David Bruce: The Funniest People in Television and Radio: 250 Anecdotes — Money, Music, Police

Money

• In the 1960s, Ernie Anderson played wild-and-crazy horror-show host Ghoulardi in Cleveland, Ohio. After quitting, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he made big money as a TV announcer. One day, he and his friend Linn Sheldon walked into a studio, where Mr. Sheldon lit a cigarette. Before Mr. Sheldon had finished smoking the cigarette, Mr. Anderson had read four TV promotional spots and made $30,000.

• Comedian Soupy Sales used to collect portraits of United States Presidents and American founding fathers. On his TV show for children, he once told his young viewers to go through Mommy’s purse and Daddy’s wallet and mail him “the little green pieces of paper with pictures of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln, and Jefferson on them.” In return, he promised to send the children a postcard from Puerto Rico.

• The British tongue-in-cheek spy series The Avengers was definitely capitalistic. It even had an Exploitation Manager whose job was to sell product placements — if you had a product you wanted to appear on the series, this was the person you had to deal with.

Music

• Ron Sweed, aka the Ghoul, hosted several mostly bad movies on a television program airing in Cleveland, Ohio, during the 1970s and 1980s. The Ghoul tended to show the same bad movies over and over because the station bought the rights to very few movies. To keep things interesting, The Ghoul used to change the sound tracks. For example, an actress in Attack of the Mushroom People sang a song on a cruise ship. The Ghoul disliked the song, so when she sang, he dubbed in “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” or “Who Stole the Kishka” or some other song instead. And when a disembodied head babbled in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, he played a song whose lyrics went “PAPA-OOM-MOW-MOW.”

• Early in his career, following a radio broadcast in 1936, Robert Irwin received a fan letter from famed tenor John McCormack. The following year, the non-music firm for which Mr. Irwin worked booked a recital at which Mr. McCormack would sing, and Mr. Irwin was present — although he had not yet met and been introduced to Mr. McCormack — at a press conference which had been arranged for the famed tenor. A newspaper writer asked Mr. McCormack whether any of Ireland’s younger singers were promising in particular. He replied, “Well, there’s a young fella called Irwin ….” Of course, the two were introduced immediately, and Mr. McCormack became Mr. Irwin’s mentor.

Police

• As a child attending the Peninsula School of Creative Education in Menlo Park, California, Wah Ming Chang and his friend Torben Deirup created a life-sized dummy that they used in practical jokes. Once they placed the dummy in a gutter, then hid across the street and watched as some people came out of their house, looked at the realistic dummy, then ran back into their house to call the police. Wah and Torben removed the dummy without being seen, and the neighbors had some explaining to do when the police came. Later, after playing several more practical jokes, Wah and Torben were caught red-handed with the dummy. A police officer sternly told them that if their dummy ever appeared in a gutter again, they would be attending reform school. As an adult, Mr. Chang became an artist and a special-effects wizard for the TV series Star Trek.

• Before starring as the lead actor in TV’s Hogan’s Heroes, Bob Crane was a well-known disk jockey in Connecticut. Because he was a celebrity, police officers in Connecticut sometimes let him go with a warning (and no ticket) when he was caught speeding. When Mr. Crane moved to California, he wanted to continue receiving favors, so he wrote on the back of his driver’s license, “I am a radio star,” where any police officer who stopped him would be sure to see it. Sure enough, he was stopped for speeding, but this time the police officer wrote him a ticket. Across the top of the ticket was written this note: “I am a police officer.”

• When Will Smith was starring in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, one episode revolved around his character driving around in an expensive car and being stopped by the police because they think it is suspicious for a black man to drive such an expensive car. This episode was based on Mr. Smith’s real life — often the police stopped him because they thought it was suspicious for him to drive such an expensive car.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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