• U.S.

Radio: S-L-E-E-P

3 minute read

The Hobby Lobby is an NBC Wednesday nighter that now sells Fels-Naptha soap chips by rounding up collector’s items in hobbyists. In its time, it has cluttered NBC’s elegant Radio City studios with all sorts of oddities ranging from a man whose hobby was training parrots not to talk to one whose idea of diversion was letting people break paving stones on his head. There have been casualties of sorts. The paving stone idea, for example, looked a little risky to NBC. Chips from the granite, flying out from under the sledge hammer, might have cut someone in the studio audience. So a dinner plate was substituted for the paver. But when the prop man swung his little hammer, breaking the plate, he also dug quite a gash in the hobbyist’s pate. Once a beekeeper lost control of some of his pets, who held Studio 36 against all comers for the rest of the night. A guest rooster flew off during a rooftop show, turned up later in the Tenderloin. Only this month, while Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt was guest master of ceremonies in the absence of the Lobby?, Founder Dave Elman, a visiting porcupine wrapped himself around a microphone, cut the show off the air for a half-minute. But none of these little mishaps had any serious aftermath.

Last fortnight, however, the Hobby Lobby got NBC into the law courts. It all stemmed from the preparations for the July 19 program. Someone at Young & Rubicam’s, the ad agency producing the show, had heard about a printing executive in Philadelphia, name of Klein, whose hobby was hypnotism. Arrangements were made immediately: Hypnotist Howard Klein was going to hypnotize someone right in the studio. It seemed like a swell idea at the time. Mr. Klein, a great hand at house parties, was delighted. He sent little printed cards to a lot of his friends, telling them to be sure to listen in. At Young & Rubicam’s request, he bustled up to Manhattan two days before the scheduled broadcast, to show his stuff. In the agency’s Madison Avenue skyscraper office, before a delegation of NBC officials, Mr. Klein, who at 37 still looks like Robert Taylor, fixed his fascinating eyes on a girl stenographer. -‘You are going to sleep,” said he, levelly, (ito sleep, to sleep. . . .” Sure enough, off she went. Mr. Klein turned to another girl—”sleep, sleep, s-l-e-e-p”—and off she went too. Then, magically, he woke them both up. Mr. Klein turned to his auditioners, with a who’s-next look. But a horrible thought had communicated itself among them. This s-l-e-e-p stuff. . . . Suppose the radio audience. . . .

Nope. Mr. Klein’s act would never do. The Hobby Lobby has some 5 million listeners. If even a hundred of them corked off, without Mr. Klein in the living room to wake them up, it could make a mightier stir than the Orson Welles-invoked invasion from Mars. Why, some of the audience might even sleep through the commercial ! No sir! Thanks awfully, though.

Mr. Klein was not only crestfallen, he was embarrassed. He had to recall his printed invitations to listen in, and it was difficult to explain to acquaintances that his appearance had been canceled because he was just too good. So Mr. Klein filed suit, in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court No. 5, asking no specific damages, since the Hobby Lobby experience cost him only time out from business, carfare, etc., but leaving it up to the court to prescribe suitable balm for his injured pride.

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