I was at Costco the other day, picking up a few items that, for our household, it always pays to buy in bulk — butter, beer and coffee. I couldn’t figure out why I kept saying “butter and beer” over and over in my head, and then I remembered:
For years, WBNS, the CBS station in Columbus, ran a public-affairs show in the after-dinner, before-prime time slot that existed before “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy.” This was back when the FCC required a certain amount of public-affairs programming, and WBNS filled its obligation in part with this show — “Juvenile Court,” later renamed “The Judge.” In a half hour, two juvie cases were dramatized, with actors from local community theaters. It was spectacularly minimalist staging, sort of a “Waiting for Godot” of justice. (I like to think they kept the scenery light to keep the actors from chewing it.) The scene was always the final disposition of a particular case, which meant the facts could be rattled off in a simple status report, and then the judge would speak to all the concerned parties before making a final ruling. Lessons would be learned about neglectful parents, straying children and the wages of divorce and other social problems.
Everybody watched it, and it taught me a lot. What “incorrigible” means. How an Appalachian accent is a predictor of bad behavior. How lower-class defendants address the court as “judge” while wealthier ones say, “your honor.” I still remember many of the cases, which became comedy material for my friends in our smartass teen years, in one smoky basement or another. One of its key phrases remained with us for years: “What’s the home investigation?”
This was the fulcrum on which the case turned, the signal that we had now reached the good part. I said before that all the parts were played by actors? All but one — the social workers, who always played themselves. I don’t know why: maybe it was a union thing. It gave the series some continuity, with the same half-dozen social workers appearing again and again. And they brought a certain verisimilitude to the proceedings. It would be hard for even Meryl Streep to duplicate that bureaucratic pinch-faced delivery, the monotonal reading of facts gathered in the home investigation, which apparently required all concerned to open their doors and let this dowdy woman with a clipboard come in and poke around.
There was one couple whose children were ruled incorrigible, and it came out in the hearing that they raised dogs, which they obviously preferred over their own offspring. We learned this because the home investigation showed that there was nothing in the refrigerator (they always looked in the refrigerator, always) but butter and beer, although there was plenty of dog food. The judge demanded an explanation. “Judge, them dawgs gotta eat,” the father said in his southern Ohio twang.
(Later in life I knew a woman raised in a home very much like this one, and I regretted all the jokes I’d had over that case. Evidently it’s no fun to watch the household budget go for puppy chow while you and your teenage brother split a single pork chop.)
Mostly the proceedings were amazingly true to life, i.e., pretty wooden and boring, although some directors tried to light things up a little. There was one case which required the teen girl at its center to break down halfway through and shriek, “I’m going to have a baby!” She got the line off at top volume, then bent over and buried her face in her knees. She had to do this because it was clear she was hysterical with laughter and couldn’t keep it together. She played the rest of the scene that way, clutching her knees, rocking back and forth, answering all further questions with nods or shakes of the head. No time to reshoot the scene, this was local TV.
Anyway, if any of this is starting to sound familiar, here’s why: Years after the series went off the air, it was revived to catch the wave of syndicated court shows. The single courtroom set was gone, and the show opened up to shoot scenes in the judge’s chambers and in various courthouse anterooms. The social workers were history, and while I’m sure the new actors were professionals, they didn’t do a much better job than the original amateurs. (Although, given the material? It’s a wash.) But “Judge Robert Franklin,” surely named for the county of his incarnation, was the same. I think he was on the take, because this humble public servant lived in a veritable plantation (note the uniformed servant in the doorway as he leaves for work):
Anyway. Aren’t you glad you followed this thread with me? Isn’t it just like being in a nursing home?
So, a little bloggage?
I suspect the home investigation in this case would turn up some real gems. How often do 6-year-olds miss the bus and decide to drive to school?
Reading the business pages these days is like reading the obituaries. Is life without luxury goods that unbearable?
Everybody has something to say about the dangling skier, but my contribution is this: digital cameras produce amazingly clear images these days.
Off to work. A good day to all.
coozledad said on January 7, 2009 at 10:30 am
That’s it. I’m going to practice better personal hygeine. You never know when your ass is going to get its fifteen minutes.
Although I suspect this guy’s going to become a fixture in popular culture. This image has staying power.
nancy said on January 7, 2009 at 10:36 am
That guy’s lawyer just bought a big box of Cuban cigars. Because life? Is sweet.
Connie said on January 7, 2009 at 10:38 am
Thank you so much for the skier pics. My entire office is enjoying them.
Kirk said on January 7, 2009 at 10:38 am
Speaking of Columbus TV, I expect you heard that Jimmy Crum died. After a respectful period of time has passed, we’ll ask his daughter what happens to all of those go-to-hell sport jackets.
nancy said on January 7, 2009 at 10:43 am
I didn’t know he’d died, and I didn’t know this, either:
Among his career highlights were five weeks spent on Kodiak Island, AK in 1956 filming “The Big Bear Hunt.” The 13-week television series received a Billboard Award. The 1,300 lb. bear he shot is the official mascot of the Upper Arlington High School Golden Bears.
I walked past that bear a million times. Why didn’t I know it had been shot by my classmate’s father?
brian stouder said on January 7, 2009 at 10:51 am
Those business page/obits are worth a glance.
It appears that the German who got smashed like a bug (so to speak) by the ‘dramatic VW short squeeze’ has a Fort Wayne hook, as one of his companies is associated with Hanson PLC, the owner of our big big big hole in the ground (used to be May Stone and Sand)…
and had to chuckle (darkly) over the statement from the firm of the Chicago real estate auctioneer (who is now going, going, gone! Brought down the gavel on his own existence) – which touted how well positioned for the future that he left the firm(!!)
Jolene said on January 7, 2009 at 10:55 am
Indeed, the home investigation for the six-year-old driver had already been done, resulting in a requirement that the father never leave the father alone w/ the mother. Pretty amazing requirement, but, given that the boy left the house while his mother slept, it seems to have been justified.
Gasman said on January 7, 2009 at 11:10 am
When I see examples of riveting programming like “The Judge” I wonder: why have I even considered buying a new TV? It looks like it was done by a high school TV Production class. No, the high schoolers would have done a better job.
As for the skier dangling his wares unVailed, as it were, for all to see (I can just hear him now – “It’s shrinkage, shrinkage, SHRINKAGE I tell you, DAMN IT! It’s COLD OUT HERE!”), after my initial chuckle, I looked at the child hanging on what was supposed to be a seat. If they hadn’t stopped the lift when they did it could have been a very tragic end instead of just a very frightening and embarrassing one.
Dorothy said on January 7, 2009 at 11:15 am
Not being a Columbus native I did not know who Jimmy Crum was. One of the female news anchors started crying during the playing of old video of him last night. He must have been quite a guy. His sports jackets immediately put me in mind of Bill Cardille, aka Chilly Billy of WIIC Pittsburgh (now WPXI).
Jen said on January 7, 2009 at 11:22 am
Business stories these days are making me happy that I never had much money to begin with. So far (knock on wood), we haven’t been affected TOO bad. My husband was unemployed for a month but found a new, better job that he’s enjoying, and I still have a job. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Marci said on January 7, 2009 at 11:29 am
Haha! I sort of forgot about The Judge! God, that brings back memories. I used to love to watch that show when I was a kid. That, and The People’s Court. This probably explains why, as an adult, I can’t bring myself to flip past an episode of Judge Judy, even if I’ve already watched it once before.
Catherine said on January 7, 2009 at 12:01 pm
I don’t think that judge is a real judge at all. He’s going to work at Pasadena City Hall — no courts there. He has the feel of a Tournament of Roses muckety, but I’d have to check whether there are golf tees embroidered on his socks.
coozledad said on January 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm
You have to wonder why these guys are offing themselves. Is it some misreading of the Samurai code, or Sun Tzu? Have they realized that they are failures even as jerks? Did they anticipate being strung up by the Jaquerie?
It can’t be because of shame. They have none.
nancy said on January 7, 2009 at 12:25 pm
Cooz, as this lady’s case suggests, perhaps suicide on your own timetable is preferable to watching your dick be fed to a Russian gangster’s pit bull. Sorry to be crude, but until I read that story last night, it hadn’t occurred to me.
LA Mary said on January 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm
Catherine’s right. He’s going into Pasadena City Hall and yes, he’s white and old and properous looking (and square) enough to be a Tournament of Roses muckety. I alienated two thirds of my coworkers yesterday by not loving the whole Tournament of Roses thing. This year’s prez or chairman or grand hoopdy or whatever they call them actually had a name that could flag him as a non-Protestant.
coozledad said on January 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm
For some reason I’m visualizing Bob Hoskins in the closing minutes of “The Long Good Friday”.
beb said on January 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm
The amazing thing about that 6 year old kid wasn’t that he went six miles before hitting a bridge abuttment, or that he successfully made two right angle turns or that he missed all on-coming traffic. No, what was amazing twas that apparently he knew the way to his school.
The other odd story in the freep today involved a 4 year old who got so made when his babysitter stepped on his foot that he hauled a shotgun out of a closet and shot at the babysitter, causing minor injuries. Doesn’t anyone teach them children anger management? And who leaves a loaded shotgun in a closet where a four year can get it? I mean, geez, what a recipe for waking up dead someday!
nancy said on January 7, 2009 at 12:40 pm
An excellent shout-out that demonstrates the depth of your cultural refinement. Or at least the market penetration of Netflix in North Carolina.
Of course the judge is an actor. I found a reference online where someone said that open was shot in Columbus. Um, noooo.
John said on January 7, 2009 at 12:45 pm
“Waking up dead”, one of my favorite expression. I always imagined those early morning sirens I could hear were ambulances rushing to a house to pick up someone who just awoke dead. My EMT friend ruined that fantasy for me by saying most morning calls are for slips and falls in the bathroom. That’s just not the same.
MarkH said on January 7, 2009 at 12:57 pm
RIP Jimmy Crum. The only sports reporter in central Ohio who would stand up (such as it was) to Woody Hayes. I remember a couple of time when Woody went way to the edge behavior-wise, Jimmy was the only one to call him on it, in what WCMH would make sure to display at the time “commentary”.
Also, Kirk, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t he the only one in Columbus to actually use the word “fired” as fact in a story about Hayes’ departure in 1978? I only met him twice in my almost-professional sportswriting career in Columbus, but he was very nice and always approachable.
HA HA, Dorothy – Chilly Billy Cardilly, host of Chiller Theatre Saturday nights on Channel 11. When the original “Night of the Living Dead” was filmed in the Pittsburgh area, he landed a role as a result of his hosting WIIC’s horror scream-fest. That’s him in the very beginning of the film, in the graveyard, I think. Also Dorothy, remember Captain Jim’s Popeye Club on Channel 11? Captain Jim was Bill’s dad; guess that’s how he got his job…
Columbus court shows: I remember “Traffic Court’ best of all. The “judge” was actually a communications professor at OSU, can’t remember his name, and a lot of the perps were his students, I think. One person, who it was obvious was a friend of the judge’s, made the mistake of calling him by his real first name. The judge immediately went into character, shouting and banging his gavel, reminding him of proper courtroom decorum and how a judge is addressed. The “defendant” was really shook up by the whole thing.
Jolene said on January 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm
Not so surprising that the five-year-old knew the way to school, beb. When he was about that age, my brother drew a map from our farm to my grandparents’ farm and another one to the little town near us. Similarly, during a visit to my sister and her family in Seattle, my young niece was able to guide me to the shopping area in her urban neighborhood. I suspect kids become familiar w/ their surroundings pretty early, but, because of concerns about their safety, they aren’t asked to display that competence until much later.
Kirk said on January 7, 2009 at 1:21 pm
Couldn’t say that Crum was the only one who said Woody Hayes was fired, only that not enough media outlets did likewise, my present employer The Dispatch painting itself with shame by being the hugest example. (I still have a copy of the “WOODY HAYES RESIGNS” paper.)
I wasn’t around Jimmy a lot, but he was a really nice guy, as was his wife. (Did you go to school with Kelly, Nance?)
My Jimmy Crum story involves the Little Brown Jug in Delaware. For those who don’t know, it’s a combination picnic/all-day drunk/program of some of the world’s best harness racing dropped into the middle of a county fair in mid-September. It’s a blast.
We always used to hang on the backstretch in an area where we could set up our lawn chairs, beer and food. Mrs. Crum was among the people who were around our group. After the races, Jimmy came back over from the press box. We were standing there yakking, having a beer, when a young woman came up, hollered “Jimmy!” and pulled up her T-shirt. We all howled; Jimmy just said, “Happens all the time.”
Kirk said on January 7, 2009 at 1:23 pm
One time on “Traffic Court,” one of the defendants, getting into his role, called the judge a son of a bitch.
brian stouder said on January 7, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Local Fort Wayne live broadcast news highlights that I myself saw include:
The time Ken Kurtz (channel 15) threw up on the air; the time John Moss (channel 33) stopped dead during his weather deal and, looking at the floor, said “that’s the biggest cockroach I think I’ve ever seen!” – and the camera panned down to the skittering feller! And another time on channel 33, they were doing a live-remote interview, and the guy they were talking to dropped the f-bomb about 5 times before they got the plug pulled, and switched back to the studio, where there was much throat clearing and extemporaneous apologies!
(and of course – on several occasions we got to see The Propreitress herownself on channel 15, but we digress)
Kirk said on January 7, 2009 at 2:00 pm
On the then-just on the air ABC channel in Columbia, Mo., about 35 years ago, they had an amateurish call-in show hosted by an unintentionally comic doofus. They also didn’t have tape delay, which is why viewers heard one night: “You know what I’d like to see on TV? I’d like to see a mouse fuck an elephant.”
Dorothy said on January 7, 2009 at 2:18 pm
Mark I don’t recall Captain Jim’s Popeye Club. Must have been before my time. My husband was, however, on the Ricky & Copper show once upon a time. And to my astonishment, I found out about 2 months ago that someone in my office is related to Ricky Wertz through marriage!
jcburns said on January 7, 2009 at 2:27 pm
I believe the ‘Traffic Court’ judge was played by (and how could you make this up) Delbert Oberteuffer. I just pray that I have the wisdom to always temper justice…with mercy. Wait, that’s ‘The Judge.’ For ‘Traffic Court’: I just pray that I have the wisdom to always temper alcohol…with seat belts.
Jolene said on January 7, 2009 at 2:39 pm
jc, did you see 60 Minutes this past week? Better to temper alcohol w/ a designated driver. Not that I am perfectly virtuous in this regard, but, jeez, that was a sobering presentation.
brian stouder said on January 7, 2009 at 2:52 pm
If you had to choose, would you rather speed down the 2-lane highway with motorists coming the other way who have:
a) had one or two 12 ounce beers in the past hour
b) had one or two glasses of wine in the past hour
c) are in the middle of composing a text message on their Blackberry/I’m-Bad/T-mobile poddy whatchamacallit doohicky
d) are trying to sell a customer a super-deluxe widget (plus installation and spare parts) on his cell phone
Dave said on January 7, 2009 at 3:05 pm
I had a teacher in high school who used to be on Traffic Court at least once a year, she was an elderly lady (well, I thought so at the time) and I don’t know if she belonged to any local community acting groups or not and now I wonder.
Who could forget Jimmy Crum and his colorful jackets. In reading about him, I see that Jerry Rasor is no longer with us. Anyone else remember the sixty-ish Saturday morning Dance Party?
Chet Long on Channel 10? And Spook Beckman, always on one radio station or another?
Kirk said on January 7, 2009 at 3:31 pm
Remember them all, Dave. Chet Long, who was an alcoholic, ended every newscast with a “thought for the day.” On Friday, it was always, “And remember this Sunday to attend the church of your choice.”
Dave said on January 7, 2009 at 3:38 pm
Chet Long was an alcoholic? Had no idea, I remember him saying that, though. I’m sure I mostly saw him on Friday nights and summer nights, I can’t even remember if there was an early evening news then. That’s when the news went 15 minutes and then I believe the national news was on for another 15 with Douglas Edwards on CBS. Yes, predating Walter Cronkite.
Kirk said on January 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm
Sounds like we’re in the same age bracket. I watched Chet and Douglas Edwards. No Huntley and Brinkley in our house.
Sue said on January 7, 2009 at 4:16 pm
Off topic: Why isn’t this blog a Weblog Awards Finalist? Who nominates? Vast something-wing conspiracy?
Gasman said on January 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm
As my dad was Art Director at the old WKJG 33 in Fort Wayne, I spent much time there as a kid. It was when it was not only the NBC affiliate, but also an AM radio station when that was THE format.
WKJG was definitely a small time station at that time and everybody ended up doing multiple gigs occasionally. The staff also tried to break the concentration of the on air folks by engaging in off camera shenanigans.
One particular newscast, my dad was working as floor manager and was getting ready to cue the newbie weather guy. Dad counts down “3, 2, 1, …” and points to the weather guy while simultaneously dropping his pants. New guy laughs so hard he doesn’t even get out the weather cast, making it his first and last time on WKJG. Ah, for the carefree life in old time bush league TV.
jcburns said on January 7, 2009 at 4:47 pm
You gotta love a newscast called “Looking with Long.” Brought to you by Columbia Gas of Ohio.
LA Mary said on January 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm
In the eighties my friends in NYC called the local channel four newscast “Dykes at Five.” Here in LA we had mostly fluffy haired women in Dynasty shouldered power suits at that time, so it was a refreshing change when I visited the big apple.
Julie Robinson said on January 7, 2009 at 5:30 pm
My dad was in radio at a small town station and I loved to hang out with him. I remember him setting fire to the news copy as it was being read by the other news guy.
Gasman said on January 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm
My other WKJG story involves the radio side. I was about 3 and was hanging out with my dad while he was chatting with one of the news guys prior to the noon news break. We were in the little booth where the on air guy would read the news at the top of the hour. It was a few minutes before noon and while the adults were talking about incomprehensibly boring adult stuff, I was busying myself crawling underneath the console. I was hiding behind the jungle of cables quietly pretending to be a lion.
Well, it came time to do the news and my dad exited the booth, either forgetting I was in there with the hapless newsguy or assuming that since I was quiet, I would be no trouble. Little did he know. It was about that time when I realized just how similar newsguy’s legs looked to those of a gazelle. Just as newsguy was starting, I pounced.
“I’m News Guy and it’s time for the twelve o’clock ARRGGHHH!!!” Of course, being a lion, I did what lions do and I bit him on the leg. Given that I was a lion, it seemed the only logical course of action.
My mom heard newsguy’s piteous on air bleating live and later heard that it was her son that was responsible. What the hell did they expect? I was a lion.
whitebeard said on January 7, 2009 at 8:06 pm
Radio daze in a small station, CJIC in The Soo, with an even smaller budget so the good microphone was usually borrowed from the announce booth. Early morning newscast read into the desk lamp while the frantic control room guy tried to grasp words from the ether.
On another newcast, this time at night, frantic control room guy watches in horror as two newscasters battle over who is going to read the news. Scripts are torn in half, set on fire, blows are exchanged. Good acting too, because the newcast had been pre-taped and was on the air while the control room guy only heard and saw the mock struggle.
whitebeard said on January 7, 2009 at 8:15 pm
The joys of a bigger television budget, same station, with two (yes, two) on-air cameras. Producer calls for switch to Camera Two while said cameraman is trying to peer down the blouse of the well-endowed guest.
Same cameraman, different guest, almost faints with horror when sports announcer asks the possibly well-steroided female weightlifter “Now, let’s see your snatch.”
And you thought the announce-booth window was shatterproof. Station manager slams phone down so hard it bounces through said window and announcer is showered in glass while reading commercial and very calmly announces that there seems to be a problem, shuts off mike and screams “What the (expletive) was that?”
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 7, 2009 at 9:18 pm
Jimmy Crum was just a charming, inquisitive, forthright guy who happened to have a taste for plaid jackets. He said once in my hearing “it takes people’s attention off my lack of hair.” I believe he had about thirty different answers for “why those jackets.”
He would show up for almost any public service event that needed his presence in the eight county central Ohio area, without regard for compensation or whether he was going to be the big cheese at the event or not, and that was true after his “retirement” until he just couldn’t physically do it anymore. When Jimmy Crum stood up (all of 5’4″ i think) and talked about “pay it forward,” you didn’t detect a whiff of triteness or irony. Jimmy always gave Woody credit for “pay it forward” (and Coach Hayes would have been fired sooner, for something worse, were it not for Jimmy Crum’s influence, i strongly suspect), but i think the real motive force behind making “pay it forward” such a well known trope was the sportscaster from Channel 4 in the loud blazers.
Cara said on January 7, 2009 at 10:16 pm
The stories, the memories, and oh, the great laughs. Thanks so much for one fabulous Blog!
MarkH said on January 7, 2009 at 10:52 pm
Nice words about Jimmy, Jeff. But I’m not so sure Hayes would have gone before he did with or without Crum’s presence/ support. As Kirk said, too many gave him too many passes on his behavior until that Clemson incident put everything over the edge. But you’re absolutely right, Jimmy was the genuine article when it came to caring about his public.
Remember Woody’s WBNS TV show where he used poor Ted Mullins as a weekly punching bag during football season?
Speaking of TV people passing: Dorothy, did you remember this guy:
Right up there with Ricki & Copper and Paul Shannon. When I was a kid, I once wrote Hank and Knish a letter and was thrilled when they wrote back.
All schoolboys had a crush on Ricki Wertz back then; here’s a reminder:
joodyb said on January 7, 2009 at 11:38 pm
I could have the distinction of being the only commenter here who grew up/came of age with both Chilly Billy and Jimmy Crum.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 8, 2009 at 7:32 am
Mark Bittman is doing a fascinating “body of work” across his columns and articles on food in the NYTimes: this is a great start o’ the year piece for cooks at home — http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/dining/07mini.html — but i hated disagreeing with him right at the start. Let me have my croutons in a bag, please, i just don’t get results that make the time worth spending. Plus dried basil isn’t worthless, just not as wonderful as fresh (dried parsley i finally gave myself permission to stop buying, but my mom always had a big jar of it in the pantry, so it took a while…it really is worthless, tho’).
Dorothy said on January 8, 2009 at 7:40 am
Mark thanks for those links. Yes, Ricki was quite the looker – she filled out her sweaters just fine, didn’t she!? I am a little foggy on Hank Stohl. I recognize his name but I’m guessing I was too young when he was in his heyday. But my five older siblings would probably have stronger memories.
That picture of a little boy and Ricki made me think of my brother Jimmy. He’s three years younger than me. I’m positive his first grade picture had him in a white shirt and red bow tie, just like that kid! But Jim didn’t start wearing glasses until 3rd grade I think.
EDIT: Good morning Jeff!! I see we’re both checking the Nancy updates before heading to work today. Anything to avoid getting out there in the snow.
Dorothy said on January 8, 2009 at 9:03 am
Correction to my comments about Bill Cardille and the loud jackets – that was actually Bill Curry! I get my Bills mixed up all the time.
Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 8, 2009 at 9:44 am
Dorothy — I’m a little baffled, but mildly relieved: every school district in this county is closed, except Newark & Heath are 2 hr. delay, and ours is . . . no change.
Good for my morning productivity, though! Knox County looks shut down, school-wise, but i’m sure Kenyon is like Denison. If all the students live on campus, who cares? Staff, good luck!
Dorothy said on January 8, 2009 at 11:07 am
Our students don’t come back to campus until the weekend, Jeff. Classes start on Monday. So everything is still a little laid back without the student population here to make the place hum!
Ricardo said on January 11, 2009 at 11:26 pm
Detroit had local shows “Juvenile Court”, “Divorce Court”, and “Traffic Court” years before Wapner. One of my high school chums was on “Traffic Court”, ran a red light or something.
There is a book out called “Hi There Boys and Girls” that documents local children’s TV shows from the days of live television and from all over the US. As was Count Floyd on SCTV, most of the hosts were local news/weathermen and some of the local TV women. The book is highly recommended by me. When I was very, very young, Sonny Elliot came to my school for an assembly. Sonny was a long time Detroit weatherman.
Becky said on April 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm
Does anyone remember “Spook Beckman’s Coffee Club” WLW-C TV 4? I have a set of coffee mugs and don’t remember the show.