Monday, March 02, 2015


I'm taking a week off.
See you in March.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Victory Belles

I read a short blurb, a sales pitch really, that claimed that Victory Belles was the first all female radio program in America.  It could certainly be true. It's a very small category in radio history and it's not one that's gotten adequate coverage anywhere. I have one fantastic resource on the topic, but In it's effort to be canonical the Encyclopedia of Women in Radio 1920-1960 by Leora and Luther Sies contains no narrative on the topic.

Victory Belles was a comedy, dancing and musical variety show on KNX-AM in Los Angles. It was hosted by Lurene Tuttle, but had a number of other recognizable names on the team.The Radio Gold Index lists only two known recorded episodes [SOURCE]  Both are 30 minutes long, one from December 1942 and one in May 1943. This would indicate that even as a weekly program that dozens of episodes were lost. the best account we have of their activities is actually first hand from Peggy Gilbert who performed on the program and did a USO tour with the group. Her biography, Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band by Jeannie Gayle Pool, covers much of that time period.

But what were Victory Belles?  The USO recruited and screened young ladies to socialize and sometimes work at the USO. In June of 1942, Life Magazine profiled the practice making it look more like a sock hop  and less like a blind date. But the ladies were also typists, waitresses on the bases. The program just re-used the jargon. You can actually hear one episode online here. Peggy Gilbert wasn't the only star in the troupe. From those two episodes we have a few names we know appear. I list them below with a short radio bio.

Lurene Tuttle - A vaudeville actress that made the leap to radio whose career was long enough to lead into TV and film. She portrayed most of the females voices on the  The Adventures of Sam Spade program. She also appeared on The Great Gildersleeve, Blondie, Brent House, The Cass Daley Show, Duffy's Tavern, Glamour Manor, Maisie, the Red Skelton Show, Suspense, Doctor Christian, Lux Radio Theater. Note.. she later appears on the Dukes of Hazard TV program

Mabel Todd - Probably the same Mabel Todd from the The Komedy Kingdom. Was doign films as early as 1936, seems to have left performing behind by 1946.

Martha Mears - She appears in over 30 films and more than a dozen radio programs including: The Colgate House Party, The Old Gold Program, The General Foods Show, Bob Ripley, Joe Penner, Phillip Morris, Radio Rodeo, and the Dr. Pepper 10-2-4 Ranch program

The Music Maids - a revolving troupe that appeared mostly in films including  Hoosier Holiday (1943), Girl Crazy (1943) and Hit Parade of 1943. Notice the tight grouping.  At different times the line up included Denny Wilson, Jeanne Darrell, Alice Ludes, Patt Hyatt, Virginia Erwin, Alice Sizer, Bobbie Canvin, Dottie Messmer.It's hard to say which were on the team when they appeared on Victory Belles.

The Taylor Maids - Another trio with a changing line up. They appeared in a few films as well:  Cowboy Canteen (1944), Artistry in Rhythm (1944) and So's Your Uncle (1943). A Newspaper ad from 1954 lists their names as Beverly, Patti, and  Shirley. It's probably the same trio.

Bea Turpin and her Eight Jills Of Jive - Somewhat obscure. As a group they have no appearances other than on Victory Belles. Bea Turpin appeared in at least one pre-1920 black & white film. In Peggy Gilbert's book the name is given as "Bee Turpin." She reports that Bee played piano. This can be corroborated by radio listings for KFAC-AM in 1934 and 1935 in Sacramento.

Wilhelmina Gould - Even more obscure. SPERDVAC lists her name only on the Victory Belles Episode. Corroborated by Peggy Gilbert, but without detail.
Beverly of "Reveille With Beverly" - Beverly "Ruby" Ross was the start of the 1943 film Reveille With Beverly. It was a flick about a 5:30 AM radio show with swing music, dedicated to the local servicemen. Sound familiar? It was based on a real "Reveille with Beverly" radio show hosted by the very real Jean Ruth Hay. More here.

Ona Munson - Ona is listed as a producer on the program. Just two years later Ona Munson had her own eponymous 15 minute show, the Ona Munson Show, a.k.a. Open House also on CBS. She had appeared in the movie Gone With the Wind in 1939 and was surely the most famous of all the names attached to Victory Belles. Her only other big radio gig was on the program Big Town, which ran from 1937 to 1952. Ona joined the program in 1940 and stayed through to the end.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Last Words Broadcast on Radio Magallanes

In 1970 in Chile their presidential election ended with no outright majority in a three-way race. Salvador Allende won 36.2% of the vote. Incumbent Jorge Alessandri won 34.9% and a third party candidate Radomiro Tomic won 27.8%. With that thin margin, the Chilean constitution required the Chilean congress to decide, and after much hand-wringing and horse-trading... they selected Allende. In the prior election, Jorge Alessandri had only won with 31.6% so this was not without precedent. Allende won, but his Socialist-Marxist coalition party Unidad Popular [Popular Unity] party did not win control of congress. That went to the Partido Demócrata Cristiano [Christian Democratic party]. Despite the power split, his administration was able to apply numerous reforms with varied success.

But U.S. President  Richard Nixon didn't care for Allende. He and Kissinger dismissed him as a Marxist, and his association with Fidel Castro didn't help. When Chile nationalized its copper industry, that was the last straw. In September 1970, President Nixon informed the CIA that an Allende government in Chile would not be acceptable and authorized $10 million to stop Allende from coming to power or unseat him.  Later, the CIA tried to convince key Chilean military officers to carry out a coup. Later revisionists claimed that the U.S. didn't directly instigate the coup. Nonetheless the events are so well documented as to appear in Wikipedia. [LINK]

You could write a thesis about the factors that led to the end of Allende: the strikes, the rise of the right wing, the CIA funding of opposition groups via the ITT Corporation, divisive public statements by the Chilean Supreme Court.. the situation was grim. But, there was a decisive turning point. On 11 September 1973, the Chilean military staged a coup to depose Allende. From a makeshift studio at the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Roberto Guillard broadcast a short speech outlining the intentions of the coup over Radio Agricultura.

At the time Allende was holed up at La Moneda, the Presidential Palace. He had a live phone line to 1010 Radio Magallane, a radio station aligned with the communists. Radio Agricultura was aligned with the conservatives and at the time was broadcasting only the national anthem. The Air Force had bombed the radio towers of Radio Portales and Radio Corporación and they were off air. On Television all stations were off air except Channel 13 which was broadcasting more statements from Pinochet. Radio Magallanes reported that army troops had encircled La Moneda and gunfights had broken out. Allende knew the end was near and he made his last speech, by phone, over Radio Magallanes. The complete text is here.
"Surely Radio Magallanes will be silenced, and the calm metal of my voice will no longer reach you. It does not matter. You will continue hearing it. I will always be next to you. At least my memory will be that of a man of dignity who was loyal to his country."
Shortly after the speech aired live, Radio Magallanes and Radio Candelaria rebroadcast the recording.
At 10:20 AM, Radio Magallanes went off the air. Later that morning, the military stormed la Moneda and killed Allende. Radio Magallanes never returned, and the truth about the death of Allende didn't come out until 2011. More here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Transcription Mystery Disc #254

This is a Wilcox Gay Recordio. It's undated, unlabeled and like many others it's origin is somewhat in doubt. It has a metal-core, spins at 78 rpm with an outer-edge start and is 8-Inches in diameter. The recording showcases a solo pianist who breaks meter to bang out a few chords seemingly annoyed by what might have been a sound check.

Ode to an Annoyed Pianist

Despite being undamaged by age, the disc is in rough shape. When it was originally cut, the lathe was bumped and it cut snake-like arcs across many of the grooves. This makes it particularly difficult to get contiguous segments transferred to digital. I managed only about a one-minute segment I consider listenable which is posted above.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Incredibe, Edible RFID

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University seem to have settled on the word "ingestible" rather than edible. I kind of recoiled at the idea, but much to my surprise two years ago, the FDA approved an ingestible radio ID tag. Now, while the FDA is not exactly a reputable organization... they are all we have. So it comes as no surprise they they had no comment when Proteus Digital Health was issued patent #7978064 for a "Ingestible device with pharmaceutical product." The abstract is more vague than you'd expect would be allowed.
"A system and a manufacturing process are disclosed in accordance with the present invention that protect an electronic device and allows for placement or combination of the device within a pharmaceutical product or capsule. The system includes circuitry and components that can be placed within certain environments. The device includes an assembly including an electronic unit, a flexible membrane secured to the unit, and a protective coating."
Proteus has been at this since at least 2007. In that year they applied for a patent for a "Controlled activation Ingestible Identifier." Since then they've also filed on some "Ingestible circuitry" a "Body-associated receiver and method " and a "Miniature ingestible device." Most of that work was developed by Hooman Hafezi. You know where this is going. At some point in the future, you are going to eat a teeny tiny radio. More here.

The reason I bring this up today is a press release from Carnegie Mellon University. A research group there is taking some of these patents from Proteus and developing a RFID system that could be inside pills.  These would be embedded with encrypted codes to verify the "provenance and authenticity" of the medication. The idea is interesting, but it does mean that potentially every pill could contain a teeny tiny passive transmitter. Even stranger is imagining your colon full of RFIDs.

Carnegie Mellon alum L. Richard Carley was quick to emphasize that the RFIDs will be teeny tiny. “Think of a grain of salt. A fraction of a millimeter.”  And it's certainly true that some people embed RFIDs in their pets. Some have suggested embedding them in their children based on the same logic. (I think it's nutty but that's me.)  But the purpose of the pills is not just your safety. A UN report form 2003 estimated that the global drug trade is worth an estimated $321.6 billion." While that number may make you think of certain unsavory characters in your neighborhood, pharmaceutical companies just see their competition. So this technology will also be a tool for drug companies to wield against copyright infringement by the black market. It seems awkward for that battle to happen in your colon but apparently the stage is being set.