A gee-whiz celebration of the 1950s communications revolution that in the end manages to inspire awe for the time when public affairs mattered and people cared. Mickelson (From Whistle Stop to Sound Bite, 1989, etc.), the first president of CBS News, at first forces an unnecessary technical study of the progress and setbacks of “coaxial cables and microwave relays”—ingredients in the painful birth of the medium, and painful reading. In the personal account that follows, though, the author places the “birth of TV” at the 1948 political conventions and continues on through the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, by which time television was as formidable a political force as either candidate. The long, arduous decade in between brought red-baiting, threats of government interference, and the 1959 “quiz scandals” all seemingly quaint in the era of Jerry Springer and deregulation. But Mickelson makes it all fresh, spinning it into a seamless narrative driven by a cast that even Network couldn’t replicate, including the brash and ingenious neophyte Don Hewitt, who went on to create 60 Minutes. Cavalier star personality Edward R. Murrow, whose driving ambition was to redress wrongs and excoriate the rest of television programming for its “decadence, escapism, and insulation,” was alienated from the network for refusing to temper his progressive standpoint. (He and producer Fred Friendly presented the case that brought Senator Joseph McCarthy down.) Mickelson, who unjustifiably downplays his own role in the formation of broadcast news, offers up priceless anecdotes of a history he and his colleagues helped to shape, faltering only when he tries to articulate the magic of it all. As a bonus, he throws in the story of the fantastic, symbiotic relationship that turned Sunday afternoons into must-see-TV and the lackluster game of football into the close second as national pastime. No paean to CBS, this brings some sense to the creation of a monster and restores some noble prestige to a medium that has all but lost it.
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)
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").