Friday, August 24, 2012

Recap: 2012 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention

Vendor Keith Hurd offers thousands of autographs for sale!
You do not need a printed invitation to attend what is quickly becoming the "destination" convention of the year. (I'm quoting Terry Salomonson, who uses that word loosely, but has attended more than 30 different conventions repeatedly over the past five years to be qualified enough to compare them all.) The seventh annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention was a success and while everyone has their own definition of what success is... allow me to demonstrate. Last year's attendance was officially 1,490. This year we topped 2,000. Mary Ethel, Barb Davies and Mary Ann Lowe, all of whom run the front desk, gives one program guide to every paying attendee. No more, no less. By noon on Saturday, Mary Ethel informed me that she gave away the last of the program guides. We had 2,000 printed. This is a simple way of counting heads and a shock to me as we did not expect more than 25 percent growth from the previous year. "What do I do now?" she asked me.

"Simple," I explained. "Just give them a wrist band (similar to an admission badge) and thank them very much for coming. There isn't anything else we can do. Mary Ann Lowe spent the morning stuffing more goody bags with program guides and promotional flyers, and with all of these dried up there was nothing else we could do.

Vendors offer everything including collector cards!
The wrist bands are new this year. Last year it was brought to my attention that cheap skates and gate crashers were in the hotel parking lot hoping to get free admission by asking folks exiting the hotel if they were leaving and whether or not they could hand them their admission badge. With the added security downstairs looking for wrist bands, this seems to be the ultimate solution to a problem that we will continue to face. And guess what? We still had gate crashers who managed to sneak inside without paying. And two of them were former members of convention committees so they above all else know better. Sigh... I guess we do the best we can and hope people are remain honest.

Very rare and expensive comic books.
Over 150 vendor tables offered everything from movie posters, lobby cards, photographs, magazines, vintage books, pulp magazines (originals and reprints), comic books, bobble heads, vhs videos, DVDs, books, vintage toys, old-time radio shows and much more. David Strebe had recently acquired a private collection of Hollywood books and was selling paperbacks at $2 and hardcovers for $3. I must have spent more than $30 on books alone -- including one I kept meaning to buy about the making of Hitchcock's Vertigo.

The enclosed photos will give you an idea of the variety of merchandise available for sale at varied prices. 

Bill Parisho offers DVDs for bargain prices.

Bobble heads for every type of character you want.

Art Harvey brings so many photos you can find what you are looking for.

Rick Payne displays some very impressive items.

If you cannot find it, Art Harvey doesn't have it. Wow!

Juan always has top-notch titles available for sale.

Mike Cregar is like a kid at Christmas when he sees ????

Paperback books for bargain prices!

Author C.J. Henderson displays the latest of Moonstone Books.

Toys Around the Clock from Florida

Toys Around the Clock from Florida

The movie room head count verified the largest attendance in the room to date. The most popular films of the weekend were Laurel and Hardy film shorts, You Bet Your Life blooper reels with Groucho Marx, a film noir movie, The Narrow Margin (1954) and Preston Sturgess' classic, Sullivan's Travels (1942). 

Noralee Frankel offers a fascinating slide show.
The seminars included a variety of topics so everyone was able to find something of amusement. Among the highlights were Noralee Frankel's talk about Gypsy Rose Lee. She authored a great book about the striptease artist, actress and author. Whenever stripper Gypsy Rose Lee encountered public criticism, she spoke frankly in her own defense. “Thousands have seen me at my–ah–best; and thousands have made no objections.” Noralee discussed the fabulous life and career with a slide show presentation with photographs of her as a strip tease artist, Broadway and movie star, author, activist, and talk show host.

“Men aren’t attracted to me by my mind. They’re attracted by what I don’t mind.”
  — Gypsy Rose Lee

A fan poses with Academy Award winner Shirley Jones.
For baseball fans, the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s was magic down memory lane. A slide show presentation discussed the reasons behind the magical love affair between the Dodgers and Brooklyn, the enduring passion for the team decades after it abandoned the borough for Los Angeles in 1958 and how 1960s popular culture cemented the Dodgers’ association with Los Angeles. David Krell, author of the up-coming book, Blue Magic: The Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field and the Battle for Baseball’s Soul, opened the weekend with his presentation that received rave reviews.

Gordon Shriver of Georgia, author of Boris Karloff: The Man Remembered, presented a well-spoken, well-versed essay on Boris Karloff. With so much attention on Karloff's movie career, it was nice to see someone tackling a different subject altogether: Karloff's television and Broadway career. Gordon did not just cover the New York stage but also regional theater appearances such as Peter Pan and Arsenic and Old Lace, as well as his wide-ranging work in television from the medium’s infancy. Among the highlights of the presentation are rare photos and first-hand, exclusive anecdotes from people who worked with Boris Karloff. For more information about Gord Shriver’s book, visit

You have to be a true film buff to know of Thomas Ince. Thomas Ince is a name found in every history of silent movies, but sadly has become best remembered not for his life, but his death after a visit to the yacht of William Randolph Hearst.  Film historian Brian Taves authored the first biography of Ince, based on newly-released papers, the fan and trade press, and the surviving films. His book was recently voted “Book of the Month” by Turner Classic Movies and we were honored to have Brian at the convention this year, offering his take on the life and career of Thomas Ince. Ince’s real achievements as producer of 800 films were explored as only Brian could document.

Authors Chuck Harter (left) and Michael J. Hayde (right).
Authors Chuck Harter and Michael J. Hayde have a new book about Harry Langdon that... well, staggers the imagination. It's the size of a phone book and is your one-stop source for everything Harry Langdon. The book premiered at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention and thanks to Chuck and Mike, a slide show presentation with brief clips about the silent screen comedian gave us a glimpse of an actor who was also human.

The Metro Washington Old-Time Radio Club had their monthly meeting held at the convention on Saturday. Members of the club who did not live in Maryland and Virginia were able to attend the meeting and witness a demonstration involving sound effects.

People came in costume!
 Friday night was active with the first annual sock hop. A sock hop was an informal sponsored dance at American high schools, typically held in the high school’s own gym or cafeteria. The term sock hop came about because dancers were required to remove their shoes to protect the varnished floor of the gymnasium. These hops were a cultural feature of the 1950s and early rock and roll. The music was usually records, sometimes presented by a disc jockey. Occasionally there were also live bands. (The term record hop is generally synonymous with sock hop.) In subsequent decades, with the widespread popularity of sneakers and other types of indoors-only shoes, the practice of removing shoes was dropped and the term began to be applied more generally to any informal high school dance. Many brought their dancing shoes and fifties costumes and had a chance to relive the good ol’ days of a sock hop with music from 78s and 45s! Free snacks and sodas were available! Later that evening, fans were treated to a 3-D movie of Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954) which was Warner Bros.' follow-up to House of Wax.

A few of the folks who came in costume!
On Friday evening there was a charity auction to help benefit the St. Jude Children's Hospital. It's comforting to see a lot of support as people brought items to donate for the charity auction. Original Hollywood memorabilia was auctioned off. Glossy photographs from celebrities who mailed us photographs included Jane Fonda, Burt Renyolds, Ann Blyth, Esther Williams, Barbara Eden, Rhonda Fleming and many others. Because of the untimely passing of Celeste Holm this year, the contract she signed for her 2009 appearance at the convention was also auctioned off for a good cause. While we know the auction only lasted an hour and you can only raise so much in a short time frame, we were able to raise $360 more this year than last. Last year we raised $1,200. This year we raised $1,560.

Gotham Radio Players perform for a crowd.
For those who enjoy old-time radio re-creations on stage, MANC attendees were treated to the talents of the Gotham Radio Players who offered us "Death Plays a Tune," a "lost" episode of The Mysterious Traveler. Their performance received a standing ovation. Mary and Don Ramlow offered us two goodies: Tarzan and a virtually unknown 1942 Hopalong Cassidy radio broadcast that no one knew even existed until a script was found this past year. Western fans who thought they heard every Hopalong Cassidy story were given a rare treat, indeed.

Sound effects were performed on the table.

And then there were the celebrities. Shirley Jones was wonderful with the fans, providing them an opportunity to have her photo taken with them (no doubt posted on Facebook by this time) and answering questions about The Music Man, Carousel, Oklahoma!, Elmer Gantry and The Partridge Family. She ran out of photos from The Partridge Family and convention staff did what they could to have more reproduced before the end of the day.

Mel Simons interviews the leading ladies on Thursday.
James Darren takes a moment for interviewer Mark J. Gross.
James Darren and Robert Colbert during the Q&A on stage.

James Darren and Robert Colbert participated in a Q&A session on stage about their careers, most notably The Time Tunnel (1966-67), prior to a slide show presentation about the history of the television program. A new book about The Time Tunnel was just published and premiered at the convention and Darren and Colbert signed a total of more than 300 copies before the weekend was over!

Jay North and Jeanne Russell
Jay North and Jeanne Russell (stars of Dennis the Menace), answered questions for fans who either grew up watching the television series, saw reruns on Nick-At-Nite's TV Land or bought the recent Shout! Factory DVD releases. The beautiful Sherry Jackson talked about her screen career on Make Room for Daddy, her radio appearances in the mid-fifties (including Suspense) and appearances on such TV programs as Star Trek and Batman. Veronica Carlson from numerous Hammer horror movies talked about Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Roger Moore. Geri Reischel talked about The Brady Bunch. Ian Petrella talked about his appearance on A Christmas Story. William Sanderson had plenty of photos from Newhart, Deadwood and True Blood. Fans of Newhart wanted to know if he could keep the Darryls straight. Tammy Locke talked about The Monroes

Neal Ellis interviews four of the celebrities on stage.
Ron Ely talked candidly about Tarzan and Doc Savage, after a late arrival. Seems the airport kept making excuses for the flight and the actor was stranded in airports for almost 36 hours. By the time he finally arrived at the hotel, Mr. Ely was unable to set up and sign autographs until Friday morning. Fans were obliging (as was the front desk for people who only paid for a Thursday admission and had to return the next day) as they lined up to get Ron Ely's autograph.

Jay accepting the first annual Jay Hickerson award.
The Guest of Honor this year was Jay Hickerson, founder of the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention. Besides acting as a convention organizer for 41 years, Jay wrote a book titled The Ultimate History of Network Radio Programming and Guide to All Circulating Shows (1992). Jay issues a supplement every year in addition to the book and every four years revises the entire book with all past supplements incorporated. His contribution to the field has provided more assistance to researchers and ensured the longevity of the hobby that is seemed only fitting that the first annual Jay Hickerson award be given to Jay himself. That's right, starting 2012, the Jay Hickerson Award will be given annually to someone who contributes to the longevity and preservation of the history of nostalgic pop culture.

We already have our sights on the Guest of Honor next year, as well as two confirmed celebrity guests. Four authors of critically-acclaimed books are slated to deliver slide show presentations as well. By December it appears the entire convention will be scheduled and ready for promoting. But you can do something that takes two minutes and ensures you will not miss out on the latest news about next year's event. 

Visit the convention website, and sign up for the free newsletter. Even if you don't think you can attend next year, visit the website for many informative articles similar in nature to the blog posts I provide and... get this... hold on to your socks tight... we'll be offering most of the slide show seminars next year and Q&A panels via live video streaming. More details to be provided. So even if you live in Alaska, England, Canada, Hawaii, etc., you can still enjoy the events.

Geri Reischel (The Brady Bunch) poses with U.S. Military.
Abbott and Costello performed on stage after the dinner banquet.
The dinner banquet was a complete sell-out this year.

Jim McQuaig, Neal Ellis and Kathy Meola from Radio Once More.

Ian Petrella greets troops who attended the convention.

Photos Sherry Jackson was signing for her fans.

Mike performed sang and played the guitar at the Sock Hop.

People were just arriving for the 3-D movie.

Neal Ellis interviews Ian Petrella at the microphone.

Celebrities caught on candid camera between signings.

If the crowd gets larger, we'll need more convention staff.

Folks gather around the celebrity tables.
Photos enclosed are courtesy of Bill Guptill, Mark Gross and Gerald Yamin, as well as a number of friendly folks on Facebook. 

Friday, August 17, 2012


Photo courtesy of Les Rayburn.
When actor Dick Beals was asked whether he was more fond of the radio series or the television series, Have Gun-Will Travel, he contemplated for a moment. After all, anyone who watches a number of television episodes has a hard time thinking of who could have played role other than Richard Boone. “John Dehner was tall, distinguished looking somewhat like David Niven, and all business,” remarked Beals. “Now you have to remember that radio drama and on-camera drama are two separate entities. A radio show is fast moving and with the best voice actors in the voice business making it work. Television is slower with many unknowns in the key roles. Boone was a totally different Paladin than Dehner, but Norm was after a ‘voice’ rather than a face. So I definitely favor the radio version of Have Gun.”

The calendar year of 1960 marked the final months of the radio program. The television series would continue until spring of 1963. But before the radio program went off the air, the series would provide a number of intriguing adventures -- including a superb closing chapter in the Paladin saga. Unique casting on the radio program (including the commercials) included Burgess Meredith in “Montana Vendetta” (March 13, 1960), who delivered a public service announcement about hearing loss and the importance of hearing aids, which have recently undergone new breakthroughs. Singer Russell Arms played the role of Dutch Talbot, a wanted man who Paladin seeks to apprehend in “Lina Countryman” (May 15, 1960). Jeanne Bates played the role of his wife, Doss Talbot. “Jeanne Bates was in the first of four Have Gun radio shows I did. She was a high school classmate where we played in several stage shows together. Frank Paris knew this and arranged for her to be on the show and as a surprise for me… and it was!” Arms was also on the Your Hit Parade for six years live from New York on Saturday nights, and later wrote his autobiography for Bear Manor Media.

Russell Arms autobiography
Peggy Webber played the role of Maria Dawson in “Search for Wylie Dawson” (June 12, 1960). Webber was not a frequent cast member on the series. She was married to a doctor in Japan ad stayed overseas for about two and a half years. “That was around the time they were doing the radio version of Have Gun-Will Travel,” she recalled, “and it was only when I would come home on vacation that I would work on those shows… It wasn’t one of my regular shows, but boy -- I remember doing 22 shows a week!”

Hey Boy tagged along with Paladin for an adventure in “So True, Mr. Barnum” (April 10, 1960), one of the better episodes of the series. The week prior, in “Shanghai is a Verb” (April 3, 1960), Hey Boy was kidnapped and Paladin had to go out and rescue him. In “Prunella’s Fella” (April 17, 1960), Paladin found himself the victim of a shotgun wedding. At the close of “Dressed to Kill” (May 1, 1960), John Dehner stood before the microphone, out of character, to deliver a short talk about the current and forth-coming summit meetings and radio free Europe. His speech was a crusade for freedom donations. In “Way for the Delta Queen” (July 24, 1960), Vic Perrin played the role of Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain. Two weeks later, the radio program featured a two-part adventure, “Viva” (August 7, 1960) and “Extended Viva (August 14, 1960). To ensure characters in both episodes were played by the same actors, both episodes were recorded on the same day, June 25. During the closing of “Nellie Watson’s Boy” (September 18, 1960), John Dehner, speaking for the cast and management of Have Gun, gave a sincere congratulations to KNX in Los Angeles. The station celebrated their 40th Anniversary that week. Actor Jack Moyles is credited for writing “Oil” (October 30, 1960), but soundman Tom Hanley wrote the script. Moyles provided the story idea and Hanley provided the typewriter.

Have Gun-Will Travel is still protected by copyright. The above photo (Radio Spirits) is an example of a licensed product of the radio program. Most CD and mp3 releases sold on the internet are not legal, so don't be fooled by the attractive packaging.

The final episode of the series, “From Here to Boston” (November 27, 1960), is regarded by fans of Have Gun-Will Travel as a landmark in the series. Paladin receives a fat envelope from attorneys in Boston, alerting him of the recent death of his Aunt Grace. Paladin has inherited $100,000 and must travel East to collect. Meanwhile, the gunman is unaware that his latest romantic fling, Louvenia Todd Hunter, was responsible for the death of his Aunt and plans with Myles Todd Hunter, to murder Paladin and make it look like an accident. They stand to gain the inheritance after Paladin is found dead. Outsmarting the woman, a struggle occurs with a gun and Myles is shot by accident. The episode closes with Hey Boy riding to Oregon with Paladin, so he can board the East Bound stage. Hey Boy asks when the man in black will return. “At least until I can settle my Aunt’s estate,” he explains. “Who knows? I might take a liking there and decide to settle down personally.” Paladin suggest a future marriage for Hey Boy and Missy Wong, asking to be notified in advance so he can return for the wedding. Instead of riding horseback into the sunset (West), he board a train into the sunrise (East).

A conclusion to the Paladin saga was never dramatized on television, but it did feature an origin -- something the radio series did not touch upon. Sam Rolfe scripted “Genesis,” an episode heavily-laden with mythology and a general purpose for Paladin’s motives as a bounty hunter.

The radio program, however, faded away with no notoriety in the trade columns. “There was no feedback, really,” recalled John Dehner. “And there would have been no way of our getting feedback really, in terms of fan letters and audio response. It dwindled away to nothing -- like a dead leaf in the wind. And that was it. We as actor, were aghast at the brutality of the networks. I don’t want to sound too dramatic about this, but after all, it was an industry and an important industry and a very big industry. But all of a sudden the powers that were in charge of the industry just said ‘The hell with it. We don’t need you. Good-bye and go home.’ And they closed the doors and it was that fast. It was a shock to all of us.”

“I guess I didn’t think much about it, but that happened a lot,” Lillian Buyeff added. “We wouldn’t be told in advance that this was going to be the last show or anything. I guess in the back of my mind I was always thinking, ‘Oh, this new-fangled thing called television. Maybe it will just dry up and go away. But it didn’t. We loved radio and it was a great medium and wonderful because -- how should I put it -- as a woman I could still be married and have a family and kind of a normal life because I knew what time I had to be at the studio and what time I would come home. In film, you don’t have that. You don’t really know how long you’re going to be gone. Also, the people in radio were very special. The people themselves were just warm and kind and good and we all liked each other a lot. Definitely one of the best moments of my life.”

“The only show that struggled on was Gunsmoke,” Larry Dobkin concluded, “but otherwise, that was early in the years of labor relations and the actors were employees and so were the engineers. The crew were of course, contract employees, and they went from one newscast to a comedy to a drama, with a total disregard of continuity of employment -- or continuity of showcase. The actors were different. They were just day players, and there was no notice given. When I was replaced as the voice of Ellery Queen, nobody gave me any notice. They just told me not to come back next week. They never told me why. I had done it for two years. I think I was the ninth or tenth Ellery Queen.”

After Have Gun folded on radio, Frank Paris joined Macdonnell as associate producer on television’s Gunsmoke. He remained in that capacity until Macdonnell left the show. “Frank Paris was the assistant producer. If Norman was quiet, Frank was quieter,” recalled actor Larry Dobkin. “Frank defined quiet for Norman. He was about my height, 5 feet 10 inches, oval faced, rimless glasses or wire-rimmed glasses, clean shaven, brown hair cut short, he had a pleasant manner. I think the additive would be divident.”

If you don’t have time to listen to all 106 radio broadcasts, the following are recommended.

Shameless pitch: The information below is reprinted from my book, The Have Gun-Will Travel Companion, published in 2000 by OTR Publishing, LLC. For a complete list of all 106 episodes (including plots and trivia, visit

Episode #27  “IN AN EVIL TIME”  Broadcast May 24, 1960
Recording Date:
April 25, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Morley and Malone); and Joseph Kearns (Pappy French).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Shimon Wincelberg, originally telecast June 14, 1958.
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Pepsi-Cola, Longine Watches and Mutual of Omaha Insurance
Opening narration: As birds are caught in a snare, so are the sons of man snared… in an evil time.

Episode #36  “THE WAGER”  Broadcast July 26, 1959
Recording Date:
May 30, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Lynn Allen (Stacy Neal), Lawrence Dobkin (Sid Morgan); Victor Perrin (Shawcross); Barney Phillips (Howard Gorman); and Ben Wright (the clerk).
Producer/Director: Norman Macdonnell
Story origin: Based on the teleplay of the same name by Denis and Terry Saunders, originally telecast January 3, 1959.
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: Columbia Phonographs, Winston Cigarettes, K-Side Smooth Sealer and General Motors
Opening narration: You forced me to wager my life against a thousand dollars. Now you can wager your life against thirty miles of desert, with a companion who hates you and half a canteen of water.

Episode #47  “STOPOVER IN TOMBSTONE”  Broadcast October 11, 1959
Recording Date:
September 5, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Whitie Harold); Joseph Cranston (Jim Aikens); Betty Garde (Rosie Doogan); and Bartlett Robinson (Sheriff Clay Corbett).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: Fitch Shampoo, Ex-Lax, Swiss Watches and Camel Cigarettes
Opening narration: If you give yourself up, I’ll see that you get a fair trial. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to use this gun and you’ll be a long, time dead.

Episode #49  “WHEN IN ROME”  Broadcast October 25, 1959
Recording Date:
September 19, 1959, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Sheriff Miller and the stagecoach driver); Ralph Moody (Mr. Charlie Temple); Barney Phillips (Mr. Brailey); Olan Soule (The Professor); Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Dora Temple); and Ben Wright (the doctor).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Fitch Shampoo, Ex-Lax and Camel Cigarettes
Opening narration: If you kill me because of a mistake I made, it won’t save your husband’s life.

Broadcast February 14, 1960
Recording Date:
January 9, 1960, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Harry Bartell (Wake Lockton); Betty Harford (Lydia Lockton) and Clayton Post (the stage driver).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Fitch Shampoo, Ex-Lax, Fritos Corn Chips, Dristan Cold Tablets and Camel Cigarettes
Opening narration: It’s always good to meet up with an old friend. But I didn’t know when we renewed this friendship that it would lead to your destruction.

Episode #73  “SO TRUE, MR. BARNUM”  Broadcast April 10, 1960
Recording Date:
March 12, 1960, 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Lawrence Dobkin (Professor Burdick); Sam Edwards (Bill Sweeney); and Barney Phillips (Louis).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: Winston Cigarettes, U.S. Census and Doan’s Pills
Opening narration: All right, Hey Boy. I’ll take you out there. You can dig for your treasure, you can dig up the whole desert. But let me tell you something. You won’t find a thing.

Episode #83  “THE TOO, TOO SOLID TOWN”  
Broadcast June 19, 1960
Recording Date: May 28, 1960, 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Cast: Joseph Kearns (Tod Clum); Vic Perrin (Billy Bedlow) and Barney Phillips (the voice).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Ann Doud
Commercials: French’s sauce, Pepsi-Cola, Camel Cigarettes and General Motors.
Opening narration: Why not re-open the case? It won’t give you back the five years you’ve lost, but it might give you back the most important thing in your life.

Episode #106  “FROM HERE TO BOSTON”  Broadcast November 27, 1960
Recording Date:
November 19, 1960, 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Cast: Lynn Allen (Louvenia Todd Hunter); John James (the conductor); Vic Perrin (Myles Todd Hunter); and Bartlett Robinson (the waiter and the driver).
Producer/Director: Frank Paris
Script writer: Frank Paris
Commercials: Philip Morris Cigarettes
Opening narration: Whenever I’m hired for a job, I can always expect the worst. Little did I know that this time, it would mean leaving my dearest friends.

This is the third and final write-up of a three-part feature about the radio program, Have Gun-Will Travel.
Click here to read Part Two.