Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baseball and Sonny

Excerpt from the book:
"Other Days" (Soon to be Published)
by Lee Alan
First Book "Turn Your Radio On"
Available at:

In 1964 I got to play baseball before 50 thousand fans at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The famous corner of Michigan and Trumbull I’ll have you know. Well I didn’t really play with the Tigers. I played between the Tigers. Tiger ball games that is. It was a double header and all the Detroit media people were invited to play there for four innings between games. What a scene that was!

On my team the pitcher was television sports personality and author Dave Diles,
The catcher, Don Zee the all night zombie who for many years followed me every night on WXYZ,
At 3rd was Dave Shafer of WJBK the then current Jack the Bellboy and a brilliant competitor on opposite me on WXYZ radio.
Ron Knowles, CKLW at short. Dave Prince at second.
Robin Seymour (Bobbin With Robin) at first. Bud Davies of CKLW in right.
Joel Sebastian in center field and yours truly in left.

Some of the guys on the opposing team were Bill Bonds, John Kelly, Sonny Elliott, Jac Legoff, JP McCarthy, some columnists from the Detroit News and Free Press, Mr. Belvedere ( We do good work!), and others. When the first game of the double header was over we were introduced one by one to the crowd. We all ran on the field pretending we were really ball players. Some of the guys were smiling and waving their hats. Others went right to tossing the ball around. Most of us were in awe of seeing Tiger Stadium from the perspective of the field and just looking at 50,000 people looking back at us. Awesome!

I want to say here, as you may have guessed, there was nothing spectacular about our playing of the game. I think the best player was Dave Diles. I was told Dave was a major league pitching prospect until he threw his arm out. However, there was one incident I shall never forget. I was standing in left field and saw the whole thing.

Diles was pitching, Zee was catching, and Sonny Eliot was up to bat. And, and usual Zee was clowning around playing the fool. Don would catch the ball, the umpire would yell something and Zee would throw his hat down on the ground, stomp on it for a bit and start off for first base with Sonny chasing him.

After a few of those antics Diles delivered what looked to be a slow curve ball for a strike. Don caught it. The umpire yelled Steeerrrike!!!! and in a fluid movement with no hesitation Don dropped the catcher’s mitt, took his hat off with his right hand displayed a face breaking smile, and waved and bowed to the crowd.

With his left hand Zee reached out and removed Sonny’s hat. And with a grand gesture let it drop to the ground. Along with Sonny's hat came his toupee still inside the hat! Fifty thousnd people at Tiger Stadium doubled up with laughter. Sonny’s head was beaming in the bright afternoon sun. No one had ever seen him without his topper.

Dave Diles fell to the pitcher’s mound laughing. Dave Shafer was pounding on third base. Robin Seymour just stood staring there with both hands on his cheeks. I gave the crowd my imitation of Jack Benny’s double take with hand on cheek. Everyone was in stitches; except for Sonny who, with no visible smile on hs face, promptly bent down, very slowly picked up his hat ....and its contents, dusted it off, turned with a red face (and head), said something to Don Zee that no one except Don could hear, and walked off the field.

Sonny didn’t return to the game. And to this minute I have never heard anyone mention the incident!

Many who were the “players” on that day are now in heaven.   Sonny.  A treasure, an institution in Detroit, a hero and former prisoner in the war with the Nazis was 90 years young.   If he ever played ball again you can be sure that Don Zee wasn’t catching.
UPDATE:  11/16/2012
Sonny died yesterday.  He was 91 years young.
Our team is nearly reassembled now. . . 
With fond memory and love of that game......and the one yet to be played
Yours truly, Lee Alan

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Excerpt from the book:
"Things I Forgot To Remember in My First Book" (Soon to be Published)
by Lee Alan
First Book "Turn Your Radio On"
Available at:

Radio, Music, Television, Film and anything related have always been in my blood. As a boy I listened to everything on the radio that Mom would allow. I don’t remember when it was that I first heard Dick Osgood on the air, but it makes no difference here. Fact is he was part of the chemistry that made WXYZ in Detroit the powerhouse that it was.

As a young man Richard E. Osgood was a bit part actor on Broadway. Like most performers he had what was called in those days a stage name. His was Elmer Cornell. The first name probably came from his real middle name, Elmer. Cornell is a mystery.

Somehow after his brief show business experience Dick found his way to WXYZ where they were originating wonderful programs that were broadcast on the network. The Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, Challenge of the Yukon and others.
Strangely I don’t think he acted in them, but instead became the program director and then a reporter of news and the “Show World” around Detroit. That was actually one of his programs. “Show World” with Dick Osgood was a big deal to listeners. Dick knew all the movie stars too. The studios knew how important it was to get an endorsement for their movie in Detroit from him so when the movie came out it was business as usual for the stars to come to Detroit and interview with Dick.
Sometimes he called it “Show World”; other times, like other programs in those days it would carry the name of the sponsor. Old enough to remember some of them?
“The Lucky Strike Program with Jack Benny”
“The Lux Radio Theater”
“The Texaco Star Theater with Milton Beryl”
For sometime with Osgood it was: " United Detroit Theater Tips"
I can still hear his programs from the 60s.

MUSIC: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy

He always ended his programs the same way.
MUSIC: (Up and big finish)

He scripted every word of his programs. Everything was typed. Notice I said typed? No computers then Ha! So when Osgood walked into a studio everything was done. No adlibbing. He had that script. Even the final words were there. “DICK OSGOOD SPEAKING” And he always read them. Well, not always. Dick was a perfectionist and if he thought he had not done a good job with the show,if He didn’t like his performance he would forget the script for the last three words only and we would hear:


Dick Osgood was a name that everyone and I mean everyone knew and a face everyone recognized. I cannot write his biography here for it would take a few hundred pages I am sure.

By the time I joined WXYZ and met this fabled man he was already in his early 60s. It’s difficult to explain but the day after I started there a program meeting was held in the station’s huge conference room by John O. Gilbert, Vice President and General Manager of WXYZ. When I entered the room it was like seeing pictures in a book come alive and leap from the pages. They were all there. All those voices I listened to for so long but had never met in person. I mean these were the absolute best known and most seen and listened to personalities in Detroit. One by one they were shaking my hand and welcoming me to their inner circle.
Fred Wolf
Paul Winter
Joel Sebastian
Don Zee
Porter Bourne
Dick Osgood
Lou Gordon
And so many others. I shall never forget those hew moments.

Dick Osgood was still a strong voice and presence in Detroit media. A very detailed person, Dick kept a daily journal. Our offices in Broadcast House (the name of the station building) had glass walls facing a common area. We could see into every office except for the program manager’s which was private. Osgood’s journal was always on his desk and we all knew what he was doing. He was planning to use those notes someday to write a book. Years later he published "WYXIE WONDERLAND - THE FIFTY YEAR UNAUTHORIZED DIARY OF A RADIO STATION." It was over 500 pages and we were all in it.

In 1982 I learned that Dick was about to celebrate his 80th birthday. There was to be a surprise party for him at Chuck Joseph’s restaurant in a suburb of Detroit. More than a hundred and fifty of his friends were invited.

I decided to produce and record a taped tribute to Dick with as many of his friends and colleagues voices on it as I could get. It took weeks; but when it was done it was really something to hear. They were all in it. Even those who were unable to be present.

The plan was that the huge crowd of friends was to be crammed in to one end of the restaurant behind a sliding accordion wall. You seen them; the wall slides in on a track from each end of the room to form two rooms and locks in the middle. Dick Kernen and his wife were assigned to pick up Osgood and his wife Ann for what they thought would be a quiet birthday dinner, bring then to the restaurant and be seated at table up against the temporary wall.

The first sound on the tribute tape I had done for Dick was a WXYZ jingle and his theme song, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” At a certain point after all were comfortably in place at Dick’s table I was supposed to start playing the tape at a very high volume. Dick would hear his music, wonder what was going on, the wall would then open, reveal all those friends, the tribute would continue to play and the Dick Osgood 80th birthday party would be underway. And that’s what happened. Well, sort of.

Everything went according to plan. All those people were behind the wall. Osgood and the Kernens arrived on schedule and were seated at that chosen table next to the wall and their drinks were served.

Meanwhile, behind the wall the huge crowd was quiet and just talking in hushed tones. Paul Winter, one of Detroit’s radio and television legendary giants with drink in hand was deep into a conversation with someone as usual. Please keep in mind that although Paul and Dick were the closest of friends they hadn’t seen each other in many months.

The Osgood group at the table was enjoying their drinks. Only inches from their table on the other side of the wall Paul Winter continued his conversation. Paul was always very animated when he spoke and at some point after making a sweeping gesture leaned against the wall which gave way and opened just enough to send an off balance Paul falling through the opening.

Paul Winter landed spread eagle on top of Dick Osgood’s table. All were in shock. There was Dick Osgood staring at a smiling Paul Winter whom he hadn’t seen in months and who had just come flying out of nowhere landing on his table in a restaurant.

What did Winter do?
He just looked up, raised the glass still in his hand and said:
“Hi Dick, nice to see ya”
Someone yelled at me: “Roll the Tape. Roll the tape, Paul just fell through the wall!” And the party was on.

There was a very special table at that party. Only if you’re from Detroit would you know just how special. Ed McKenzie the original Jack the Bellboy, Fred Wolf for many years the legendary king of morning radio on WXYZ, Paul Winter and of course the guest of honor Dick Osgood.

Fred retired from WXYZ in 1965 and enjoyed some years as owner of Eastland Bowl, an upscale bowling establishment in East Detroit. Occasionally we’d hear him on the air for a day or two filling in for someone; usually at WJR. A year or two before Osgood’s party Fred suffered a stroke affecting his right side mobility requiring that he use a cane, and of all unfortunate things he was unable to speak. All he could say was a very strange sounding word.
That was his total vocabulary. He knew what he was trying to say, but all that ever came out while gesturing with his hands and facial expressions was:
BURGEE BURGEE ! Never anything more. Ever!

I was standing at this “table of legends when Emily, Fred’s wife asked me if I would walk with Fred to the men’s room. So off we went. When we were ready to return to the party Fred was trying to communicate; pointing and gesturing, moving his arms like a golf swing, and making like he was holding a fork and eating. I realized he was actually inviting me to lunch with him at Lochmoor, the country club he belonged to in Grosse Pointe, a suburb of Detroit.

He was immaculately dressed in dark trousers and a hound’s tooth coat. Except for the white hair he looked just as I remembered him as my friend, colleague and the great television personality I had watched as a young guy growing up.

Just before we left the men’s room I put my hands on his shoulders and said:
“Freddie I am aware of what happened with the stroke, but you look absolutely terrific”

With a wave of his hand he looked at me and said:

I never heard him say another intelligible word.
I was privilaged to work among giants. He was one of them
I loved him and miss him.

Yours Truly Lee Alan

Friday, March 4, 2011


Excerpt from the book:
"Things I Forgot To Remember in My First Book" (Soon to be Published)
by Lee Alan
First Book "Turn Your Radio On"
Available at:

In 1963 I was riding high on WXYZ radio in Detroit. The station’s ratings were through the roof. I was on from 7 to midnight with somewhere around a 50 share (percent) of the radio audience listening to WXYZ. The sales force was made up of the most experienced guys in town. No one had to tell them what to do. They were selling the most popular radio product in this part of the country and trust me they sold it! Car dealers, retailers, food, and entertainment. Every commercial product was on our station, too many commercials really. Sometimes up to 15 minutes an hour.

The entertainment guru at WXYZ was Dick Osgood. Dick was probably already in his 60s by that time. An ex actor, Dick was the world’s first electronic theater and movie critic. In those days the movie theaters and their associations would trample each other to be part of Osgood’s “Show World”, a three- minute review of movies and live entertainment in Detroit.

Osgood was the dean of Detroit radio, on the air every morning with the legendary Fred Wolf. When WXYZ -TV Channel 7 in Detroit started and originally signed on from The Maccabees Building in Detroit, Dick was the very first face anyone saw. After surveying the Detroit skyline from the top of the building the picture dissolved to Osgood. There he was an old friend sitting alone behind a sort of news desk beaming at us. Also a columnist for The Detroit Free Press, when Dick panned a movie and said it wasn’t worth seeing the theaters in Detroit that carried it might just as well have pulled the plug.

The town believed Dick and loved him. I can still hear him saying: “Shop your Show or Save your Dough” and with his theme song from the overture of Gypsy, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” he would end with: “At the Movies or live on stage, it’s FUN to live in Detroit”.

When the stars came to Detroit they came to see Osgood. Because of Dick I met more movie stars in the 60s than most people have ever even seen on the screen.

One of them was comedian and creative genius Jerry Lewis.

Jerry Lewis came to Detroit on June 4 of ’63 to promote his just released movie The Nutty Professor. Somehow Dick Osgood arranged for the station to escort Jerry around town and he also directed that I was the one to go with him to all the theaters before the movie started, do a little warm up in front of the audience, get a few laughs and introduce Jerry Lewis.

Jerry was here for a full day and we had a lot of ground to cover. He was chauffeured from place to place in a limo. I followed in my own car. Things went really well. The theaters had promoted Jerry’s appearances and they were jammed. It was a short routine. Someone would introduce me, I’d go out and do my bit, run around the stage, answer questions from the audience, blow the Horn a few times, work everyone into frenzy and then bring out Jerry who would calmly thank everyone and then become the wild man everyone was waiting for.

Right there on the stage he became The Nutty Professor. This went on for a few minutes, the movie would start and we’d be off to the next showplace.

The last appearance was about nine o’clock at night at a drive in theater. There had to be five hundred cars already in place. Remember the drive ins? Cars would pull up next to a post with a speaker hanging on it, roll the window down, pull the speaker into the car, hang it on the window and roll the window back up.

The stage of a drive in theater had practically no room for anyone to stand or perform because it was just a support for the huge screen. Anyway, we followed the same routine. Someone introduced me and out I went onto the narrow stage trying not to fall off as I was given the microphone.

There was no applause. Well if there was any applause you couldn’t hear it because even though there were a thousand people out there they were all in their cars. Instead of applause there were horns. Hundreds of horns. No laughs. Just horns. All with bad tones I might add. And lights. Humungous spotlights on the stage and hundreds of bright car lights. .

A June at night in a drive in Movie Theater, about 80 degrees and June Bugs the size of fifty cent pieces. Millions of June bugs attracted by the lights swarmed the stage and me. The air was black with them.

Horns, bugs, lights, and heat. I wasted no time. I introduced Jerry Lewis and made a bee line (no pun intended) for safety.

Jerry made his way to center stage and went into his routine. He was only out there for about two minutes when suddenly he became the wild one again. Only this time he was flailing his arms, yelling at the top of his voice, and started running back and forth like some kind of insane person.

We all thought he was just being Jerry Lewis when finally yelling and screaming he turned toward my end of the stage and ran toward me. When he got within hearing distance we heard him. “Help me. Please help. Get this thing off me.”

Jerry Lewis fell to the floor and in front of the whole sea of cars and people, fell to the floor of the stage and passed out. When we realized it wasn’t an act some of us rushed out onto the stage.

The ambulance came.
He was at the hospital for about an hour.
The June bug they took out of his inner ear was about the size of a silver dollar.
I never saw him in person again.

Years later Osgood wrote a book, WYXIE Wonderland, the Unauthorized 50 year Diary of a Radio Station. When any of us would go with him to a book signing he called us his Characters from the Book. And we were!

A few months after the Drive In disaster he dropped a letter on my desk. It read:

“Lee – Don’t Bug me man – Jerry”
I still have the note….

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Excerpt from the book:
"Other Days" (Soon to be Published)
by Lee Alan
Latest Book "Turn Your Radio On"

The first thing I learned at WJBK in Detroit was that I didn’t know a thing about radio. At least this kind of radio. There was a format. There were rules to follow and rules to be broken.

Play lots of music. Give the time, temperature, call letters, dial position, your name, promote the other shows, and play music. Lot’s of music! Play more music than the other stations and tell the audience you’re doing it..

“You’re Talking Too Much”


I was on the air from midnight to six Monday through Saturday. I followed
"A Guy".
"A Guy By The Name of Clay", as he used to say.
Tom Clay was on from seven to midnight. I’ll never forget him.

We broadcast from the same studio. Clay would close out his show and before the last bit of his closing theme song, "That's All" by Sarah Vaughn was finished he was up and out of there and I was in his seat ready to start. I would do the news at midnight and then start my own show.

Tom Clay was 35 years old, thin, good looking with long wavy blondish hair. His soft throaty deep voice fit the look. He wanted to be a movie actor. To me he looked like James Dean. At times he even talked like him. I learned later that’s exactly who he wanted to be like.

Clay was the number one night time air personality in Detroit with a huge audience. When he talked, every teenager and young adult in town listened. Tom Clay was their idol. One minute he was totally nuts on the air. The next he was swallowing the mike talking so softly you couldn’t hear him in the studio but on the air he was very close and very personal.

Tom Clay understood how radio worked, how to create pictures in the mind of the listener. How to pull at the heart strings, to evoke emotion from strangers on the other side of the speaker, how to make them love him. He also knew how to follow the rules, do everything the format dictated, and still do his thing on the air. He was without a doubt the best "in studio" production mechanic I have ever seen. The music would end, he'd turn on the mike and while he was talking he'd place the needle on the record again and undeard by the radio audience he would listen for an ecxact cue point. Music playing only in his ear while talking live on the air. Then start the music for an "encore".
I was fascinated just watching him.

Each night when I entered the studio there were two or three guys sitting there with Clay. Actually, no matter when I arrived at the station there always seemed to be a few visitors in the studio. Most of the time Clay would ignore my presence. Hey, I was the kid. The all night guy. But occasionally he'd introduce me to his guests.

I soon learned they were all from the music industry in the business of promoting records. Their job was to get people like Tom Clay and others on the radio who had large audiences to play the records owned by the companies they represented. Get the records played. That was their mission. Get the airplay. Not from all night huys like me, but from the big guys. And trust me Tom Clay was huge.

Almost every month Tom would prove to everyone just how powerful he was on the radio. There was a large armory on the east side of the city. The Light Guard Armory was owned by the state and used for National Guard activities. The hall would hold about three thousand people standing up. Every month or so Tom Clay would rent the Light Guard Armory and announce to his audience that there was going to be a "Big Old Ball" on a certain Saturday night. He called it "The Big Dance" and told the world he would be there in person. The record promotion people would bring any recording artists who were in town to the event and Tom would promote that as well.

Clay filled the place.
Every time he held the dance there it was jammed with teenagers who wanted to be part of it. Admission was a dollar, Tom paid the rent and expenses and kept the rest. A good legitimate business and proof that Tom Clay was King of the Teenage Hill in Detroit.

People still insist that they saw me sitting 70 feet in the air on a lighted restaurant sign near that armory one night waving at all the traffic on 8 Mile Road. The same 8 mile road that was recently featured in a movie. It wasn’t me. It was Tom Clay, the promoter, the inventor, a guy who knew what radio could do and how to use it.

The others on that station were very well known household names. Tom George, Clark Reid, Don McCleod. Good people with good careers. They were talented communicators who all loved what they were doing. The format was contemporary, and we played only the hits. The list was called "Forumla 45." Everyone played from that list and now and then we could play other records of our own choice.

Each week there was one record on the list that was selected by the station as a future hit that had to be played once every hour for a week. Those were orders from management. Play it once an hour around the clock.

In every city, town, and village across America the Disc Jockeys and other air personalities replaced the drama, comedy, and pathos of the old radio shows. Listeners considered them to be very personal friends, companions who were there with them in their homes and cars every day.

Compared to today there were only a few stations to choose from. All on the AM dial. Nobody listened to FM. Radios only had AM on them. FM would not become a factor until 1967 when the FCC forced it to happen. There were only a few stations and the personalities on them held the whole radio audience captive.

There were no computers. There was no Internet. Radio and television were the entertainment pulse of America. Everyone was watching. Everyone was listening.
What a target they could make for the politicians!
And that’s exactly what they became.
The target. Radio was the bulls eye.
There were three Detroit newspapers.

Tom Clay would soon make the front page on all of them.
More to follow............
Regards Lee Alan