QUIZ SHOW NIGHT AT MWOTRC
People could tell from the minute they walked in that the November Club meeting would be unique. Perhaps it was the table that they first saw, set up with three microphones and a round red “Studebaker Sales and Service” sign. A placard announced the name of the quiz show we were about to be treated to: “Radio Recall.” Maury Cagle and his crew had transformed the room into a studio and we, the studio audience, were buzzing with anticipation.
To the left of the performance space was the sound booth, another table, actually, but the “Standby” and “On the Air” signs conveyed just the right touch of downtown intensity. Chuck and Joanie were busy stringing cables and testing sound levels. Edgar Russell arrived carrying his garment bag. The vintage scene continued to take shape as Maury explained the quiz show process to the audience. He would be our own Harlow Wilcox, with his script under his arm, and his APPLAUSE sign at the ready.
Squeaks and hums were heard from the audio speakers; sighs of exasperation were heard from the sound booth as Chuck plugged and tested, and people spoke and tapped at the mics. And in the midst of all this, four important members of the Club had disappeared.
Maury had circulated among us, handing out Contestant Cards, for indeed the format of the show was to be: contestant, question to the panel, and see if the contestant agrees with the panel’s answer. Maury had his sheaf of questions (some of which had been sent in by Club members), his contestants, and his commercials.
A confident thumbs up came from the sound booth. Maury stepped to the mic and cued the Studebaker music. Radio Recall was on the air! Well, almost. A ways into Maury’s intro, Chuck said, “Harlow, I know we’re live, but we need to start over. Sorry.” Nobody cared a whit; the audience was up for anything, and we knew that Studebaker wouldn’t go broke over a few minutes of dead air.
Ready now, let’s go! Maury’s voice hit the airwaves and in a matter of seconds who should come striding out from behind the curtain but Quizmaster Edgar Farr Russell III! He had of course been in the Green Room getting his bowtie just so, and he graciously stepped to the mic. In short order thereafter, our other radio stars were introduced, to great acclaim. Everyone was radio show genre-perfect: Jack French (Private Eye), in trench coat and fedora, signed in with just a bit of a snarl. Mark Bush (Westerns), dressed in black with his cowboy hat and black mask, greeted us with an admonishing stare. Michael Hayde (Variety Shows) was ever jovial in a symphony of color, red and blue.
Contestant after contestant joined Edgar at the mic. Edgar had us believing that his sweetheart of a hostess wore a different outfit each time she escorted them across the stage. Edgar still won’t say how he got the wardrobe bill past the Studebaker execs!
And did the panelists ever confer! They dissembled and harrumphed; whispered under conspiratorial glances, and generally kept the contestants off balance. “Jack, you may not confer about this private eye question,” decreed Edgar at one point. “Michael, mum’s the word on this Dragnet question,” was the next Quizmaster caution. Some contestants stood fast; others were swayed by the panel’s sometimes wrong answers. The audience was never short on good-natured chiding and raucous cheering. With or without Maury’s APPLAUSE sign, the show took on an energy of its own and the audience had its finger right on the pulse.
Finally the clock wore down and everybody knew that across the country studio engineers were gulping their last coffee before flipping the switch to go to local news. I’m not sure what was going to follow the show in our area; Duffy’s Tavern, I think, where I’m sure one of the topics of conversation was going to be what a spectacular job the good people of the MWOTRC did in creating a radio show that helps to preserve a tradition of entertainment that is important and which is still generating creative efforts generation upon generation.
All the best,