For as far back as I can remember as a little kid, I spent my nights in bed waiting to fall asleep listening to a radio show called "Party Line" on KDKA Radio. The show ran from 1951 to 1971 and was hosted by a married couple named Ed and Wendy King. Wendy King died earlier this week at the age of 92.
Ed and Wendy King
It is hard, if not impossible, to describe Party Line to someone who never heard it, or to someone who, when they hear the term "talk radio", know it only as it exists today. Party Line was, indeed, a talk show in that it took calls from listeners in the evening hours of 10:00 PM to Midnight, but you could not hear the callers. You only heard Ed and Wendy repeat back what the caller was asking and attempting to answer. If they didn't know the answer, then subsequent callers might phone in and answer the previous caller's inquiry. And the types of questions! No, there were no political rants about the buffoons in Washington, Harrisburg, or Grant Street, no calls for the heads of the Pirates general manager or the Steelers offensive coordinator. You might get calls that wanted to know, say, the length of Squirrel Hill tunnels, or a good recipe for blueberry pie.
Sounds quaint and almost idiotic, but I can tell you this - I learned a lot of stuff listening to Party Line, some of it silly, but a lot of it interesting, and some of it important. If you define "Americana" as "that which was and is no more", then Party Line was and remains a true piece of Pittsburgh-cana, if not Americana. It is a show that has no place in world where Google exists, but I am certainly glad that I grew up listening to it.
The show went off the air in 1971 when Ed King, who was former radio newsman and an undeniably brilliant guy, died from cancer, and Wendy did not want to continue without him. She went on to a career as a tour guide for West Penn Triple-A, and I can remember being impressed when in their retirement years, my parents took a trip to Italy with Wendy King as their tour guide.
RIP Wendy King, and sweet dreams.
It was announced earlier in the week that actress Marjorie Lord died in November at the age of 97.
Marjorie Lord is best known for playing the wife of Danny Thomas on the sitcom "Make Room for Daddy", later named "The Danny Thomas Show", from 1957 to 1964. IMDB lists 75 movie and television acting credits for her, the first being a movie in 1937, and the last a TV movie in 1988. After the Thomas show left the air, her acting was sparse and confined to shows like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, and she was I suppose, pretty much forgotten by the general public.
However, in reading her obit, I found, as one often does, a couple of interesting items. One, is that she was the mother of actress Anne Archer (best known, perhaps, as the cuckolded wife of Michael Douglas in "Fatal Attraction"), and, two, that while she may have been forgotten by the folks in the hinterlands, she spent much of her post-Thomas Show life as a philanthropist, she and her husband contributing generously to the Arts scene in Los Angeles and to the University of Southern California. Good for her!
RIP Marjorie Lord.