Boston name dropping...
Joan Crawford....Paula Prentiss...(phone sex later...just kidding)...Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg...talker Jerry Williams... Jack Kennedy and....
....The Boston Strangler!
How’s that for a lineup to talk about!
WMEX Radio in Boston was big. I mean huge in ratings and making money....and making hit records. We’ll have a firm example coming up. Stay tuned.
Arnie Ginsburg may have invented “payola”...that is a DJ taking money to play records on his show.
In 1962-63 there were no federal laws prohibiting this so “hands all out” as they say. Mac Richmond, the owner was probably getting his share as I was pressured by Mac while at his station WPGC in DC to play the hell out of certain records. Mac was “sound deaf” so why else would he do that!
I never got any cash for playing records but I did get two tickets to any Broadway play...sixth row center..and I saw a bunch. My free tickets from the record folks were so good that one time I was seated in front of Gwen Verdon! I think that was for Jackie Gleason in “Take Me Away”.
In Boston, Mac handed me a ticket for a show having it’s pre-broadway opening. It was called “Funny Girl” and featured an unknown singer named Barbra Streisand. She sang the song “People” for the very first time publicly that night and it knocked me out. I knew it would be a huge hit song and make her and the show famous. The only problem was the third act which “sucked” and they knew it so they closed down for a few days and rewrote it. Of course I was right about the song and the show...one of the biggest Broadway hits in a long time. And about the star...of course.
WMEX had an afternoon DJ named Melvin X. Melvin (really a station name used by any jocks in that time slot).
The guy’s real name was Jim MacKrell and he would go on to Hollywood as an actor and later appeared in things like
“Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death”
But he did make his mark in 1970-74 hosting the successful gameshow “Celebrity Sweepstakes”.
But here’s my point. To show you how hot that show and that station(WMEX) was in Boston...Jimmy had a Hooper share of 52%.
Hooper was the radio audience measurement outfit popular at that time.
Now the 52% meant that HALF of ALL radio listeners were tuned to Melvin X Melvin’s show. That is just unbelievable and incredible but true. As good share might be a 10 or 12 but Jim had a 52. In my 50 years in broadcasting I never saw that again. It was very unusual to say the least.
Let me give you another example of the power of that show and the station.
I was doing the news on Jim’s show each day.
The Beach Boys were hot and had just released new new single called “Little Duce Coup” which we played and played and played until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I got a copy of the 45 and just for the hell of it it flipped it over on audition in the newsroom and guess what...I heard the next number one record in the country. It was called “Little Surfer Girl” and Nobody was playing that side.
I rushed into the control room and off the air I challenged Jim to flip the record and play it.
He did and we never played what the record company had called the “A” side...the Coup thing again! So we broke that record on Jim’s show and stations in New York City and up and down the eastern seaboard that could hear WMEX also flipped the record and in about six to ten weeks yep, you guessed it... “Little Surfer Girl” WAS number one in the country! I took all the credit!
Ha...dating in the Strangler era...
Just try to approach or make a date with a female in the midst of the Boston Strangler phenomena.
Forget it. I think I got one airline stewy to go to dinner and that’s about it.
Girls only dated guys they knew from work or school or whatever and they gave the jaundiced eye to all strangers.
It was boring and frightening...seeing the headline in the morning paper that another body had been found. Ugh.
Just in from Hollywood...Paula...and Joan...as different as good be.
One girl I did have a good time with...interviewing for work and chatting late into the midnight hours for my benefit...was the extremely good looking actress, Paul Prentiss, who was promoting a film with Rock Hudson called “Men’s Favorite Sport”. (Note: You can see all of Paula and I do mean ALL in her nude scene in the boat in a later film Catch 22. check it out!)
The interview was only about ten minutes but we seemed to hit it off and I was enamored by her beautiful brown eyes and dark hair. So I came right out and ask her if we could chat later. She invited me to call her hotel and that evening, late, took my call.
We talked for an hour or so and then she invited me to have breakfast with her the next morning.
With the light of day Paula must have had a change of heart...as I couldn’t get thru to her the next morning.
She had been asking me a lot of questions about the radio business. She wondered if her husband, Richard Benjamin, should get into it. Thank goodness she didn’t push it...as he went on to have an excellent career directing pictures.
As nice as the Paula Prentiss encounter was...I can’t say the same for Joan Crawford. But you must understand...Miss Crawford had been at the top of the star list for many years and acted the part in her in-person appearances. It was a tough interview...and not pleasant for either of us, I’m sure.
Two huge stars who came thru Boston almost the same week...and were as different as night and day.
Mac Richmond must have contributed heavily to the Democrats as he invited me to accompany him to a banquet in Boston featuring President Kennedy.
This was in the summer of ‘63 and probably JFK’s last political foray to Boston before November and his trip to Texas.
The seats were good up on the dias...and the food was ok (after all it was the Prez eating it too just about a quarter of the way down the table from us.)
Nothing spectacular was said...unusual for JFK and I found the most interesting element was the secret service and watched them intently...my first close up of that kind of thing.
I remember one eagle eyed and totally concentrated agent moving fairly fast below our dais seats and watching a waiter behind me.
I got the feeling that that agent would have been over the table and on that waiter at the slightest indiscretion. It was a interesting side show.
Too bad the agents in Dallas weren’t as “concentrated” on their job. Right?
the race track
Mac had some friends in the race horse biz and they invited us to dinner at one of Boston’s finest seafood restaurants and then to attend the track as their guests. Just before we were set to meet Mac called and said he couldn’t make it but that I should go and have a good time. He said these guys were paying for everything...including my bets! So...why not.
Dinner was a bit of a problem as I don’t eat seafood or fish...and the place didn’t have the usual standby steak on the menu. But the waiter said they had dealt with this before and he’d cook something up.
I would have the same dilemma later at the White House where members of the media (non-DC) were invited to lunch with President Reagan. Except the White House cook was ready for those of us discriminating against the eating of a natural preserve like seafood and I did get a nice steak there.
At the track we were ushered into the “owners” section and then one of the three hosts took me by the arm and we got in the betting line. He slipped me a hundred dollar bill and said “just before we get to the window I’ll whisper in your ear what horse to bet”.
He did just that...I bet the horse to win...and he did.
I picked up an easy four hundred and made my goodbyes and grabbed a cab home.
Now I’ve inquired of several knowledgeable racing friends like Neil Rogers in Miami what this was all about.
i.e. was the race fixed...did they know what horse was the fix? Or were they just so expert on the horses that this tip was real and on the level from that?
Neil felt it was the latter...he didn’t think a race could be “fixed” at the big Boston track.