A well-researched but dull account of the hungry, unkempt days of early television. Written by film director Ritchie (The Candidate, etc.), the book shows the chaotic beginnings that justified the once widely held belief that this gimmicky new technology had no future. A fuzzy picture was first telecast on a bulky monitor with a tiny screen in the 1920s by Philo T. Farsworth, a high school student in rural Utah. But it would be another 20 years before television was taken seriously in America. Ritchie chronicles many of TV's historic firsts. In 1927, for example, future president Herbert Hoover was the first public official to speak in front of a ``televisor'' in Washington D.C., while his wife appeared from New York. They were followed by a comedian in black-face who called his routine ``a new line of jokes in negro dialect.'' Television's first commercial was illegal, but this did not stop broadcasters from soliciting commercials. NBC earned seven dollars in 1937 for simply showing the face of a Bulova watch. Many of the early (live) commercials were more than artistic disasters: A newly invented ``automatic'' Gillette safety razor would not open on camera, and the hostess of a Tenderleaf tea commercial mistakenly lauded the quality of Lipton tea. The first television newscasts were also tentative affairs. News was considered the exclusive domain of radio, of which television was then a poor cousin; CBS's first newscast featured Lowell Thomas talking in front of a stack of sponsor Sonoco's oil cans. The BBC was technologically ahead of US companies, but it abruptly stopped transmission (in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon) when WW II broke out. A historical video would be better than written narrative for this material. The 77 black-and-white photos provided here hold the nonspecialist's attention, while the text rarely does.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)