Friday, October 18, 2019

Encore Podcast: In Godfrey We Trust



In the late 1940s and early '50s the biggest moneymaker on CBS radio and television was Arthur Godfrey -- at one point he reportedly brought in 12 percent of the network's income. He had an unpretentious style of communicating with his audience, and a smooth manner of selling products that sponsors loved. But in 1953, at the height of his popularity, Godfrey suffered a huge, self-inflicted blow to his stature when he fired one of his regulars, known as "the little Godfreys," live on the air. The incident haunted the rest of his career.

Friday, October 11, 2019

New Podcast: It's the "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" Holiday Special!



My daughter Nora joins me to talk about her favorite episodes of the spooky Nickelodeon series from the 1990s -- a show that helped trigger her lifelong love of scary movies. We talk about episodes involving everything from a kid trapped in a dollhouse to a haunted movie theatre to a kid who kills the school bully to Zeebo the clown. Join us -- IF YOU DARE!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Encore Podcast: Raymond Burr's Secrets and Lies



When Raymond Burr died in 1993, he was eulogized around the world as the star of "Perry Mason" and "Ironside." But the obituaries were notable for what they didn't say as much as for what they did say. None of them mentioned that Burr was gay -- he had been closeted all his life. And most of them mentioned commonly-accepted facts about Burr -- that he was twice widowed, that he lost a son to leukemia and that he fought in World War II. None of that was true, but it was part of the complicated biography Burr had built for himself.

Friday, September 27, 2019

New Podcast: Elvis Presley -- Year One



Elvis Presley wasn't born in 1956, but his career was. He began the year barely known outside the south, but under the management of Col. Tom Parker he spent the year making his mark on TV variety shows hosted by Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan; and his recordings for RCA, beginning with "Heartbreak Hotel," dominated the pop charts. By the end of the year he was arguably the best-known entertainer in America, with broader fame still to come.

Sources:

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, by Peter Guralnick

Elvis '56


"Presley's Explosive Show Ignites San Diego Riot," Variety, April 11, 1956


"Elvis Presley Hits Gold Platter Circle," Variety, April 11, 1956


Friday, September 13, 2019

New Podcast: When Louis Met Dolly

When Louis Armstrong first saw the sheet music for "Hello, Dolly," he was in low spirits. It was just 11 days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Armstrong was in a career lull. He also didn't think much of the song. But he recorded it like the pro he was, and while he was off playing other gigs, it displaced the Beatles as America's top pop song. It also helped Armstrong transition from a jazz pro into a pop-music idol.

Sources:

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout

What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years, by Ricky Riccardi

Friday, September 6, 2019

Encore podcast: What We Saw at the Movies



Encore podcast: My brother Steve and I toddle down memory lane and reminisce about movies we saw as kids in the 1960s and '70s. Included are looks at the drive-in cheeseball classic "Eegah," "The Sound of Music," "How the West Was Won," "Mary Poppins," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "Blazing Saddles" and many others. There are also stories abut David's first R-rated movie and how Steve dealt with an upset stomach while watching "Patton."

Friday, August 30, 2019

Encore podcast: The Jack Benny-Johnny Carson Connection



In 1949, Jack Benny took advantage of new capital gains laws and moved his popular program from NBC to CBS, an immense boost to that network in ratings and prestige. At about the same time, a senior at the University of Nebraska named Johnny Carson was putting together his thesis, “How to Write Comedy for Radio,” a tape-recorded presentation filled with examples of Jack Benny’s work. Carson couldn’t have known it at the time, but within a few years Benny would become one of Carson’s biggest boosters – they formed a kind of mutual admiration society that would last until Benny’s death in 1974. Benny had been one of America’s dominant comedy voices during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s – and by utilizing tricks he’d learned from Benny, Carson, as host of “The Tonight Show” for thirty years, would become one of America’s dominant comedy voices during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Sources:
Johnny Carson, by Henry Bushkin
“Red Skelton Butts Scenery, Sprains Neck,” Rome (GA) News-Tribune, August 18, 1954
“Comics’ Comics,” TV Guide, January 15, 1955
“Johnny Carson: Young Man with a Grin,” TV Guide, September 3, 1955
“Johnny Carson Defined Late-Night TV,” The Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2005