Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year's Recap

As we bring each year to a close, it is important to reflect on what we've accomplished. It is with this reason that I dedicate one (out of 52) blog posts to focus on significant accomplishments, joys and friendships.

Earlier this year, at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, construction crews discovered a treasure trove of military music recordings while renovating a fitness center at the Madigan Army Hospital. There were 8,000 transcription discs, all 16 inches in diameter, that dated back to the 1940's and 1950's. Classical, jazz, country-western, big-band, all kinds of music, and all recorded strictly for military use. They were packed into 30 boxes, neatly cataloged with index cards in metal filing drawers, stacked two-high in a 20-inch wide space between a racquetball court and a gymnasium.

"Amazing," Dale Sadler, a huge music buff, called them. "It really sheds light on an era here at the base that isn't that well known." The incredible cache from the past was stashed in the narrow space behind an unlocked door for 40 years. Nobody ever bothered to open the boxes to discovered what was in them. Sadler said he had to keep reminding himself it's government property. He spent Tuesday sorting through all the records.



Along with other news and information, the recordings would have been played at the old radio station on base, first known as KMGH. Similar recordings would have been shipped to war-fronts in Europe and Korea to entertain the troops. Could there be some old-time radio programs that don't exist in recorded form? Only time will tell.

On a positive side, other archives and museums are still waiting to be opened to the public. And one of the most promising is the Voice of America Museum in West Chester, Ohio. Media Heritage is a non-profit archive founded in 2011, dedicated to preserving, restoring and maintaining the rich radio and television history of the greater Cincinnati area, the Midwest and the Nation. At the time of its foundation, no local archive existed and much of the rich broadcast history of the area was being thrown away or lost. Media Heritage, located at the VOA Museum, is the culmination of thousands of hours of research and diligent work. From the Mary Wood Collection to the Ruth Lyons Collection (among dozens of others), donated by the families of broadcast pioneers featuring thousands of photographs, scripts and other memorabilia, these collections are important research tools and are lasting tributes to those individual's careers. Friends of mine, and myself, received a very rare tour of the facilities. Since the museum is not yet open to the public, this was certainly a privilege. We saw photos hanging on the walls, television props and other nostalgic museum pieces. And I am pleased to say that even in a declined economy, with museums hurting for business, in a few years this museum may be open for business.
For more information, visit www.historyofbroadcasting.com 

In October, a friend of mine gave me a newspaper clipping related to Sam Spade, since I wrote two books on the subject. I found this comic strip amusing.


Comic strip a friend cut out of the paper and gave me.

Speaking of radio, I had the honors of writing half a dozen booklets/liner notes for Radio Spirits box sets. The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet. The most recent is "Green Hornet: Endpoint," a 10 CD box set containing the final 20 episodes of the series, starring Jack McCarthy. Only one of these 20 have been in circulation, so Green Hornet fans just received another 19 new adventures in audio format! Radio Spirits continues to put out un-circulated radio programs and their efforts should not go unnoticed. I recommend you visit www.RadioSpirits.com direct to purchase your copy.


In July, my wife and I attended Pulpfest 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the pulp magazine, The Shadow, their program guide featured a fascinating article about the origin of Walter Gibson's pulp novels, written by Mike Chomko.  The same program guide features an article about L. Ron Hubbard's stories adapted for radio broadcasts, and documents a virtually unknown radio performance that probably doesn't exist in recorded form. Hubbard's short story, "Fear," was adapted into radio form by Ray Bradbury and rehearsed with some actors in a little theater group he belonged in. According to Bradbury, Loraine Day was the actress in charge. 

On the evening of July 29, I presented a slide show documenting the history of the radio program, which inspired Street & Smith to create a pulp magazine using "The Shadow" name. It went over very well and a crowd large enough to warrant bringing all the equipment including the video projector. Ed Hulse also moderated a panel about Walter Gibson, with three other panelists. With one or two egos on board, my friend Alex predicted one or two of them to dominate the panel with their expertise. I was sitting on the fence with his opinion -- after all, Ed was the moderator. It went over extremely well, thanks to Ed, and everyone had equal time to speak and be heard from. If Ed ever reads this, good job!

For those who do not know, my wife and I are among the staff of the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, a three-day festival celebrating old movies, retro television and old-time radio. It's become a raving success (I'm not tooting my horn here) because statistically, we have the largest attendance figures, the most vendors and more panels/seminars than any other convention of nostalgic nature. Our attendance has grown between 32 to 39 percent larger every year from the prior year, and once again we broke attendance records. 

This panel was so popular it was standing room only!
Anyone care to question crowd control?

This year my wife and I played host to Patty Duke, Davy Jones, Tony Dow, Jimmy Hunt, Lauren Chapin, Billy Gray, Karen Valentine and Michael Constantine, among others. The photo below is Lisa Kelly, a family relative, sneaking in before the flood gates open, to meet Patty Duke.


Regardless of the growing crowd every year, my wife and I still receive criticism (passed on to us from third parties) that our convention is the cause of declining attendance at other conventions. I cannot imagine this as so, as people can attend more than one convention, but as my friend Ken says, "It's not criticism, it's a compliment in the form of professional jealousy." So we continue to focus on what we have planned for next year's bash.

I'd like to make it clear that MANC was designed to help bring attention to various organizations that help preserve part of our pop culture heritage. This year, we dedicated a two-page write-up in our program guide for the Theater Historical Society, which is dedicated to preserving old movie palaces and theater marquees. (For more info about THS, click here.) As a result, my wife and I received a pleasant surprise.

Martin,
I cannot thank you enough for highlighting THS in your Friday remarks.  THS has worked tirelessly to ensure that we are the trusted, accurate and secure repository for the history of America's theaters from every era - but of course the "golden age of picture palaces" remains the number one interest of our members. We deeply appreciate your efforts to bring our name and mission to the attention of your readers, who certainly would share our passion. I am copying our editor, Ken Bloom, and our Executive Director, Richard Sklenar, on this email so that they can have your contact information available for reference.  We would be thrilled if you would consider sharing any photos or essays that you may have penned with our members via our Marquee magazine. Thank you for being there for historic radio - and thank you again for your praise and promotion of THS and its mission. Please call on THS any time we can be of assistance to you!
With best regards,
- Karen
Karen Colizzi Noonan, Geneva NY
President, Theatre Historical Society of America
Society Office: Elmhurst, Illinois ~ www.historictheatres.org

Earlier in the year I received an e-mail from David Menefee, an author and researcher of a number of books. He has a monthly e-mail newsletter that is worth subscribing to, but if I read it correctly, December marked his last issue. Sad to hear. But his e-mail is cheerful.


Dear Martin,
Thank you! I appreciate so much the fact that you found these details and solved the long-standing mystery about Maude Adams and her radio performances. You have provided far more information than I thought existed. Of course, those of us who were hoping to experience these performances, especially Peter Pan, will be greatly disappointed to know that no transcriptions were made. However, we can now be at peace knowing that they are not "lost," just non-existing.
I thank you again.
Sincerely,
David W. Menefee


For anyone wondering what this is about, I have a motto that means helping everyone whenever I can. Regrettably, I get more requests than I can fulfill, but I try my best to help anyone who needs information, assistance or research. David was seeking info about Maude Adams and her radio credits, so I took a trip to the Library of Congress to get him the info he was seeking, and confirmation that NBC never recorded the broadcasts on transcription discs.

Perhaps the greatest highlight of the year was an impromptu flight out to Los Angeles. In October, my good friend Ben Ohmart and I flew to California for a four-day research trip for two book projects. We tossed about the idea of going out to LA for a few days and then decided to just go with it. Apparently I've been to Los Angeles more often than I can remember, because as Ben commented, it's not everyone who can visit Warner Brothers Studios and receive a welcome hug. 


One of those two books, by the way, involves a special contract and while I cannot yet reveal that surprise, it will be released in July and be the first in a four-book series. A sample of the book will appear on my blog in May or June.

The climax of the West Coast visit, at the conclusion of day four, was a personal visit to the house of June Foray, thanks to the pre-arranged phone call of a good friend who made it happen. Ben published June's two books (including her autobiography). June was delightful and a treasure. We both worship the ground this woman walks on, fully aware of her numerous accomplishments, so you can imagine how one hour at her home made the entire trip worth the expense and time.



I love June's necklace of Rocky the Flying Squirrel.


My friend Ben Ohmart at Warner Bros.


Speaking of research, Karl Schadow wrote a wonderful two-part article for Radio Recall, February and March 2011 issues, about the radio program, Dark Fantasy. Very little is known about the program and Karl did superb research and a write-up worthy of seeking out the issues. Karl goes down to the smallest detail, verifying the difference between scripts stamped "approved for broadcast" and "as broadcast" copies. I had the honor of helping to present the Ray Stanich award to Karl this year at the FOTR Convention. I only met Karl once before this, at the same convention, many years before. It was wonderful to see this unsung researcher get his dues.
 
Among the last of my visits and tours was Grover's Mill, New Jersey, where the Martians supposedly landed in 1938, courtesy of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater broadcasts. For more info about this, click here.





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