Thursday, December 12, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 13 ...

     Thirteen days to go! Our picture this morning is a fascinating glimpse of a wartime holiday Christmas - Father back on leave for the holidays and Mom and the kids (and the new console radio, of course, can't forget that!) are there to make the season complete! Looks charming, doesn't it? Almost ideal, wouldn't you say? It dovetails rather nicely into one of our more chilling Christmas For Your Ears episodes - just change the military uniform for a policeman's outfit, add Raymond Burr as an ex-con who is determined to kill the cop who sent him up and the con's ex-girl, who promised to wait for him but married the cop. He's got the perfect Christmas eve disguise and a gun ... what could possibly go wrong? Another excellent episode of SUSPENSE, from December 21st, 1958 - give a listen to 'Out For Christmas'. 


           If Raymond wanted to use a shiv instead of a rod to plug the copper and the babe with the nice gams (I REALLY need to rein in my pulp crime reading!), I've got just the ticket ... and guess who it comes from? None other than Charlie 'The Ghost' Dickens! Seems our boy Chuck loved his pet cat Bob a lot, so much so that when Bob spent the last of his nine lives and went on the Kittie Heaven, Charles wanted something to remember him by. So what did he do? What any well-thinking Victorian gent would do: had one of Bob's paws cut off and taxidermied, stuck a blade on one end and turned it into a LETTER OPENER! And just to make sure it wasn't mistaken for somebody ELSE'S amputated cat foot letter opener, he went the extra mile and had the blade engraved, saying: "C.D. In Memory of Bob 1862" ... as you do.

     For the full story of Three-Footed Bob and the Postal Mystery, click on the link below!

          And speaking of Raymond Burr, his old buddy Godzilla has been getting lots of press this year with this fine, custom, smoke-blowing homemade Christmas tree! If you're wondering why I mention these two thespians in the same sentence, it's because early in his career, Ray starred in the original GOJIRA ... well, sort of. The Japanese film was made in 1954, then American footage with Ray was shot and judiciously inserted into the original film to make it more palatable for American audiences, whereupon it was released stateside in 1956 as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS, and the two have been linked together ever since.

     To see this fine bit of G-Tree in action and learn how it was made, check out the link below!


     More tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 14 ...

     Welcome back! Two weeks to go until Santa's arrival - have you finished your shopping? Have you STARTED your shopping? Are you even bothering? Well, let's not stress about the big gifts ... for today, let's just concentrate on the stocking stuffers, shall we? With that in mind, I've got the PERFECT addition to our Christmas For Your Ears holiday stories, featuring one of radio's longest-running hosts (and shows): The Shadow. 

     The Shadow was the top superhero crime fighter of the pulp magazine era, whose exploits ran for 325 stories, beginning in 1931 and continuing until 1949. Of those, one man, Walter B. Gibson, wrote 282 tales, cranking out a full-length novel twice a month - a feat unduplicated by any other writer of the pulp era.

     The magazine became so popular and sold so many copies each month that it was a natural for radio and began in 1930 with the character The Shadow serving as narrator for different detective, mystery and suspense stories. The format was changed in 1937, with Gibson co-writing actual adventures of The Shadow (or adapting stories from the pulps) for radio audiences. As Wikipedia notes: 

     "The series, inspired by an announcer character on earlier anthology series, premiered on the Mutual Network on September 26, 1937, and ended on December 26, 1954. The 677 episodes aired over 18 seasons, including an additional summer series in the first season."

     Many actors portrayed the character of The Shadow on radio, most famously Orson Welles (during the years 1937 and 1938). Today's tale comes from December 24th, 1939, and features William Johnstone as The Shadow - it's an interesting example of shoehorning a Christmas tale into a type of hardboiled tale that usually went much darker. Remember what I said at the beginning of this article about Christmas stockings? Well, give a listen to The Shadow in 'The Stockings Were Hung': 


     Switching gears, it's time to peruse our pungent potpourri of oddball stories. Let's get right to it, shall we?

      First up, I've been waiting for The Sun or one of the other UK papers to report on this year's 'Grotty Grottos' - the seamy 'Winter Wonderlands' that pop up like afterseason ticks to surprise you - and wasn't disappointed. The spanner in the works this year? It's not the PARK that's Grotty - it's the tourists! Read more here: 

      Next up, a surprisingly touching and funny animated short of the season about what happens when a little girl writes a Christmas wish list to Santa ... and makes a typo with two letters. Enjoy 'Dear Satan', with narration by Patrick Stewart!

      Think that's just a cute as Hell short? Oh, Hell, no! What if I told you a similar typo happened in real life, where a newspaper ad promised 'pictures with Satan' as part of their celebration? One enterprising young man wanted to make DAMN sure the little tykes wouldn't be disappointed, so on the appointed time ...

      And speaking of all those little devils acting up, Our Mascot has been a bad boy this year! I'll grant you it's supposed to be part of his job, but not THIS bad!


     More tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 15 ...

     Welcome back to our next edition of Christmas For Your Ears - today's picture features the Motorola Portable with 'exclusive Roto-tenna', just the thing when you're traveling and on the go. Did I say traveling? Well, what a coincidence! Our tale today comes from another popular radio show, The Mysterious Traveler, which ran from 1943 - 1952, and which spawned both a digest magazine and comic book series. The stories ranged the gamut from mysteries to crime dramas, with an occasional dip of the toe into fantasy and science fiction. Co-created by Robert Arthur (who later went on to fame during the 1960s as the driving force behind the Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators books series, as well as editing many Hitchcock anthologies), the tales were known for having many a twist and an ending you didn't see coming. Such is the case with today's tale, which aired on Christmas night, 1951, and is simply entitled (what else?), 'A Christmas Story'. 

     Want to be a Mysterious Traveler yourself? Have money to burn? I mean, a LOT of money to burn? No, seriously, A LOT OF MONEY TO BURN ... you're going to need it as we examine this year's Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts! The one that instantly jumps off the page is the very first one listed: your very own 007 Aston Martin, designed by the soon to be retired screen 007, Daniel Craig. It's one of only seven being made (007, that's why) - an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera. It also comes with a limited edition (of 7 - see above) all-platinum Seamaster Diver 300M Omega timepiece (we commoners call them watches). The price? Want to guess? Here's a hint: look at how many of each are being made - NO, NOT $7.00! Try $700,007 - I'll wait for you to retrieve your jaw. For that price, you also get airfare to see your Aston Martin roll off the assembly line and two tickets, with airfare and lodging included, to the world premiere of Craig's final Bond film, NO TIME TO DIE - a bargain, right?

     If that's too much for you, both price and gift-wise, then they've got other choices for you: from trips around the world to exclusive pairs of sneakers made just for you (you wouldn't think those would be so expensive, but you'd be wrong), and from taste trips to Italy to Fashion Week - or perhaps starring in your very own Makeup Video! And hey, it's Christmas: it's NOT all about you - don't forget your pet! How so, you say? Try a custom made doghouse for $70,000! 

     To read in more detail about these must-have items for the 1%, take a deep breath and go here: 

     Now I know what you're going to say: "$70,000 is STILL out of my budget! Isn't there something a bit less expensive that I can get that will make my intended feel special?" You betcha - I don't do all this research for the K.A.C. every year NOT to share it! Want to make your special someone feel warm all over? Ummm, you might want to wait a bit before answering - Gwyneth Paltrow and her GOOP line of products have a 'Restraining Arts Kit' (read: Beginners' Guide BDSM Kit) - for ONLY $1,350! C'mon, you can afford THAT, right? STILL not what you were looking for? OK, OK, she also has $250 fire extinguishers and $130 automatic joint rollers ... who knows, the two may go hand in hand! For the full line of this out of control ridiculousness, head over to her aptly named Ridiculous But Awesome Gift Guide: 


     More tomorrow ... AFTER I find my other wallet!

Monday, December 9, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 16 ...

     Radio is the medium of sound - sound effects, music and voices. An actor or actress with a quality voice always found work in the Golden Age of Radio. One who could do a few different voices was an even better find. One who could literally do HUNDREDS of voices, and sound effects to boot, was a keeper! Luckily for you, we have just such a fellow, in today's edition of Christmas For Your Ears, a man whose voice you are intimately familiar with if you watched Warner Brothers cartoons while growing up - I'm referring, of course, to Mel Blanc.

     Mel (1908 - 1989) had a MUCH longer career than people realize; known as 'The Man Of A Thousand Voices', his career stretched from the early days of radio in 1927 all the way to his death in 1989. He was on a variety of shows, radio as well as TV, and had his own sitcom on the air where he would use his many voices in ridiculous situations, such as this holiday show from December 24th, 1946, entitled Mel Plays Santa Claus:

     Mel was also Jack Benny's favorite guest, both on his long-running radio AND TV series. He could always bring the house down and leave the audience in tears of laughter. Case in point, this Christmas shopping sketch where Mel plays the hapless store clerk going up against Benny's notorious stinginess at Christmas - the slow burn and suffering of Mel's character cracks Jack Benny up - a rare occasion! Enjoy! 


     Over the years here at the K.A.C., we've highlighted a number of different variations on traditional Christmas trees ... from Dalek trees to beer kegs, from chocolate trees to teddy bear trees - well, this year is up to the challenge! For all you eternal optimists out there, may I present the Unicorn Tree! Want to know how to make one yourself? Here you go!

      Too happy for you? Want something darker, more expressive of your whole, "Bah, Humbug!" approach to the season? Never fear, we've got you covered, as well ... presenting the basic BLACK Christmas tree - NOT to be confused with the Black Cat tree we featured in an earlier blog! Read more about these monochromatic marvels here:



           Last but not least, if you want to give your tree the 'freshly fallen snow' look as seen in our black tree at right, here's a handy and inexpensive way to do it! Consider it yet another public service from the K.A.C.!


      More tomorrow!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 17 ...

     Good morning! After yesterday's heartwarming entry in our Christmas For Your Ears collection, I felt today was time to balance the scales. So far, we've covered many different genres in radio, from variety shows to drama,  and from horror to Westerns. Now it's time to visit science fiction on the radio ... oddly, you would think that it would be one of the hardest genres to pull off on the air, but in truth it's just the opposite - perhaps because science fiction demands more from one's imagination to begin with - who knows? There were many SF shows back in the day, such as Dimension X,  X Minus One, etc., as well as the superhero shows such as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Superman and more, that science fiction ruled the airwaves for the impressionable youth of the time. In addition to original dramas, many stories from the SF pulps were adapted to radio and today we feature one of the best (and one that I've talked about before in this blog).

      Our story comes from the first issue of the pulp Infinity Science Fiction (November, 1951) and was the featured tale of the issue. Written by Arthur C. Clarke of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, it tells a tale of a different star - as a matter of fact, our tale is called 'The Star'. I had to take a rather circuitous route to find this one, as the original radio version of this is lost to time, but thanks to industrious podcasters and the like keeping the spirit of old time radio alive, enjoy this version from the Arthur C. Clarke Radio Dramas series from 2015: 

     If you liked that, may I suggest you look at an earlier Conjure Cinema post from December 6th, 2013, where I talk about this story and posted a link to a TV adaptation of the story which ran on one of the reboots of The Twilight Zone back in 1985. You can watch it here: 


     Well, that was quick! Remember yesterday when I shared the first of the UK stores' Christmas ads? Sorry, Aldi - John Lewis just won this year hands down - hang it up, Tesco, Sainsburys and all the rest. In just 2 and 1/2 minutes, Excitable Edgar the Dragon and his human best friend Ava charm the heck out of you, first with Edgar's wanting to join in the Christmas activities of his village and all the mayhem that ensues, then with Ava's brilliant solution ... watch it and be enchanted. This one will warm you heart (and everything else, so don't get too close)! Well done, John Lewis!

     And if you want your OWN Excitable Edgar plush (flame retardant equipment not included), as I KNOW some of you will, here's the link - although I can tell you he's already SOLD OUT for the holidays! Keep checking back, as I'm sure they'll restock him:

     And last but not least, if YOU'VE ever wanted to be a Dragon For A Day, you can set yourself up as one on the John Lewis Excitable Edgar Snapchat Filter - here's how!  


Saturday, December 7, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 18 ...

     Hello and welcome back to our next entry in our Christmas For Your Ears series on the K.A.C. - today's story is a more traditional piece and probably my favorite entry of all the ones I'm putting up this year, because I remember hearing this one when it originally aired. I was happily surprised to find it again, having forgotten the name of the episode. But first some backstory ... 

      As I've mentioned before, radio drama began in the 1920s, then caught on and held the public's imagination through the 1930s and '40s, finally dying out in the 1950s with the advent of television. It seemed it was due to remain in the nostalgia trash heap, never to be revisited, until lo and behold, in 1974 it made a spectacular (and welcome) reappearance in a Big Way via the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Hosted by noted character actor E.G. Marshall and created and produced by Himan Brown (whose impressive radio pedigree included the Inner Sanctum Mysteries of the 1940s (he's listed as having a 65 year career and producing over 30,000 radio programs!)), the show ran weeknights from 1974 - 1982 and was a godsend to folks like myself who longed to hear radio drama back on the air. The stories ranged from suspense to horror to classics ... you never knew what you were going to get, but they were all well done, with classic stars, old and new, stepping up to the microphone to make your hair stand on end. 

E.G. Marshall
      Today's featured episode originally aired on December 24th, 1974, and is a variation on a more famous holiday tale: take one cold-hearted rich man, who's turned his back on his family, his workers and the world, add one determined young girl with a request who holds him to a promise, then throw in a threadbare Santa suit which may hold more than meets the eye and you have A Very Private Miracle. I was delighted to track this down again, and even more so to find it is an original broadcast, complete with holiday commercials, exactly as it aired over four decades ago! Try and find the time to listen to this one uninterrupted - you won't be sorry ... a bit weepy, perhaps, as I was, but not sorry. Enjoy!


     Want something a little less saccharin? Something not quite as maudlin? Something just out and out WEIRD? Well, say no more! The UK Christmas supermarket/retail store ad wars have ramped up for another year, and we'll start with the return (for the fourth year!) of Aldi's Kevin the Carrot ads. The 'Kevin Cult' is rather hard to describe if you don't live there, but he's become a phenomenon, with plush Kevin's in demand each Christmas. Not one to miss a merchandising beat, Aldi's has added Kevin's wife Katie and baby carrots Jasper, Baby Carrot and Chantenay to the stew, along with villains Russell Sprout and the Leafy Blinders Gang ... all set to a giant musical number! Enough with me trying to describe this madness - click on the link and see for yourself:


     Great, now I'm hungry - back tomorrow!

Friday, December 6, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 19 ...

     Welcome back! We continue our Christmas For Your Ears presentation with another entry for your enjoyment. As technology improved, radios got smaller and more portable, so you could take them anywhere (like this spiffy Admiral model) and listen to your favorite shows on the go, like this episode of Suspense from December 21st, 1953, called The Night Before Christmas and starring Greer Garson (pictured at right):




     OK, I tried - I honestly tried to be done with the Krampus knockoffs and posers to the throne, having mentioned Pere Fouettard and Hans Trapp. But it looks like we're not quite done - one last fellow wants his moment in the sun ... so let's get this over with. Well, at least we're not still in France! Nope, this time we cross the border into Germany and Saint Nicholas' other other companion - ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce 'Rough Nicholas', or as he's most commonly known ... Knecht Rupert!

     He's rather tame compared to his French counterparts. Wikipedia has this to say about him:

     "Knecht Ruprecht is Saint Nicholas' most familiar attendant in Germany. According to some stories, Ruprecht began as a farmhand; in others, he is a wild foundling whom Saint Nicholas raises from childhood.

     Ruprecht wears a black or brown robe with a pointed hood. Sometimes he walks with a limp, because of a childhood injury. He can be seen carrying a long staff and a bag of ashes, and on occasion wears little bells on his clothes. Sometimes he rides on a white horse, and sometimes he is accompanied by fairies or men with blackened faces dressed as old women.
     According to Alexander Tille, Knecht Ruprecht originally represented an archetypal manservant, "and has exactly as much individuality of social rank and as little personal individuality as the Junker Hanns and the Bauer Michel, the characters representative of country nobility and peasantry respectively." Tille also states that Knecht Ruprecht originally had no connection with Christmastime.Ruprecht was a common name for the Devil in Germany, and Grimm states that "Robin Goodfellow is the same home-sprite whom we in Germany call Knecht Ruprecht and exhibit to children at Christmas..."

     Knecht Ruprecht first appears in written sources in the 17th century, as a figure in a Nuremberg Christmas procession. Samuel Taylor Coleridge encountered Knecht Ruprecht in a 1798 visit to Ratzeburg, a town in northern Germany.
     According to tradition, Knecht Ruprecht asks children whether they can pray. If they can, they receive apples, nuts and gingerbread. If they cannot, he hits the children with his bag of ashes. In other versions of the story, Knecht Ruprecht gives naughty children gifts such as lumps of coal, sticks, and stones, while well-behaving children receive sweets from Saint Nicholas. He also reported to give naughty children a switch (stick) in their shoes for their parents to hit them with, instead of sweets, fruit and nuts, in the German tradition.
In related folk traditions more closely associated with certain regions in the High Alps, particularly the snowy villages south and west of Salzburg in Austria, the Knecht Ruprecht character functions as Saint Nicholas' assistant, rather than as the primary actor in the early December rituals; keeping a watchful eye on the benevolent saint during his journey. Both are, in turn, accompanied in these regions by an assortment of terrifying horned, goat-like creatures known as the Krampus, who seek out and terrorize misbehaving children identified by Saint Nicholas for punishment. Austrian children grow up believing the worst offenders are whipped with birch switches, and sometimes stuffed in a hessian sack and thrown into an icy river for their bad deeds!
     In the Mittelmark Knecht Ruprecht is known as De hêle Christ ("The Holy Christ"). He was also known as Hans Ruprecht, Rumpknecht, and in Mecklenburg, was called Rû Clås (Rough Nicholas). In the Altmark and in East Friesland, he was known as Bûr and Bullerclås."

      That's it, I promise! We're putting to bed all Krampi and Krampi contenders for the year - we've got a LOT of other ground to cover - like what, you ask? Come back tomorrow and see!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 20 ...

           Good morning! We continue our Christmas For Your Ears presentation with a different kind of story today ... one that you could hear on your brand-new Philco, such as the beauties pictured here. Radio during its Golden Age covered all spectrums, from comedy to drama and everything in between. The programs got most inventive with the coming of the holiday season, as everyone wanted to have some sort of Christmas Special to bring in a wider audience. That was easy enough for the variety shows and the comedies, but required a little more juggling for others - such as the radio Westerns. One of the best was Have Gun - Will Travel. This show was unique for a number of different reasons - as Wikipedia states: 

Richard Boone as Paladin on TV
     "Have Gun – Will Travel is an American Western series that was produced and originally broadcast by CBS on both television and radio from 1957 through 1963. The television version of the series was rated number three or number four in the Nielsen ratings every year of its first four seasons, and it is one of the few shows in television history to spawn a successful radio version. That radio series debuted November 23, 1958, more than a year after the premiere of its televised counterpart."

     The TV series starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a soldier of fortune who offered his gun for hire to those who needed help. He was an unlikely cowboy; a cultured man, well-read and affable, who charged $1000 a day for those who could afford it or offered his help for free to those who were poor or whose cause he felt strongly about. The premise has been done many times over the years with slight changes, and it lent itself to many interesting scenarios.

     The radio show was unique in its own right, as Wikipedia relates: 

John Dehner as Paladin on Radio
     "The Have Gun – Will Travel radio show broadcast 106 episodes on the CBS Radio Network between November 23, 1958, and November 27, 1960. It was one of the last radio dramas featuring continuing characters and the only significant American radio adaptation of a television series. John Dehner  ... played Paladin ... initially, the episodes were adaptations of the television program as broadcast earlier the same week ..."


 The episode featured here today, 'Hanging Cross', was the Christmas episode for the TV series and aired on December 21st, 1957; then aired on radio exactly one year later, on December 21st, 1958. John Dehner, by the way, was an inspired choice to play Paladin on radio; an excellent character actor with a cultured voice and manner, he brought just the right talents to the role on the air. 

     Without further ado, give a listen to this 'Christmas Miracle' set in the Old West: 


      Switching gears entirely (with 'switch' being the operative word here), it's that time again - December 5th, the Eve of Saint Nicholas, or Krampusnacht, the night of revelry given over to Mr. K - got any bad children what need a good swift reminder to be good? Got any who are past hope? Let Krampus Removal Services take care of those pesky critters!  And not just bad kids - our Lady Krampus services (as seen in this Edwardian Christmas Card) takes care of those errant or lackadaisical husbands and lowlife men in your life - call now! I can't decide if this fellow in the basket is praying for his life or looking forward to the punishment to come ... maybe both!

     Speaking of our mascot, we've written a number of pieces on him over the years, but if you're new to the whole Krampus phenomenon or just need a quick refresher on who he is and why he's so popular, this link will get you up to speed: 


     More tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

K.A.C. 2019 - T - 21 ...

     Good morning and welcome back! Our next tale in our Christmas For Your Ears collection comes from Christmas Day, 1947, and is a more traditional Christmas radio episode ... with one exception. It's from the musical variety show The Kraft Music Hall, a long running radio (and later TV) show. This episode is hosted by Al Jolson, with Oscar Levant as his accompanist and comedy relief. The reason the show is featured here is the long-running sketch where Al meets Santa Claus ... played by none other than Boris Karloff! Give it a listen here:


     I love that Boris name-checks fellow terror icons Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre in the sketch. Forrest J Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, used to call Peter, "The Lord High Minister of All Things Sinister" - the man had a way with a phrase! :)

     And speaking of sinister men, we've got an even MORE horrible followup to yesterday's lesser-known companions of Saint Nicholas. We told you about 'Old Man Whipper' and the reason for his penance. Well, it get WORSE in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France.  Prepare yourself for ... Hans Trapp. As the wildly appropriate Scary For Kids website reveals:






     So here's where it gets interesting ... I know, you're reading this and saying, "HERE'S where it gets interesting?" :) Turns out the legend of Hans Trapp is based on a real person, a German knight named Hans von Trotha, who went up against the Church, was a robber baron, deliberately flooded a town and was excommunicated ... but aside from that, was a nice guy! 

      To read his whole sordid tale, click here:

      He eventually morphed into a cautionary tale by the Church into the 'Hans Trapp' character, who, when he wasn't roaming with St. Nicholas, hung out with the Christ Child (pictured here, more of a Teenage Christ, but still) ... and he even has a cautionary poem!

"Look, there comes Hans Trapp.
He has a nice pointed hat
And a beard white like a roan.
He comes from the beautiful starry sky
And brings children a rod
Who do not do singing and praying.
Look, Hans Trapp, we are so small
And good and obedient at home.
Shouldn't come with your stick
Because we can sing and pray too."


You know what? Between yesterday and today. maybe you should just AVOID France for the holidays!

      Come on back tomorrow - we'll TRY to be a bit less bloodthirsty!