Monday, March 28, 2011

My Interview with friend Toby about Vic and Sade

It is my pleasure to present a very nice interview done over the weekend with Toby, who knows quite a bit about the classic show, Vic and Sade.

OTR Buffet: Thanks Toby, for joining me for this interview. Please tell us a little something about yourself.
Vic, Sade & Rush

Toby: I was born in 1947 and the first TV set my family owned had a radio in it and I remember liking the radio shows better than the TV shows. I mainly remember the Lone Ranger because I was a westerns nut when I was very little.

About twenty years ago my local Public Radio station started broadcasting OTR shows every night and I became addicted. I joined SPERDVAC and collected cassettes of OTR shows. Then a few years ago I heard about the OTRR group and joined that.

OTR Buffet: Can you relay to me when and how you first heard about Vic and Sade and what you first thought of the series?

Toby: When I was a teenager I used to listen to Jean Shepherd on WOR radio in New York City. He was a big fan of Vic and Sade and often talked about them. So I always had a vague desire to learn more about the show. Then in late 2008 I participated in a mail distribution of a person's collection of 90 DVD's worth of Old Time Radio shows. For some reason it was decided to distribute them in reverse alphabetical order, so Vic and Sade was on one of the first disks I received in the mail. This disk contained more than 450 mp3s. Besides episodes of the shows it also included a few tributes and interviews. Since several sources state that less than 350 shows are in existence, I assume I've heard about all that are available. I listened to all of them over the course of a few months.

Paul Rhymer, creator and writer
OTR Buffet: I feel that Paul Rhymer, the writer of the series was a genius. He created this quirky world that existed as an island in a world of full of Soap Operas. The series has no cliffhangers and it's set in the front room of a house where really nothing is filled closets bursting, no one screaming or yelling. In most cases, everyone was really in their own little world. Can you tell the readers what you thought of when you listened to this show?

Toby: I definitely agree that Rhymer was a genius. The first thing an experienced listener to OTR realizes when he first hears this show is that it is completely different from all others. There are no "stock" characters and no old jokes. It doesn't take long to be sucked into Rhymer's world. One doesn't so much as enjoy this show as fall in love with it. One cares deeply about the characters and feels great when they have their glory days and one feels terrible when they are humiliated.

OTR Buffet: I always felt a little sorry for Rush. He was adopted yet, Vic never calls him by his name, no one really ever listened to him unless he demanded it (very rare) and when they did listen he would repeat things over and over to make sure that he drilled it into their heads. Usually though, he would just get interrupted, since that was just the nature of the family. Do you think Rush got treated unfairly or was that all apart of the fun of the show?

Toby: I'm not sure how much was Rhymer and how much was the times they lived in. Rush certainly wasn't pampered, but he wasn't abused either. Vic, Sade and Rush each had their own interests and preoccupations, and they didn't much care about each other's interests and preoccupations. But it was manifest that they loved each other. I'm convinced that the nicknames were terms of affection. The only time they used each other's real name was when they were angry!

OTR Buffet: It's hard for me to put my finger on it but there is something very strange about the family. Try to read my mind here, what is it that I am feeling?

Toby: I think it was just because they were twisted just enough from reality to be funny. Humor is such a fine art that if you twist too hard the characters become caricatures and much less three dimensional. These were real people, odd perhaps but very real.

OTR Buffet: Which one of the family do you enjoy listening to the most and why?

Toby: Uncle Fletcher was a miracle.  Everybody knows somebody at least a little like Uncle Fletcher, yet there was nobody exactly like him in the history of the world.  He told the most amazing stories. At times my jaw dropped open at the poetic perfection of his recitation.

OTR Buffet:  Which one of the imagined characters from the serial do you enjoy thinking about the most?

Toby: I think a lot about Vic and his job at the kitchenware company.  He does a good job and is able to provide for his family but he knows he will never advance any higher or make much more money than he is getting, so he directs his energies to his lodge, in which he is able to shine somewhat more brightly.

OTR Buffet: Vic and Sade was a daytime program that ran at 8:30 in the morning.  You'd think that virtually no one would have heard this program when it was broadcast.  Most of the surviving vinyl recordings (over 1000) were destroyed by Proctor and Gamble in the 1950's.  There is so much of this program that will never be heard.  As a fan of the show, how does that make you feel?

Toby: Well, according to John Dunning's "On the Air," Vic & Sade was broadcast at various times, sometimes twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Only for a few months in 1941 was it broadcast as early as 8:30 AM. And for a few months in 1937 it was broadcast as late as 10:45 PM. I can picture radio executives having wars about when to broadcast the show.

I'm always amazed at what a small percentage of old time radio shows survive.  According to Dunning, many if not most of the scripts survive, so that is some small comfort. Since Rhymer wrote about 3500 episodes, the fact that we only to get to hear only about one tenth of what he wrote is heartbreaking. It's like being able to read Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer but only hearing about Huckleberry Finn but never being able to read it.

OTR Buffet:  It's amazing how well this show holds up today.  Please tell us about that and where does this show rank in your list of favorite shows?

Vic, Uncle Fletcher, Sade and Rush
Toby:  I listen to a lot of old time radio humor.  Some of it is so stale that it is almost unbearable.  But some stands the test of time.  It all comes down to good writing.  One of the amazing things about the Jack Benny Show is that almost every episode survives and as I listened to them all in chronological I was amazed at the high quality of the writing and just how funny it still is. With a much shorter run, the Phil Harris, Alice Faye show also was insanely well written and remains laugh-out-loud funny. I wouldn't want to make a Sophie's Choice among Vic & Sade and the other two programs I just mentioned.  They are ALL my favorites! And I wouldn't place them below any of the other types of OTR that I've listened to and loved: the mysteries, the sci-fi, the variety shows, etc.

OTR Buffet:  The show has a Charles Dickens quality to it, in that we have all of these characters with some truly ridiculous names.   Which names come to your head immediately when you think of the show?

Toby:  I always got such a kick out of Rush's friends Smelly Clark and Bluetooth Johnson. And of course Vic had a lot of crazy named acquaintances and Uncle Fletcher told lots of stories about people with wild names. And I can't pass up the opportunity to mention the card playing friends of Vic & Sade: Fred and Ruthie Stembottom.

OTR Buffet:  Are there any situations you can think of on the show that you'll remember the rest of your life?

Toby:  Since there were so few sound effects in the show, I always took especial delight when they threw one in, such as  the time Uncle Fletcher was demonstrating a washrag that was made out rock which he dropped on the floor with a loud clunk. That pops into my mind at odd moments with alarming regularity,

OTR Buffet:  Anything else you'd like to say about the show?

Toby:  Someday a construction crew will be pulling down a building that housed an old radio station.  Behind a wall they'll find a room containing thousands of transcription disks that are still playable.  Among them will be a complete run of Vic & Sade.  Hey, a man can dream, can't he?

OTR Buffet: Wow that would be wonderful.  I think the missing shows are a heartbreak to say the least.

Thanks again to Toby for doing this with me.

©Jimbo 2010/2011


  1. Toby was a good interview. I find it interesting how he became an otr nut and his enthusiam for Vic and Sade. One question I would have liked to have seen is how he compares Vic and Sade with Lum and Abner. Are they similar or totally different? From a non-listener, (only a few shows) I think of them as being similar.

  2. I don't thik Toby could get the comments to work... he writes:

    There are about 1700 episodes of Lum & Abner in circulation, stretching from 1933 through 1955 (actually there is only one episode from 1933 and one from 1934). I have listened to all of the slightly over 200 episodes from the 1930s (the vast bulk of which are from 1935) but have not gotten any further with the series yet. But unless the writing dramatically improved in the 40s and 50s, I can safely say that Lum & Abner, albeit a show with many good points, is not in the same league with Vic & Sade. L&A really was a soap opera, with plots running for months in which the characters faced financial and social troubles. Sometimes the rural simplicity of the characters was charming, but at other times it was really annoying, such as the time when a crooked salesman sold almost everyone in the town eyeglasses that made their vision get worse. The actors were excellent voice artists, the both of them playing numerous diverse rolls. The fact that a woman's voice was never heard I also found annoying.

  3. As a fan of both shows, it's obvious that Vic and Sade is a far superior show is every respect.

    Lum and Abner are ridiculous and funny but they are not anything like Vic and Sade and Rush (I have not gotten to Uncle Fletcher yet, so I cannot comment on him.)

    There are some similarities between the two shows - the time period, small town USA and the fact that most shows take place in one area all the time.

    Both shaows are funny in their own way. I like Lum and Abner because I happen to like rural humor. I like Vic and Sade (and Rush) because they are strange in a way I cannot exactly put my finger on.

    Similar -- but not similar at all.


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