Monday, April 23, 2018

The Wizard of Odds

The Stranger [SOURCE] called him the "worst pulp novelist ever" but they also called him "the greatest hack ever." Leo Guild wrote a river of schlock: kids joke books,  fawning, gossipy puff books on Bob Hope, Hedy Lamarr, Jayne Mansfield, and Liberace. He later switched to schlock horror books like his 1972 novel The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman and for a change of pace penned utterly disposable, trashy sexploitation novels like his 1976 book, Street of Ho's. He was the Ed Wood of pulp novels. In 1967, the Los Angeles Time published an an article by Guild titled "Confessions of a Celebrity Ghost Writer" It was a self-serving autobiographical piece but gives you an idea of how highly he thought of his trade. Later in life he made some big money on lawsuits.
In 1973 he filed a $2 million lawsuit against NBC. They had started a game show named Wizard of Odds hosted by Alex Trebek. But he had used it as a newspaper column during the late 1940s, the same column that led to that book above What Are The Odds?  In 1992 he sued the Carsey-Werner Co. and Bill Cosby for 11 million dollars. He claimed he owned the copyright to the title “You Bet Your Life.”  He kinda did. In 1948, journalist Leo Guild named his newspaper column and a book “You Bet Your Life” and copyrighted that title. NBC settled.
Leo did dip his toe into radio, it wasn't all as a plaintiff. He was a radio and TV columnist for the Hollywood reporter in the 1940s, which is what probably led to his 1954 KFWB program Amateur Record Hour. It was produced by Merrilyn Hammond of Capitol Records. Previously he had hosted "Hollywood's Best" on KRCA-TV. Station KFWB also aired his short-lived program The Wizard of Odds, and it's later version, The Wizard Vs. Criswell. It started in KFI then quickly moved to KFWB. It had at least a 14 week initial run sponsored by Wax Seal in 1947. Teevee Film Company (TFC) licensed it in 1950 for a half-hour TV show. His co-host, Criswell (aka Jeron Criswell Konig) later became "The Amazing Criswell", a psychic and radio-personality. In Criswell's career highs and lows he appeared on the Jack Paar Show and also appeared in Ed Wood films. Criswell himself claimed that he had once worked as a radio announcer, this was also probably at KFWB.
But back to that book What Are The Odds?. My copy is falling apart and is missing the first dozen pages. But the Entertainment section is intact and had a few radio gems of dubious import. I"m paraphrasing but... TV commercials are less disruptive than radio ads, Only 1 in 15 radio actually works, landing a radio writer job is an 8,000 to 1 long shot, 99% of daytime radio listeners are women, Odds are 190 to 1 of landing a radio gig via audition... etc. The stats are ostensibly based on 1940s data, but I think that more than 50% of his stats are just made up.