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

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Milton Cross (1897-1975)


Milton John Cross was born March 16, 1897, in New York, New York.  In 1910, at the age of 13, he saw his first performance of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He was a trained serious singer, a tenor.  For about five years, he had a distinguished singing career.  In 1923, he became the pioneer announcer of radio station WJZ in Newark, New Jersey, during the days of radio's infancy. He also announced part of the inauguration of President Herbert Hoover in 1929. WJZ eventually moved to New York City, where it became the flagship station of the Blue Network of NBC, sharing facilities with WEAF. WJZ is known as WABC today. WEAF became WNBC and is known as WFAN today. WJZ moved from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in 1946 when the Blue Network, which had already broken from NBC in 1942, became known as ABC.

On December 24, 1931, NBC began to broadcast the concerts of the Metropolitan Opera and Milton Cross became the Voice of the Metropolitan. Since opera broadcasts don't happen every day, Mr. Cross announced other programs on NBC.  He announced game shows, gothic dramas, and mostly musical shows. OTR fans know him best as the narrator for This is Your FBI. He narrated the program and helped sell some darned good life insurance. It's difficult for most fans of Old Time Radio hear his voice and not think of him saying,  "... the Equitable Life Assurance Society." 

He continued broadcasting the Metropolitan Opera for exactly 43 years.  He only missed two broadcasts for all those years. The first time was in 1933, when his eight year old daughter, Lillian Gale died. The second time was 40 years later in 1973 when his wife, also named Lillian, died. Incidentally, the tombstone for Lillian Gale originally intended for her alone. But it ended up also marking the grave of her parents, who are buried on top of her.

His movie career only consists of four pictures: Historic Greece (a 1941 school documentary); Gaslight Follies (a documentary from 1945 in four parts about entertainment of the past--he narrates the first part; the other narrators are Ben Grauer, John B. Kennedy, and Ethel Owen); Fifty Years Before Your Eyes (a 1950 documentary about the twentieth century); and Grounds for Marriage (a 1951 comedy, in which Mr. Cross narrates a dream scene from George Bizet's opera Carmen).


Old Time Radio fans remember Milton Cross as the narrator of This is Your FBI, as stated previously. But he only narrated 18 episodes of that series. He did much more work on Information Please, the Chamber Society of Lower Basin Street, and the soap opera Betty and Bob.


Book lovers know Milton Cross from the musical reference books he authored, edited, or co-authored. While, because of their popular appeal, they have never been widely accepted as textbooks for serious musical study, because of their simplicity, many postgraduate students of music have relied on his material to help them study for their final written comprehensive examinations (including your loyal 'Blogger!) These books are written in the form of novels. They lack cross referencing, which is  what college textbooks should have. 

Here are some of the books Milton Cross authored, edited or co-wrote:
  • Complete Stories of the Great Operas
  • More Stories of the Great Operas 
  • Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and Their Music [two volumes] (with David Ewen)
  • Milton Cross' Favorite Arias from the Great Operas
  • From the Beauty of Embers: A Musical Aftermath (with Gordon M. Eby)
Cross never retired. He died suddenly at the age of 77, of a heart attack, at his home in New York City on January 2, 1975. He was getting ready for his next broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera.

____________________________________________________________________

Texaco (later Chevron/Texaco) was the sole sponsor of the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts 1940-2004.  Originally, the Met was sponsored by a pool of advertisers, as most commercial broadcasts are sponsored today. These sponsors included Lucky Strike cigarettes, Listerine toothpaste and mouthwash, and RCA electronics. Today the sponsor is Toll Brothers house contractors.




Raymond Knight (1899-1953)

Raymond Knight was born February 12, 1899, in Salem, Massachusetts. A scholar, Ray graduated from Boston University with undergraduate and law degrees and passed the Massachusetts Bar examination. But rather than go into law, he went in for more education and attended Harvard University's 47 Workshop, where he studied drama and writing. Ray then began studying drama at Yale University. 

In 1927, he made his debut on Broadway in the musical revue, The Manhatters, which ran from August through October of that year.  

Ray earned most of his living from writing. He was a very versatile performer who was witty, charming, and mostly satirical. In 1929 Bertha "Betty" Brainard (1890-1956), who was the programmer for NBC in New York, told Ray, who was writing several shows and commercials at the time, to come up with something cuckoo for the Blue Network.

What he came up with was the most popular radio comedy program of the 1930s: The KUKU Hour.  This show was the forerunner to most of what America thought was funny afterwards. Ray, unlike most of the other radio personalities at the time, didn't have a background in vaudeville. He did all of his work within a short distance from home. Consequently, Ray had a good grasp on what people did when they were at home. Nothing was safe from Ray Knight's sarcasm. It wasn't meant to be rude or upsetting. But the KUKU Hour was so different from anything that was going on at the time. He would bounce back and forth between networks. The show started on NBC and was there for a few years before moving to Mutual. 

The KUKU Hour did not always have the same characters but it would have the same elements in each show. One of these was a segment called the "Firing Squad." In this, Ray would make comments about a person, a group, or an idea, and then have everyone in the studio shoot at it with toy guns (paper cap guns were provided for members of the studio audience and even the technical people got involved in this!)

Ray also worked on the children's series Wheatenaville Sketches, in which he played Billy Batchelor, the publisher of the town newspaper. 

Ladies Love Hats was Ray's one motion picture appearance. This 18 minute film premiered at movie theaters on November 1, 1935.

In 1938, Ray wrote a comedy play for Broadway, Run Sheep Run. It started on November 3 and ran for 12 days, closing on November 15. Two of the cast members were William Bendix and Dick Van Patten (who was quite young at the time)

Ray created a soap opera called A House in the Country. It was the story of Joan and Bruce and their trials and tribulations. Ray played the part of shopkeeper on the show, which aired from October 1941 to October 1942. 

During World War II, after ABC (the Blue Network) broke off from NBC, Ray was the network's national program manager (roughly the same job that Betty Brainard had at NBC). 

He wrote articles of all kinds for many magazines. 

Ray's last job was writing for the radio comedy team of Bob and Ray (Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding) on CBS from about 1949.

Ray Knight died on his 54th birthday, February 12, 1953, in New York City. His widow, Lee, married Bob Elliott in 1954. 




Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Did Anyone Say Cereal?

Kellogg's Pep - - Kellogg's introduced this cereal in 1923, it was whole wheat flakes. Radio programs sponsored by Pep included Superman, Breakfast in Hollywood, and Tom Corbett - - Space Cadet. It wasn't the first cereal to have mail-in offers for boxtops, but it was one of the first to put the things other cereal companies required boxtops for. Pep had such premiums as badges, balsa wood airplanes, trading cards, and cars.

Pep cereal ceased production in 1979.

Quaker Puffed Wheat (Sparkies) and Quaker Puffed Rice (Sparkies) - - Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice were the first cold cereals made by Quaker Oats. The slogan that these are shot from guns was not just hype.Early in the twentieth century, the company devised a machine that takes kernels of wheat and rice and expands them eight times their original size. It's a long tube that actually shoots them into a large container.The Dick Tracy program in the 1930s often had recorded sounds of this machine in action.

Radio programs which were sponsored by Quaker Puffed Wheat and Quaker Puffed Rice included Babe Ruth (1935), Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry.

The name of the cereal was changed to Sparkies in 1939 as the company thought the names "Puffed Wheat" and "Puffed Rice" sounded too generic as other companies were making the same cereals. They went back to their original name in 1950.

Although they aren't listed on the Quaker Oats website, these cereals are still being produced.


Post Huskies - - Lou Gehrig said it was the only cereal he would eat... "...and I've eaten them all!" Huskies was a whole wheat flake. In fact, this was the original wheat flake, whose history went back to 1912, 11 years before Kellogg's Pep, and 13 years before Wheaties.

In the 1930s, Huskies was the sponsor of many of the most popular shows including Ripley's Believe It or Not, Joe Penner, Young Dr. Malone, and many athletic contests.

Huskies went out of production prior to World War II.

Shredded Ralston - - This was the cold cereal that Tom Mix ate (there were two Tom Mixes). However this isn't the one that can be purchased now. That is the hot cereal. The cold version was introduced in the 1920s. It was similar to shredded wheat, only coarser and harder. Even though it wasn't the same cereal, when Ralston-Purina introduced Wheat Chex, Shredded Ralston was discontinued. This was about the same time the Tom Mix radio program finally went off the air (ten years after the real Tom Mix was killed in a car accident in Arizona.)

Shredded Ralston had its own jingle:

Shredded Ralston for your breakfast
Starts the day off shining bright;
Gives you lots of cowboy energy
With a flavor that's just right!
It's delicious and nutritious,
Bite sized, and ready to eat
Take a tip from Tom:
Go and tell your mom:
"Shredded Ralston can't be beat!"

Shredded Ralston was manufactured by the Ralston-Purina Company at Checkerboard Square in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1998, the cereal division of that company was sold to General Mills, except for the pet food and private label cereal divisions. The pet food division was sold to Nestle. The company that was left became Ralcorp. In August 2008, the Post division of Kraft Foods (formerly of General Foods)was sold to Ralcorp.

Wheaties - - Wheaties was said to have been created by accident in 1922 when some batter for a cooking experiment was dropped on a hot stove at the Washburn Crosby Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After going through several tests, it was sold as a cold cereal in 1924. Washburn Crosby became General Mills (with the acquisition of 27 grain mills) in 1928.

The slogan for the cereal, Breakfast of Champions, was coined in 1926. This was the same year the jingle was written...

Have you tried Wheaties?
They're whole wheat with all of the bran.

Won't you try Wheaties?

For wheat is the best food for man.


Written to the tune of a popular song at the time, Jazz Baby, the commercial jingle first aired on December 24, 1926.

The first person who had his picture on a box of Wheaties was Lou Gehrig in 1934. He was a spokesman for Post Huskies, an almost identical product. Babe Ruth also appeared on the Wheaties box and he had a contract with Quaker Oats at the time. Until 1958, all the athletes pictures were on the back of the box. Gehrig and Ruth had pictures which could be clipped as trading cards.

On Old Time Radio, Wheaties first sponsored baseball and football games. It then became the sole sponsor for Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy. The jingle was expanded to include something about Jack Armstrong eating them. The 15 minute daily soap opera was actually, more or less, a long commercial for Wheaties. The story seemed to take second place. However,the program was so popular. Jim Ameche (1915-83), who played Jack said that grocery stores were often out of Wheaties for weeks.The company had to work extra hard to put out more and more cereal, especially if there was a special mail in offer for a toy or a piece of athletic equipment. Wheaties also sponsored the Lone Ranger, Night Beat, and Tales of the Texas Rangers.

The first man who had his picture on the front of a box of Wheaties was the Rev. Bob Richards (b. 1926), USA Olympic champion of the 1956 games at Melbourne, Australia, who had also competed in the games at London (1948) and Helsinki (1952). He was the main spokesman for the cereal for the next ten years.

Wheaties now come in different flavors.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Graham McNamee (1888-1942)

Graham McNamee was born July 10, 1888, in Washington, DC. He grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. After completing his postsecondary studies, in 1912 he moved to New York where he became a serious singer (some people would say "opera singer".) He had a very active career in his area, singing in choirs and small groups, as well as solo work. He was a baritone.

One afternoon in 1923, after serving jury duty, he wandered into the AT&T Building to the studios of station WEAF. He asked the staff how he could get a job as an announcer. They auditioned him and he was hired then.

Within days, he became the first baseball announcer in history, as he broadcast a preseason game between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees at the Polo Grounds. The folks in Chicago heard about this and WMAQ became the second station to broadcast Major League baseball games.

Graham McNamee became the voice of everything... from horse racing to boxing to football to the National Marble Championships. He was the announcer for the 1924 Republican National Convention (in Cleveland, Ohio), the first political rally EVER broadcast. He was the announcer for the first coast to coast broadcast of the Rose Bowl football game (the University of Alabama tied Leland Stanford, Jr., University 7-7) in Pasadena, California. He was on hand when Charles A. Lindbergh returned to America from his transatlantic flight. McNamee was ringside on September 22, 1927, in a fight known as the Battle of the Long Count, between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney (won by Tunney). And he announced everything that could be announced concerning baseball at the time.

OTR aficionados know him best as being Ed Wynn's straight man.  He could be also heard on Rudy Vallee's program and many other shows originating from New York.

His voice was also familiar to moviehouse attenders in the late 1930s as he was the voice that announced the Universal Pictures Newsreel every week.  Although he was connected with NBC, he did make the report about the infamous Marian broadcast on Orson Welles' Mercury Theater on October 30, 1938. The newsreel was out the second week in November.

Graham McNamee died May 9, 1942, in New York City. He was survived by his wife, Josephine Garrett, a fellow serious singer who continued her career during their marriage. McNamee was 53 years old. He is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.

Mc Namee had such a friendly way of ending his broadcasts: "This is Graham McNamee speaking, good night, all."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jack Latham (1914-87)

John Jackson Latham was born December 27, 1914, in Washington State. After graduation from high school, partly because of the Depression, he moved to Los Angeles to be a movie star. For his first six years in Hollywood he received nothing but bit parts and background ("extras.") But he found work as a radio announcer for Earle C. Anthony, who owned radio stations KFI and KECA.

Jack's voice was very authoratative. He also had looks that were stern and impressive. That didn't matter much for radio, except that it got the studio audience quiet. Eventually JackLatham would be heard on a number of programs on all the networks: NBC, ABC, CBS, and Mutual. He never mentioned his name. The sternness of his demeanor were actually not true. Jack was a very humble man who was happy with every job he ever had. In 1949, he began a 20 year relationship with the NBC owned and operated television station. At the same time, he became the announcer for The Man Called X (starring Herbert Marshall).

The station now known as KNBC-TV has its humble beginnings in the back room of Radio City West, at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. The television station almost didn't happen. As KNBH (the "H" stood for Hollywood) it was the second NBC affiliate in Los Angeles. It began on January 16, 1949. Earle C. Anthony, owner of the NBC radio station, KFI (KECA was acquired by ABC in 1945), started KFI-TV (now KCAL-TV) in August 1948. It broadcast kinescopes of NBC network programs made in New York, as well as programs produced at Radio City West. When KNBH went on the air, many of KFI-TV's staff went there to stay with the NBC network. Channel 4 was the next to the last VHF station to go on the air.

Jack Latham broadcast the news twice a night, at 7:30 and 11:00. Each of these broadcasts was only 15 minutes long. This was as long as any other station in the Los Angeles area at that time.

Here is a list of the stations that existed in 1949 and what happened with them...

Note: Los Angeles did not have one Dumont network station. All of the independent stations broadcast one or a few Dumont shows during the lifetime of that network (1947-55).
2 KTSL (Independent) 1947-1951 Owned by Don Lee Broadcasting
KTSL (Independent) 1951 Owned by RKO-General (very briefly)
KNXT (CBS) 1951-1984 Owned by CBS
KCBS-TV (CBS) 1984-present Owned by CBS
4 KNBH (NBC) 1949-1954 Owned by NBC
KRCA-TV (NBC) 1954-1962 Owned by NBC
KNBC(-TV) (NBC) 1962-present Owned by NBC
5 KTLA (Independent) 1947-1964 Owned by Paramount Pictures
KTLA (Independent) 1964-1982 Owned by Gene Autry
KTLA (Independent) 1982-1985 Owned by "Sun Television"
KTLA (Independent) 1985-1995 Owned by the Chicago Tribune
KTLA (WB/CW) 1985-1995 Owned by the Chicago Tribune
7 KECA-TV (ABC) 1949-1954 Owned by ABC
KABC-TV (ABC) 1954-present Owned by ABC (many owners)
9 KFI-TV (NBC) 1948-1949 Owned by Earle C. Anthony
KFI-TV (Independent) 1949-1951 Owned by Earle C. Anthony
KHJ-TV (Independent) 1951-1989 Owned by RKO-General
KCAL-TV (Independent) 1989-1996 Owned by the Walt Disney Company
KCAL-TV (Independent) 1996-2002 Owned by Young Broadcasting
KCAL-TV (Independent) 2002-present Owned by CBS
11 KTTV (CBS) 1949-1951 Owned by the Los Angeles Times
KTTV (Independent) 1951-1963 Owned by the Los Angeles Times
KTTV (Independent) 1963-1986 Owned by Metromedia
KTTV (Fox) 1986-present Owned by News Corporation
13 KMTR-TV (Independent) 1948 (one day) Owned by the New York Daily News
KLAC-TV (Independent) 1948-1954 Owned by the New York Daily News
KCOP (Independent) 1954-1960 Owned by the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune
KCOP (Independent) 1960-1995 Owned by Chris Craft Industries
KCOP (UPN) 1995-2001 Owned by Chris Craft Industries
KCOP (UPN/MyTV) 2001-present Owned by News Corporation

Jack appeared in several movies after his retirement from NBC. He moved to Palm Springs and read the news for station KMIR-TV, channel 36, there. He died in Palm Springs on January 1, 1987, at the age of 72.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tommy Walker (1922-86)

Thomas Luttgen Walker was born November 8, 1922, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father was band director Vesey Walker (1893-1977), who became the leader of the Disneyland Band at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.  His father, also a musician (cornet player), was born in England and came to America in 1913 "because of all the wonderful bands." He would become the instrumental music supervisor of the public schools in Milwaukee and helped organize 30 high school bands. In 1930, he was the band director at Marquette University. This is all very important because his son Tommy was a part of all of that. On the weekends, Tommy played trumpet with the American Legion band that his father led in 1936. Vesey Walker moved to Los Angeles shortly after this and helped organize several bands in Southern California, including the Topper Band, originally made up of members of the Elks Lodge of Whittier. The Topper Band was a regular part of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California for over 30 years. 

Tommy graduated from high school in 1940 and enrolled at the University of Southern California as a music major. He had been a drum major in high school. But he was also the place kicker for the varsity football team. The band plays a very important role in the game of American football: It might be on the field two or three times in a game. At first, for the pregame. Just before the game starts, the band gets into a formation on the field and plays the Star Spangled Banner. The band might also play some kind of music to show homage to the school. The second time is the band's show in the middle of the game, called a half time show. This is where, in this 'blogger's mind, American football has soccer beat. If the game is boring, the band's perfomance makes up for all the bad stuff. Some people actually go home after half time, figuring that's all with the band. But some band's give a third perfomance on the field after the game.

In his freshman year at Southern Cal, Tommy did play trumpet in the marching band, as he did the following year. But in 1942, Tommy had gone away to be in the Navy overseas. He returned in the fall of 1946. This time, he wasn't content to just be in the band. He became the band's drum major and student director. And he went to varsity football coach Jeff Cravath (1903-53) to tell him he wanted to be the place kicker for the team AND be the band's drum major. How could he do that?

Tommy was the absolute master showman. He would sit on the bench during the game wearing a helmet (they didn't have face guards then) with no pads underneath (this was legal for kickers at that time; today NCAA rules mandate protection for all players). Just before half time, unless he had to kick the ball, he would slowly move toward the band and make a big production, changing from a football uniform to a band uniform.

One of Tommy's most notable achievements, and this is the reason why his biography appears on an OldTimeRadio website, was a six note composition that takes a little more than three second to perform--CHARGE! It was first heard in 1946 and most people heard it on the radio.

After graduating from USC in 1948, the Washington Redskins wanted to draft him as their place kicker, but he chose, instead, to become the marching band director at his alma mater. He stayed there until 1955, when he went to work at Disneyland, when it opened (father and son both went to work at the park at the same time.) As previously stated, Tommy was the master showman. He created a wonderful show for the opening of Disneyland on July 17, 1955. For the next eleven years, if something at Disneyland was showy, it was a Tommy Walker production! He left in 1966 to start his own production company. But, in 1960, just prior to the 17th Summer Olympic Games in Rome, Italy, he composed a military march in honor of the games entitled, the March of the Olympians. It was definitely more complicated than Charge!

Every New Year's Day, Tommy was the drum major for the Toppers Band in the Rose Parade. During its last few years of existence, the band was made up of members from Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians in Hollywood. (Tommy was a member of Local 7 in Santa Ana.)

Tommy's production company created extravaganzas for five World's Fairs, two Presidential inaugurations, various football games, and more. He was in charge of the fireworks for the centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty and the 350th anniversary of Harvard University. At the time of his death, he was executive producer of special events at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Undergoing his third series of open heart operations, Tommy Walker died  October 20, 1986, during surgery at the Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. He was survived by his wife Lucille and three daughters (Debbie, Diana, and Patty). Tommy was 63 years old. He is buried at the Pacific View Memorial Park in Newport Beach, California.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bill Cullen (1920-90)

William Lawrence Francis Cullen was born February 18, 1920, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bill was an only child. At the age of 18 months, he contracted polio. He wore a brace on one leg until he was ten.

Bill attended South High School in Pittsburgh. A good student, he was considered somewhat of a clown. He organized pep rallies and assemblies at South High. And he was the comic relief at spelling bees. He organized fund raising projects and published his own school paper when he disagreed with the official one.

During his Junior Year of high school he was involved in a terrible automobile accident that put him in the hospital for nine months. (Most websites combine the childhood polio and the car wreck, stating that he contracted polio at the age of 18. Or they state that he was involved in a car wreck that left him with a limp.) So his school that year was provided by a private tutor in the hospital.

Even though he was nearly killed in that car wreck, Bill acquired a new hobby during his senior year of high school, midget racing (uses miniature versions of Indianapolis-style racing cars.) He was so involved in it that at one point, he dropped out of school and raced professionally. After talking with his parents, he went back to school and graduated with his class in 1938.

Between 1938 and 1943, Bill was a student at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a pre-med student, hoping to become a physician. To pay for his studies, Bill worked at his father's garage. Some of the clients at the garage were well known radio personalities. He got a chance to be in the audience of the 1500 Club on station WWSW in Pittsburgh. Eventually, he performed on the show. He worked at the station for free first, then they began paying him minimum wage. One of his jobs on that station was to help veteran sportscaster Joe Tucker give color to University of Pittsburgh football games. He had a whimsical sense of humor that was appreciated by most listeners.

In 1943, Bill earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts from the University of Pittsburgh (he didn't drop out; again some of the researchers combine their facts to make Bill's biography shorter. It should also be pointed out that pre-med is NOT a major but a group of classes future medical students take as prerequisites for medical school.) No longer interested in becoming a doctor, after working at WWSW for a couple of years, he moved on to station KDKA, the pioneer station of Pittsburgh. A 50,000 watt station, owned by Westinghouse, and affiliated with NBC, Bill's voice was now be heard by a great portion of the United States.

It was also this time that Bill married a local Pittsburgh girl. The marriage didn't even last two years.

In 1944, Bill was hired as a staff announcer for CBS in New York. He also wrote some of the copy for Easy Aces (Goodman Ace and Jane Sherwood Ace.) In getting this job Bill said with all the major announcers out because of military service (this was World War II), they had to hire him. He was also heard as an actor on some of the programs on station WOR (and, consequently, some of the Mutual network programs.) The loyal Blogger can point this out on the hour long end of the year program on WOR in 1944. Bill was one of the servicemen who was a prisoner of war in Bataan in that program.

Two years later, Bill got his big break and hosted the radio quiz show, Winner Take All. That program would be his destiny. But the show that was paying the bills at home was a 15 minute daily soap opera called This is Nora Drake. Eventually he did many of the shows on CBS, including Casey, Crime Photographer, Beat the Clock, Give and Take, Dan Dodge, Catch Me If You Can, Strike It Rich, and many others.

On February 20, 1949, Bill hosted his first television game show, Act It Out, on WNBT (now WNBC-TV) in New York City. Rather than give a narrative of all the TV game shows on which Bill appeared (he was a panelist on To Tell the Truth, though he often subbed for the regular host), here is a numbered list (these are only the game shows):
  1. Act It Out (AKA Say It with Acting) [WNBT] (1949)
  2. Meet Your Match [WOR-TV] (1949--two weeks in October)
  3. Winner Take All [NBC] (1952)
  4. Give and Take [CBS] (1952)
  5. Matinee in New York [NBC] (1952)
  6. I've Got a Secret [CBS] (1952-67)
  7. Name's the Same [ABC] (1952-53)
  8. Who's There? [CBS] (1952)
  9. Professor Yes 'n' No [Syndicated] (1953-but possibly filmed as early as 1950)
  10. Where Was I? [Dumont] (1952-53)
  11. Why? [ABC] (1952-53)
  12. Place the Face [CBS/NBC] (1954)
  13. Name that Tune [CBS] (1954-55)
  14. Bank on the Stars [NBC](1954)
  15. Place the Face [NBC] (1955)
  16. The Price is Right (daytime) [NBC/ABC] (1956-65)
  17. Down You Go [NBC] (1956)
  18. The Price is Right (evening) [NBC/ABC] (1957-64)
  19. Eye Guess [NBC] (1966-69)
  20. You're Putting Me On [NBC] (1969)
  21. To Tell the Truth [Syndicated] (1969-74-Bill was a regular panelist, who often subbed for host Garry Moore frequently)
  22. Three on a Match [NBC] (1971-74)
  23. Winning Streak [NBC] (1974)
  24. $25,000 Pyramid [Syndicated] (1974-79)
  25. Blankety Blanks [ABC] (1975)
  26. I've Got a Secret [CBS] (1976-four weeks in summer)
  27. How Do You Like Your Eggs? [QuBE-Warner Cable] (1977-two shows)
  28. Pass the Buck [CBS] (1978)
  29. The Love Experts [Syndicated] (1978-79)
  30. Chain Reaction [NBC] (1980)
  31. Blockbusters [NBC] (1980-82)
  32. Child's Play [CBS] (1982-83)
  33. Hot Potato [NBC] (1984)
  34. The Joker's Wild [Syndicated (1984-86-took over, sharing duties with Jim Peck, after the death of Jack Barry, the show's creator and original host)
The Internet Movie Database states that Bill Cullen hosted 23 game shows. Wikipedia states this number is 24. Your loyal Blogger listed all the game shows that Bill hosted (including the one in which he served as panelist and substitute host), allowing the reader to make his or her own conclusion.

In 1953, he hosted a 30 minute variety show (no guests, ever) that only lasted 13 weeks, The Bill Cullen Show. Two partial episodes are available on DVD, believe it or not! Bill hosted. Milton DeLugg's trio played the music. And Betty Brewer sang. There was no script. The sponsor was Mogen David Wine! (Remember that Bill's background was Irish Catholic!)

Inside NBC was a local news/public affairs program on WRCA (now WNBC-TV) in New York City 1955-56.

He hosted the Tonight Show a few times in 1956.

Sports Cavalcade was a documentary sports series that was syndicated in 1963.

The NFL Special was a syndicated program that aired during the 1966 football season in which Bill interviewed professional coaches and players.

NBC Sports in Action was NBC's attempt at their own version of ABC's Wide World of Sports. Bill hosted it for the first half of 1966. And then it went off the air on June 5.

Bill continued to be active in radio all during this time. He hosted a number of game shows in the 1950s including Quick as a Flash (ABC). He had a variety show called Pulse (AKA The Bill Cullen Show) on WNBC (now WFAN) from 1955 to 1961, which, unlike the TV version of the Bill Cullen Show, was immensely popular. During the 1956 football season, he was a commentator for Army Football Games (US Military Academy, West Point, NY.) From 1960 to 1975, he hosted a series called Emphasis on NBC, these were short documentaries that aired five times a weeks. He was one of the hosts on NBC Monitor (1971-72).

His last work in broadcasting was a group of radio documentary series produced by David J. Clark, which aired between 1981 and 1988. These included: People Who are Different (1981), Goose Who's Coming to Dinner (1982), Fuji Facts (1987?), and The Parents' Notebook (1985-88.)

On July 30, 1949, he married singer Carol Ames. They divorced in 1955. She was a regular cast member of Arthur Godfrey's radio program until about 1971.

Bill's third wife was model/dancer Ann Roemheld Macomber, the daughter of Heinz Roemheld, a composer of music for the movies. Bill met her in the 1950s when he would host one game show in Los Angeles (Place the Face) and fly back home to New York. They married December 24, 1955. He finally moved out to California in the late 1970s. Ann's sister, Mary Lou Roemheld, was married to another game show host, Jack Narz (1922- ) in the 1950s and 1960s until they divorced. He then married a TWA "stewardess" named Dolores ("Dodo"), who began working for the airline in the 1950s and was still working as a flight attendant when the airline was sold to American Airlines in 2001.

A lifelong smoker, Bill started getting sick in 1987. He died at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles on July 7, 1990. Bill was 70 years old.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bill Stulla (1911-2008)

William Stulla was born May 24, 1911, in New York City. He only lived in New York for a year before his father, a printer, moved the family to Erie, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, before settling in Denver, Colorado, where Bill graduated from high school. Even before graduating from high school, Bill was already a journeyman printer. One afternoon in 1929, he was riding on a street car, riding home in Denver. He saw a billboard at the University of Denver advertising courses in radio. So he enrolled in it. He only stayed in it for six months until he was offered a job at station KFEL, a 5,000 watt outlet. 

In time (1934), he moved on to KOA, then an NBC outlet, which had 50,000 watts and was heard in over half the country at the time. At KOA he was a staff announcer and script writer. Five years later, in 1939, he moved to Los Angeles and worked at KFI. 

At KFI he hosted a musical program and he was the announcer for the Rudy Vallee Show, which was heard over the entire NBC network. 

He then enlisted in the U.S. Army in the Signal Corps, stationed in the China-Burma-India theater. Bill's job was helping to set up 15 American Forces Radio Service (AFRS) stations. As the war was also raging at this time, he was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery while engaging Japanese forces. 

Returning to civilian life in Los Angeles, Bill went back to work at KFI. He had a program called Ladies' Day, a talk show for women. He was at KFI until 1950, when he moved on to the NBC television network and hosted that show, now known as Parlor Party. The show soon moved to KHJ-TV (local now, not national).

In 1952, KTTV in Los Angeles began a long running kids' show, Lunch Brigade. It was a program with a live host, dressed as a law enforcement officer, Sheriff John (played by John Rovick, a staff announcer at channel 11.) Channel 9 (KHJ-TV) wanted a similar program and Bill auditioned for the part. The KHJ idea was a character named Ranger Ed, another law enforcement officer, but Ed was really just a lousy phony version of Sheriff John. 

Bill's idea was for something totally different. He became a train engineer (in British English, the term is "train driver".) He wore traditional engineer's clothing... engineer's cap, pinstriped overalls, and a bandana around his neck. There were other traditional railroad symbols in the studio. So he was Engineer Bill. And the TV show was Cartoon Express. It was most famous for the Red Light/Green Light milk drinking game, an ingenious version of "Simon Says" created by Bill's wife, Ruth (whom he married in 1947), which she based on activities their daughter, Kathy, was doing in her nursery school. When it first aired, it came on at 6:30 in the evening. Bill didn't talk down to children. That meant that adults enjoyed the show too.

Cartoon Express aired from 1954 to 1966. After that, Bill retired from broadcasting, moved to Ventura County, and became a stock broker. He lived a very quiet life in the community of Westlake Village. His wife Ruth died in 1999.

Bill Stulla died August 12, 2008, at his Westwood Village home. He was 97 years old. His daughter, Kathryn Stulla Mackenson, was his sole survivor.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Steve Allen (1921-2000)


Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen was born December 26, 1921, in New York City. Despite having five names, he grew up in poverty. He was the son of Carroll Allen (real name Carroll Andrew August Abler/1888-1923), who went by the stage name Billy Allen as a vaudeville comedian, and Isobelle Donohue (1886-1964) who went by the name of Belle Montrose as a vaudeville comedienne.  Together they performed as the team of Montrose and Allen. Milton Berle said Belle Montrose was the funniest woman he ever saw. Steve's dad died when he was a year and a half. His mother took him to Chicago, where she grew up. 

For a single parent/single child childhood, with hardly any money, he was very active in school. He taught himself to play the piano but never learned how to read music. Later he joined the school band and took up the trumpet and then the band director had him play the tuba, since he was such a tall boy. Steve always played by ear, whatever he played. To reiterate, he never learned to read music.

After graduating from high school, he went to Arizona State Teachers' College (now Arizona State University) in Tempe. Steve dropped out of college after two years and went to work as a staff announcer at Phoenix radio station KOY and then he married Dorothy Goodman. Eventually he enlisted in the United States Army and was trained as an infantryman. After basic training at Fort Ord, his assignment for the rest of his military career was just down the road at Camp Roberts. He never left the country. Or California for that matter.


Upon his honorable discharge from the Army, Steve returned to Phoenix for a short while before deciding to go back to California, to Los Angeles. He worked as an announcer for KFAC. Then he got a job on a comedy show on the Mutual Broadcasting System, Smile Time, featuring Wendell Noble. He moved on to a bigger station, KNX, as a staff announcer. While that seems like a demotion, in terms of pay it was a huge promotion. Steve knew how to work. In time, he had a daytime talk show in which he would play the piano and create songs on the air. And he could also be so funny. He proved himself to be a great entertainer. The audiences to see his show were huge and many people, if not most, couldn't get into see him. (The tickets were free.) And when Doris Day couldn't show up for an interview on one episode, Steve improvised a comedy routine that the listeners say was unforgetable. 

In 1950, the situation comedy Our Miss Brooks, went off the air for summer. So he had a nationwide program that lasted 13 weeks. He then moved back to his native New York City to work at TV station WCBS-TV. This involved other work at CBS in New York. When Arthur Godfrey couldn't host his show Talent Scouts because he couldn't get out of Miami, Steve filled in for him and ad libbed all the commercials. For one, he told how wonderful Lipton's soup and Lipton Tea was. And he took the soup and the tea and poured them into Arthur Godfrey's ukelele. He divorced his wife Dorothy at this time.


He next went to WNBT (now WNBC-TV) and NBC where he was the first host of the Tonight Show. He married actress Jayne Meadows during this time. He went back to Los Angeles in 1959 and continued working on TV, writing songs, and acting in movies. Jayne would give him a fourth son.

Steve had one last radio gig: He had a radio program on WNEW in New York City in 1985. He actually did the show from his office in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles but the show played well in New York. His program came on just after Soupy Sales' show.

What more could we say about Steve? Well, first, the writer of this 'blog knew Steve as a personal friend. Steve knew of the 'blogger's devotion to his faith. Steve always called himself an "involved Presbyterian." But in actuality, even though he had a strong upbringing in the Roman Catholic faith, Steve didn't think much of churches or religion or anything like that.


He wrote several books and more than 7,000 songs. 

On October 30, 2000, Steve was involved in a minor traffic accident near his son's home. The drivers got out of their cars, exchanged insurance information, looked at the damage to the cars, and both said, "Aw, forget it. I don't see much damage done here." Steve went his son's house. When he got in the house, he told her he didn't feel well, so he went to sleep that evening. He had a massive heart attack and never awoke. Steve was 78 years old. After his autopsy, they said the minor accident actually caused several ribs to break and a major artery broke.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hugh Brundage (1909-72)

Hugh Brundage is probably one of the least remembered personalities on Old Time Radio. He was a California native, born in 1909, who spent his entire broadcasting career in Los Angeles. 

After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1931, tried to embark on a career in business, first dealing with the Signal Petroleum Company of Long Beach. At the time that oil company was toying around with the idea for a radio program based upon the Tarzan series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs happened to be in the corporate office when Hugh was applying for the job. The personnel manager said that positions that he was qualified for were already filled, in fact, they were actually laying off some of the junior executives and asking the senior ones to retire early.

But Burroughs heard Hugh speak. "You know, son, you have a good speaking voice. How would you like a job in radio? We'll be working in L.A. starting in a couple of days. You don't even need to audition. I'll use the paperwork here to get you onto the station." So Burroughs gave Hugh the information of where to go. 

When Hugh returned to his parents he told them that he got a job. They were surprised that he got a job offer at the first interview.

"No, Ma," he explained, "I didn't interview. They just took me."

"How much are you getting, Hugh?" his father asked.

"Dunno."

"When do you start?"

"Monday in the late afternoon."

"That's a funny time to start work in the oil business, even for an executive."

"I'm not going to be an executive."

"Oh? Then what will you be doing? Drilling? Refurbishing? Bringing glasses of iced tea to the hard working men?"

"I won't even be working near an oilfield. I'll be close to here."

"Signal only has gas stations in this neck of the woods. You're going to be a service attendant pumping gas and checking oil? You were never very mechanical."

"No. I won't be working at a gas station. I'll be working on the radio."

His parents couldn't believe their ears. Their son was going to be a famous radio star. Hugh didn' have the guts to tell them that he didn't know what he was going to be doing himself. They didn't give him any scripts or anything. Not even a pass to let him in the studio.


The radio station was KHJ. It was located next door to a Cadillac dealership owned by Don Lee, who was the Cadillac dealer for the entire West Coast. Hugh wore his best suit. It was the man he was going to interview at the Signal office in Long Beach who let him into the studio.

After they got in, he told him what was happening. 

"OK, Hugh... Here's the story... You are the announcer on a program about Tarzan, the character that Edgar Rice Burroughs writes about in novels. Do you remember him?"

"Certainly."

"He's in the audience. He asked for you to be the announcer. You might be  a young man but your voice sounds so mature. You'll be the first person that anyone hears. Even before Tarzan lets out his yell, they'll hear you."

He continued: "Now, just so you know, Hugh. Let me explain how radio works. I am the sponsor. I am actually in charge of the program. My company, Signal Petroleum, owns the Tarzan program. It's only 15 minutes and it will be playing only in states where they have Signal service stations. As far as oil companies go, we're pretty small. They own the radio program so they can get more customers. KNX and Don Lee, along with CBS, only give us a place to put the show on. And, if someone goofs, they punish us. So we have to do a good show."

"OK. My parents are listening this afternoon."

"Where do they live, Hugh?"

"Not far from here. I just told them the name of the station I was going to be working at and they'll keep the wireless going on until they hear me."

"That's good. We'll all be proud of you."

"Thanks."

Hugh was scared when he read the script. They let him go over it alone for about 45 minutes. Then they went on. 

There would be many more programs for Hugh, although he would rarely use his name while announcing. He did so well for Tarzan at KHJ, they hired him for work at KNX, and KFI/KECA (the two NBC stations were both owned by Earle C. Anthony.) Occasionally, he would give his name, but that was so rare.


His voice became the voice of Oscar as he was the announcer for the Academy Awards, no matter where they were held, and no matter if they were a banquet or a formal awards ceremony.

That let to him being the announcer for an anthology series in 1946 called Academy Award. Heard over CBS on varying nights of the weeks the mission of the show was to bring "Hollywood's finest, the great picture plays, the great actors and actresses, techniques and skills, chosen from the honor roll of those who have won or been nominated for the famous golden Oscar of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences." It was a very expensive program. The show itself cost $4,000 a week, plus another $1,600 had to be paid to the Academy for the use of the name.  And his own name was heard at the beginning and the end of every program.



The sponsor of the program was the Squibb company and the featured product was Squibb Dental Cream. This toothpaste hasn't been available since 1956 but in the 1940s, it was one of the biggest selling brands. Squibb got out of the toothpaste business but continued making Broxodent toothbrushes for many years after that.

After Academy Award, Hugh continued as a staff announcer at KNX and for many CBS shows produced at Columbia Square.

In 1957, he became the sole newsperson at radio station KDAY in Santa Monica. This was one of the newer stations that wasn't playing any radio dramas or variety programs it was a Top 40 station that played the hits of the day with news for five minutes on the hour and on the half hour. Well, that only lasted a year. He went back to his postion as staff announcer at CBS in Hollywood for many more years.

In 1965, Gene Autry had purchased radio station KMPC and TV station KTLA. He chose Hugh to be both stations' news director. He was heard on KMPC during weekday afternoons and seen on KTLA at night.
6
Hugh Brundage died in 1972 at the age of 63.



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