Friday, February 27, 2015

Recent Auction Items of Interest

Not a year goes by that records are broken at auction houses specializing rare and unusual. From comic books to antiques, there are plenty to keep tabs on. Of recent, a number of items are worthy of mention.

A three-page letter hand-written by Lady Duff-Gordon, a survivor of the TITANIC, dated May 27, 1912, penned on her personal stationary, sold for $11,875 at an auction held January 22 by RR Auction in Boston. She wrote the letter six weeks after the sinking. "According to the way we've been treated by England on our return we didn't seem to have done the right thing in being saved at all. Isn't it disgraceful?" Lady Duff-Gordon wrote.

A cup and saucer from the TITANIC sold for $13,750.

Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin

Weeks before the TITANIC artifacts faced the gavel, E.H. Shepard's original ink drawing of Christopher Robin, Piglet and Pooh on the famous "Poohsticks" bridge from the book, WINNIE THE POOH, sold for $471,750 at Sotheby's in London, England. (314,500 pounds = $471,750.) The ink drawing is from THE HOUSE ON POOH CORNER, published in 1928. Sotheby's is also responsible for the sale of Jeff Koons' sculpture of cartoon character Popeye, the Sailor, fetching $28.165 million. A billionaire casino tycoon was the winning bidder.

A Mary Pickford film was discovered in a barn. This happened last year but since news barely spread because the mainstream public doesn't care too much for silent screen actresses, it's best to mention this one again. The film is titled THEIR FIRST MISUNDERSTANDING and Pickford was 18 at the time it was made. The ten-minute film dramatized a wife's fight with her husband. The first minute of the film was destroyed due to decomposition, but the rest of the film is in great condition and presently being re-mastered and re-stored, thanks to the Library of Congress. It was also the first time Mary Pickford received screen billing for her work.


An all-original, unrestored production cel, and master background, from Walt Disney's 1935 cartoon, MICKEY'S SERVICE STATION, featuring Mickey Mouse and Goofy, sold for more than $98,000 at an Animation Art Signature Auction held at Heritage Auctions in new York City. (And yes, it is spelled cel, not cell.) Surprising, a 1928 production drawing by Ub Iwerks for STEAMBOAT WILLIE, only fetched $1,528.

Mickey Mouse and Goofy in MICKEY'S SERVICE STATION

Frank Sinatra's driver's license sold at RR Auction (referred to above), issued in the state of New Jersey, dated 1934 and issued to "Francis Sinatra," 841 Garden Street, Hoboken, NJ, sold for $15,575. Decades after the crooner passed away, it seems his name still sells -- even if it is not recordings. The auction lot also included a 1940 letter to the state Commissioner of Motor Vehicles from the lawyer of a man who had been involved in a car crash with Sinatra. The lawyer says Sinatra was found at fault but failed to pay damaged beyond an initial remittance of $7.50, and asks that Sinatra's driving privileges be revoked until he paid up.

Frank Sinatra's driver's license

Radicon Robot
Ever have any of those toy robots from the 1950s? You might wish you still had one. A Radicon toy robot from Masudaya's Gang of Five series, with original remote control and box, sold for $37,200 at a  Toy Auction held September 7 to 8 by Morphy Auctions in Denver, Pennsylvania. 

Turner Classic Movies partnered with Bonhams in New York City to offer the second annual Hollywood Memorabilia Auction, held November 24. Items that sold include Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion costume and the piano Sam played in CASABLANCA (1941). The iconic salmon-colored piano sold for $3.4 million. Lahr's costume, by the way, sold for $3.08 million. A costume worn by Rita Hayworth fetched $114,000. And add 15 percent to these totals as a result of a buyer's premium.

Babe Ruth's baseball cap, worn during the historic 1934 U.S. All-Star Tour of Japan sold for $303,0277, held by Grey Flannel Auctions, based in Westhampton, New York. A baseball signed by 23 of the 1932 New York Tankees (including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and others) sold at the same auction for $115,242.

The piano from CASABLANCA (1941)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sam Spade's "Lost" Radio Capers

When Dashiell Hammett’s The Adventures of Sam Spade made its debut over ABC in August of 1946, personable Howard Duff, a comparative unknown in Hollywood circles, was assigned the title role. The selection of young Duff for the hard-hitting detective was perfect casting, his success was immediate, and Hollywood began predicting important things to come for this new personality. Just one year after his “Sam Spade” debut, Howard Duff found himself under personal contract to Mark Hellinger, movie producer. His first screen role as “Soldier” in Hellinger’s production of Brute Force, had rated him star material from critics throughout the country. He received on-screen credit as “radio’s Sam Spade.” Even when Duff was given offers for movie roles, he never gave up the radio gig, often making long trips to multiple studios so he could juggle both acting forms.
The enormous success of the Sam Spade radio program spawned a comic strip series, magazine articles and radio crossovers, and at one time Universal Studios even considered the possibility of making a Sam Spade movie with Duff in the lead. All this and much more because of a single radio program, based on a fictional detective glamorized in one novel, three short stories, and three films, including the impressive 1941 motion picture, The Maltese Falcon. Dashiell Hammett, the creator of the fictional private eye, received royalty checks for the use of his character, but had no direct involvement with the series except the lending of his name in the opening and closing credits.
About the time the radio program gained popularity, Hammett joined the New York Civil Rights Congress, a leftist organization that was considered by some to be a Communist front. When four Communists related to the organization were arrested, Hammett raised money for their bail bond. When the accused fled, he was subpoenaed about their whereabouts, and investigated by Congress. Although Hammett testified to his own activities, he refused to divulge the identities of known American Communists, resulting in a five-month imprisonment sentence for contempt of court, and he was promptly blacklisted.
In June of 1951, Howard Duff’s name appeared in the Anti-Communist publication known as Red Channels, and both the networks and the sponsor attempted to evade the program altogether, resulting in Steve Dunne taking over the lead role, and soon after, the radio program’s cancellation. Duff was listed in the book as a result of "guilt by association," as author Jim Cox best describes it. Duff eventually cleared his name by proving he was simply a hired cast member and was not a personal friend of Dashiell Hammett. But the damage was already done and he was replaced.

Before the series was cancelled, a total of 245 episodes were broadcast. According to which reference guide you prefer, between 60 and 70 episodes are presently available from collectors across the country. The reason for this is simple: the networks never made it a policy to record the broadcasts. It was very expensive to do so, and no one at the broadcasting studios had any notion that a commercial value could be placed on the recordings. The few that survive today are courtesy of collectors who sought out the wire recordings and transcription discs, and took the time to transfer the sound to a medium such as compact discs and audio cassettes. All that remains now of the lost episodes are the scripts.

After reading all 200 plus radio scripts, I was surprised to discover that the earliest episodes of the series was raw and edgy. Sam Spade abused a child, slept with a married woman, shot a criminal in the back as she was leaving and stole money out of a dead man's wallet. No wonder the series was highly regarded by critics and faithful listeners. There were other episodes in the series that should be noted. “Inside Story of Kid Spade” (broadcast February 16, 1947) reveals Sam’s past as a prizefighter before going into the private detective business. The plot was actually a script rewrite of the July 20, 1944 broadcast of Suspense, also produced and directed by William Spier, entitled “Of Maestro and Man.” Richard Conte played the lead role of the boxer, with Peter Lorre as The Maestro. A love interest was added to the Sam Spade version, offering radio listeners the one and only time Spade ever considered settling down with a woman by marriage. A character in this episode, “Pretty Boy Gluskin,” was a tip of the hat (or a pull of the leg) to Lud Gluskin, the show’s musical director. This inside joke was repeated often throughout the series, and this script reveals one such example.
“The Judas Caper” (broadcast April 11, 1948) reveals another side of Sam, in which he purposely hides a woman - possibly a murderess - in his apartment solely for the affections of a woman. Keeping a woman in his apartment for said reasons was implied in Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1929), but this was the only time on the radio program that Sam restaged this scene.

One or two episodes of The Adventures of Sam Spade continue to be found from time to time but it seems unlikely that unless a huge cache is discovered in the coming decade, more than half of the radio episodes will remain "lost."

Randomly selected for your amusement are a handful of "lost" episodes with broadcast dates, script titles and plot summaries. Since these episodes do not exist in recorded form, I see no reason why I shouldn't reveal the solutions to the capers, or what other people refer to as "spoilers." Enjoy!

Broadcast July 12, 1946
Plot: Shortly after newspaper report the murder and robbery of Bernard F. Gilmore, Sam finds himself hired by Gilmore's business partner, Emil Tonescu, to find the Guiana Sovereign that was stolen from Gilmore. The Sovereign has sentimental value, according to Tonescu. Sam digs into the details of the case, meeting enough suspects to fill a telephone directory, only to discover that Gilmore is alive and well, in hiding. He survived the gun shot and his assailant was Cara Kenbrook, a former business partner in Trinidad. Before Sam learns of Cara's involvement, Tonescu is murdered by Gilmore, and Sam uncovers all the motives -- including a case of blackmail. With help from Gilmore's wife, Line, Sam overtakes Gilmore and explains the entire mystery to Effie while he dictates his report.

Broadcast July 19, 1946
Plot: Miriam Farewell asks Sam to visit her father-in-law, the great, wealthy Carter P. farewell, whose life has been threatened in a poison pen letter. After one failed murder attempt, she fears the culprit will try again. The lead suspect is Farwell's neighbor, Captain Sherry, an Englishman, drummed out of the Army years before as a result of Mr. Farewell's former shady business ventures with the military. When the old man is found murderer, the police are unable to pin the crime on Captain Sherry. After Sherry is acquitted of the crime, due to lack of evidence, Sam and Miriam visit the hotel where Sherry is staying only to find his dead body (the result of a bullet to the brain) and Dolph, Miriam's husband, with a gun in his hand. While Sam phones Lt. Dundy, Dolph jumps out the window, taking his own life. Lt. Dundy arrives and Sam explains how Dolph didn't jump out the window -- evidence suggests he was pushed out by Miriam when Sam was momentarily out of the room. She planned the death of her father-in-law so she could collect an early inheritance. She attempted to cover her tracks with a second muder.

Trivia, etc. Sam romantically kisses Miriam, a married woman. This would not be the first time he did that on the radio program, and in a later episode actually sleeps with a married woman! This episode was adapted from the non-Sam Spade short story, The Farewell Murder, by Dashiell Hammett, originally published in the February 1930 issue of Black Mask. This script would later be dramatized again on the series on November 10, 1946.

Episode #18  "THE MIDWAY CAPER"
Broadcast October 27, 1946
Plot: Sally Hart arrives in Spade's office in hopes of hiring him to exchange envelopes with an acquaintance known as Sandy Fiske. Sam takes the job but when he arrives at the hotel, he finds Fiske lying on the floor... dead. The room is locked from the inside and Sam figures that the killer never had time to leave the room. He later meets Major Wales, a midget, who tells Sam that Sandy is his wife. Sam follows a lead to the Monster Tent Show, where he meets Sally Hart, whose real name turns out to be Della Wales. From Della, Sam discovers the envelope contained a news clipping about a girl, murdered in a locked room, and a telegram dated a few days before the clipping. The real Sally Hart was the murdered girl. The cover-up involved the ownership of the traveling side show carnival. The true killer reveals his hand when he is foole dby the fake wire and Della, using the jealous husband as the unwitting weapon of choice, planned to murder his first wife.
Broadcast December 8, 1946
Plot: Miss Lavinia Mink of Turk Street hires Sam to find Lucy Mink, who disappeared and has apparently vanished -- leaving no trace of her whereabouts. As Sam investigates each member of the family, he soon realizes that everyone in the house is dysfunctional. Shortly after Sam's arrival, Luther, the manservant, is found murdered. The private eye eventually solves the mystery when he learns that the pet parrot in the family talks too much. When Luther learned the truth from the bird, the quack, Dr. Linklater, killed him before Luther could give the parrot to Sam as proof. The guilty party was, obviously, the doctor who was poisoning the two daughters to cover up a fifty-year-old family secret.

Trivia, etc. This episode was loosely adapted from the Dashiell Hammett short story, The House on Turk Street, originally published in the April 15, 1924 issue of Black Mask. In the original story, each character was constantly using some other character to neutralize or destroy someone else. Each character had a different personality and thus provided the motif for this radio version.

Broadcast March 30, 1947
Plot: Florence Pearl wants Sam Spade to break up the association between her daughter, Rose, and a young man named Joseph Naples. Naples is a shady character who hangs out where Rose works, the Barbary Burlesque, along with English Eddie, an international jewel thief. Sam meets Naples, who attempts to pay the detective off to avoid Pearl's request. Sam rejects the offer and visits Rose in her dressing room to heear her side of the story. Only Rose is found dead shortly after their conversation. Checking the champagne bottle in the ice bucket, Sam discovers that the container was filled with dry ice. In the over-heated, badly-ventilated dressing room, the ice melted... releasing carbon dioxide. Rose died painlessly from asphyxia. The motive for the murder? Rose's costume contained three million dollars of jewels sewn on it. Spade tricks Eddie, the mastermind behind the caper, into confessing. Ricardo, the only man Rose treated like a decent person, takes the law into his own hands by shooting Eddie dead. Spade allows Ricardo to return to his rooming house for the night and await the police who will arive soon... giving Ricardo an obvious manner of escape. In Spade's report to Mrs. Pearl, he tells her to turn over the costume to the police since there may be a reward on some of the pearls.

Episode #46  "YULE LOG CAPER"
Broadcast May 11, 1947
Plot: Sam is hired by Emil Tauchnitz of the Tauchnitz Galleries, to find the artist of a popular painting on exhibit titled, "Yule Log." After learning that the artist hasn't yet authorized the sale on the oil canvas and that customers are offering as much as $50,000, Sam agrees to seek out the artist. Sam locates Mervyn Trelease, the artist, only to find the man dead in his apartment (kind of getting a bit monotonous, isn't it?). A piece of polished driftwood, simialr to that depicting the painting, was jabbed into Mervyn's chest. Sam learns that the artist was hinting at the ownership of a ship's log belonging to the S.S. Yule, which sank on July 13, 1946, the same date depicted on the painting. The ship had a million dollar cargo of chemicals and if the log were to be recovered, the insurance money would not be claimed. Thus the motive for a number of murders and the purpose of the painting hanging in the museum.

Trivia, etc. That is the proper script title. The word "The" was not on the script title or the caper as Sam dictated it to Effie.

Broadcast June 8, 1947
Plot: Marsha Hopkins is worried about her sister, Constance Pendleton, who has become involved with a ne'er do well, a Bulgarian named Major Andreyev Vrodnik, whom she believes is interested in her sister's money and is capable of murdering her shortly after the wedding. This modern-day bluebeard has a track record for killing his other wives across Europe, but police were stuck ruling them "accidents." Constance is blind with love so Marsha hires Sam Spade to uncover the truth about the Major, including his background, and face Constance with the facts and hopefully prevent the marriage. Sam investigates by calling on the Bulgarian consulate, finds himself on the S.S. Lurene bound for Calcutta, goes through an ordeal with the Captain and his crew, and solves the mystery involving Norman Gorman, a professional hotel thief, and his client, Marsha, stuffed inside a trunk. Sam helps the authorities take the Major into custody and says goodbye to the temping and aluring Marsha before he gets too foolish and wakes up in a trunk himself.

Trivia, etc. The name of the ship, S.S. Lurene, was a tip-of-the-hat to Lurene Tuttle, who played the role fo Effie in the radio series.

Episode #57  "THE GOLD RUSH CAPER"
Broadcast July 27, 1947
Plot: Sam takes the train to Personville, where a recent gold rush has caused the dusty ghost town to become an active boom town. Elihu Person hires Sam to keep an eye on shipments of gold bars. When Sam meets up with an old friend, Max Thayler, he discovers something fishy is indeed happening in town. The obvious tell-tale signs of an active mine are not available and how the gold is being shipped out of the mine is a mystery even to the townfolk who have endured a recent rash of robberies -- gold chains, gold teeth, etc. After Dinah is shot for talking too much, Sam figures out how Mr. MacSwain, Person's employee, has been paying thieves and robbers for anything gold in town and uses a dead mine as a cover for housing the equipment used to melt them down into gold bars for sale to the U.S. Government. His plan would have succeeded if it was not for Sam's interference, and the recent robbiers of his gold bar shipments from the very thieves whom he paid. Elihu goes bankrupt while MacSwain goes to jail.

Trivia, etc. This episode was a sequel to the broadcast of April 6, 1947, entitled "The Poisonville Caper," which featured the same characters such as Dinah, Whisper, and Elihu Person.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

What's a little love without a little Hollywood nostalgia? These photos should help get the blood pumping.

Debbie Reynolds

Marilyn Monroe

Frances Drake

Mary Carlisle

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Longest Golf Course in History

Two weeks after Hot Springs, New Mexico, was renamed Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, through an election of the town citizens, Ralph Edwards and his crew wanted to pull off one of the most amazing consequences ever performed on the quiz program... and gain loads of free publicity through the Southwest as a result. What would happen if someone was given the consequence of hitting a golf ball from Los Angeles, California, to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico? A golf course was presently under construction in the town formerly known as Hot Springs and publicity for both the town and the radio program would almost certainly be ensured. After ironing out the details (including legals and insurance), Edwards and his men sent out free tickets for his show to golf clubs around the Los Angeles area.

On the evening of April 15, during the course of the warm-up before the show, Edwards asked if there were any golfers in the audience. Four men raised their hands and were asked to come on the stage. Among the candidates was a 43-year-old real estate salesman named Al Baker, selected for both strength and character to participate in a pie-throwing stunt. Little did Baker realize what Providence had in store for him and if he had the gift of prediction, he would have rejected that ticket handed to him days before at Griffith Park. During the program, four men and Edwards were lined up and Baker was told that one of the men on stage had a $100 bill in his pocket. If Baker hit him in the face with a pie, he would collect the money. Baker hit the wrong man. (A trick challenge since it was Edwards who had the bill in his pocket.) Baker was forced to take the consequence.

Armed with golfing equipment is furnished by Wilson Golfing, which included a brand new set of golf clubs, bag, and at least 18 dozen golf balls, Al Baker was told that he had to hit a golf ball from NBC in Hollywood to the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The distance was 823 miles (or 1,448,480 yards) and par over this, the world’s largest golf course, was set at 25,000 strokes. If Baker completed the course, he would win a complete set of Wilson clubs, a Columbia Mountaineer trailer, and a brand new Nash Ambassador Airflyte sedan. If he completed the course under par, he would receive an additional $500. Baker was considered a top-notch golfer, a member of Local 47, a member of the Musicians’ Golf Club, a former saxophone player and former member of Abe Lyman’s orchestra, and recently supplemented his income by being a stuntman for numerous films starring Alan Ladd, Donald O’Connor and Ingrid Bergman’s Joan of Arc. Numerous newspapers reported Baker was an “unemployed musician” at the time and if this fact was correct, there can be no question why Baker agreed to the assignment. 

Baker’s travel expenses were paid by the sponsors of the radio program, including all lodging and food. Following the broadcast, the exact route, mapped out by Arch Arnold, was reviewed and approved by Baker. When asked how long it would take to complete the course, Baker theorized it would take about four weeks. Every week along the route, courtesy of NBC local affiliates along the route, Baker, via remote, reported on his progress. The entire trip, as he would eventually discover, would take about six weeks.

            On Sunday, April 16, at 10:15 a.m., Baker hit the first ball down Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street to commence a golfing adventure that had never been experienced by any man since. If he played the course in par or better, he would be richer by approximately $6,000 in prizes and cash. Climbing into the trailer that was to be his home for the next six weeks, the golfer who would make nationwide papers took after his ball.

            Baker was accompanied by chauffeur-escort John Benson, a staff member of Ralph Edwards Productions, who clocked the strokes and verified the authenticity of the game. Baker’s route through California would pass through San Bernardino, Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley and Brawley. Crossing into Yuma, he would pass through Gila Bend, Tucson, Benson, Willcox, Lordsburg, Deming, Hatch and finally Truth or Consequences. When Baker got tired of walking, he hopped on the running board of the car and rode to the next stroke. For relaxation and sleep, he had the trailer, decorated with banners to promote the radio program. Armed with spare golf balls, loose cash, numerous caps and a pair of sunglasses, Baker was prepped with the necessary bullet points for local press coverage along the way.

            The route took Baker through the center of every major town on the map. The turf along the route was the asphalt pavement. On the road, he used a putter so as not to get too much loft on the ball and thus encounter such hazards as windshields. Out in the county along the highways, he used woods and irons.

            By the second day, April 17, Baker made his way Northeast to Pasadena, avoiding the major freeway, Route 210. Much to the amusement of motorists, Baker was knocking the ball eastward along Walnut Street, which ran parallel with the 210, while off-duty Motorcycle Sergeant Gerald E. Wright tried to untangle traffic jams. The Pasadena Star-News reported the earliest statistic: 221 golf strokes from Hollywood to Pasadena. Baker lost seven balls down sewers. By April 18, in the heat of afternoon, Baker went through Monrovia via Foothill Blvd. to the wide-eyed amazement of many local residents. Stating he got his second wind along about the time he arrived in the city, Baker told reporters to sit back and relax and follow the reports weekly on the quiz program. “Be thankful you are not in my shoes,” he told reporters. “I hope to eventually take home the prizes offered.”

Progressing East from East Foothill Blvd to Huntington Drive and to West Foothill Blvd, Baker worked his way to Azusa. On April 19, the Azusa Police Department cooperated in entertaining the visitors on the Civic Center Lawn. Azusans gaped while tired and grateful contestant Baker leaned back in an armchair under a beach umbrella and gulped refreshing orange juice, resting momentarily before continuing his long journey down “the Main Street of America” that led him to fleeting fame and probably a lot of blisters. Under the supervision of Chief Kendrick, a detail composed of Captain Fred Williams and Policeman Bob Torrance, conducted Baker as he putted down Foothill Blvd., through the center of town. Opposite the city jail, the police surrounded the perspiring golfer. They provided him with an easy chair. Chief Kendrick personally poured iced orange juice for him. Captain Williams personally guarded the ball so no souvenir seekers would steal what would become a valued piece of memorabilia. Policeman Torrance produced a towel to wipe the sweat from Baker’s brow. Lucky Lager, a local brewery, produced a couple of cases of thirst quencher for the desert roadway. (Perhaps Azusa wanted to get a plug over the airwaves as a result of their hospitality.) Scotty Maxwell and Cliff Wynn of the Wynn Oil Company, local manufacturer of Wynn’s Friction Proofing Oil, provided Baker with the new Nash Ambassador sedan that the golfer would receive as a partial reward if he completed the trek. On April 20, Baker was seen whacking a golf ball down the middle of Highway 66 behind the police escort. It was reported the number of strokes totaled 777. Staying on Foothill Blvd., he passed through Fontana around 8:15 a.m., playing golf towards San Bernardino and Colton.

            By April 22, Baker had progressed southeast, avoiding the San Bernardino National Forest, bidding goodbye to Redlands, headed for Palm Springs. Capt. Frank Freeman of the State Highway Patrol also kept his eye on the ball. Baker was reportedly going along Highway 99 at a speed that averaged between two and three miles an hour. Over the next four days, he progressed through Riverside where local residents lined the curbs on Highway 99 to watch Al Baker. (It took him approximately 1,200 shots from Los Angeles to Beaumont.) On the evening of April 22, Baker reported in via remote on Truth or Consequences, letting the public know he was just reaching Palm Springs.

Caddies enroute were being provided by the States of California, Arizona and New Mexico in the persons of Highway Patrolmen who escorted the party for safety reasons along the road. Sometimes the official police vehicles, sometimes a motorcycle, sometimes the familiar white-painted patrol car, followed Baker as he chopped away uphill along Highway 99 from Redlands Friday afternoon, reaching a point about 3 ½ miles west of Beaumont before stopping for the night, resuming his journey Saturday morning enroute to Palm Springs. The group stayed at El Rancho in Beaumont overnight after digging their way through steak dinners at the Rusty Lantern. Baker said the greatest difficulty to date was the backwards progress he constantly encountered either when his uphill shots did not carry to the crest of the grade or when a truck or car coming Westward socks his little white pill closer to the point of starting than from where he had teed off. One of the more sensational features of the gag, according to John Benson, was that very few people along the route paid much attention to what was going on. Southern Californians, he said, appeared to accept even the most unusual incident during a day as commonplace and not noteworthy.

He drove through Indio on April 24, Monday morning, clipping his 2,000th stroke in front of Roosevelt School just before 5 p.m. The photo in the newspaper showed him ready to tee off just at the city limits on Highway 111 and Monroe, while John Benson held a parasol above Baker to shade him from the sun.

By April 28, 11 days and 2,024 strokes later, reached Brawley, California. While in town, Baker was one of the guest speakers at the Soroptimist club meeting at the Planters Hotel. Other guests included John Benson of the radio program, Dick Andrus of the Pittsburgh Paint company, Maxine Dottson and Zella Clayton of Brawley, Irene Bradford was chairman of the program and Neil Eldridge, acting president, presided. Baker told of several amusing incidents that have happened to him since leaving Los Angeles, of the minister who met him on the highway with a card with three scriptures written on it for him to look up in the Bible, a woman who baked a cake in the shape of a golf ball, a little boy who brought his ball back to him and the dog that ran off with the ball.

He crossed the Arizona border and reached Yuma on May 2, 17 days and 4,205 strokes after starting the game. He drove his ball over the Colorado River bridge in the early morning, and stopped over in Yuma to have his car serviced before continuing his game.
            On May 12, Baker arrived in Tucson, staying at the Westerner hotel, with 542 of his 823 miles completed. His score was presently 7,472. Fred Briggs, manager of the Westerner Hotel, heard about Baker’s up-coming arrival and provided free hotel accommodations for both Benson and Baker, and took advantage of the publicity by posing for a comical photo with the manager bathing the feet of Al Baker. By this point Baker was on his 11th dozen golf balls. He was still averaging three hits per mile. 

            Baker remained in Tucson for a couple days to recoup from the desert heat, appear on the Saturday night (May 13) broadcast via local NBC affiliate in Tucson, meet up with a new caddy from the quiz show, and partake in a scheduled golf tournament at the Randolph Park Municipal Golf Course. Played against 18 Tucson opponents on May 14, selected by the Chamber of Commerce, for an 18-hole route. The competition began 9:30 Sunday morning. Caddies were furnished by local High School beauties from The Sunshine Model Club. The match at the Randolph was arranged through the co-operation of Dell Urich, pro at the municipal course.*

* Seventeen of the eighteen players named to compete against Baker: Ed Conway, Col. Lawrence M. Thomas, deputy commander at Davis-Monthan Air Base, James F. Houston, James C. Grant, Billy Bell, Jr., Charley Lamb, Harry Chambers, Jack O’Dowd, Eddie Belton, Ricki Rarick, Fred Gerletti, Joe Niemann, Max Klinger, Tom Valdespino, Mac Beaudry, Jack Eyman and Steve Ribble.

By May 18, Baker had already passed through Riverside, Palm Springs, Indio, Coachello, and El Centro, California; Yuma, Gila Bend, and Tuscon. From Benson the last part of their journey would go venture East to Willcox and across the New Mexico border. On Saturday, May 20, Al Baker and John Benson arrived in Lordsburg, New Mexico, where they were greeted by a parade with a high school band taking part. Progressing East, they arrived in Deming on Monday, May 22, where they were entertained at an exclusive dinner. Working north towards Truth or Consequences, they arrived in Hatch shortly before noon on Wednesday, honored with a dinner by the Valley Chamber of Commerce. Baker was greeted by signs reading: “Hatch, N.M., the friendly little city of trees and flowers welcomes Al Baker on route to our neighboring city, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.” Hatch, by all accounts, went all-out to extend Baker a welcome. “Baker’s cross-county trek was telling on him yesterday as he plodded between Deming and Hatch,” reported the Associated Press. “To that time, he used 10,480 strokes and 16 dozen golf balls. Chet Iden, president of the Truth or Consequences County Club, plans to challenge him to a nine-hole game. Then he can rest.” Hatch was located 38 miles south of Truth or Consequences.

The Arrival
A delegation of citizens from Truth or Consequences with signs on their cars welcoming Al Baker to Highway 85, first met the golfer at Hatch. He worked his way north towards the village of Williamsburg, adjoining Truth or Consequences, where he and John Benson met with a delegation in celebration. John Benson later recalled how every town along the route gave them police protection voluntarily. (In San Bernardino, the police inspector thought the idea of driving the ball to Truth or Consequences was a great idea and asked Benson if he could get on Ralph Edwards’ program sometime.) Some of the best police protection along the entire route of Baker’s cross-country golf game was attributed to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Posse, John Benson told a reporter for the Hot Springs Herald. They met up with the Posse twenty-three miles out of Truth or Consequences, down the highway on Thursday afternoon and there were six Jeeps along the route to help retrieve the balls. Stock was getting low and Baker was aware of the risk of a delay if he needed to acquire additional golf balls. The Sheriff’s Posse was divine as the road was lined with thousands of cars and many enthusiastic spectators were trying to grab a ball for a souvenir. They were prevented from doing so by the men in uniform. According to Benson’s recollection, not a single ball was lost within town limits (although one souvenir hunter almost got away with one). As a kind gesture, one of the Sheriff’s Posse offered to get them a fresh box of golf balls, at his expense, if the call of duty was needed.

Arriving in Truth or Consequences on Thursday evening, the golfer celebrated in traditional fashion by enjoying a bath in the hot springs, eating local food, receiving fre drinks in local bars and resting for two days before officially concluding his long-distance game on Saturday afternoon, for the radio broadcast.

Saturday afternoon, people lined the route Baker took through the city, escorted by the Sierra County Sheriff’s Posse, in completing his course through the downtown streets from atop Carrie Tingley Hospital hill, out Date Street and then west to the Country Club (now presently located along Ralph Edwards Drive). Through traffic was re-routed over other streets and traffic halted at the west end of Main Street was only delayed for five minutes while Baker was traversing the distance between Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Broadway-Main intersection. On each of his drives through the city there were loud cheers to greet and congratulate him on his accomplishment, and a spontaneous rousing welcome greeted him when he made his last drive onto the country club green.

Golf Course as it stands today.

On the afternoon of May 27, at 5:00 p.m., exactly 42 days since he teed off from Hollywood, California, Baker arrived at the Truth or Consequences Country Club. Five thousand people were lined up along the streets, waving flags and displaying signs of congratulations from their porches, and along the ninth fairway and the surrounding green waiting for Baker to make that last shot. The golfer played up to the green and was on ten feet from the pin. By this time, the program was on the air and Baker had to stall for a while as he had lines to read on the broadcast. Finally, at a signal from the announcer, he stepped up to his ball and dropped the ten-footer to complete the longest golf course in history – both for time and distance. Instantly, a tremendous roar and cheer came from the gallery – a great ovation to a tired and gallant golfer. The goal was the first hole of the new Truth or Consequences golf course overlooking Elephant Butte Lake, and the course was dedicated when Baker arrived. At 5:42 p.m., live on the air, with a perfect putt he sank his ball in the cup of the 9th hole of the new country club golf course. (The ninth hole on the course was the closest to the parking area, road and clubhouse, which is why this particular hole was chosen. Sandwiches and cold drinks were sold at the club house. Hole number one was located on the opposite side of the golf course. While advance publicity cited hole number one, for practical purposes, hole number nine was chosen instead.)

The broadcast included also the official welcome of the city made by Dr. T.B. Williams, mayor, who told Baker the city was his and the mayor hoped Baker would stay for a long while and enjoy the fine mineral baths they were known for, as well as some lake fishing. Senator Burton Roach, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, likewise gave his greeting of welcome and expressed appreciation for the fine publicity Baker, in carrying out his consequence assigned him by Ralph Edwards, had given the city.

Panoramic view of the golf course today, still in operation.

Al Baker, a muscular outdoorsman of slightly more than five feet was in top notch physical condition upon his arrival. After about 36 hours rest after his arrival and some relaxing indulgence in hot mineral baths, was also in top-notch spirits, having earned his right to a real celebration. Also partaking in the celebration was John Benson, and Dick Gottlieb, production director for the radio show; the latter of whom flew to Truth or Consequences on Thursday to meet Baker and Benson and prepare for the broadcast Saturday evening. NBC producer Greiner and engineer Joe Kay handled the technical hookups. Gottlieb had charge of the six minutes of the broadcast that was made from the country club. Others in town for the broadcast were Carl Gruener, NBC producer, Joe Kay, engineer and Norma Hambay of the Gila Bend Trading Post, Gila Bend, Arizona. Taking part on the radio program were Mayor T.B. Williams, who officially welcomed Baker and dedicated the golf course; Burton Roach, manager of the Chamber of Commerce; Dick Gottlieb, Al Baker and John Benson.

Upon his arrival Thursday evening, Baker, John Benson and Dick Gottlieb were guests of honor at a covered dish dinner given by the American Legion in the new Legion Hall. Each of them gave short talks expressing their warm thanks for the kind reception they were receiving in Truth or Consequences. Baker mentioned, “I hear some of you still calling the town Hot Springs. Isn’t this the town that I knocked a golf ball to – Truth or Consequences?” His answer from the audience was a resounding applause. Legion spokesmen agreed with him. “It takes a lot of courage to knock a ball all the way from California, especially when there is so much desert to cross, so hats off to Al Baker, for the fine job he did of it.”

Baker was extravagant in his praise of people encountered all along his route, stating that he never knew people could be so wonderful. He expressed particular appreciation for the full cooperation and courtesy extended him by the State Police of California, Arizona and New Mexico. “All along the route people were wonderful and demonstrated real hospitality,” he explained. For many people along the route, Baker posed cheerfully for pictures, as well as local photographers. It was estimated that he shook hands with more than 1,000 people – half of them during the last day of the course.

“The people of Truth or Consequences seemed to be more sincerer in their reception than any other town. But, I think I was just about as proud to see them as they were to see me.” Baker admitted in the Hot Springs Herald that the contest was a grueling affair and that he was proud it had been completed. “I cannot begin to thank the people of Truth or Consequences for what they have done for me. I appreciate so much the many compliments they have given me.”

Hole No. 9, Al Baker's destination
Looking back at the adventures Baker and Benson had during their trip, the men were greeted by Gov. Dan Garvey of Arizona. In Brawley, Baker finished third in a moonlight golf tournament. In Tucson, he beat 18 different members of the golf club 2 up. (He beat the president of the club 3 up.) During the first week, Baker became alarmed at the loss of seven pounds of weight. However, he gained that amount back later which he attributed to the fine steaks along the route. Then he added that he got the best steak on the entire trip in Truth or Consequences at the Ritz. “My biggest trouble was people and dogs picking up my golf balls,” Baker remarked. “One afternoon an owl swooped down and picked one up. Everybody wanted those balls and each time I lost one, it cost me a stroke. We figured out that I lost over 100 that way.”

Baker’s trailer was another center of attraction in Truth or Consequences, as the thousands of spectators looked it over, noting the multiple thousands of signatures that had been inscribed on the big sign that told who and where it was going.

Al Baker won the $500.00 in cash, a complete set of Wilson clubs, a Columbia Mountaineer trailer, and a Nash Ambassador Airflyte sedan. Estimated total was $6,000. He also made many friends. He was made honorary Deputy Sheriff of Yuma County; and in the days that followed he received mail from all over the country.

The final score? Al Baker went the distance of 11,469 blows, bettering par by 13,531 strokes. He was on his 19th and final box of golf balls when he arrived in Truth or Consequences; having used up a total of 222 golf balls, beat, strayed or stolen, and having a reserve of but six balls when he finished his assignment. Seconds after Baker sunk the final ball on the green of the course, some spectator made a dash for his ball hoping to acquire a souvenir, but Baker was too fast for him. Grabbing it from the cup, Baker announced emphatically, “That one is mine.”

Following the broadcast on Saturday evening, the guests were entertained by city and Chamber of Commerce officials which included an outdoor barbecue. On Sunday, Dick Gottlieb, production manager for Truth or Consequences and liaison officer between the show and the city, was escorted on a fishing trip up Elephant Butte Lake by Robert B. Smith, president of the Chamber of Commerce, who demonstrated the three methods of fishing practiced on the lake.

Only after the conclusion of the golf game did it become known that Al Baker was a real estate dealer, not just an unemployed musician as previously referenced, and just before his golfing trek sold 20 new homes in Lakewood, California, a new community near Los Angeles. The town was composed of 35,000 acres and already had churches of all denominations, schools, country club and all other things that go to make up a good town. A press release claimed that Baker’s real estate business was in connection with the large G.I. project that was now under construction in that state. Baker told reporters that he might event write a book about his experiences. If he wrote of his six-week adventure, it was never published.