Craig Adams, Portland radio historian, became fascinated by radio history in high school. Very little he doesn’t know on this subject! He confirmed what we had begun to suspect. KGW’s Hoot Owls radio show was seemingly custom designed to nurture a person of Mel Blanc’s talents and ambitions. Not every city in the US had a improvisational comedy show which a) pioneered the radio variety show format, b) had a huge following and c) was broadcast on a station with an unusually powerful signal.
Craig Adams presented, with Robyn Tenenbaum, the final Mel Blanc Lecture, Hoot Owls, Cobwebs & Nuts: Portland Radio Nurtures Mel Blanc, on June 29, 2011 at Lincoln Hall, Mel Blanc’s own high school.
Robert Johnston’s book, The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism In Progressive Era Portland, Oregon, won the 2002 President’s Book Award of the Social Science History Association. Johnston traveled from Chicago, where he directs the Teaching Of History Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Robert Johnston gave the final Mel Blanc Lecture at Portland State University on Feb. 8, 2012. His appearance was made possible with generous help from PSU’s Phi Alpha Theta.
Gary Lacher, film preservationist and co-author of Theatres of Portland, is the one Oregonian, besides Dennis Nyback, who knows who George Olsen is. Gary reminded us that the “silent” films Mel Blanc saw were not silent at all. During the 1920’s, Portland theaters – movie theaters and vaudeville theaters alike – offered plentiful opportunities for a musically gifted child to hear live music.
With Steve Stone, Gary Lacher gave the June 8, 2011 Mel Blanc Lecture Now Cut That Out! Portland Theaters Educate Mel Blanc.
Judy Margles, director of Oregon Jewish Museum, explained that the brief window of time during which South Portland served as an immigrant neighborhood coincided almost exactly with Mel Blanc’s personal timeline in Portland. The multilingual Tower of Babylon Blanc describes in his book existed only briefly. Oregon Jewish Museum’s Mel Blanc exhibit is up until Sept. 11, 2011. It features artifacts and family photos from Mel Blanc’s life in Portland.
Judy Margles gave the June 22, 2011 Mel Blanc lecture Eden’s Melting Pot: South Portland Raises Mel Blanc.
Dennis Nyback, independent film archivist/programmer/curator, is fascinated by the history of American popular song. He produced a Seattle cabaret show celebrating female Tin Pan Alley songwriters Can’t We Be Friends? which was turned into the 1999 PBS documentary Yours For A Song. Dennis told us about Del Porter, Mel Blanc’s friend and bandmate who beat him to the Big Screen and who, as a member of the popular singing group The Foursome, also served as an early role model to a jug eared musical nobody in Spokane named Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby.
Dennis gave the June 15, 2011 Mel Blanc Lecture I’m In The Market For You: Portland Pop Stars Inspire Mel Blanc.
Steve Stone, co-author of Theatres of Portland, the definitive guide to the history of Portland’s movie theaters, knows his subject like the back of his hand. In fact, he used to work at the Orpheum Theater, young Mel Blanc’s favorite. Steve Stone created a map to show us how thickly populated with theaters Portland was during Mel Blanc’s childhood and young adult years. Mel Blanc’s first South Portland home was right next door to a nickleodeon!
With Gary Lacher, Steve gave the June 8, 2011 Mel Blanc Lecture Now Cut That Out! Portland Theaters Educate Mel Blanc.
Robyn Tenenbaum, senior producer of Live Wire, brings order out of creative radio chaos on a regular basis. She observed that Portland’s ability to nurture radio talent is directly related to the medium’s comparatively low cost, which allows for experimentation.
With Craig Adams, Robyn gave the June 29, 2011 Mel Blanc Lecture Hoot Owls, Cobwebs & Nuts: Portland Radio Nurtures Mel Blanc in Lincoln Hall, Mel Blanc’s own high school.