WJZ's "Evening Magazine" is going off the air, a victim of a slide in ratings. "Evening Magazine" has had a terrific 13 years, Marcellus Alexander, the station's general manager, told reporters. "We're proud of the show and the staff. Our first priority will be to replace it with a locally produced show."
Of which there is a long and glorious history.
"Shadow Stumpers," for example. Remember it? It was the brainchild of Brent Gunts, who produced several of the old local programs.
"Shadow Stumpers" was an audience participation show. People in the studio were asked to identify a silhouette on a screen. The silhouette might have been of a dog curled up, a turned-over trash basket, a tea cup at an odd angle. The show started on WJZ (then WAAM) in August of 1949, went over to WBAL for a while and then back to WJZ. It ran for about five years, sponsored by Motor Sales, then one of Baltimore's leading DeSoto-Plymouth dealers.
And then there was "Date to Dance," with its quiet, relaxed ambience unheard of in today's frenetic world of television. Jay Grayson, who for this show wore glasses with (inexplicably) no lenses, was the master of ceremonies. It was actually a dance contest, but it featured the slow and more graceful dancing of the over-40 set that made it something special in Baltimore.
And long before there was Donahue at 9 a.m. every weekday, there was "The Brent Gunts Show." It was a variety show with song-and-dance and comic routines by local talent. Jim West, now a sports announcer, was the male singer. Judy Torme was the female singer, and Dick Blose was the organist. The sponsors were Schmidt Baking Co., Goetze's meats and Madera wine.
There probably never was (and probably never will be) a locally (or nationally) produced show quite like Eddie's supermarket's "Prosperity Parade." It worked this way: Before a live studio audience, contestants stood with grocery carts and answered questions posed by MC Jay Grayson. After correct answers, Grayson would throw groceries into the carts. Precipitous piles would accumulate, and, to great applause, successful contestants would wheel out of the studio with their booty.
There were so many more of those locally produced TV shows! Who can forget the "Buddy Deane Show," the inspiration for John Waters' "Hairspray;" "Quiz of Two Cities," a match-up of contestants from rival cities Baltimore and Washington; "Reward for Talent," with Ad Weinert as MC; the Nick Campofreda Show, which was on all afternoon Monday through Friday and featured local talents Marlene Marlene and Tony Donadio, and, of course, "Romper Room," with "Miss Nancy" Claster, which was to be seen in cities across the country? And the dozens of kiddie shows built around the characters created by Lary Lewman, Royal Parker and Stu Kerr?
If we were back then, WJZ management, looking for a good locally produced TV show to replace "Evening Magazine," could have had their pick of some honeys!