The great William James “Count” Basie was born 117 years ago today in Red Bank, New Jersey. Cladrite Radio is celebrating his birthday by featuring his music all day long; why not tune in right now?
A couple of years ago, Ms. Cladrite and I picked up a couple of bits of paper ephemera that caught our eye and piqued our interest.
We don’t really know much about these Celebrity Bulletins. They were published by a company called Celebrity Information and Research Service, Inc., which was located at 681 Fifth Avenue (at 54th Street) and could be reached by telephone at PLAZA 3-2750.
As you’ll see, we’ve shared both an international and a New York edition with you below. And apparently, if you were a subscriber to Celebrity Bulletin back in the day and you required “additional information concerning the address, affiliation, management, record of career, and availability of any celebrity in the United States,” you could obtain it by “calling Celebrity Service and giving your account number” to their operator.
By clicking on the New York edition below, you can learn that, on Friday, Ocober 8th, 1954, Count Basie was scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show with Steve Allen at 11:30 p.m. And that Eddie Fisher was due to arrive in NYC on Saturday, Oct. 9, via Trans-World Airlines from California.
Or, if you click on the International Edition, which carries a date stamp of September 14, 1954, you can learn that James Stewart, Preston Sturges, Yvonne De Carlo, and Ira Gershwin were all in Paris on that day, but no two of them were lodging at the same hotel.
Celebrity Service was co-founded with writer Ted Strong by one Earl Blackwell (not to be confused with bitchy fashion commentator Mr. Blackwell), whom the New York Times described in his 1995 obituary as “a society impresario who made his fortune keeping track of celebrities.”
“In 1939,” the Times continued, “[Blackwell] founded the lucrative New York-based Celebrity Service, an information and research service that has since opened branches in Hollywood, London, Paris and Rome. … Mr. Blackwell, who later bought his partner out, sold the business in 1985, but remained active as chairman until his death.”
With just a few hours remaining till the ball drops in Times Square, toasts are raised, and midnight smooches are shared, we thought we’d make a present to the Cladrite community of All Star New Years Dancing Party, an hour-long radio program that originally aired on the Armed Forces Radio Service on December 31st, 1945.
The program, which is hosted by Harry James, features performances from across the country and around the world by such legendary big bands as the Count Basie Orchestra in New York City, Freddy Martin‘s outfit performing from Los Angeles’ Cocoanut Grove night club, Woody Herman and His Orchestra in New Jersey, Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars from Club Zanzibar in Manhattan, and many more.
It’s a fine way to welcome in a brand new year.
This week’s Cladrite Clip is taken from Stage Door Canteen, an enjoyable piece propagandistic fluff from 1943 that features the slimmest of plots and literally dozens of cameos from stars of film and Broadway.
To be honest, we prefer its follow-up, Hollywood Canteen, which came out a year later — the celebrity cameos in that picture appealed to us more — but both are entertaining in their way.
To give credit where it’s due, Stage Door Canteen does boast a nice lineup of Cladrite Radio-worthy orchestras. Count Basie, Xavier Cugat, Benny Goodman, Kay Kyser, Guy Lombardo, and Freddy Martin are all on hand to contribute their considerable talents.
In Stage Door Canteen, we follow the adventures of a quartet of soliders (nicknamed, from west to east, California, Texas, Dakota, and Jersey). Though our fighting young men are given a brief furlough in NYC before they ship off to fight in World War II, they spend the majority of their time not taking in the sights of the Big Apple, but trying, each in his own way, to make time with the cute gals volunteering at the titular canteen.
Tex (Sunset Carson) quickly pairs up with Ella Sue (Margaret Early), an Alabama gal whose interactions with Yankee soldiers have left her pining for a Southern gentleman. Jersey’s engaged and manages to get married mid-movie, and California, the callowest of youth, is awarded his first kiss by his canteen hostess, Jean (Marjorie Riordan) — which is expressly against canteen rules, but what the heck — just before he heads off to fight for his country.
It’s around Dakota (William Terry) and his rocky romance with haughty actress/canteen hostess Eileen (Cheryl Walker) that the wispy plot mostly revolves, and it will surprise no one that, in the end, Eileen is fully reformed. She not only falls in love with Dakota, but she gets her big break on Broadway when she’s cast in a play opposite Paul Muni.
But one doesn’t watch either of the Canteen movies for the plot. It’s the musical performances, the patriotism (though it can be heavy-handed at times), and the star cameos that appeal.
Which picture one might wish to start with will depend on one’s tastes in entertainment. Each has its share of movie stars, but if the names Katharine Cornell, Lynn Fontanne, and Helen Hayes make your heart go pitty-pat — if, in short, you’re something of a Broadway baby — Stage Door Canteen is probably the movie for you.
If you’re a movie buff, you’ll want to see both (after all, even Stage Door Canteen boasts cameos by such Hollywood luminaries as Harpo Marx, Ray Bolger, and Katherine Hepburn), but I would suggest seeing Hollywood Canteen first. Its cameos pack a bigger cinematic wallop.