Monday, April 28, 2008

R. I. P. Local Radio

It's that time of year for thunder storms and power outages. When the power comes back, is that a power inage??
There's not much point in having a battery operated radio these days because there's no local radio to turn to. No local radio news. I was in radio when it was an important part of the community. You could could find out everything from who died (yes, there were daily radio obits) to who hit a pole and took out the power. Local radio announcers, news directors and deejays were public figures. We were stars. Today's only radio stars are Rush Limbaugh, Paul Harvey and few other syndicated talkers. They are not local. How about Paul Junior. Can he really sound that much like the old man? I'm not about to buy batteries to listen to them.

Friday, April 25, 2008


After dark, when AM radio reception is hot, I often turn the mighty '41 Zenith pictured above, to 700, WLW in Cincinnati. I'm not greatly interested in their news format. I listen because of history. That's where Doris Day, the Clooney Sisters and other big stars got their show business start. Fats Waller was a staff musician. For several years WLW was the world's most powerful regular AM broadcast band station, operating at an unprecedented half a million watts. No other station before or since has been allowed to do that. WLW ... magical call letters for any old time radio buff.

Famous Cliftons

I wonder what the average age of bloggers is. I'm guessing it's something under 30, and that less than a dozen of them around the world ever heard of Clifton Fadiman, for whom I was not named but I wish I had been. He was pretty smart. Learn who he was in the BROADCASTELLAN entry for April 22.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fadimanesque Name

Thanks to Harry Heuser and his invention of what I assume is a new word, I now use my real, actual first name. Not Clifford. Clifton. I could say I was such a bright child that my parents named me after the erudite panelist on the Information Please radio show. But that would be a lie and I always tell the truth. Just like everyone else who puts things on the internet.

Unpopular Culture

Herewith, forthwith and henceforth, this blog shall be devoted to my geriatric journaling about Media, entertainment and so-called pop culture, whatever that is. Most of it will deal with stuff that stopped being popular a very long time ago. There might be an occasional foray into something fairly contemporary.

Monday, April 21, 2008

My Problem With David Sedaris

Now that I have your attention and you're ready to blast me for failing to appreciate the great humorist, let me admit that there's nothing wrong with him. It's literally my problem. There is something wrong with me. I am narrowly focused on the spoken word . I'd rather listen to it than read it. I have read none of Sedaris's stuff, only listened to it. I've read just a bit of Garrison's Keillor's work, with a whole different feeling from what his radio work gives me. I need the voice and inflections. I have read none of Jean Shepherd's books. Based on listening, I put him near the top of the great humorists of the past century. I like good adlib talkers. Sedaris is a writer who came to fame reading his stuff aloud on NPR. There is a big difference in writing for the printed page and writing spoken word material. When Sedaris did his show in this town, he lost his place in his reading at one point. Apparently that just added to his charm for his fans who nearly filled the big theater. And there's his voice. He said, in an NPR interview, ":Sometimes I worry that I never advanced beyond adolescence.. My voice didn't." He does sound like a teenage boy, which might be one of the more unpleasant sounds and creatures you can encounter. I raised two of them. Some wise person said teenagers are God's punishment for enjoying sex. I suppose the kid voice adds to his appeal for some, but with my need to hear a "radio voice": in the very old fashioned sense of the term, it doesn't work for me. Keillor has a wonderful voice made for radio as he closes his eyes and tells his tales of Lake Wobegon. He knows how to make love to a microphone. He loves the radio medium and he has used it to become somewhat of a phenomenon. Shepherd was a great adlib storyteller, also with a radio background. Like Keillor, he lets you think he's forgotten where he's going with it and then brings it all back full circle. In Sedaris's NPR interview, he also said, "Crack open my skull, a 12 year old would pop out." I do like that. I have no doubt that if Keillor heard that interview, he would say "me, too." He loves to talk about farts and boogers. Seems to me that it's even funnier when 60 year old Keillor does it than when I hear it from the teen age sounding voice of Sedaris. You expect it from a kid. It's funny from an old guy who still has the kid in him. So it's my spoken word obsession that won't let me appreciate Sedaris and his considerable gift. Same problem with Ira Glass, too. His stories are great but his voice irritates me and he talks too fast. Oh boy, I will hear from his fans, if any of them read my geriatric ramblings. They will tell me they can't stand Diane Rehm because she talks too slow.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Liza in NYC

I asked a gay friend if it's OK for an old straight guy to like Judy and Liza. He assures me that it is. I'm not a big Liza fan and the critics didn't much care for New York, New York. But what do they know. Good music. I liked it a lot when it came out and I will be watching it again the 26th just after midnight. The TCM channel is the only thing I use the digital box from Comcast for. Comcast, the cable company we love to hate.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Keillor's Joke Show

Garrison's annual joke show hit new highs (or was it new lows) in bad, bad jokes. I loved it anyway. It almost makes me want to contribute to Public Radio. But not quite. Any medium that lets him get away with a story about a farting high school class can't be all bad. His closing story about the cow, in such wonderfully bad taste that I won't even repeat it here, still makes me laugh when I think of it. Onward and upward, Garrison old boy. I don't care what you write in Salon or anyplace that gets you in trouble. Just give me some radio fun on Saturday night and I'll be a fan forever. One question, though. Whatever happened to booger jokes? Have they all been told?

Have you visited Lake Wobegon?

It surprises me somewhat when I run across someone who has never been transported by the magic of radio to Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, Minnesota on a Saturday Night. But realistically, his 4 million listeners is a tiny, tiny drip, not even a full fledged drop in the bucket when compared to the huge millions of folks watching TV at any given moment.

Harry's Magnificent Obsession

I know what I will be doing with the rest of my life. I will read Harry Heuser's broadcastellan blog about great classic radio shows, movies, plays, books, writers, actors and on and on and on until my eyballs fall out. He says he's "keeping up with the out of date." It will take the rest of my days to read what he writes. He has already produced huge volumes and continues to write new stuff at a rate that boggles me. What a labor love.What a monument to the art of research. What a magnificent obsession. I love it. Why did I not know about this when he began it? The photos, the audio clips, the writing style are enough to make a fellow OCD type go happily nuts. Where else could I hear Arthur Godfrey as a staff network announcer before he became a big radio and TV star, introducing Fred Allen and his guest, Gracie Fields? It's wartime and Godfrey reminds us that if we have more than five tires per vehicle, we must sell the extras to the government. If we don't. we won't get our windshield sticker that lets us buy gas. Allen quips that his car has more stickers than Mrs. Roosevelt's suitcase. Where else might I see a video of a very young Judy Garland in a duet with Fanny Brice in her Baby Snooks dress? Where does he get this stuff? It's amazing. It's obsessive. So check it out. Get obsessed with Harry and me. You will never be the same.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Watching some of the original Muppet Shows with my 8 year old grandson, I'm reminded of what a genius Jim Henson was. Those funny creatures are utterly believable. They're real. And how fortunate that 8 year old is to have a mom, my splendid daughter, who exposes him to old stuff. Every kid should know about Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Lydia the Tatooed Lady.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thanks, Father Bob

Friend Father Bob says I ask good questions. That comes from what my boss at the radio station in Flint told me many decades ago,long before General Motors fell apart and Michael Moore made Flint famous. Or infamous. He said, "I notice that when you interview someone, you ask a question and then answer it with your own view before he can answer. Don't do that!" He was right. I adopted the "be interested in what the other person has to say, then shut up and listen" formula and it made me a pretty good interviewer.