Radio stars (May 1933)

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RADIO STARS monologue, one of her typical "and so's . . ." As he said it, his voice broke. Ac- cidentally. And a giggle rippled through the first-night crowd. A minute later, Ed tried it again, forcing his voice to break . . . "So-o-o-o-o-o . . ." The audience roared. And there was born the idiotic connective that has be- come the nation's catch-word. Wynn worked like a horse that night. Mentally fagged, needing a doctor's at- tention, he tried to be funny. In a show, he wears a dozen crazy costumes. Each one he discarded that night was soaked with perspiration. But he put "The Laugh Parade" across. Within a fortnight, Ed Wynn and his bug- house comedy were the talk of the town. That was only the beginning. The Texas Company, seeking a radio program to advertise its Fire Chief gasoline, became interested in him. One night, attendants at Wynn's theatre saw a man sitting alone in a stage box with his back turned resolutely toward the stage. No one seemed to know who he was. A few nights later, he was back again with his back again turned toward Wynn and his fellow performers. After the show, he melted into the crowd and vanished. Later, he made a third visit. And disappeared as before. Wynn presently received a visit from a stranger who, in a casual discussion of radio, asked if Wynn would enter- tain the notion ot going on the air. Ed said, "No!" That was the first of a series of visits. The man returned and sug- gested an audition. Ed was not inter- ested. As a comedian, he had depended too long upon his funny hats, bell- bottom coats, and imbecile make-up to trust the cold metal of a microphone. "The Laugh Parade" was playing to crowded houses every time the doors opened. Time after time, he insisted, "I'm not interested." "But if you were interested," the man suggested, "what figure would you name for one broadcast a week ?" Wynn thought, "I'll fix this guy. I'll polish him off for good." So he said, "I'll give you thirty minutes of my time for five thousand dollars." Nobody in broadcasting got that much. It was almost double any other salary. The visitor slipped a pen and paper into Wynn's hand and pointed to a dotted line. "Sign here," he said. "Five thousand a week is agreeable to us." Before he knew it, Ed found himself a radio performer. Today, all America knows him as the Fire Chief.. Where Broadway and a few major cities had laughed with him before, he has become the whole na- tion's buffoon. He made "So-o-o-o-o-o" a part of the language. And brought a new brand of belly laughs to the air. It will be a long time before any of the Broadway wise guys say again that Ed Wynn is through. Hard to Handle (Continued from page 33) ride," he said not unkindly, "get in." I got in. "Listen," I said as we purred into traffic, "you've got an audience that wants to know more about you. What you're like off the air. What you look like. What you've done. What kind of a background you bring to lead- ing an orchestra. That's the story I want and you owe it to your friends to tell me about yourself." "Listen to my side of the picture," he answered. "I play memory music. That's why people listen to me. Be- cause I revive precious memories that they love. What has the shape of my nose or the place of my birth got to do with that?" What can you say to a guy like that ? ^yE argued for blocks. He drove like a streak and talked like lightning. Toward the edge of town, at the famous Aragon Ballroom, dancers were await- ing him. I got my story in snatches, in inadvertent admissions. You didn't know it, Wayne King, but it is easy to get a story from a man when he argues. Some of the things I learned? Well, he was born in Savannah, Illinois, and was taken to El Paso almost immedi- ately. He has been an automobile me- chanic, and a wanderer in Mexico, and a certified public accountant. And also in the insurance business. One rumor has him a hard-headed man of business who understood the public's taste for slow, dreamy music and determined to use that knowledge to line his own pockets with gold. An- other rumor has him an intellectual snob who secretely laughs at the people who call him a great orchestra leader. £}F the first, I can say I doubt it. He is too much of a sentimentalist, too much a dreamer. One Christmas, for example, he took his band to play in Pittsburgh. The thought of depriving his boys of their Christmas fun at home distressed him. To make it up to them, he ordered a private car specially dec- orated with Christmas wreaths and holly and a sturdy cedar tree. On the way home after the engagement, he donned a set of white whiskers and a wig and played a benevolent Santa Claus. Of the second rumor, I say it is a lie. Whatever he is, Wayne King is no snob. His personal philosophy and creed are too mellow and rich to permit such pettiness. A crowded life may make him abrupt with people. 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