Algonquin Hotel

Rare 1952 Algonquin Hotel Radio Show Uncovered


Tex and Jinx
Tex McCrary and Jinx Falkenburg were radio pioneers.
While researching my book The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide, I uncovered a lost 1952 radio show recorded inside the Algonquin Hotel, The Tex and Jinx Show. Among the guests are owner Ben Bodne, Broadway librettist Alan Jay Lerner, and screenwriter-author Anita Loos. It’s an amazing time capsule of the hotel, at a time when Harry S. Truman was in the White House, a gallon of gas cost a quarter, and the war in Korea was raging.

The show was on WNBC, the first radio station in New York, with two pioneers in the talk show genre. In 1946 newspaper reporter John Reagan “Tex” McCrary and his wife, Jinx Falkenburg, began their radio talk show in New York. Tex and Jinx was among the first in the format. McCrary was a genius at getting press and publicity; he’s sometimes credited with convincing Dwight Eisenhower to run for president. Falkenburg was a tennis champion and Forties pinup model who made several films before becoming a broadcaster. McCrary and Falkenburg parlayed their radio shows into early TV talk shows and were household names in the Fifties.

Ben Bodne
Ben Bodne, left, dines with Alfred Mitchell, about 1951. Mitchell worked at the Algonquin from about 1909 to 1952. Photo from the Museum of the City of New York Lucas-Monroe – Lucas-Pritchard collection. www.mcny.org

This episode was recorded in January 1952 in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. Guests on the show, in the order they appear, are:

Ben Bodne (1904-1992) owner of the Algonquin from 1946 to 1987. Bodne says that guests of the hotel get copies of former general manager-owner Frank Case’s books Do Not Disturb and Tales of a Wayward Inn, so they can learn the hotel’s traditions. He also details the renovations and improvements he’s made since taking it over.

Harry Hershfield (1885-1974) was a Prohibition-era newspaper cartoonist turned writer and radio personality. In the 1930s he was called the Jewish Will Rogers. During a newspaper strike in World War II, Mayor LaGuardia asked Hershfield to read the daily comic strips over WNYC radio. After the war Hershfield tried to restart the Algonquin Round Table with a new crop of boldface names. Among the members he recruited were attorney Louis Nizer, gossip columnists Leonard Lyons and Earl Wilson, and author-screenwriter Konrad Bercovici. Hershfield was not a member of the original Vicious Circle, despite his claims (he can only name Alexander Woollcott and FPA).

Anita Loos (1889-1991) attained great fame by writing the bestseller Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1925. Loos wrote screenplays in the silent picture era and for Vanity Fair, beginning in World War I. She lived and wrote at the Algonquin off and on for many years, but was never a Round Table member. However, she was friends with Ruth Hale and Jane Grant, joining their Lucy Stone League. Loos says she always enjoyed writing in the Algonquin, and was a frequent guest.

Lerner
Alan Jay Lerner, and an unidentified woman, in the Algonquin Hotel lobby, about 1948. Photo from the Museum of the City of New York Lucas-Monroe – Lucas-Pritchard collection. www.mcny.org
Alan Jay Lerner (1918-1986) is a legend in musical theater and one of Broadway’s greatest librettists. He and composer Frederick Lowe met on Forty-Fourth Street at the Lambs Club during World War II and had one of the most successful partnerships in American musicals. Lerner says they wrote parts of Brigadoon (1947) and Paint Your Wagon (1951) in the Algonquin. Today room 1115 is the Lerner & Lowe Suite.

Finally, the hotel presents a gold watch to front desk manager, Alfred P. Mitchell, who joined the staff in 1909, for his 43 years of service.

Special thanks to Philadelphia’s Under Design and audio engineer Andrew Davidson, who completed the digital transfer for me. I’ve used Under Design in the past, and they provide a fantastic service. Kudos to them for helping preserve radio history.

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