Reb Livingston, in her No Tell interviews from a couple of weeks ago, pulled nary a punch when she called me an 'obsessed penis pervert'. And that I am, indeed. But the obsession I want to speak of now is phallus-free, and fun, in fact, for the entire family. It is Old Time Radio Programming.
If you don't know this, Old Time Radio-- or, "OTR" as it's often shorthanded-- is exactly what it sounds like is: the programs that came out of that Golden Age of Radio, a time that to us, now, is an old time ago. Gratefully and luckily, many, many, many recordings of these programs exist today. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to live someplace where a radio station regularly broadcasts these treasures (I can recommend WNAR in Lansdale, PA, which also broadcasts over the internet, if you care to listen). If you aren't so lucky as living within receiving distance of WNAR, then they are fairly easily found all over the internet, in handy Ipod-ready mp3 format (a web search will suffice-- try the Internet Archive or, if you are willing to pay for it, RUSC.com).
Of the myriad selection of surviving programs, I can tell you hands-down my favorites are those of the thriller genre. There was The Whistler (“I am the Whistler, and I know many things for I walk by night”), Suspense (initially sponsored by Roma Wine, later by Auto-Lite Spark Plugs), Lights Out (“It… is… later… than… you… think!”), Quiet, Please (with intro music provided by Cesar Frank’s eerie Symphony in D Minor), and Inner Sanctum Mysteries (chock full of dastardly morbid puns provided by the host, Raymond) to name my favorite. And there were others, certainly, many others (The Shadow, anyone? Murder at Midnight? Dark Fantasy? Sleep No More???).
There are several worms that lure this little fishie to Old Time Radio's hook, in that willing and obsessive way I tend to let myself be gutted and glutted by my passions. Foremost, it’s the way they sound. From the intonations of the radio actors, to the scratchy ill-preserved recordings, to the occasionally over-written plots, I’m addicted to the mood that these invoke in me—a spindly mood that causes me to continually check back my shoulder, a doomsday humour, a nostalgia for years I wasn’t even alive in.
But it’s also the way they’re written. The dialougue, so often hard-boiled, and bespattered with “dames” and “Johnny-on-the-spots” and jigs that only go UP. The narration, so genuine and sincere and florid all at once. I have a confession to make. More often than I care to admit, I’ve up and took lines directly from these programs and stuck them square into the middle of my own poems. (That's ok, right?) And, like sweet and simple music to my Gen-X jaded ears, the characters of these programs are nearly always brilliantly naïve in their passions and motivations, pure in the way that poetry is pure, or should be pure, when it’s written rightly. I fucking love it.
And I love it to the point of silliness. When I go running, it’s OTR I playlist on the ole' Nano. When I can’t sleep, it’s these creepy, raspy, amplitude-modulated recordings what lullaby me into slumber. When I’m cooking, walking, riding the train, shopping, trans-Atlantic passengering, bathing—I have them on. I love them unconditionally and cliche-ly, for who they are, the programs. If I could find a lover who’d be up for it, I would even make love to, say, “Crime Classics.” And it would be HOT.
But there is more point to this post than me declaring my devotion to these gone but ne’er forgotten radio plays (though that would be purpose enough)...