Tuesday, December 24, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 1 ...

     Good morning! We've come to the end of the road for another year and it was a Hell of a ride! But before we go, we have one final entry for you to give a listen to in our Christmas For Your Ears extravaganza and I promise you've never heard ANYTHING like this! But first, a bit of back story:

      When discussing the names and accomplishments of radio pioneers, one must include Norman Corwin. From Wikipedia:

     "Norman Lewis Corwin (May 3, 1910 – October 18, 2011) was an American writer, screenwriter, producer, essayist and teacher of journalism and writing. His earliest and biggest successes were in the writing and directing of radio drama during the 1930s and 1940s.
Corwin was among the first producers to regularly use entertainment—even light entertainment—to tackle serious social issues. In this area, he was a peer of Orson Welles and William N. Robson, and an inspiration to other later radio/TV writers such as Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Norman Lear, J. Michael Straczynski and Yuri Rasovsky." 

     Known as radio's 'poet laureate', his career spanned from the 1930s to the end of dramatic radio, when he switched gears and wrote plays, movie screenplays and later went on to become a writing teacher. J Michael Straczynski was a student of his and credited him repeatedly for his own success, naming one of his Babylon 5 characters after his mentor.

     His accomplishments are too many and varied to mention here, but if you're curious, I suggest you start at his Wikipedia entry and expand from there. For today, we'll content ourselves with one of his most famous works of the radio era - one that is all but forgotten now.

     Originally aired on December 25th, 1938, 'The Plot To Overthrow Christmas' became such an immediate success on its initial airing that it was repeated every year at Christmas time, with top Hollywood talent performing their renditions of the play - how popular was it? Comparable to 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' or 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas' popularity now.

     Without giving too much away, I'll just tell you a majority of the play takes place in Hell, with a narrator (Orson Welles) describing the action going on between all the Infernal Intelligentsia of History ... oh, did I mention he narrates this all sotto voce? Did I also mention his character's NAME is 'Sotto Voce'? Did I ALSO mention the entire play is done in RHYME? Think you know where this is going? Think again! 

     The Devil (here known as Mephistopheles) gathers the worst criminals and fiends together to figure out (to borrow a phrase from The Grinch) 'how to stop Christmas from coming'! After a host of HORRIBLE, NON-PC ideas (that wouldn't float now in these PC times), none other than Lucretia Borgia comes up with the solution ... and after voting, it's up to the Emperor Nero to 'head upstairs' and implement the plan. What happens next ... well, give it a listen!


     This link is a rebroadcast from Christmas Eve of 1942. As I mentioned, it was such a popular play, it was rebroadcast year after year on radio, then when television came along, there were numerous TV performances, as well as local theatrical troupes putting it on across the country ... and you thought America was only inundated with hoary old versions of various quality of A Christmas Carol? Nope! 

     Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. My favorite lines in the whole play come when Nero finally tracks down his target and tries to impress him with how well-read he is. The 'victim's' reply? 

     "Much as I'm impressed with your education, 
     I honestly believe that a figure of your station,
     Should have given more thought to the ways of Man, 
     And less devotion to the Cult of Pan." 


           And with that, we're done for another year. Thank you for joining me on our annual tour of the stranger aspects of the season. Join me again next year at this same time, December 1st, and we'll do it all over again.

Monday, December 23, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 2 ...

     Good morning and welcome to our next to last entry - we're almost done! If you've been with us from the beginning of this year's articles, you've experienced and listened to 22 stories of Christmas For Your Ears, all to do with the holidays in one form or another. Traditionally each year, I always save the final post for the annual Christmas Ghost Story ... since I have something special already lined up for our last tale, I'll include it ... or should I say THEM ... here.

      The following tales aren't particularly Christmas themed, but are all excellent examples of how your own imagination can fill in the blanks where horror and terror are concerned. Of all the days entries, I would suggest, if at all possible, to save these stories, particularly our first one, to be listened to in the dark, to try and recapture some of the shivers original audiences experienced upon first hearing them. Better yet, listen to them in the dark with your earbuds or headphones on - and see how long you last.
     While doing research over the last few months on this series (and listening to MANY old radio dramas), I came across some polls where fans voted what were considered the scariest tales ever told. A few stories were always in the Top 5, with this particular tale coming in at # 1.

     Originally airing on June 23rd, 1949, 'Ghost Hunt' is a fascinating episode of SUSPENSE. It starred Ralph Edwards, a radio (and later TV) announcer and host, best known for THIS IS YOUR LIFE, as radio DJ 'Smiley Smith', who, in order to keep his ratings up, does 'Friday Night Stunts'. His latest is to tag along on a 'ghost hunt' with a paranormal investigator to a haunted house where four people have committed suicide. Smiley thinks it's all a joke, at first ... even though it's a scripted story, it's prophetic to listen to now, when over four decades later, there are so many paranormal reality TV and ghost hunters/adventurers/ etc., on air.

      The script for this episode is also a cut above the norm, having been adapted from a tale by H.R. Wakefield, an established writer of the genre and contemporary of both H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James, himself the master of this type of tale. I own some of his anthologies (such as The Clock Strikes 12 at left) and am a fan of his work, so this was a pleasant surprise. Without further ado, may I suggest you find a comfy chair, a quiet spot and turn your lights out as you join ... the 'Ghost Hunt'.



     Well, do you need a break after that? Somewhere with wide open spaces? Somewhere to stretch your legs and get you away from creepy houses? I have just the thing! How about a nice, relaxing trip to a fourble board ... smell the fresh, oil-drenched air, suck up the intoxicating scent of creeping, inexorable doom ... what's that, you say? What's a fourble board? Only the site of our reader's poll of the second scariest tale ever heard over the airwaves. Entitled "The Thing On the Fourble Board", it originally aired on August 9th, 1948, on the series QUIET, PLEASE. Your hostess Maxine here (she goes by 'Mike'), will let you know all about it ...



     Before we go, it would be remiss of me NOT to do our annual Scary Santa collection! This one is short and sweet, courtesy of The Sun (UK), but has some GREAT photos in it ... give it a look, if you dare! 



     We wrap up things tomorrow with the BEST entry of all - come back then!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 3 ...

     Good morning! Three days to go and in case you think we're providing you with nothing but our own odd brand of Christmas Cheer while you lounge about listening to your Philco, think again ... speaking of which, just how large WAS that monstrosity? Maybe it's just the perspective of the picture, but this beast looks MASSIVE compared to the wistful lass gazing abstractedly at it. Plus I can't help thinking just how much more of a conversation piece it would be if you removed that crystal bowl off the top and added in some gold-plated angels facing in an opposite direction and wait for your guests to ask ... "Oh, this little thing? Yes, it's the Philco 'Ark Of the Covenant' model - limited edition, you know, but the pickup range is HEAVENLY!" 

     Yeah, I know ... my mind works in mysterious ways. Anyway, back to today's Christmas For Your Ears story. Our tale today is as far away from Christmas Cheer as you'll ever hope to hear or see. First a bit of history:

     All your police procedural shows on TV now, your NCIS's, your CSI's, your Law and Order's, etc., owe their existence to the very first show: DRAGNET. Created, written, produced and starring Jack Webb, the show dramatized case files from the Los Angeles Police Department. DRAGNET (the radio series) ran from 1949 - 1957. It was, as Wikipedia puts it: 

      " ... an American radio series, enacting the cases of a dedicated Los Angeles police detective, Sergeant Joe Friday, and his partners. The show took its name from the police term "dragnet", meaning a system of coordinated measures for apprehending criminals or suspects.

     Dragnet is perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in media history. The series gave audience members a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers. Actor and producer Jack Webb's aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting. He achieved both goals, and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media."

     The most famous episode of the radio series was called ".22 Rifle for Christmas." Again, Wikipedia tells us:

     "Though tame by modern standards, Dragnet—especially on the radio—handled controversial subjects such as sex crimes and drug addiction with unprecedented and even startling realism. In one such example, Dragnet broke an unspoken (and rarely broached) taboos of popular entertainment in the episode ".22 Rifle for Christmas" which aired December 22, 1949 and repeated at Christmastime for the next three years ... NBC received thousands of complaint letters, including a protest by the National Rifle Association. Webb forwarded many of the letters to police chief Parker who promised "ten more shows illustrating the folly of giving rifles to children".

     I've deliberately not included the plot in the above quote, but it's one of the most tense and devastating half hours of radio drama you'll ever hear - give it a listen here:


      The episode was so memorable that when Jack Webb produced and starred in the first of his many DRAGNET television series, he recreated it, again to massive acclaim and complaints, but it equally got the point across. You can watch the entire episode at the link below:



     After the repeated Christmas airings of this cautionary tale, DRAGNET replaced it with a much more light-hearted story that also was repeated during the holidays. Again, Wikipedia relates:

     ".22 Rifle for Christmas" was replaced as the series' Christmas story on December 22, 1953 with "The Big Little Jesus", which followed the detectives' investigation of the theft of a statue of the baby Jesus from a church Nativity scene. With its happier ending than ".22 Rifle", this episode was repeated at Christmastime the following year. The late-1960s TV version of Dragnet included a newly produced version of "The Big Little Jesus", which featured Barry Williams (later of The Brady Bunch) as one of the altar boys."

     When I was a little boy, I had an uncle who loved the show and watched it all the time. I used to watch it with him - thankfully, I never saw the '.22 Rifle' episode, but I well remember the early television version of this episode. It's one of Jack Webb's best written episodes and has some of the dry humor that was later added in, to show the more human side of the policemen. First up is the radio version of the story, which aired on December 22nd, 1953. 

     The radio link below mentions this about the show: "The television version of The Big Little Jesus aired just two days after the radio broadcast, and was a milestone in television history.  Although the only surviving copies of this episode are in black and white, this program was the first major network show to be broadcast in colour; even on the surviving monochrome copies, 'Pathe-Color' can be seen in the credits."

     You can find more facts about the episode and the history of it below at this link:



     Once you've finished with the radio version, you can watch the full TV episode here:



           Last but not least, like most iconic shows, DRAGNET received its parodies and spoofs over the years. One of the best and most fondly remembered was this Merrie Melodies cartoon with Daffy Duck and Porky Pig called 'Rocket Squad' - THIS will renew your Christmas Cheer ... you're welcome! 



          Only two more to go!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 4 ...

     What's the best Christmas present for a little boy or girl? One of these fine Philco products? Perhaps a radio or phonograph console? Well, here's a hint: there's one in the ad to your left. Give up? No, it's none of those ... it's a dog! Specifically, a puppy - which leads us to today's entry in our Christmas For Your ears stories.

     Back to SUSPENSE we go, and this story illustrates why this show was so popular. There are so many different types of suspense, including what to do about something as small as a  Very Special Dog. 

     The story was aired on December 22nd, 1957, and was well received at the time, as people were still talking about the tragic fate of Laika. For those of you not familiar with her place in history, Wikipedia relates it below:

"Laika (Russian: Лайка; c. 1954 – 3 November 1957) was a Soviet space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laika, a stray mongrel from the streets of Moscow, was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on 3 November 1957.
Little was known about the impact of spaceflight on living creatures at the time of Laika's mission, and the technology to de-orbit had not yet been developed, so Laika's survival was never expected. Some scientists believed humans would be unable to survive the launch or the conditions of outer space, so engineers viewed flights by animals as a necessary precursor to human missions. The experiment aimed to prove that a living passenger could survive being launched into orbit and endure a micro-g environment, paving the way for human spaceflight and providing scientists with some of the first data on how living organisms react to spaceflight environments.
Laika died within hours from overheating, possibly caused by a failure of the central R-7 sustainer to separate from the payload. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanised prior to oxygen depletion.
On 11 April 2008, Russian officials unveiled a monument to Laika. A small monument in her honour was built near the military research facility in Moscow that prepared Laika's flight to space. It portrayed a dog standing on top of a rocket. She also appears on the Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow."

     Fast forward to Christmas time and this episode, where a little girl and a little space dog meet ... and what happens when she tries to keep her 'Christmas present' will keep you in, yes, you guessed, it - SUSPENSE!



      Well, well, well ... would you just LOOK what the cat dragged in this year? Looks like Mr. K finally met his match! Our entire entry today looks like it's going to the dogs (and cats) - don't believe me? Take a gander at our link below featuring a TON of our canine and feline friends who are D O N E with this whole Christmas thing and want these holidays OVER already! Shaming them does no good - there's not a remorseful face in the lot. Just look at these miscreants - I'm sure you know some of their brothers and sisters:


    Speaking of shameless animals (and viral marketing, depending how cynical you are), behold the  can of Sycamore Christmas Cookie Winter Ale below. Looks refreshing, right? Just the thing for the holidays. Now look closer at the can (click on the photo for a better look). Guess who landed themselves a nice big, fat holiday bonus of a Big Fine? Turns out you can't sell cans of reindeer 'making little Rudolphs' on the label, after all - who knew? Read the whole sordid tale here:




      Hmmmm ... reindeer and beer, reindeer and beer. Where have I seen that combination just recently? Oh, I know! We'll finish off our animal-centric day with this brand new inspirational tale that just may make YOU get back to the gym and/or your exercise routine in the New Year - enjoy the soon-to-be-famous comeback tale of the 'most famous reindeer of all' - RED!



      Three to go!

Friday, December 20, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 5 ...

     Good morning! Yesterday we gave you Britt Ponset's Christmas Carol from the Western series The Six Shooter - today we turn the dial back to SUSPENSE and a very well done wartime alternate take on an old story, from December 20th, 1959. As to why I feature so many shows from this series, it's because of its longevity and the number of offbeat Christmas episodes they did over the years. 

     As Old Time Radio Christmas says: " In 1959, Suspense aired "A Korean Christmas Carol."The story is told from the point of view of an American soldier stationed in Korea. The soldier, feeling down and driving back to camp alone, picks up a soldier on the side of the road. From there, very strange things happen. You might recognize elements of the story from ghost stories told around a camp fire when you were a kid but with a twist."



      How did you do on yesterday's Kringle's Khristmas Kuties Kwiz? Let's find out! This year's celebs were:

     #  1: Lady Gaga

     #  2: Ryan Gosling

     #  3: Katy Perry

     #  4: Arnold Schwarzenegger

     #  5: Olivia Munn

     #  6: Jake Gyllenhall

     #  7: Christina Aquilera

     #  8: Ice-T

     #  9: Emilia Clarke

     #10: Kurt Russell

     #11: Aubrey Plaza (and Grumpy Cat!)

     #12: Jared Leto

     #13: Reese Witherspoon


          We'll end today with one of the cutest and most K.A.C. appropriate shorts I've seen in ages - enjoy 'Santa and Death'!



     Back tomorrow with more!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 6 ...

          Welcome back - six days to go! When you are having friends or family over, why not impress them with your latest gadget, such as this state-of-the-art RCA Victor Phonograph-Radio! You can listen to your favorite shows OR pop in a LP and be amazed by the faithful reproduction in crystal clear (until some dolt scratches the record) analog sound! What's that, you ask? How much does this beast cost? Now, now, it's Christmas ... cost is no object ... don't be a Scrooge about it!

     Well, THAT was a convoluted way to get to today's show in our continuing Christmas For Your Ears programs, even for me! But it's worth it, as you'll soon discover. When I first started researching which shows I was going to cover, I immediately said none of the easy, go-to ones, like A Christmas Carol. Not that there aren't plenty of excellent renditions of the Dickens classic out there, it's just that everyone knows the story backwards and forwards by now, and there's really nothing new under the sun regarding this oft-told tale. However, there IS something new under the prairie moon, and it comes from Hollywood legend James Stewart, who starred in one of the last radio dramas on the air, an NBC Western series called The Six Shooter. it only lasted one season, from September, 1953 to June, 1954, running 39 episodes. As Wikipedia states:
     "One old-time radio directory called the program "a last, desperate effort by a radio network (NBC) to maintain interest in adventure drama by employing a major Hollywood movie star in the leading role."

James Stewart starred as Britt Ponset, a drifting cowboy in the final years of the wild west. Episodes ranged from straight western drama to whimsical comedy. A trademark of the show was Stewart's use of whispered narration during tense scenes that created a heightened sense of drama and relief when the situation was resolved.


     The episode that concerns us is called ‘Britt Ponset’s Christmas Carol’ and aired on December 20th, 1953. It involves a young lad running away from home who encounters Britt at his campfire, and the Six Shooter tells him ... a rather familiar tale, with some Old West flavor. Saddle up and give it a listen here!


     Wasn't that pretty? Guess what ELSE is? Yep, our annual Kringle's Khristmas Kuties Kwiz! You know the drill: match the name to our baker's dozen of Christmas Celebs below - some are easy, some are hard ... click on the photos for a bigger look ... answers will be revealed tomorrow!

# 1
# 2




# 3
# 4   

# 5
# 6

# 8
# 7

# 9

# 10


# 13


      That's it! Answers tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 7 ...

     Seven days left ... only one week to go! Do you have that big gift yet - like that 'inconspicuous' giant console radio taking up space where you could have put a CHRISTMAS TREE??? Yessir, wrapped up in a bow like that, it's a mystery - nobody will guess what that is!

     And speaking of mysteries, we've got a crackling good Yule Log of one for you today in our continuing series of Christmas For Your Ears, starring none other than the Master Detective, Sherlock Holmes. The show ran from 1939 - 1950, originally with the two men most associated with the characters from the movies, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, recreating their characters over the airwaves. After they left the series, a number of other actors took over the roles. The series started with original Conan Doyle tales, then added original stories as those ran out. It had an interesting opening and closing, as Wikipedia relates:

     "The sponsor's spokesman was usually Knox Manning or Harry Bartell, or, during the show's initial season and again in the final season, Joseph Bell. In each episode, the spokesman would be presented as arriving at the home of Dr. Watson, then retired and living in California, who would share a story about Holmes and his adventures. Such conversation would open and close the show, with Watson adding further details about the adventure. In the episodes sponsored by Petri Wine, the characters would often share or discuss the drink during these segments, with the character of Watson sometimes joking about the spokesman's habit of always mentioning the product."

     So put on your deerstalker hat and see if YOU can solve 'The Adventure of the Christmas Bride', starring John Stanley as Sherlock Holmes, as it aired (with original commercials!) on December 21st, 1947.



      Did you figure it out? Good for you! What's NOT a mystery is the reappearance every year at this time of our Three Little Dwarfs, Hardrock, Coco and Joe! In case you're new to the K.A.C. and wonder why these little munchkins visit us every year on this day, it's because we're following a tradition begun back in 1956 ... read on!


"On December 18, 1956, WGN-TV's "Garfield Goose and Friends" introduced Chicago area children to Santa Claus' three favorite elves, Hardrock, Coco and Joe. At two-feet-high, Hardrock drove Santa's sleigh while Coco navigated and Joe tagged along for fun. To create the animated short or "song cartoonette", Hill & Range Songs hired Centaur Productions. The company was established in the early 1950s by Wah Ming Chang, a sculptor in Walt Disney's Effects and Model Department who created the model of Pinocchio; and George Pal, a producer and Academy Award nominee. The shorts were produced in black-and-white using stop-motion animation, a cinematic process that brings figures or puppets to life by minutely reposing and photographing them frame-by-frame, resulting as fluid movement on screen."

     Here's their video - sing along!


          We'll end today with a look back at some more mysteries - namely, how many of these ads ever saw the light of day! Take a look at what passed for desirable Christmas gifts back in the day ... although the Borg Scale to measure one's weight has possibilities - "prepare those pounds to be assimilated!" Otherwise, oof - BTW, happy family pictured here - your wife might talk to the other wife with the rifle and put an end to your shenanigans toot suite! Give them all a look:


     FLASH! One GREAT last-minute addition to Reader's Submissions: behold the glory of Santa vs. Godzilla!!!! Thanks to Debbie and everyone else who sent this in!


     More tomorrow!