On This Day in 1938: New York Planetarium Sends Astrologer on an Interplanetary Mission of Peace

Selena Royle

Well, they should all be out tonight. The stars, I mean. One of the great joys of living in the country is seeing millions of them lighting up the sky. On a clear night, you can read by the light of the moon. I grew up in an industrial and smog-shrouded region of western Germany; and when I moved to brightly lit New York City, I got to see no more than a dozen of those distant suns, even on a cloudless night. As if to make up for that firmamental deficiency of our modern world, the Hayden Planetarium in Manhattan once offered Americans an opportunity to commune with the universe by taking a microphone to the heavenly bodies.

On this day, 6 June, in 1938, the planetarium was the site of a dramatic radio broadcast of The Planets, a verse play inspired by the Gustav Holst’s popular orchestral suite and written especially for the medium by New York City poet Alfred Kreymborg. Soundstaged in the planetarium’s Solar Room and broadcast over WEAF and affiliated NBC stations, The Planets was performed by seasoned New York stage actors with experience in radio theatricals, including Charles Webster, Burford Hampden, and Selena Royle (pictured above, all dressed up for an earlier radio play, The Finger of Darkness).

Unfortunately, no recordings of this impressive event seem to have survived; and, as much as I argued against such readings only yesterday, I am left with nothing but the publish script, some cues and an on-the-air-conditioned imagination, to gather how it might have sounded.

Kreymborg took to the airwaves because, as he put it, the “world we live in now is so closely knit that a sudden event touches all people, no matter how far removed from one another. Our local or personal spheres have become universal.” The impending war in Europe was such an “event” touching all—and radio was the medium to bring faraway crises into the living rooms of America. The allegory of The Planets, according to its author,

concerns the earth from the World War up to now [that is, 1938] and then tomorrow. An old astrologer, pointing his glass toward the heavens searching for peace somewhere, is the central figure. In the course of his starry adventure he encounters the planetary gods, roaming the earth as in Grecian times: Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

The gods represent the stages of world political events from 1931 to 1938, with Uranus, the father of magic, standing for the global crises of the years just prior to the Second World War. As the earth spins from one age of war to another, the astrologer attempts to dissuade soldiers from going into combat, but dies prophesying “[a]nother hell”

Far greater than the hells of yesteryear,
And greater than the hells of ancient time
When gods laid heaven low and men fought men.

The play, which one contemporary reviewer dismissed as a “diatribe against war,” proved prophetic in this regard; but its author was less of a visionary in his hopes that the theater of the mind might some day attract noted poets and mature into an art akin to the drama of ancient Greece. “We have all been too impatient with radio in the past,” Kreymborg remarked, “and have based our judgment on the very worst things we could listen to.” Today, we base our judgment of old-time radio on the average thriller and sitcom, rather than on the occasional experiments that, however flawed, suggest what the aural arts might have been or may yet become.

Unless we are content to dig in the muck of culture or delve into the mire of war, it might be worth our while to keep reaching for the stars . . .

A New York Souvenir Is Glorious! in London

Well, I am on my way to London in a few hours, even though I have barely recovered from my trip to New York City, a souvenir of which is a lingering cold. Still, I am looking forward to a weekend in the metropolis, where I’ll be reunited with my best pal to celebrate his birthday and the twentieth anniversary of our friendship. We used to have our annual get-togethers in the Big Apple, but the Big Smoke will do.

While there, I would love for us to take in a few shows, impervious as he is to the wonders of the “wooden O.” I, for one, have had some terrific theatrical experiences lately, including a rare staging of the outrageously bloody Revenger’s Tragedy at New York City’s Red Bull Theater, an all-male production of The Winter’s Tale by the touring Propeller company, and an out-of-tuneful Broadway evening with Judy Kaye in Souvenir. True, the 9 December issue of Entertainment Weekly did not exactly endorse Souvenir, reviewer Thom Geier calling Stephen Temperley’s play “too broad, too shallow, and far too long for [its] modest pleasures.” Still, Kaye is marvellous in the role of Florence Foster Jenkins, the tone-deaf soprano and unlikely recording artist who managed to fill seats and thrill audiences in NYC’s Carnegie Hall, unaware that many came to gawk and deride, not to admire her.

I have seen musical-comedienne Kaye several times onstage and even had an after-theater drink with her, back in November 1992, when she played Sweeney Todd‘s Mrs. Lovett at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. Her portrayal of the real-life phenomenon that was Florence Foster Jenkins managed at once to amuse and touch me, even though Souvenir, as written by Temperley, is slight, repetitive, and less than incisive.

You’ll have to get up close and zoom in on Kaye’s features—the snare and shelter of Jenkins’s oblivion expressing itself in innocent smiles and youthful exuberance, the firm belief in her musical disabilities as she refuses to heed the at fist cautioning then caustic words from her hapless accompanist, and the terror of recognition when at last she discerns the cruel laughter of the crowd—to wrest any oomphs from Temperley’s pleasant and chuckles-filled survey of the dubious diva’s odd career. Fortunately, I sat in the third row. Anyone back on the balcony is unlikely to get half as much out of this play, which is suited to a smaller venue than Broadway’s grand Lyceum.

Upon returning to the UK, I learned that another dramatization of Jenkins’s life, conceived by another playwright (Peter Quilter), is currently playing in London. Called Glorious, this version stars Maureen Lipman, whom I have last seen opposite Ian McKellen in the pantomime Aladdin at the Old Vic. Ms. Lipman hasn’t got Kaye’s pipes, but her acting garnered some favorable notices. I am sufficiently intrigued by Jenkins’s antics to judge her performance myself later this year.

How come there are two plays running simultaneously about a 1930s New York City curiosity, a novelty act who, like those making a spectacle of themselves during last year’s American Idol auditions, has become an old joke few can recall? It is encouraging, somehow. Ready to rediscover most anything, the public might yet turn a favourable ear to the golden age of radio. I sure wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to . . .

On This Day in 1930: Murder Trial Broadcast Summons Millions to Court

Well, it is Black Friday here in New York—the stores are opening at preposterously early hours and shoppers are lured away from their leftover turkey with promises of early bird specials and nest egg busting savings. Too lazy after a sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, I am not partaking of any 5 AM bargain debasements. Instead, I am going to celebrate yet another milestone in radio drama history—The Trial of Vivienne Ware, which opened on this day, 25 November, in 1930 and ushered in a new age of cross-promotional multimediacy.

“There’s murder in the air,” the New York Times had announced in its Sunday radio section, predicting that The Trial of Vivienne Ware would “occupy the attention of listeners over WJZ’s network for six consecutive nights beginning Tuesday.” Considerably more enthusiastic was the New York American, which declared the six-part serial to be “one of the most stirring mystery radiodramas ever presented,” quoting NBC president M. H. Aylesworth as saying that its script “established a new standard in the creation of radio plays. The simplicity and fidelity of the theme, together with the colorful word and character pictures, stand out in this new field of adaptive writing.”

The New York American—the Hearst “paper for people who think”—had good reason to eulogize the as yet unaired serial as “one of the best radio dramas ever written,” given that the program had been conceived by one of its own feature writers.

Every effort was made to prevent the program from appearing like a cheap marketing ploy and to convince WJZ, New York—the flagship station of NBC’s Blue network—to produce the series in its glass-curtained Times Square studio atop the New Amsterdam Theatre and to broadcast the event locally instead of making the required six half-hour spots available to national advertisers.

Certain to impress NBC executives was the fact that—along with Ferdinand Pecora, Assistant District Attorney of New York, and prominent New York attorney George Gordon Battle—none other than US Senator and Supreme Court Justice Robert F. Wagner had agreed to participate in the mock trial by assuming the role of the presiding judge. The titular heroine was played by Rosamund Pinchot, a stage actress who had appeared in Max Reinhardt’s celebrated staging of The Miracle, and the entire spectacular was supervised by well-known Broadway producer John Golden.

“Ladies and Gentlemen of the Radio Jury,” Wagner addressed the audience during the inaugural broadcast:

You have been called to one of the most trying tasks which befalls the lot of a citizen. You are to try a fellow being on a charge of first degree murder. It is the more difficult for you in that this defendant has everything which would make life for any young woman most desirable. Yet it may become your solemn duty to deprive her of her enjoyment of that life.

Standing to gain cash prizes for the most convincing verdict, readers of the New York American were advised to prepare themselves by taking in the published “information” daily, since they might miss “important loop-holes” if they did not “carefully follow the testimony and the evidence” as presented on the radio. “By reading the New York American every morning” throughout the trial and by “tuning in on WJZ each night at the specified time,” readers should be able to form their verdict as to Miss Ware’s guilt or innocence—“just like any other juror.”

According to Radio Digest, verdicts, letters of congratulations, and demands for a sequel were received from places as remote as Canada and Virginia, as well as from ships at sea; an estimated 14,000 listeners eventually acquitted the fictional heroine on trial, with about 2000 arguing the “society girl” to be guilty. More significant for the publisher was that the serial had increased the circulation of the New York American “far in excess of expectations,” as a result of which Hearst papers in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, and Omaha sponsored the trial with different casts of local luminaries.

A follow-up trial involving the murder victim’s less privileged “friend,” nightclub singer Dolores Divine, was staged a few weeks after the acquittal of the first defendant. A generic version of the radio scripts for both serials, prefaced by excepts from the printed reports and concluding with the audience verdict, was subsequently published by Grosset and Dunlap, which marketed Kenneth M. Ellis’s The Trial of Vivienne Ware as the “first radio novel, an innovation in both the radio and publishing worlds.”

Unfortunately, no recordings of this interactive multi-media event seem to have survived. I sure would have enjoyed tuning in . . .

Catching Up With the Gals

Well, I couldn’t resist seeing the gals today. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White were at a DVD signing at a Barnes & Noble down in Chelsea, Manhattan (pictured below). I got to tell Rue that I learned English watching the show, which rather astonished her. It’s quite true.

Picture this. New York City. The late 1980s. I was a small-town German boy on a five-month visit to the Big Apple—flat broke but ready for adventure. One morning, counting my dollars after another night out, I caught a rerun of The Golden Girls. The laugh track suggested that I missed out on quite a bit of fun. Still, I fell instantly in love with those four women: the naive, good-natured Rose, the flirtatious and selfish Blanche, the sarcastic but insecure Dorothy, and her equally sarcastic mother (Estelle Getty, who is apparently too ill now to get about much). Okay, so I assumed at first that Bea Arthur was a drag queen. Not that that kept me from watching.

It didn’t take me long to make my morning visit to Miami Beach part of my daily routine. It took me quite a bit longer to get most of the cultural references (for many of which you’d need footnotes by now, anyway). But once I got them and learned much about American humor besides, I gained the confidence to be funny in English. Quotations from The Golden Girls gradually sneaked into my repertoire of witticisms, my everyday language. Eventually, I went to university here in NYC. I’d like to think that the gals had something to do with that.

Listening to “The Thing That Cries in the Night”; (Chapter Fourteen): Desperation Is a Clash by Night

Well, if prices had plummeted as rapidly as city temperatures, I’d be enjoying some terrific bargains today. Yesterday, I went downtown to my favorite electronics store and went hunting for a few old movies. I am not prepared to pay $25 or more for a copy of, say, Queen Kelly; nor am I eager to get my hands on $5 DVDs that turn Hollywood entertainment into headache-inducing eyestrainers. I always keep abreast of what’s in the stores by reading the notes and reviews posted by fellow bloggers like Brent McKee and Ivan Shreve; so I pretty much knew what to look our for while in town.

I had my eye on The Doris Day Show and the Ann Sothern sitcom Private Secretary, both of which I turned down for the reasons just stated. This time, I walked away with The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection, a set of seven DVDs containing most of Lloyd’s best films, some shorts, stills, as well as episodes from his Old Gold radio program. With prices for this anthology as high as $100, I was pleased to have snatched it up for the relative bargain of $63. Today I will head downtown again to have a browse at the best second-hand bookstore in town (you know, the one featured in Absolutely Fabulous). Now, on with the show . . . I Love a Mystery that is.

On this day, 17 November, in 1949, creator-writer-director Carlton E. Morse opened the penultimate chapter of “The Thing That Cries in the Night,” the fifteen-part radio thriller I have been following for nearly three weeks now. Compared to the previous installment, today’s 10-minute segment is a decidedly noisy affair. It is the equivalent of a car chase sequence in an otherwise not uninspired detective story. For all its excitement, it is something of a cop-out.

Only yesterday, Morse was demonstrating how terrifying and mysterious a voiceless presence can be when the ambiguities of silence are introduced to challenge the sound-equals-life dynamics of radio drama. Silence, however, was dreaded by none more than the broadcasters, who filled the air with words, noise, and music to prevent listeners from twisting the dial or questioning the soundness of their receivers.

In Jack’s dialogue with death, Morse had found an ingenious way of giving silence a voice. Now, in a desperate attempt to crank up the thrills, his storytelling is in danger of being reduced to a frantic mess of juvenile tumult and shouting, a nocturnal free-for-all during which the stuffy air of the Martin mansion is filled with much mindless clamor and sense-numbing chloroform (the weapon of choice for Morse’s unseen and supposedly ethereal adversaries).

I Love a Mystery was always introduced as an “adventure-thriller”; and in episode fourteen, it is adventure that prevails. If silence is the stuff of mystery, adventure plays itself out in loud noise and boisterous speech. Will “The Thing” shut up when the mystery concludes tomorrow? Time for me to take a break from blogging and signal-hunting. The town beckons.

Listening to “The Thing That Cries in the Night” (Chapter Twelve): Pride Is a Fierce Old Lady

We are experiencing technical difficulties. I arrived in New York City yesterday after what seemed a well-nigh interminable journey by train and plane, prolonged rather than relieved by a sleepless stopover in Manchester, England. Now I can’t seem to get wireless access long enough to update and edit this journal. So far, I resisted having to consume cups of overpriced coffee for the privilege of keeping the silent few abreast of my adventures in living and listening.

Right now, this means resting my laptop under a scaffold while waiting for the rain to ease. Not quite the walk in the park I enjoyed yesterday (as pictured above). I am determined, though, to continue my three-week mission to explore strange goings-on, seek out new death and old civilization, to boldly venture deeper into the house of Martin, whence I’ll be reporting back as regularly as technology, weather, and footwear permit. Today’s installment, the twelfth in the fifteen-part radio thriller “The Thing That Cries in the Night,” was first broadcast during the East Coast revival of Carlton E. Morse’s I Love a Mystery program on this day, 15 November, in 1949.

Jack Packard, one of the three investigators hired to rid the formidable Mrs. Randolph Martin of her “granddaughter trouble,” makes a startling statement. He claims to know the identity of the mysterious “thing,” the menacing no-show that bawls like a baby, supposedly to warn the Martin’s of death and destruction.

It is unclear whether we are to regard the “thing” as a neo-gothic alarm system or as the destructive force that has already caused the death of two people and the injuries of other members of the Martin clan. So, Jack is in a position not only to put an end to the mystery but to prevent further crimes. Yet instead of sharing his knowledge, he keeps his two fellow adventurers, Doc Long and Reggie York as mystified as most of Morse’s listeners are likely to be at this point.

The rules of the game have changed: we are no longer Jack’s secret sharer. A compact has been broken. The police are on the scene of the crime; they, too are being left in darkness. Morse does not as much as give them a voice. They are figures of no consequence; and since they are not given a voice, we cannot expect any assistance from such muffled authorities.

Mrs. Martin is about to go back on another agreement. Just when the case shows promises of being solved, the old woman dismisses the men whose services she had been anxious to secure. So eager to protect whatever secrets are cloistered in her less-than-happy home, she even expresses herself pleased at the prospect that cracking this nut of a case might be the death of Jack.

Is Jack willing to pay so dearly for his supposedly superior position, a fiercely contested vantage point from which he is now able to threaten Mrs. Martin with the disclosure of her deadly secrets? Will the price of knowledge prove higher than the cost of ignorance? And will I manage to post again tomorrow? Please stay tuned.

Listening to “The Thing That Cries in the Night”; (Chapter Eleven): Promise Is a Name Remembered

Well, I am on my way to New York City, the town I once called home. It has been a year since I left, and I am looking forward to catching up with friends, revisiting old haunts, and walking through streets that are so much part of the landscape of my soul that I never thought I would be able to find myself elsewhere. I did, eventually; but I would not be the man I am today, for better or worse, were it not for my New York education—and I don’t just mean earning my PhD. Technology permitting, I will continue my blog from there; it is the first time I am travelling with my laptop and I wonder whether or to what extent being back in town is going to influence the way I am writing here, even though my mind’s eye will remain fixed, for a few days longer, on a certain mansion in Los Angeles—the house of the doomed Martin family.

For two weeks now I have been listening to the old-time radio thriller “The Thing That Cries in the Night,” a serial in fifteen chapters that aired as part of Carlton E. Morse’s I Love a Mystery program back in 1939 and (in its New York revival) in 1949. The eleventh chapter was broadcast in the US on this day, 14 November, in 1949.

So, what’s been going on? The troubled Charity Martin has been carried to her quarters, a room she claims to have “always hated.” During her childhood, it was wallpapered with less-than comforting nursery rhyme figures, creatures that seemed to spring to life in the darkness. When asked to return to the events of the night—a night during which the young woman was found bound and gagged next to the basement furnace, Charity tremulously relates being abducted by a faceless figure in a blood-red hood carrying out the horrors which, she insists, have “got to go on and on and on until there isn’t any of [her family] left.”

Having encouraged this outburst, Jack surprises Charity, his partners, and us listeners with a seemingly unrelated question: “Do you know a girl named Pauline West?” Charity (or Cherry, as she prefers to be called) hesitates, acknowledging little more than a vague recollection. Jack explains that he read the name on a casting sheet he found next to Cherry’s body, and that Pauline West appears to be a radio actress.

What else is down there in that basement: transcription disks? The 1949 transcribed run of Morse’s serial was produced during the early days of tape recording; but the script for “The Thing” is a decade older and dates from the time when radio was live.  Is the titular “Thing” live? Or is it a recording, like Morse’s remake?

Before the chapter closes, another shot is fired—right in our presence. Charity and her sister Hope are struggling for the possession of the gun that killed the family chauffeur. Hope is shot. For once, the “thing” has not cried. Was the shooting accidental? Or did one sister try to do away with the other? And was it all part of the scheme to bring about the fall of the house of Martin?

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’ve got a plane to catch . . .

On This Day in 1938: Broadcast “Air Raid” Assaults Like Sontag’s 9/11 Tirade

Sunlight and shadows across my
copy of MacLeish’s Air Raid

Well, only yesterday I wrote about the potentialities of broadcasting and blogging as means and modes of connecting with the world. Today I am going to mark the anniversary of an execrable “disconnect” by relating it to a disturbing episode in my life, a moment of outrage in a period of confusion and despair. Ready?

On this day, 27 October, in 1938, the Columbia Workshop laid an intellectual egg of such poor taste that I sometimes felt the only proper way of connecting to it would be to hurl it right back at its author, the American poet-pamphleteer Archibald MacLeish. The play produced by and broadcast over the US radio network CBS was “Air Raid,” an exercise in propagandist verse. Like “The War of the Worlds”, which aired a few days later over the same network, “Air Raid” entered the anti-fascist debate and commented on the political tensions then mounting in Europe by exploiting and fueling the anxieties of an American public divided between battle cries and isolationism. The nation’s enemies, such plays told in the abstract language to which pre-war radio playwrights were bound to adhere, were not quite so distant as to render their attacks futile.

In “Air Raid,” MacLeish went so far as to hold civilians whose lives were threatened or lost in fascist offensives responsible for their inaction. As in the previously discussed “Fall of the City,” the audience is taken to the scene of terror, listening in as carefree women, heedless of the warnings they receive, ar e going about their daily affairs until blown to bits by machine guns fired from above. The announcer, observing the raid from a secure post, reports and comments on the execution:

There’s the signal: the dip: they’ll
Dive: they’re ready to dive:
They’re steady: they’re heading down:
They’re dead on the town: they’re nosing:
They’re easing over: they’re over:
There they go: there they—

His coverage of the event is cut short by the stammering guns and the shrieking of women and ends in a boy’s calling of my name: “Harry! Harry! Harry!” I did not require such a prompt to feel personally offended.

MacLeish intellectualizing of terror and patronizing of the terrorized is the kind of disastrous argument that reminded me of Susan Sontag’s words shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center. In an article published in the New Yorker, Sontag lamented the “disconnect” between the “monstrous dose of reality” that was 9/11 and the “self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators.”

Sontag opined that the “voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public,” a public lacking in “historical awareness” and subjected instead to the “psychotherapy” of “confidence-building and grief management.” Arguing the insistence on America’s strength to be not “entirely consoling,” Sontag concluded: “Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.”

In retrospect, I find these words unremarkable; they have been uttered many times since. Living through the terror of those days in New York City, however, I was infuriated by such ill-timed chastising from afar (Sontag lived in Paris at the time). I sat down and cried and wrote a lengthy response to let out my anger, shared with the German friend who brought Sontag’s commentary to my attention:

Sie mag aus der Ferne spotten; sähe, fühlte, spürte sie die Stadt würde sie den New Yorkern kaum “Dummheit” vorwerfen. Wenn ich ihr aus der Ferne auch weder Feigheit noch Dummheit unterstellen will, so muss ich doch feststellen, dass Abstand auch eine Freiheit von Anstand bedeuten kann. Sontag schrieb einmal ein erfolgreiches, vielzitiertes, und feines Buch mit dem Titel Against Interpretation. Sie täte gut daran, sich gegen ihre eigenen ‘Interpretationen’ zu sträuben.

In essence, I argued that Sontag should heed the words that formed the title of her book Against Interpretation, that she should have reserved her distant and distancing intellectualizing and her attacks on the supposedly infantile public and the media that pampered it for a period in which a bewildered public was more likely to stomach further humiliation and to respond with a kindness and dignity lacking in Sontag’s words to the unwise.

Attacking both the medium it employs and the masses it engages (that is, attempting to appeal to the latter by questioning the former), MacLeish’s “Air Raid,” like Sontag’s tirade, is a prime example of how not to connect.

On This Day in 1953: Business as Bloody Usual on the “gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world”

Well, Broadway is no longer the stuff of romance; having cleaned up its act in the dull spirit of corporate greed, it no longer is the “gaudiest, the most violent, the lonesomest mile in the world,” as it was once eulogized in hard-boiled and slightly over-cooked prose on the US radio thriller series Broadway Is My Beat (1949-54). Still, since I am returning to the Big Apple next month, having just booked my flight, I am going to rekindle my own romance with Manhattan by following Detective Danny Clover on his beat somewhere between or around Times Square and Columbus Circle.

On this day, 14 October, in 1953, Clover walked once again past “the hawkers, the gawkers, the ‘hurry up’ boys and the ‘slow down’ girls” to find himself confronted with some suitably sordid business of jealousy and murder—the “Cora Lee” case.

It’s “party time” on East 63rd. The shrill laughter of a drunken woman and the breaking of glass tells us at once that this ain’t a black tie affair. College graduate Cora Lee is in hot water; anyway, her head’s in a tub filled with it. The young woman very nearly drowned, and the bruise on her head suggests that she didn’t take the dive on her own free will. Now, the woman who reported the incident resents being thought of as a suspect. “You’re a stinker,” she tells Clover’s assistant. “And that’s the word I use in mixed company.” Cora comes to, eventually; but everyone around her, including her husband and her father, is too drunk to be of any use to her or the police.

A few days later, the “wild dame” celebrates her recovery with a few drinks in the company of husband and friends, party people who keep living it up while Cora is stretched out dead on the floor with a knife in her heart. Good-natured bunch, ain’t it?

“I was in college with Cora,” one of the drunken guests, a gal with feathers in her hair, tells Clover without a hint of compassion. “I knew her for two weeks, and I said to myself: there’s a classmate who’ll never see thirty. One way or another, she’ll never make it.” The deceased, she claims, was “the most, jealous, vicious, detestable, beautiful girl in the class of 1950.” Who might have killed her? Well, “anyone with a knife,” she sneers, especially the young woman who is so eager now to take Cora’s place as hostess of the merry gathering, offering highballs and sandwiches to the detective while threatening to do “damage” with her “high heel” if the feathered one doesn’t keep her mouth shut.

With all that talk going on, there isn’t time left to weave much of a mystery; but the thrill of listening to realist crime dramas like Gangbusters, Dragnet, or Twenty-first Precinct is not generated by suspense or surprise anyway. The criminal, whoever it happens to be, will in all likelihood be apprehended somehow. The excitement lies in going along for the ride, in the privilege of being in the presence of criminal elements, of witnessing the tawdry and treacherous, the vile and violent from a comforting distance.

With a dash of purple prose and a helping of humor, Broadway Is My Beat is as gaudy and violent as the formerly “lonesomest” mile it evokes in word and sound. As white as the Great White Way is nowadays, you just won’t get that kind of kick out of strolling past the Olive Garden or watching the out-of-towners going around on the Toys “R” Us ferris wheel. Let Detective Clover take you on a tour . . .