Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The great Ernie Kovacs....and Harry Caray with the Cards (before the Cubs)

Ernie Kovacs

The Army does something good!

        If you take that long..long boat to Europe...the Army will fly you back!
They don’t make you do the seasick routine going AND coming back. I think this has something to do with them trying to get you to re-up but with me...I was done.
        I was ready now, to get on with my life... thank you. I did my two years.
  My wife Ruth met me when we landed in New Jersey. She had left our three year old daughter, Kathy, with her family back home.  
      WGEM in Quincy, Illinois was where I had worked for about a year before the Army so they were required to hire me back.  The boss,Joe Bonasinga, said he would have done it anyway...he liked my work.
     Joe had his hands full when I was there before.  TV had come to Quincy and we were racing the other main outlet(CBS) to get our TV channel(NBC) up and running.  We beat them...but it was funny.
     We went on the air with our tv programming before the competition by one day...but we had NO audio...NO sound!  We ran NBC programming all evening but not a word could be heard.  It was fixed the next day.  
      Also we had been short staffed because of the huge cost of the TV start up and whoever was on radio playing records had to make sure the radio was covered with long music selections because that person (me mainly) had to be in the tv booth for the half hour and hourly breaks of about a minute each.  There were times the music ended before I got back to the radio side.  It was a real education for all...learning about television by actually running a station.
      My favorite tv show was the crazy Ernie Kovacs program.  Ernie had this bit where he would do something really nuts right at break time because he knew announcers were going live across the country and so each week one had to either not look at the screen or watch it and try to control yourself because Kovacs WAS that crazy.  He just wanted to “break up” every booth guy on the net.  
      He got me one time because I was not aware yet of his gimmick at the breaks.  He made this bit famous...sitting in a tree and sawing the limb he was sitting on off just as the cue was given.  So I watched Ernie in the tree and heard the network announcer say “this is NBC..the National Broadcast Company.
      I was about to open my mouth (the engineer had already opened my mike) when I saw the tree trunk fall over and Ernie smiling...sitting in the tree limb!  Great early tv special effect.
 It got me good...I never made it through that 30 seconds of copy...and I guess a bunch of live booth announcers across the nation did the same thing.  That was Ernie Kovacs.
 Edie Adams...His wife was “hot” (before the phrase was discovered)
      “Why don’t you pick up a Muriel and smoke it sometime”
        Check her out in It’s a Mad Mad Mad World flick 

      Years later...the boss...genial Joe Bonasinga would be at the radio convention at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago where we ran into each other in an elevator. He took me aside and told me how proud he was of me and another WGEM alum Fred Briggs...both NBC News correspondents!

Baseball broadcast legend Harry Caray and open mics...

I was a disc jockey at WGEM Quincy, Illinois back in the Harry Caray/St.Louis Cardinals era....long before the Cubbies.
About an hour before game time the St Louis engineer(s) would often test Harry and Joe Garagiola’s mikes and then leave them open.  
oh boy!
Harry was great at play by play...the best EVER in my opinion.  But he did have an eye for the ladies.
When he spotted one in the stands that impressed him he’d shout over to Joe:
“Look that the boobs on that blond would ya!”
It was fun for any anyone listening in cue (off the air we hope) on some 150 or more stations each day!
To paraphrase Harry Caray’s famous home run cheer:
“It might be...it could be...it is...a buxom blond!”
He WAS the best!


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