Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Jerry Lewis is On the Air

The last thing I’d want to hear on the radio is someone screeching in a whine or laughing like a gurgling child. But that’s what one station brought listeners, at least for a brief period. For it wasn’t enough for Jerry Lewis to star in films, television and nightclubs. He wanted to star on radio, too. And the easiest way to do it was to buy his own radio station. And that’s what he did.

Of course, Lewis had been on radio before, on NBC in the waning Golden Days. But he was appearing with the unspeakable “M” word (Martin, as in Dean). This time, he substituted another “M” (Moore, as in Del). Like him or hate him—and you can guess my opinion—Lewis was no dummy. There was a perfectly logical reason for him to buy a radio station, even a FM one in the days when rock music never set foot outside the AM band. He revealed it in this syndicated column from December 15, 1960.

Jerry Lewis Tells Why He Bought A Radio Station
Hollywood Correspondent
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

HOLLYWOOD (NEA)—The FCC just made it official.
Jerry Lewis is now a man “locked in” on “12 D. B.’s of whistle woof” to his own FM radio station—KJPL—and broadcasting from his own home.
The JPL means Jerry and Patti Lewis and the $100,000 they paid for controlling interest in the station, formerly called KVFM.
The station’s transmitting tower and official studio are located in San Fernando Valley, but a second studio with sound-mixing control panels Jerry unveiled at his Bel Air home is a junior size Radio City on which he’s invested almost another $100,000.
“RCA ANNEX — The Home Canaveral Sound System.” Jerry called it as he explained his “12 D. B. no bump cycle lock” in words I bet even General Sarnoff doesn’t know.
“You see,” he said, “it has to be a certain DB reading of whistle woof. Like this,” he added, puckering his lips and whistling.
“That’s 12 with no humps,” he assured me. Whistling again, he said:
“That’s not 12. That’s when you are in trouble—see?”
I didn’t see, let alone did I hear any woof. But no one is going to catch me crying woof about Jerry Lewis and his latest “project”.
You have to take his whistle for it along with why he decided to buy a radio station.
“I had to buy one,” he said, “because I never know what time it is.”
NOW THE ESTIMATED 350,000 listeners to KJPL (93.4 [sic] on the dial and heard only locally in San Fernando Valley) often wonder what time it is, not to mention what day it is when Jerry flips the switch at his home.
Without warning, his voice arrives to heckle regular KJPL announcer Del Moore with false time signals and outlandish news and weather reports.
“Just kidding — and with apologies to the FCC,” says Jerry but KJPL listeners are way ahead of him.
Jerry keeps them guessing about the guests he brings to his home microphone. The “Elvis Presley” singing off-key on a recent Sunday afternoon was Pat Boone.
IN ADDITION to being “locked in” to the FM station, Jerry’s elaborate sound and mixing system is linked with the Paramount studio sound department. He can transfer recorded music at his home to sound track film at the studio and he can bring stage dialog from the studio into his home.
Hollywood has laughed about actors saying, “The role is so small I could phone my dialog into the studio.”
But Jerry can do it—and he has.
Several of his off-stage “wild” lines in “Cinderfella,” his latest film, were put on sound track at his studio while Jerry read the lines into his home mike.
“People laughed,” he said, “when I bought a 65 mm. film camera and editing equipment and started making home movies.
Well, that's how I learned how to direct. Now I’m going to learn everything about sound mixing, broadcasting and recording.”
The sound equipment is housed in a new addition to the home he bought from Louis B. Mayer and includes a $30,000 mixer, six coupler transformers in a $10,000 unit and many microphones with individual lines.
“The Home Canaveral Sound System” also includes Jerry’s chatter about “pots” and that whistle woof. If he ever becomes unlocked, look out.

The mention of “Cinderfella” demonstrates another good reason for Lewis to own a radio station—he could give his movies all the free plugs that he wanted, certainly while he was on the air.

Del Moore was part of Lewis’ little company. He started in radio then appeared in several Joe McDoakes shorts with George (Jetson) O’Hanlon. Then came television and he appeared with Betty White in her first sitcom ‘Life With Elizabeth’, then opposite Bob Clampett’s life-sized puppet Willy the Wolf on KTTV. He hooked up with Lewis in ‘Cinderfella’ and later appeared in ‘The Big Mouth,’ ‘The Patsy’ and ‘The Nutty Professor.’ He died in 1970.

(If you want another cartoon connection besides O’Hanlon and Clampett, ‘Cinderfella’ was written and directed by Frank Tashlin).

As for “KJPL,” the call-letters appear to have been a gag. A February 1961 newspaper ad for the Del Moore-Jerry Lewis Show (yes, Del got first billing) revealed the station was still KVFM, 94.3. Their show broadcast “live from their homes” Saturday and Sunday nights, 10 to midnight. How long Lewis remained on the air, or owned the station, isn’t known. He was so busy with films it’s impossible he could have had a show for very long. So his radio station ownership has become an obscure footnote in a long and successful—and controversial—comedy career.

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