Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An interview with Sarah Cole about Vic and Sade

Fans of my Crazy World of Vic and Sade will no doubt recognize the name, Sarah Cole.

I "met" Mis' Sarah on Twitter and she's such a big fan of Vic and Sade that I want to marry her! Well, at least do an interview with her, which I haven't done yet. She has provided many of her thoughts to the website (which I am very grateful for) and her insight is so valuable and precious to me. I enjoy her ideas and work very much and I am so privileged that she devotes so much of her time to The Crazy World of Vic and Sade.

Without further ado, here's an interview I did with her:


Tell me about your website and what your mission is there.

I'd hesitate to call "Old Zorah's Pew" a proper website. It's mostly a chance to 1.) Vent, 2.) Post information or insights I haven't seen anyone else address. Its purpose is mainly 1.) To keep me from wandering about muttering to myself, and , 2.) To put the ideas in a place where they can be shared at appropriate times via social media. I'm as sporadic a blog-poster as I am a letter-poster, so it's a wonder any one notices the blog at all. But, if someone makes a remark about Jesus Christ being born in April or September, I can whip out this and remark, "Scripturally, you know, there's good evidence that He was born in December;" or if someone lavishes eloquent praise on John Williams for his originality in creating "Yoda's Theme." I can shoot back, "Ahem. I believe that particular melody dates from 1942," and pass on this URL.   Or, I can keep quiet and keep my friends. 

(One of these days, I'll have to post the story of how I came to become a church lady, as compared to a Christian woman who attends church. It might be good for laughs.)   


Which one of the real characters do you enjoy the most and why?

Probably Rush or Uncle Fletcher. Youthful exuberance is always bracing; and Uncle Fletcher is so enveloped in his own world that any conversation with him is bound to seem like a travelogue.


Which of the pre-1945 imagined characters do you like to think about the most? Why? What do they look and sound like to you?

The actual character varies, but, at the moment, I'm thinking about Aunt Bess. I picture her as looking and sounding like a gentler version of Sade, not as tall, and with brown hair (for some reason, Sade sounds like she's bigger than Bess, and blonde.)


What do you think about Uncle Fletcher? Is he crazy, hard of hearing, selective hearing, senile... what gives?

Uncle Fletcher is an artist, a poet, a dreamer. Therefore, he can't see the prosaic world around him. Instead, it is one of continual glamour and excitement, peopled by fascinating personalities. To digress briefly, in the old fairy stories, one theme that regularly came up was of mortals not being able to see the fairies, but, when their eyes were treated with a special ointment, they could see all the magnificence that, to everyone else, looked like rank shabbiness. Uncle Fletcher's eyes have been anointed; and, through him, we can see the fairies.


Is Vic and Sade your favorite radio show or is it just one of the better shows you listen to?

That's like asking what's my favorite movie: it depends on my mood. Vic and Sade is definitely one of my most favorite programs, though The Halls of Ivy, or Jack Benny, or Bob and Ray, or Fred Allen are all right up there.


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

"Absurdity." If we watch ourselves, and those around us, we would be either shocked, or vastly amused, at the silly things we say or do, that don't' seem silly at the time.


What do you feel is the most interesting premise to the show?

Vic as Exalted Big Dipper of the local fraternal organization. My grandmother was a staunch Rebekah for years, and understood and taught the ritual. Although the Rebekah ritual actually makes sense, hearing Vic recite the gibberish of the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way makes me think of my grandmother.

And in all her days, she never tore the buttons off of the coat, vest, shirt, and underwear of any member!


Since Proctor and Gamble destroyed so many disks and we are left with only 1/10th of the episodes, tell me, have you ever imagined what happened in some of those shows? Tell me some of the things you have wondered about?

I've been so taken by the things that happened in the shows that are extant, and in the scripts Mrs. Rhymer published later, that I've never given much thought to what might have been lost. It may be that our imagination makes the missing better than they acutely were. For instance, I like the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Many of them originally included additional songs. Out of all those songs, I can only think of two that are memorable; and even they are better as novelties. While musically interesting, they drag on the plot without adding anything to it. If something were really good, somebody would have preserved it. The fact that no one did suggest that what we have is the very best of the series..


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

Vic and Sade still goes on today. Look around at your friends and family and you'll hear episodes every day.

My grandparents didn't seem to care for Vic and Sade. In fact, the only radio program I recall them ever talking about was the Paul Gibson show (a Chicago area talk-show host). My grandfather liked to listen to him in the morning, my grandmother couldn't stand him. When she gave the ultimatum that my grandfather could either breakfast with Gibson or her, but not both, he chose Gibson. (This disagreement was not fatal to their marriage, however: when they died last year, aged 99 and 94, Grandpa was as much in love with Grandma as he was before he had ever heard of Paul Gibson.)

The thing about Vic and Sade is its seemingly unconscious wacky naturalness. Real people may use different phrases, but they are just as prone to malapropisms as Sade. Youth still plan impossible plots without recognizing their limitations. And men still take pride in their exploits with their comrades, whether they're following a sports team or building computer networks. The program may be set in the 1930s-40's, but Paul Rhymer has captured the timeless elements of human behavior. It takes time, a sense of humor, and self-awareness, to recognize the humor, but, once a listener catches on to it, he or she will begin to hear it everywhere.

©Jimbo, 2012

Gunsmoke website

A good friend of mine came across a Gunsmoke website that seems to deal more with the radio version rather than the TV version.

A lot there to read, check it out!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gomer Pyle USMC - co-starring Norris Goff

Norris Goff, Abner of radio's Lum and Abner...

I interview a husband and wife about their fascination with Vic and Sade

Recently, I was sent an email from a female fan of Vic and Sade. 

Eventually, this turned into me finding out that not only was she a fan of Vic and Sade but so were her husband (who runs a blog called "Miscellany") and their children!

This provided the impetus to ask them both for an interview.  This will be the first time I have interviewed a husband and wife team about the show.  They gave some great answers...


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

Yaakov: Happy to have the chance to talk to Vic and Sade fans, thanks for the opportunity. Radio has always been a great interest of mine. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the 1970's in the coverage area of WOR in New York City, so as a young teen I listened to Bob and Ray every afternoon and Jean Shepherd each evening. On weekends I heard reruns of Dimension X, X Minus One, and Inner Sanctum. I learned to love radio as something more than music and news.

I also learned to love the insides of radios and became a ham radio operator. So, I've been very "radioactive".

Shoshana: Like Sade, I am a Midwestern housewife. But instead of the daily little love story or Glory Golden movies, OTR is a big source of entertainment for me.

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

Yaakov: I sure do. My wife an I are both OTR fans and we were trolling around in archive.org's fantastic collection. We listened for a few minutes to an episode but it failed to resonate and we moved on. Later, my wife told me she'd listened to more and I had to listen. After a few episodes, we were both hooked.

Shoshana: Yes! OTR used to be an expensive hobby, because the only way to acquire recordings was to buy records or cassette tapes at about $10 a pop (at least when I was buying them in the 70s and 80s). So my husband and I were like kids in the proverbial candy shop once all the free recordings began to appear on archive.org. We had exhausted most of the episodes of the better-known programs and were searching around for something "new" to listen to. We tried a few minutes of Vic's New Hat, not really knowing what to expect or understanding how to interpret this very different format. With no audience, no live band, no hilarious ad spokesman, no raucous jokes, and few sound effects--just a small family having a conversation in their living room--we must have thought it was a slow-moving, light drama. We decided to try something else.

But the next day, I wanted to listen to OTR while doing dishes, so I downloaded a number of episodes onto my mp3 player. Listening all the way through, with my full attention, I found myself charmed and entranced by the unique and off-beat humor of Vic and Sade. I encouraged my husband to listen with me after that and he very quickly came to appreciate Vic and Sade as much as I did. Since then we have spend countless hours not just listening to Vic and Sade, but also discussing it with each other and with our six kids. 

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

Yaakov: That's a tough question. I think it really depends on the episode. Some are better vehicles for one character or another. I do enjoy the Rush/Uncle Fletcher duo in things like Souvenirs and Mementos; and Washrag Collection, and the Vic/Sade duo in anything to do with Vic's naïve and repeated attempts to tell Sade about anything to do with Lolita Di Rienzi.

When Rush and Uncle Fletcher interact, we get to see just how patient and good-natured Rush is (it seems that only Nicer Scott and Sade's clothing plans can really get him upset). He takes all that Uncle Fletcher can throw at him and remains respectful and sincerely interested. He really enjoys Uncle Fletcher. With the pressure off—no Vic or Sade to get exasperated—Uncle Fletcher can be his full-blown crazy self without having to make a pest of himself (as he does when trying to get attention among others). He can tell his crazy stories without the tension. The closest Rush gets to being upset with Uncle Fletcher's stories is the "chamois bush" in Washrag Collection.

Vic seems to be in charge, but when Vic and Sade are having a one-on-one, as in Heart-shaped Face or any Lolita story, we see a reversal with Vic as the gullible one and Sade completely in charge. Sade's jealousy should make Vic happy, she clearly feels proprietary, but he feels small just when he was feeling a bit puffed up. Vic gets to be the one in charge when it comes to math or "science" (even though he doesn't have much actual knowledge) in things like the Sade and Ruthie shopping money episodes, and in Don't Scrape off the Watts. In either case, they work well together in these pairings.

If I had to pick just one, it would be probably be Uncle Fletcher, because it is pretty consistent that if you have Uncle Fletcher in an episode it will be a good one. But, that's artificial, you'd have to ask me about each episode to get the real answer.

Shoshana: While each of them is a treasure and I love the way they all work together and play off each other, I most enjoy listening to Rush, because of his easy-going attitude. He seems to take everything in stride; he acquiesces to demands, laughs off inconsistencies, and even accepts disregard for himself with a fairly tolerant attitude. He doesn't get out bent of shape over small stuff, and when it comes to the point where he really must assert himself, he does it calmly and appropriately. So he's my role model. :-)

OTR Buffet: Outside of the Gooks and Uncle Fletcher, who is the most intriguing character on the show to you and why?

Yaakov: Again, to pick just one is a kind of lying. There are so many great characters to choose from. I won't go through them all but maybe I can break it down a bit. First, for characters that are never actually heard, I would probably pick another pair: Lolita di Rienzi and Pom Pom Cordova. They are mysterious and doing unusual things in a little town in the 1930s. They get Sade pretty riled up. I suppose I would also pick Miss Neagle, because of her historical value as the first woman to single-handedly tear up a city street. OK, I will stop picking characters. But I don't want to.

Later, when we hear more voices (an innovation that I am not fond of), the most interesting ones were really very one-dimensional. People like Jimmy Custard, the city callestalker, because of his great iron-bound notebook and his inability to hold on to it providing one of the few sound effects and a great impact; Orville Weeny who really doesn't care about anything but raising a pompadour so he can say just what he thinks, and Mr. Sprall with his baby bonnet, shawl, and demented belief that he was born in every city that is mentioned. I like these because they couldn't have been done without the voice, while others, like Mis Harris, don't add to the ensemble, in my opinion. They are good actors, but they seem "bolted on".

Shoshana: It's hard to give an answer to that, because they all seem so strange, other than Mis' Harris. But probably the one with the most "intriguing" background is that prince of good fellows, L. Vogel Drum.

OTR Buffet: Do you have a favorite episode and why?

Yaakov: I don't. I have a list. There is no one single reason other than that they represent the best of Rhymer. He has the form down, and is at his most musical. A "good" Vic and Sade episode is like a musical piece. It starts out with the statement of a theme, there is tension as it moves away from the "tonic" and various dynamics, then eventually, it resolves by restating the theme. There are many, but not all episodes are "perfect" like these.

Shoshana: I have many favorites. Vic's New Hat, which we initially rejected, eventually became a favorite, because it demonstrates the foibles of the characters in one of their perennial conflicts. Forty Pounds of Golf Clubs in another, because in spite of the sheer madness of the premise the family seriously considers logistics of the situation. Souvenirs and Mementos is great because of the opportunity for Uncle Fletcher to tell a number of weird stories, and for Rush and Uncle Fletcher to list off the states. I could go on with probably another 5 or 10 actual favorites, but I'll try to be like Mis' Keller and leave it go at that.

OTR Buffet: What is the most interesting/funniest/strangest premise in the show to you and why?

Yaakov: It's not fair to ask for one. But, if I am going to try to pick out one, I would say, the Forty Pounds of Golf Clubs premise could be it. It is right in character, though for Mr. Buller who pulled his own tooth with a ticket punch "without turning a hair". The insult-to-injury was "and I am counting on your ability as a catcher because it is a new and expensive one and I wouldn't want to get it scratched"*. It's good that Vic was willing to stand up to Buller at least this once.

* I quoted this from memory, just as Vic does in the episode, but I think I can just about do that.

Shoshana: Well, as mentioned above, I think Forty Pounds of Golf Clubs is over the top. Vic has often been subjected to indignities in his quest for honor (ironically), but this is the only case I can remember in which his life was actually placed at risk. 

Of course, a few episodes near the end were pretty strange (people detouring through the house because the road was closed, for instance), but so extreme that I don't appreciate them as much. Sort of "jumping the shark".

OTR Buffet: Choose one - Uncle Fletcher is senile, crazy or hard of hearing? Does he use the 'hard of hearing' act to deflect things he doesn't want to talk about?

Yaakov: I don't think that Uncle Fletcher is senile or crazy. I think he is simply self-involved. He wants to be the center of attention and uses "important" and "unusual" things to try and be it. Of course he has "selective" hearing, and if it's not intentional, it is subconsciously managed. He's demonstrated he has no problem hearing things he wants to hear.

The one real mystery about Uncle Fletcher is his time in Boone, Iowa.

Shoshana: I think he actually is hard of hearing, by the way he reacts to comments and how he doesn't even hear conversations that are held in hushed tones. But I also think he plays it up as a device for dramatic effect. I don't think he's senile or even crazy, but I do think his thinking is a bit muddled a lot of the time. But none of his impairments seem to bother him as long as he is able to cultivate a sense of importance in his circle of friends and family.

OTR Buffet: Rush or Russell?

Yaakov: Well, here's one I can answer without equivocation: Rush. I don't even enjoy listening to Russell episodes very much. He is just a mini-Vic, with a bad attitude. Rush's unflappability is so important to the ensemble that Russell's negative energy just upsets the whole balance for me.

Shoshana: Rush, hands down. Where Rush has tolerant good humor and makes clever observations, Russell whines and doesn't add much substance. It seems, from what we've read, that Paul Rhymer also preferred Rush, and sometimes I wonder if he may have started deliberately writing Russell to be more annoying because he didn't care for him!

OTR Buffet: Which talked-about character would you like to know more about?

Yaakov: I think it would be Mr. Buller. He's a very dynamic guy who seems to live life to its fullest.

Shoshana: I have always wondered about Mr. Donahue and why he commands so much respect and consideration from Sade. It sometimes seems she is more concerned for his comfort than for that of her own family. He is always going against the norm, whether by having his days and nights reversed so that he can't even enjoy his vacations or by stepping down from a promotion that he had wanted. And then, of course, there is that issue with Donahue's attic. . .

OTR Buffet: What question should I have asked you but didn't and what's your answer?

Yaakov: I suppose it would be, "Of all the OTR out there, why is Vic and Sade the one show you listen to almost every day?"

I think it is the music-like quality. There is rhythm, dynamics, and flow to Vic and Sade. You can anticipate the dialogue, just as you would familiar and favorite music. It's always amusing, and seems to fill a need to step away from real life to a simpler one.

Shoshana: Maybe: "In what way do you find the humor of Vic and Sade characteristically Midwestern?"

My answer: Being from Indiana, one of the things that first appealed to me about Vic and Sade was that the characters and the humor were familiar in a way that no other programs I had seen or listened to were. Sade's accent, for instance, is just about identical to that of my grandmother, who grew up in a tiny town in Illinois. Uncle Fletcher's repertoire of "startlin" stories, and his cadence--such as the way he repeats a phrase and pauses dramatically before delivering some amazing bit of information--reminds me of my grandfather. The way Vic spontaneously recites bits of verse and plays with the sounds of words is something people in my family have always done (and I do, myself), yet I don't ever recall a character in a popular TV or radio program with that habit. In my experience, having lived both in Indiana and up and down the East Coast, these are Midwestern peculiarities. I was delighted to finally hear a representation of this segment of the population that I know and love!

OTR Buffet: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Yaakov: Thanks for asking them!

Shoshana: It's a real pleasure to be able to discuss Vic and Sade with people who understand! 


©Jimbo 2012
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