Weaver's Magazine Concept: Notes on Auditioning Radio's New Sound/Part 2 of 3
"Your Personality" features Dick Satterfield, an expert on etiquette, grooming, and beauty, and other prominent people giving their views on personality problems. "Your Success" features celebrities who explain the reasons for their good fortune; Dick Satterfield is also a regular contributor for this segment. "Your Home" cultivates the do-it-yourself craze.
So far, it has featured a furniture expert; tips on building things from old orange crates; a visit to a door store, where unusual things are made from old doors; household hints; magic with leftovers; and activities like those of the New York City 88th Street tree-planting group.
"Communicators" from Radio Central-a "push-button listening post on the world"-promised listeners that they were "going places and doing things." The new network radio service was designed to bring listeners into instantaneous touch with everything important, interesting, or entertaining anywhere in the world. News, sports, time signals, weather, and local and special features were supplemented by entertainment elements consisting of comedy, drama, music, theater, films, and records.
Each communicator works a four-hour block backed up by a name-disc jockey, experienced newscasters, a sports editor, writers, and program idea men. Features can vary from a one-line gag to a twenty-minute excerpt from a film or play. "Monitor" had that ants-in-the-pants mobility and immediacy of the American week end it was designed to enliven.
Jazz fans were quickly impressed by panoramic coverage of night spots from New York City to Los Angeles. Bob and Ray, extraordinary spoofers of excesses in popular culture, found a deserved national audience. Henry Morgan filled in radio listeners on what they hadn't really missed on TV by listening to "Monitor." In fact, despite its occasionally neurotic pace, "Monitor" had the beginnings of something long needed in American life: a relaxed yet perspicacious criticism of the popular arts.
One could scarcely ask for a better explicator of creative popular music than Al "Jazzbo" Collins, disc jockey for WRCA, N.B.C.'s owned-and-operated station in New York. His genial and informed introductions of jazz and quality dance-band music at various night spots are sorely needed as a corrective to tin-pan-alley's puffs. Shirley Thomas consistently makes her Hollywood interviews more than the usual chatter. She appreciates the art of film, and her questions tend to reveal the complexity and integrity of that new aesthetic form.
Bob and Ray are in the important tradition of popular satirists like Stan Freberg and Al Capp. They bring the tonic of laughter to areas that are impervious to other critical strategies. Literate book reviews and profiles on the American theater give another dimension to "Monitor's" coverage of the arts.
Indeed, given a little encouragement and constructive criticism, "Monitor" could help substantially to take the hex off "culture" and "the finer things" in America. Its mixture of ham-my showmanship and low-key literacy is precisely the means for easing the century-and-a-half-old cold war in American culture between self-conscious gentility and aggressive low browism.
This is not to whitewash "Monitor." It has a can-you-top-this mentality that is quickly tiring, and it brags about its technological virtuosity until you crave the era of smoke signals. Still, it may deemphasize these audience getters, in time; and, as it now stands, it remains the best extant hope for a broadcast forum of popular criticism.
The next electronic magazine launched to retrieve TV addicts was A.B.C.'s "New Sounds for You." It began late in October, 1955, in the heretofore lucrative prime evening time, 7:30 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. (NYT), Mondays through Fridays. There are five thirty-minute segments, each segment itself divided into five- and ten-minute parts with five minutes reserved for news.
The first thematic unit is "Events of the Day." "Today's Sensational Story," a five-minute tabloid feature, is followed by "Inside Washington," a controversial story from the nation's capital; "Trans-atlantic Exclusive," Europe's sensational story of the day; "Personality of the Day," the hero or heel of the headlines; and finally, "The News and You," political, economic, and social news as it affects the individual.
The second half hour is called "The World and You." Each segment approximates five minutes. "Arrivals and Departures" has included the last steam locomotive leaving the Long Island Railroad station, a visit to the traveler's-aid booth in New York's Grand Central Station, a visit to an Alaskan airport, celebrities interviewed at major transportation terminals throughout the world. "Let's Take a Trip" has featured the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y., the Robert E. Lee Mansion in Arlington, Va., a spice shop, novelist Rex Stout, two travelers who had motor-scootered through thirty-three countries recording music, the United Nations, the Contemporary Art Galleries for an exhibition of Aubusson Tapestries, and a meeting of solar scientists in Phoenix, Ariz.
"Yesterday at Midnight": the New York Stock Exchange, the Bowery, a house detective at work, a cleaning woman at the Smithsonian, dancing at Birdland, an interview with Edith Piaf at her current engagement, backstage interviews. "America at Work and Play" presents spot close-ups with interesting Americans everywhere: the Pan-American Tennis Tournament in Mexico City, the warden of Michigan State Prison, a pre- Thanksgiving visit to a turkey farm, a Notre Dame cheerleaders' rehearsal, Justice William O. Douglas, the editor in chief of Field and Stream, the New York City Commissioner of Sanitation, a report on an electronic computer at the Bureau of Standards, the blind at work in Cleveland, Ohio. "From Elm Street to the Great White Way" is the final segment in "The World and You."
It has featured the out-of-town opening of the Rodgers and Hammer-stein musical Pipe Dream; a report on Three Penny Opera; a visit to the Mississippi Delta; an interview with Melvyn Douglas, star of the Broadway hit Inherit the Wind; Scottsvale, Ariz., the West's most western town; Little Theater, Dallas, Tex.; theatrical set designer Max Gorelik; Irene Selznick, producer of The Chalk Garden. Affiliates are encouraged to tape newsworthy pro-grams for this and other segments and send them to New York for editorial decision by the planning board, composed of the executive producer, his assistant, and the editors of the five segments.
This attempt to capture the regional flavors of Americana is an important strength of "New Sounds." Such decentralization of programing sources tends to encourage diversity and resist New York-Hollywood erasures of valuable differences in American subcultures. It is another example of radio's new realism-substituting the excitement and interest of real life for the prefabricated sugar nannies of earlier radio.
"Your Better Tomorrow" is the third major section of A.B.C.'s "New Sounds for You." In it, radio is attempting to build audience by serving recognized human needs instead of by creating ersatz satisfactions to fill emotional vacuums. "Your Living Thoughts" has included Dr. Billy Graham, philosophy professor Reinhold Niebuhr from the University of Connecticut, Brooklyn's oldest minister, anthropologist Margaret Mead, author Sholem Asch, a talk on Chanukah, a summary of race relations, and a moving appeal for the UN by Dr. Ralph Bunche. "Your Marriage and Family" has presented marriage expert Dr. Paul Popenoe discussing budgets, quarrels, working wives, and similar topics; Domestic Relations Judge John W. Hill; an Army chaplain discussing problems of G.I.'s; Walter Hendl with tips on when and how to teach children to play musical instruments.