Friday, January 30, 2015

THE LONE RANGER: Archival Documents

Helping to launch the first wave of television Westerns in the early 1950s, The Lone Ranger was among the first weekly television programs filmed (not "live") made for children. Initially adapting plots from radio scripts that aired from the 1930s to the early 1950s, the series later began offering original story concepts. Jack Wrather produced the series, under the guidance of George W. Trendle (who acted as script supervisor to ensure The Lone Ranger was not portrayed deviant from the radio program), purchased the title program and character, lock and stock, before production concluded on the 225 television episodes. Price tag was $3 million.

The enclosed are scans of various documents, clippings and correspondence related to the television series that are not only amusing, but a few worth a chuckle or two. (Click to enlarge.) By the way, the reference to Jay Silverheels having a heart attack might be a bit of a puzzle until you know that is why the character of Dan Reid appears alongside The Lone Ranger in many fourth-season episodes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Yes, there is a Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Ralph Edwards
Most people are familiar with a quiz program titled Truth or Consequences. Very few are aware that there is a town in New Mexico named after the radio quiz program.

The first five or six years of the quiz program was primarily a novelty program, offering prizes such as U.S. War Bonds and cash, if the contestant could answer the question correctly. If they failed -- and usually they did -- they had to suffer the consequence in order to win the prize... and yes, this sometimes included pies in the face and seltzer bottles. By 1946, the program picked up momentum with the Mr. Hush contest (Jack Dempsey), followed by two Mrs. Hush contests (Clara Bow and Martha Grahame), and of course, The Walking Man Contest (Jack Benny). To avoid the legalities of a lottery, Edwards instructed radio listeners to submit a donation to a particular charity in order to enter the contest. As a result, Edwards raised tons of money for The March of Dimes, and helped start what we now know as The American Heart Association -- literally. Thanks to The Walking Man contest, Truth or Consequences truly become a national sensation.

Truth or Consequences was also responsible for selling more U.S. War Bonds than any other radio program in history, helping to jumpstart the Jimmy Fund (click here for more details), and other charitable accomplishments that provided Ralph Edwards, the creator and host, a special place in Heaven for him.
In early March of 1950, one of Edwards' idea men suggested approaching a town in the United States to change the name to Truth or Consequences to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the radio show. Half a dozen towns vied for the opportunity, realizing the potential for out-of-state tourism and free publicity. The Denver Chamber of Commerce offered a suburb, the small town of Martin City, Montana, population 600, put itself in the running, and another small town in Oregon. Hot Springs, New Mexico, won over the producers for numerous reasons. Hot Springs was known for its warm and dry climate, medicinal mineral baths (which Geronimo and his men soaked to nurse their battle wounds), and low tourism as a result of much needed publicity. The city was nestled in the mountains along the banks of the Rio Grande and had more to offer the health seeker and the sportsman than advertised in pamphlets and newspapers. 

The deciding factor, which appealed to Ralph Edwards, was the presence of the Carrie Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children, which opened in 1937, named for his wife by then Gov. Clyde Tingley. Children were sent from all over the state suffering the effects of polio, as well as other crippling diseases. Edwards, ever the philanthropist, had someone in his office contact city officials

On the evening of March 21, 1950, at a regular recess meeting of the city of Hot Springs, fifty-five people attended the council meeting and on a show of hands 54 favored the change and one opposed. Jack Morgan, a resident in town, stated he would not have invested money in a court had he known the possibility existed of a name change. He cited Montgomery Ward with having trouble shipping his merchandise to Hot Springs if the town changed names. “Here was a man talking about building Hot Springs and still he sends his money out of town,” Paul Tooley reported in his newspaper. “This man and another who opposed the change are not members of the chamber of commerce.” J.W. Scott, a resident of town, began voicing his disapproval among the streets of town, following the meeting. Andy Anderson, another resident, said he was glad the town was changing the name. “I’ve been wanting to move to another town, now I can do it without getting out of my room.”

With this matter taken care of, Ralph Edwards, on the evening of March 25, 1950, told his estimated 19,000,000 listeners throughout the nation: “We are announcing the biggest thing that has ever happened to Truth or Consequences. Listen, everybody, across the nation. I have a letter in my hands from Hot Springs, New Mexico, a beautiful city of some 8,000 people, located in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley, on U.S. highway 35. A letter from the mayor, J.G. Mims, of Hot Springs, New Mexico, and countersigned by eight councilmen of Hot Springs, the state senator, representative, and other officials.” Edwards informed the audience that he and the entire Truth or Consequences gang would journey to the small town to officially dedicate the city and put Truth or Consequences on the map. Edwards also informed the radio audience that the entire crew would arrive a few days early to go fishing and take a motor boat ride on beautiful Elephant Butte Lake, the third largest body of impounded water in the world, 44 miles long, behind the dam where large mouth bass reside.

On March 31, the day before the scheduled radio broadcast, the citizens of Hot Springs went to the polls with open minds and cast their ballots for whichever they considered would be for the betterment of their city. As one citizen described the affect it seemed to have, “The whole town seems to be jumping up and down.” By a vote of 1,294 to 295, Hot Springs voters Friday elected to change the name of the city to Truth or Consequences. Nine minutes and 40 seconds after the polls closed, an extra edition of the Hot Springs Herald, retitled the Truth or Consequences Herald, was on the streets carrying the election returns. (The newspaper would revert to the original title of Hot Springs Herald with the next edition.)

It was headline news in some areas of the country. As a result of the nation-wide broadcast, letters, telegrams and telephone calls poured in on weary secretaries and other citizens. Besides the chamber of commerce, hardest hit was Roy Stovall, appointed by Edwards as “Public Relations Director” for Truth or Consequences. “I think this is the smartest action my people could have ever taken,” Mayor Glen Mims said to the press. “Now the whole United States will know of our fine facilities, our ideal climate, our excellent fishing, our health-giving water and sunshine, and the many other wonders that we have to offer.”

Sen. Burton Roach and the Christening
State Senator Burton Roach and Mayor G.J. Mims said they anticipated a glorious future for the resort town, which was noted for its mineral springs, dry climate, boating and fishing. To christen the event even further, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Passmore named their new-born baby Ralph Edwards Passmore in his honor on Friday, the day that the town was voting to change its name in honor of the tenth anniversary of the radio quiz show. Tourism ultimately came about and the town flourished. 

The broadcast of April 1 over NBC may have caused a number of radio listeners to wonder if the entire program was an April Fool’s joke. Edwards assured the town citizens that the plan was no gag. “I have my own reputation and show to protect and I want to go along and make this town one of the greatest health centers in the nation.” During the broadcast, the Christened town of Truth or Consequences was made official via  ceremony – a bottle of mineral water was broken over the head of State Senator Burton Roach, as a representative of the city during the broadcast. The Woman’s Club, represented by Mrs. Walter Knox, placed in charge of the Truth or Consequences Museum of relics and props used during the ten years of the broadcast was given a 72-piece set of Fine-Arts Sterling Silver for club use. W.A. “Skinny” Davis was presented the “County Seat” which turned out to be an overstuffed chair which he sat in and found to be a “hot seat” to place at the entrance of one of the drug stores in town. “There was an electric cord connected to the chair,” Davis later recalled. “The problem was someone forgot to turn on the electricity. So I faked the shocks and went along with it the best I could.” Later, Davis received a letter addressed “Hot Seat Davis” from San Bernardino, California.

Every year to mark the program's anniversary  Ralph Edwards and his gang returned to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, to broadcast the quiz show from the stage of the high school auditorium. Edwards not only kept his promise to give the little town its million dollars in publicity, he ultimately fell in love with the community and returned to the town every year, accompanied by an entourage of talent from Hollywood, for the annual April Fiesta. In doing so, Edwards became an adopted son and something of a local hero. The local park and a street were named after him. The local museum features a wing devoted to him and the quiz show. Edwards himself donated mementos and items for the museum. To this day, many curiosity seekers flock to the small town. Circa 1991, construction was completed for Route 10, which allows travelers to bypass the small town. Social commentary in Pixar's Cars rings true here as tourism progressively dropped as traffic through town has become weakened as a result. The town still flourishes, but it is a reminder that sometimes we all need to take a short detour and check out the local attractions. 

You'll probably be pleased to know that I finished the rough draft of my next book, TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES: A History of the Radio Quiz Program. That's the tentative title. (If you can come up with a better one, feel free to send me suggestions. I would prefer the words "national phenomenon" to somehow be worked into the subtitle.) Like most old-time radio programs, listening to existing recordings is entertaining but the history behind the program is equally -- if not more -- fascinating. A few months ago I took three days out of my busy schedule to fly out to Albuquerque, rent a car and drive down to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The scenic drive was great but so was the town. Evident from the numerous photos I am about to share with you. If you happen to be traveling through the MidWest, consider checking out the small towns and their hospitality. And, of course, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. My up-coming book about the quiz show will feature an entire chapter devoted to the Hot Springs-Truth or Consequences name change; much more detail than what I summed up above.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Railroad Hour: The "Lost" 1950 & 1951 Broadcasts

For the broadcast of January 2, 1950, The Railroad Hour presented Herbert Blossom’s The Red Mill. Gordon MacRae and guest Jack Smith played American tourists Kid Conner and Con Kidder who meet Gretchen (played by frequent guest Lucille Norman) just before her forced wedding to a “fat, old government official,” in a town in Holland. Her father, the Burgomeister (played by comedian Jack Kirkwood) locks her in a red mill that is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a bride. For a humorous scene, the duo disguises themselves as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to fool Gretchen’s father, using stage English accents to do so.
For the broadcast of April 3, 1950, a repeat performance of The Song of Norway was dramatized; a musical set mostly in the foothills of the mountains of Norway, it is a fictionalized account of the life and music of Edvard Grieg and poet Rikvard Nordraak. For The Railroad Hour, Irra Petina recreated her original Broadway role as the Countess Louisa Giovanni, who formed part of the triangle, also involving Grieg and Nina. Petina did a small bit of Now during the curtain call, a musical number that is best associated with the The Song of Norway.
Beginning with the broadcast of May 29, 1950, The Railroad Hour presented a series of “Revues” as part of their summer lineup. Each week, a different year was highlighted (in no specific order), and musical numbers associated with that year (and/or premiered that same year) were performed. The first was “Revue of 1927,” and the final presentation, broadcast September 25, 1950, was “Revue of 1924.”
On September 14, 1950, the NBC Press Department released the following press release:
     “Gordon MacRae will open the third year of The Railroad Hour with the Broadway musical, Allegro, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, on Monday, Oct. 2 (NBC, 8:00 p.m., EST). Soprano Nadine Conner will be guest soloist. As in the past two years, the orchestra will be directed by Carmen Dragon and the chorus will be led by Norman Luboff. The Railroad Hour, in its two years on the air, has won many prizes as well as the general approbation of the listening public. Many fan letters pour in each week.
     “This year
The Railroad Hour will present recent Broadway musicals as well as the operetta favorites of past years. Guest stars joining singing host Gordon MacRae will include familiar names, among them Nadine Conner, Dorothy Kirsten, Dorothy Warenskjold, Lucille Norman, and Jane Powell. A special program for the Christmas broadcast is being prepared.”

According to the same press release, producer Francis Van Hartesveldt had plans to feature a repeat performance of The Wizard of OZ for the 1950-51 season, which was never repeated since its 1949 broadcast. There were also plans to bring Last Waltz and Polonaise to the program, neither of which made it to the series. Jubilee was planned, but it wasn’t featured until almost a year later!
For the holiday presentation of December 25, 1950, The Railroad Hour decided to present a “Christmas Party,” a half-hour of spiritual and joyful holiday songs. With no actual drama presented, this was (with the exception of the recent summer shows), a different format than The Railroad Hour had presented in the past.
During the 1950 holiday broadcast, William T. Faricy, president of the Association of American Railroads, made a quick guest appearance to broadcast a special message personally:
     “Christmas is the season when men and women turn from strife and struggle toward the blessings of peace and the fellowship which some day will bring all men together as friends. This is the goal which men have sought for almost two thousand years—which, no doubt, they will continue to seek for years yet to come. No man, no institution, no people alone can achieve this long sought goal—but every man, every institution, every people can contribute to the fulfillment of the promise of the first Christmas—Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.
     “The heart of that seeking for peace and good will is in the family—an institution which symbolizes the family of mankind. So Christmas, the festival of peace, is the great family festival, celebrated in the homes where families gather. “To all such gatherings who might be listening tonight, the family of the Railroad Hour—a family made up not only of those who produce our weekly broadcasts, but also the railroad companies which sponsor them, the million people who as small as stockholders own the railroads and the million and a quarter men and women who work for them—
The Railroad Hour family says to you and your family, ‘Thank you for joining our Christmas party tonight—and in your own holiday season, and in the new year to come, may you find joy, prosperity and, above all, peace!’” 

This was the first of what would become an annual tradition of musical offerings for the holiday season, with festive and religious music interlaced with comical tones of festive celebration, and a personal message given personally by Faricy. So many listeners wrote in to express their appreciation of the Railroad Hour’s “Christmas Party” that the producers repeated this tradition every year after.

Beginning with the broadcast of July 2, 1951, The Railroad Hour premiered a summer season of original musicals created by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, adapted from a variety of sources ranging from poems to biographies. With their knowledge of literature (especially having scripted all of the Favorite Story radio dramas), Lawrence and Lee worked alongside Carmen Dragon to present original musical presentations (though the music was not so much original, as Irish folk songs and American Ballads made up a large percentage of the vocal music).
Among the original musicals presented throughout the summer and future presentations of The Railroad Hour was the July 9, 1951 broadcast entitled “Casey at the Bat,” based on the immortal Ernest L. Thayer poem of the same name. Such classics as Take Me Out to the Ball Game, The Band Played On, and In the Good Old Summertime were sung during the drama. A few years before, on June 3, 1947, Lawrence and Lee wrote a non-musical presentation of the same name, based on the same poem, for ZIV’s Favorite Story. Other such examples…

• The July 23, 1951 presentation of The Railroad Hour was entitled “Roaring Camp,” based on the Bret Harte story of the same name. Lawrence and Lee had written a non-musical script dated September 3, 1946 for Favorite Story, entitled “The Luck of Roaring Camp.”
• The August 27, 1951 presentation of The Railroad Hour was entitled “Danny Freel,” adapted from an Irish folk tale. Lawrence and Lee had written a non-musical script dated March 11, 1947, for Favorite Story, entitled “Jamie Freel.”
• The July 14, 1952 presentation of The Railroad Hour was entitled “The Necklace,” based on the Guy de Maupassant story of the same name. Lawrence and Lee had written a non-musical script dated October 7, 1947 for Favorite Story.
• The August 11, 1952 presentation of The Railroad Hour was entitled “The Brownings.” Lawrence and Lee had written a non-musical script based on the same material dated February 10, 1948 for Favorite Story.
• The June 29, 1953 presentation of The Railroad Hour was entitled “The Man Without a Country,” based on the Edward Everett Hale story of the same name. Lawrence and Lee had written a non-musical script dated May 27, 1947 for Favorite Story.
The following episodes documented below are the only episodes from the calendar year of 1950 and 1951 that are not known to exist in collector hands. If you have any of these and the details listed below match that in the recordings, please let me know so I can take it off the list.

Episode #105 “ALLEGRO” Broadcast October 2, 1950
Rehearsal date: September 28, 1950.
Cast: Nadine Conner (Jennie Brinker), Gordon MacRae (Joseph Taylor, Jr.) and Janet Waldo (female extra).
Based on the musical of the same name, which premiered at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven on September 1, 1947.
Music score by Richard Rodgers, with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Adapted for The Railroad Hour by Jean Holloway.
Songs include: Joseph Taylor, Jr.; I Know It Can Happen Again; A Fellow Needs a Girl (MacRae); So Far; Wish Them Well; You Are Never Away; Allegro; Come Home; and One Foot, Other Foot.

Episode #114 “THE FIREFLY” Broadcast December 4, 1950 
Cast: Gordon MacRae (Jack Travers) and Dorothy Sarnoff (Nina, a.k.a. “The Firefly”).
Songs include: Love is Like a Firefly (Sarnoff); A Woman’s Smile (MacRae); When a Maid Comes Knocking (excerpt with Sarnoff); Giannina Mia (Sarnoff and chorus); Love is Like a Firefly (reprise with Sarnoff, MacRae and chorus); Bermuda (Sarnoff and MacRae); Sympathy (MacRae and chorus); Donkey Serenade (Sarnoff, MacRae and chorus); and Giannina Mia (reprise with Sarnoff, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 28, broadcast April 11, 1949.
Episode #132 “THE GREAT WALTZ” Broadcast April 9, 1951
Dorothy Colter (the Countess), Joseph Colter (Johann Strauss, Sr.), Dorothy Kirsten (Resi) and Gordon MacRae (Johann Strauss, Jr.) .
Songs include: The Blue Danube (chorus); You Are My Songs (Kirsten, MacRae and chorus); Star in the Sky (Kirsten, MacRae and chorus); Only One Hour (Kirsten and chorus); You Are My Songs (Kirsten, MacRae and chorus); The Polka (chorus); With All My Heart (MacRae); and The Blue Danube (reprise with Kirsten, MacRae and chorus).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 58, broadcast November 7, 1949.
Episode #134 “MADAM BUTTERFLY” Broadcast April 23, 1951
Script revised and completed March 30, 1951.
Cast: Nadine Conner (Butterfly), Gordon MacRae (Pinkerton), Ted Osborne (Sharpless), and Barbara Woodall (Kate Pinkerton and the shrew).
Based on the opera by Giacomo Puccini which premiered on February 17, 1904 in Milan. The opera was based on the David Belasco play that premiered on March 5, 1900 at the Herald Square Theatre. The original story was by John Luther Long, originally published in the January 1898 issue of Century Magazine.
Adapted for The Railroad Hour by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Songs include: Is It Love or Fancy? (MacRae); Across the Earth and O’er the Ocean (Conner and chorus); Okami (entire cast); Denunciation (MacRae and chorus); Evening is Falling (Conner and MacRae); One Fine Day (Conner); Bouche Ferme (chorus effect); Yes, In One Sudden Moment (Osborne and MacRae); Beloved Idol (Conner); and At Last the Day is Dawning (MacRae and chorus).

Episode #138 “THE CHOCOLATE SOLDIER” Broadcast May 21, 1951
Marion Bell (Nadina), Bea Benaderet (the mother), Joseph Kearns (Popoff), Gordon MacRae (Bumerli), and George Niese (Alexius). 
Songs include: The Spy (chorus); My Hero (Bell); Chocolate Soldier (Bell and MacRae); Ti-Ra-La-La (Benaderet and Bell); Forgive (MacRae); The Letter Song (Bell and MacRae); and My Hero (reprise with Bell and MacRae).

Trivia, etc. This was a repeat performance of episode 55, broadcast October 17, 1949.

Episode #147 “ROARING CAMP” Broadcast July 23, 1951
William Conrad (Kaintuck), Peter Leeds (Oakhurst), Gordon MacRae (Boston Wagoner), Marvin Miller (Man-O-War Jack and the man), and Dorothy Warenskjold (Elvira Brigham).
Based on the 1892 story The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte from the book The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories published 1868-70, with music by Anton Dvorak.
Written exclusively for The Railroad Hour by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Story and history: From 1868 until early 1871, Harte served as editor of the Overland Monthly magazine. The August 1868 issue included the story The Luck of Roaring Camp. Californians disliked the story at first
because it showed California life as rough and unsophisticated, and sympathetic to the tough gold rush miners. But the story soon gained Harte a nationwide reputation. Anton Dvorak is best known as the world’s most-played Czech composer of all time. His musical inventiveness was bottomless, and the beauty of his melodies unique. This Railroad Hour broadcast presented an original musical based on the Bret Harte short story, using compositions from Dvorak’s best works.
Songs included: Cross the Prairie (MacRae and chorus); Longing for Home (Warenskjold, MacRae and chorus); Don’t Go to Roaring Camp (Warenskjold and chorus); Go to Sleep (Warenskjold and chorus); Go to Sleep (reprise with Warenskjold and chorus); Listen, Lads! (MacRae and chorus); Flood’s A-Risin’! (chorus effect); and Love Will Soothe the Sharpest Loss (Warenskjold, MacRae and chorus).

Episode #148 “PIRATES OF PICCADILLY” Broadcast July 30, 1951
Gordon MacRae (W.S. Gilbert), Marvin Miller (Richard D’Oyly Carte), Thurl Ravenscroft (Mr. Grossmith), Dorothy Warenskjold (Jessie Bond), and Willard Waterman (Arthur Sullivan).
Based on the life of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, using the music from many of their musicals.
Written for The Railroad Hour by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
Songs included: Wand’ring Minstrel (chorus); When I Was a Lad (MacRae and chorus); Poor Wandering One (Warenskjold and chorus); I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General (MacRae and chorus); Act One Finale (MacRae and chorus); Tit Willow (MacRae); The Moon and I (Warenskjold); Little Buttercup (entire cast and chorus); and Wand’ring Minstrel (reprise with Warenskjold, MacRae and chorus).

Closing Comments
Every episode from 1952 is known to exist. In a future blog post, I will cover the "lost" episodes of 1953 and 1954.

The Billy Rose Theater Collection located at the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts in the New York Public Library holds the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Collection, which includes a broad sampling of the material that the team created for radio, television, and the stage. Included in the collection are complete holdings for The Railroad Hour, both recordings and scripts. These include almost the entire run of The Railroad Hour, all off-line recordings from KFI in Los Angeles, California. Each recording is complete on two sound discs, analog, 33 1/3 RPM., 16 inch aluminum-based acetate discs. Access to many of the original items (such as transcription discs) is restricted. Many of the broadcasts, thankfully, have been transferred to sound tape reels (analog, 7.5 IPS, 7 in.) so patrons can listen and enjoy the musicals. 

 In 1967, they presented a full collection of Railroad Hour recordings to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the New York Public Library.
The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Collection may or may not be complete. According to their inventory, the collection holds a total of 532 sound recordings – not all of them are The Railroad Hour. While the archive does house one rehearsal recording, the list of titles and broadcast dates remain incomplete. Comparing the library’s inventory with the recordings known to circulate among old-time radio collectors, it is estimated that about six recordings remain unaccounted for. Dismal hopes should not prevail, as it is “assumed” (but not proven) that the Lawrence and Lee Collection does contain a recording of every broadcast – and that the inventory sheets are merely incomplete.

So the recordings listed above are referred to as "lost" only in the sense that they are not available in collector hands. In a future blog post I will list those six in particular. But in the meantime, if you have any of the above, please let me know so I can remove them from this list.  

Shameless plug: Material included in this blog post originates from The Railroad Hour by Gerald D. Wilson and Martin Grams. Reprinted with permission from Bear Manor Media. Special thanks to the staff of Ohio State University Library and the staff at the Billy Rose Theater Collection. Also special thanks to Ben Ohmart, Derek Tague, Joyce Comeaux, Kara Darling of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatre Library, Aida Garcia-Cole of G. Schirmer, Inc., Jim Cox, Leo Gawroniak, Terry Salomonson, Amanda Dittoe, Craig Wichman, Sheila MacRae Wayne, Al Hubin, B. Ray Druian, Jack French, Harlan Zinck, Roy Moore, Kathy Dragon Henn, David Goldin and Alex Daoundakis.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The New Bob Hope Book by Richard Zoglin

With his topical jokes and his All-American, brash-but-cowardly screen character, Bob Hope was one of the few entertainers to achieve top-rated success in every major mass-entertainment medium of the century, from vaudeville in the 1920s all the way to television in the 1970s. Some credit him as inventing modern stand-up comedy. Behind the scenes, Hope was a savvy businessman, investing his income in real estate, building his own brand name, providing entertainment to a mass audience at Army camps across the station, and helped numerous charities across the nation.

Simon and Schuster recently published a new biography about Bob Hope, authored by Richard Zoglin, theater critic for Time magazine. From his personal life in England, where he was born, vaudeville, Broadway, radio, Hollywood, providing entertainment for servicemen overseas, television, golfing and Vietnam, Bob Hope's life is chronicled from day one to his last day on Earth -- two months before his 100th birthday. "He had, unfortunately, stuck around too long," Zoglin remarks. And his observations are right on the money. Hope wanted to perform for an audience and servicemen provided a larger applause from the balcony than any radio microphone could offer. "For Bob Hope, who loved entertaining, craved live audiences, and could not conceive of a life in which he was not constantly in the public eye, retirement was never a serious option," Zoglin writes.

As Larry Gilbart once remarked, Bob Hope needed the audience and the audience needed him. He couldn't stay home and relax with a newspaper. He had to get out on the road and entertain. Watching Hope in the 1980 TV broadcast, "Bob Hope for President," you could see Sammy Davis, Jr. perform "I Can Do That" (from A Chorus Line) and steal the evening, generating a standing ovation from the military personnel. Hope comes out almost immediately to perform a soft-shoe routine with Davis, but it's not the same -- Hope wanted the spotlight and Davis stole it. I couldn't help but think how sad it was that Hope kept trying to do television specials for the purpose of keeping active. He wasn't comfortable relaxing on a golf course and drinking alcohol all day.

Zoglin accomplishes exactly what I hoped his book would: a chronological breakdown of Hope's accomplishments, trials and tribulations, and personal conflicts behind the camera. His wife, Dolores, struggled to maintain a relationship with her husband. Bing Crosby was a good friend, but distanced himself from Hope during off-camera hours knowing that personal time could add strain their friendship. Hope's romantic relationship with Marilyn Maxwell? Well, we all know about that and suspected so and Zoglin does a great job making reference, but avoiding anything scandalous. Dorothy Lamour's personal feelings about Hope and Crosby, finding out the hard way that she wasn't welcome in any future pictures? It's all here.

Along with Have Tux, Will Travel and Don't Shoot, It's Only Me (both authored by Hope himself), this is the quin-essential book about Bob Hope. Retail price is $30 but you can shop around and get it for $20. Well worth purchasing and adding to your bookshelf. Here's a link to purchase a copy today.

Bob Hope truly did visit a different military base, every week during World War II, to entertain for troops overseas. His devotion to duty is unequalled to any performer in Hollywood. So it is on a sad note that I report two potential issues that may prevent the dim the spotlight of Bob Hope eternal. In 1998, Bob Hope began donating his personal scripts, letters, films, radio broadcasts, television broadcasts and other materials to the Library of Congress. With the exception of an exhibit featuring a number of said materials, the collection has yet to be catalogued or inventoried for scholars and historians to help preserve the legacy of Bob Hope. The collection remains on shelves in storage. According to the Library of Congress in 1998, "the processing and preservation of the collection will be supported by a generous gift from the Hopes." If Bob Hope was alive today, I wonder what he would have thought about his collection still sitting uncatalogued.

Of more recent news, there seems to be serious discussion regarding the possibility of striking Bob Hope's name from the Burbank Airport, which is named after him. The results will be made public after an official decision is made. You can learn more about this here:

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Results Are In: Nostalgia is not Mainstream

For years I have been having a debate with a few small-minded individuals who continue to think that old movies, old-time radio and cowboy westerns are as popular today as the latest motion-picture blockbusters. "I don't understand how the youth of today doesn't know who Archie Andrews or The Lone Ranger is!" was one such expression. My opinion is rooted deep in concrete. There is a difference between mainstream and a niche market. And today's youth displays a lack of concern for history. Anything created more than ten years ago is "old." Especially when referring to something pop culture. 

Avoiding an anonymity of the other side of the computer screen, uncertain who would be tampering with the results of an online poll, I went to the trouble of distributing a questionnaire to the local community college, the local mall where today's youth hangs out, and at a Comic Con in Baltimore, Maryland. I asked 19 simple questions. I asked for their age -- not their names. I told them there was no such thing as a bad answer and that they were not going to be judged. When there was more than one of them, I asked them not to consult with each other. I asked them to be honest and leave the answer blank if they did not know. But it was okay to take a guess if they think they know the answer.

A total of 409 people under the age of 25 took a moment to fill out my poll, get a free piece of candy for their time, and what follows are the results of that poll. I think you'll find the results quite interesting.

Ages..... Number of People
12..... 3
13..... 13
14..... 12
15..... 10
16..... 11
17..... 9
18..... 23
19..... 59
20..... 48
21..... 67
22..... 58
23..... 48
24..... 45
3 people forgot to put their age on the paper.

1. Do you know who John Wayne is?

13 people said "a cowboy."
11 people said "an actor."

The rest did not know who he was.

2. Can you name a movie John Wayne starred in?

One person said "Stagecoach"
One person said "The Quiet Man"
One person said "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"
Two people said "True Grit"
One person said "Citizen Kane" (he wasn't in the movie)
One person said "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (he wasn't in any such movie)

The rest did could not name a movie.

3. Who is Batman?

405 out of 406 got this answer correct.
The lone holdout forgot to answer this question and left it blank.

4. Have you ever read a Batman comic book? 

Thirty people said "yes."

5. Do you read Batman comic books on a regular basis?

Only two people said "yes."

6. Who is Jack Benny?

Two people said a comedian.
One person said a concert violinist.
One person said a movie actor.
One person said a cartoon character.
One person said a singer.
One person said a Christmas shopper.
One person said "my grandmother told me about him but I forget."

No one else answered this question.

7. Who is James Dean?

305 people said an actor.
Two people said a chain smoker (one of them suggested Dean did smoking ads.)
Four people said a rebel.
Two people said a Rebel Without a Cause.
Four people said a hot rod race driver.
One person said someone their mother dated.

No one else had an answer.

8. Who is The Lone Ranger?

279 people were polled before the recent movie was promoted for theatrical release.

Two people said a cowboy actor.
Two people said a TV cowboy.
One person said a hero in a comic book.

274 people did not know.

127 people were polled after the movie was released in theaters. Answers provided below.

25 people said a cowboy.
36 people said Johnny Depp.
4 people said a Western comic book hero.
1 person said a movie.
1 person said a Texas Ranger.
2 people gave a lengthy description that pretty much says they definitely know who he is.

58 people did not know.

9. Who is Buster Keaton?

Two people said "screen comedian."
Two people said "silent actor."
One person said "an actor."

No one else provided an answer.

10. Who is Bob Hope?

Three people said he did a Christmas Special on TV.
Two people said he performed for servicemen overseas.
Two people said a comedian.

No one else provided an answer.

11. Name a silent movie.

Three people said "Metropolis."
Two people said Laurel and Hardy.
One person gave us two titles: It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.
One person said a Shirley Temple movie.

No one else provided an answer.

12. Who is Archie Andrews?

Two people said a comic book.

No one else provided an answer.

13. Name three TV programs filmed in black and white.

Some people provided more than one answer. All answers are listed below.

21 people said The Twilight Zone
14 people said I Love Lucy
13 people said The Andy Griffith Show
Three people said Pokemon (I checked, there apparently was a black and white episode)
Two people said The Outer Limits
One person said Betty Boop
One person said Howdy Doody
One person said the Betty White Show

No one else provided an answer

14. Who is Iron Man?

406 out of 406 got this answer correct.

15. Have you ever read an Iron Man comic book? 

21 people said "yes."

16. Do you read Iron Man comic books on a regular basis?

Only one person said "yes."

17. Who is Betty Boop?

Sixteen people said a cartoon character.
Fourteen people said a comic.
Three people said a black and white character.
One person said a female cartoon character.

No one else provided an answer.

18. Who is Bettie Page?

Eleven people said a stripper.
Two people said a pin-up girl.
One person said her mother's maiden name.

No one else provided an answer.

19. What is the Inner Sanctum?

One person said a porn film.

No one else provided an answer.

20. How many Star Wars films have you seen?

375 of them said "six" or "all six."
Ten of them said "all of them."
Five of them said three.
Four of them said four.
Four of them said all six "many times."
Four of them went so far as to name the titles of all six movies.
One of them said "only the first one."
One of them said "only a few minutes of one of them."

21. Have you ever played Angry Birds?

54 people said yes.
Two people said "once."

Rest of them said "no" or provided no answer.

22. Who is Humphrey Bogart?

Six people said an actor.
One person said a Hollywood actor.
One person said a singer.
One person said a detective.

No one else provided an answer.

The youth today knows who the comic book characters are, no doubt as a result of the popularity of the motion-pictures and mass marketing. But do they read the comic books? It appears that the majority know about Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Spider-Man and other characters originates from the movies they watch -- not so much from the comic books. But at least they know they are comic book heroes.

Old-time movies and actors who helped define silver screen immortality may fade into obscurity with each passing generation. Old movies are available with ease of access courtesy of DVD and multiple television stations. But who can expose those to a generation what prefers iPads, Angry Birds and Star Wars?

Now we all know if this poll was submitted to an older fan base -- people over the age of 55 -- the results would be much more different. But I wanted to gauge the results from today's youth. The difference between mainstream and niche is clarified simply: A niche market is defined as geared to a specific type of audience, with products focused on a specific genre or product. So the next time someone tells me that they cannot comprehend how kids today don't know who The Lone Ranger or Buster Keaton is... I am going to point them to this poll.