There’s Good News Tonight!

The title of this entry is an allusion many of my readers will miss.  It was the on-air greeting of Gabriel Heatter, a Mutual Broadcasting System radio commentator and reporter during the 1930s and 1940s.  Since Susie and I were in Cincinnati at the Old-Time Radio and Nostalgia Convention today (technically, yesterday, since it’s now 1 a.m.), I thought this would be a good title for the entry.

My friend Steve Palm-Houser, whom I know from church, attended his first OTR convention this weekend.  I had talked it up to him all year, and he was sufficiently fascinated to make his first trip.  This was Susie’s third convention, and (at least) my seventh.  It was at a new location this year, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blue Ash,  a Cincinnati bedroom community.  Annually, I say this year I will audition for the broadcast reenactment, and I’ve batted zero on making good that vow.  (They use authentic working equipment, but the final product doesn’t go out over the air.)

We arrived late in the morning.  The Crowne Plaza is a totally new hotel to me.  Since Blue Ash has almost no public transit service, I may have been there twice in all the years I lived in Cincinnati.  When we came in the lobby, the ballroom immediately off the lobby was very full, but very quiet.  The easel just outside the door said that it was a pinochle tournament sponsored by the Cincinnati Yellow Jacks Pinochle Club.  The room had almost a churchlike, monastic silence about it, like I’ve heard can happen at chess and bridge tournaments.  The OTR people were quite boisterous.

I spent less money than I have in the past.  Most of the programs available on MP3s, or tape cassettes, or compact disks are now available free of charge, mainly from The Internet Radio Archive and other sites.  I bought a two-DVD set of ABC News’ coverage of the 1981 Reagan assassination attempt.  (The day it happened, I was watching CBS, so I am looking forward to seeing the late Frank Reynolds, on camera, blow his stack at his staff when he kept getting conflicting reports about whether Reagan’s press secretary, James Brady, had died of his injuries.  I have never seen that, except for an out-of-context clip on YouTube.)  I bought a CD-ROM which featured Spider-Man’s first 10 appearances (in 1962; Amazing Fantasy #15 and the first nine issues of The Amazing Spider-Man).  That’s out of character for me.  I was never a big superhero fan, but when I was, I was more loyal to DC than Marvel.

I even managed to resist the usual stray impulse purchase of something I knew I couldn’t use.  It only took me 15 seconds to decide not to buy an old radio transcription disk.  This was a 16″ acetate recording disk, and radio stations used them extensively until magnetic tape emerged after World War II.  There was a time when I would have bought this disk (and more in the box), regardless of the fact that I have no phonograph that can play it.  The tone arm pivot would get in the way, and the grooves are wider than on a standard LP, which means the needle would skate constantly.

For those who think I’m still speaking in tongues, here is a picture of a transcription disk I downloaded from http://www.auldworks.com.

From Bob Gardner of Vintage Publishing, I bought a disk called News Program Collection.  Other than the fact that there are 134 episodes, I don’t know what is on it.  I’m just praying the files are labelled properly when I load the disk.

Susie didn’t come away empty-handed, but she was disappointed that the vendor who sold Archie comic books at previous conventions didn’t come.  She bought some MP3s of Fibber McGee and Molly.

Steve showed incredible restraint; for a moment, I thought he considered it a wasted trip, but he said he was trying to be prudent.  He bought Cornell Woolrich’s posthumously published Into the Night, which featured an Afterword by my friend mystery novelist Francis M. (“Mike”) Nevins, Jr.  That was it.

Many people tuned into Internet radio heard Susie a little after noon.  Neal Ellis and Ken Stockinger of Maryland broadcast live from their table at the convention, on their Radio Once More Website.  (In 2008, when I casually mentioned to Neal that Susie was the youngest person ever to attend the convention, he immediately stopped broadcasting Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and interviewed Susie.  Here is the link to my LiveJournal entry of that day:  LiveJournal Entry, April 12, 2008.  In it, I did err and say Neal was playing Boston Blackie when he made the snap decision to interview Susie.)  Susie took her place at the microphone just as the live broadcast was beginning, and she was much more at ease and much less tongue-tied than when she spoke in 2008.  Frantically, I tried to get onto Facebook through Steve’s Verizon Wireless phone to post a notice Susie would be on the radio at noon, but I couldn’t connect to my account.  I managed to text a few–very few–friends by cell phone about 11:53 (per the phone’s log) and send them the URL.  As far as I know, only Ivan in Vermont was successful in hearing the broadcast.  He texted me back: “I’m tuned in listening to Sus.  She sounds really grown up!”

Susie during the interview.  Across the table from her is Neal Ellis
(with the beard) and Ken Stockinger.

Susie reunited with two members of the Riverdale delegation.  In the hotel’s food court, we saw Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings sharing a booth.  Rosemary Rice played Betty Cooper in the NBC radio program Archie Andrews, based on the comic books.  Bob played the titular role.  At an earlier convention, I met the late Hal Stone, who played Jughead.  Susie interviewed both Hastings and Rice for a school project in 2008, using a microcassette recorder.  Bob told her of his day-to-day working life in radio, and spoke in his Commissioner Gordon voice to her.  (He voiced Gordon in The Cartoon Network’s Batman: The Animated Series.)  As I was never a fan of McHale’s Navy (where he portrayed Lt. Elroy Carpenter) or General Hospital (Capt. Burt Ramsey), the first time I saw Bob on TV was as Tommy Kelsey, the barkeep on All in the Family.

Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings (both from NBC
Radio’s Archie Andrews), with Susie in the food court
of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, May 8, 2010.

Tangent alert: This YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zY7HqCYgpM&feature=related is from “Judging Books by Covers,” a first-season episode of All in the Family.  Bob Hastings, as Kelsey, is behind the bar, most clearly visible beginning at 3:18.  This is an “ABC soap opera” episode.  Both Bob and Anthony Geary (Roger) would appear on General Hospital.  Geary would play Luke Spencer (as in “Luke and Laura”), America’s sexiest rapist.  Philip Carey’s (Steve) long career as One Life to Live‘s patriarch Asa Buchanan ended only when he died in 2009.

Steve loves bookstores as passionately as I do, so when we decided we had seen enough of the convention, we drove into Clifton, my erstwhile neighborhood.  The neighborhood is a lot less shoddy than it was, but it has become so brand-named and cookie-cutter sterile, and is losing what made it vital and unique.  It is not the Clifton that I loved.

One of the holdouts against the big brand names taking over (or property seizure by eminent domain) is Duttenhofer’s Book Store.  I moved to W. McMillan St. for the express purpose of living near it, and I was there constantly, and I visited about a dozen times for each time I actually bought something.  Russell Speidel, the current owner, is a very good man, and was generous with me when I was broke, either loaning me small sums, or buying books of little or no value so I wouldn’t be totally broke.  There were quite a few times, I’m sure, when he thought of himself as Mr. Wilson and me as Dennis the Menace.

I was disappointed not to see him behind the counter.  I actually bought something, so that may have been too much for his heart.  I bought a Fawcett Crest paperback of James A. Michener’s Centennial for $.50 and two other books.  I got a kick out of the fact that a thick hardcover of The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh, which I sold him when I lived on W. McMillan, was still on the shelf, untouched for at least 15 years.  (I knew it was my copy because of a phone number I had penciled in the margin of one of the earlier pages of the book.)

All three of us were home by late afternoon, and I’ve maintained my good mood ever since, save for a battle with Facebook when I tried to load pictures I had taken in Cincinnati to my photo album.

It’s almost 3 a.m.  Susie and I are leaving for church a little after 8, since she’ll be singing at the 9:15 service.  I’ll be sleep-deprived, and I feel a little bad about neglecting the holographic diary, but I wanted to post my impressions here while they were still fresh.

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