Radio stars (June 1933)

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RADIO STARS "Come-Back The other announcers on the station at this time were Milton Cross, now with the NBC, Louis Reid, now WOR's program director, and Thomas Cowan, now with New York's municipal sta- tion, WNYC These men together with Broke, are still known as "radio's orig- inal Four Horsemen". It was Broke who handled the first commercial programs that ever went on the air, and it was he who gave the name "Revelers" its start, for he in- stituted the Landay Revelers, the Read- ing Railroad Revelers, and even named the Revelers Quartet that you hear to- day. He also started the NBC Child- ren's Hour that Milton Cross now con- ducts over a national network every Sunday morning. His handling of the programs just mentioned rapidly led the owners of the station to consider him their star an- nouncer. He won the assignment to broadcast the first remote news event, the arrival of Major-General Fitz- patrick with six Round-the-World Fliers at Mitchell Field in 1924. Then he was given the great race between Zev and Epinard, France's wonder- horse, at Belmont Park. Next the first Presidential inauguration, that of the late Calvin Coolidge, in 1925. Broke tells a funny story about this assignment. "In those days," he says, "WJZ and WEAF were deadly rivals, like a couple of small town newspapers. Graham McNamee was to handle the mike for WEAF, and I was to do the job for WJZ. Each station wanted to get on the air with its program first, so I went down to Washington two days ahead, studied up on interesting data, and wired back we could take the air at noon on March 4. "Somehow or other, WEAF got wind of it, and planned to beat us by starting their broadcast at 11:30. We switched to eleven. They found it out. We finally ended up by going on the air at ten o'clock in the morning. I had to talk for two hours and a quarter be- fore I had anything to talk about." I T was this ability of his to ad lib that brought him to the peak of success. When he started with WJZ, announce- ments were written by the station man- ager. Broke refused to follow them— and made plenty of mistakes. But whenever he'd slip, he'd have a good laugh at himself. His listeners laughed at him, too—and loved it. Brokenshire became more and more popular. As the only unmarried an- nouncer at the station, he volunteered to do the nightclub broadcasts so that his co-workers could be home with their families. Though this work kept him up till three and four o'clock in the morning (and he had to be back in the studio at 9:00 A. M. to announce the late Mrs. Julian Heath), he loved it. His tall (Continued from page 21) figure and jovial manner won him a host of friends. Whenever he walked into a late-at-night spot, there were friends always waiting, always saying, "Have one on me, old man." Presently, station officials noticed an odd pallor replacing the flush of health on his face. They saw drawn lines about his face. Night life was doing it. To save him, they sent him to WRC in Washington. Broke went, relieved at first to get back to normal living, and then became lonely for his old haunts and pals. When WJZ, which had been a 750 watt station jumped its power to 30,000, he demanded his old job. And got it. They made him head announcer at $65.00 a week. That was big money for an announcer in those days. He clicked from the start on this new job. Offers came from vaudeville cir- cuits, night clubs, and lecture bureaus. Some guaranteed $1,000 a night. His contract with WJZ prevented him from accepting. It burned him up. The climax came when he was refused per- mission to act as master of ceremonies for the World Beauty Congress at At- lantic City. Finally, he was permitted to go—but only on the understanding that neither he nor the station would receive any remuneration. This rankled in Broke's mind. He was getting less than $100 a week for his announcing, mind you. These other activities which offered fabulous wealth were barred by a simple, silly contract. It soured his mind. He tried to forget, and turned for consolation to that ruth- less wrecker of men, the Grand Can- yon of New York called Broadway. IT takes a man who can say "no!" to survive Broadway. Broke hadn't learned how yet. So Broadway ruined him. It was then that word went around to the broadcast stations, "Don't book Brokenshire . . . he's un- reliable." So he slipped out of radio. And out of the bright night spots that had been his favorite hideaways. When his name was mentioned his ex-friends cried, "A nice guy, yeah—but he's through." Just one pal stuck. Her name was Eunice Schmidt. She had been his secretary in those early days at WJZ. Often, they had gone to Central Park together and sat on the grass like kids, while he dictated letters. She stuck be- cause she knew he needed someone to help him steer clear of the pits that lay ahead. Besides, she loved him. One day a wire from Atlantic City reached her. Somehow, she knew it was from Broke. With nervous fin- gers, she broke the seal and read this: AM GOING TO MAKE COMEBACK. WILL YOU MARRY ME The answer had been in her heart since she first heard that Norman Brokenshire was on the skids. She hur- ried to Atlantic City and they were married. This new responsibility—that of be- ing a married man—was apparently just what he needed. Now that he had a wife waiting at home, he stopped go- ing to the late spots. He refused to "have one more" with the boys. He had a job . . . that of regaining the place he had lost. Don't think it was easy. It wasn't! Here is one instance. He got a job as Radio Director of an amusement company. The job lasted three months, at the end of which time the firm evaporated, owing him more than two thousand dollars in salaries and commissions. So he drifted into making special experimental talkies. It was during this period that, while making a series of travelogue shorts, he discovered his voice to be ideally suited to re- cording. That opened up a new field for him— a good field, but not the one he really wanted. It was making electrical trans- criptions for use over stations that put on recorded programs. He worked for a number of different sponsors, and they found that he was a "selling an- nouncer"—that the magic of his voice brought people to the stores where their products were sold. Some of these sponsors asked their advertising agencies, "How about let- ting Brokenshire do our regular pro- grams over the air?" The invariable response was, "Brokenshire? He wouldn't do. Too unreliable." But this was no longer true of the new Brokenshire. The new Broke was as reliable as a Naval observatory time signal. It was up to him to prove it, though. He persevered. If the stations wouldn't listen to him, he went to the advertising agencies—and when the agencies turned him away, he went di- rect to the sponsors. Finally one de- cided to give him a chance. It wasn't such an important program—only fif- teen minutes, one night a week—but it was a start. He would have turned down such a job two years earlier, but now he took it eagerly. It was a step- ping stone. That program brought his familiar "How do you do, ladies and gentlemen, how do you do" to the ears of the Chesterfield cigarette program makers. They wanted an urbane announcer. They gave Broke an audition, and hired him. There must have been gaiety and merry-making in the Brokenshire home that night. For him, it has meant the "big time" again. For Eunice, it was proof of her faith. "They never come back," people say. Well, Norman Brokenshire of the Chesterfield programs and Eunice Schmidt, his wife, know better. DON'T FORGET—RADIO STARS COMES OUT EVERY MONTH! WATCH FOR IT! r ft Primed in the IT. S. A. hy Art Color TrintinK Company. Dunrllen. N. J.