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This story was published in Radio Recall, the journal of the Metropolitan Washington Old-Time Radio Club, published six times per year.

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"And Then There Was The Time ..."
Dropping Names: 60 Plus Years of Broadcasting Memories
by Bill Owen

St. Johann Press, 2013.
ilius., index. 121 pgs,
ISBN 978-1-937943-11-0
$18.95, paperback.
St. Johann Press, PO Box 241
Haworth NJ 07641
Book Review by Mark Anderson
(From Radio Recall, October 2013)

With this new book Bill Owen revisits the lighter side of the broadcasting industry and his place in it. Owen had a fine and lengthy career. In recent years he has written books of trivia; and he is the co-author of the widely-acclaimed research tool, the reference book The Big Broadcast 1920-1950: Radio's Golden Age, Scarecrow Press, 1997; Viking Press, 1966, 1972.

Owen clearly had a good time putting this book together. At one point he calls it his "stream-of- consciousness." He also calls it a "remembrance." There is both gain and loss in this approach. The best of it occurs when he turns a name into an anecdote. Insight into the industry is what Owen can offer. And when he does, it is spot-on. His writing style is clumsy and run-on; but even bad syntax can evoke admiration. Other passages happen in which names come tumbling out and the clumsy style is magnified. Wading through these paragraphs, I felt perplexed.

Many sections lead us through good, lifechanging stuff. Owen recounts his upbringing in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he worked in radio and played baseball. A couple of names emerge. Peggy Lee, as a teen-ager, had a gig as a singer in a hotel coffee shop in Fargo. Well, Bill's father frequented the place, and told him about the experience. And, Owen's ball club was pretty good, but their championship bids were repeatedly thwarted by a crack team from Fargo, headed up by a strapping young hitter named Roger Maris.

Owen's military service engendered his ambition to pursue aviation; and he also learned broadcasting. Pursuing the latter, his work ethic gained him recognition for his voice and his aplomb as a host. His reliability for daily studio tasks earned him stints as an on-air reader and as substitute for the great ones in the business, Howard Cosell included. Thrilling it is. then, when Owen busts out with a story about his sprint across mid-town Manhattan sidewalks. He had wrapped up a radio show in one building and was scheduled for a TV stint at a studio significant blocks distant. He made it, with barely time to straighten his tie.

"Management is terribly unfair" is a rousing refrain from The Pajama Game. In that vein Owen writes about the managers at ABC-NewYork deciding to modernize by installing new all-the-rage digital clocks. Hey wait a minute, was the cry! Announcers need the sweep secondhand, don'cha know??!! Station identification; feeds coming in and going out; buttons to push; all precision stuff, right? Owen remembers ABC spending ten grand for the new clocks, then ten again to put the old clocks back.

Even in the midst of a disorgamzed text, Owen can still come out with a free-wheeling story. The importance of auditions has stuck with him an these years. Once during his years at ABC-New York he got off his overnight shift at 6 AM, and showed up groggy for an early morning audition to read a commercial. He was chosen from a roomful of illustrious folks and he names many of them. Verne Smith (Kay Kyser's "Dean"), and Bud Collyer, will suffice.

Owen gives his light touch to the lore at quirky interviews. This one is a precursor to today's reality shows and their feigned spontaneity. For ABC's Discovery Owen interviewed a potato farmer who was pretty flustered. After several takes of flubbed lines and re-set cameras, the farmer held up his pitchfork to Owen and asked. "What do you call this thing, again?" .

Without warning, the book fares poorly in parts, and Owen's bad writing appears in dogged fashion. Sentences fizzle into a fog of distance and there is not a glimmer of substance. How many names are enough, especially in one sentence? Fully a dozen political figures march through one tortuous sentence, with commas galore and not a whit of context, except that we are to infer that Owen was there. It's a true "Where's Waldo?" moment; and, well, I recall some of the streets.

We might know that trouble is afoot when Owen calls one chapter "Celebrities Galore." What else is new? It is scattershot and doesn't organize things at all. The chapter "Guarding the King 's English" should have sooner been edited out entirely. Owen cites examples of bad usage, but he ends up sounding simply peevish. It's a departure; Owen does not do peevish well. We all have learned to roll with the punches regarding the modern (and youthful) liberties and innovations being taken with the language. We best just let it ride.

I turned to the Index and came up with a howler: Henry VIII. It's a cinch that Owen didn't spot him at the Brown Derbyl No, no; the reference is to Mickey Rooney who had just been married, again. Actually, Rooney was at a luncheon with his new bride the day after their wedding. He quipped: "And people were saying that this marriage wouldn't last!" Owen makes something out of this glancing blow. Jon Voight is another glancing blow, dutifully indexed, but only by virtue of his role in Midnight Cowboy. He carried the transistor radio which was playing the voice of a OJ, a New York radio personality (also indexed), who was the point. I kid you not.

Bill Owen continues to be applauded for his contributions to broadcast history. He speaks to packed social halls and keeps the industry in the public eye. In spite of the book's editorial faults, it is a nice compendium, and a good read.