A Movie Idea
Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area took you into another realm of reality. KROW broadcast from Radio Island owned by the Port of Oakland. What a name…BLACK CROW OAKLAND DOCK OF THE BAY…then there is KDIA. Don Sherwood….owned a FREED MIND! He had carte’ blanche. Television had become the norm, but for Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allan who had a young Frank Zapa on.
There is a great sense of moving around, dialing in, searching for your show, tailor made for you by Wizards of the Radio Airwaves. Switch to the City Lights Bookstore where Ginsberg is reading HOWL. Get in an old car with Cassidy and Kerouac, then get on the road to Bhuddland. See King Narcisse driving down Lakeshore in his Black Cadillac.
We white teens are up till late listening to Deep Blues Men on KDIA suggesting there is another level of fornicating – like a man! Be a man…Little Richard. Who, or what, is…The Duke of Earl? A guy on a tall ladder advertising something. No one has to buy anything. You get to choose. What do you like?
We don’t like Khrushchev pounding his shoe down on a desk saying he will bury us. We hate Walt for letting that Russian Troll into Disneyland – without wearing a Coonskin hat! And, most of all, we hated Sputnik! How could this have happened? Our airwaves are being invaded! What does Phillis Diller and Fang got to say about all this?
Then we hear Frantic Slick singing about a White Rabbit, and we are torn down the middle. Sometimes our frayed nerves check into The KABL Sanitarium and find ourselves above the fog on Mount Tam at the old amphitheater, checked in and calmed at the old German mountain report, digging the promise of Thomas Mann that we can still reason our way out of our Great Cold Mess. I can still hear that low-pitched dong calling us to the Civilized Dinner at the edge of the world and Atomic Fearmonger Void. We must reinvent ourselves. Let’s tune in some Holy Roller music.
After moving to Alameda, California, Diller began working in broadcasting in 1952 at KROW radio in Oakland, California. In November of that year, she filmed several 15-minute segments for the Bay Area television series Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker—dressed in a housecoat to offer absurd “advice” to homemakers. Diller also worked as a copywriter at KSFO radio in San Francisco and a vocalist for a music-review TV show called Pop Club, hosted by Don Sherwood.
With the encouragement of her husband, Diller made her debut as a stand-up comedian at age 37 in the basement of the San Francisco North Beach club, The Purple Onion, on March 7, 1955. Up until then, she had only tried out her jokes for fellow PTA moms at nearby Edison Elementary School. Her first professional show was a success and the two-week booking stretched out to 89 consecutive weeks. Diller had found her calling and eventual financial success while her husband’s business career failed. She explained, “I became a stand-up comedienne because I had a sit-down husband.”[10
On July 8, 1925, the station signed on as KFWM. It was owned originally by the Oakland Educational Society. The Oakland Post-Enquirer wanted a radio station to compete with the Oakland Tribunes KLX. This station became KROW in June 1930, and used those call letters until 1959. It was a full-service station known for launching the career of comedian Phyllis Diller and for helping the career of “the world’s greatest disc jockey” Don Sherwood, prior to his long career at KSFO.
In 1947, the station built a new transmitter on a 20-acre island leased from the Port of Oakland. The new transmitter was accompanied by an increase in power from 1,000 watts to 5,000 watts full-time.
In early May 1959, KROW began “stunting” with a continuous loop of a song called “Gila Monster,” the theme song from a horror film that Gordon McLendon had co-produced that year. Based on this stunt, it was assumed by the general public — and by the competition — that KROW was to become a Top 40 station along the lines of McLendon’s KLIF in Dallas, WAKY in Louisville or KILT in Houston. But the station took everyone by surprise by debuting KABL as a beautiful music station. KABL quickly captured a more mature listening audience that disliked rock and roll. KABL soon became the number one radio station in San Francisco, and would remain at or near the top of the ratings for years afterward.
As KABL, the station combined a mixture of easy listening string and orchestra music with light classics and an occasional Latin cocktail hour tune. KABL was known for presenting poetic vignettes about San Francisco life, a harp interlude between songs, and a cable car bell to announce the news.
Licensed to Oakland, with a transmitter near the east end of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, KABL often skirted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules on station identification and city of license. While KABL could have legally identified as “Oakland/San Francisco,” it instead deliberately tried to identify with San Francisco rather than Oakland. It was notorious for using slogans such as “KABL Oakland, serving San Francisco on your San Francisco radio dial, in the air, everywhere over San Francisco”. This raised the ire of FCC officials, resulting in a fine and an admonishment to all broadcasters that they were licensed to serve a particular community, not surrounding ones.
Louis Herbert Narcisse was born on April 27, 1921, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Stella Narcisse. His father, Jesse Narcisse, was killed in a shipboard accident before his birth. The youngest of four siblings, Narcisse came from a devout Baptist family. At an early age, young Narcisse knew that he had been touched by the hand of God. His family found out early on that Narcisse was something very special, a religious child prodigy who was reserved but loved to pray and sing spiritual music. His singing talents were first locally recognized in New Orleans when he was a teenager, where Narcisse won five radio auditions. As a teen, he became a soloist at church services and funerals.
At 18 years old, Narcisse entered into the Christian ministry in the summer of 1939. Narcisse migrated to California during World War II when God spoke to him to come to California. He found a job in Hunter’s Point Shipyards in San Francisco, California as an electrical worker earning $85 a week. He lived at a Hunter’s Point War World II Housing Project.
In South San Francisco the Mt. Zion movement began with a small prayer meeting,” from there Narcisse founded Mount Zion Spiritual Temple in Oakland on November 8, 1945 under the credo “It’s nice to be nice.” The church was named after his boyhood church in New Orleans, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which had been the place of his baptism, but Narcisse’s Mount Zion Spiritual Temple was actually a Spiritualist church in the African-American Spiritual Church Movement tradition. As his popularity grew, he presided over several churches in Oakland, Sacramento, Houston, and Detroit, and travelled between them.
Mountain scenery at Davos, the novel’s Alpine setting
The narrative opens in the decade before World War I. It introduces the protagonist, Hans Castorp, the only child of a Hamburg merchant family. Following the early death of his parents, Castorp has been brought up by his grandfather and later, by a maternal uncle named James Tienappel. Castorp is in his early 20s, about to take up a shipbuilding career in Hamburg, his home town. Before beginning work, he undertakes a journey to visit his tubercular cousin, Joachim Ziemssen, who is seeking a cure in a sanatorium in Davos, high up in the Swiss Alps. In the opening chapter, Castorp leaves his familiar life and obligations, in what he later learns to call “the flatlands”, to visit the rarefied mountain air and introspective small world of the sanatorium.
Castorp’s departure from the sanatorium is repeatedly delayed by his failing health. What at first appears to be a minor bronchial infection with slight fever is diagnosed by the sanatorium’s chief doctor and director, Hofrat[nb 1] Behrens, as symptoms of tuberculosis. Castorp is persuaded by Behrens to stay until his health improves.
During his extended stay, Castorp meets a variety of characters, who represent a microcosm of pre-war Europe. These include Lodovico Settembrini (an Italian humanist and encyclopedist, a student of Giosuè Carducci); Leo Naphta, Jewish Jesuit who favors totalitarianism; Mynheer Peeperkorn, a dionysian Dutchman; and his romantic interest, Madame Clawdia Chauchat.
Castorp eventually resides at the sanatorium for seven years. At the conclusion of the novel, the war begins, and Castorp volunteers for the military. His possible, or probable, demise upon the battlefield is portended.