Sunday, April 13, 2014

Berowne's 215

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "N" is for "new")
From time to time, I’ve paused in my weekly quiz questions to write a little about some of my life experiences.  Folks have been kind enough to show interest in such posts, and Tess K. has been tolerant and welcoming – so here’s another.

Around the year 1950 television was just starting out as a mass medium.  And Berowne was just starting out as an announcer.   The fabulous salaries for tv announcers, by the way, were very much in the future. 


Here is a picture, taken aeons ago, of young Berowne, struggling to make a living on a new – also young, also struggling – television station.  As you can see, there was a sort of perversion of production values; it looked like they had just set up a flat and hung someone’s shower curtain on it.  That was it for set décor.

The TV show I emceed was titled the Weekly Starshine Theatre and it was a fairly grandiose name for what was usually an old cowboy movie, featuring old cowboys, which had been produced back in the days when a new and fascinating element – sound – had only recently burst upon the film industry.

Not many cinema folk of that early day understood much about sound equipment, which was why the actors in a film carried on impassioned conversations by shouting at each other, hoping they’d be heard by the mikes hidden behind flower pots and such.

But I couldn’t have cared less.  I was on TV.  Not many could say that.  Not many were watching, either.

The sponsor was a famous grocery chain and their ad agency had the idea that, in addition to dazzling our audiences with topflight entertainment, like wornout old movies, there would also be a weekly “live” feature.  In the moments when the film paused, I was to introduce each week a different actual grocery-store manager of the sponsor and chat with him on camera.  Who wouldn’t be interested in that?

So there I was, standing with that first week’s store manager, Herman Schlumpfbinder or something like that.  He had been given lines to memorize:  “Say, that was a corking good film,” he was to recite.  “It’s great to see the fine old movies!” 

I wondered which copywriter in the ad agency was responsible for the phrase “corking good.”  Who talked like that?  But I said nothing, thinking it was possibly some sort of secret store manager code that I didn’t understand.

Things did not go smoothly; they rarely did in those days.
 
I think it’s hard for folks today to realize what tv meant in that early era. It was all so newAs we waited for our cue I suddenly realized that Mr. Schlumpf-etc. did not look at alI well.  I could see that this magical new thing called television was just too much for him; he was overcome with stage fright.  He was clearly shaking and sweat was visibly pouring off him in rivulets.

I could have lived with that, but his condition affected me.  I feared what he might say or do and how I might have to respond.  I began shaking myself. 

Finally the cinematic masterpiece that was on the screen paused and I introduced my guest.  For a while he just stood there, staring at the camera, shaking and sweating and making odd little noises.  Then he pulled himself together and, suddenly animated, blurted out a single word: “Corking!”

I wondered what our TV audience, all two dozen of them, made of that.  Anyway, after that week’s episode the ad agency cancelled all future store manager interviews. 

23 comments:

kaykuala said...

Even now 'actors' on telly do still have butterflies in their tummy when starting out on each episode! What more those days! Thanks for sharing Berowne!

Hank

Roger Owen Green said...

That's a corking good story!

Charleen said...

So they put a cork in it, huh?

ccchampagne said...

Awwww... Roger Owen Green beat me to it!!! *grin* So wonderful to read about this long ago time!

Kathe W. said...

you got me chuckling and giggling with this story! Poor guy!
Have a great week!

Berowne said...

Thanks for the great comment, ccchampagne. By the way, I met your cousin, bbbourbon. :-)

humbird said...

Oh, I was worry about this guy and -released after he exhale..maybe candy would save the show... ~ thanks for sharing :)

The Blog of Bee said...

Fascinating story. I'm sure you have many more.

Stafford Ray said...

We have a saying: "put a cork in it" and I think it is appropriate.

Karen S. said...

I am so happy you uncorked this story just for us! What a dashing, handsome young man you were too!

Berowne said...

"Were"? (Jes' kidding.)

Belva Rae Staples said...

This is a delightful, comical story. Thanks for sharing it here. You were a handsome devil, too.

Leslie: said...

Always enjoy your stories from the past! Easier than your quizzes! lol

Leslie
abcw team

Nabanita said...

Ohh this is good....loved reading it..

Naba's Dream Travel Destinations

Reader Wil said...

I am glad it was my turn to write and read the first 11 ABC posts, otherwise I might have missed this delightful story. Thanks for telling this!
Wil, ABCW Team

Hildred said...

An interesting tale, Berowne, - I remember those first television shows, but on the other side of the screen - what a long way we've come, - not necessarily a 'corking' good way, but a long way....

oldegg said...

This took me back many years to early UK TV. The BBC the sole broadcaster at that time had no advertising. However breaks were required for audience comfort stops and programs were separated by intermissions of gold fish swimming in fish tanks or the sea would be crashing on rocks. The dullest of all was the potter at his wheel but how they would be welcome today!

Altonian said...

Jolly good tale of T.V.'s early days. Did you know that the early days of BBC radio (sound only) insisted that their news-readers and comperes etc. wear full evening dress when sitting before the microphone?

Sheilagh Lee said...

I love when you share these tidbits they are a fascinating look into the past. thanks for sharing.

Helena said...

That's what corks are (also) for!!

Tess Kincaid said...

Very much enjoyed, Mr. B...

Sharp Little Pencil said...

CORKING! Another great story. I miss live TV, the hosts for cartoon shows and the weathermen... this is a funny story.

Congratulations on being probably the only other person besides myself and my 6th grade teacher (still a friend!) to use the phrase, "I couldn't care less," correctly. Pet peeve: "I could care less." Of course, I also pronounce "February" like it's spelled, so I am totally OCD on the English/American language!

Thanks for a trip down memory lane. The only real LIVE TV I've seen that was creative recently was George Clooney's daring TV production of "Failsafe." All live, and came off without a hitch! Nice to be back, Amy

Berowne said...

Amy, your comments are always most welcome and usually quite informative. Corking good.

 
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