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  Information Please, Volume 2 - 10 hours [Audio CDs] #RA135



 
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Information Please
Volume 2


"Wake Up, America! It's Time to Stump the Experts!"

A typical "Information Please" broadcast in progress, 1938Dan Golenpaul was a man with a mission. Having spent most of the 1930s trying to talk radio network executives into raising the level of broadcast entertainment above the mentality of the average twelve-year-old child, Golenpaul had lately set his sites on a venerable radio feature: the quiz show.

Quiz shows had been around since the early 1930s, when the "man-on-the-street" program "Vox Pop" had started asking passersby a few simple questions, then rewarding them with token prizes donated by sponsors. By 1936, CBS introduced the first authentic "audience participation program", "Professor Quiz", hosted by the rotund and jolly Dr. Craig Earl. The program was an immediate success and spawned a series of similar shows, cast largely from members of their studio audiences. The dreams contestants had of winning prizes and cash soon paled, however, when genial hosts spent the majority of their time having fun with the presumed ignorance of the average man -- an ignorance that made for great superiority and glee on the part of listeners, but not much enjoyment for the hapless contestant.

After a few evenings spent listening to these programs, Dan Golenpaul was appalled -- but also inspired. What if, he thought, the tables were turned? What if it was the contestants asking the questions, rather than the hosts? Who would feel foolish then? From this simple notion came a brainstorm: "Information Please," one of the most popular, award-winning, and consistently entertaining programs in radio history.

Much of Golenpaul's professional background had contributed to the creation of the program. He had been toiling in radio since the early 1930s, with rather limited success. He created radio's first magazine program in 1934, a high-end variety program titled "The Magazine of the Air," and also created a juvenile write-in and discussion show titled "Raising Your Parents" which, after his departure, would later evolve into the better-remembered "Coast to Coast on a Bus," hosted by Milton Cross. His two years as Special Events Coordinator at New York-based WHN had led to the creation of "The Forum of the Air," a discussion program that brought him in contact with many of the top political, literary, and intellectual figures of the time. But, by 1938, his fortunes had dwindled and his many attempts to raise the consciousness of network radio had fallen on deaf ears.

A break came in early 1938, when Bill Karlin, the head of programming for NBC's Blue Network flagship station WJZ, expressed interest in quiz show concept. Golenpaul set off to make an audition recording, recruiting The New Yorker's book editor Clifton Fadiman, columnist Franklin P. Adams, newspaperman and columnist Marcus Duffield, and Louis M. Hacker of Columbia University as his experts. The first questions were written by Golenpaul, his wife Ann, and a few close friends who agreed to help out. When the record was played back at WJZ, Karlin liked what he heard and agreed to schedule "Information Please" as a network-sustained summer replacement series to debut in May. The budget Golenpaul was offered was paltry by any standards: $400.00 a week, which would need to cover the complete cost of the program, since no sponsor was immediately stepping forward to foot the bills.

His many years as a struggling producer had made Golenpaul nothing if not resourceful. Sticking to his frugal budget (and contributing a few dollars out of his own pocket, when necessary) he set off to recruit his permanent "Brain Trust" - the group of experts whom he knew would either make or break the program. His main fear from the start was that he would end up hiring people who, though undeniably intelligent and well-read, would come across as stiff and dull on the air. Fortunately, his audition recording had already yielded two men whom, along with others, would soon make the show a popular success.

Clifton Fadiman had begun his literary career working for the publishing firm of Simon and Schuster, where he gradually rose to the position of Editor in Chief, and later moved to Harold Ross' New Yorker magazine. His tart New England accent combined with a wide knowledge of many subjects and a quick and biting wit, had already earned him a reputation as a welcome guest on many a radio discussion program. Franklin P. Adams, known primarily as "F.P.A.," the byline he used as the author of "The Conning Tower," his popular column in the New York Post, was well known as a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of literary and theatrical wits that regularly gathered for lunch in New York's fashionable Algonquin Hotel. Possessing an expert knowledge of Shakespeare and popular songs, as well as friendly contacts with many of the witty people who would serve on the panel of "Information Please" in the years to come, Adams was and remained an advantageous choice. (It also helped that, in the Spring of 1938, Adams was "between jobs" and in need of ready cash.)

Added to these two inspired choices were such knowledgeable and genial persons as science writer and teacher Bernard Jaffe, Paul de Kruif, the author of the best-selling book "Microbe Hunters," playwright Marc Connelly, lyricist and MGM studio publicist Howard Dietz, and many others -- all of whom shared three common traits: general and/or specific knowledge on a wide range of subjects, a ready wit, and a willingness to appear on the program for the starvation wages which Golenpaul could provide. In addition, it wasn't too long before listeners enjoyed the debut of two other experts who would soon become series regulars: New York Times sportswriter and columnist John Kieran and piano virtuoso and composer Oscar Levant. Kieran, with a soft Bronx accent that belied a broad knowledge of sports history, nature, and ornithology, and Levant, with his musical background, caustic wit, and knowledge of movies and entertainment, would add their own personal touches to "Information Please" in the years to come.

Armed with Fadiman, a team of experts, $100.00 in prize money, and NBC staff announcer Milton Cross, "Information Please" hit the airwaves at 8:30 PM on Tuesday, May 17, 1938 over NBC's Blue Network. From the beginning, "Information Please" showed signs of being an innovative program. Since the show was largely spontaneous - only the introductions, the closing, and the questions were written in advance - NBC agreed to record the program for rebroadcast to the west coast time zones. (This explains why, unlike so many network programs of the time, a great number of "Information Please" broadcasts still exist today.) Likewise, listeners used to the typical personality-based musical and comedy shows of the late 1930s were surprised to hear authentic wit over the airwaves - surprised and pleased as well since, though the questions were usually difficult, the experts were both amazing and charming when they answered a question and, more importantly, authentically human and funny when they couldn't. It was said, in fact, that "Information Please" was really at its best and most entertaining when the brains of the "brain trust" failed them; Fadiman never hesitated to gently chide them when they missed an answer. During the contemplation following a question, he was frequently heard to say to the listeners "I can see their brains spinning away, folks" and "Come, come, gentlemen - everyone knows that" was a common response to a muffed question. (Fadiman and many of the panelists shared a love of puns - the older and more groan-inspiring, the better - and many a broadcast features low-end wordplay that would put any baggy pants comedian to shame.)

Big money and prizes were never much of a consideration on "Information Please" - not surprising, considering the meager budget with which the program debuted. A person sending in a question that was actually used on the air would earn $2.00; if the experts failed to answer that question correctly, the person who had submitted it would earn an additional $5.00, the award heralded by the ring of a cash register. In later years, the prize money would increase a bit and even include sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica and, during World War II, War Bonds. But the promise of a cash prize seldom inspired listeners to send in questions; the greatest thrill, after all, was the possibility of stumping the experts.

The twenty programs in this second Radio Archives collection date from January thru July of 1939, the second year of "Information Please's" twelve-year run.


What is Commonly Associated with These Numbers?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, actress Cornelia Otis Skinner, Irwin Edmund, and John Kieran; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, January 3, 1939 - 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Identify These Seven Names
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and Alexander Woollcott; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, January 10, 1939 - 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry.

Give Five Familiar Expressions Which Place Animals or Insects in Unusual Surroundings
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and General Hugh Johnson; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, January 24, 1939 - 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

In What Game or Sport Can You Jump While Sitting?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, theater critic Gilbert Seldes, and fashion writer Elizabeth Hawes; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, January 31, 1939 - 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

What are the Usual Alibis Under the Following Four Circumstances?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and 21-year-old student Myron “Mike” Wallace; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, February 7, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Who is the Lady Who is Addressed in These Three Valentines?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Frank Sullivan, and playwright Russell Crouse; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, February 14, 1939 - 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

What Were These Famous Quarrels About?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and Boston Red Sox catcher Moe Berg; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, February 21, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Give Five Conventional Answers to the Question "How Did You Know?"
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and writer John Gunther; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, March 21, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Complete the Following Childhood Chants
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, playwright/director Moss Hart, and author Rex Stout; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, March 28, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Identify These Fairy Tales, Streamlined as Mystery Thrillers
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, musical critic Deems Taylor, and newspaper editor Marcus Duffield; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, April 11, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Identify the Following: Ghezzi, Gazi, Giza, Guizoe, Gaza
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and radio commentator H. V. Kaltenborn; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, April 18, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

From the Descriptions, Identify the Following Professions
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and Arthur Krock, Washington Bureau Chief for The New York Times; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, April 25, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

What is the Usual Number of Pockets in a Man's Three-Piece Suit?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and mystery writer John P. Marquand; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, May 16, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Identify the Following Ads of Yesteryear
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Bernard Jaffe, and writer Clarence Budington Kelland; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, May 23, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Where Did Simple Simon Fish?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and Stanley Walker, editor of The Philadelphia Public Ledger; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, May 30, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Name These Famous Exterminators
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and tennis champion Helen Wills Moody; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, June 13, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Name Literary Characters Who Flew Through the Air Without an Airplane
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, comedienne Gracie Allen, writer John Gunther, and John Kieran; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, June 20, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

The Following Gentlemen were the "Heart Interest" of Which Famous Women?
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Oscar Levant, and Wilbur Cross, the former Governor of Connecticut; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, June 27, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Give the Exact Wording Given by Milton Cross at the Beginning of the Program
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists Franklin P. Adams, John Kieran, Marcus Duffield, and actress Lillian Gish; Milton Cross is the announcer.
Tuesday, July 4, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry

Identify the Following Four Well Known Persons By Their First and Middle Names
Clifton Fadiman moderates panelists John Kieran, Franklin P. Adams, Oscar Levant, and Elliot Roosevelt; Milton Cross is the announcer.

Tuesday, July 11, 1939 – 30:00 - Blue Network, sponsored by Canada Dry



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Decoder Badges September 18, 2009
Reviewer: Keith Hiatt  
I wish the old radio shows had delivered my decoder badges as quickly as you ship your CD's!

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