We are heartbroken to report that Betsy lost her struggle with illness and passed away on January 24th, 2010. We posted the following at Wrisley.com:
Our dear friend and colleague, Betsy Weinberg, lost her battle against cancer the other day. She hoped she could beat it and return to writing her popular Internet column about the era she loved...Oldtime Radio, but that's not to be. She had fans from across the nation and Canada who "tuned in" regularly to read her remarkably well written biographies about the radio stars of yesterday. We will miss her greatly.
Learn more about this talented lady here. Better yet, if you can spare the time you can hear her last appearance on radio (October 30th) from the archives of Dr. Walter Edgar's program on the SC ETVRadio network. Betsy on the radio. Twenty-one days later she would enter the hospital to commence her battle against her illness.
Bon voyage, Betsy! Thanks for more than 400 beautifully written oldtime radio columns. Thanks for that delightful album of songs you recorded with guitarist Terry Rosen, and thanks for the personal encouragement when we stumbled on those "speed bumps" on the road of life. Thanks, mostly, for being a good friend!
Betsy's Last Column
Once upon a time a very brilliant and witty comedian... by way of Massachusetts... came to live on Old Time Radio where he found himself solidly entrenched between the years 1932 and 1949... vacillating between CBS-Radio and NBC-Radio much to the delight of millions of entranced fans....
Everyone knows one doesn't make it alone on the tedious climb to fame... and our comedian... Fred Allen by name... knew it, too... and surrounded himself with some of the "best in the business"... including his coterie of friends who made up the inhabitants of Radio's famed little piece of real estate known as
Perhaps you would care to become better acquainted with the denizens of the "Alley" who comprised such a vital part of The Fred Allen Show.... We would like very much to introduce them to you.
Altogether there were four... to whom Allen would ask "the question of the week" as he strolled down the Alley visiting with 1) Titus Moody (Parker Fennelley)... a transplanted New Englander... 2) Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum (Minerva Pious)... a Jewish lady from the Bronx... married to the never-heard-from Pierre... 3) Senator Beauregard Claghorn (Kenny Delmar... who also was one of the show's announcers)... a bigger-than-life politician from the South... and 4) Ajax Cassidy (Peter Donald)... the Irishman who lived at the end of the Alley... which was situated on Third Avenue in Manhattan.... Occasionally the poet Falstaff Openshaw (Alan Reed) would make an appearance... or even, perhaps, Fred's wife Portland Hoffa Allen.... Nowhere could one find more talented, capable "second bananas" than the residents of "ALLEN'S ALLEY".
ALLEN'S ALLEY made its first appearance on the Fred Allen Program in late 1944-early-1945... as one of several segments of Allen's tremendously popular radio show. At its inception one never knew whom one might bump into on Allen's and his wife's stroll down its bypaths... knocking on doors and asking current and pertinent questions of the occupants behind those doors.... At its very beginning one might run into dimbulb "Socrates Mulligan"... (veteran actor/comedian Charlie Cantor)... or pompous poet "Fallstaff Openshaw" (Alan Reed)... or full-of-himself "Senator Bloat" (Jack Smart... the radio detective "The Fat Man")... or Shirley Booth... John Brown... and even on occasion Fred Allen himself as "One Long Pan"... a not-too subtle takeoff on another well-known radio detective of the day "Charlie Chan".... Eventually the inhabitants of the Alley dwindled to four... and remained that way. (Pictured: Fred Allen, Minerva Pious, Alan Reed and Kenny Delmar.)
The ALLEN'S ALLEY character who made the greatest impact on the listening audience ... was unquestionably a larger-than -life Southern politician... Senator Beauregard Claghorn allegedly from Charleston, South Carolina... who was SO Southern he made the North Pole want to sprout palm trees.... As a few examples...... he would only drink from Dixie Cups... when in New York would NEVER go to Yankee Stadium... and announced that when he got the chickenpox they were Southern Fried!.... And... that he would not wear a unionsuit while driving thought the Lincoln Tunnel.... Kenny Delmar (pictured on the left) was the perfect-died-in-the-wool politico... and also served as one of the announcers on the show.... when Delmar first hit the airways his tagline "It's a joke.... Ah say, it's a joke, son!" took off like wildfire... and swept the nation.
The second permanent resident in the Alley was the delightfully droll yet taciturn New Englander "Titus Moody" (so beautifully portrayed by a genuine down-Mainer Parker Fennelly... pictured on the right).... Titus was asked if he liked radio and allegedly replied "I don't like furniture that TALKS!".... (What would he have thought of television?)
Nothing much could be found about our third resident Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum (Minerva Pious... pictured below) the Jewish housewife with the LARGE fake accent other than she was born (truly!) in Odessa, Russia... somehow found herself transported from the Bronx to ALLEN'S ALLEY... resides there with her husband Pierre who is never either seen or heard from.... All we have ever known of Pierre is that at one time he was engaged to another waitress at the same deli where Pansy worked... and Pansy stole him away from her co-worker.... Mrs. Nussbaum will tell anyone who will listen "crime does NOT pay!"
Our fourth and final permanent resident of the Alley is a smoking Irishman who thinks he is not long for this world "Ajax Cassidy" (Peter Donald)... tries to give up his addiction to booze at Kerrigan's Cozy Corner... finally makes it... then, typically, Ajax rushes triumphantly into Kerrigan's to celebrate and get a snoot full.
Fred Allen's fans were in the millions... and realized they were listening to one of the greatest wits of our century.... Few knew that he wrote or supervised everything that came through his radio show.... And when one considers that Johnny Carson had eight writers of his own and Bob Hope, thirteen... it's stunning to imagine what came out of this comic's extraordinary brain!.... Needless to say he wrote all of the ALLEN'S ALLEY skits.... Carson's "Mighty Art Players" got its start in Allen's fertile mind... and Allen's "Town Hall Tonight" is a direct ancestor of Garrison Keillor's famous "Lake Woebegone" radio segments on NPR.
Millions are familiar with Red Skelton's famous drinking skit where he extolls a certain brand of liquor which he dubs as "smooooooooo-th".... It is one of the outstanding skits in Skelton's repertoire... not many realize this, too, came from Fred Allen....
He was a one of a kind.
©2009 BeeGeeOTR 11/01/09
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