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September 2010
 Monday, September 27, 2010 Join Discussion  (453 Comments)
50 Years Since Clarabell Said "Goodbye, kids"

The 50th anniversary of one of the most touching moments in broadcast history passed on Friday with barely a whimper. It was September 24, 1960 when the original Howdy Doody program signed off for good with the first (and last) words spoken tearfully by Clarabell the Clown.

The Howdy Doody program broke ground in many ways (both good and bad) with its appeal to a national audience of children; integration of advertisements for products into the program narrative; and massive merchandising of Doody-branded books, records, toys and games.

For the Doody enthusiast interested in learning more, there are three books that are worth reading:

Say Kids! What Time Is It? by Stephen Davis
A thorough and candid account of the history of the program (and the phenomenon), written by the son of one of the producers. Davis interviewed nearly everybody involved, and the result is a first-rate history and an entertaining read.

Growing Up Happy by Bob Keeshan
Keeshan, who went on to play Captain Kangaroo for 30+ years, was also the first Clarabell the Clown. While this book covers more than just Keeshan's Doody years, it's worth hearing his perspective on what has been portrayed elsewhere as a contentious relationship between Keeshan and Buffalo Bob Smith.

Howdy and Me by Buffalo Bob Smith
This paperback is lavishly illustrated with black and white photos, and contains Buffalo Bob's own account of life in Doodyville.

The program that would become Howdy Doody first aired on NBC in late 1947, and its original explosive season (including a presidential campaign by Howdy tied in to the 1948 American election), was not seen in the Pacific Northwest (since there were no TV stations here then). Until September 1951 when the network coax reached the West Coast, any Howdy Doody episodes seen here were kinescopes.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Thursday, September 23, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Bing The Archivist (NOT the search engine!)

Tacoma, WA-born and Spokane, WA-raised Bing Crosby was apparently quite far ahead of his time as far as preservation of once-ephemeral TV broadcasts are concerned.

A New York Times article published on the web today reveals that Der Bingle had the only known complete kinescope of the last game of the 1960 World Series tucked away in his wine cellar.

Bing also donated an extensive collection of recordings of his 1940s radio broadcasts and several priceless artifacts from his career to alma mater Gonzaga University in Spokane. A trip to the Inland Empire is not complete without a visit to the Crosbyana Room on the Gonzaga campus, with several of Bing's gold records, Grammy awards and other assorted "Bing Bling" on display.

For the more serious Crosby scholar, the Gonzaga Library is also steward of the Crosby-related archival materials in the university's collection, which are accessible by appointment.

Crosby was ahead of his time as a broadcast entertainer, too. In the mid 1940s, he was one of the first performers to shift from making live radio broadcasts of his variety program each week to taping (and editing) programs in advance. This allowed for re-doing skits with fluffed lines or songs with sour notes, and made for more consistent quality (and, allegedly, more time for Bing on the golf course).

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Wednesday, September 15, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
Edwin Newman's Death Announced

The number of 20th century broadcast icons whose careers began in radio and transitioned to television continues to dwindle, most recently with the August 13, 2010 death of Edwin Newman announced today.

The New York Times published a loving obituary via the web late this morning.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Friday, September 10, 2010 Join Discussion  (165 Comments)
Remembering Seattle's First TV Newscast

It was 59 years ago today that KING TV in Seattle launched a regular daily newscast with Charles Herring. Herring's September 10, 1951 broadcast is considered to be the first local TV news program north of Los Angeles and west of Minneapolis. Early September 1951 is also when the network "coax" cable reached Seattle, allowing KING to carry live broadcasts from New York rather than kinescopes of programs already several days old (it's unclear if there's any direct connection between the timing of the arrival of the coax and the launch of the local news program--if you can provide any insight, please comment below).

Seattle's Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) honored Herring on the 50th anniversary back in 2001, which turned out to be the night before the 9/11 attacks (full disclosure: as a MOHAI staffer, I produced the event honoring Mr. Herring and we also co-led several walking tours of Seattle TV facilities over the years).

Herring was also featured on KING's early evening newscast the night of September 10, 2001, and was allowed to do the sign-off. A subsequent appearance the next morning on KING-affiliated Northwest Cable News was bumped due to the events in New York and Washington, DC.

Kay McFadden of the Seattle Times wrote about the 50th anniversary, and the paper published an obituary when Mr. Herring died in 2006.

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

 Tuesday, September 07, 2010 Join Discussion  (0 Comments)
William S. Paley and Supersized, Natural-Color Stereoscopic Screens

Here's an interesting excerpt from the 1930 book Radio And Its Future (edited by Martin Codel), published by Harper & Brothers in New York. This passage about the future of televison is from the chapter called "Radio and Entertainment," written by CBS founder William S. Paley, who seems to get some key elements right (it's just that the big screens aren't in theaters--they're in HOMES!):

"Even when television is perfected on a commercial scale and televised subjects are broadcast for reception directly in millions of homes, the motion-picture theater will continue to thrive as the gathering place of entertainment-seeking multitudes. The history of the theater and the radio would seem to bear me out.

When television comes, whether it be in a few years or a score, it will play a large part in the operation of the very theaters that some may feel it threatens. Our imaginations can run riot when we speculate upon the illimitable possibilities of television in relation to motion-picture theaters.

Consider what can be done in the field of newsreels alone! Imagine seeing flashed upon the screen in simultaneous sight and sound a news event of major importance as it is taking place! Visualize world-series baseball games, football games, automobile and horse races, transported the instant they occur on supersized, natural-color stereoscopic screens!"

(Excerpt is from page 66)

(Posted by Feliks Banel)

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