Chicago and USA memories: Museum of Broadcast Communications [classic article]

(As first seen on JewishJournal.com) It’s simply not true that “you can’t go home again”: I did! I was born and bred in Chicago. I’m possessed with remarkable recall, but the Museum of Broadcast Communications brought back memories with the crystal clarity of a television fine tuner. Though people of all ages will enjoy it, no doubt older people will be most delighted . . . and there’s not much these days that cares about appealing to the older generation. Parents and grandparents will love relaying history, culture and entertainment to their kids. Incidentally — but not unimportantly — the museum is ADA accessible.

I have to admit that I had previously set aside a few hours to check out the museum, but my train was late: I missed the second floor (devoted to radio) and gift shop. The museum is located in the heart of Chicago’s “Loop”, just a few blocks away from a building named after a tv personality turned Presidential candidate. Convenient? Fortuitous? Ironic? I’ll leave that up to you!

The Bozo Show was franchised around the world — even Willard Scott was a Bozo! — but really, Chicagoans loved their Bozo the best. The waiting list for tickets eventually reached a decade! I got to attend the live show when I was 8. WGN officials said I had to be disqualified from being in the Grand Prize Game, as I was wearing a dress. If I bent over for the ball toss, my panties would show on live tv. I was crushed! Before the show, Mr. Ned did a Don Rickles-style routine busting on my dad for being bald. We invited a little friend of the family to come with us who’s now a very famous magazine editor and tv personality. He still likes to recount those bald jokes from that day on social media.

Frazier Thomas hosted a number of shows on WGN when I was a kid, including Garfield Goose. Thomas was a good pinch hitter for children’s shows, having a sweetness but elegance to his demeanor. A class act that kids today will never know.

Like it or not, the way the world used to be: you had a daddy, he went to work, he earned money and picked out the tv for your house . . . many times he shopped at Polk Bros., because they had good prices.

My first Presidential memories are of Richard Nixon’s resignation. I wasn’t around for his infamous 1960 debate! Ironically, there was a Presidential debate the night I saw this exhibit, but really . . . if I want to see three clowns, I’ll look at old WGN clips.

MBC has the last Meet the Press set that the late Tim Russert used. I liked Tim Russert a lot, but sorely miss the older, drier and more serious format of the original Meet the Press. They used to have reporters from once-respectable newspapers grilling the newsmaker du jour. One had to be very quiet during Sunday brunch while the grown-ups listened to Meet the Press.

Chicago puppeteer Burr Tillstrom was the genius behind the show Kukla, Fran and Ollie that worked on many levels. It was the first show to be considered for children and adults, counting (according to Wiki ) Orson Welles, John Steinbeck, Tallulah Bankhead, Adlai Stevenson and James Thurber among its fans. My dad (of aforementioned Bozo fame) looked exactly like Kukla and he knew it . . . so there you have it:

Another true story that my MBC visit brought up: when I was a little kid, I got to “stay up late” on Saturday nights to watch our local horror show host, Svengoolie on “Channel U” (what we collectively called the UHF channels). My mom repeatedly warned me that if I kept getting nightmares from the monster movies, I wouldn’t be allowed to see them. It was a years-long battle. Svengoolie’s character in my era was played by Chicago tv personality Rich Koz.

A few years ago, Chicago based ME-TV (Memorable Entertainment) started airing nationally. At some point, I saw that Svengoolie was airing on Saturday nights. I figured it was nice that they re-created the show for the next generation . . . or so I thought! The night before my birthday this year, I happened to turn on Svengoolie and immediately became angry. This guy was doing Rich Koz’s old schtick down to the hand gestures! The voice, the running jokes, the makeup . . . same, same, same. I thought to myself, “This s.o.b. needs to get a life! How dare he rip off the classic Svengoolie?” I immediately started poking around on the interwebs.

O.M.G. It was Rich Koz. I wrote on his Facebook wall, “It’s my birthday! You look great and so do I!” MBC has many things from the version of his set just before he re-vamped it. MBC Television Archivist — and fount of local knowledge — Steve Jajkowski did a stint of appearing as the disembodied hand on the Svengoolie show back in the day.

The museum also has pop culture items, such as tv commercial icons.

So, check this out, media afictionados! You can purchase and schedule a taping session of sitting “with” Larry King! You answer questions and it’s professionally edited to seem like you’re on the show! I once interviewed his wife, Shawn. But wouldn’t it be more fun to be the special celebrity being interviewed?

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Sunday, Monday, and all federal holidays.

Admission: $12 Adult $10 Seniors (65+) $6 Ages 4-12 Free admission for children under 4. Free admission for members. Groups (minimum 20 guests): $10 Adult, $8 Seniors (65+), and $8 Students.

Address: 360 North State Street Chicago, IL 60654-5411

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