As a pre-teen, convalescing from complications following what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy, radio constantly supplied entertainment. And re-connected me with jazz, still not knowing the word when Duke Ellington hosted a program, sponsored by Pio Wine. The singing jingle: “Bob-adda-be-bop Pio Wine, Bob-adda-be-bop Pio Wine. Ask for Pio Wine each time. There’s port, sherry and muscatel, Jack, the flavor sure is swell, a wine that no one can decline, keep some handy all the time.”

Then announcers started to sound almost significant. Listening to day- time disc jockeys nearly convinced me. From Glenside, PA, WIBG’s Doug Arthur (born Lexington Smith) for example, every day said the same thing: “Doug Arthur. Danceland. Records, ” introducing his show.   Doug Arthur w nameNo further words. That was polish. That was modesty. Over the years many d.j’s would do the same kind of thing: little signature phrases or sentences to start or end their shows. I did something like that myself eventually.

And there were transfixing radio serials with Pierre Andre making the most of “Captaaan Midniiiight, brought to you by Ohhhvaltine.”  Or Del Sharbutt’ s creaminess making rich, hearty Campbell’s Soup sound resonantly nourishing. And there was The First Nighter. He hung out with actors! Going to plays at a little theatre off Times Square where he mingled with such stars as Barbara Luddy and Les Tremayne. Another performing future seemed glamorous: radio actor.

Aunt Fanny knew how I loved the radio and bought me a radio play set with scripts and a wooden microphone. Plus sound effect equipment: a wire brush to scrape on a table, simulating moving train wheels, a rack of wooden pegs to move up and down suggesting a marching army, little rubber plungers to bang on the chest and conjure horse hooves, pieces of plastic to crinkle and make a sound like fire. And I developed quite a repertoire of voices:  French accents, old ladies, tough guys, faking a man’s deep voice before I hit puberty. My New York family got regularly startled by getting phone calls from strange people they didn’t know, until I revealed the boy behind the vocal curtain. Were they humoring me? Maybe.

(I wrote about how I loved performing for my New York family, Dad’s mother and sisters Marion and Erminie as well as Mother’s sister Fanny.)

On one such visit my mother’s sister Fanny bought theatre seats for Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town” the original cast starring co-creators, Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The music sounded great. But I didn’t understand the story.  She also took me to “Carousel,” which got to me, making me cry through “You’ll Never Walk Alone” after seeing John Raitt’s Billy Bigelow go off to heaven and leave his sweet young daughter.

 

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