Tag: radio

Great Character Actors: Jack Carson


A couple of years ago, I wrote a post here about one of my favorite character actors, Ward Bond. I think it’s time to write a little about another of the great character actors that being Jack Carson. Like Bond, I don’t know much more about Carson’s life than that presented in his Wikipedia biography.

Carson was born in the province of Manitoba in Canada in 1910. His father was a successful insurance executive and the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin when he was three or four years old. As such, he always considered Milwaukee his hometown and he was eventually naturalized as a U.S. citizen as an adult. His older brother, Robert, also pursued an acting career although with much less success.

Silent Radio Is Back!


Get ready to gather around the old Philco console and turn down the lights! On Wednesday and Thursday this week, March 24 and 25, you’re invited to tune in to Ricochet Silent Radio, our long running theater of the mind. Once again, Tales of the Pit conjures up images you can’t see, and sounds you can’t hear, in our newest radio-scripted adventure, Utah Wheels and Rails, a work of fan fiction featuring actual Ricochet members.

In today’s world, what does it take to be actually countercultural? Culturally, Salt Lake City is a world away from Hollywood. Utah is (mostly) new territory for RSR; in 2016, we published a satirical takedown of the Sundance Film Festival. The new story reflects interest, respect and sometimes amusement at the very different ways of that city, as well as being a tribute to some of the cyber-friendships we’ve formed online. Who are the real non-conformists? You’ll find them right here.

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There is little I can add to the encomiums that have poured in for Rush Limbaugh. He pioneered conservative talk radio at the national level, paving the way for countless others to follow. He was wildly funny and entertaining as he skewered the absurdities of liberalism, all with “half my brain tied behind my back.” […]

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Rush Limbaugh has confided in fans and in opponents (whose minds he inhabits rent-free) that he won’t be around forever. His brother David was among my favorite Ricochet contributors for a while. I don’t think either of them would be offended if we consider now what will become of Rush’s program and conservative talk radio […]

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…but did it really happen? A case study in the difficulties of finding historical truth. On Christmas Eve of 1906, a few shipboard radio operators–listening through the static for signals in Morse code–heard something that they had never before heard on the radio, and that most had never expected to hear. A human voice. Preview […]

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Jack and Mary and Fred and Portland: The American Magic of Vaudeville


I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately, something that can probably be blamed on not having seen home since January, and having been in lockdown alone since March. Things may have occasionally come to the ‘rocking out to metal songs sung by Christopher Lee about Charlemagne at 11 pm while washing dishes in llama pajamas’ point of solitary living. Maybe. Either way, when I’m not working or doing something useful, I find myself more and more seeking out the comfortingly old fashioned. It should be acknowledged that most of the cultural products I associate with nostalgia aren’t ‘personally nostalgic’ for me, in the sense that I had or have a contemporary connection (only post-1999 things could be such). One of the biggest parts of this recent obsession has been old radio comedians, mostly Jack Benny and Fred Allen.

Readers of a certain age will probably have at least some memory of Benny, who dominated radio and television from the ‘30s almost until his death in 1974. My mother absolutely and completely despises him, and threatens homicide if I listen to his ‘40s broadcasts in the car, so he played no great role in my early life. Allen, meanwhile, is a largely forgotten figure, mentioned, if at all, as a “comedian’s comedian” and witty satirist who failed to make the transition to television, a contrast to his arch-nemesis. I could, I think rightfully, laud their comedy chops, their innovativeness, and their lasting impact on American popular culture. These certainly all deserve praise, but what has struck me most in listening to and watching their performances in the last few weeks is who they were and who they became. 

Jack Benny was in fact Benjamin Kubelsky, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrant business owners in the suburbs of Chicago. Allen, meanwhile, was really John F. Sullivan, a Massachusetts-born son of Irish Catholic parents who came of age in a deeply dysfunctional and shattered family, something George Burns identified as a common denominator among his generation of comedians (he noted his best friend, Benny, as a rare exception to this pattern). Both men, then, came from groups that were often regarded with hostility in more than one quarter, and Allen suffered the additional handicap of poverty and early experiences with family tragedy. By all rights, they should have expected modest success in life at best, but Vaudeville put them on an entirely new path. 

Arahant Begins: A Ricochet Silent Radio Origin Story


I had a most unusual wartime career. I’m from Illinois but my great-grandfathers fought for the Confederacy. A touch of rebellion and a streak of belligerence runs in the family. The Depression hit us hard. Before Pearl Harbor, I was living in a tiny, fifth-floor, walk-up apartment on the lower east side of Manhattan, taking night courses in business administration at City College. I wrote stories in my spare time and worked for a midtown publisher, Street and Smith. On December 12, the morning after Hitler declared war on the USA, a friend and co-worker of mine joined the mobs at the recruiting station near the office. Bob and I both went Navy. That was the last I saw of him for a couple of years, and they were busy years. I was a radio operator on a sub tender in the south Atlantic. The Navy trained me well. I thought I had no natural aptitude for technology. It seems ironic given how things turned out.

In September 1943, mid-winter south of the Equator, I was suddenly shipped Stateside. No explanation. Two weeks later, I reported to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and was ordered to report for tests at the Naval Research Laboratory. They had some kind of psychological screening program. I was sent to a crowded waiting room at the base hospital. The air was blue with cigarette smoke, cursing, and boredom. Waiting, waiting, waiting. To my surprise, my old New York pal Bob walked in, but that moment, before we even had a chance to say hello, a duty officer appeared with a clipboard. When it’s alphabetical, I usually go first, like I did here. He barked out, “Arahant! Asimov! Heinlein! Hubbard! Get in here, on the double!”

Glenn Beck is a conservative political commentator, radio host and television producer. He and Bridget discuss the early evolution of his career, his love affair with radio, the transition from CNN to Fox News, attending Yale at age 30, and mistakes he’s made along the way. They delve into the value of struggle and overcoming hardship, the cultural celebration of “victimhood,” how tribalism and the culture wars trick people into thinking that the problem is outside themselves, and the dangers of buying into your own fame. They explore the importance of being able to say “I don’t know,” the loss of compassion that occurs when we stop seeing the humanity of the people we disagree with, Glenn’s surprising conversion to Mormonism, and what he found in the depths of his most recent dark night of the soul.

Full transcript available here: WiW46-GlennBeck-Transcript

Dr. Demento; King of Novelty Songs



I just found out that comedian Kip Addotta passed away several days ago on August 13, 2019 at the age of 75. Addotta performed one of the all time great novelty songs – Wet Dream in 1984. The thing is it’s likely I’d never have heard the tune if not for Dr. Demento. Demento, whose real name is Barry Hansen, is a life-long music fan with an advanced degree in folklore and ethnomusicology from UCLA and a taste for the absurd and the different. In the 1970’s he got on the radio in Los Angeles as disc jockey focusing on novelty songs. This eventually lead to a nationally syndicated radio show which aired on Sunday nights for several decades and which is where I discovered Dr. Demento and first heard Wet Dream and many other demented tunes. In honor of Mr. Addotta, I thought I’d post a few of my favorite novelty songs, starting with Wet Dream (it’s about 5 minutes long).

The Winds of War: Herman Wouk Dead at 103


He was many things. A gag writer, a sailor at war, a novelist, the grandson of a rabbi. But above everything else, he was a storyteller. Herman Wouk has died at age 103.

He is best remembered for his breakthrough novel, The Caine Mutiny, and an epic pair of television mini-series The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Caine won the 1951 Pulitzer and was made into a classic film starring Humphrey Bogart as the mentally unstable Captain Queeg.

His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in New York. When his maternal grandfather joined them he took over the boy’s education in the Talmud. Although he resented it at the time his faith would become an integral part of his writing. In an age when it was fashionable for writers to look skeptically at religion or dismiss it entirely, Wouk embraced it. He would later call his grandfather and the United States Navy the two most important influences in his life.

Sentimental Journey: Doris Day Passes at 97


Les Brown and Doris Day (C. 1945)

The most tempting cliche in noting the passing of a celebrity is that a death marks “an end of an era.” Doris Day’s era ended much sooner than she did, but she truly was the last of her kind. She was the last of the great “girl singers” of the Big Band Era, the last of the great musical stars of the Hollywood studio system and the last performer to have headlined a weekly half-hour network radio show.

Rechristened Doris Day because Doris von Kappelhoff was a mouthful and a bit of a stretch for a marquee, she began her career singing on WLW (The Nation’s Station) in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. At that time, WLW had a habit of taking local acts and turning them into national sensations. Besides Day, WLW launched the careers of Rosemary Clooney, Andy Williams, and the Mills Brothers. It was in Cincinnati that she hooked up with Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Their partnership resulted in her first number one hit, Sentimental Journey. 

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas 1947


Down on the corner of Antoinette and Peter Streets in Peoria, Illinois, a young man named Jim Jordan was singing in the choir at St. John’s Catholic Church. He had his eye on a Irish lass by the name of Marian Driscoll, the twelfth of thirteen children of coal miner Daniel and his wife Anna. Her parents weren’t keen on him because he seemed to have ambitions for show business. Still, they fell in love and in August of 1918 they were married. 

After a stint in the Army and a battle with flu during the great pandemic, Jim gave up his dreams and became a mailman while Marian taught voice and piano. Children quickly followed. But Jim remained restless. They tried their hand at vaudeville and failed miserably. Then, one day while visiting his brother in Chicago, Jim heard a radio show he thought was awful and believed he and Marian could do better. After an audition they were signed for a weekly show.

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John Hinderaker, known to Ricochetti at least by the Power Line podcasts, is guest hosting the Laura Ingraham radio show this Thursday, Friday, and next Tuesday through Thursday. He invited Power Line readers to call. Perhaps some Ricochet members might call, spreading the R> brand by brilliant question or comment! Preview Open

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Hawai’i Civil Defense Issued False Missile Warning


With North Korea’s nuclear capabilities growing and their leader boasting that he can hit any city in the United States, the State of Hawai’i was conducting a drill of their civil defense alert system and accidentally sent out a state-wide warning of an incoming ICBM.

Sirens wailed and it took 38 minutes for them to send out a message canceling the original message. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard confirmed it was a false alarm and sent out a Tweet but who’s watching Twitter when you think the world is about to end in nuclear war?

This is not the first time this has happened. Here’s the story of the first government induced nuclear panic from the Ricochet archives (March 17, 2015)

Milt Rosenberg, RIP


Media blogger Robert Feder brings the sad news that Milt Rosenberg died Tuesday, and gives the legendary interviewer his due.

“He was a polymath, a perceptive analyst, and a keen questioner,” Morris told friends in an email Wednesday. “These traits, combined with a prodigious memory born of wide reading and experience, made him an outstanding interlocutor of political leaders, business executives, academics, journalists, artists, and others in the long parade of guests whom he welcomed to his studios and to the extraordinary conversations that he then held for the benefit of millions of Americans listening to his program each night in their homes and cars across the nation as streamed by clear-channel radio at 50,000 watts. For four decades his show was the mandatory first stop on the book tour of every author of a serious work of fiction or non-fiction.

“His career was also described by the arc of a moral conversion, carried out in public via his nightly broadcasts, from the ‘soft mindless leftism of an East Coast academic’ to an embrace of free market economics, traditional social values, and an appreciation of the United States as the world’s best hope for the defense of freedom and human decency in global affairs,” Morris wrote.

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As an engineer with 10 patents, I understand the old saw that “Patents are the world’s most expensive vanity press.” So no matter how unique or important the invention, one must consider the costs of obtaining and defending a patent in court. Many times patents are generated by big companies to avoid litigation.* For smaller […]

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One Man’s Impact


On December 19, radio host Charlie Sykes completed his last broadcast for WTMJ in Milwaukee, WI. His last hours on the air were adorned with encomia from some of the leading figures his show had helped to incubate: Reince Preibus, Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, and Paul Ryan, among many others. For three and a half hours every day for 23 years, Wisconsinites got the Charlie Sykes catechism: free markets, rule of law, school reform, free speech (and anti-PC), and strong families. The policy meal was substantial and nourishing, but that didn’t mean the taste was bland. Sykes delivered information with just the right soupçon of humor and entertainment, and, of course, a hearty serving of Green Bay Packers hits.

Along with five other conservative talk radio hosts, and with the help of the Bradley Foundation (whose headquarters are in Milwaukee), Sykes helped to create a climate of opinion in Wisconsin that led to actual policy results. With the steady, smart, daily spadework of persuasion, Sykes opened his microphones to conservative reformers in politics, education, and the courts. Long before the “blue wall” crumbled in the 2016 electoral map, Charlie Sykes had been scaling the ramparts of Wisconsin’s entrenched liberal fortresses.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Sykes regrets the boost he gave to Sheriff David Clarke, calling him his “Frankenstein monster.” And there were election setbacks. “After 2008,” he recalled, “I told people that conservatives were going to be invisible for a while. But, with time, our ideas would be back.” It didn’t take long. In 2010, Republican Scott Walker won the governorship, and improbably enough, egghead Ron Johnson (heavily promoted by the Charlie Sykes radio show) defeated Russ Feingold for the US Senate. Paul Ryan was a frequent guest on Sykes’s air as well as on a Sunday TV show Sykes hosted. Ryan honed his message on the Charlie Sykes show.