The Sign At 2212 Walnut Street

There was a thermometer mounted on the brick next to the fire escape’s door. I’d always refer to the temperature on the “95PEN Weather Fire Escape!”

I just got a tweet with a blast from the past.

Candy Egan Perri @kuteskatergirl 7h
@geofffox I just drove past the WPEN building, it looks exactly the same. #Philadelphia

It’s still there! The WPEN sign along the eastern edge 2212 Walnut Street in Center City Philadelphia. Considering WPEN hasn’t been at 2212 since the late 70s that’s quite an accomplishment.

Chalk it up to benign neglect. It’s probably cheaper to leave it where it is than pull it down.

I started at WPEN late in 1974. It was the WKRP of Philadelphia–bad signal, underfinanced and AM. Even in ’74 music on AM was a tough sell.

We played oldies. We had a good product. That alone was not enough. We just couldn’t compete.

At one time WPEN was a big deal. It even provided the seed that made Dick Clark a big deal.

If any program can be designated the prototype for Dick Clark’s legendary dance show, that distinction goes to WPEN’s 950 Club, named for the station’s location on the AM dial. Originated in 1945 and hosted by the popular duo of Joe Grady and Ed Hurst, the 950 Club was the first radio show on which a studio audience was invited to dance to records being broadcast over the air. The show, which saluted a different high school each day, quickly became the focus of the area’s bobby-sox set, who, seeking admission, deluged WPEN with two to three thousand pieces of mail each week. – American Bandstand
Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire

That studio was still there, in a terrible state of disrepair, when I arrived. It even had a name: The William Penn Room. Could it be more Philly?

I loved that building.

There was a fire escape at the end of the 3rd floor hallway, just past the studios, where you could go for a smoke (I was a smoker). We also went to try and catch a glimpse of the Moore College of Art girl’s dorm at the corner.

The statute of limitations has expired, right?

A big metal thermometer was mounted on the exterior brick next to the fire escape’s door. On-air I’d refer to the temperature “On the 95PEN Weather Fire Escape!”

I’d never before worked in a commercial district right in the middle of a big city. It was much more exciting than a suburban office park or studios built at the edge of the towers. It made me feel more grown-up, more professional.

WPEN was my favorite job in radio. It’s nice to have this reason to remember and smile.

I hope they never take down the sign.

On The Passing Of Dick Clark

Is it possible? Was Dick Clark the last survivor from the live black and white era?

Dick Clark has died.

I met him once. It was at 95PEN (WPEN) on Walnut Street in Center City, Philadelphia. He once worked there. Me too. He was cordial.

I also did a talkback satellite interview with him one New Years Eve on Channel 8. He was in Times Square. It was promotion for the affiliates. Nothing worth noting.

I’ve watched him all my life. I was a little young to watch Bandstand myself, but I was around when it was on and caught it in passing. There was also the Beech-Nut Show (It’s flavor-ific) on Saturday nights and Where The Action Is weekday afternoons.

What you saw of Dick on-the-air was important, but his professional life was much more complex. A very successful businessman, he owned most of the shows he was on! He also owned a lot he wasn’t on including a few made for TV awards shows.

I’ve heard he was less than happy he was only an employee on Pyramid.

Dick Clark was very interesting as a performer. He was exceptionally consistent. There are no memorable Dick Clark moments because his performance had no highs or lows! He was always the same.

That being said what he did was very good. There are few who came close. And he worked fast! Dick was not a “Take 2” guy. Doing voice tracks or ins-and-outs with few takes saves a lot of money over the long run.

Dick was very wealthy. Very, very wealthy. He watched and earned every penny.

My friend says Dick was really the successor to Gary Moore. Dick’s obvious successor is Ryan Seacrest who possesses the same skillset.

Is it possible? Was Dick Clark the last survivor from the live black and white era?

She Found A Photo Of Me From 1975

I remember that shirt. I remember that vest. I remember those Clevite Brush headphones.

I got this photo earlier tonight from Candy Egan Perri, my Facebook friend. She took it in 1975. I am on-the-air in the WPEN studios, 2212 Walnut street in Center City Philadelphia. I was doing 6-10 PM back then.

I remember that shirt. I remember that vest. I remember those Clevite Brush headphones.

Peter Comes To Visit

My friend Peter is coming to visit tomorrow. He’s due to arrive late tomorrow afternoon (though with Amtrak involved, it could be any time tomorrow evening too).

Like many of my friends, Peter is really smart, computer friendly and sports adverse. An article in a New York City newspaper, written while Peter was in his late teens, referred to him as a ‘boy genius.’ He might still be a boy genius – who can tell?

I know Peter a really long time. We first met on a Sunday afternoon in 1973 at the WGAR studios in suburban Cleveland. Peter was working for our sister station (WNCN) and came by to help my boss analyze the ratings book.

Peter brought his calculator with him, a humongous HP that probably cost a week’s salary. It was the first calculator I’d ever seen! I was in awe.

I next ran into Peter in 1975. He was assistant program director at WPEN in Philadelphia. It was primarily because of Peter I was hired. Later he became my boss.

Working for a friend isn’t as easy as it sounds. You really have to separate the two relationships. A friend doesn’t make value judgments about your performance. A boss does.

I was a thin skinned employee in a business where thicker skin is an asset. Peter was a straight talking boss in a situation where a little softening would have been welcomed.

We have stayed best friends all his time.

Peter left Philadelphia, moved to Providence, back to the Philly suburbs and now lives in a small town (which has the word city in its name) just south of Atlantic City. I left Philadelphia for Buffalo and now Connecticut.

Helaine must like Peter. Not only did she bake a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, she hid them so I couldn’t have any! Seriously.

I noticed they weren’t on the counter last night. After looking in the usual places, and coming up blank, I gave up. This morning, Helaine confirmed my suspicions.

I’m not sure what we’re gong to do over the weekend. The only real planned event is a trip to the trolley museum in East Haven where they’re letting me drive a trolley. Hopefully, Peter can drive too.

We also have reservations for Sunday brunch atop the Omni Hotel in New Haven. With snow forecast for Sunday, the view might not be the best.

There’s not much I’m sure of, but I do know Peter likes brunch.

I’m looking forward to seeing Peter. I just hope I can keep him from being bored.

Atlantic City and the Weather’s Awful

I’m writing this midday Sunday. There hasn’t been any sun or even the glimpse of the nighttime sky since we’ve been here. Sort of depressing.

As opposed to Las Vegas, this isn’t a good place for Steffie. The hotel, beautiful as it is, is very kid unfriendly. We are removed from the Boardwalk and midtown Atlantic City, though that would make little difference.

Helaine took Steffie to the Boardwalk yesterday, but they stayed only a short time. She was disappointed by the whole honky tonk, sleazy, scene. Of course that’s what Helaine and I like about it. More than anything, we enjoy the people watching, because there are characters of every sort.

We had dinner at the buffet at The Borgata with my friend Peter. I first met him in the early 70’s when I was working in Cleveland. He was the first person I ever met who owned a calculator! He still has it. Later, Peter became my boss – the program director at WPEN radio in Philadelphia. We have been very good friends for 30 years.

The buffet is definitely a Las Vegas contender. There were carving stations and lots of interesting, well prepared, dishes.

A chef was making some spaghetti sauce, I believe using vodka. I tried to take a photo, but was too late. So she put some vodka in a pan so I could have a photo op. Very appreciated.

Unfortunately, she was on the high end of service employees who don’t reach the same level as in Vegas. I’m sorry to do all these comparisons, but it’s only natural. And, time-wise, from where I live in Connecticut, Las Vegas isn’t that much farther away.

We had tickets to the comedy show at the hotel for 9:00 PM. I figured, since it was crowded, that I’d go down and register for poker before we went. That way I wouldn’t have to wait as long. As it turned out, my name wasn’t called until 11:30!

The comedy show, in the same room that Helaine and Steffie saw Rick Springfield the night before, was pretty good. There were three comics, “The Coach,” Jack Fontana, and Pete Correalle.

We all agreed Pete Correalle was the best. In some ways he was reminiscent of Seinfeld. He was in control and laid back.

I thought Jack Fontana, an ‘old school’ joke teller ,was better than “The Coach,” but I was alone in that impression. Either way, both were worse than great, better than bad. Entertaining, but not special.

Last night, the casino was as crowded as any casino I had ever seen. And the crowd was younger than any casino crowd I’d ever seen. Many of the women were dressed in that tawdry, slutty way that’s OK for women, as long as they’re not in your family.

I headed down to the poker room to wait out my table. When I say down, I really mean it, since the room is in the basement.

Like the main casino floor, the poker room was astoundingly crowded. I did get a chance to see what the floor people were carrying. They each have some sort of HP PDA with 802.11b access to the poker room system. So they can work the lists and do nearly everything that can be done from the podium.

I sat at a $6/$12 Hold’em table and slowly began to lose money. It wasn’t long before I was down $100. But I was playing decently (though not as tight as I’d like)&#185, so I figured I’d be OK.

My losses stabilized for a while and then I went down again. I had lost $130 or so when things began to turn. I won a few small pots. At least two times everyone laid down their cards to my bet on the river. I think I won because of my earlier semi-tight play. Then I won a few bigs hands.

By the time I went to cash in my chips, I had won $176. So, three sessions for $96, $5, $176. I’m happy.

As I walked through the casino, after 2:00 AM, things were still jumping. In the elevator, yesterday’s Rear Window had given way to Lost in Translation.

&#185 – It’s reasonable to ask, if you know you’re not playing right, why not just do it? The brief answer is, while you’re at a table, you’re always looking at the hands and evaluating them. But you’re also there to play, which is what you don’t do when you lay your cards down. This is less a problem on-line. Even though I can intellectualize the problem, I don’t always act with my intellect.