Friday, October 21, 2005

It's One O'Clock and Here Is Mary Margaret McBride: A radio biography

By Susan Ware (NY: NYU Press, 2005). Mary Margaret McBride is sometimes called the creator of the radio talk show. In the 1940s and 1950s she "regularly attracted six to eight million listeners." As a radio woman myself, I loved the descriptions of how she ran her program, getting into deep conversations with people and just throwing in the advertising endorsements when she could fit them into the conversations. She only endorsed products she herself approved of -- often foods. MMM was a great eater, as her pictures in the book definitely show. Ware says the secret of McBride's interviewing success was that she really and warmly listened to people. She also was very generous with her listeners and always wrote back and often mentioned them in her shows. Another secret of McBride's success was her longstanding relationship (likely lesbian at some point, and involving shared housing) with her manager and publicist Stella Karn. Stella is a great character and I wish there were even more of her in this book. Because Stella was in her youth an advance publicist for a circus, I have formed an hypothesis that Djuna Barnes may have known or known about Stella before she created the character in Nightwood known as Robin Vote. Barnes and Karn were not of the same generation, but they did overlap in their tenure in Greenwich Village.

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