As the snow falls lightly on my non-cedars, I am enjoying the best Christmas gift my big brother Lew has ever gifted.
Are you sitting down?
Are you over 50?
On June 15, 1953, the Ford Motor Company sponsored an historic television event.
Historic in that the television show, The Ford 50th Anniversary Show, was simultaneously aired on the NBC and CBS television networks.
While the double broadcast may occur today in sports with ESPN and ABC,
53 ½ years ago, networks were not in bed together.
In fact, neither were Desi and Lucy.
The Ford 50th Anniversary Show had but two stars, but two of the greatest of their time: Mary Martin and Ethel Merman.
I was just 10 days away from my sixth birthday.
Mom and Dad, sister Linda, age 4, and brother Lew, age 11, were gathered on and around the floor and sofa and chairs of our living room at 3181 Mountview Road, right in the middle of middle class suburban Columbus, Ohio.
Our RCA black-and-white 12-inch television, purchased by dad under pressure so we could watch Hopalong somewhere other than the hardware store, was warmed up and ready.
We kids knew Mary Martin as the original Peter Pan, although at this time in her career she was receiving standing ovations in New York and London for her role in South Pacific.
Ethel Merman was always a chuckle for us as soon as her voice shook or she started to look like she was opening her mouth wide enough to wolf down a Philly cheese steak sandwich.
Ethel Merman was the original bullhorn, but in a good way.
“Call Me Madam,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Gypsy.”
She and Martin were, as deliciously expressed by George Dansker in his liner notes on both the CD and DVD, “the two ‘Queens of the American Musical Theatre.’”
I do not remember the entire show, but I do recall the almost 13-minute duet that Ethel and Mary sang. I was mesmerized, although I did not know how to spell the word at the time.
I did not cry when I heard that duet live on June 15, 1953 in Columbus, Ohio.
I did not cry at age 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 when Mom played the 45-RPM Decca recording that she and another 60 million people bought to relive that magic television soundtrack moment.
And, Mom seemed to play it every day for years on our RCA 45 player with the wobbly legs.
When Mom died, her favorite 45s went right into my special cardboard 45-RPM Platter-pak Phonograph Record Case that she bought me with my allowance money at G.C. Murphy’s on Lane Avenue.
I did not ask Dad if I could take Mom’s 45s.
I did not ask my brother or sister.
I just knew that I needed to protect them, particularly three 45s, including Isaac Stern playing “Claire de Lune” on the special RCA red seal vinyl record denoting the Collector’s Issue, Johnny Standley’s classic comedy routine on Capitol — “It’s in the Book!” — and the Decca 45 of Ethel Merman and Mary Martin that I am holding now, trying not to cry.
You see, this was the Christmas that I had intended to give my brother this special 45 plus his own scratch-free CD copyright violation recording from this computer.
But I was too busy trying to figure out how to get through the holidays sending the family gifts media rate to save oodles of cash.
Their gifts still are not close to back east.
Maybe by Valentine’s Day. No biggie.
I’m sitting here now, snow slightly falling on my non-cedars, while I listen to the Merman-Martin duet one more time.
Maybe this time through I won’t cry.
These original Divas sing non-stop. Live, with no mistakes. Thirty-one songs in 12 minutes and 50 seconds.
“There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “A Wonderful Guy,” “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” “Wait ‘Till the Sun Shines Nellie,” “I’m The Sheik of Araby,” “When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along,” “Melancholy Baby,” “You Made Me Love You”, “Mississippi Mud,” “I Cried For You,” “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows,” “I’m in the Mood for Love,” “I Love a Parade,” “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain,” “I’m Sitting on Top of the World,” “I Got a Feeling You’re Fooling,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “I’ll Get By,” “You’re Just in Love,” “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outa My Hair,” “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Indian Love Call,” “Tea for Two,” “Stormy Weather,” “Isn’t it Romantic?” “I Got Rhythm” reprise and the closing reprise — “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”
I think of my dear friend Jean Shaw every time I hear that last one.
On June 15, 1953, Mary Martin and Ethel Merman sang their songs and shared their greatness.
They sat atop “two high stools in front of posters of their Broadway hits, and made television history.”
Thanks Mom and Dad, for raising me at the right time, with the right music.
Thanks brother Lew, for beating me to the punch once again. At least it tastes like punch.
To obtain your own collector’s copy of this classic show on CD and/or DVD, contact Vai Music in Pleasantville, N.Y., toll-free at 800-477-7146 or on-line at www.vaimusic.com.
Hope to see you at the Island Coffee House at 7 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 13, for our first Island Arts Council Poetry Slam of 2007.
I’ll bring Ethel and Mary just in case.