This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dick Lane (1899-1982)

Richard Lane was born May 28, 1899, in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Born on a farm, Dick had a talent for telling poetry quickly and was known as the Iron Jaw. He ran away from the farm and went into vaudeville. He also worked as a circus drummer and spent time in Australia and Europe before going back to America in the 1930s. When vaudeville died, he went into radio. He played Inspector Faraday on the Boston Blackie series. Dick could be heard on many other radio programs at this time. With his rapid fire method of delivery, Dick could make any wordy statement in record time. He also got a motion picture contract with Paramount Pictures. During World War II, he was an entertainer for the United Services Organizations (USO), where he was the emcee for several acts based in the Los Angeles area.

Dick Lane was one of the few people who was faster than Groucho Marx. Not only could he speak quickly, but he was quick witted. In one Command Performance (Armed Forces Radio Service) show, Groucho Marx played a quizmaster for a radio game show. Dick played the contestant (Richard Lane from Toledo, Ohio). Both actors improvised their lines and, hearing this sketch today, it sounds just as bright and as humorous as it did when it first aired in 1944!

Since Dick was under contract to Paramount Pictures, he had the opportunity to see a bright young man named Klaus Landsberg (1916-56) whom Paramount hired in 1940 to begin the studio's television station, W6XYZ, channel 4. W6XYZ's rival was W6XAO, channel 2, owned by the Don Lee Network, which also owned radio station KHJ. The programs aired by W6XAO, which had been on the air ten years longer that W6XYZ were more of the entertainment type: boxing, motion pictures, soap operas, and the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena. Somehow, even though all the conditions weren't met, W6XYZ was able to get a provisional commercial license and, on January 17, 1947, was able to go on the air as KTLA, channel 5. To compete with its older rival, which was still popular, despite that it was only on the air three days a week, was for W6XYZ to provide entertainment that W6XAO couldn't provide. Being owned by Paramount, it had resources that no other television station could touch.

Klaus Landsberg decided to draft Dick Lane to announce various sporting events. He actually began announcing in 1946, a few months before KTLA went on the air. Dick announced wresting, boxing, and roller games. Roller games (Roller Derby) was a popular fad team sport in the 1960s-1970s in Southern California. Skaters wearing what resembled football uniforms skated around a banked oval track in a clockwise motion. Basically, there were two teams: the Los Angeles Thunderbirds (T-Birds) and their opponent, who would take on a different name each week. People in the Los Angeles TV market had trouble believing that they were the only ones who could watch these games, which had different ways of scoring and the rules could change at a moment's notice. He was also master of ceremonies for several of KTLA's musical shows, including the Spade Cooley Show, in which he wore a complete cowboy outfit and went by the name, Leather Britches.

Dick Lane is probably best remembered in movies for the part of the race car owner, Reno Riley, in The Big Wheel (1949). He died September 8, 1982, in Newport Beach, California, at the age of 83.

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