THE SHADOW KNOWS!
One of the highlights of my year was being invited to direct a radio recreation at the 40th Anniversary Convention of SPERDVAC (the Society to Preserve and Encourage Radio Drama, Variety, And Comedy. It was held November 14-16 at the Holiday Inn Media Center in Burbank.
This year I chose a show that is very special to me. When I remember discovering the world of Old Time Radio, I automatically think of this series and this particular episode. The 1939 broadcast of “The Shadow” titled “Death Stalks the Shadow.” It’s the tale of a once-good kid named Dan Malley who gets into a life of crime thanks to the supposedly upstanding good citizen Peter Murdock. Malley goes to the electric chair (great over-the-top scene) after telling everything to the invisible crime fighter The Shadow. The Shadow promises to investigate Malley’s claims and, of course, finds Murdock a formidable foe.
My mother always told me about going on Sunday drives with her father and listening to “The Shadow” battling evil-doers from the glow of the car radio. I ordered a record album from a catalogue and the very first episode I listened to was “Death Stalks the Shadow.” I was hooked! I also recall taking my portable record player to the backyard one summer night, powered by a couple of extension cords, and playing the record for my father. I distinctly remember staring at the stars while The Shadow fell into Murdock’s clever trap: a room sealed by an electrified door. Then, when the Shadow proved too clever by not automatically trying to open the door, the foul villain poured poison gas into the chamber! How could the Shadow escape? Well, he does, of course. The Shadow even spares Murdock so that the police can arrest him. He wanted Murdock to face the same fate as “young Dan Malley.”
Leading a wonderful cast was the incredible character actor Richard Herd as the Shadow. I also had old time radio veterans Gloria McMillan, Tommy Cook, John Wilder, and Stuffy Singer in the show. Chris and Randy McMillan came down from Seattle to perform the famous organ music live. Jerry Williams led the sound effects team. I also invited Bobb Lynes and Barbara Watkins to return to the SPERDVAC stage as part of my cast. When I first discovered these conventions, Bobb and Barbara were key figures in its productions on stage and off. I subsequently appeared on their live radio show on KPFK-FM in Los Angeles. It was fun to all get together again! Later that day I got to perform as an actor opposite Chuck McCann! So much fun!
The remainder of the three-day event was for me to hang out and watch panels and other recreations. Here are some of the guests: Van Alexander (music arranger “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”), Frank Bresee “Golden Days of Radio” from 1967-1995, Ivy Bethune “Superman”, Leonard Maltin “The Great American Broadcast”, Los Angeles radio personality “Shotgun Tom” Kelley, Chuck McCann, Bob Mills (Bob Hope writer), Ray Charles (The Ray Charles Singers –Perry Como, also Three’s Company theme male singer), Gloria McMillan “Our Miss Brooks,” Lee Meriwether, Joan Del Mar “Jack Benny,” Tommy Cook, Ivan Cury “Let’s Pretend”, Terry Moore, Herb Ellis “Dragnet”, Peggy Webber “Dragnet,” Stuffy Singer (he voiced a Lost Boy in the Disney film “Peter Pan”), Beverly Washburn, Richard Herd, Gladys Holland “The Great Gildersleeve,” Marvin Kaplan “Meet Millie,” Jimmy Weldon, and John Wilder “The Great Gildersleeve,” and “The Abbott & Costello Kids Show” as the youngest emcee in radio, plus he also voiced a Lost Boy is “Peter Pan” (as adult John produced 26-hour NBC miniseries “Centennial”). The legendary Stan Freberg was also there along with his wife Hunter.
For an Old Time Radio junkie like me, this was just about a perfect weekend!
I’m just saying…