Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Interview with Jim Sizemore about Vic and Sade

Jim Sizemore runs the Doodlemeister blog where he explores writing, cartoons and all kinds of fun stuff.  He has graciously agreed to do an interview with about the radio show Vic and Sade, which was written by one of his favorites, Paul Rhymer.

OTR Buffet: Thank you so much for joining me for this interview. Please tell us a little something about yourself.

Jim Sizemore:  I was born in 1937 and have no conscious memory of hearing Vic & Sade as a child, but I think I must have - perhaps when I came home from school for lunch, or in the afternoon, or when I was sick at home for the day. My mother was a big fan of soap operas, and since she always had the radio on, and since I now know that V&S was usually slotted among those shows, it seems reasonable that I would have been exposed - and infected - with “V&S fever” even without my knowledge. I find that thought very reassuring - and, if true, very lucky.

OTR Buffet: Do you remember when and how you first heard about Vic and Sade and what you first thought of the series?

Jim Sizemore:  My first conscious memory of V&S was while driving to the Baltimore airport to pick up a friend sometime in the mid-1980s. I happened to have the radio tuned that Sunday evening to an OTR show out of Washington, D.C. called “The Big Broadcast,” and they happened to be featuring V&S. Once more, great luck. Besides the fact that V&S was beautifully written and in every way delightful in the ear, I had the vague feeling it was somehow familiar. I became totally hooked before the end of the first 15-minute episode. Later I sat in the car listening to several other episodes, leaving my friend in the airport waiting by the baggage claim conveyor belt.

OTR Buffet: Vic and Sade is a most unusual show because of the writing. Paul Rhymer was a genius. Can you talk about Rhymer and his impact on OTR?

Jim Sizemore:  Not being an OTR or V&S expert I can't judge radio writing genius, but I do know what I like, and I love the writing in V&S. It's the only radio or TV show wherein I totally believe the dialogue, even while I know it's heightened for effect and for laughs. And it's also Art with a capital “A.” In my opinion few if any big time playwrights do humorous dialogue better, and in my experience most don't come close. Because of the high level of the writing, Rhymer's characters, the setting and the behaviors are “real” for me, while at the same time I'm fully aware that it's all fiction. It's humorous dialogue at its natural best.

OTR Buffet: I have fun on my Vic and Sade blog about Rush being "abused." I use that term very loosely, but I do feel he is somewhat abused. He's adopted and he rarely gets a chanced to talk. What are your feelings about this?

Jim Sizemore:   I have never in any way felt that Rush was abused. On the contrary, I envied Rush what I viewed as his perfect home life. I wanted to BE Rush. If I believed in another life, I'd want to come back in that radio program AS Rush. I thought he had the perfect parents, who just happened to not be perfect in perfect ways. That is, to put it another way, they were perfect even in their quirky imperfections. For me, there was never a hint of anything but love and warmth in that show, with just enough of an edge in the writing to keep it well on the good side of sentimental.

OTR Buffet: In your opinion, why didn't Uncle Fletcher ever join the lodge?

Jim Sizemore:   I have no idea other than to say that Uncle Fletcher doesn't seem the lodge type. Perhaps I've missed something or forgotten something - as I say I'm not a V&S expert - but in my memory he has never tried to become a member. Am I wrong?

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

Jim Sizemore:   I enjoy all four of the on-air characters equally, but for different reasons. Rush for his intelligent struggle and desire to understand the grownups and their world, and then to become like them. Sade for her quiet calm and endless patience - and her dry wit. Vic for his sharper, edgier, humor and fathering skills, including his ability to remember what it feels like to be a boy and allow for that when judging Rush's over-the-top flights of fancy. Fletcher for his odd-angled views of the world, often expressed in what can only be called “poetic” language.     

OTR Buffet: Which one of the family members do you enjoy thinking about the most? And why?

Jim Sizemore:   If I can choose only one I guess it has to be Rush. He is certainly the one I identify with because, as I said, I'd like to have been him in my own growing up. I just think he's the luckiest kid in the world to have been raised by parents that, even when they don't fully understand you, they understand your needs well enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. Not something I experienced at all, sad to say.

OTR Buffet: It's been said that Vic and Sade had 7 million listeners during it's heyday.  We know from many written and audio testimonials that most of the actors in Chicago (where most of the studios were in the 1930's) were huge Vic and Sade fans. Was the show popular because of the acting, the writing or both?

Jim: From my reading about V&S, it wasn't just actors. Leading writers and intellectuals of the time such as Ray Bradbury, Edgar A. Guest, Ogden Nash, John O'Hara, James Thurber, etc., were enthralled by the show and made time to hear it as often as possible. Some judges were known to schedule their court cases around the program. I've also seen a report that at one time scores of radio editors voted it the best radio serial ever.

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?

Jim: V&S is the very top of my all time favorites, and there is no close second. It's the only radio show that I often think of out of the blue, without the prompt of a bit of music or some comment I happen to hear. The voices of Vic, Sade, Fletcher and Rush will just pop into my head unannounced; and when they do they always have something clever or wise and/or interesting to say. As much as I liked and enjoyed other shows such as the Green Hornet or the Lone Ranger or Captain America or Lum and Abner, I can't remember a single scene or line from any of them. But with V&S I remember whole shows, even ones about melting caramels. Especially ones about melting caramels, or intentional electric shocks from washing machines, or debates about baseball out by the garbage box. I could go on and on but I won't ...

OTR Buffet: Finish this sentence. "When I think about Vic and Sade, the first thing I think about is _____"

Jim Sizemore:   . . . the train passing so close by Uncle Fletcher's room in the Bright Kentucky Hotel that the rumble causes the chair to “walk” across the bare wooden floor and the cinders from the smoke stack fly into the room through the open window.

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

Jim Sizemore:   If I had several more hours to spend on this interview I'd list them.

OTR Buffet: Proctor and Gamble destroyed many of the transcription disks. What were they thinking?

Jim Sizemore:   What they were thinking I can't know, of course - but I do know that thinking about the fact it did happen makes me sad.

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

Jim Sizemore:   Just that I envy the person that encounters V&S for the first time - or the fifty-first - which is why I try to revisit the Little House in the Next Block several times each year.

©Jimbo 2010/2011

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