Radio stars (Dec 1938)

Record Details:

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T+IE T+mONE AT Royal skims through a newspaper in nothing flat. He can read six of them in the time the average person takes for one, pulling out the stories that really mean something and retaining the salient points. And you can call him up in the middle of the night with an important problem to be decided and get an immediate answer: "Yes—we'll do it," or "No—it won't work that way because . . . we'll do thus-and-so." In a business where seconds of time are of paramount importance, this ability to reach a split- second decision is invaluable. Particularly since his decisions are almost always right. There's nothing of the super-dignified stuffed shirt about Royal, but an aura of importance surrounds him, nevertheless. Not knowing him, one is aware of him the moment he enters a room, feels the force of the man's dynamic personality. A backwash of pure energy seems to follow him as he breezes from interview to conference. As Vice President in Charge of Programs, John Royal works fourteen hours, and is responsible for seventy-odd programs, a day, not to men- tion endless conferences. Bandleader Victor Young is with him here. Things are always happening around Royal and there's a tradition in Radio City that by some mysterious means Royal is always listening in when anything goes wrong over the air. His job and the way he does it are exciting, and he loves excitement. He's been known to follow parades for blocks and he likes fireworks. Probably because, like a contemporary known as George M. Cohan, Royal was born on the Fourth of July. The time was 1886 and the place East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ever since he's been old enough, Royal has managed to set off a fire- cracker on his birthday, wherever he might be. One year when in Italy, Max Jordan, NBC's European repre- sentative, had to arrange the matter with the Italian officials, but that evening John Royal set off a loud salute to celebrate his own and his country's birthday. While still a boy, Royal's father died of tuberculosis. For years it was a bugaboo of his that he might also be susceptible to the disease. Whistling, he heard, built strong lungs, so young John, for hours on end, made the air horrible with his piercing whistle. From the same motivation he took up athletics and tells how he used to tie strings around his chest, breaking them Sandow-fashion by expanding. His love of sports carries up to the present; he's been known to hop in a plane and fly five hundred miles to watch a game of football or baseball he particularly wants to see. He played football and baseball at school, but now his per- sonal athletics are confined to handball—a very strenu- ous game as Royal plays it—and an occasional golf match. He's not much of a golfer, but he tears around the course at a terrific rate, is too impatient to search for balls in the rough, preferring to drop a new one. His victories are as much a matter of wearing out his opponent by the sheer speed of his pace as outplaying him. Hardly a single major sporting event has passed without Royal's presence, how- ever. He saw Dempsey batter Willard, Carpentier and Firpo, and Tunney beat Dempsey. Before that, Royal watched one of the greatest fights in history when Sam Langford met Jack Johnson. He took his son to Cleveland to see Bob Feller pitch against the Yankees, and, in line with his love both for aviation and big events, he came to Boston from Cleveland to witness the arrival of Lieutenant Smith on his round-the-world flight. During his school days Royal decided that perhaps he should be a merchant. He opened a little candy store opposite the school. Every few minutes he'd stop to count over his takings and incidentally to sample his stock. The venture was not a success because he ate himself out of business, the beginning and end of Royal's commercial career. His first job was as night office boy on the Boston Post. The paper being willing to buy free-lance stories on "space rates" of something like fifteen cents per printed inch, Royal decided he had the scoop of the century when he tracked down a story in his locality of a petty thief who had been caught stealing lead pipe from washrooms. Elated, Johnny wrote 406 pages of copy and turned them in to the night city editor; was crushed when they landed in the waste basket. Later, he was promoted to day office boy. This job was fairly profitable, since he purchased editions of other papers for all the editors and the profit between the price he received and the wholesale price he paid made his earnings more than that of many reporters. Nevertheless, when he was finally made a cub reporter, at the age of eighteen, he went at his job with charac- teristic vigor. It was before the days of elaborate news services, and papers did their own district coverage. By a lucky break, the snubbed cub saw a man robbed and thrown off a bridge. The night editor rewrote the story and gave it an eight-column head. The next dav Royal basked in the glory of (Continued on page 68)