The classic radio comedy “Vic and Sade” by Paul Rhymer had no journalist characters appear at its microphones, as far as I know, although the main characters were regular newspaper readers… but Vic Gook did discuss writing for the paper himself in more than one episode.
In this scene, Vic says he’s considering writing articles for the paper about a two-week business trip. His wife and 14-year-old son are merciless in their critique of his news judgment, with a hint that Vic has been spending too much time at the office entertaining “one of the girls” (named Lolita DiRienzis) who gave him the idea.
Vic feigns modesty at first and judiciously avoids identifying the “someone” who gave him idea, but Sade and Rush egg him on to the point that he argues he might even write a book.
Sade: You think maybe you will write pieces for the newspaper about your trip?
Vic: What newspaper editor would be interested in any trash I’d turn out… Aw shucks… Probably the editor’d split his sides laughing if I submitted any such fantastic proposal…
Rush: Yes I imagine it would be awfully dull reading… You wouldn’t have anything to say about Wisconsin and Michigan that would thrill anybody… What would you call your book, “A trip through darkest Michigan”? “Blood-thirsty Adventures in Untamed Wisconsin?”
Vic takes umbrage, defends the idea, and recounts in detail one of his “side-splitting stories,” which isn’t.
Unlike Vic’s joke, Paul Rhymer’s humor is brilliant and subtle, with glimpses of the absurdities of real life. Underneath this particular story about Vic’s hope of getting his “adventure” into the paper is the reality that people back in the days of radio drama really did take the newspaper seriously.
“Vic and Sade” was an offbeat domestic comedy, far from the typical continuing-story “soap operas” and romantic serials; although it had no “journalist” characters, the daily newspaper was as much a part of its portrayal of daily life as the living room furniture.
For all of that reading, the Gooks hadn’t mentioned a single reporter’s byline in the episodes I’d listened to when I began writing this — perhaps, I thought, a testimonial to the anonymity of individual reporters at newspapers through most of the 20th century, especially when it came to the routine local news and social notes that the average reader relied on daily.
Just to be safe, I asked Web master of all things Vic and Sade, the serial blogger known as Jimbo, whether he’d heard any journalists mentioned. He pointed me to 1939 reference to a reporter named Ed Greefer, a lodge brother Vic thought might help him get a travel story into the paper. Interrupted in a phone call before he could tell Ed about his travels, Vic wrote out 15 pages of longhand and had a secretary type it up, the final six-page manuscript to be hand-delivered by an office boy.
“I thought, what the heck, I’ll write down the highlights of my trip… be doing Ed a favor because he wants stuff for his paper… I was inspired, I wrote and wrote and wrote… words just flew from that pencil.”
Vic’s trip through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio inspired what he proudly called “florid phrases and sweeping sentences.” A sample:
“Kentucky is the land of the red sun, the blue grass and the white cotton. Red, white and blue, the colors of the flag that flies over the greatest nation on the face of the earth.”
In the end, Ed Greefer gave Vic nothing but grief about the article. Rush Gook relayed his phone message to his father:
“Who does your old man think he is, Marco Polo discovering a new route to the West Indies? Tell your father newspaper readers already know Indiana is east of Illinois. When we want to print first grade geography textbooks, we’ll give your father first crack at it. I’d have passed on your information about Ohio being north of Kentucky to the city editor only I was afraid he wouldn’t survive the shock of such a revelation.”
The story as it appeared in the Greefer’s paper:
“V.R. Gook of this city was absent on business last week.”
If “Vic and Sade” are tempting, Jimbo is the author of these resources:
http://vicandsade.blogspot.com/ (Note the more than 50 links in the left column, headed “Crazy Stuff”)
http://vscharacters.blogspot.com/ (More than 750 characters mentioned by the name-dropping Gooks and their friends)
Jimbo discusses earlier Vic and Sade chroniclers here:
A Tribute to ‘Friends of Vic and Sade’