Sometimes, when my heart is not in in, my mind’s eye begins to stray. That was what happened a while back when I tried To Please a Lady. Tried to follow it, that is. The Lady in question is one of Barbara Stanwyck’s decidedly lesser vehicles, and the horsepower on display in it is not likely to get my heart a-racing. Still, as previously reported, it has what it takes to get me excited about even the dullest of features: a radio angle. When I spotted announcer Ted Husing in one of the racetrack scenes, I started to reread my notes on Ten Years Before the Mike, his autobiography. I do not own a copy of that one; and, looking for it online, I realized that the chances of my adding it to my library are fairly slim at the moment.
During my search, I did come across another book by Husing, one of which I had not been aware. Nor had I been aware, seeing Husing on the screen, that he was plagued by something he was hiding from the world, tormented all the more by keeping everyone around him in the dark. At the time To Please a Lady was shot, in 1950, Husing was suffering from dizzy spells and began dragging his right foot. Years of denial and secrecy led to several accidents, all of them the result of a tumor that grew, undiagnosed, on Husing’s brain. Six years on, having finally faced an operation, one of the biggest and highest-paid voices in radio lost his eyesight and the will to live.
All this and more is shared in Husing’s second autobiography, My Eyes Are in My Heart (1959). While much of his life in broadcasting had already been recounted in his first, the two decades that had elapsed between the publications—and the misfortune that befell its author—make the later reminiscences not only more retrospective but also more introspective. “My values then were superficial,” Husing reflects. “Since then, I have learned to separate the real from the false. But this took many years, much suffering and much re-evaluation.”
Like many people who enjoyed a life and career that is considered a success based on obvious measures of fortune and fame, Husing shows himself remorseful, believing his affliction to have been a punishment, and a just one at that. For having been ashamed that his parents spoke with a pronounced German accent, for instance. For not having been a good husband and father. For having been too enamored with celebrity.
Now, I’ve never bought this kind of argument. If such retribution existed, it would appear that any disabled person is a sinner at heart. Luckily, Husing keeps his humility well in check, telling many an amusing anecdote about his decades in broadcasting, dropping names like a traveller, eager to be the envy of his friends, drops picture postcards into a mailbox hundreds of miles from home. Has he really been responsible for the discovery or promotion of entertainers including Rudy Vallee, Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Desi Arnaz?
Ted Husing was chiefly known as a sports announcer. “Actually,” though, as he points out, he “logged far more broadcasting time on music and special events.” Today, his name does not ring a bell resonant enough to make the multitudes pay attention; but, back in the 1930s, ’40, and ‘50s, that bell could open the doors to the swankiest New York City nightclubs. Never mind those places. What makes My Eyes Are in My Heart such a fascinating book is the insight it provides into a by now lost world of broadcasting during what is often referred to as radio’s golden age. Reminiscing about the life of radio and his life in it, Husing not only knows but is what he talks of: a blind medium.
As for a certain tough to please Lady . . . she does not even get a mention.