Scherago: Delighted in breaking up the
unbreakable, and he usually won. He could see the humor in what was serious business to
those in front of the microphone. Once the personality saw the humor that Bob pointed out,
that was all it took to preserve another moment for the WTIC blooper tape.
Here are some Robert E. Smith stories:
I think it was Floyd's 25th anniversary party at the
Wethersfield Country Club. Since I lived in Bloomfield (near Robert E.) and Wayne Mulligan lived close by in Windsor, Robert E. suggested we meet at his
house for drinks, then he'd drive to the party. Wayne drove to my house, and we went to
"Woodwind Hollow" in my car.
Robert E. was an excellent host; we sat on his porch surrounded by woods and
his statuary collection. Our host and teacher went into the kitchen and prepared
three memorable Martinis, Wayne's and my first ever. We enjoyed them, then Bob said it was
time to go.
When we got to the country club, Robert E. disappeared, only to return with
more Martinis for the three of us. Wayne and Iooked at each other and decided we had to be
gratious. We downed the drinks. We confided to each other that we were getting somewhat
tipsy, but we'd have to reciprocate.
Unfortunately, a few minutes later our enabler disappeared, returning again with
three more glasses of the nectar of the gods.
Neither Wayne nor I would have been able to drive home - Bob must have been immune
to the effects of the alcohol, but he drove us both home. We seem to remember that we had
a good time, but can't remember a thing about the party except for the drinks.
Another warm memory about Bob is a baby-sitting story. Marcia and I were talking
with him one night about getting reliable baby sitters. He told us he'd love to take care
of our two boys. He insisted, and we took him up on it, although we imagined coming home
to see him tied to a chair and the boys doing a dance around him. Instead, he was sitting
on the couch, the boys on either side of him, enthralled by the book he was reading to
But the kicker was when Steven, our older son, asked, "Mr. Smith, do you have
Bob answered, as only he could, "None to speak of!"
But those who know me know that I have a mean streak when it comes to on-air
personalities. Robert E. had been in radio for forever and a half, but hadn't a clue how
any of it worked. One day I was in the control room recording "Your Box at the
Opera." As you may remember, Bob selected 78's from his vast personal collection for
the show, and was very protective of them.
He was in the studio as a record was playing, and I picked up what he thought
was one of his records (actually it was an old cracked 78 that I found in the trash) and
threw it across the control room. At the same time I played a sound effect of glass
breaking. After I scraped him off the ceiling, he admitted it was funny.
I remember when WTIC-FM dropped its classical format and his show was broadcast on
the University of Hartford station Bob had to go to their studios to have the program
recorded. He was upset that the college students assigned to operate the equipment hadn't
a clue as to what to do or how to do it. Sometimes they didn't even show up. Eventually
Ross Miller asked me to go to their studios and record the show for him. That lasted until
he was too ill to continue, then I edited old tapes and delivered them to the station.
It was a rather sad ending for a man whose long career touched many
lives. Robert E. Smith was a good friend, and I still miss him.
Here's a selection
Sunday mornings at
TIC were long and boring, so it was necessary to come up with ideas to amuse
ourselves during the "transcribed" religious shows. Every once in a while Ray
Rice and I would record a parody of Hymn Time; I'd set up Studio 1, roll a tape, then go
into the studio and play hymns on the old Hammond organ while Ray faked sermonettes!
I broke up nearly every announcer unfortunate enough to work with
me; as the announcer read the Bill Marks script, he would finish with
"Lord, thank you for this new day in my life," I'd shout into the air vent,
Then there was a live two-voice
commercial with sound effects on Lou Palmer's Afternoon Audition (as we called
it.) Lou and Arnold Dean were in Studio 3, one playing the announcer, the other playing an
Indian (you'd never get away with that today) on a Tunxis Plantation Golf Club spot. My
job was to play a continuous loop cartridge of tom-toms. I played the drum sound, faded
under for Arnold to say, "What's that sound?" Lou said, "UGH!" then
the two of them laughed for five minutes!
I had to fade out the drums and go to music. They tried it about three times before
they finally got through it.
Dick Bertel was the host of his own Saturday
show. His program included lots of features, including "Ellery Queen
Mysteries", a syndicated minute mystery, the first part of which would end with
something like "we'll get the solution to today's Ellery Queen Mystery right after
this." (Insert for commercial)
Lou Palmer was the announcer on duty every week, and would sit with Dick in
the studio, where they'd both listen to the mystery. Dick would say something like,
"well Lou, what do you think the solution is?"
Lou would answer something like, "Well, Dick, I think that the rich
industrialist's daughter stole the Mercedes, and shot the nephew, while he was swinging
from the trapeze." Dick would laugh, Lou would do the commercial, then we'd play the
closing cut which would say "The rich industrialist's daughter stole the
Mercedes, and shot the nephew, while he was swinging from the trapeze."
Of course, Lou had listened to the end cut beforehand, and memorized the
lines. Dick, innocently, though that Lou had figured out the answer himself.
A Bob Steele story: Nobody broke up Steele,
but I did once. I was spinning records and commercials for him one day when he started
telling an old story about the time he bought an ice cream cone, and while he was eating
it he remembered he had to make a phone call.
So he went to a phone booth, struggled to put the dime in and dial the
number, then absent-mindedly put the ice cream cone up to his ear.
He said "there's a word for that!." I shouted, and he heard through
the glass, "STUPID."
That wasn't the word he was thinking of, and he broke up.
I remember one anniversary party celebrated on a
weeknight - probably a Tuesday - in the early '60's. It was held in the basement garage of
Broaadcast House. The garage was decorated with lights, table-clothed tables, candles,
all-in-all a festive atmosphere. SpouseS were invited - mine was there - but I was working
that night; Ted Brassard was on with me. I assume all the shows were on tape. Ted and I
would take turns working and partying . . . he'd come up the front elevator while I went
down the back one, about every 1/2 hour.
Needless to say, we were getting pretty well plowed. Well, at some point I
realized that we had forgotten to record the first ten minutes of the NBC show
"Toscannini, the Man Behind the Legend," hosted by Ben Grauer. As you can
imagine, in our stupor, this was a serious offense, even though it wasn't to be played
back until Sunday.
I took out my trusty razor blade and splicing tape, and the previous 6 or 8 shows,
and like magic, saved the program. (or made a new one.) I wonder if it was good, given my
thought processes after that much booze.
I'm sure many of the alumni remember the expansion
of Broadcast House in the late '6o's, where we added a library, expanded the newsroom,
and, most important, expanded the fourth floor executive suite.
The third floor men's room was being renovated, and one of the workers had left a
toilet in the corridor outside Studio 1. A tempting target, to be sure. Since Brad was
scheduled to do Mikeline, probably with Floyd, and since Brad always sauntered - no ran -
into the studio at the last second, I removed all the chairs from Studio 4 (except for
Floyd's) and schlepped the toilet in. When Brad arrived there was no place to sit but
"on the can." He did the whole two hours sitting on the toilet. And, since
company policy prevented any discussion of a controversial nature, he could only make
oblique references to his situation!
Even Bill Marks got a kick out of this one.
Another remembrance . . .
Chuck Renaud was producing, and I was recording a
regular feature, Sabbath Message, where a local clergyman would come in and record a
sermon to be played Sunday morning. One Sunday, a minister from Manchester, Joseph
Bourret, came in and read his message in the most stentorian, mellifluous tones. Chuck
asked him if he had ever been an announcer; he replied that he had. A week or so later,
John Stevens was born and hired, and worked for WTIC for the next ten years or so. J