The Life and Times of Colonel Stoopnagle: Part 2, The Stoopnagle & Budd Years

            Luckily, while holding down his ‘respectable’ broker’s position, Taylor was receiving critical acclaim as writer and costar of WGR’s “Hy and Dry” program.  Named for the sponsor (a ginger ale company), the program featured the comedy exploits of the duo Hy (Taylor) and Dry.  It was during this program that people started to really take notice of his talents.

“We wish to recommend Chase Taylor, who characterized Hy in the weekly Hy and Dry program at WGR for higher attainments.  No other radio comedian brings the laughs as Mr. Taylor gets them in his weekly sketches.  WGR has a find in this comedian and his talents should not be restricted to the local field...”[1]

            Radio station WMAK hired him as a full-time production man.  In this capacity he served as announcer, continuity writer, director and actor.  Finally employed in the field he loved best, F. Chase Taylor was at the very point of the most unexpected success.  The stage was set.  But first we must meet another player in this drama.

            Also working at the station was another young production man named Wilbur “Budd” Hulick.  Eight years younger than Taylor, this native of Asbury Park, New Jersey, had also spent his childhood playing football and performing (in shows at the YMCA, among other places).  He also had an in-born love of the entertainment field, so much so that he’d volunteer to hand out concert programs as a boy just so he could be near the musicians.

            Hulick’s business career, however, began as a commercial representative for the Postal Telegraph company in Buffalo.  At the suggestion of a friend, he went to the studios of radio station WEBR, to audition as an announcer.  He was hired on the spot.  A month and a half later, the Buffalo Broadcasting Company (BBC) signed him up as an announcer, actor and continuity writer.  With his gentle, pleasing voice, Hulick sang and acted on numerous programs, including “Happiness House” and “Plain Folks.”

            In 1930, while announcing a program from a Buffalo nightclub called the ‘Palais Royal,’ Hulick met band singer Wanda Herte, who was appearing with Helen Lewis and her girl band.  Herte had been billed as “the feminine Rudy Vallee.”  Two weeks later, on November 10, 1930, Hulick and Herte were married at Buffalo’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Herte remained with the band for the remaining five weeks of its tour before returning to her new husband.

            Just before all that, on October 10, 1930, Hulick the announcer found himself in a terrible predicament.  A lightning storm had left the Buffalo radio station with no network feed, resulting in radio’s worst situation -- dead air.  Desperate, he ran into the studio offices, where F. Chase Taylor sat working at his desk, and shouted:  “Hey!  I’ve got 15 minutes to do and nothing to do it with.  Come on and ad lib with me!”

            The pair hurriedly wheeled a portable organ into the studio, which Taylor began to play (the tune was ‘I Love Coffee, I Love Tea’).  Hulick, steadying his voice as best he could, announced Taylor’s overture on the “mighty gas-pipe organ” as being played by Colonel Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle.  The two joked, improvised and acted silly for an hour.  Hulick was undoubtedly relieved that they’d been able to at least fill the ‘dead air’ with some form of entertainment.  Little did he or Taylor realize just how successful they had been.

            Letters began pouring in to the station asking for more from the pair.

            “The program went over in spite of everything we could do,”  Taylor would later say.

            The station gave the pair a half-hour spot to fill with their nonsense.  Calling themselves “The Gloom Chasers,” they used no script and there was no planning.  Because of the sudden deluge of acclaim from the audience, Taylor (now using the name ‘Stoopnagle’ on the air) and Hulick called their program (what else?) “The Ask For Mail Show.”

            WKBR switched their air time from daytime to evening because businessmen were complaining that they couldn’t listen during the day and because it kept the housewives from doing their work (!).  The station continued to be flooded with fan mail for the two.  Some weeks brought between 2600 to 2700 pieces addressed to “The Gloom Chasers.”  Postmarks included locations such as Alaska, Bermuda and Nova Scotia.  The BBC fan mail editor was forced to hire an assistant to keep up with the mountains of correspondence.          

“If ‘Stoopnagle’ coughed during a broadcast, the next day’s mail conveyed scores of boxes of cough drops.  If ‘Budd’ sneezed, auditors sent handkerchiefs and advice in profusion.  Their mail included hundreds of well-done drawings and paintings of listeners’ conceptions of the act and its principles.”[2]

            Though the broadcasts of the program were not made before a studio audience, large groups of fans started to show up at the studio hoping to watch the goings-on.  At times 1600 to 2500 people attempted to crowd into the BBC studios to get a look at Stoopnagle and Budd.  Buses were chartered from nearby towns to go to Buffalo to watch “The Gloom Chasers” in action.

            In an attempt to get out amongst their fans, Taylor and Hulick performed several extremely well-attended shows at Buffalo film theaters.  Their appearance at the Shea Theater lasted an entire week.

            Word of this Stoopnagle and Budd phenomenon started to spread far beyond the upstate New York area.  Dowd and Ostreicher, the Boston-based advertising firm for the Green Brothers Co., in Springfield, Massachusetts, manufacturers of ‘Tastyeast,’ heard about the duo during their search for radio acts to sponsor, and came to Buffalo to see just what the fuss was all about.

            John C. Dowd, after hearing the program and learning of the success Taylor and Hulick had enjoyed, signed them for a trial period -- along with several other acts from around the country -- to determine their network radio suitability.  They passed this test with flying colors.

            And so, just five months after their impromptu emergency debut which was solely designed to fill ‘dead air,’ Hulick and Taylor were signed to broadcast nightly, except Fridays, over WABC and the Columbia Broadcasting System from 8:45 to 9:00 p.m.  Their two-year contract with Green Brothers and CBS was one of that network’s largest for any radio entertainer, amounting to “well over $1,000,000.”  Not bad for the early, darkest days of the great depression.  At any rate, their home town knew what it was giving the nation.

            "Twenty-three stations of the Columbia chain and half the nation will be tuned in this evening as the mighty gaspipe organ wheezes out the theme song for the initial network broadcast of Buffalo's Gloom Chasers.

            Columbia is expecting vast things from the Queen City duo, judging from the blasts of publicity it has been turning loose on the radio editors of the land.  The publicity consists chiefly of telling people far and wide how we folks back home here practically went nerts about the Col. Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle and his confederate, Mr. Hulick..."[3]

            The newspapers anticipated the team’s May 24th debut with rumors that their first show would be broadcast from aboard the Goodyear Blimp.  Though they were actually earth-bound for their first show, their material -- basically unchanged from what they’d been performing in Buffalo -- was fresh and well-received.  The colonel’s wacky inventions, the team’s imitations of popular figures of the day (including Calvin Coolidge, Charles Lindbergh, Rudy Vallee and rivals ‘Amos n’ Andy’), and their ‘interviews’ with little-known men of industry all hit the depressed nation’s collective funnybone.

“...We build up unimportant characters just as we tear down the Big Boys.  We think of the most insignificant and unlikely job at which a man might become a national figure, and then build a success story around this situation.  Among these characters I can remember offhand was the ‘man who became the champion Pullman-Window-Opener-Of-The-World.’  Then there was ‘the man who made good at putting tissue sheets between calling cards.’”[4]

            These interviews were clearly the inspiration for much of what Bob and Ray (Elliott and Goulding, respectively) did two decades later.

            Among the inventions Taylor came up with for their radio program were the following: round dice, for people who’d rather play marbles; cellophane umbrellas, so you can see whether it’s raining; stationary elevators (the buildings move up and down instead); red, white and blue starch, used to keep American flags flying when there’s no wind; siren absorbers, for catching the noise made by fire sirens when answering false alarms so that the racket may be used again for real fires; ashtrays with an electric fan attached, which blows the ashes out of the tray and keeps it clean; and holeless sieves, for people who aren’t particularly interested in straining anything.

            ‘Colonel Stoopnagle’ was more than just a radio alias for Taylor.  The comedian gave the colonel a specific personality and developed it fully throughout his career.  In an interview given early on, Taylor explained:

            “I don’t remember exactly how or when I created the character...He was built up gradually in my own mind.  The Colonel, you know, is easily recognized as a prototype of the little fellow with big ideas of his own importance.  All of us like to laugh at him and do so often.  My intention in writing the Stoopnagle sketches was to minimize the importance of the fellow who thinks he is important.  And to put the little fellow up on a pedestel by using him constantly to poke fun at the Colonel’s pretentions, just as Budd does on the air...

            “...The Colonel is half-way between a private and a General.  When he arrives at that rank he just misses being the really big fellow with authority...To the rest of us who, in all probability, will never be Colonels, he seems pompous, overbearing and a bore, with his self-glorification.

            “Stoopnagle is just a manufactured word.  It occurred to me one day while I was writing a sketch.  I used it several times and the morning Budd and I gave the first impromptu Gloomchaser program to fill in fifteen minutes left open on the air I used it as a name for the present character.  People like the name because it can be twisted and turned into any number of funny combinations.  Our fan mail has contained over 250 versions of the name in the last two years.

            “Another feature of the Colonel that makes an audience laugh is the way he breaks down and cries every now and then.  The combination of pompousness in a Colonel and the tendency to burst out crying without any provocation stamps Stoopnagle as a great big boob.  Everyone laughs at a boob...”[5]

            The critics as well as the public were adoring from the start, but the unscripted, unpredictable nature of the program made sponsors nervous.  Most sponsors liked to have some sort of final approval over what their entertainers said on the air, but Taylor and Hulick didn’t allow for this luxury.

            In an attempt to ‘corral’ these mavericks, Tastyeast made the announcement that they’d be combining their various programs, starting in December of 1931.  The threat of losing their identity and uniqueness caused Taylor and Hulick to ask for a release from their contract, which they received.  Proctor and Gamble immediately picked them up, giving the team a 15-minute, twice a week program on CBS, the Ivory Soap Program.

            As in Buffalo, the boys generated much fan mail.  In 1932, Taylor related the following anecdote.  The incident was one that he remembered and repeated the rest of his life.         

"Perhaps the most touching communication we ever received was a letter mailed to us and received at the WABC studios, in New York City, from Brooklyn, N.Y.  It had been torn to pieces and then pasted together again with wax paper.  It was dated five minutes after one of our programs went on the air.  The letter read as follows:

                        'Thank God for your program.  It saved me from doing the cowardly thing tonight.  I wonder what the future will be?                                                                                                                      Yours thankfully,

                                                                                                Carol' "

            The team’s unorthodox, sometimes surreal comedy landed them in trouble a few times.  For example, consider the following extract from one of the Stoopnagle and Budd programs:

Boss:  Well, boys, the whistle has blown.  Get your lunches now.

Newt:  Me fer one o’ them rabbit sandwiches of mine, boss.

Boss:  I certainly enjoyed the one you gave me yesterday, Newt.

Newt:  Well, I got plenty again today, boss.  How’d you like to have another?

Boss:  It would suit me fine...Thanks...Say tell me, -- where in the world do you get all the rabbit meat, Newton?  Do you breed rabbits on your farm?  You always seem to have plenty of rabbit meat.

Newt:  No, I don’t breed ‘em, boss;  I shoots ‘em.

Boss:  You shoot ‘em, eh?  That’s odd.  How do you go about it?

Newt:  Well, I jest get up about six in the morning and git me my gun and prowl around the neighborhood, and when I hear ‘em go “MEOW,” I just shoots ‘em.

            Shortly thereafter, the sponsors received the following letter from a rabbit farm:

Gentlemen:

            At 8:58 p. m., eastern Standard time, on November ?, Colonel Stoopnagle and Budd, radio artists working under your sponsorship, told a story about which we wish to enter a serious complaint.  It had to do with a comparison of the domestic white rabbit with the ordinary alley-cat.  The rabbit business is bad enough as it is without having these so-called comedians hurt it with their aspersions.  Such ill-advised comparisons have been made before, to the detriment of the business, and we ask that you inform your broadcasters that we will not tolerate any further allusions.

            Stoopnagle and Budd changed sponsors again in 1932 when Pontiac presented them on WABC.  While there, Taylor hatched his satirical take on Technocracy -- which was plaguing the American people with theories and charts depicting just how dour the economy and things in general were.  His creation, ‘Stoopnocracy,’ was based on the premise that all things irksome, “like people who say ‘Hi, there!’ and bits of shell in your soft boiled egg,” should be done away with.  The method he devised was ‘disinvention.’  Instead of discovering something, things would simply be undiscovered.

            One early economic aspect of Stoopnocracy that Taylor spoke of was quite novel:

"You see, my original plan involved the use of the fecund rodent known as a guinea pig as a monetary unit.  I nearly went wrong on that, but my partner, Budd, pointed out that rapid multiplication would bring about too much inflation."

            Interestingly, a group of philanthropists started an organization calling itself the Society of Stoopnocracy in 1933.  The society, originated by William R. K. Taylor (apparently no relation), was patterned after a British charitable organization called Ye Ancient Order of Froth Blowers.  Its mission was to financially aid the destitute and unemployed.  Though William Taylor did say he had heard the name ‘stoopnocracy’ on the radio, there was no further connection with Stoopnagle.  Taylor himself was quite philanthropic throughout his entire career, appearing frequently at benefits, schools and other fundraisers.

            As had been the case in Buffalo, the fans wanted to actually see Stoopnagle and Budd in action, and Taylor and Hulick wanted to be seen.  They made frequent live appearances at New York area movie theaters, sometimes with the stars of some of the films being presented.  At the Capital Theater on Broadway in 1933, during a series of appearances with stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, the team was presented with a cake in honor of their second anniversary on the airwaves.

"...Colonel Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle and Budd are offered and their laugh provoking chatter clicks strong.  Both are strong bets for dialogue and have an inimitable style that spells success.  Their description of [an] auto race sets a new high record for laughs that others will find hard to beat.  These boys are showmen of the first order and their act shows it..."[6]

            And in Philadelphia:

            "A top-notch variety entertainment, headed by the kingpin radio comedy team of Col. Stoopnagle and Budd, and an unusually fine movie, ‘Painted Woman,’ came to the Fox theater yesterday...

            Col. Stoopnagle and Budd are a joy to behold; their act, patterned along the same lines as their bi-weekly radio act, sizzles along at a fine rate, and these two master comedians offer a contribution which has variety, nip and snap.  They don't, like many radio comedians, disappoint with a personal appearance;  Budd is good looking and natty and looks like a satire on a radio announcer, while the colonel is big and silly and quite useless in appearance..."[7]

            Taylor and Hulick made their motion picture debut in Paramount’s wacky International House, in 1933.  The film, which has been described as a filmed vaudeville show, starred W. C. Fields, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Stuart Erwin, Bela Lugosi, and Peggy Hopkins Joyce.  The plot revolved around the competition among bidders at a swank Chinese hotel for an early form of television here called the ‘radioscope.’  To demonstrate the device’s capabilities, the inventor shows his audience various segments featuring popular radio entertainers of the day, including Cab Calloway and his Orchestra, Rudy Vallee, ‘Baby’ Rose Marie, and Stoopnagle and Budd.  Taylor and Hulick’s all-too-brief segment starts with a closeup on a door which reads ‘Department of Stoopnocracy,’ then moves inside where the boys, awakened by the Colonel’s ‘directional alarm clock,’ take a look at another invention, the revolving goldfish bowl, meant to be used for tired fish.  In response to the demonstration, Budd mumbles, “Gee, that’s peachy!” to which Stoopnagle replies, “No, Stoopnocracy’s peachy.”  It’s obvious that they filmed a longer segment, as there’s another glimpse of them looking at a shower invention during the opening credits montage.  The team appeared just as relaxed and comfortable before the cameras as they did before the sightless microphone of the radio, but oddly enough this was their only appearance in feature films.

            During this same year, Max Fleischer (creator of Betty Boop, and Walt Disney’s chief competitor) featured the team in a musical animated short entitled Stoopnocracy.  And, as if to cap off their celebrity, the Tilley and Sherman Company of New York City came out with the Col. Stoopnagle and Budd’s Are You a Sacred Cow? Game.  This was a party game consisting of humorous intelligence tests featuring absurd questions.

            The producers of the new Jimmy Durante/Lupe Valez show, Strike Me Pink, offered the team a role in the popular musical comedy, but they turned it down.  It’s a shame, too, because it was while appearing in a similar vehicle, Rio Rita, that Abbott and Costello were catapulted to fame on the screen. 

            At this, the height of their popularity, rumors began to circulate about Taylor and Hulick splitting up about this time, even appearing in print in the New York Times at one point.  Though Hulick would often freely admit that Taylor was the writer/gag man of the act, whether or not this caused any jealousy on his part isn’t readily apparent.  What was apparent was the effect the duo had on their audience:

            "Stoopnagle and Budd have solved the riddle of radio comedy.  They know their business, and know they know it.  I can't name any comedy act which entertains me more.

            "They use no jokes.  Stoopnagle thinks up his own curious inventions.  Their comedy flows smoothly, and only occasionally does a gag slide into their fast-moving routine.  They depend on situation comedy, and they have developed a flawless radio technique.

            "Like Amos and Andy, they will last long.  They are not handicapped by the dullness, the larceny or the indolence of gag-writers.  The Broadway comics bang questions and answers.  It is only logical that stale jibes will find their way into the script.

            "Stoop and Budd possess a casual poise before the microphone, and never seem to be hammering their humor into the microphone.  You half-believe they are making up their nonsense as they meander leisurely through their routine.  That is the secret of their success, I think."[8]

            Another rumor being reported during this time was that Taylor and his wife were having marital problems.  This, unfortunately, was not an idle rumor.  F. Chase Taylor, Jr., the couple’s only child, admits that the reason his mother had so little patience with her husband’s career was that “she just didn’t get the joke.”  But consider; when the Taylors married, it was assumed by all that Chase would one day succeed his father as head of Taylor and Crate.  Imagine the challenge Lois Taylor found herself facing, suddenly finding herself married to a radio comedian.

            Soon after International House, Taylor and Hulick appeared in a short film for Coronet/Educational Pictures called The Inventors.  The following synopsis put together as part of the publicity campaign for the film paints a dizzy picture:

“Miss Brown, dean of the Mayfair School for Girls, had implicit confidence in her pupils; so she lets them vote for the first guest lecturers of the season.  Stoopnagle and Budd won in a landslide, which almost swamped Miss Brown, too, for she didn't even know them.  But the girls assured her that the inventors of Stoopnocracy were the most famous scientists in America, so she called them on their television phone, and what Stoopnagle and Budd saw through the television brought them to the school in a hurry.

“Professor Lawton presented Stoopnagle and Budd with the highest academic honors of the year before he thought to ask them what they had invented.  Then he was sorry.  The inverted bureau to prevent lost collar buttons, the upside down lighthouse for submarines, the electric refrigerator with artificial iceman to give the maid a hug, and the motorized rowing machine for people not fond of exercise, were bad enough, but the unperfected hat hanger-upper which still left the hat brims sticking to the wall, sent the professor home in a huff.

“When Stoopnagle and Budd got to their lecture, however, their talk on the Bulgarian Upquirp, the bird that walks up and down trees at the same time, and their invention for curling anchovies, upset the school board so much that Miss Chiselbottom ordered them out of the place.  But the girls were so disappointed that Stoopnagle and Budd undertook to make for them a Stoopenstein, a second cousin to a Frankenstein, to entertain them.  The girls gathered automobile motors, admirals' coats, false teeth, toupees, pants and other requisites for building a Stoopenstein, but when the mechanical man was finished they found they had made a mistake, and instead of a funny man, they had one that started to beat up everybody in the place.  Outside, the people who had been filched of their motors, toupes, coats, pants, etc., were raging, too, and the asylum rushed its trouble wagon.  But the asylum was half full, and when the guards took one look at the panic inside the school, they made an easy job of it by simply changing the sign, "Mayfair School" to read "Mayfair Asylum" and let it go at that.”

            At this time in Hollywood, many radio stars were trying their hands at film either in guest appearances (in films like Hollywood Party and International House) or in short films, like The Inventors, made to be shown between feature films.  The visual quality of Stoopnagle and Budd’s humor would seem to have been a natural for such a format, and yet The Inventors stands as their only try.  It’s a shame they weren’t afforded more opportunity to expand in this medium. But meanwhile, in the world of radio, they were often the benchmark for all others:

            "Of the army of comedians on the airwaves, only a handful or two depend upon the simple formula of making radio itself the basis of their fun.  With one or two exceptions, the group numbers the leading comics of the microphones.

            It includes -- and we might as well get down to names -- George M. Cohan, Jack Benny, Phil Baker, Ed Wynn, Ben Bernie, Stoopnagle and Budd, Fred Allen and Raymond Knight.  Of these, only Stoopnagle, Budd and Knight are exclusive products of the broadcasters.  All others came to radio from the Broadway stage...

            Most original, as well as most persistent, bubble-bursters in radio are Cohan, Allen and the team known as Stoopnagle and Budd...

            Stoopnagle and Budd -- and Knight to a certain extent -- are the exponents of whimsy and extravagant nonsense, directed chiefly at the foibles and follies of broadcasting.  Theirs is the business of giving a reverse twist to cherished notions, of demonstrating that, no matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney."[9]

            After two years on Pontiac’s program, Taylor and Hulick appeared for several sponsors in 1934, with the programs Camel Caravan, Schlitz Spotlight Revue and The Gulf Program.  In 1935, they were heard on the Devoe and Reynolds Show and the Ford Program.

            By 1936, Taylor’s marriage was over.  He was granted a divorce on February 7, 1936 in Reno, Nevada, citing mental cruelty.  On February 15, Kay Bell, a former newspaper woman, radio publicity writer and secretary to band leader Paul Whiteman, became the second Mrs. Taylor at a ceremony in Baltimore.  ‘Budd’ Hulick was the best man.  Taylor had known Bell ever since coming to New York, a good luck telegram from her being among the dozens received prior to the team’s first broadcast.  Their common background in show business gave Taylor the stability and approval he needed.  Kay was often subsequently mentioned in his writings and book dedications as his inspiration.  The couple moved to South Norwalk, Connecticut where they built a splendid home which he called, true to his style, “Honorable Mansion.”  Here’s an excerpt of an account of the home’s construction starting with a very odd bit of prophetic business about Budd:

"If Stoopnagle can find Budd before Saturday night, Stoopnagle and Budd will present one of their distinctive comedy sketches as part of the Norwalk High School athletic fund benefit show at the Empress Theatre.

"Finding Budd is enough of a job when he's working, explains Colonel Stoopnagle, who is F. Chase Taylor to his Wilson Point neighbors and "Hey, you!" to the carpenters, plasterers, stone masons and other assorted workmen who are beginning to see the possibility of finishing his Norman style house at Wilson Point before the first snow.

"When he's working, Budd has little to do except show up at a specified place at a specified time and read specified portions of script.  Stoopnagle worries about finding the places and the times and about writing the scripts, and Budd often finds himself wondering what to do when he's not reading scripts...

"Since plans for the benefit show were announced, Stoopnagle has been trying to locate Budd.  He hasn't been at his home in Great Neck, L. I., for several days, and no one seems to know where he is...

"[A] weather vane is but one of the features of [Taylor's] Norman house on Wilson Point, which will shelter the Taylors starting about a month from now.  The ground floor includes a two-car garage, a tool shed, a country kitchen, combined laundry and breakfast nook (only Stoopnagle would think of that combination!), the comedian's study, in which he will write his scripts, and the living room, with a great open fireplace.  Upstairs, practically all the space will be devoted to bedrooms and closets.

"Cypress paneling on the walls will set the Colonel's study apart from the other rooms in the house.  The boy F. Chase Taylor spent most of his time in a cypress-paneled room, and it made quite an impression on him.  Say, come to think of it, maybe he meant the woodshed!

"Oil heat and air-conditioning will keep the Taylor mansion warm in the winter, cool in the summer...

"Once a lumberman, Taylor is taking particular notice of the wood which goes into his home, and is pleased with the lumber used in the construction.  The outside of the building is of brick construction, the bricks laid irregularly, for the first floor, and wood above.  Effectively haphazard is the slate shingling on the roof.

"All in all, the house looks like something that Stoopnagle would own.  It reflects his character, sturdy, impressive-looking, with a sense of humor apparent here and there, in the slight incongruities in the structure...

"Somehow, too -- possibly that peculiar upward curl the roof takes at each end does it -- the house seems to hint at the dramatic story behind the rise of Stoopnagle and Budd to high standing among radio comedy teams..."[10]

            Meanwhile, Stoopnagle and Budd continued their success on the airwaves.  Their newest program, The Minute Men, sponsored by Minute Tapioca, was heard every Sunday afternoon on NBC’s Blue Network.  It featured Don Voorhees and his Orchestra and announcer Harry Von Zell.  During the summer, Stoopnagle and Budd helmed Fred Allen’s program, Town Hall Tonight while Allen was on vacation.  It became the biggest hit of the summer, even coming in sixth in a Radio Stars Magazine rating of 95 radio programs that year.  The programs just ahead of them were Your Hit Parade, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, March of Time, Jessica Dragonette, and Rudy Vallee’s Fleischmann’s Variety Hour.  The team’s ‘Keep Stoopnagle Out of the White House’ campaign was almost as popular as their Stoopnocracy pitch a few years before.

            The show’s producer that summer was Pat Weaver, later to become president of NBC.  In his autobiography, Weaver relates the following:

            “Doing the summer replacement for [Fred] Allen gave me special pleasure because it was so easy, it allowed me two or three free days a week.  One year it starred Chase Taylor and Budd Hulick, better known as Colonel Stoopnagle and Budd, whose antics on and off the air kept me laughing.  They used to come into my office and, while we talked, lick my supply of stamps, one after another, and flip them up to stick on the ceiling.  There was a knack to it that I never mastered, but they carried it off with amazing success.  By the end of summer my ceiling was virtually papered with stamps.

            “Chase introduced me to a friend of his named Jack Peacock Green, who was to become a lifelong friend of mine.”[11]

            In November of 1931, Taylor made an appearance at the Eastern Homeopathic Medical Association Dinner Dance.  Also appearing that night was radio newsman/personality Lowell Thomas.  The two men became friends and champions for charitable causes many times together through the ensuing years.

            In the summer of 1937, Lowell Thomas organized a charity softball game to benefit the Pound Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.  The teams would be made up of celebrities and spectators would pay fifty cents to watch.  Thomas’s team, “The Nine Old Men,” included Thomas himself (pitcher), F. Chase Taylor (catcher), Nelson Hesse (second base), and Dale Carnegie (left field).  The opposing team, Gene Tunney’s “Prehistoric Sluggers,” included Gene Tunney (pitcher), Westbrook Pegler (catcher),  Deems Taylor (second base), and Heywood Broun (left field).  Substitutes included Frank Buck, Hendrik Willem Van Loon, with actress Anna May Wong as umpire.  The score was 17 to 12, Thomas’s team winning.  The game took in over $2,500, and proved to be a popular event.  A similar benefit, a softball game played on burros, described as follows:

            "This is for the benefit of those sensible enough not to attend last Sunday's puffball saturnalia at the Yankee Stadium on Quaker Hill, when (Movietone) Lew Lehr's "20th Century Centurians" outsat and outbucked Lowell (I cover Pawling) Thomas' "Nine Old Men of the Apocalypse" at Burro Ball -- score five to four.

            Burro ball, by the way, is Softball with fertilizer.

            Eighteen men who call themselves fathers, husbands, lovers and citizens mount eighteen jackasses and play the intellectual game of Softball aboard these fiery charges.  Burro Ball is also called Magic Ball because after two innings you can't tell rider from beast -- you have seen a man make a jackass of himself.

            The game goes like this: -- The batter cocks the ball, mounts the highstrung beast that is panting and pawing at his side with flames darting from his nostrils.  Then he gallops around the bases -- if he can.  Meanwhile the fielders urge, tug, prod, cajole, goose, smack, kiss, flatter, and even threaten to send their mounts to Congress if they don't pursue the ball.  The latter usually works, the burro saunters to the ball, the fielder dismounts, gets it, mounts and makes the play at the base involved.

            So fast and furious is all this that Col. Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle, who made an ass of himself at third, is working on a plan to slow the game down some.  In the Colonel's game the ball hits itself, the bases move around and the players stand still.

            The only sensible creature in the ball park during Burro Ball, is the burro itself...

            The game was marred by an accident.  The first time at bat Colonel Stripnagle hit a clean single through pitcher Thorgersen's legs.  The Colonel attempted to mount Mae West, a mule, but the burro suddenly began to run like a train on the old Erie.  That is, it stood still.  Yet somehow it dislodged the Colonel, whose beautiful tan and blue bulk struck the ground with a bang that sounded like one of his radio gags laying an egg.  The stands roared with applause, thinking it a joke.  However, the Colonel lay there hurt, mortally stricken in his sweet Alice-blue gown.  After a spell the Colonel struggled to his feet and signed his autographs, but was unable to take the field the next inning, showing more sense than the rest of his fellow players..."[12]

            For subsequent games, celebrities such as Babe Ruth, Robert Benchley and W. C. Fields joined in the fun.  Robert Ripley captained his own team, known as the “Believe-It-Or-Nots.”  One game between Lowell’s team and the White House correspondents was attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

            Pat Weaver, once more in his autobiography, clearly describes the state of radio at the time of Taylor and Hulick’s peak:

            “By 1937, we had entered the golden age of radio in America, when almost every home, poor as well as rich, had at least one set.  Only the movies offered another choice of mass entertainment, and they cost money...

            “Our business was booming.  The popular radio shows were major attractions, especially comedies.  The great radio comedy era of the thirties and early forties established audience-percentage records that even television has not approached -- and probably never will, with so many other attractions and distractions available at present.  Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Edgar Bergen and Charlie Mcarthy, Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, and Bob Hope were better known to the public that even the most celebrated movie stars.  Only a few million people at best would see a Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, or Shirley Temple picture, while upwards of 50 million heard the great comedians -- perhaps not every week, but at least once a month.  In 1937 there were 37.6 million radio sets distributed among the population of 120 million, with more than two-thirds of these sets in homes.  And in those days, unlike today, radio listening was not a solitary habit but family entertainment.  Today, one or maybe two people listen to a radio, usually in a bedroom, a kitchen, or a car.  During the thirties, the whole family gathered around the set in the living room.”[13]

            Bearing Weaver’s comments in mind, it’s even more impressive that in 1937 the Hearst Syndicate writers voted Stoopnagle and Budd radio’s best comedy team, following Burns and Allen.  Among those they topped were Jack Benny and Mary Livingstone, Fibber McGee and Molly, Fred Allen and Portland, Amos and Andy, Lum and Abner, and the Easy Aces.


[1] “On the Air.”  The Buffalo Evening News, 19 June 1928.

[2] Hesse,xxxxxxx

[3] The Dial Twister, a Buffalo columnist, 1931.

[4] Calvin, Paul.  “Meet Stoopnagle and Budd.”  Radio Stars, date unknown.

[5] Sexton, Susie.  “Colonel Stoopnagle and Mr. Budd: Radio’s Clowns.  Source unknown.

[6] Zit’s Theatrical Newspaper, 27 May 1933.

[7] Date and source unknown.

[8] Cannon, James. World-Telegram, 1933.

[9] Reid, Louis. “The Kidders of the Radio.” Source unknown.  Circa 1934.

[10] Reynolds, Eddie.  “Stoopnagle is Looking For Budd.”  South Norwalk Sentinal, 18 August 1937.

[11] Weaver, Pat and Thomas M. Coffey.  The Best Seat in the House.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.  p.78.

[12] Shane, Ted.  “Softball Saturnalia.”  Source unknown.  1937.

[13] Weaver, ibid.

 

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Page created November 13, 2006.  Copyright 1998-2005 by Richard D. Squires.