12 June, 2012

Robert Benchley

Robert Charles Benchley was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor. From his beginnings at the Harvard Lampoon while attending Harvard University, through his many years writing essays and articles for Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and his acclaimed short films, Benchley's style of humor brought him respect and success during his life, from New York City and his peers at the Algonquin Round Table to contemporaries in the burgeoning film industry.

Benchley is best remembered for his contributions to The New Yorker, where his essays, whether topical or absurdist, influenced many modern humorists. He also made a name for himself in Hollywood, when his short film How to Sleep was a popular success and won Best Short Subject at the 1935 Academy Awards, and his many memorable appearances in films.

General Clift Andrus

Clift Andrus was an American United States Army general with the rank of Major General.

Clift Andrus was born on October 12, 1890 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas as a son of army colonel, Edwin Proctor Andrus and his wife Marie Josephine (néé Birdwell). After attending a Shattuck-Saint Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota, Andrus began to study a Civil Engineering at Cornell University. Entered the Army in spring of the year 1912, Andrus was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 24 April 1912 in 4th Field Artillery Regiment. Then he served as a battery officer in his new regiment at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and after three months was transferred to Fort Russell in Wyoming.

In 1915, Andrus was assigned to the Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill for additional training.

Dave Lee Travis

Dave Lee Travis, also known professionally as DLT and the Hairy Monster (from 1978 the Hairy Cornflake), is a British radio presenter, best known for his career on BBC Radio 1.

Born David Patrick Griffin in Buxton, Derbyshire, he attended grammar school in Manchester, and his first job was as a graphic designer.

Travis began his radio career at the offshore pirate station Radio Caroline South from the MV Mi Amigo off the Essex coast in September 1965, later moving onto Radio Caroline North from the MV Fredericia off the Isle of Man until mid-August 1967. In 1967, offshore pirate radio was outlawed by the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act. Travis moved to Manchester and began working for BBC Radio 1.

Travis's Radio 1 career began in 1968, presenting the Pop North show from Manchester. In 1969, he took over a Sunday morning show from 10am-midday. In 1971, he was promoted to the weekday lunchtime show from 11am-1pm, moving back to Sunday mornings in 1973 and also presenting the Radio 1 Club on
Thursdays from 5–7pm.

On television, he provided the UK commentary for the Eurovision Song Contest 1971 in Dublin, Ireland, and in 1985 presented the Eurovision Song Contest Previews on BBC1.

In 1975, he took over the weekday teatime slot from 4.30-5.45pm (extended to run 4.30-7pm in 1977). He then took over the Breakfast Show from Noel Edmonds in May 1978 (coincidentally when the BBC Chart went from Top 50 to Top 75) and continued in this slot until December 1980. It was when he took over from Noel Edmonds that the heavily-bearded presenter, who had previously adopted the nickname 'The Hairy Monster' since the early 70s, began referring to himself as 'The Hairy Cornflake'.

In 1976, an on-air parody of the US hit "Convoy" (by C. W. McCall) led to a release of the song "Convoy GB" as a single, recorded with fellow DJ Paul Burnett under the name Laurie Lingo and the Dipsticks. The song reached number four in the charts and Travis appeared as the song's narrator "Super Scouse" on Top Of The Pops.

The sound effect "quack quack oops" became a famous Radio 1 feature, and was resurrected for his current weekend morning show on the Magic Network.

January 1981 saw Travis move to weekday afternoons from 2.30–4.30pm. Later that year he moved back to the weekday lunchtime slot from 11.30am–2pm, before moving to a Saturday morning show in 1983 from 10am–1pm, then Sunday mornings from 10am–1pm in 1987, taking over both Saturday and Sunday in September 1988.

Travis spent twenty years presenting the BBC World Service music request programme A Jolly Good Show (taking over from Noel Edmonds). In June 2011, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the programme had given her a lifeline. The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who had spent 15 years under house arrest from 1989, told the BBC A Jolly Good Show had made her "world much more complete". Travis, who presented the show from 1981 to 2001, said he was "touched" but "not surprised" that she had remembered it.

On 8 August 1993 Travis resigned on-air during his Sunday morning show, stating that he could not agree with changes that were being made to Radio 1. Travis told his audience that changes were afoot that he could not tolerate - "....and I really want to put the record straight at this point and I thought you ought to know - changes are being made here which go against my principles and I just cannot agree with them..." It had been widely assumed from the time of new Controller Matthew Bannister's appointment that Travis would be one of the first victims of a cull.

On leaving Radio 1, Travis hosted a networked Sunday morning show (10am–1pm) across some of the UK's commercial radio stations. He also went to Classic Gold where he hosted the 10am–1pm morning show (later 9am–12pm), before moving to breakfast 7am–9am and then back to mornings 9am–11am.
In 2002, he left Classic Gold to work for the Army's Garrison Radio.

From March 2003 to March 2007, Travis returned to the BBC, and presented a Sunday morning show from 9am–12pm on BBC Three Counties Radio, his local BBC radio station.

In 2005 he was briefly heard on Spain's Spectrum FM, presenting a Saturday morning show, but that ended later the same year due to poor listening figures.

Since 8 July 2006, Travis has been on the Magic Network, a network of eight radio stations across the North of England on AM and DAB Digital Radio, where he hosts The DLT Show 10am–1pm on Saturdays and, since 4 February 2007, at the same time on Sundays as well with his co-host "Dangerous" Dan Black.
He is a Patron of The PACE Centre. A UK charity and school providing intensive input for children with motor disorders such as cerebral palsy.

DLT presented the German TV show Beat Club, where he introduced such acts as Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Steamhammer.

On BBC television, he presented editions of Top of the Pops in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also the presenter of The Golden Oldie Picture Show in the mid 1980s, an attempt by the BBC to create videos for classic pop songs that pre-dated the video age.

In 1993 he hosted children's television show "Go Getters".

He was also the United Kingdom commentator for the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest.

On 14 February 2000, Travis was the subject of the This Is Your Life program on British TV.

Other TV appearances include The Weakest Link, Noel's House Party, Mrs. Merton, Stars Reunited, Kick Start, Go Getters, Dave's Lee's and Travis's and Today with Des and Mel.

Hal Peary

Harold (Hal) Peary was an American actor, comedian and singer in radio, film, television and animation remembered best as Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve, a supporting character on radio's Fibber McGee & Molly that moved to its own radio hit, The Great Gildersleeve, the first known spinoff hit in American broadcasting history.

Born as José Pereira de Faria in San Leandro, California to Portuguese parents, Peary began working in local radio as early as 1923, according to his own memory, and had his own show as a singer, The Spanish Serenader, in San Francisco, but moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1937.

In Chicago his radio work came to a peak when he became a regular on Fibber McGee and Molly, where he originated the Gildersleeve character as a McGee neighbor and nemesis in 1938. ("You're a haaa-aa-aard man, McGee" was a famous catch-phrase.) The character actually went through several first names and occupations before settling on Throckmorton Philaharmonic Gildersleeve and his stewardship of a lingerie factory. He also worked on the horror series Lights Out and other radio programs, but his success and popularity as Gildersleeve set the stage for the character's own program.

Johnson's Wax, which sponsored Fibber McGee & Molly, sponsored an audition recording for The Great Gildersleeve, and the Kraft Cheese Company signed on as the show's regular sponsor. Gildersleeve was transplanted from Wistful Vista to Summerfield with more than just a locale change---now a bachelor (his character had a never-heard wife on Fibber McGee & Molly; and now the water commissioner instead of the owner of the Gildersleeve's Girlish Girdles company), with much of his pomposity and cantankerousness toned down, he was also newly-domesticated and appointed guardian of his orphan niece Marjorie and nephew Leroy. Implicitly well-off though by no means wealthy, Gildersleeve was also depicted winding up his lingerie-making company and taking up a new life as Summerfield's water commissioner. Peary's Gildersleeve proved popular enough that it was thought to try the character in his own show.

The Great Gildersleeve premiered August 31, 1941 and became a steady hit for the rest of the decade, Peary's sonorous voice and flustered catchphrases ("You're a brii-iii-iight boy, Leroy!" was a modification of his famous McGee catchphrase) among radio's most familiar sounds. Lurene Tuttle played Marjorie; Walter Tetley, a veteran of Fred Allen's Town Hall Tonight cast and other shows, played Leroy; and, Lillian Randolph played Gildersleeve's ego-puncturing maid and housekeeper, Birdie.

The show's humour, like that of McGee, was drawn through clever word-play and phrasemaking as well as Gildersleeve's earnest stumbling and basically warmhearted nature. His new nemesis was Judge Horace Hooker (Earle Ross) ("That crook of a Hooker has hooked our cook!"), who oversaw his guardianship of Marjorie and Leroy and became a friend and periodic rival in various schemes. Periodically, storylines were serialised, such as some of Gildersleeve's romantic interests (especially his aborted marriage plans with Leila Ransom) and political aspirations (he once ran for Summerfield mayor); in time, some of the clever word playing was toned down.

Peary also found occasion to weave his singing voice into show episodes, such as "Mystery Voice" [5/10/1942] in which he referenced his former Spanish Serenader radio persona in a plot involving a Brazilian singer on a local radio show (Mel Blanc guested as the station manager), concurrently referencing his Portuguese heritage. But his best-remembered vocalism would be what radio historians have called his "dirty laugh," a descending giggle that could start from sarcasm and finish in embarrassment or substitute for being at a schoolboy-like loss for words.

Other characters in and out of the Gildersleeve orbit included Richard LeGrand as Peavey the druggist (his dry, almost mumbled "Oh, now, I wouldn't say that" also became a familiar catch-phrase), Arthur Q. Bryan (making a name as sarcastic Doc Gamble on Fibber McGee & Molly) as Floyd the barber, Ken Christy as police chief Gates, Shirley Mitchell as Leila Ransom, Bea Benaderet as another Gildersleeve paramour Eve Goodwin, and occasionally Gale Gordon (Mayor LaTrivia on McGee) as Rumson Bullard, a neighbour who served Gildersleeve the way Gildersleeve had once served Fibber McGee---an equal for obnoxiousness.
Peary also featured in four Great Gildersleeve feature films during the 1940s, the only member of the main radio cast to appear in the films.

By 1950, however, Peary's run as Gildersleeve was over. With CBS in the middle of a talent raid that had already lured Jack Benny and other NBC stars, Peary was offered a CBS deal of his own, after he chafed over NBC's and Kraft's reluctance to let him use his singing voice more often on Gildersleeve and to give him more part in the show's ownership than he already had. Radio historian Gerald Nachman, in Raised on Radio, said Peary and his agents at MCA had negotiated fruitlessly to get Peary a bigger stake in the show's ownership. When CBS began luring Benny (also an MCA client) and others away from NBC, mostly by offering the performers better capital-gains terms against the still-high postwar U.S. taxes than NBC was willing to do, Peary listened and signed with the network.

The problem was that Kraft wasn't willing to make the move with him. And they had a successor ready---Willard Waterman, whose voice resembled Peary's and who had known Peary since their early Chicago days. Waterman refused to appropriate the famous Gildersleeve laugh, believing Peary alone should have title to that trademark, but otherwise slipped easily into the role. Without Peary, however, Gildersleeve struggled on a few more radio years (by its final season, listeners heard only repeat broadcasts of earlier episodes) and bombed on television.

At CBS, Peary began a new situation comedy, The Harold Peary Show, sometimes known as Honest Harold, a title that was actually the name of the fictitious radio show the new character hosted. Radio veteran Joseph Kearns (later familiar as Mr. Wilson on television's Dennis the Menace) played veterinarian Dr. Yancey, known better as Doc Yak-Yak and resembling former foil Judge Hooker. The new show also borrowed a few Gildersleeve plot devices, such as running for mayor and engagements to two women. In what was possibly a desperate attempt to recreate the Gildersleeve magic, it even brought in actress Shirley Mitchell, virtually recreating her Gildersleeve role of Leila Ransom, under the name of Florabelle Breckenridge. Additionally, Honest Harold's secretary at the radio station, Glory, bears a more than passing resemblance to Gildersleeve's Water Department secretary, Bessie: both are stereotypical giggly blondes. Despite these efforts to recreate the power and ratings of "The Great Gildersleeve", The Harold Peary Show lasted only one season of 38 episodes.

Other than the four Gildersleeve films, Peary appeared in the Walt Disney movie A Tiger Walks (1964) and the Elvis Presley entry Clambake (1965). He also worked in television situation comedies, playing Herb Woodley on the TV version of Blondie, Mayor LaTrivia in the TV version of Fibber McGee and Molly, and made guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Petticoat Junction and The Brady Bunch. In the 1970s, Peary also featured in a popular television ad for Faygo soda pop. The last lines of the ad's nostalgia-referencing song ("Remember when you were a kid? Well, part of you still is. And that's why we make Faygo") was sampled in later years by Insane Clown Posse in the song "Cotton Candy & Popsicles" on their album The Wraith: Shangri-La.

Peary spent most of the rest of his life voice-acting in animated work by Rankin-Bass and Hanna-Barbera and others, before his death of a heart attack at the age of 76.