Sundays With Snyder - Number 12

Abortion. That’s the topic that begins this program, which offers much insight into Tom’s personal opinions upon religion and the notion of a secular state. Michelle McKeegan is the guest for the first hour, then phones, then tennis star Tracy Austin.

This is the program where I decided I had had enought of Mr. Bullock, so his commercial as heard here is not exactly as aired. This episode was broadcast at the time of the Republican convention in Houston. The guest for hour two is Rand LeBon, reporting for KLIF in Dallas, who’s in Houston covering the Republican National Convention.

Tom has a memorable problem pronouncing “Scud Stud” Arthur Kent’s name.

Tom announces that “The Radio Show” will end in November.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 11

This is mostly a “Nightside” hour of listener calls, but it does contain the end of an interview with Sarah Purcell. The reason so many segments are joined in progress is the haphazard nature in which cassette tapes were either saved or discarded. (I used to tape The Radio Show and listen to it in the car on the following day). Sarah Purcell co-hosted “A.M. Los Angeles” with Regis Phibin from ‘75 to ‘83.

In this clip, we learn about Tom’s primary source material vis-à-vis the facts of life; we hear Tom’s warning about how not to visit Disneyland; and some comments about the impending last episode of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 10

June 16, 1992. Guest Ed Meese, President Reagan’s ex-Attorney General. The interview is joined in progress. Then we have the Nightside Hour for phones.

Don’t think Tom was terribly fond of Mr. Meese. If you remember the Hanna-Barbera character “Mr. Jinx,” his signature phrase springs to mind…

Commercial breaks are included from the Meese interview – some seem germane, some were just funny or interesting. Once again, the topics still seem current, although many of Meese’s positions have not stood the test of time… deregulation, for example. I love the caller who was “disenchatized” with Meese’s handling of Oliver North.

There’s quite a bit of the Snyder philosophy available in the Nightside Hour.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 9

August 25, 1992: Tom takes a live feed from a newsman awaiting Hurricane Andrew (“Will New Orleans come away clean from this?”), interviews political pundit Eleanor Clift and actress Dana Delaney.

We’re in the beginning of the Bush/Clinton campaign, post conventions, which Tom covers with Eleanor. (The more things change…)

Dana Delaney is, in a word, delightful.

(Photo: 1968)


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Sundays With Snyder - Number 8

Tom is ready for his interview with Martin Gross. You can hear it – he calls Gross’s book terrific; he’s laughing as the interview starts; he likes the idea that someone has documented waste in Washington.

But – very quickly – Martin Gross says things that strain Tom’s credulity. Tom’s smile disappears; he asks Gross to repeat a statement. For Tom, the answer is totally overboard. Tom realizes that he’s got nearly an hour to go with this wacko. The tone of the interview changes; Tom starts taking shots at the guy… well, listen. You’ll hear it happen.

Also – a partial (sorry) interview with comedian Rita Rudner.

From June 22, 1992.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 6

Tom Snyder in Philadelphia circa 1965.

According to a radio hall of fame, Tom Snyder was a bit of a wiseguy back when he was doing the local news at noon in Philadelphia. One day, the sports reporter at the station couldn’t make it back to the studio in time, and Tom said he’d cover. Tom’s sports report, in total:. “A partial score just in: Philadelphia 5. Now, turning to the local news…”

Tom often repeated two curse words over and over right up to his on-the-air cue. This required the audio man to keep Tom’s microphone closed, which complicated the job of simultaneously managing the opening music, the opening announcement, and Tom’s mike. If the audio man had ever opened Tom’s mike too early, both he and Snyder would have lost their jobs.

A different Sunday With Snyder – in this half-hour interview of Tom early in his career. Recorded February 1967 at the student-run station at Temple University.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 2

Some investment advice in today’s rocky economy. If you had bought a thousand dollars worth of Nortel stock a year back, today it would be worth about forty six bucks. If you had bought a thousand dollars worth of Miller Light (the beer, not the stock), and drank all the beer and redeemed the cans at the redemption center, you’d have about a hundred and five dollars. Given the current volatility in the market, my advice is to drink heavily and recycle! – Tom Snyder, July 30, 2002.

This is our second Sunday With Snyder: every Sunday, ILT “rebroadcasts” Tom Snyder’s ABC Radio Show.

Tonight: From May 20, 1992: TS with guest John Astin (partial) and Nightside hour. John Astin talks about the Addams Family (recording sessions for the animated version) and with a member of his own family. Also: acting with Charles Laughton. On the Nightside hour: Dan Quayle has attacked sitcom character Murphy Brown, who chose to have a child outside marriage; Tom creates a yogurt controversy.


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Jolly Bill And His Janes, Muriel And Peggy: Bigger Than Howdy Doody And Far More Forgotten

The Eveready Book of Radio Stars is a 60 page promotional booklet “presented with the compliments of Eveready Raytheon 4-Pillar Radio tubes, a product of National Carbon Company, a unit of Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation.” Very detailed information about the sponsor – no information whatsoever about the date of publication.

We can use Guy Lombardo as a yardstick, since he’s described as “a 29 year-old orchestra leader.” The perpetrator of “the sweetest music this side of heaven” was born in 1902, which makes the publication date for the brochure pretty early in radio history – 1930 or 1931. Yet the page on the Marx Brothers mentions “Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel, Attorneys at Law,” which debuted in the fall of 1932.

This can mean only one thing: Guy Lombardo lied about his age.

Whatever the date, this is definitely early radio. That’s not a mirror being held by the diaphanously gowned cover girl – it’s one of those old ring microphones with the spring-mounted transducer – that’s so twenties.

Yet the opening pages are awash in nostalgia concerning “old time radio”:

Are you a veteran radio fan? Does your memory go back to the days – and nights – when the family sat around a home-made crystal set and took turns at the headphones?

Well, that certainly throws our tawdry little fights over the remote control into perspective.

The Eveready Hour
was already history – off the air – by the time the Radio Stars book came out. First broadcast in 1923 by WEAF in New York City, Eveready made history in another way, when its sponsor

“…persuaded the American Telephone & Telegraph Company, then owners of WEAF, to arrange a hook-up of neighboring stations by land wire. And chain broadcasting was born!”

The “chain” evolved into the NBC Network. WEAF (which had been simply “2XB” before it was assigned the call letters WDAM, which were deemed unacceptable to its owners, who had them changed to WEAF) later evolved into WRCA and WNBC. Today, it is WFAN, an all-sports station. The way New York teams are performing, the current owners should go back and see if WDAM is still available.

The Eveready Book of Radio Stars was acquired by my mother about 75 years ago. “Look through it,” she advised me. “I had that book autographed.”

By whom? Sadly, not Groucho and Chico. But sure enough, when I turned to the page featuring Jack Benny, I noticed not one but two autographs… on the facing page, which features Jolly Bill and Jane.

Yeah, you heard me. Jolly Bill and Jane.

I never heard of them, either. But they were huge. Oh, and it’s 1933, Mr. Lombardo. You can count down to the new year with split-second precision, but not up to your actual age?

Jane is cute as a button. Jolly Bill is… kinda creepy, don’t you think?

What do we know about Jane? “Jane is ten.”

Jane is ten? Jolly Bill is creepier yet. It appears he was photographed while trying to stop Jane from escaping.

The two had ambitions beyond radio, as can be seen from an April 1929 vaudeville schedule. (Parenthetically, the previously mentioned Marx Brothers were headlining at another NYC vaude house this same week.)

But who is Jane? According to the book, “[She] is really… but Jane’s identity must remain a secret.”

Not a terribly well kept secret, since Jane not only autographed my mom’s book using her real name, Muriel Harbater, but also wrote out her address: 221 West 82nd Street. She probably didn’t have time to write “Help,” or “Call the Cops.”

We are told that Muriel was selected to play Jane “…because of her infectious giggle,” and that when “…she doesn’t feel like giggling, Jolly Bill knows a particularly ticklish spot in her ribs, which when touched brings the desired giggle.”

Jeez, my mother was lucky to get out of there alive.

For more on JB+J, here’s the entry from Dunning’s Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio:

JOLLY BILL AND JANE, early-morning music and song for children. Broadcast History: 1928-1938, NBC, Red and Blue Networks at various times. Many timeslots, often 15m, sometimes 25m, frequently in the 7-to-8 a.m. hour. Cream of Wheat, 1928-1931. Cast: Bill Steinke (lauded in the press for his “hearty laugh and cheerful nonsense at the ungodly hour of 7:15″), with Muriel Hartbater in the child’s role of Jane. Peggy Zinke as Jane, ca. 1935.

Dunning sells the team a bit short – the show was music and song and adventure. Jolly Bill and Jane traveled to the moon, sunk to the bottom of the sea, penetrated forbidding jungles, flew on rickety aeroplanes, and rode a magic train, often in pursuit of the evil Johnny Foo or the equally evil Bolta, often accompanied by Professor ver Blotz. Each episode ended in a cliff-hanger that brought the audience back the next day. It must have been the talk of the elementary school each morning around the chrome fountain while waiting in turn to get your slurp.

Jolly Bill needed a new giggler by ‘35 because Muriel graduated from high school that year, at the Martin Beck Theater, her diploma handed to her by Victor Moore. This suggests that the ten year-old pictured in The Eveready Book of Radio Stars is sixteen.

In our next view of Jolly Bill (at right), he no longer has the serial killer look. He is seen with Jane #2, Peggy Zinke, who appears to think that what the world needs is another Baby Rose Marie.

Yet something sinister still seems to lurk behind fourteen year-old Peggy’s mock-adoration and Jolly Bill’s mock-kindly man in loco parentis. (In the show, “Jane” is Jolly Bill’s “niece.”) Peggy went on in show business to appear in a 1944 Colgate Theater of Romance radio program, after Jolly Bill “retired” for the first time. If Peggy did anything else, the Internet seems to be unaware of it.

While the Isn’t Life Terrible interns were unable to find any additional information about Zinke, they did turn up some interesting info on Jolly Bill, who had first gained fame as “the man who made Coolidge laugh.” Apparently, he accomplished this not because he knew about a particularly ticklish spot in Silent Cal’s ribs, but rather because he drew a caricature that Coolidge found amusing.

An early picture of Jolly Bill Steinke at his drawing board proves two things beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) that he lost a considerable amount of weight prior to his radio career, and 2) that, as a cartoonist, he wasn’t much better than, say, you, assuming you have no talent for cartooning. Also, there’s that strange Fatty Arbuckle vibe again; guilty of nothing, I’m quite sure, but tough to shake. Someone who looked like this might once have been considered “jolly,” but today, the message we get is either “out of control and dangerous” or “on steroids.” So how jolly was Jolly Bill?

Not so jolly at all.

The Donald C. and Elizabeth M. Dickinson Research Center holds 2.2 cubic feet of William “Jolly Bill” Steinke papers. More revealing, however, is this description of the letters in the collection of correspondence belonging to his daughter, Bettina:

Very few of the family letters are from Steinke’s father “Jolly Bill.” A few of his letters include drawings and are quite amusing. He writes about trying to stop drinking for health reasons and compliments Steinke on her artwork. [Mother] Alice Steinke’s letters are mostly about family issues, many dealing with Jolly Bill’s absences, drinking, and money problems, which are a constant source of concern to her.

Here’s a haunting picture:

I’m guessing post-WWII based on the Bartholomew Collins striped shirt and the RCA 77 mike. Not good times for Jolly Bill: the defiant basketball sneaker (and sock?) touching the stage to indicate boredom; the unappealing, oddly proportioned drawings; the furtive escape of the girl in the checked dress; Jolly Bill in his artist’s beret, looking for all the world like Sam Kinison; the inescapable feeling that that – whatever is happening – this late-life performance is not going well.

Jolly Bill supposedly enjoyed some success in the early days of television, hosting a program on NBC. He died in a Maine convalescent home on January 30th, 1958. He was predeceased in ‘56 by his wife Alice, so either he mended his ways or she learned to tolerate them.

We lose track of Muriel Harbater after she married P. Gerard Himmel on October 27, 1940. Whether P. Gerard ever found Muriel’s fabled tickle spot is unknown.

But Muriel’s spot in history, as well as Jolly Bill’s, are secure.
During the Cream of Wheat years (‘28-’31), listeners sent in boxtops and received in return Jolly Bill And Jane’s Good Luck Scarab Pin, one of the earliest radio premiums ever offered, a marketing idea that became a phenomenal (and subsequently, oft-imitated) success.

In the swimsuit photo taken in the post-Jolly era, there’s a faraway look in Muriel’s eyes, accompanied by her somewhat melancholy expression. Perhaps she’s thinking about the time she walked across the Lunera from the Sawtooth Mountains toward the evil Bolta’s palace when she and “Uncle Bill” took an extended trip to the moon – a journey many young listeners followed step-by-step on their official Cream of Wheat Maps of the Moon just before catching the bus for school.

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House of Elliotts

Monday at 6 pm, I’ll be at The Paley Center for Media (the renamed Museum of Television and Radio) in NYC for a seminar/tribute to Bob and Ray (and Chris) hosted by Keith Olbermann and featuring a distinguished panel of Elliotts (Bob and Chris, whose novel The Shroud of the Thwacker is highly recommended).

In a recent NPR telephone interview, Bob’s voice sounds hardly different from the one we all grew up with.

I had the extremely good fortune to work with Bob and Ray on an industrial video taped at the old 23rd Street HBO studio, and in the run-up to the taping, I visited B&R in their office at the Greybar Building. I will never forget the sight: as you walked in, towards the back of the reception room was an open archway, beyond which was a wall jutting out perpendicularly which neatly bisected what had once been a single office. On the right side of the wall sat Bob, on the left side sat Ray, who could not see each other but could easily hear each other when speaking in a normal tone of voice. As the visitor, you saw both Bob and Ray; both Bob and Ray only saw you.

Butter ‘em on the far side and write if you get work.

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Stan & Ollie, Bud & Lou, George & Gracie, Bob & Ray, Pete & Dud... Mike and Elaine!

Mike Nichols and Elaine May were a comedy team for a short time – from 1957 through 1962. Their recorded output was tiny – just three LP’s: Improvisations To Music (1959), which, powered by the team’s television appearances, became a ‘top forty’ LP; An Evening With Nichols and May, which contained excerpts from their hit Broadway show of 1960, and their final record, Nichols and May Examine Doctors, from 1961.

Nichols and May were improvisational situation comedians: sophisticated, funny, and cool. They appealed not only to adults, but also to kids. Steve Martin says that each routine was “…like a song – you could listen to it over and over. I used to go to sleep to them at night.”

The ten sketches on the final album, …Examine Doctors, were originally recorded for “the greatest show in network radio history” – Monitor, an NBC extravaganza that ran pretty much the entire weekend, pretty much across the country, from 1955 through 1975. At its peak, the monitor beacon could be heard for forty hours, from 8 a.m. Saturday morning through midnight Sunday. If you’d like to listen to excerpts from Monitor, you’ll need Real Player and Dennis Hart’s Monitor site.

Nichols and May were Monitor regulars for a couple of years. The ten tracks on the …Examine Doctors LP are but a small fraction of their work for Monitor. The rest remains unreleased, which is a shame, because it may well be some of their very best work. See if you agree.

Mike Nichols and Elaine May Unreleased Monitor Sketches, Part 1

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