Newspapers as an “old media” technology survived the 1950s and struggled into the next century, but this May 1951 episode of Night Beat features a rarer form of communication — a coin-op juke box with a live d.j., a cross between a telephone switchboard operator and a radio announcer taking phone-in requests.
This story literally puts Randy Stone on the street, describing in colorful detail the noir sights and sounds of Chicago as he tries to find a story for the column.
(“The brittle laugh of a painted tootsie” is about as graphic as family-friendly fifties radio got about certain aspects of the Chicago night.)
Instead, this time he finds a melodramatic little human drama to share with us, possibly not with his readers in a way that would give away they story’s O. Henry ending to the parties involved — one of whom runs a sidewalk news stand, another disappearing media institution.
He also finds plenty of neon colors, sounds of jazz in the night, and — after a comment about keeping up with the competition — a Chicago Sun Times smeared in blood.
It’s worth a listen.
(In addition to Night Beat regular William Conrad — radio’s “Matt Dillon” and TV’s “Cannon” — the cast includes Betty Lou Gerson, a film, TV and voiceover actress perhaps best known as Cruella De Vil in Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.”)