Old-time Radio Primer: B Stands for broadcastellan

Well, before I was being whisked off for a daytrip in observation of one of those red-letter days on which we are expected to celebrate the gradual approach of our inevitable demise, I subjected myself to a rather probing interview, conducted by the eminent if irascible radio reporter Wally Windchill. Are we ready, Mr. and Mrs. North America, and all the ships at sea?

As the laundry basket said to the ironing board: let’s go to press.

Windchill: You call yourself “broadcastellan.”

broadcastellan: Yes. Only in the blogosphere, mind you.

Windchill: I get it, a surfname; but what does it stand for?

broadcastellan: Well, it all started about a year ago, when, one quiet afternoon . . .

Windchill: Please, we are pressed for time.

broadcastellan: Sorry. The handle is meant to suggest that I am writing about broadcasting and that I consider myself a keeper of records, one who manages a neglected vault of half-forgotten radio treasures. A castellan in the castles on the air.

Windchill: So, it’s another one of your awful puns, basically.

broadcastellan: A pun, at any rate.

Windchill: Never mind the rate; it’s cheap. But about radio. As your first and only reviewer on one of those traffic generator sites put it so succinctly in his single-word comment: Why?

broadcastellan: Well, I am very much intrigued by aural drama as an alternative to visual entertainment; and, having written a dissertation on the potentialities and shortcomings of these stories in sound, as they played out in the minds of millions during the 1930s and ’40s, I thought I had something to share that . . .

Windchill: You don’t do short sentence, do you?

broadcastellan: Not true! I even “do” incomplete ones. On occasion.

Windchill: Cute. But, about radio. Why the old stuff?

broadcastellan: Radio drama has a fascinating history. It’s a tradition that, in the US at least, has been all but abandoned in favor of television.

Windchill: And that’s bad?

broadcastellan: I think so, yes.

Windchill: But why American radio? You live in England, don’t you?

broadcastellan: Wales, actually.

Windchill: As if anyone outside the UK could tell the difference. Why not British radio, then? I hear it’s still going strong over there.

broadcastellan: I am just not that impressed by what’s being done nowadays. Back in the 1930s and ’40s, radio was it, not fringe culture. The voices, the sound effects, the storytelling—the commercials. It’s the showmanship I admire, the theatricality. And nobody does showmanship better than the Americans. What I love particularly about US radio is its strong connection to old Hollywood; hearing those great stars. Everyone did radio in the 1930s and ’40s—everyone, except Garbo, who very nearly did. They don’t have stars nowadays; just celebrities.

Windchill: I see.

broadcastellan: Besides, I didn’t grow up with those voices. In Germany, where I’m from, movies are dubbed. Radio taught me a lot about the sound of American English, about idiom and jargon.

Windchill: Not that you got it down. Some queer diction you’ve got going on there, Mr. “broadcastellan.” So, you’re going to keep exposing others to your . . . radiology? Not a lot of people out there care, you know.

broadcastellan: I am aware of that, but undaunted by the general indifference. Yes, I’ll keep on blogging. My first anniversary is coming up, on 22 May.

Windchill: I guess we’re going to read all about that in a few days, then.

broadcastellan: Probably. Perhaps we could do another interview.

Windchill: It would have to be a slow newsday.

3 Replies to “Old-time Radio Primer: B Stands for broadcastellan”

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