Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Zings and Arrows : An Australian native has entertained Midwest radio listeners for 20 years from a cubbyhole studio in Glendale.

August 06, 1993|JEFF PRUGH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"A bird owner who claims that his parrot, named Sgt. Pepper, helped the late John Lennon write 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and other Beatle hits has decided he'll sell the bird for $500,000.

"Now the bird is living in Hong Kong--that is, unless he ended up in a pot of won-ton parrot soup--and the owner said, 'If a crow like Madonna can make money out of records, my parrot will make the Beatles popular again.' "

The radio voice is unmistakably Aus- try -lian. The panache is part Walter Winchell, part P. T. Barnum. The script oozes with enough wit, sarcasm and corn to fill a Midwest grain elevator.

Gordon Currie, 76 going on 36, is on the air again--to St. Louis, to Decatur, Ill., and to a lot of other notches in America's Farm Belt--with news flashes and dashes called "Live From Hollywood."

But wait!

Like so much else about Hollywood, it's partly smoke and mirrors. Currie, a humorist, caricaturist and erstwhile Australian World War II correspondent who says "like" for "lake" and "mite" for "mate," broadcasts not from Hollywood but from his house in Glendale, a few miles away, as the kangaroo hops.

But if the truth be known, Currie's makeshift studio--a cramped, 8-by-8-foot converted upstairs bedroom with an acoustical ceiling--went Hollywood decades ago.

Here, for 20 years, Currie has entertained listeners over CBS-owned KMOX in St. Louis (and over WSOY in Decatur for a dozen years) with daily or weekly snippets of news and commentary on entertainment, politics or whatever else springs to his quick, facile mind.

Stretched across a bulletin board in front of him is a horizontal photo of those familiar hillside letters that spell out "HOLLYWOOD." Nearby are memorabilia, including a congratulatory photograph signed by Walt Disney in 1934, when Currie won a contest for drawing Mickey Mouse, as well as caricatures he's scrawled of Disney, Bob Hope, Queen Elizabeth II, Albert Einstein, the Beatles and the Duke of Windsor, among many others, including Currie as he sees himself, his trademark droopy mustache upstaged by wings and a halo.

Amid the clutter of yellowed clippings, old photos, audiotapes and caricatures that bore his signature as a regular feature in the old Los Angeles Mirror 40 years ago, Currie reads into a microphone, his script typewritten in capital letters and crackling with wisecracks to listeners half a continent away:

"Roger Clinton is singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' tonight at the cycle-jumping contest in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Isn't it bad enough for the people to put up with the floods and the lousy weather without suffering cruel and unusual punishment such as this?

"Why didn't they get a class act like Roseanne Arnold?"

Now and then too, Currie imparts a vocal "thumbs up." Example: The new film biography of Tina Turner--"What's Love Got to Do With It"--is a "terrific movie," he tells listeners in St. Louis.

But he warns: "You won't believe it when you see St. Louis in 1958. I think they did it all on the set. It's the only weak part of the movie. I was in St. Louis in 1958, and it was a very nice, modern city. But, boy, you wouldn't believe it from this. It looks like Columbus had just arrived."

Later, on WSOY, Currie plugs his longtime Decatur sponsor--the Hickory Point Bank--by announcing his "Hickory Point Hero," a biweekly feature in which he salutes someone from southern Illinois who has, in Currie's words, "done something remarkable."

Scanning the Decatur Herald-Review (which he receives by mail), Currie recently read of a man who had lost his dog, only for someone to retrieve the dog and place it in a local shelter.

"The owner didn't have the $5 to pay for the registration, so an employee at the shelter paid the $5," Currie says. "I made him my Hickory Point Hero."

What Currie doesn't tell his audience (but tells an interviewer) is that he sent $20 to the man who worked at the shelter. "That's $5 to reimburse him," he says, "$5 for next year's registration and a $10 donation to the shelter."

Not surprisingly, Currie has attracted a following in Midwestern states that pick up KMOX's powerful 50,000-watt signal. Many hang on his Crocodile Dundee accent (not knowing that he looks like the late Col. Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame), his gossipy tidbits about the rich and famous, or even a heart-tugging yarn about the obscure and not-so-privileged.

For largely "buttoned-down, conservative" listeners, as KMOX program director Tom Langmyer describes them, they don't seem to mind whenever "Gordon throws out those zingers. Let's face it," Langmyer adds: "He's been with us for 20 years. He's earned the right to be irreverent."

The only problem, Langmyer says, occurs whenever a breaking news or weather story, or a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, delays Currie's drive-time chat beyond its customary 4:20 p.m. (CDT) broadcast. "Our switchboard goes crazy," he says. "People ask, 'Where's Gordon?' "

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|