Thursday, December 27, 2007

Here we have a 1943 Lone Ranger "Cryptograph Decoder", all set for the 2007 audience (both of you!). Of course, since it was wartime in 1943, many homefront resources were reserved for the war effort...hence the disappearance of those substantial metal decoders, leaving reams of disappointing paper ones in their wake. If there were ever any rubber or beefsteak decoders, they would have gone away, too.


Anyway, simply print this out (you could use CARDSTOCK if you'd like, to make it seem slightly less flimsy), cut around the edges and fold into a little booklet with the blue square to the front. Be sure to clip out that tiny slot, too, so you can tuck in the tab and keep the undesirables out. "Be sure to guard your Weber's Lone Ranger Cryptograph Decoder carefully so that only those in good standing with the Lone Ranger can decode his secret messages."

With the tab engaged, Butch Cavendish will be unable to decipher any important codes from L.R.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Rare Script "Those We Love"

"Those We Love" was a serial drama/soap opera somewhat similar to Carlton E Morse's "One Man's Family". It ran from January of 1938 to April of 1945 - that's seven years, and there's only a SINGLE episode out there for us to hear (anyone out there have it? I don't.)! So it's not a well-known series, by any means.

I have a short stack of original scripts from this show, and thought that it might be nice to share some. Click on the pictures for some LARGE scans of the pages. I made them SO BIG so you can see the actual notes made in pencil - my guess is that since the added lines are for several different charaters, they were probably written by the author, Agnes Ridgeway, rather than by a single actor in the show.

Evidently good enough to have a seven-year run (albeit somewhat sporadic), the melodramatic stories of the John Marshall family of Connecticut proved unable to overcome the unfortunate pitfalls of numerous day, time, and network changes. One of the actresses on the show, Jean Rogers, you may know: she played the beautiful Dale Arden in the Flash Gordon movies.

So, please, check these out. Still eight more pages to this script to go (I'll have them up soon). I'd love to hear some comments on the script - would you like to see more of these? I'd especially like to hear what you think the pencilled-in stuff is...some of it is awfully hard for me to make out. And this script is marked in dark blue ballpoint pen "1943" at the top of page one, but it also says "Episode 16" typed in the script...the 16th episode would have been some time in 1938. These pages were the oldest looking of all the scripts, I lightened them up considerably to see the pencil notes...the original paper was much tanner, almost brown (!). I think the "1943" was written by someone long after the scripts were done - hey, when did ballpoint pens come into general use? The late 1950's maybe? I thin that this is a VERY old script from 1938, not at all from 1943...


PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT: click the blue word "COMMENTS" at the bottom of this post!

Last Calendar THIS YEAR...

Here's your nifty-keen super-spiffy tongue-in-cheek smoking-Santa December calendar! Who else but TOTM would give away such pop-culture two-for-one American Social Icons as Santa Claus and Lucky Strike in such a thought-provoking non-revisionist manner as this handsome useful calendar?

That thoughtful card reads: "A gift of pleasure. My spirit - the spirit of Christmas giving - is abroad in the land. A gift that expresses that spirit, and brings pleasure to every home, both great and small, is rare indeed. Such a gift, my friends, is Lucky Strike. (signed) Santa Claus"
A carton of smokes makes the perfect Christmas gift for anyone!

As Bender's old man said in "The Breakfast Club":


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Four Mugs

"Four Mugs" - No, not a set of coffee receptacles...a so-so promo photo in slo-mo of Jojo, Bobo, Coco, and Toto. HOHO! Alright, then...seriously: here's a shot of four of the five male TOTM'ers. Let's see, there's Shawn Fitzgerald, Bob Juenger, Christopher Wild, and yours truly, Stephen Jansen (I'm the one wearing the hat). Where's Jason Clark? Probably behind the camera.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To Make A Long Story Longer...

There were only five issues of the "Mysterious Traveler" magazine, based on Mutual's famous radio program. Each digest-sized issue had a wonderfully horrific Norm Saunders pulp-like cover with a damsel in distress (that's putting it lightly!).

There they are, scanned right from my own set. Click on them if you'd like to see them big. So now for the long story with the ultra-wispy tenuous thread barely connecting things: When I was but a boy, in the early 1970's, I had a favorite book titled "Ghosts And More Ghosts". It was filled with about a dozen tales that scared the living daylights out of me. I held on to that book, and the oddly pleasant creepiness that I felt every time I read the stories inside.

Flash forward to my thirties, getting together with friends and starting an audio performance troupe called Theatre Of The Mindless... we needed some different stories to perform along with the OTR recreations...maybe some adaptations of existing stories? "Ah hah!" I said to myself, "Maybe something from that great old book 'Ghosts And More Ghosts'!"

So I flipped through my well-worn copy, searching for a suitable tale to mold into radio drama. I stopped at "The Rose Crystal Bell", a haunting story about a magical bell that brings the dead back to life, with the delightful twist that another life must fill the void immediately thereafter. Somebody gets to live, somebody else must die. Oooooh, creepy.

I got right to work on my adaptation, surprised at the relative ease at which I translated the book's text into radio script form. "I guess I really have a knack for this!". M-hm. We performed the show, and it was received pretty well...better than one might expect, coming from a junior-high-level book of ghost stories, anyway.

Flash ahead a little further to a point where I have the internet and a more serious interest in the history of OTR. I happen to do a search for the author of my old book, Robert Arthur Jr. He happens to be a rather prolific writer, creator of the 1960's series of chapter books "The Three Investigators", plenty of mystery and ghost stories in detective pulp magazines...he also paired up with David Kogan, and the two of them wrote TONS OF EPISODES (500 or so!) of several classic radio programs: "The Strange Doctor Weird", and (you guessed it) "The Mysterious Traveler".

No wonder it wasn't that hard to "adapt" his story to radio. It probably CAME from a radio script.




Thursday, November 1, 2007

More TOTM Audio

Okay, better late than never, right? Here's some newer, pseudo-original Theatre Of The Mindless audio buffoonery for y'all! This one is just a few months old, and we've only done it a few times. Hopefully you will enjoy it!

I say this one is pseudo-original; quasi-original; original-ish; original-like; original-esque; a pastiche of an original, if you will...okay, what it is, is an adaptation of a groovy old comic book story. Also, it ain't "buffoonery", it's HEAVY DRAMA and HORROR. I'm not kidding. It's creepy.

We did this live on stage for about 120 people, they are extremely quiet throughout, until the end when they "get it", and the very end with the applause (of course, we probably prompted that a bit with the "APPLAUSE" sign, but that's beside the point...). We got a very good recording from this live show.

I spent a bit of time going through the secondary mixed-down recording, deleting a few vocal double takes, removing a few coughs and page turns, and so on...then a bit more time adding a few sound effects here and there to accent the ones we had already done on stage (they seldom have the same punch "on tape" as they have live). I call this "tarting it up". That's not the professional term, it's just what I call it.

Listen to the finished product by clicking HERE.

Or the giant player here:

And we're looking forward to hearing your comments (click the word "COMMENTS" at the bottom of this entry to leave one) - THANKS!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

November Calendar

Here is the November calendar - no TOTM shows this month (yet), so there's none listed (yet). Feel free to hire us, the contact info is hidden somewhere near the bottom in very tiny print. Whew. Got this one in just under the wire(less)!

This is Burns and Allen. George and Gracie. George Burns. And. Gracie Allen. She actually did run for President (sort of) in 1940, as a member of the "Surprise" party.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Would You Let A 16-Year-Old Fly Your Plane?

Another in our series of Radio Membership Cards - the Jimmie Allen Flying Club card! This popular series ran through the 1930's, and starred 40-year-old John Frank as the 16-year-old pilot, Jimmie Allen. The Hi-Octane Hi-Flying Sponsor was Skelly Oil:

"Mom! Dad! We just passed a Skelly Oil Station! We HAVE to go in so I can get my membership forms to join the Jimmie Allen Flying Club! PLEEEEEASE?!?!? It's free..." (Father sighs), "Yes, Little Willie, I guess we can stop in. Might as well get some ethyl, too, as long as we're there."

And ring up another sale, thanks to the bright idea of marketing your adult product to the children of those same adults. Thank goodness this idea has come and gone, hm? Now I'm off to McDonnal's for a Shrec-themed Happi-meal...might as well get some "food" for myself, while I'm there...I'm loathin' it!TM

Er, print out the card, fill in your name, and put it in your wallet. Show the card at your friendly neighborhood Skelly Oil dealer - it's good for a FREE gallon of gas! (nudge nudge wink wink)

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Shadow's NOSE

Here's an ultra-rare premium - a 1943 GLOW IN THE DARK Shadow pinback. Okay, so it's not really a radio premium (it's a Shadow Comic premium), but when you see the Shadow, you think radio show! I believe this one recently sold for more than $1,000 - so keep an eye on what you're cleaning out of the "junk" drawer, hm?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Mastering Dialects

So you want to put on your own audio drama? GOOD FOR YOU! Do it. Maybe you'd like to utilize some dialects in your show, in order to keep your listener's interests piqued, or to help keep the characters separate.

Here's a few pages from the 1943 book "Manual Of Foreign Dialects For Radio, Stage, And Screen" (my copy was evidently owned by Judith Krauss, somehow associated with the Will O Way Playhouse, according to the signature on the flyleaf). Be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the phonetic symbols (click each picture for a larger, easy-to-read version) before attempting to read the Irish dialect passage that I've included here:

WHEW! Did you try it out loud?

This book is a really, really rough read! No easy thing to do, learning dialects from a book - but if you were in radio or theater, having a big list of dialects on your resume meant getting more work. Nothing like doubling or tripling your salary by reading multiple parts in the same show, hm? I wonder what kind of money Paul Frees made when he performed EVERY ROLE in the OTR show "The Player"?!?

Of course, I have to mention to everyone that's interested in producing their own audio drama (or "radio shows", whether they are heard on the radio or not) how important it is to study what went before. There's a reason why the (good) old shows are as good as they are, even after 60 years or so: these writers and actors and sound effects men were all PROFESSIONALS. They made their livings doing this. If they weren't up to snuff, they didn't have a job!

So isn't it your responsibility to research the past? Pick up books and scripts that are related to Old Time Radio, and soak them up. As with any profession, you must first learn the rules before you go out and break them. There are tons of old "how to" books out there about radio writing, production, direction, and sound effects - pick up a few and LEARN HOW IT'S REALLY DONE. Besides, the books, just like the old radio shows, are a window to a different time...certainly not very politically correct, worth a nervous laugh or two (I'll post another book snippet later about why women are just not cut out for careers in radio!).

MAH'r LAY/uhr!

("More later!") 8^)#

Monday, October 1, 2007

Okay, here's a bit of TOTM history for you - an original piece that we did our first year (izzat NINE YEARS AGO?!?). Be forewarned: this is NOT one of the newer, mindblowing pieces that we're working on right now, but a rather flawed amateur production...there's plenty wrong with this one, but there's also plenty that's cool.

"The Seven Dogs Of Death" was written by Shawn Fitzgerald, and features several of the current TOTM members, plus Heidi Feldkirchner and Mark Kettner (full credits at the end of the show...and I still wince because I badly mispronounced Heidi's last name - sorry!). Done in the harder-to-edit analog tape days, this horror tale hasn't been heard (live or recorded or otherwise) for many years.

Give it a listen. Leave a comment. Use it as a way to measure how much we've improved, once you hear the newer stuff.

It was tons of fun to do. Now I'll have to dig up "Dear Old Dad", a horror monologue that we did before this one. That one's so bad it's good. Yeah, man, where'd I put that cassette? What do you mean, "What's a cassette?"?

CLICK HERE to hear it, or right click and "Save Link As" to save it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

October Calendar

Here's the brand-new calendar for the brand-new month! Be sure to check out Saturday the 13th - that's our next show! A fundraiser for the Waukegan Public Library! Waukegan being Jack Benny's home town, you can check out the bronze statue of him just a few blocks from the library, right across the street from the now-fabulously-redone Genesee Theater. Click HERE for a few pics of the statue from the Hughes family - hmm...somehow Karen has made Mr Benny's ghost appear, and he doesn't look a day over thirty-nine!

HERE is a map to the place, in case you didn't already happen to know where this internationally famous library sits.

This is early enough in October to NOT be completely classified as a Halloween show. There will be some scary stuff, and some funny stuff. And maybe some cool historical stuff...and possibly some literary stuff, but don't worry, we'll crush it up and mix it with some honey in a spoon so it's more palatable.

Print this calendar and put it up on the fridge so you don't forget to come to the show - THANKS!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Here’s a picture of the 1937 Radio Orphan Annie Silver Star Member "Secret Message" Ring. Way back then (gee, seventy years ago!) in order to achieve Silver Star status, young consumers, er, listeners were supposed to tell at least three friends about the benefits of drinking Ovaltine, and get each friend to give them an inner seal from an Ovaltine container, and then mail in all the seals. These special members received an official folder of "Special Secrets". Each year there was a slightly different silver-plated Silver Star ring. If you happen to have one of these in your drawer at home, take care of it – it’s worth several hundred dollars these days.

Use your 1937 Radio Orphan Annie "Sunburst" Decoder Badge to solve the secret message on the ring. If you don't happen to have a 1937 decoder, you can probably figure it out with a pencil and paper, plus this decoding primer that I lifted from somewhere (I forget where). Here's a helpful hint: the secret message starts off with: "I am a Silver Star Member".

How to solve a cipher

Solving substitution ciphers might seem hard at first, especially when you have no clues to go by, but it's not as difficult at it seems.

The key is to look for familiar elements. For instance, look for two-letter words, which most likely will be words like an, so, it, to, is, etc.

Also, look for double-letter combinations within words, which most likely will be oo, ss, ee, etc.

If you see the same three-letter word combination more than once within a phrase, chances are it will be the word "the", although other words are possible.

It also helps to remember the frequency with which we use letters of the alphabet. Here are the top 10 letters of the alphabet in order of frequency: E T A O N R I S H D. In a cipher, if you see one letter used often, chances are it's E, T, A or O.

The best thing to do is just plunge ahead with a hunch and see if it leads you anywhere. For instance, if you think a particular letter equals E, put down E on all those letters and work from there. You might have to backtrack and use other letters, but that's part of the fun of solving ciphers.

Facts to remember:

Most common 2-letter words - of to in it is be as so we he by or on if me my up an go no us am

Most common 3-letter words - the and for are but not you all any can had her was one our day get has

Most common 4-letter words - that with have this will your from want been good some time very when come here just

Most frequent letters - e t a o i n s r h l d c u m f p g w y b v k x j q z

Most frequent double letters - LL EE SS OO TT FF RR NN PP CC


More than 50% of all English words begin with: T, A, O, S, or W.

* More than 50% of all English words end with: E, S, D, or T.

* When F is the final letter of a word, the letter before it is usually O.

* When H is the final letter of a word, the letter before it is often G.

* When G is the final letter of a word, it is frequently part of ING.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Building Better Bickersons

We prefer to present a relatively true-to-life Old Time Radio experience when we perform - utilizing real-world music (that's the multitalented Virginia Fitzgerald on the keyboards) and live sound effects wherever possible (not pre-recorded). And although the major impetus of our shows is that the audience has FUN, a secondary objective is that we actually educate - presenting little-known information and dispelling common myths about these great shows from the past.

Although sometimes we will make some changes to the old shows: for instance, a typical television comedy of today is paced with something like two laughs per minute. The typical OTR comedy had much more space between laughs, something like two to five minutes, depending on the show. For a Jack Benny Center fundraiser years ago, we decided to do a Drene Time "Bickersons" recreation. Now, the Bickersons (starring Kenosha, Wisconsin native Don Ameche and Frances Langford) are some of the funniest radio comedy shows ever done, especially since just about all of the adults in the audience can sympathize with both John and Blanche Bickerson, the snappily-married couple. But we thought that the pacing seemed to be just a tad slow for such hilarious bits to go over as well as they could. So our resident actor/scriptwriter Shawn Fitzgerald went ahead and created a hybrid episode, editing together the funniest bits from a dozen or so Bickersons shows. He somehow made these handfuls of unrelated comedy situations flow together as if they were originally written that way, even throwing in a few zingers of his own.

So what our audience heard that night was not actually a standard Bickersons episode, as they may have thought. It was (dare I say it?) BETTER - it had that one-two punch of multiple repeated laughs, one after the other, through the entire show...much more akin to what today's television-minded audience is used to.

So we broke our own rules a bit, to improve the show. Please don't be upset. We did it for did enjoy it, didn't you? Thought so.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Doctor WHO?!?

Here is an example of why the word "MINDLESS" is part of our name. My sister, Laura, had some trouble with the line: "...just like Doctor Watson with Sherlock Holmes." This is a tiny excerpt from our recent recording sessions, from the upcoming adventure serial "Enigma, Incorporated".

The serial is definitely NOT a comedy like this blooper might suggest, but a science-based mystery/adventure for the grown-ups: think a mix of Doc Savage, I Love A Mystery, and Pat Novak (gosh, that IS setting the bar pretty high!). We're shooting for some REAL science, along with heavy mystery and action, and some smart-mouthed characters to lighten the mood along the way.

COMING TO A BLOG NEAR YOU SOON (this one, of course!)

Tip 'O' The Fedora

And a nice big tip-of-the-hat to William Spears who just added TOTM (that's us!) to his blog, "Lit Between The Ears". In addition to scores of links to other audio drama groups and other information, the site also offers books of scripts of audio adaptations of the classics - much of which is there to read...also an interesting section on "Definitions And Usage", interesting terminology used in radio/audio drama production.

Here's a nice 1930-something ad for the "Buck Rogers" radio show: voted most popular radio program - something that we'd ALL like for our own shows, I'm sure...but where would you go to vote?

Friday, August 31, 2007


Click here for this wonderful audio download - a crisp, refreshing 1940's ad for Chesterfield cigarettes. Gosh, they make them sound so APPEALING! And then there's this cutie in the magazine ad waving that checkered flag with her un-ciggied free makes me want to RACE down to the corner stand to buy some Chesterfields! What ingeniously insidious, iniquitously interesting, and interminably intoxicating marketing. But we're much too sophisticated to fall for that type of advertising in this day and age, right? RIGHT?!? Yeah, right.

Some Audio

Okay, now I'm cooking with gas - I've got a little tasty TOTM audio tidbit for you all! One of our short original ads from one of our shows at the Jack Benny Center For The Arts in Waukegan...done in (*gasp*) 2006! This one has Christopher Wild as the announcer, and stars versatile Virginia Fitzgerald (she plays live keyboard AND acts up a storm) as "Mom" and Laura Jansen (my sister who also acts up a storm, and writes up a few nice cloudbursts) as "Dottie". I'm even in there at the end for a quick line as "Dad".

Click Here for LyeCo Ad



Calendar Page

Here's a cool way to keep track of your upcoming appointments (and our upcoming shows!). Simply print out this calendar page, and put it somewhere that you happen to frequent. I'll try to have some interesting and unusual radio-related pictures as backgrounds, so you'll come back for more. I'll also try to post a new one about every month...ENJOY!

Time Travel

Okay, and just in case some of you might like to do some time-travel of your own, here's a nifty Dick Tracy Radio Club card from the 1930's. Print it out, fill it out, and become a Junior Detective!


Hullo, there!

Welcome to the "Theatre Of The Mindless" blog. First off, please remember that the idea behind this blog is some discussion: monolog/dialog/weblog...see? So for now, first off, it's just a monolog - I'm the only guy saying anything. But once you reply, we can begin to have a dialog.

I'm still working out the main direction that I'd like for the blog, but mainly, it will be about the audio performance group "Theatre Of The Mindless" (or TOTM for short!). Posts about our upcoming shows, how we prepare, tips on writing audio drama, tips on recording, etc.

Firstly, some info about the group: we've been doing this for almost ten years now, in the far north suburbs of Chicago. We've all got day jobs (of course!), but really enjoy doing the radio on stage thing. It's almost like time travel, with the 1940's costumes, antique microphone props, and real old radios on stage!

The older folks in the audience enjoy the show mostly for nostalgic reasons, I think...and most of them only got to hear the old shows, not actually see them being performed. The younger folks have only the slightest inkling of what old time radio (OTR) was, so this is all new to them (!). And the youngest folks, the kids, enjoy it for what it mainly is: storytelling. A lot of the little ones go home and put on radio shows of their own. Now that's a compliment. No need for OTR to completely die out...we just need to fan the flames a bit!

Okay, that's it for openers. Seen us? Comments? Questions? Please reply - THANKS!