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The Older-And-No-Wiser Matter

Old Phone

He picked up the receiver on the first ring of the phone. “Johnny Dollar.”

“Johnny? Pat McCracken, Universal Adjustment Bureau…”

“Pat, if this is about an assignment…I’m going to have to take a rain check. I’m planning to get some fishing in; I hear the bass are running like dishonest Congressmen…”

“No assignment, my friend—I just wanted to wish you ‘happy anniversary’!”

Dollar was puzzled. “How’s that again?”

19881“Come on, Johnny…surely you haven’t forgotten that sixty-seven years ago on this date, CBS Radio premiered a radio series based on your exploits…they even named it after you: Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar!”

There was a pause, and Johnny continued. “I suppose I didn’t really forget, Pat…I’m just amazed that you remember.”

“Your show and the series Suspense were there to close out the era known as ‘Radio’s Golden Age’ on September 30, 1962, chum. That’s not something easily erased from one’s memory.”

“True, true…but you have to admit, the program had a rather inauspicious beginning—I’m amazed that it lasted as long as it did. They couldn’t even keep Dick Powell interested in the premise—he decided to go into the private eye business instead.”

McCracken chuckled. “I recall the early broadcasts with Charles Russell playing you…how he had that corny affectation of tipping the service staff silver dollars…”

“Yeah, that went by the wayside rather quickly. As you could imagine, it started to run into a bit of money and I wasn’t able to camouflage it in the expense accounts after that.”

edmondobrien-233x300“You remember Edmond O’Brien, right?” asked Pat.

“The actor?”

“Yeah! He took over the role from Russell in January of 1950. Always thought that was appropriate, seeing as how he played an insurance investigator in that 1946 film, The Killers.”

“O’Brien built up quite a resume in those movies they now call film noir,” mentioned Johnny. “If my memory hasn’t failed me, I think the next actor in the role was John Lund.”

“Correct. Lund played you from November of 1952 to August of 1954. Interestingly, it was during the Lund years that Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar saw its bills paid by an actual sponsor, Wrigley’s Gum.”

Dollar grimaced. “That’s something I’ll never forget. I couldn’t get rid of that gum fast enough.”

McCracken continued. “A lot of people were convinced at that time that when Wrigley’s bowed out, that would be the end of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. But CBS wasn’t ready to close the lid on the coffin just yet. They experimented with actor Gerald Mohr and a quarter-hour audition in August of 1955…”

“Gerald Mohr…the guy who played Philip Marlowe on the radio, right?”

“Right. They wound up not using him, but the network liked the concept of a five-day-a-week quarter hour series in serialized form. They turned this over to producer-director Jack Johnstone, who, with the help of writers like Les Crutchfield and Robert Ryf, refashioned the series to concentrate on longer, meatier stories and well-developed supporting characters. And you’ll never guessed who they recast as…”

bob-bailey“Don’t say it,” wailed Johnny in a chagrined tone. “Bob Bailey. I wish I had a silver dollar for every time I’ve been mistaken for that guy. Sometimes I wish he had continued to just ‘Let George Do It.’”

“You may not like it, Johnny…but you have to face facts. Not only was Bailey the most popular of the radio Dollars, he had the gig the longest. Oh, sure—he handed off the part to Robert Readick when the series moved to the East Coast in November of 1960…but for many Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar fans, Bailey was the best and brightest.”

“Wasn’t there some other actor who played me after Readick? Kramer something…”

“Mandel Kramer,” corrected Pat. “He took over in mid-June of 1961…and at the risk of being facetious, kept filling out expense reports until the show took its final bow at the curtain. It was one heck of a run, Johnny.”

“Look, Pat,” Johnny said, the words stuck in his throat, “I’m touched by your well-wishes and your amazing capacity to recollect all this trivia. But all that was over fifty years ago and I reiterate…nobody even remembers it anymore.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, pal…I have two words for you: Radio Spirits.”

Johnny couldn’t suppress his snicker. “You got a poltergeist in your Bakelite, Pat?”

“I’m talking about the leading publisher and marketer of what’s known as ‘old-time’ radio programs, you joker. Radio Spirits’ mission is to preserve and popularize radio entertainment from every era for generations old and new. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar ranks among the most popular and best-selling series in their inventory of tens of thousands of broadcasts!”

“Seriously, Pat, pull the other leg…it’s got bells on it.”

21018“This isn’t a rib, Johnny. Fans of your series can sample it on such collections as The Many Voices of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, which allows them to listen to all of the actors who played you during the series’ fourteen years on the air. You can do something similar with Mysterious Matters, except those sets don’t feature Dick Powell or Gerald Mohr.”

“Keep ‘em coming, Pat…I’m writing all of these down.”

“In addition, there’s Confidential, Expense Account Submitted, Murder Matters, Phantom Chases, and Wayward Matters. And of course, the appropriately-named Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.”

“Pat, I’m…overwhelmed…I had no idea people still enjoy listening to that show.”

“It’s not for nothing that they call you ‘the man with the action-packed expense account,’ my friend. But hey…I’ll let you continue with those fishing trip plans. And Johnny?”

“Yes, Pat?”

“You have no idea how relieved I am not to hear the words ‘expense account total.’ This may very well be the first phone conversation I’ve had with you that didn’t cost me money!”

Johnny was laughing so hard he was barely able to get out a leave-taking “Yours truly…Johnny Dollar.”

3 Comments

  1. Jeff from Jersey; yes New Jersey says:

    Bravo, Mr. S, Bravo! Hope this is the first of many “conversations” with the stars of vintage radio.

  2. Scott Cowden says:

    LOVE this narration of the series!!! Yes! Please do more like this!!

  3. Dan DeNeui says:

    Great, entertaining work. Keep it up 🙂

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