30 years old, he went “on his own” and began a career as a private investigator working anywhere within the vicinity of New York City. 

In the first two broadcasts, “The Simultaneous Man” (October 3, 1951) and “Murder in Duplicate” (October 10, 1951), the detective was named Barrie Crane (later changed to Barrie Craig beginning with the broadcast of October 17, 1951). His pal was Calamity Grogan who ran the Third Avenue Grill where Craig ate clam chowder and got many of his “business calls” on Grogan’s telephone. (Which is odd since Craig had his own office rented out in a building. Why he did not have a phone of his own remains a mystery.) Barrie Craig was serious-minded, relentless and admitted there were many heartbreaks in his business but he always seemed to get the job through. For relaxation, his wisecracks with Calamity Grogan was a highlight of many episodes. Craig usually managed to find himself getting beaten up at least once in every case (possibly inspired by the Sam Spade radio program). The police did not approve of Craig’s activities but they respected the success he had in solving cases. Occasionally, Grogan phoned the police when he feared his pal might be in great danger and the police was forced to come to his rescue.

William Gargan
The series was scripted by many writers, all free-lance in New York City. Many re-hashed plot devices used in former radio programs such as Inner Sanctum Mystery and The Shadow were used on Barrie Craig with the names of characters and places changed slightly but they were clearly re-writes of former radio productions. Edward King was the producer and director for the early episodes, later replaced by Himan Brown. Musical bridges were supplied by recordings. The theme was played by Bert Behrman, an organist, which was later recorded and used instead of his live accompaniment.

The supporting cast consisted of the usual New York City stock actors: Lawson Zerbe, Barbara Weeks, Franc Carlon, Arline Blackburn, Arnold Moss, Joan Alexander, Elspeth Eric, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell and many others. One of the more notable appearances was Everett Sloane as Duke Brady, a society jewel thief in “Murder in Paradise” (broadcast July 29, 1952).

William Gargan
Beginning with the broadcast of July 6, 1954, the series originated from Hollywood. William Gargan made the switch back to the West Coast so he continued playing the lead. The supporting cast included Victor Rodman, Lou Krugman, Byron Kane, Betty Lou Gerson, Marvin Miller, Virginia Gregg, Vivia Janiss, Olan Soule and for the broadcast of July 20, 1954, Ge Ge Person played the title role of “The Devil’s Little Helper.” Art Jacobson took over the producing and directing chores when the series moved to Hollywood.

Officially, only 191 episodes were produced and broadcast. Only 59 episodes are known to exist. Last year, at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, I was handed twenty scripts from a collector who loaned them to me for a few months. After scanning each page into digital form to create a backup, I also took time to read them and jot down some plot descriptions. Sixteen of them were to “lost” episodes not known to exist in recorded form. So for the rare treat, here are plot summaries and known cast scribbled on the front covers for those we now have plots for. Hopefully one (or two?) of these are floating about in circulation and just mis-dated or not dated accurately, so we can scratch them off the official “lost” list. (I doubt it since Barrie Craig has not been a mess like some radio programs and all 59 are accounted and verified and no one seems to have any undated or untitled episodes in their collection.)

Bombay Clipper (1943) with William Gargan

Episode #22  “MURDER IN MINK”
Broadcast February 26, 1952
Script by Lou Vittes.
Fran Carlon played the role of Dolly, the girl who lost her mink coat and Barrie Craig sets out to find the mink, only to discover there are other people seeking the same.

Episode #23  “KEY WITNESS”
Broadcast March 5, 1952
Script by John Roeburt.
Stars Barbara Weeks as Lona, whose husband is a notorious and much-wanted gangster. Lona hires Barrie Craig to protect her man from both the underworld and the polie.

Broadcast March 12, 1952
Script by John Roeburt.
Barbara Weeks plays Margo, whose step-brother was a gangster about to turn informant when he “committed suicide” by jumping from a window. Margo knows he was poisoned and was thrown from the window. She wants Barrie Craig to find evidence to convict the guilty party.

Episode #38  “MURDER IN MOTION”
Broadcast June 17, 1952
Script by John Roeburt.
Barbara Weeks plays Olga Angora, a movie star of the 1920s, the “dream girl” of Barrie Craig when he was years younger.

As of this point, the official episode numbers are not official because of further research and the way they numbered the scripts by starting back to number #1 with another run on NBC. (Long story made short.) As of this point, I will list the titles and dates, not the episode number.

Broadcast of October 20, 1953
Script by Lou Vittes.
A woman murders her husband because he is in love with another woman. The wife is Elsie (played by Barbara Weeks). The other woman is a young girl named Judy Marshall. The wife hires Barrie Craig to find her missing husband, mentioning that he had a “crew cut” so that he didn’t look just like the photograph she showed Barrie Craig! When Judy identifies the body, she is shocked at the crew cut because she never saw Tom with a crew cut! This proved that the wife was the only one who knew about this haircut and that she had murdered her husband the day he got the haircut.

Broadcast October 27, 1953
Script by John Roeburt.
A mother in an effort to save her daughter from the clutches of a crime leader, murder the man. She pretends to be a paralytic who cannot move herself from her wheel chair. Barrie Craig discovers this and uses it as a clue to her guilt.

Broadcast October 3, 1954
Script by Louis Vittes.
Episode 11 of the new run.
Betty Lou Gerson is featured as Jean Arnolt, who killed her husband who was working for a diamond dealer who specialized in stolen jewels.

Broadcast October 10, 1954
Script by John Roeburt.
Julie Bennett plays the role of Lola, the “doll” who literally charms her “real-gone” lover to his death. This episode features a lot of hipster dialogue, now considered dated for the time.

Broadcast October 17, 1954
Script by John Roeburt.
A band of international thieves find that murder speaks a common language when a legendary diamond turns out to have a flaw.

Broadcast October 24, 1954
Script by John Roeburt.
A hit television show has the viewers “howling for gore” when an actor meets his death on the set. A great Halloween episode and odd that the radio program centers around a television studios.

Broadcast October 31, 1954
Script by John Roeburt.
A May-December marriage in which the wealthy old husband is murdered not by his wife as we might believe, nor by his former clerk whom he had railroaded into ten years of prison. Instead, the old gentleman meets death at the hands of his own son who accidentally fired the gun with which his father was attempting to commit suicide. The son then talks to the clerk, just out of prison on parole, to fake a “confession” to the murder in return for security for the ex-convict’s wife for “the rest of her days.” Charlotte Lawrence plays the role of the tearless widow of the wealthy old man.

Broadcast December 12, 1954
Script by John Roeburt.
Cast: Joan Banks, Herb Ellis, Tom McKee, Jack Moyles and Barney Phillips.
Story of a boxer known for his murderous punch and how his status in the fight world through losing an elimination contest to… death! Barrie Craig is hired to stay with Kid Mendero until he climbs into the ring for a big fight. Actually, the Kid had a weak heart and knew that he could never pass his medical before the big match. If the news about the bad heart got to the public, the insurance policy held on the Kid – predicated on the Kid’s being in “fighting condition” – would become invalid. The Kid’s manager-owner-promoter held the policy and managed to get the Kid killed by a “hit-and-run driver” before the truth was known.

Broadcast December 26, 1954
Script by Louis Vittes.
Story about a hurricane, a blonde, a suitcase full of dollar bills and a murder. Gloria Grant plays the role of the blonde, Nora. Others in the cast included Tom McKee, Barney Phillips and Jack Moyles.

Broadcast April 20, 1955
Script by Louis Vittes.
This episode dramatizes how a murderer is led to confess his crime when he thinks a tame bear is a dangerous animal. The murderer had thrown his victim into a bear’s cage. Barrie Craig gets a tame bear and builds up a story to the various murder suspects by telling them only the guilty one need fear when the bar is let out of his cage. Craig says the bear will remember the scent of the murderer and go directly to him. Actually, Craig had planted honeycomb on the man he believed to be the murderer but from whom he had no confession. Surprisingly, the tricks works!

Broadcast May 19, 1955
Script by John Roeburt.
Cast: Gail Bonney, Bert Holland, Tom McKee and George Niese.
Barrie Craig is hired to investigate wholesale sabotage of a baseball club. (Not to be confused with the recording circulating about the basketball team.)

Broadcast of June 16, 1955
Script by John Roeburt.
Cast: Herb Butterfield, Joan Banks, Shep Menken, Larry Dobkin
Barrie Craig tracks down a criminal who is a composite of brain-washer, stock-swindler, rifleman and arsonist. The entire way to crime is set off by greed for gain and uranium.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tom Collins, Chandu The Magician

Chandu, the Magician
"Endowed with supernatural powers, San Francisco covert agent Frank Chandler, armed with little more than a crystal ball, subdued global forces of evil. In the Far East he had mastered the mysterious secrets of a Hindu yogi. Dubbed 'Chandu,' he roamed the world in search of despots dedicated to enslaving the universe if left to their own devices. Invariably, nearly every juvenile thriller's hero had a single recurring nemesis; in Chandler's case it was the villainous Egyptian Roxor, whose devious mind frequently matched wits with the American mystic who was enhanced with abstruse capabilities."
            -- Jim Cox, Radio Crime Fighters, McFarland Publishing, 2002

Photo of Chandu cast: Irene Tedrow, Lee Millar, Tom Collins and Joy Terry. The photo caption made mention that "The Search for Robert Regent" was the first adventure aired when the series returned to the airwaves on June 28, 1948. The photographs of Chandu throughout this write-up were taken at the home of Irene Tedrow Kent, 1948.

Chandu, the Magician
The American agent with supernatural powers premiered on radio on August 4, 1931, over KHJ in Los Angeles. Within months the series was heard over WOR in New York and soon after, Chicago. Gayne Whitman was the first to play the role. The series was sponsored by White King Soap on the West Coast (circa October 1932) and Beech Nut on the East Coast. White King Soap, planning to syndicate the series with soap commercials in areas of the country that would not accept a direct hook-up, forked up the money to have the series transcribed and this is why we have about 80 or so episodes from the 1932-36 run. Howard Hoffman supposedly took over the title role in 1935 and remained in the role until the series went off the air in 1936.

Chandu, the Magician
The radio thriller had a comeback in June of 1948, this time with Tom Collins in the lead. While a supporting actor on numerous radio programs including The Cavalcade of America, The Lux Radio Theatre, The Adventures of Ellery Queen and The Whistler (among others), Tom Collins is best known today to radio fans as Chandu, the Magician. The supporting actor played the role sufficiently and proved he could carry the lead of his own program. White King Soap was the sponsor of the revival series, supposedly re-writes and revised versions of prior plot lines from the 1932-36 series, along with originals. Almost every episode of the revival series exists on transcription disc, again courtesy of the deep pockets of the sponsor. (During his tenure on Chandu, Tom Collins played the title role of The Adventures of Frank Race in a syndicated series produced by the Bruce Eells and Associates/Broadcasters Program Syndicate in 1949.)

Cast of radio's One Man's Family

Besides Chandu, Tom Collins is also known for his role as Nicholas Lacey on Carlton E. Morse's One Man's Family, a radio program that still remains popular to this day. His appearance as Nick is among the most repeated stories in the history of radio lore. The character had been written out of the series and thought to have perished in Europe, and when Morse decided it was time to bring him back, it was done with dramatic flair. Walter Paterson, the actor who played the role, died in 1942 from an overdose of carbon monoxide in his own car. For a tragic reason, Carlton E. Morse, the writer, decided best to write the character out of the scripts. But a few years later, a new character had to be found for the part before Claudia's English husband could reappear. Auditions were held over a period of four weeks. At the end of that time, and after reading four times with members of the One Man's Family cast, Tom Collins was selected.

Director Cyril Armbrister and Princess Nadji (Veola Vonn).

Very little is known about Tom Collins. This is why I was pleased to receive an e-mail recently from his daughter, Monica, asking if I could be a depository for photographs, newspaper clippings, magazine articles and other materials related to her father's radio career. "I'm 71 and neither of my siblings are interested in these things and I'd love to know they were in a place where they might be appreciated," she explained. Naturally, I accepted her gifts with open arms. And to date, every clipping, article and photograph has been scanned in both tif and jpg format for preservation. (I plan to hand the materials to a friend who has been working on a project that relates to Tom Collins.... soon as I can get his contact info.) "I saw lots of his radio shows and loved the way the sound effects were created," Monica told me.

Tom Collins advertisement with statistics.

Chandu, the Magician
Tom Collins was the product of the Kenneth Sawyer Goodman School of the Theater in Chicago. He studied everything but directing, even built and painted scenery and, on occasion, shifted it. Radio, without its numerous retakes, appealed more to the actor who had broadcast in Chicago, his first radio show having been the serial, Kitty Keane, Inc. (which premiered in September of 1937). In an interview with a reporter for the Hollywood Citizen-News, Collins enjoyed playing the role of Raffles in the series of the same name written by Dwight Hauser. Cathy Lewis was one of the supporting players, Milton Charles was the organist ad J. Donald Wilson (the same man responsible for creating The Whistler radio program and later became an ABC executive) was the director. The program ran a total of 26 weeks and could have been sold as a five-times-a-week show, but the stage and motion-picture rights were held by different parties (Samuel Goldwyn to name one), who could not get together on terms both parties agreed, so the deal fell through.

Cast of One Man's Family

As a fan of The Cavalcade of America, Collins is best associated as the announcer for the broadcasts that originated from Hollywood. It was a bit out of the ordinary, the way Collins became an announcer on the program. The part he was given in an Air Corps drama proved to be so much bigger than that of the star engaged for the show, and was asked if he would mind giving it up. He said he wouldn't and then, to his surprise, he was offered the job of announcer by Jack Zoller, the producer. Collins accepted knowing an announcer job is guaranteed income and steady work rather than waiting for the call to playing a supporting role.

One Man's Family or I Love A Mystery?
Tom accepted roles for LP records created for children such as Jack and the Beanstalk with Harold Peary and the Alice Duer Miller version of Cinderella as played by Edna Best, Verna Felton and Paula Winslow. If you have a copy of any of these children records (which is billed on the front covers with "The Great Gildersleeve"), check them out and hear Tom Collins playing supporting roles.

I recently read on a web-site that, "Chandu in the 30 minute format did not work and Chandu seems more like a gumshoe than a mystic." That second part is an opinion (and a fair one) but the first half should not be accepted as a fact. The half-hour series was indeed a success, else it wouldn't have run as long as it did. Compared to the fifteen-minute serial from the 1930s, the later version is a bland imitation of radio detectives that were commonly heard on the airwaves at the time.

Cast of One Man's Family

Included in this blog post, for your amusement, are snapshots and photos of Tom Collins and the cast of One Man's Family and Chandu, the Magician. The script covers below are of amusement for many. It seemed Tom Collins arranged for his scripts (or in the one case of Victor Rodman's script) to be autographed by the celebrities in the studio, to be made out to his young niece, Sally Jo. She passed away in 2011 and her husband gave the scripts to Monica, who passed them on to me to share with you.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nostalgia E-Mail Newsletter


For the past year I have been receiving a number of people complaining that they are not receiving the weekly blog posts via e-mail. Others have no problem. I can understand how frustrating it is when you don't receive something you subscribed to. And today, subscribers received the last few months' worth of blog posts (a computer glitch beyond my control). So I found a solution. As of this Friday, every blog post will be sent to every subscriber through a new system installed on my website. Please sign up with your e-mail address below.

For clarification of the format, html means you will receive both text and photos. Text is just text (no photos). Mobile means you have a small mobile device and check all your e-mails through an iPhone, Android, etc.

Even if you have no problems receiving the weekly e-mails, you must subscribe because the old list is being disposed of.

I want to thank everyone for their understanding and continued enjoyment of the blog posts. Believe it or not, the next two years worth of blog posts have been finished and each one will be posted automatically every Friday. There are some surprises and treasures and archival documents that will make it worth everyone's effort to sign up for the weekly e-mails.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Theft of Superman, The Man of Steel

Mike Meyer in his home.
Photo courtesy of Emily Rasinski.
A call to action! SUPERMAN in action!

It all started on September 5, 2011, when Jennifer Mann of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the horrible news that spawned an internet sensation. "If Mike Meyer were a character in one of his favorite comic books, right about now he'd be looking up to see his red-caped hero swooping down," Mann reported. "It's Meyer's starry-eyed worship of Superman, protector of the world as it should be, that makes the theft from his home two weeks ago seem particularly cruel." It seems someone took advantage of the young man by stealing thousands of dollars of Superman merchandise... and comic book fans answered the call.

Mike Meyer, age 48, of Granite City, has been on Social Security for a mental disability since the age of 23. To supplement that, he has worked part time at a McDonald's in Collinsville since 1996. He still works there to this day. He lives alone in a humble, two-bedroom home with his dogs: Krypto and Dyno. Just about every room is a shrine to his hero.

Meyer was tricked out of about 1,800 of his favorite Superman comic books, some dating to the 1950s. He also lost many of his favorite collector's items: lunch boxes, an old-time radio, a Monopoly game and television set — all Superman-themed. The loot had an estimated value of $4,000 to $5,000. The back bedroom of Meyer's house used to have nearly 100 Superman figurines tacked to the walls. Now, those walls are bare. Also stolen was Meyer's Captain Action Superman figurine with costume, a sore point for Meyer because it reminded him of one he had as a child. "A lot of that was sentimental, and he stole that from me," Meyer said. "He invaded my privacy, and he took away my peace of mind."

Granite City police began investigating.

Superman: The Movie
The History
Meyer bought his first Superman comic book for about 20 cents in 1974. Soon, the then-10-year-old discovered he could also buy back issues. That allowed him to delve into the character's earliest appearances in Action Comics, then follow Superman's evolution through the years, along with a changing lineup of costumed villains. Growing up, Meyer spent all his spare money on comic books.

"I had pretty much every issue of Superman from number 99 to the present," said Meyer, who kept a hand-sewn Superman costume hanging on his back door underneath a brown trench coat.

Meyer gets giddy recalling the premiere of the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie, which his father took him to see on Dec. 15, 1978, at the B.A.C. Cinema in Belleville. His dad died when Meyer was 20; his mom, three years later.

Chapter One
Meyer said mostly only his friends and family knew of his collection, but he also made the mistake once of telling someone less trustworthy: a guy named Gary whom he worked with at the Hardee's on Madison Avenue in 1991.

Meyer said he ran into Gary recently while at Kyle's Baseball Cards and Comics in Granite City. Gary asked Meyer whether he still collected Superman items and asked to see the collection. Meyer first gave an excuse, but then Gary called him later saying he was in the neighborhood and hoped to stop by.

"He just kept talking like a salesman," Meyer said. "He wouldn't take no for an answer."

Meyer said he let Gary into the house that day and gave him a quick tour. Gary asked to see "my most precious comics," Meyer said.

The next night, Gary was back again, asking whether Meyer would let Gary's girlfriend watch some of his Superman movies. Meyer said while he and the girlfriend watched. Gary disappeared for a while. Meyer noticed the theft two days later, on the morning of Aug. 24, and called police. All he knew was that Gary had dark hair, a goatee, was about 35 and drove a silver or gray car. Meyer had taken heart in the fact that he wasn't cleaned out of his entire collection. Still, he said, "I have moments where I want to cry."

Meyer's Superman lunchbox collection.
Down in the basement, where much of the collection resided, shelves were lined with Superman action figures and other trinkets, along with Man of Steel books, insulated coffee mugs, lunch boxes and puzzles -- even a lava lamp and wastebasket. Meyer's legs prevented him from going down to admire his collection more than once a week, hence why it too two days for him to notice the theft.

He saw Gary as a real-life Lex Luthor, calling him "a no-good excuse for a human being."

He noted, "That's pretty low if someone steals your stuff." Meyer said a lot of what Gary stole from him was sentimental, “He invaded my privacy, and he took away my peace of mind. “He uses his powers not to benefit himself, but to help others,” Meyer told the newspaper when speaking about his favorite character, “He’s the champion of the oppressed.” 

Paul Nomad of Idle Hands (an entertaining blog) commented: "If this guy isn't found and Mike doesn't recover his treasures, I'll send him every Superman I own. Count on it. I'm posting this on my blog so that if you should hear a follow up on the story that isn't favorable, please let me know and Mike will get an awesome box for Christmas."

The goodies sent to Meyer from Midtown Comics.
The Happy News
When the news story went viral, an outpouring of support in the comics community for the Superman fan was larger than anyone could have anticipated. It seemed like everyone who had a blog about Superman got into the act by spreading the word. At Midtown Comics in New York City, the employees were inspired by the “replace-the-collection” effort suggested by Superman fans on the world wide web and immediately donated $150.00 worth of Superman comics and merchandise, including a copy of Justice League #1 signed by Jim Lee and Geoff Johns.

An account was opened on Facebook to alert people in St. Louis to be on the lookout for the stolen Superman merchandise and Keith Howard of Belleville, Illinois, who represented the Superfriends of Metropolis group organized a nationwide effort to replace the stolen items and began collecting donated items from Facebook readers to ensure all donations would be forwarded to victim Mike. Fox News even got into the act by spreading the word.

Meyer received an all-expenses-paid trip to Cleveland, where Meyer -- decked out in an early Superman costume -- got a rare tour with fellow Superman aficionado Keith Howard of the boyhood home of Jerry Siegel, one of the comic superhero's co-creators.

John Dudas, owner of Carol and John's Comics in the Kamm's Corner neighborhood, flew Meyer and a friend into Cleveland to see where it all began. They also flew in Keith Howard of Belleville, Ill. Dudas collected 200 pounds of Superman items that he sent to Meyer and was ecstatic when Tracey Kirksey of the Siegel and Shuster Society and the Glenville Development Corp. offered the one present every Superman fans wants: a private tour of the Siegel house.

Hattie and Jefferson Gray, who own the home where Siegel once lived, were happy for the visit. "We get people driving by here all the time, some even stopping in and asking if they can see 'the room,' said Jefferson Gray. "But this is special.

Hattie Gray, who owns the house where Superman was created
in the 1930s, shares a moment with Mike Meyer, the Superman
fan whose collection was stolen. Meyer was flown to
  Cleveland for the ultimate treat for a Superman fan... 
a rare visit to the house where the legend began.

Meyer even received a phone call from Brandon Routh, who played the Man of Steel in the 2006 movie Superman Returns. Other celebrities, including Tracy Lewis of the Superboy series and Mark Tyler Nobleman, author of Boys of Steel, sent autographed items.

In Meadville, Pennsylvania, midway between Pittsburgh and Erie, stay-at-home dad Andrew Copp happened upon Meyer's misfortune on Facebook. Copp said he found the theft appalling, "but I was more touched by everyone giving back to a total stranger." Determined to help, the Navy veteran and former electronics worker studying to be a veterinary technician scoured his attic for Superman comics. Then he decided to part with a far more personal keepsake: a Superman logo hand-painted by his 8-year-old daughter, and captioned in child's handwriting: "Woosh Superman!!"

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Keith Howard of downstate Belleville says he has received contributions from as far away as India and Paraguay. Artists drew sketches and autographed them for Meyer. Original Superman artwork from Paraguay was shipped. Fans were buying Superman items and shipping them directly to Belleville. Meyer received handmade sketches -- some from Mexico -- to hand-stitched decorative pillows from California bearing Superman's likeness. A Pennsylvania man even shipped him a mini Superman pinball machine!

A comic-shop owner in Cincinnati – hometown of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – arranged for a memorial brick from one of the creators’ houses with a plaque for Meyer. They even offered to fly Meyer and a close friend out for a day’s tour of the Superman museums and tourist sites there.Local comic shops across the country were approached about donating merchandise. Other fan groups joined with the Superfriends – the cross-denominational Justice League Avengers of Indiana coordinated their own drive to gather Superman memorabilia.

Superman Returns movie poster
In Conclusion
Being a whole new breed of awesome, the comics community rallied in support of Meyer after the theft was reported and went out of their way to help him replace the stolen items, eventually doubling the size of his original collection. To say there was an outpouring of support in the comics community is an understatement. Supporters can now begin to breathe a sigh of relief as the process for truth, justice and the American way moved forward with an arrest and conviction and the recovery of most of Meyer's stolen items. The crook attempted to sell the items for $600 or $800 (depending on which story you read), much less than the real value of the Superman collectibles. Comics Alliance reported the details of the arrest and you can read about it here.

Now that an arrest has been made and the items recovered, Meyer is paying the kindness forward by donating the excess items to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, saying: “I’ve been blessed with a lot of things, so I wanted to share them.” The large donation reportedly provided six boxes of Superman items which were made available to the hospital’s sick and injured kids in the form of bingo prizes.

“When you make somebody happy, it does something for you, too,” Meyer said.

Now, isn't that a happy ending worth reading?

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Cars on CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?

Since the Car 54, Where Are You? television series is now out on DVD commercially, it seems only fitting to revisit the series through the popular hobby of automobile collecting. At a recent car show (my wife is into cars), we saw a replica of one of the cars from the television series on display. But the owner was trying to pass it off as an original. Little did he know that the biggest tip-off was the color on the outside of the car. Yes, within seconds it was clear that he had a replica.

By way of an explanation, the “Car 54” Toody and Muldoon drove on the series was painted dark red and white to destroy any resemblance to New York’s official dark green and white squad cars. “Cab drivers are always passing by and pointing out the car to their passengers. They tell them it’s a Police Department experiment in color schemes,” recalled Joe E. Ross. “The people in the Bronx are the last of the rugged individualists. They’re interested in what we’re doing, but they are now over-awed.”
The use of automobiles in each episode, naturally, had to be cleared with the manufacturer for trademark legalities. After a number of phone calls and letters exchanged between Arthur Hershkowitz, the Vice President Eupolis Productions, and Byron Avery, Manager of the West Coast promotion office of Chrysler Corporation during the month of May, the Chrysler Corporation drew up a contract (dated June 5, 1961) in agreement with Eupolis Productions, Inc. The contract stated quite clearly that Chrysler would furnish, for approximately one year from the date of delivery, four automobiles for the use of the series. In return, Chrysler received substantial promotion during the closing credits. Hershkowitz also agreed to periodically furnish the automotive corporation with publicity stills showing Chrysler’s cars in use so the corporation could use them for promotional purposes. 

Eupolis Productions registered the cars in their name, paying for the costs, and agreed to hold Chrysler harmless from any Federal, State or local excise, sales or use of other taxes which could be levied as a result of the transfer or use of the vehicles. Chrysler was also held harmless for any damage to property or injury to people (including death), arising out of the possession or use of the vehicles. Eupolis also provided, at their expense, insurance coverage. A policy was taken for $50,000/$250,000 bodily injury, $100,000 property damage, and $50 deductible collision insurance. A copy of that insurance policy was forwarded to Chrysler so the corporation could feel assured that they were held free of any liability as a result of the television production.

On June 29, 1961, Arthur Hershkowitz signed the contract and during the first week of July, the following four automobiles were delivered to Eupolis Productions:

1. 1961 Plymouth Belvedere, 4-door sedan Serial # 3211-180010
2. 1961 Plymouth Belvedere, 4-door sedan Serial # 3211-177546
3. 1961 Dodge Dart, 4-door sedan Serial # 5112-176283
4. 1961 Plymouth, 4-door sedan Serial # 3711-180088

Regarding number four above, this was a 9-passenger Sport Suburban used not for on-camera filming, but for the transportation of cast and crew to various locations in New York.

After filming of the first season episodes was completed, the vehicles were returned to Chrysler at a certain dealership in New York City. Since the television program was, by January 1962, renewed for a second season, an amendment for the purpose of deleting the four 1961 Chrysler Corporation vehicles covered in the Letter of Agreement dated June 5, 1961, was drawn up. The amendment, dated Jan. 25, 1962, was approved and accepted by Eupolis Productions, with the same terms as above, with the exception of the vehicles - seven 1962 vehicles were now replacing the four 1961 vehicles. The new replacements were as follows:
1. 1962 Plymouth Belvedere, 4-door sedan Serial # 3226-145398
2. 1962 Plymouth Belvedere, 4-door sedan Serial # 3226-145410
3. 1962 Plymouth Fury, 2-door hardtop Serial # 3326-155476
4. 1962 Plymouth Fury, 4-door station wagon Serial # 3726-154178
5. 1962 Plymouth Fury, 4-door station wagon Serial # 3726-155980
6. 1962 Dart 330, 4-door sedan Serial # 5226-156056
7. 1962 Chrysler New Yorker, 4-door station wagon Serial # 8723-152507

If production for the first season was made possible with four vehicles, then it begs the question: “Why three additional vehicles?” The answer was simple. Nat Hiken wanted the 1962 Chrysler New Yorker (No. 7 above) for personal use as a fringe benefit for the hard work that went into the day-to-day production of Car 54. The automobile was under Eupolis Productions’ insurance policy, and had to be returned within a year of the vehicle’s initial delivery. This fringe benefit was carried over for both Joe E. Ross (No. 3) and Fred Gwynne (No. 5), so the actors could commute to work. Car number 6 was issued to Duke Farley, who played Patrolman Reilly on the series - also a fringe benefit.
The first two vehicles (Nos. 1 and 2), the red and white Plymouth Belvederes, were used as background props for all garage scenes, and whenever it was called upon for location shots. These are the very automobiles used as police cars in all of the requisite scenes filmed for the second season episodes. Car number 4 substituted the Sport Suburban used during the first season, so equipment, cast and crew could be transported to locations in New York. A similar agreement between Eupolis Productions and General Motors granted the permission (and furnishings) of a 1962 Chevrolet Sedan to be used as a prowl car for a number of episodes. This fact was disclosed to the West Coast Promotion Manager of Chrysler, who had no objection to the use of a competitor’s product in the episodes. General Motors also supplied a 1962 Greenbriar Convar for J.C. Delaney, set decorator for the series, to be used for productions (though this car never appeared on screen in any of the 60 episodes produced).

In July of 1962, the automobiles were revised again. The two police cars remained on the premises, and Nat Hiken and Duke Farley kept the vehicle used as a fringe benefit. All other cars were turned over to a Plymouth Corporation representative. Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne had to relinquish their vehicles, but those were replaced with the following convertibles for the summer months:

Plymouth Fury - white convertible Serial # 3326-216794 (Joe E. Ross)
Plymouth Fury - red convertible Serial # 3326-216940 (Fred Gwynne)

A Plymouth Fury, 4-door station wagon was added to the production, listed among production paperwork as “pick-up car” used to transport cast, crew and equipment to locations in New York City. A Valiant V-200, 4-door station wagon was added to the production, listed among production paperwork as “props car,” also used for transportation of cast, crew and equipment for location shooting. For the first time since the series began production, a third police car was made available (instead of the usual two): a Dart 300, glade green 4-door sedan. Serial numbers for these additional vehicles are listed below:

Plymouth Fury, 4-door station wagon (Pick-Up Car) Serial # 3726-215639
Valiant V-200, 4-door station wagon (Props Car) Serial # 1726-199103
Dart 300, 4-door sedan (Police Car) Serial # 4226-159803

The latest 1963 models from Plymouth were offered to the production crew and delivered on Dec. 27, 1962. According to an amendment dated Jan. 9, 1963, (signed on Jan. 17, 1963, by Howard Epstein, President of Eupolis Productions), the following were the last of the vehicles used for filming the final episodes of the series:

1. Plymouth, 4-door sedan (red & beige) Serial # 3236-111732
2. Plymouth, 4-door sedan (red & white) Serial # 3236-103276
3. Plymouth convertible (light blue) Serial # 3336-129745
4. Plymouth station wagon (light blue) Serial # 3736-130434
5. Plymouth station wagon (medium blue) Serial # 3736-132884
6. Dodge, 4-door sedan (vermillion) Serial # 4132-126551
7. Dodge, 4-door sedan (turquoise) Serial # 4132-127997
8. Dodge station wagon (medium blue) Serial # 4536-129416
9. Chrysler station wagon (oyster white) Serial # 8733-156329

Cars numbered one, two and seven were police cars used for onscreen filming. The convertible was a fringe benefit for actor Joe E. Ross. Car number five was a fringe benefit for Fred Gwynne. Car number nine was a fringe benefit for Nat Hiken, replacing the 1962 New Yorker he had “borrowed” for the past year. Car number four was labeled as the “pick-up car” and number eight was labeled as the “props car.” Car number six was featured on the final few episodes of the second season, as well as the detective’s car.
The License Plate Numbers 
For legal purposes, license plate numbers of real vehicles caught on camera were not allowed to be captured on screen, for fear of liability from a non-member of the production. However, Eupolis Productions did arrange with the state of New York to acquire a number of license plates that were authentic, and could be featured on camera. These plates were often reused on multiple cars lent to the production from Plymouth.

The license plate numbers for the two detective cars featured on the series were 3N 1219 and 1C 5907. As for the numerous police cars (1961, 1962 and 1963 models) that appeared on screen for the series, the following license plates were used: 1N 3514, 1C 5908, 4N 9847, 6N 8572, and 1C 5905. (The license plate number 1C 5905 was featured on a Plymouth Belvedere and a Dodge 4-door Sedan, both of which were used as a police car in separate episodes!)

This blog post features excerpts from Car 54, Where Are You? by Martin Grams, available from Bear Manor Media. For more information, visit