Friday, March 27, 2015


Maurice Tarplin, cast member
High Adventure was a dramatic series based on the ever-familiar mystery and detective theme, with an occasional supernatural angle. The dramas presented, a different one each broadcast, concerned the weird experiences of people who were propelled from more-or-less routine lives into unusual circumstances that led to “high adventure.” While this is mere speculation, it’s more than likely NBC’s attempt to cash in on CBS’ Escape series. The program was announced as the offering of the “High Adventure Society,” with the announcer as “the presiding officer, your host, welcoming you to the weekly meeting of the High Adventure Society…” The yarns broadcast were supposedly based on experiences of the members of the fictitious Society. Different radio actors and actresses were featured in the broadcasts and some faithful radio listeners might have recognized a few of those voices, realizing that the Society ploy was simply that. Occasionally, a name guest star was added to the presentation.

The stories were still written and directed by Bob Monroe. Musical bridges and background were performed by Arlo (Arlo Hults, organist). Because the series was no longer sponsored, the cost of having an orchestra was too much for the network, hence one organist. Effective with the broadcast of September 17, 1950, John Winters, organist, replaced Arlo. Ron Rawson was no longer the announcer. Instead, Ray Barrett was the new man who referred to himself as the “host.” Later, Barrett was replaced by Mel Brandt and others. Sadly, I have not yet found out who the others were, or which episodes they did. After the first four episodes, Robert Monroe was no longer contracted by NBC to do the series (his initial contract was for 26 episodes, even if the sponsor backed out). Elliot Drake took over as the author and director beginning with episode #5, but on a rotating basis as Monroe continued to contribute both writing and directing. (Beginning with episode 5, those I was able to identify who directed and wrote are credited accordingly.)

Episode #1  “RETURN TICKET”
Broadcast Date:
July 2, 1950
Cast: Mary Ashworth, Don Douglas, Ross Martin and Jack Orrison.
Plot: The story of Jack Regan (Ross Martin) who went to work at a lumber and logging camp and found that he had a double look-alike named Benny. Even Benny’s girl, Sal, a dance-hall girl, refused to believe that Regan was not her man. Ultimately, Benny gets a crooked idea that involved the attempted murder of Jack.

Trivia, etc. The premiere episode was delayed due to a short news bulletin regarding the recent Korean situation. Same happened for the broadcast of July 9.

Episode #2  “LOCK STEP”
Broadcast Date:
July 9, 1950
Cast: Mort Lawrence, Jeff Morrow, Jack Orrison, and Allan Stevenson.
Plot: This is the story of Tim Roark (Allan Stevenson), a young boy who is sent to prison. Without his knowledge, his own father is his cellmate and shows the boy what true “friendship” can mean. The old man loses his own life saving the boy from making a jail break that would have ruined his chances of early parole.

Episode #3  “THE BLACK CORD”
Broadcast Date:
July 16, 1950
Cast: Connie Lembcke and Ross Martin.
Plot: A young, attractive woman masquerades as a widow about to inherit a large sum of money. Posing as the wife of a murdered man, she is befriended by the husband’s best friend, Fred Stevens (Ross Martin), who suspects her of being an imposter but whose love for her is so great that he offers to protect her from the police. Connie Lembcke plays the role of the imposter, Ree, who finally turns out to be a policewoman who had been assigned to the role of the “widow.”

Broadcast Date:
July 23, 1950
Cast: Maurice Dorflin, Beryl Firestone, Joyce Gordon, Jack Orrison and Phil Sterling.
Plot: A suspense story about two brothers, Ward Collins and his “big brother” Red. The two brothers have only one thing in common: they both fall for the same girl. Red is a braggart who takes what he wants; Ward is unselfish but he can’t get over the complex of being overshadowed by his brother. Then comes the test: Red is caught in a burning tempering room and Ward is the only person who can save him. Ward saves his brother and also turns in the alarm that saves the lived of other workers at the plant. Joyce Gordon is cast as Alice, the girl who makes her choice between the two brothers and chooses Ward.

Episode #5  “THE HILL”
Broadcast Date:
July 30, 1950
Cast: Jim Boles, Jack Orrison, Al Patterson and Jim Stevens.
Plot: Dave Wilson, army staff sergeant, found that an old savage ma who wanted to rebuild the city of his ancestors was a “pretty right guy” for Dave and his lieutenant owed their life to such a man.

Trivia, etc. Elliot Drake is the author and director for this broadcast.

Broadcast Date:
August 6, 1950
Cast: Joyce Gordon and Ross Martin
Plot: Probably the best script of the series, written by Robert Monroe. The story of a baseball player named Joey, but better known simply as “the Greenfield Boy,” because Greenfield is his home town. Joey had a terrific batting average and this leads to a feud between him and a left-handed pitcher named “Lefty,” who decides to court the same girl Joey loves. The Greenfield Boy faces death when Lefty deliberately tries to hit him in the head with a pitched ball but Joey refuses to register a complaint that would ban Lefty from the Leagues. Joyce Gordon plays the girl, Evie.

Episode #7  “COINCIDENCE”
Broadcast Date:
August 13, 1950
Cast: Joyce Gordon and Ross Martin
Plot: Written and directed by Elliot Drake. A young man named Sammy Bowen (Ross Martin) from the wrong side of the tracks is found guilty of a murder he did not commit. The youth is convicted on circumstantial evidence plus the bias of the Court caused by the boy’s juvenile delinquency record. A detective finds a small piece of evidence and saves the boy from electrocution. The boy’s girlfriend, Donny, daughter of the slain man (Joyce Gordon), remains loyal to her sweetheart.

Episode #8  “THE FIFTH DOOR”
Broadcast Date:
August 20, 1950
Cast: John Larkin
Plot: A sea story about three men who were trapped in a locked cabin aboard a sunken ship at the bottom of the sea. The three men know that one of them is a killer but only the guilty man knows who the murderer is. John Larkin plays the role of Kip Allen, the man who tells the story as he lived it. Kip and one of the other men, Bill, escape from the sunken ship: Petie, the third man, does not get out.

Broadcast Date:
August 27, 1950
Cast: Inge Adams and Ross Martin
Plot: Written and directed by Robert Monroe. The story of John Rhodes (Ross Martin), diplomatic courier, who fulfills his mission in getting a pouch to the correct destination by the required date. During his mission, Rhodes meets Lauraine, the beautiful girl with whom he falls in love.

Episode #10  “WOMAN IN THE WOODS”
Broadcast Date:
September 3, 1950
Cast: Inge Adams, Jim Boles, Ross Martin and Nat Polen.
Plot: A mysterious woman (Inge Adams)with a fatal attraction for men and how she proves a stumbling block to two engineers assigned to build an air field in South America.

Episode #11  “SECRET THURSDAY”
Broadcast Date:
September 10, 1950
Cast: unknown
Plot: A story about flying and an accountant named George Stradley who had spent 25 years working for the Harlan Fire Hose Company, but who had wanted always to fly. When George gets a Thursday off work, he heads for the airport and finds that he can fly a plan just because he read every book on flying that he could find.

Episode #12  “BARRIER”
Broadcast Date:
September 17, 1950
Cast: Mary Ashworth
Plot: Three people learn the true value of one another’s characters when they for on a trip together: two men and a girl. The girl, Grace (Mary Ashworth), is promised in marriage to John Rockwood, one of the men. The other man, Ward Delcamp, is also in love with the girl. Through death, John binds the girl to him for always, as she chooses to live with his money.

Episode #13  “EAST SIDE BEAT”
Broadcast Date:
September 24, 1950
Cast: Don Douglas, Wendell Holmes, Mort Lawrence, Ross Martin, Bryan Raeburn and Linda Watkins.
Plot: Written and directed by Elliot Drake. A serious dramatic public service drama concerning juvenile delinquency. Bill Harrigan, a cop, faces retirement just when he wanted to solve a very special care. He found strange crimes committed by a kid because “nobody likes him” -- one by one, the kid hurts and even kills other boys and girls and finally a pet monkey.

Episode #14  “WHO WALKS LIKE A MAN”
Broadcast Date:
October 1, 1950
Cast: unknown
Plot: Written and directed by Robert Monroe. The story of Brad Orcoff who once thought that money was everything and went to Africa to make more of it. There, he encountered the gorilla, “who walks like a man.”

Broadcast Date:
October 8, 1950
Cast: unknown
Plot: Written and directed by Robert Monroe. The story of a man name Van Marola, who lived a dream of hope -- and destruction. This was the final broadcast of the series.

George Sanders, host of High Adventure
When the network was unable to pick up a new sponsor for High Adventure during the summer run, the series was cancelled. Elliott Drake and Robert Monroe eventually took the series back to Mutual, where the series originated in 1947. The program premiered on January 6, 1953 at 8:30 p.m. (now referred to as Series Four), and beginning with the broadcast of October 13, 1953, George Sanders became the series regular as both the host and narrator. Sanders remained until the program concluded on the evening of September 21, 1954. Only four episodes are known to exist in recorded form of the final series, and there is evidence to suggest that most of the 1954 broadcasts originated from the West Coast and not New York. 

From 1972 to 1985, a radio program of the same name was produced in South Africa. At present 32 different episodes are circulating in collector hands of the 655 that were broadcast. It has been reported that 204 episodes have been preserved. It remains unknown whether this is the same program or a completely different one with the same name. 

This is part two of a two-part article/episode guide on High Adventure. For part one, click here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ted Davenport and Radio Memories

Ted Davenport

This is for those of you who prefer to support the vendors who spend hours every day transferring old-time radio shows from transcription discs.

I’ve heard and seen that Ted Davenport’s website,, has just released a large amount of music programs.  30 MP3’s alone of the KRAFT MUSIC HALL starting in 1933 through 1949, featuring Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby and Al Jolson. I often find these programs enjoyable, though the comedy is rarely laugh-out-loud funny. But each to their own taste -- I enjoy the music. You can buy albums of Al Jolson and Bing Crosby but radio programs like these have "tracks" that fans of music from that time period cannot find elsewhere.

Additional series include THE GENERAL ELECTRIC SHOW from 1952 – 1953, THE CHESTERFIELD SHOW from 1949 – 1952, and THE RADIO HALL OF FAME from 1943 – 1946. Ted said he is currently working on a large run of THE PHILCO RADIO SHOW. 

These high quality sample rate shows are all from his masters and not copies of other low sample rate MP3’s that are floating around. I have no financial interest in promoting this, but just getting the word out about his website slowing moving from high quality cassettes to high quality MP3’s is news in the hobby of old-time radio. Ted has been around since the 1960’s as a collector and dealer and is widely known and respected to many in the OTR hobby and community.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Shadow Pulp Magazine Auction

If you ever wondered what the prices are for vintage pulp magazines, this quick bit of trivia might surprise you. (Always good to learn something new, isn't it?) On the evening of April 26, 2014, an auction was held in Chicago, Illinois, highlighting a massive collection of original Shadow pulp magazines, digests and other Shadow related materials. The consignor collected this material over the past 40 years. Unfortunately, health issues forced him to sell much of his material to pay off medical bills. The materials were available for inspection in a ballroom at the Westin Yorktown Lombard Center, during the Windy City Pulp and Paper Show. While many of the 1940s issues appeared in great condition, most of the 1930s issues were trimmed along the three sides (not the spine, of course) which cut down on the value of the issues. There was a buyer's premium of ten percent added to the amount of the winning bid. Credit card and Paypal purchases added a 5 percent surcharge on top of this. With 112 individual lots, you can imagine how long it took for them to go through the entire inventory during the auction and the prices are still amazing considering the alterations described above. Here is a complete breakdown on the auction prizes.

1. Three pulp magazine: Murder Marsh (10/1/34), The Unseen Killer (12/1/34) and The Blue Sphinx (1/15/35). $50

2. Three pulps: The Yellow Door (7/1/36), Terror Island (8/15/36) and Death by Proxy (10/15/36). $45

3. Three pulps: Partners of Peril (11/1/36), The Strange Disappearance of Joe Cardona (11/15/36) and The Seven Drops of Blood (12/1/36).  $45

4. Death Token (3/1/37) $25

5. The Shadow's Rival (6/15/37) $35

6. House of Silence (7/15/37) $35

7. Teeth of the Dragon (11/15/37) $55

8. The Golden Dog Murders (9/1/38) $30

9. Double Death (12/15/38) $45

10. Crime Rides the Sea (1/15/39) $25

11. The Three Brothers (5/15/39) $20

12. Noose of Death (7/1/39) $15

13. Isle of Gold (8/1/39) $20

14. Three pulps: Castle of Doom (1/15/36), The City of Doom (5/15/36) and The Crime Oracle (6/1/36). $50

15. Three pulps: Intimidation, Inc. (12/15/36), Vengeance is Mine! (1/1/37) and The Masked Headsman (4/15/37). $45

16. All three Shadow Annuals from 1942, 1943 and 1947. No back cover, small piece out of last page which affects the short story, but do not affect the Shadow stories. $30

17. Complete set of all four Shadow Crime Club hardcover books. In mylar dust jackets, very nice shape. $60

18. Two Norgil The Magician hardcovers from The Mysterious Press. Both authored by Walter B. Gibson. In nice shape. $40

19. Three Shadow books: The Weird Adventures of The Shadow (hardcover in mylar dust jacket), The Crime Oracle and the Teeth of the Dragon (trade paperback) and The Shadow Knows (trade paperback reprinting radio scripts). $30

20. The Shadow and the Golden Master (Mysterious Press hardcover). Two copies of the same book. $20

21. Three pulps: The Cup of Confucius (5/1/37), The Sealed Box (12/1/37), and Racket Town (12/15/37). $50

22. Three pulps: The Fifth Napoleon (2/1/38), The Crimson Phoenix (4/1/38) and Serpents of Siva (4/15/38). $60

23. Three pulps: Cards of Death (5/1/38), The Hand (5/15/38) and Voodoo Trail (6/1/38). $50

24. City of Ghosts (11/15/39) $20

25. Castle of Crime (10/1/39) $20

26. Hidden Death (September 1932) $100

27. The Death Giver (5/15/33) $30

28. The Silver Scourge (7/15/33) $45

29. Mox (11/15/33) $35

30. The Chinese Discs (11/1/34) $45

31. The Dark Death (2/15/35) $35

Radio programs on audio cassette.

32. The House That Vanished (10/15/35) $30

33. The Voodoo Master (3/1/36) $30

34. Three pulps: The Romanoff Jewels (12/1/32), The Crime Clinic (12/1/33) and The Garaucan Swindle (9/15/34). $50

35. Three pulps: The Plot Master (2/1/35), Crooks Go Straight (3/1/35) and The Triple Trail (4/15/35). $45

36. Two Shadow Reference Books. "The Night Master" by Robert Sampson, in mylar jacket. "Gangdom's Doom" by Frank Eisgruber. $70

37. The Duende History of The Shadow Magazine, numbers one and two. $50

38. The Shadow Scrapbook, by Walter B. Gibson. $15

39. Five Shadow related publications. "Unseen Shadows" by Jim Steranko, "The Shadow Official Movie Magazine," "Cinefantastique" (August 1994), "Model and Toy Collector (#28), and "Near Mint" (#5). $20

40. The Shadow Coloring Book. Two copies. $15 per book, one sold to two different bidders.

41. Three pulps: The Condor (6/15/35), The London Crimes (9/1/35) and Zemba (12/1/35). $60

42. Three pulps: The Rackets King (6/15/38), Murder for Sale (7/1/38) and The Golden Vulture (7/15/38). $60

43. Three pulps: The Green Hoods (8/15/38), Vanished Treasure (10/15/38) and Silver Skull (1/1/39). $45

44. The Third Shadow (3/15/36) Strasser copy (white pages!!), but trimmed. $70

45. Dead Man's Chest (Fall 1948) $50

46. The Man Who Died Twice (9/15/40) $40

47. The Shadow, The Hawk and the Skull (12/15/40) $40

48. Forgotten Gold (1/1/41) $35

49. The Wasp Returns (2/1/41) $35

50. The Chinese Primrose (2/15/41) $20

51. Mansion of Crime (3/1/41) $30

52. The House on the Ledge (4/15/41) $40

53. The League of Death (5/1/41) $35

54. Three digests: The Chest of Chu Chan (September 1944), The Shadow Meets the Mask (October 1944), and Fountain of Death (November 1944). $60

55. Three digests: No Time for Murder (December 1944), Five Keys to Crime (March 1945) and Tear-Drops of Buddha (May 1945). $50

56. The Shadow Movie Phurba Dagger. Dutch auction, two daggers for sale. First sold for $40, the second sold for $25 

57. The Shadow bust by Graphitti Designs. In box. Rarely pops up on eBay twice a year and goes for large money. $170

58. Two Ideal library hardcovers. "The Living Shadow" and "Eyes of the Shadow." $90

59. Three Blue Coal items. Blue Coal ink blotter (mis advertised at the auction as a Blue Coal Advertising Card), Blue Coal matchbook cover featuring The Shadow, and a Blue Coal model train car. The first two are a dime a dozen on eBay but the last item is a rare find. $50

60. The Shadow Secret Society materials. Two mailing envelopes, two copies of each Bulletin (#1 and #3), one copy of Bulletin #2, two copies of the Official Index to The Shadow Pulp Adventures (one with handwritten notes) and one club button. $60

61. Three pulps: River of Death (3/1/39), Battle of Greed (4/15/39) and City of Shadows (6/15/39). $40

62. Three pulps: Wizard of Crime (8/15/39), The Crime Ray (9/1/39) and Ships of Doom (11/1/39). $30

63. Three pulps: Shiwan Khan Returns (12/1/39), The Thunder King (6/15/41) and The Crimson Death (8/1/41). $50

64. The Shadow Meets the Mask (8/15/41). Same title, different novel (see #54 above), by the way. $30

65. Gems of Jeopardy (9/1/41) $45

66. The Devil Master (9/15/41) $45

67. Temple of Crime (11/15/41) $50

68. Alibi Trail (1/1/42) $80

69. Death Diamonds (2/1/42) $45

70. Vengeance Bay (3/1/42) $60

71. Formula for Crime (3/15/42) $70

72. Room of Doom (4/1/42) $60

73. Three digests: Three Stamps of Death (June 1945), Murder by Magic (August 1945) and Mother Goos Murders (March 1946). $50

74. Three digests: Malmordo (July 1946), No Safety in Numbers (November 1946) and Jade Dragon (August/September 1948). $100

75. Eight pulps in one lot: The Grove of Doom (9/1/33), Tower of Death (5/1/34, no back cover), Charg, Monster (7/1/34), Doom on the Hill (11/15/34), Cyro (12/15/34, no back cover), Death jewels (8/1/38), Crime Over Boston (9/15/38), The Voice (11/1/38). $80

76. Seventeen pulps in one lot: Lingo (4/1/35, no front cover), The Chinese Tapestry (11/1/35, no front cover), The Case of Congressman Coyd (12/15/35, no spine, no back cover, two missing pages); Murder Town (6/15/36, no back cover, four missing pages), The Broken Napoleons (7/15/36, no back cover, missing four pages), Foxhound (no back cover, missing four pages (1/15/37), Shadow Over Alcatraz (12/1/38, no back cover, no spine), Realm of Doom (2/1/39, no back cover, no spine), Death from Nowhere (7/15/39, no back cover, small text loss on some pages), Voice of Death (2/15/40, no back cover), Master of Flame (5/15/41, no back cover), Murder Mansion (12/1/41), Death in the Crystal (8/44, missing front cover), A Quarter of Eight (October 1945, no back cover, missing one page), Alibi Trail (June 1946), Malmordo (July 1946), and Death on Ice (December 1946, no front cover, no spine). $35

77. Ten Belmont Shadow paperbacks. Complete run of nine, with one duplicate. $30

78.  34 Pyramid/HBJ Shadow paperbacks. Numbers 1 to 23, with 11 duplicates. Two copies of number one are signed by Steranko. $90

79. Fourteen Shadow Paperbacks. Eleven Bantam (numbers one to seven, with four duplicates), two New English Library (UK) and one Tempo. $20

80. All three Big Little Books. The Shadow and the Master of Evil, The Shadow and the Living Death, and The Shadow and the Ghost Makers. $50

81. Three pulps: Death's Premium (1/1/40), The Hooded Circle (1/15/40) and The Invincible Shiwan Khan (3/1/40). $50

82. Three pulps: The Veiled Prophet (3/15/40), The Spy Ring (4/1/40) and The Prince of Evil (4/15/40). $70

83. Three pulps: Death in the Stars (5/1/40), Masters of Death (5/15/40), and The Scent of Death (6/1/40). $50

84. The Jade Dragon (4/15/42) $70

85. The Northdale Mystery (5/1/42) $20

86. The Devil's Feud (6/15/42) $110

87. Death About Town (7/15/42). Finest condition in the auction. $150

88. Legacy of Death (8/1/42) $45

89. Syndicate of Sin (9/15/42) $50

90. The Devil's Partner (10/1/42) $50

91. The Murdering Ghost (11/15/42) $40

92. King of the Black Market (October 1943) $25

93. The Black Dragon (3/1/43) $30

94. Wizard of Crime (2/15/43) $45

95. The Money Maker (12/15/42) $45

96. The Hydra (12/1/42) $50

97. The Shadow Movie card set lot. One complete card set (90 regular, 10 legend, 4 chase and 1 promo), two empty 36-count boxes, one empty box, five extra chase cards, one box of extra legends cards, and five boxes of extra regular cards. $10

98. The Shadow Movie card set. Ten legend and 90 regular cards. Four copies, dutch auction. Same buyer won all four sets at $5 each.

98.1 Steranko card set of one through 78, plus 19 extra Shadow cards. $25

99. Men's extra large tee shirt with Shadow painting, one Shadow movie poster and one Shadow pin. $10

100. Two cassette cases of Shadow radio programs, with listings of shows included. Approximately 120 radio shows. $10

101. Three pulps: Gems of Doom (7/15/40), Crime at Seven Oaks (8/1/40), and The Fifth Race (8/15/40). $40

102. Three pulps: Crime County (9/1/40), The Devil's Paymaster (11/15/40) and Xitli, God of Fire (12/1/40). $50

103. Four pulps: The White Column (3/15/41), The Time Master (4/1/41), Garden of Death (10/1/41) and Twins of Crime (6/1/42). $50

104. Three pulps: Judge Lawless (8/15/42), The Vampire Murders (9/1/42) and Clue for Clue (10/15/42). $30

105. Four pulps: Trail of Vengeance (11/1/42), The Museum Murders (1/1/43), Death's Masquerade (1/15/43) and Young Men of Death (April 1943). $60

106. Three digests: The Robot Master (May 1943), Murder Lake (June 1943) and The Magigals Mystery (Winter 1949). $60

107. Five digests: Murder by Moonlight (December 1943), The Crystal Skull (January 1944), Syndicate of Death (February 1944), The Toll of Death (March 1944) and Crime Caravan (April 1944). $60

108. Five digests: Town of Hate (July 1944), Guardian of Death (January 1945), Merry Mrs. MacBeth (February 1945), Death Has Green Eyes (April 1945) and The Mask of Mephisto (July 1945). $80

109. Five digests: The White Skulls (November 1945), The Stars Promise Death (December 1945), The Banshee Murders (January 1946), Crime Out of Mind (February 1946) and Crime Over Casco (April 1946). $80

110. Five digests: The Curse of Thoth (May 1946), Happy Death Day (September 1946), Seven Deadly Arts (October 1946), Death on Ice (December 1946) and Death Stalks the U.N. (January 1947). $100

111. Four digests: Murder in White (February and March 1947), Room 1313 (April and May 1947), Model Murder (June and July 1947) and Svengali Kill (August and September 1947). $80

112. Four digests: Jabberwocky Thrust (October and November 1947), Ten Glass Eyes (December 1947 to January 1948), The Television Murders (February and March 1948) and Reign of Terror (June and July 1948). $120

So whether you buy your Shadow pulps from eBay or vendors who sell specialize in selling pulps, the above auction list and gavel prices might be of amusement. If you have been purchasing the paperback reprints, I do not recommend "Xitli, God of Fire" which is a horrible story. On the recommended reading list: "The White Column," "The Hydra," "Zenda," "The Black Master" and "Crime Rides the Sea." (Voted best novel by Shadow fans is "The Voodoo Master.") Unlike comic books, there is no such thing as a pulp magazine prize guide... overwhelming agreed by most pulp vendors for the simple fact that value and prices are "relative" and a price guide might diminish the collectibility of pulps. For that reason, prices vary considerably between vendors and venues (eBay, websites, collectors, etc.).

This year's Windy City Pulp and Paper Show is April 17 to 19. There's a lot more than an evening auction. Loads of vendors selling vintage paper memorabilia, old movies being screened, slide show seminars, and so on.  A frequent attendee myself, I often find myself coming back home with a dozen paperbacks and old magazines every year.
Check out the website for more details:

Friday, March 13, 2015

An Evening with Richard Burton

My good friend James Rosin, author and actor, told me a great story the other day and I asked him to type it up and send it to me, to share with you. The following below is from Jim.

It was the spring of 1970. I was an aspiring 23-year-old actor living in Los Angeles. I was studying acting with Estelle Harman, a reputable acting teacher in Hollywood, and working as a bartender at the renown Beverly Hills Hotel, decked out in pink and green on Sunset Blvd.

Richard Burton
This was not your typical commercial hotel. A lot of notable people stayed there because it was somewhat small and private. In back were a series of bungalows which provided a safe haven for the reclusive, including Howard Hughes, who once lived there. Downstairs were a series of shops, plus a beautiful ballroom, where larger-scale events were held. The room had lots of history. For example, in 1941, the wedding reception for Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor took place there.

Although we had entered a new decade and were into the “consciousness movement,” the hotel still retained a flavor of a past era. For example, in addition to the Rodeo Room (where parties were held) was a formal dining room, and a festive nightclub room with a dance band playing pop standards.  Dominique, the pretty cigarette girl, always dressed in black, wandered throughout the hotel as did Buddy Douglas, the page who stood about three feet high, and portrayed the same in some memorable Phillip Morris commercials.

I usually worked the day shift in the well-known Polo Lounge where phones were a fixture on most of the booths. It was a fun place for me as many industry people came in for lunch or cocktails. They included Jane Wyman, Mervyn LeRoy, Rock Hudson, Orson Welles, Ben Gazzara, Jacquline Bisset, Ringo Starr, Agnes Moorehead, James Caan, Tina Louise, Suzanne Pleshette, Roy Thinnes, Christopher and Linda Day George, Johnny Carson, plus many others.

Some found their way to my small and intimate bar. The actors I remember with a fondness include Dick Van Dyke, Pat O’Brien, Kennan Wynn, Paul Burke, Alex Cord, Carl Betz and boxer Billy Conn. Some of my other customers included Van Heflin, Jack Palance, Laurence Harvey, Lex Barker, David Hedison, Sylvia Miles, Frank Perry and Lawrence Dobkin.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Sometimes I would do night duty for a party or banquet. One Wednesday afternoon, the head bartender called and asked me to come in that night to work a small cocktail party. It was to be hosted by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor for all the actors who were nominated but didn’t win at the Academy Awards, held two nights before.

The party would take place on the Lanai Terrace, a small and narrow room overlooking the tennis courts. I was set up at a portable bar and ready for the small get-together. Richard Burton was a bit reclusive from the guests and stood by my bar for huge periods of time with his P.R. representative, John Springer. He was a bit put off by the Academy Awards experience. At one point he said to Springer: “You know, Elizabeth and I spend our whole lives trying to avoid the masses and then she has to go and be a presenter at that ceremony.” At that moment I felt for him. I realized that achieving fame curtailed a huge amount of individual freedom.

Burton was “on the wagon” that night and throughout the evening he would turn to me and say, “ Well, hit me with my old soda water.” I truly liked him. He possessed a pleasant demeanor. He was a handsome man with crystal-clear blue eyes that belied a sensitive and gentle soul. I remembered as a small boy watching him in The Robe, and that final scene where both he and Jean Simmons are condemned. They ultimately leave the palace with the sky behind them symbolizing their eventual ascent to heaven. (Ironically, four years later I would act in an episode of Banacek and meet Jay Robinson, the actor who played the twisted Caesar who condemned them. Robinson too, was a very nice and down-to-earth man diametrically opposed to the man he portrayed on screen.)

At one point, I told Richard Burton that my agent had submitted me for a part in an independent film written by Edward Anhalt (who had written Becket starring both he and Peter O’Toole.) He then wrote down my name and number on a cocktail napkin and said he would call “Eddie” and see if he could get me in for an audition. He seemed sincere and I appreciated his generosity. (Unfortunately the film never came to fruition.)

Later on, Elizabeth Taylor, whom I had no previous exchange with, was standing nearby conversing with Donald Sutherland. They were discussing her oldest son, who was about sixteen at the time, and who had apparently run away to India. They finished talking, Sutherland made his exit, and Taylor moved to my bar with her back to the guests.

Standing in front of me was an iconic movie star with her mesmerizing blue eyes, exquisite diamond tiara necklace who had become distraught. Her eyes were suddenly fighting back tears she didn’t want those behind her to witness. I didn’t know what to do. The scene reminded me of acting class; how you learn to speak to the other person in the scene with a purpose, an intention, aware of your conflict. I was in the midst of such a moment. I felt this strong need to comfort her but didn’t know how she would react and it concerned me. At the same time, my need to reach out to her overshadowed that. I said, “Excuse me, Mrs. Burton, may I say something?” She nodded yes, with a look of receptivity and trust. I told her that I couldn’t help overhearing about her son but that she shouldn’t be overly concerned.

Lots of teenagers do things like that in a rash moment, but when the smoke clears they come running back. She talked a bit about her son, then remarked that there was nothing demeaning about what I was doing, and suggested her son might take a similar job. I pointed out that I was seven years older but when I was his age, I was also in a similar state of flux. I assured her with conviction, that in a year or two, he would be in a different place and one that would give her more peace of mind. My sincerity seemed to lessen her concerns, at least for the moment, and Mrs. Burton began to dry her eyes. Just then, John Springer joined her at the bar. I offered her a drink and made her “Jack Daniels on the Rocks.” She earned it. She then went off to her guests.

At the end of the evening, she came back to the bar and thanked me for our “little chat.”

In recent times, I watched The VIP’s on Turner Movie Classics that starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and co-starred Rod Taylor, Maggie Smith, Louis Jordan, Orson Welles and Margaret Rutherford. The Burtons were playing a couple whose marriage was in jeopardy and their scenes together were affecting. There was also something familiar about this couple which in a way had more of an impact. I didn’t realize why I felt that sense of familiarity. After it ended, I realized I had spent an evening with the Burtons many years before. I remembered them both as sensitive and genuine people. I guess that was what made their performances even more meaningful for me forty four years later.

Jim's story above has a concluding note. Ironically, twelve years later in 1982, with over twenty TV roles under his belt, Jim Rosin auditioned for a role on television's The Fall Guy, a TV series that starred Lee Majors. The part was that of a Philadelphia cab driver. Jim is from Philadelphia. He also drove a cab in Beverly Hills for four years in-between acting jobs. It was a two-character scene. The other actor was to be Richard Burton. Despite his Philadelphia accent and experience as a taxi driver, Jim didn’t get the part.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Babe Ruth and Buster Roos

On the evening of April 13, 1946, Truth or Consequences attempted to provide short-lived joy to a young victim of cancer. Switching to Parkertown, New Jersey, via two-way set-up, a small town of about 400 inhabitants and home to “Buster” Leonard Roos, Ralph Edwards spoke with an eight-year-old boy who at Christmas time was given only three weeks to live and proven the doctors wrong; even with his right leg amputated at the hip and with his one and only lung infected with cancer. The child suffered from club-shaped fingers and toes; a swollen stomach and ankles. Buster, who rarely smiled since he was stricken in December of 1944, was assisted by an NBC engineer who also set up the equipment and microphone by Busters’ bedside, so that the child did not have to exert himself needlessly. During the broadcast, Buster told Ralph Edwards about some of the things he would like to have: movies of Mickey Mouse because he could not go to the neighborhood theaters; he wanted to hear Frank Sinatra sing; an entire freezer of ice cream; hear “Uncle Don”; see a big baseball game and meet Babe Ruth in person; a collie dog and a pony and a cart; and he wanted to see Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger.

Buster Roos
After the interview, Ralph Edwards asked Buster to turn off the speaker to his radio for a minute because the next part was a secret. Assured by the engineer that Buster could not hear the next portion of the program, Edwards told listeners the truth about Buster’s condition and then made an appeal for help so that other children may not suffer the way little Buster has. Back in the Roos home, the speaker was turned up again and Buster was told that all of the things for which he asked would be his: even a ball team from New York Big Leagues will visit his home and practice a warm up outside his window; Roy Rogers will telephone Buster tonight and everything will come true for little Buster in the few weeks he may yet live… And Buster was officially proclaimed Honorary Treasurer of the American Cancer Society Drive for Funds. All of the radio listeners are asked to send contributions directly to: “Buster, Parkertown, New Jersey.”  If the amount of contributions reached $10,000 by next week’s broadcast, Buster’s mother would receive an additional $1,000 in cash to help with medical bills.

Within a week, Buster Roos’ cause for muted joy received a visit by Babe Ruth himself, two clowns (Charles Bell and Frankie Saluto) from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Madison Square Garden in New York, Buster’s ride in a cart pulled by a Shetland pony, and seeing the better part of the town’s 400 residents on the lawn of his one-story wooden home. Even the truckload of toys, valued at $500, was delivered as Edwards promised. Babe Ruth showed the youngster the stance and grip he used in hitting home runs, but the boy was too weak to hold the bat. “I’m mighty glad to see you,” Buster told the mighty Bambino with a broad smile. It was fulfillment of a long-cherished ambition when he shook hands with Ruth, the pair chatted about baseball, and posed for photographs for the local newspaper.

Babe Ruth
The clowns did somersaults while a trick dog jumped through a hoop. Buster watched – and smiled tiredly occasionally. He never knew he was going to die and the news never broke to the youth. He also didn’t understand why so much money was placed in his lap. He didn’t utter a word, possibly because his breath was short. Even his mother, Mrs. Pearl Roos, couldn’t get anything from him. All he remembered was that he was kicked by a playmate in December 1944, and as a result his disease discovered; his leg amputated in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. A few weeks after the amputation he returned to school on crutches – but he collapsed. Cancer had spread to his lungs. At the time of the radio broadcast, he was down to one lung.

Despite his condition, Buster was an immediate celebrity – a poster boy for a good cause – and posed for newsreel pictures with money that poured in as a result of the national broadcast. “This youngster should have been dead months ago,” said Dr. L.R. Carmona, who had been treating the youth. “His pulse rate has been way above normal for the last six weeks. There just isn’t any hope for him. There’s no telling how long he’ll linger; it may be anywhere from three weeks to a year. This boy is one of many children who gives the lie to a common belief that cancer is only an older person’s disease. He won’t benefit by the money rolling in, but other people will.” One week following Buster’s radio debut, on the broadcast of April 20, an announcement was made that little Buster Roos had all of his wishes come true about the various things he wanted. Mrs. Roos also received the gift of $1,000 in cash, to help with the medical bills, because the donations sent to him for use by the National Cancer Society reached surpassed the $10,000 mark in one week’s time. 

By the time the public outpouring concluded, a total of $72,000 had been raised for the cause.

Four weeks after his wish fulfillment, on Sunday, May 19, Leonard Roos died. Buster had amazed physicians with his tenacity in surviving one amputation and the removal of a lung… accepting a fate that was never disclosed to him. When asked during the media sensation what he liked best – Babe Ruth, Uncle Don, the clowns, the toys or Roy Rogers giving him a ten-gallon hat – the youth said it was the postcards that brought sunshine into his life when things looked darkest.