Happy Birthday, Johnny Madero, Pier 23

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 24, 2013 05:30pm | Post a Comment
On this date (23 April) back in 1947, the radio drama Johnny Madero, Pier 23 made its debut. It
 was the second detective drama that resulted from the collaboration of Jack Webb and Richard L. Breen

St. Regis Hotel in 1904

Jack Webb was born 2 April, 1920, in
Santa Monica, California, the son of Margaret (née Smith) and Samuel Chester Webb. Samuel split before Jack’s birth and and thus the child was rasied by his mother and maternal grandfather, who lived together in Bunker Hills St. Regis Apartments.

As a child Webb attended school nearby in Filipinotown at Our Lady of Loretto Elementary School. He attended high school at Belmont High, in Westlake. He later studied art at St. John's University, Minnesota. During World War II Webb enlisted in the Army Air Forces. After receiving a hardship discharge, he moved to San Francisco where hefound work as a radio DJ. In February, 1946 at ABC’s local affiliate, KGO, Webb first hosted half-hour comedy, The Jack Webb Show, written by Jim Moser. In March writing changed hands to Richard L. Breen.

Richard "Dick" Breen was born in Chicago. After returning from World War II, during which he served in the Navy, he moved to San Francisco and became roommates with Webb. In August, Webb and Breen debuted their hard-boiled detective creation, Pat Novak… for Hire. Pat Novak… for Hire is one of the great hard boiled radio noirs, most immediately notable for Breen’s over-the-top Chandler-esque writing. The two left the program in over creative differences with KGO’s management. The show continued, less memorably, with Ben Morris in the lead role and Gil Doud -- formerly of The Adventures of Sam Spade -- taking over the writing. 

1947 - The San Francisco of Johnny Madero... and Pat Novak

Relocating to Hollywood, Webb and Breen pursued work with the latter scoring the first big success, penning the screenplay for A Foreign Affair. Webb’s first major gig was in January 1947 as an ensemble performer on Murder and Mr. Malone, starring a pre-Nightbeat Frank Lovejoy. A few months later Webb would again host his own show.

Johnny Madero, Pier 23 debuted in April at MBS, with Breen acting as a writing consultant. JohnnyMadero, like Pat Novak, was a San Francisco boat-renting detective for hire. Where Novak often turned to Jocko Madigan, an alcoholic ex-physician, Madero often consulted a similar character named Dipso. The antagonists of both programs were sadistic SFPD inspectors (Johnny Madero’s was played by the wonderful William Conrad, five years before he starred on Gunsmoke). Novak lived at Pier 19 and Madero at Pier 23. ABC were not happy with the two programs’ perceived similarities and subsequently sued their rival network.

MBS replaced Dipso with Father Leahy, changed the opening theme music, and satisfied, ABC dropped their suit. 26 episodes were ordered of the series and it was a hit -- almost immediately there was discussion of a Johnny Madero film. The series was also controversial. Complaints were made about the violent content and MBS abruptly cancelled the series after airing the twentieth, on 3 September, 1947. No Madero film materialized.

Webb next starred on a similar series, CBS’s Jeff Regan, Investigator. In 1949 he returned to Pat Novak… for Hire where he resumed role of the title character. After completing one season of Novak, he debuted the character with which we would forever after be associated, Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet

Breen and Webb again collaborated in 1951, on Pete Kelly’s Blues, about a jazz musician (Webb was a huge jazz aficionado) in Kansas City, Missouri. The snappy dialogue showed that Breen still had it but Dragnet remained Webb's main vehicle. They again collaborated on Appointment With Danger (1951), a film version of Pete Kelly's Blues (1955, dir. Webb), 24 Hour Alert, and both runs of the Dragnet TV series.

Johnny Madero, Pier 23 -- "Episode No. 9"

Today only two episodes of Johnny Madero, Pier 23 are known to survive. "Episode No. 9" features the great John Garfield. The other episode is "Episode No. 10." 

Credit to the folks at Digital Deli Too for their research, accuracy, and several of the images.


(In which it's all about Eve.)

Posted by Job O Brother, March 11, 2013 04:04pm | Post a Comment

All the cool kids are doing it.

Proving once and for all that I have my finger on the pulse of what youth today really want, I’m continuing my list of favorites from the so-called Golden Age of Radio. You older, out-of-touch squares can stop reading now and go listen to punk rock or trip-hop or whatever it is seniors are into these days.

Now that the fogeys are out of the (metaphorical) room, read and listen on...

Let’s consider a comedy, namely, Our Miss Brooks.

Premiering in 1948, Our Miss Brooks was an immediate success, garnering awards and a loyal fan base for its lead actress, Eve Arden.

People don’t speak of Eve Arden as much as her talent warrants. She had fantastic comic timing, capable of evoking laugh-out-loud moments with a single, monosyllabic word.

Our Miss Brooks has flimsy, unimaginative plot-lines, and you’ll never listen to it because you “can’t wait to find out what happens next.” The show is great because the cast is great, and Eve Arden delivers punch-lines with such wry deftness, it’s as if Touchstone from As You Like It has been reincarnated as a public high school teacher.


Our Miss Brooks was such a success that it was turned into a TV show, starring most of the original cast. I myself have never seen it, not because I don’t want to, but because I promised my grandfather on his deathbed that I would never watch any televised sitcoms that featured a character with the first name “Osgood.”

Continue reading...

(In which we mine for some gold.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 11, 2013 02:04pm | Post a Comment

Don't try this at (my) home.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in days; what sleep I have gotten is mostly thanks to the fine folks who make Motrin PM. (In the interest of full disclosure you should know that while McNeil Consumer Healthcare – makers of the aforementioned drug – are not a sponsor of the Amoeblog, they do give us free donuts on Mondays and occasionally wash our cars for an extra buck or two.)

While my Mom was kind enough to pass down to me a knack for cooking and robust health, I also inherited her tenuous sleeping habits. We deal with it similarly, too: we listen to the radio to keep our minds from, as she puts it:

“Going, going, going… just making plans and playing with ideas.”

Or, as I put it:

“Obliterating my peace of mind with the chaos and fury of post-traumatic stress fantasies catalyzed by a cruel and crippling world.”

It’s semantics, really.

Mom likes to treat this with AM radio, a favorite program being Coast to Coast. While this particular broadcast seems to promote a nightmarish reality of government conspiracy, alien invasion, body snatching and morally questionable fringe-sciences, she finds it delightful. That she does speaks to her unwavering trust in our fellow man and her willingness to believe everyone deserves to prove their innate goodness – even if, I suppose, it’s lizard-men from another planet who are covertly running our government.

Our forces in Yemen?

Continue reading...

A happy birthday, of sorts, to radio

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 20, 2012 08:56pm | Post a Comment

As regular readers of my blog (if there is such a thing) probably know, I’m a bit of a radio junkie – spending many hours every day listening to Old Time Radio dramas, public radio, AM radio and podcasts. Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 20 August is a pretty big deal to me because it was on this day, back in 1920, that the first radio station began regular broadcasting. Back then, 8MK (now WWJ) began operation in Detroit, Michigan and in doing so it became (by my definition) the first real radio station -- regularly and ultimately continuously broadcasting news, religious and sports programing.


The idea of using radio waves to transmit information was first proposed by Serbian-American inventor and geek god, Nikola Tesla, in 1892. He applied for the first radio patents in 1897. Tesla’s main rival, Thomas Edison, backed Guglielmo Marconi, who in 1901 conducted the first successful transatlantic experimental radio communications. As a result, Tesla’s patent was reversed, thus depriving him of royalty payments. On Christmas Eve of 1906, Reginald Fessenden reportedly (accessible documentation is questionable) broadcast the first radio program, consisting of some violin playing and passages from the Bible and thus invented AM radio. Shortly after, in 1907, Marconi went on to establish the first transatlantic radio service between Clifden, Ireland and Glace Bay, Canada.


By 1920, radio had been used for many occasional broadcasts, communications and by ham operators for more than a decade before a teenaged radio aficionado and pioneer, Michael DeLisle Lyons, founded the first permanent radio station with radio broadcasts. He was assigned the call sign 8MK by the United States Department of Commerce Bureau of Navigation and began broadcasting from the Detroit News building. Later the same year, Michael, his brother Frank, and Ed Clark created the first police radio.


Continue reading...

Los Angeles's AM radio -- a welcome alternative to FM's Radio Ga Ga

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 9, 2012 05:46pm | Post a Comment

Frank Sant'Agata's Remember When We Listened to the Radio

If you're at all like me, when you're in the mood to listen to music, radio is one of the least likely places you turn. There was a time (1983 till around 2000) when the radio was the primary source of my exposure to new music. When I moved to LA in 1999, I flipped around the FM dial stopping whenever I heard something I liked. Before the introduction of Shazam, I had to rely on memorizing snippets of lyrics and then looking them up since it seemed like DJs rarely announced what they were playing. That’s how I discovered B.G.Los DandysDuncan Dhu, Enanitos Verdes, Los Freddys, Juvenile, Lil' Wayne, Mikel Erentxun, Mystikal, Los Prisioneros (among others).

Dating a Vietnamese New Waver, Napster, and Pandora all provided new avenues of exposure and I pretty much gave up on FM radio except for usually music-less public radio. When I've been subjected to FM radio in the past few years, the playlists seem to have somehow been whittled down to approximately four incredibly overplayed "classics" that serve as bumpers between hour-long blocks of commercials -- or pop music meant to make 12-year-old girls feel like 16-year-old princesses (and anyone else nauseated).

On the other hand, listening to LA’s AM radio is like taking a trip around the world -- or something approaching it for people too poor to actually travel anywhere except locally -- and by public transportation. And as one of those in the latter column, I often listen to it ready to Shazam it, post a screen capture from my phone online and ask foreign language majors to hip me to the artist and song in question.


For decades, AM was where most people turned for old time radio programs and music whilst FM was primarily devoted to classical music. AM was home to taste-making rock 'n' roll personalities like Alan Freed, Paul ShermanPeter Tripp, Cousin Brucie, Murray the K, Dr. Jive, Wolfman Jack and Jock, the Ace from Outer Space. FM was comparatively anonymous.

In the 1960s, FM became known as for album oriented rock – whereas AM was dominated by Top 40. In 1978, almost four decades after its introduction, listenership of FM surpassed that of AM. Over the following years, the Top 40 format moved to where the listeners were and AM became primarily associated with right wing talk radio, sports, religious programming and other niche stations. In LA it’s also home to many ethnic minority-owned stations.


I think my first exposure of LA AM radio was being introduced to the Old Time Radio drama, The Whistler, re-runs of which used to be broadcast on an 1070 KNX. They no longer play any OTR. The next two AM stations I spent considerable time listening to were 670 KIRN and 930 KHJ.

فارسی رادیو


The US is home to the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran and the largest concentration are in Los AngelesKIRN -- Radio Iran began broadcasting in 1999 and, from its HQ in Hollywood's Cahuenga Pass, plays Persian music and news. I don’t understand Farsi but I love a lot of the music and the spoken Farsi is also appealing to my ears. When I had a car, listening to Radio Iran whilst driving through heavily Iranian neighborhoods like Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Encino, Tarzana, Tehrangeles, and/or Woodland Hills added an exciting cinematic element to the commute.


LA County’s largest ethnic group is Mexican-American, who make up 36% of the population. This being the case, it’s not surprising that numerous LA radio stations play a wide variety of Spanish-language genres. However, Burbanks 930 KHJLa Ranchera, is LA’s only Ranchera station. There are many LA stations that play related genres like Norteño and Banda and Inglewood’s 98.3/103.9 Recuerdo plays Ranchera, Bolero and Spanish-language oldies but La Ranchera, as the name implies, is the home of Ranchera in LA.



LA is home to the largest Korean population outside of Korea and Korean-speaking Korean-Americans and Hallyu fans are served by three area Korean language stations: Pasadena’s 1230 KYPA – Radio JBC (Joongang Broadcast Company), Koreatown’s 1540 KMPC – Radio Korea, and Hancock Park’s 1650 KFOX – Radio Seoul. Korean is, to me, another particularly mellifluous language and whether it’s music or talk, it makes a nice soundtrack when one is in Koreatown, Little Seoul, Buena Park, Hancock Park, Park Mile, Wilshire Park or other largely Korean-American communities. 1190 KGBN is currently Korean Gospel Broadcasting Network, and broadcasts religious programming. From 2001 - 2011 it operated as KXMX, which was an amazing multicultural station that broadcast programing in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese



Los Angles has a very large Chinese and Taiwanese-American population. LA County’s Monterey Park is famous for being the first city in the US with a Chinese-American (at the time, mostly Taiwanese-American) population. Chinese and Taiwanese make up the largest group of Asian-Americans in Los Angeles (followed closely by Filipinos). Nonetheless, there’s only one exclusively Mandarin station, Pasadena’s 1300 KAZN. Recommended listening for time spent in LA’s Far East Side -- Alhambra, Arcadia (aka Arcasia), Diamond Bar, Monterey Park, East San Gabriel (aka East Chan Gabriel), Hacienda Heights, Rosemead, Rowland Heights (aka Little Taipei), San Gabriel (aka Chan Gabriel), San Marino (aka Chan Marino), Temple City, and Walnut.



Pasadena’s 1430 KMRB serves LA's Cantonese-speaking population -- a population with roots in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Macau. It provides a nice backdrop to time spent in Chinatown.

Đài phát thanh tiếng Việt


Nearly half of overseas Vietnamese live in the US – especially in Houston, New Orleans, San Jose, and Orange County’s Little Saigon – the oldest, largest and most prominent Vietnamese-American community. Little Saigon’s 1480 KVNR -- Little Saigon Radio broadcasts Vietnamese programing. I sometimes listen with the hope of improving my extremely limited Vietnamese through exposure or osmosis.

So next time you flip your radio all the way four times over without hearing anything but commercials and bemoan the sorry state of FM radio, remember AM radio and be amazed.


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