The 40’s and 50’s seem like a time from another life. Most audiences remember that era only as
part of a history lesson. The “Golden Age of Radio” is long gone, but for anyone who has the chance to listen
to the programs that entertained an entire nation, the lessons of that time are self revealing. Jack Benny’s
life was as assessable as a close member of your own family. Fibber McGee was always living the Life of Riley,
as Our Miss Brooks readied herself for another Burns and Allen visit. The Inner Sanctum was an
inviting place for the likes of Boston Blackie, Johnny Dollar and Sam Spade. The Shadow
was always lurking for Superman or the Green Hornet as the Whistler tune is heard in the background.
Yes, this was a time when innocence seemed the norm and the world was simple and familiar. You knew the good
guys where the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy and the Cisco Kid would round up the desperadoes with
the smell of their Gunsmoke. The cops would set their Dragnet and Philo Vance, Richard Diamond
and Nero Wolfe would get their man. No Escape - Crime Does Not Pay - for the Crime Club,
the Suspense is gone. Today, we live in a Black Museum among a Dimension X generation that has
no Jack Armstrong. Philip Marlowe is passé and Ellery Queen only appeals to Dr Kildare
and the rest of the X Minus One crowd.
So what’s the point? Who cares about Fred Allen! Amos and Andy don’t do
dinner with the Aldrich Family. The Big Town no longer has Ozzie and Harriet neighborhoods. Compare
the entertainment coming from Britney Spears with spending an evening at the Phil Harris home. Let’s Pretend
that Lum and Abner are funny and that kids wear Buster Brown shoes! Who really believes that Father
Knows Best when Eminem goes the extra eight miles to reach a new high?
Society has digressed into a deviate Mysterious Traveler, no more meeting friends at Duffy’s
Tavern. Death Valley Days have come to a Mercury Theater of the absurd. So when you hear that all is
well, ask if you contribute to this pattern of rejection? What is left within this culture to conserve? Once there was a common
thread that was shared by the overwhelming majority. Radio represented one of those mediums that brought people together for
a mutually shared experience. Imagination and inventions of the mind allowed for creative and thoughtful reflections. Today,
the talking heads that dominate the boob tube are dispensing a subliminal political message through cultural distortion.
The mindless nature of today’s entertainment has a serious purpose. Not being satisfied to simply dumb
down the masses, the underlying objective of the mass media is to formulate a social despair that will place blame upon traditional
values and cause a rejection of fundamental institutions and civil conduct. Former US House Majority Leader, Dick Armey has
a new book - Armey’s Axioms: 40 Hard-Earned Truths from Politics, Faith, and Life. He has always been a champion
of a certified conventional mindset. As a political leader, he failed; but that does not diminish the correctness of many
of his conservative conclusions. Few will hear the message from his wisdom, just as listening to the broadcasts of over a
half century ago seem out of date. However, the fools who vote for political candidates based upon a celebrity mystique, deserve
the tragic cesspool they create for themselves. But what are the alternatives for those who find value and derive sustenance
from a society that operates upon decency and treasures a moral lifestyle?
There is no Dr Christian waiting in the wings to cure all the Baby Snooks. People Are
Funny only if you are apathetic. The harmless hype of a Great Gildersleeve has the burlesque of a Spike
Jones, but when it is replaced with ‘reality programming’, you’ll get a real War Of The Worlds.
Almost makes one wish for a visit from Harry Lime! Sorry; the past is the past, and the future is a Command Performance.
All the Charlie McCarthy’s are dummies, they turn their back on the Cavalcade Of America, for Christmas
At The Soaps. Have Gun Will Travel is forsaken for I Was A Communist . . . now ignored by This
Is Your FBI.
Sherlock Holmes can’t solve this crime, Roy Rogers won’t ride to the rescue
and The Saint won’t save the day. Only all the Mr and Mrs North’s can bring the pirate Henry
Morgan to justice. You Bet Your Life, that Armey’s Axioms are worth a forethought. Sgt Preston
won’t be Calling All Cars to protect and serve. Little Miss Margie won’t be mollified by Arthur
Godfrey, nor will the Halls Of Ivy sing a tune by Bing Crosby or brighten your morning with a Dennis
Day. The Stage Door Canteen will be open for many more GI journals. Think, the Crime
Photographer is taking your picture. The Witch’s Tale awaits a Famous Jury Trial. The Fourth
Estate has sold you a culture of FDR’s Fireside Chats.
Reminiscing and cherishing those old broadcasts won’t alter the bill of fare that has become - This
Is You Life. As difficult as it often is, click off the remote and free yourself from the dribble on the Sunday morning political
shows. Tune out the evening news, it’s designed to confuse. Switch off your walkman, the rap music will hip hop you
into a Line Up. Recovery starts with the admission that your leaders have betrayed you, the media has sold a fraud
culture and your neighbor is just as ill as yourself. Break The Bank, become a Gangbuster, remember Groucho
Marx: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
SARTRE - October 17, 2002