Hoffman Hayride (KGO-TV)
Update in progress
The research into the Hoffman Hayride show that was originally hosted
by Dude Martin over KGO-TV opened aspects that needed to be discussed beyond just
the show itself. This essay will try and show how a local radio country music
entertainer (Dude Martin) was also a catalyst for the growth of the acceptance of television in
the San Francisco Bay Area. The sponsor of the show was the Hoffman Radio Corporation
which had begun manufacturing television sets in Los Angeles. It was the brainchild
of H. Leslie Hoffman who wanted to give the west coast a shot at becoming
a major manufacturing center. He found success with the "live" show concept in Los Angeles
where Spade Cooley was one of the original hosts. But it was the success
of the show Dude Martin hosted in the Bay Area that lasted the longest. But the research also
saw how the Mr. Hoffman used the Hoffman Hayride show concept when his company decided to enter
an urban market that was just beginning to develop television broadcasts.
Our initial discussion will speak to Dude Martin and his early career that led him to
become a host of the Hoffman Hayride. Then the reader will learn more about
the development of the television market in the western United States and the man behind
it, H. Leslie Hoffman. The reader will note some interesting connections between other shows
and artists as well.
The Hoffman Hayride debuted on KGO-TV (Channel 7) in San Francisco on May 11, 1949, was
part of the development of television as an entertainment medium. The show that featured
Dude Martin and His Round-Up Gang appears to have been one of the more successful versions
of a live entertainment program that the Hoffman Radio Corporation sponsored to help promote
the sales of televisions.
Later, Dude Martin went to Los Angeles, but the Hoffman people rebooted the Hoffman Hayride
over KPIX-TV with a new host - Cottonseed Clark. We will delve a bit into the early television history,
but let's first read about the Hoffman Hayride program.
Dude Martin was born John Steven McSwain on a ranch in the small town of Plainsburg,
about 12 miles from the city of Merced, California in the San Joaquin Valley. The ranch
was partly a dairy and growing up he had chores on the ranch and had his own horse. In a 1939
song folio, Dude spoke of his parents hoping he would grow up to become a lawyer and eventually
President of the country. But his report cards did not lend it to fulfill his parent's dreams.
His parents learned that he had broken several horses without their knowledge at the age of 10.
He ended up getting his education in Oakland and San Francisco. Life would eventually take
him to Berkeley.
In that same 1939 song folio, he tells readers that while he enjoyed the freedom of being
a cowboy, he found it "…unprofitable at forty a month and beans." He was just 15 at the
time and decided to become an entertainer. He got a bunch of cowboy singers and they called
themselves the Nevada Nightherders. Did he find success? Dude wrote, "Immediately following
we were turned down by practically every radio station in the western part of the United States."
His introduction to entertainment was a vaudeville act he would do as part of the annual
Berkeley High School program. He admired Glen Rice and His Beverly Hill Billies. In his
interview with Patricia Hill as part of the Country Music Foundation Oral History project
in 1976, he said Glen "...was the greatest con man I've ever heard on radio." Glen would
start the show with a bit of an introduction that would build up to getting the audience
eager to hear their music and entertainment. The gag was that the group supposedly had its
roots in the remote Beverly Hills.
He had already been doing rodeos and entertaining audiences, playing guitar, singing while
a friend placed harmonica and did vocals as well. He said they played at bars and restaurants,
pass the hat and hope to get enough money for an entrance fee to a local rodeo type event.
Dude related how one year, he decided to do a bit of a take-off on that act and created the
group called the Tightwad Hillbillies. The name was derived from the University of California
Memorial Stadium area in Berkeley. There is or was a place known as Tightwad Hill and is
actually Charter Hill where folks who could not afford tickets or did not want to pay could
watch the game. He was only 15 years old at the time. His intro went like this:
"While wandering up on Tightwad Hill above Strawberry Canyon, one day I came upon these
simple country folk who are believed to be descendants of early football-game fans that
got lost after the big-game hunt on Tightwad Hill."
The 1939 song folio may be referring to the Dude's first KLX stint. He apparently got the
program slot because the station's production manager was home sick. The "slightly gullible
office boy" was running things in the manager's absence and he gave them an hour's time slot.
He noted that the listening audience in April 1932 must have liked what they heard as when
the production manager returned to work, he had "…no other alternative than to keep the
program on." He indicated he did a show for about a year over KLX in Oakland. They were not
paid and gas money to get to the station was getting hard to come by.
Then his musical journey encountered a man by the name of Tom Morgan. He owned the Pickwick
Stage Lines which eventually became the Greyhound Line. The company went broke in 1929 during
the market crash. The company owned radio station KTAB (now KSFO) which had studios in
San Francisco in the Pickwick Hotel. The company allowed him a portion of the air time that
he could sell as he saw fit. Mr. Morgan got the O & M Tablet Company in Pasadena to buy some
time on the station and he wanted a western group. He went and found Dude. Mr. Martin managed
to get enough of his band together and went on the air in the Bay area … for nearly 20 years.
For that start on KTAB, the band members got paid $6 a week and because he was the group leader,
he got $7 a week.
The Star Outfitting Company then bought the show and moved them to KLX in Oakland.
Star Outfitting saw something in sponsoring western acts as they were also a sponsor for
Stuart Hamblen's show in Los Angeles. Mr. Martin recalls that Star sponsored them for about
Early on, it was common for entertainers to appear at movie theaters. But then they started
doing country dances as they saw the theater aspect fading as the 1940s evolved.
Dude indicated they opened their own ballroom on December 6, 1941 - East Shore Park
in Richmond, California. The timing may not have seemed right as the next day, the country
was entering World War II. They had a lease with the city for an old amusement park and were
fixing it up. But luck was on their side - they were only two miles from the Kaiser shipyards,
which expanded rapidly to support the war effort.
Around 1939, he began doing nightly broadcasts over KYA, a San Francisco station. His popularity
was such that at times he was doing a show over KTAB in the morning and an evening show over KLX
for the same sponsor. He became the musical director for KYA and did a morning show called
Sunrise Round-Up that was on the air from 5am to 7am.
His first group with the O & M Table Company show was The Nevada Night Herders. Then when he
was on KYA, it was Dude Martin's Sunrise Round-Up. Later, he settled on the name Dude Martin
and His Round-Up Gang.
In his oral history interview, he speaks of a couple of female singers who were adept at
yodeling, which was popular back in the late 1930s and into the 1940s. One was Arvada Miller.
Another was Carolina Cotton (her real name was Helen Hagstrom). Carolina would later become part
of the Hoffman Hayride show when Cottonseed Clark took it over.
The Star Outfitting Company sponsorship brought some prosperity to the group. Star had opened
a store at 1016 Broadway in Oakland and another at 1145 Market Street in San Francisco.
Dude mentions he had little competition in the way of country and western music during those
years in the Bay Area. They rented space in a corner store where they would do their shows and
people could peer in the windows as they performed if they were not lucky enough to be inside.
During the depression, it was not hard to get an audience if your show was free as people were
careful with what little money they had.
He had a ranch on Redwood Road in east Oakland - which seems hard to imagine noting the growth
of the city since then. He told Ms. Hill he had six acres and access to an adjoining ranch of
6,000 acres. He eventually began to get into the business of buying and selling horses.
Then a new medium called television came on the scene.
The development can be viewed through the newspaper reporting of the era. Paul Speegle wrote
an article about the "pioneering period" of television in the Bay area back in early 1949.
KPIX was first on the air, owned by Associated Broadcasters who also owned radio station KSFO.
It was broadcasting via a transmitter atop the Mark Hopkins hotel on channel 5. KGO-TV, owned
and operated by the American Broadcasting Company was to be next but was equipment delivery
issues were delaying its debut on the air.
Television was a not a 24 hour a day seven day a week operation as it later became. KGO-TV
first went on the air in February 1949 with a test pattern. But a broadcasting schedule was
not expected until around May or June. KGO-TV went on the air on May 5, 1949. On May 11,
KGO's broadcast day began at 7:00pm with a program emceed by Neil Hamilton called Hollywood
Screen Test. At 8:00pm, it was the Hoffman Hayride. At 8:30pm, it was TV Jackpot. And to end
the day, at 9:00pm it was a program called On Trial: Should Congress Enact A Veteran's Pension?
In the weeks prior to its on-air debut, KGO-TV ran an ad letting readers and owners of television sets in the Bay area what to expect when it went on the air. KGO would air its test pattern from 10:00am to 10:00pm daily so viewers could adjust their set to enable good reception of Channel 7. Its 508 foot tall antenna was atop Sutro Mountain. After its opening night on May 5, the station would be on the air from Tuesday through Saturday each week with a regular schedule of programs. The station billed itself as "...your new way to look at life." In the days before those first broadcasts in 1949, KGO-TV ran ads in the local newspaper advertising the first air date, promoting the first shows. One broadcast would be an Inaugural Television Variety Show to be hosted by Garry Moore.
The first day's broadcast schedule was very short. First to air was a brief 15 minute
dedication ceremony, followed by a couple of other shows. The end of the first day would
be a broadcast of a baseball game between San Francisco and Oakland.
The first TV listing showing the Hoffman Hayride appeared in
the May 11, 1949 San Francisco Chronicle. There were only four shows on KGO-TV's schedule
that day. Its broadcast day started at 7:30pm and ended after a 9:00pm program. KPIX-TV
programmed a 15-minute Supper Club show hosted by Perry Como followed by a baseball game
between San Francisco and Sacramento.
Bob Franklin's Radio and Television News column that always seemed to have the
header "Advertisement" above it wrote a rather humorous take on the early development
of human ancestors in his May 11, 1949 column found in the San Francisco Chronicle
as he led readers to know of the first broadcast of Hoffman Hayride.
"About a million years ago, more or less, our ancestors discovered "thinking "and great
changes were brought about in caves all over the land . . . fire became a popular item to
have around, clothing became more fashionable and, finally, someone dreamed up the wheel
and really set things rolling.
The results of all these years of thought are too numerous to mention-even a listing of
the different types of can openers would fill the whole page-so today I'd just like to
pass along some thoughts people have had recently concerning television programs.
First there is a lady who knows about birds. Furthermore, she thinks
she looks like one. For television she'd be glad to dress up in feathers and imitate birdcalls.
Then there's the gentleman who wants to prove, on television, how strong he is. If plans
had gone through, you could relax in your living room and watch him get konked on the head
with a sledgehammer.
Finally, there's one young man who states he is a genius. He claims he can cure all the
world's ills if he can just talk to people on television every night.
I didn't want these program brainstorms to go unsung. But I do want to assure you these
aren't exactly what you can expect on KGO-TV Tuesday through Saturday-a lot of other
people have had ideas along more normal lines.
Take tonight for instance: On KGO-TV you'll see "Hollywood Screen Test" at 7:30pm with
Neil Hamilton as emcee . . ."Hoffman Hayride" at 8 with Dude Martin
and his Roundup Gang . . . "TV Jackpot" at 8:30 . . . and at 9 "On Trial" will review
the question "Should Congress Enact a Veterans' Pension?"
Shortly after it went on the air, staff at KGO-TV did an "extensive check", most likely by
phone or in-person interviews to try and determine how many tuned in KGO-TV. George Voight
reported in his Radio column for the San Francisco Chronicle that may have been an introduction
into the "power of tv". One phone call was answered by a young boy when KGO called. He admitted
he was watching KGO. But he begged them not to tell his parents as he was supposed to be in bed.
Occasionally the local newspapers would give us a glimpse into some of the people that were a
part of Dude Martin's Round-Up Gang. One was a local disc jockey E. (Elton) Western McGee who
hosted a 6:30am daily radio program over station KVSM. He was known as the Harmonica King of
California. A 1949 article mentions he had been a part of Dude's group for 14 years at that
point and been on Bay Area radio from the early 1930s. It spoke to him being the master of
ceremonies to announce the four contestants for queen at the San Leandro Fourth of July celebration.
In late June 1949, one finds a review of a couple of western television shows.
The Hoffman Hayride was one. Another was Club TV (cast included Rusty,
George and Ozark Red). The writer noted of Dude Martin's show:
"He and his "gang" get in front of the cameras with their instruments and cowboy uniforms
and sing pretty good Western music and make jokes that are often funny, in a bucolic sort of way."
The show aired over local television station KGO-TV, but was broadcast live from a variety
of facilities that usually sold Hoffman Televisions.
On August 10, 1949, the show originated on opening night for the San Mateo County Fiesta.
The sponsor was Hoffman, promoting its "Easy-Vision Television". Tickets to the show were
free and obtained at Hoffman distributors. Some of the ads seen were for Blights of San Carlos,
Bain Furniture in Millbrae, and Coronet Appliance Co. in San Bruno.
On Wednesday, September 21, 1949, one such show was to be at the Jacksons television theatre.
The company was a Hoffman distributor and had gotten into the TV market in 1948. They were
promoting the Hoffman brand for a week - September 19 through September 24. The store had
only been in business one year and this show was to celebrate its first anniversary. Their
ad told readers - "...see television in production". Another gimmick was a chance to get a
ticket and a chance to win a Hoffman TV set at a drawing to be held on September 24.
In October, the Hoffman Hayride program was to air from a newly remodeled
and expanded Macy's Department Store in downtown San Francisco. Their broadcast would originate
from the fifth floor music center of the store. As an added note, Harpo Marx and Marion Hutton
were to appear that night as well.
In late October 1949, the Hoffman Hayride was brought back to the San Mateo
County Fiesta Auditorium "by popular demand". Again, admission was free and the ad touted
various Hoffman distributors such as Tecco in San Mateo, Torney & Bush Co. in San Carlos,
Blight's Appliances in San Carlos, Smith's Appliance in San Mateo, Wisnom appliances in San
Mateo and Lane & Onyon in Burlingame.
On November 16, 1949, the show was going to be broadcast from the Berkeley High School Little
Theatre and sponsored by "The Electrical Living Shop" on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California.
They were advertising Hoffman's new 19 inch television model with a "direct view picture" for
only $599. The show was front page news for the Berkeley Daily Gazette on November 10, 1949
including a large three-column width picture of Dude Martin and his group.
The front page article mentioned that equipment valued at $230,000 - including cameras, trucks,
lighting, hundreds of feet of cable, fan-shaped antenna were going to be setup for the show.
Dude's entire 10-member group was to be there along with the make-up artists, technicians and
spotlight crews. It was to be Berkeley's first staged television show.
The doors were to open at 7:15pm and close at 7:30pm. The audience would not only see the
full half-hour show, but a 25-minute 'warm-up' as a prelude.
Berkeley considered Dude a home-town star as he and his wife Peggy were graduates of Berkeley
The show was "live" - it was "airwaved" to San Francisco and immediately broadcast over the air.
In a report of the event, the local paper reported that the station had three $12,000 cameras
to broadcast the live show hosted by Dude Martin. It was the first "live" broadcast originating
in Berkeley other than local University of California football games.
The local Berkeley newspaper included a three-column wide photo of the broadcast on its
front page on November 17, 1949.
Dude was quite popular and would often do appearances at local stores, even promoting the
premier of another station in town. One occasion was in November 1949 where he was to be at
the local Land Onyon store in Burlingame for an hour that also featured television demonstrations
and then the inaugural broadcast by KRON-TV.
The show continued to accumulate a list of "firsts" in the Bay Area. The show was to be
broadcast on November 30, 1949 from the Hayward Union High School auditorium at 8pm. The
sponsors of the show were the Hayward area Chamber of Commerce headed by Roger Anderson.
Tickets were to be sold at Lustig's, Hauschildt's, Alcalde Radio, B-B Home Furnishing and
Ashland furniture stores. Guesting on the show was comedian Hi Pockets. Also appearing were
Clara and Clyde Sandoval who had won the Television Talent search contest in conjunction
with Hayward's "first" Farm, Home and Industry show. And it should be of no surprise that
one of the winners in the preliminary talent contests won a Hoffman radio.
Around late 1949 or early 1950, Country Song Roundup let readers know of a new female singer
that Dude had added to his troupe. The Roundup Gang was performing in San Jose and Sue was
standing in front of the band stand and then found herself invited to sing with the band.
The crowd enjoyed her singing style and made her sing a few more tunes. Dude hired her and
she began to tour with the band. She eventually got a recording contract with Mercury Records.
In February 1950, the show originated from the San Francisco Merchandise Mart as part of the
entertainment for the Western Radio-Television Trade Dinner. The show was to feature Hi-Pockets,
Peggy (Dude's wife), Red Gillham and a new discovery, Sue Thompson.
May 3, 1950, Bob Franklin told readers that the Hoffman Hayride was to air
program number 52 and celebrate a first year anniversary. The popular show won an Emmy for
best local live entertainment show.
Later in the month, Mr. Franklin reported that show number 55 on May 24, 1950 was to originate
from the Scottish Rite auditorium in San Francisco as part of the World Trade Week and World
Trade Fair going on. That show was to feature some new talent - Pat Shirley and Beverly Tobey
along with "the fast man on the guitar" Rusty Draper.
Rusty Draper would later go on to a recording career, even hosting some network television
shows later as well. But he is associated with the only known video or kinescope we have seen
of the Hoffman Hayride that one can find on YouTube these days. The clip is
said to be from 1949 when the show was on KGO-TV. The video at the time this was written can
be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgkgbccIoHE
In late June 1950, Bob Franklin reported in his "Show Time" column that the
set at San Francisco's Radio City was being reconfigured by the show's director,
Bill Hollenbeck. The design put the audience up on the stage. He moved the show's
production to the lower level to give the cameras greater flexibility and provide
some extra "elbow room" for Dude and the gang.
In early September 1950, the show originated from the Palace Hotel's Gold Ballroom
over KGO-TV as part of the entertainment for the Pacific Transportation Association's meeting.
A few weeks later, Bob Franklin told readers the show was to originate from
the "Electrical Wonderland Exposition" at the Civic Auditorium. It was said it
would provide audiences a behind the scenes look at what goes on for a television show production.
The show would often feature young talent in the Bay Area. One such act was the Tobey
Sisters. They were for a time part of Dude Martin's entertainment group on the Hayride
show. They were invited to become part of the group that Bob Hope took to Korea, Japan
and the Aleutian Islands to entertain United States military forces. Others in the group
were Jane Russel, Gloria De Haven, Marilyn Maxwell, Les Brown and his orchestra. The troupe
was to depart by US Army plane from Fairfield-Suisun.
Later in 1950, Terrence O'Flaherty wrote of the sisters. They were three sisters that
performed together on the Hoffman Hayride. On October 10, 1950, they
were to open a six week engagement at Bimbo's, a night club of sorts that also featured
a "young lady who swims under water in a gold fish bowl."
But after two weeks of performing at Bimbo's, the California State Board of Equalization
decided they were too young to work in saloons as one of the trio was only 18 years old.
This caused some concern. But their manager, one Sam Rosey came up with an idea. He changed
their name to the Taylor Maids and told them they were on the Bob Hope tour.
In January of 1951, it appears Dude was looking for an addition to the show. Bob Franklin's
"Show Time" column noted that the show on January 24 would feature the Newcomb Brothers,
Jesse and James, who played some unusual instruments - musical saws, musical bottles and
a musical shotgun.
One of the columnists in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Foster, started one column
defending his favorable reviews of Dude Martin on the Hoffman Hayride
show on KGO-TV. He said:
"He has the one consistently good entertainment programs on San Francisco television and
he has contributed more to the industry than all the others combined.
He has not only proved that San Francisco can present top television shows but also has
proved, what we have known for some time, that the Bay area has lots of top talent if
somebody will only look for it."
Mr. Foster went on to mention some of the local talent seen on the show up to that
point - Sue Thompson, the Taylor Maids, Rusty Draper and the 14-year old identical
twins, the Miller Sisters, though while they were still learning the entertainment
business, showed great promise.
Dude continued to find ways to seek out and promote local talent on the show. Bob
Franklin wrote in his column (which we find oddly labelled as "Advertisement") mentions
that in April 1951, Dude wanted to find a new star for the show. He was looking
for "…a young feller who's a ballad-type singer and who wouldn't mind such things
as fame, money and spendin' a lot of time lookin' in Sue Thompson's pretty little
eyes." So the gimmick the show came up with was called a "sing down". The idea was
to have to gentlemen do a song each week on the show; they let the viewing audience
send in their votes by post card. The final judging would be done by Bill Hollenbeck,
the show's producer and director, a guest critic and Dude himself.
In his May 21, 1951 column "Radio and TV" in the San Francisco Chronicle, Terrence
O'Flaherty told readers who the winner was. Dick Ewart, a 23-year old singer from
Berkeley. He had won the contest by a wide margin, 30-1. Such was his talent, that
the scheduled nine week contest was shortened to five weeks because of the over
whelming response. It was said they got around 3,000 letters / postcards.
In perhaps an understatement of the impact the new medium might have on an
entertainer's life, he responded after being asked if he was a TV fan, "Well,
no, but I sure am now."
The young Dick Ewart almost gave up his singing efforts after he came home from
Marine training at the end of World War II. Mr. O'Flaherty told readers he had
won a contest at the Palace hotel with Del Courtney and his band in 1946, but
after the band finished their engagement, he began selling home freezers.
In late June of 1951, readers in the local newspapers read that after the show
at the end of June, he indicated it was time for him to take a rest, a long six
week or so vacation. He said he wanted to see places he had not been able to
because of his radio and television efforts. It was said that the show would
return in August or September 1951.
The show may not have returned with Dude as newspaper articles about the show
appeared to have dried up and we begin seeing mention of Cottonseed Clark making
a name for himself as a host. The Hayward Daily Review contained an ad for an
appearance at the Rollerhaven (formerly the Garden of Allah - which has its own
history behind it) hosted by Cottonseed Clark's Down Home Jamboree and appearing
would be Dude Martin and Sue Thompson. Ed Tate and his Down Home Gang would provide
the musical backing and it featured Barney Tucker and "His 12 Golden Voices". A few
days later, Cottonseed was hosting Tex Ritter at the same venue.
We are not able to definitely determine when the show hosted by Dude Martin ended,
but we read the obituary for Harry (Ted) Johnson who died in May 2011 that indicated
the show was on for perhaps three years. Ted was Dude Martin's bandleader, accordion
player and musical arranger. Dude Martin's oral history indicated he was a part of
the show for two years.
Country Song Roundup reported on events and happenings in 1952 in their
February 1953 issue. They reported that in June of 1952, Dude Martin had
reorganized his band with Sue Thompson as a co-star and was part of his weekly
television show in Hollywood. He was quite the showman as well. One article mentions
that Dude had an extensive wardrobe was valued reportedly at $15,000 (in 1954) and
included 30 shirts, 25 pairs of "riding breeches", 18 pairs of handmade boots and 27 Stetson hats.
But the show Hoffman Hayride returned in 1953 but would now be
hosted by Cottonseed Clark and air over KPIX-TV. Bob Foster wrote a bit about the
return of the show in an August 8, 1953 article in the San Mateo Times. The new
version of the show was just a 30-minute show. Cottonseed was well known in the
area and working at radio station KVSM in San Mateo.
In October of 1953, the local newspaper let readers in on the discussions the cast
had at a "post mortem" meeting and view what the television audience saw. On
October 12, 1953, the cast visited the KPIX-TV studios to view their efforts. Cottonseed Clark
was quoted, "Gad, I'm ugly. I just didn't realize how ugly I am." Then when the session was over,
it seemed that Cottonseed was the subject of what was termed a delicate discussion. It
was his 'costumes' (the writer noted that western stars do not wear clothes, they wear
costumes) that were causing angst. His costumes were all white which did not work well
with the lighting for the show. Cottonseed was quoted in response, "You know I must
have $3,000 worth of outfits and they're all white. Snow white." They tried to get
him to wear a pale pink costume at the next show. The author of the article was quite
impressed at the details the staff went into in digesting the show and trying to see what
they could do better.
That first show included such well-known names as Eddie Dean and Carolina Cotton
from Hollywood way along with a talented actor-singer named Dusty Dale. The show
would also feature a young female singer by the name of Marilyn Orlando.
But while Mr. Foster said that Cottonseed had "...made the new Hoffman Hayride
a must..." he did not mince his criticisms. Mr. Foster pointed out some 'weak spots' in the
show. One was Big Jim DeNoon, a talented singer who led the show's band. But he said
the 'orchestra' was "...not the best group of western musicians..." and he questioned
whether Big Jim could carry the show with its fast cues and split second changes.
He noted that "...several of his instrumentalists put on good performances ... for
dance halls ... but were sloppy on their solo renditions and obviously doing a great
deal of faking (recorded music?) and quite noticeable to the musicians and audience.
Mr. Foster also indicated that the producer of the show Charlotte Morris was "okeh"
in the direction but was presented in an uninspired manner. Mr. Foster strongly hinted
to Cottonseed that those weaknesses needed to be fixed - quickly. But Big Jim DeNoon
may have had the last laugh. It seems he won a local Emmy award as best musical director
for the Hoffman Hayride show on KPIX-TV and KOVR-TV in February 1955.
But Mr. Foster did mention that he was very impressed by the one of the performers. He said
the star of the show was a ten-year old girl by the name of Marilyn Orlando.
He said she "...just drips showmanship, has a fine voice and will go a long, long way
in show business." He said her rendition of "Johnny Is The Boy For Me" reminded him
of the early singing of Sue Thompson and wanted to see more of her on the show in the future.
Cottonseed later moved to radio station KEEN (1370 on the AM dial) in San Jose, California.
Later in 1953, Mr. Foster wrote of his impressions of Patti Prichard who appeared on
the show and did a rendition of "Riccochet" that said was the best he had heard of
that tune which was done by Teresa Brewer at the time. Patti also did the tune on the
local Les Malloy show. Mr. Foster noted that he had first noticed Patti four years
previously on the "Jay Grill Show". About a month later, he complimented the show
on the duet numbers that Eddie Dean and Patti Prichard were doing. Mr. Foster seemed
to be trying to take credit for that duo by stating he had suggested the sing together.
Mr. Foster wrote in a feature article commemorating the first anniversary of the new
version of the Hoffman Hayride that "...there is little question
that appearing on the Hoffman Hayride has helped Patti Prichard
become San Francisco's top female television star."
The show impacted a few careers as well. One was Dusty Dale. He won a local
TV Emmy award for makeup and was doing stints at a night club in Oakland with
a limited following. Appearing on the Hayride show made him a much sought after
character actor and singer.
Bill Carter joined the United States Air Force in 1950. He was transferred to the
Bay area in 1952. During that time he met up with Cottonseed Clark and Big Jim DeNoon.
When he was discharged in September 1953, he was signed to a recording contract with
Four Star records and did a few guest appearances on the show. He was also appearing
at the local Cotton's Club in Belmont, California.
In keeping with the efforts to give young Bay area talent exposure, eleven year-old
Johnny Guess auditioned for Cottonseed in January of 1954. Believe it or not, his first
personal appearance was when he was just three and a half years old. He had appeared on
radio station KSUE in Susanville, California. He was also a featured part of the Johnnie
Arizona and his Blue Prairie Boys and Girls show that appeared each Saturday night
in Chico, California. Johnny had his own fan club as well.
While local coverage seems to have been sparse, mention was made of the KPIX show
in a Nashville publication - Pickin' and Singin' News in June of 1954. The cast of the
show listed were Cottonseed Clark, Big Jim DeNoon, Patty Pritchard, Marilyn Orlando,
Johnny Guess and Bill Carter.
Mr. Foster indicates that Nat Sinclair was the producer and Forrester Mashbier the director.
He also indicated that Cottonseed had signed a 104-week contract with Hoffman Television,
meaning the show would be on television another two years.
In September 1954, a news item indicated a reporter took in the show at the Santa Clara
County Fair and had more than 6,000 in the audience in the fairgrounds grandstand. The show
was being aired over KOVR for a half-hour each week. Marilyn Orlando made a return to the
scene where she won a talent context at the fair that got her entertainment career on the
upswing. The reporter noted that Russ Petit made sure the young lady received a bouquet of
flowers to mark her return, now as a featured star of the Hoffman Hayride.
But that same night was a perhaps sad occasion for one of the show's other female singers,
Patti Prichard. She had her own show that aired on Friday nights at 6pm. This made it
impossible for her to do the show in Stockton with the rest of the Hayride gang. That night
at the fair was her last appearance as a cast member of the Hoffman Hayride.
Patti received a police escort from San Francisco from the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office
when she left her show on KPIX at 6:15pm. The article noted "...she hung on for dear life..."
as the escort made its way to the Santa Clara fairgrounds in just under an hour.
That show also featured a technical disruption as the power went out for a short time.
But KOVR still ran the entire show for its viewers but not as scheduled.
The Hoffman Hayride show hosted by Cottonseed Clark continued perhaps until
late 1954 and was not getting the nearly the same kind of newspaper coverage that Dude's show got.
But H. Leslie Hoffman and the Hoffman Electronics Corporation took another step into the
television industry in September 1954. The FCC approved the first new television station
in the Bay area in five years and allocated it to Mount Diablo Television. The antenna was
to be on Mt. Diablo, a peak 3,849 feet above sea level. That location would enable it to
cover 27 Northern California counties. The reach was such it would reach as far north
as Marysville and Chico and as far south as Fresno and Monterey.
Thus, the Hoffman Hayride show would begin to air on KOVR-TV.
The show saw less press coverage. One mention was found in the San Mateo Times in November 1954.
There was to be a "live" two hour show of the Hoffman Hayride
featuring Cottonseed, Big Jim DeNoon, Bobby Rice and Dusty Dale. But it would also
feature Wrestling - a staple of early television. The appearance was to be at the Shore
View Food Center in San Mateo, California.
A small blurb in the Hayward Daily Review mentions that Eddie Kirk, who had previously led
the band at the famed Town Hall Party show in Compton, California was spinning records
over KVSM in San Mateo.
In 1955, the show received a couple of local Emmy awards. Dusty Dale repeated as a winner
for makeup. Big Jim DeNoon (despite the criticism of Mr. Foster) won as best musical performer.
In March 1955, readers were told that the Hoffman Hayride would return to
KOVR on April 2. However Cottonseed Clark or Big Jim DeNoon would not be a part of the show
nor would any of the other regulars. The new version of the show would feature Bob Kennedy
and "...will be less expensive than the other Hoffman Hayrides..." The reporter
noted that from what he had seen, "...it won't hold a candle to either Dude Martin or
Cottonseed Clark's versions."
But we also wonder how does that reconcile to the reported two year contract that Cottonseed
had signed for the show?
But Bob Foster tells readers in July of 1955, that Cottonseed along with Patty Pritchard,
Marilyn Orlando, Johnny Guess, Eddie Kirk and Arvade Miller would return to the Hoffman
Hayride over KOVR-TV for an hour show.
Later in December 1955, we find some hints as to why Cottonseed returned. The San Mateo Times
was reporting that KOVR-TV "…was suffering from the lack of sponsors, the lack of a
network affiliation, and at least one that meant anything, and from a lack of good
programs. H. Leslie Hoffman brought in Terry Lee from Texas and by the end of the year;
he was promoted to president of the company, Television Diablo."
But newspaper coverage was sparse after that. We later learn that the Gannett Company
purchased KOVR-TV from Television Diablo (H. Leslie Hoffman was the principal owner). One newspaper
article reporting the sale indicated that the station, airing on channel 13, had a maximum
power transmitter of 326,000 watts atop Butte Mountain, near Jackson in Amador County.
At the time, it was reported that it served 450,000 families and a population of 1,500,000.
Television Development and Hoffman Radio Corporation / Hoffman Electronics Corporation
But one may wonder - how big was the television market in those early days?
A publication that originated in Washington, DC called Television Digest and FM Reports provided some insight
in its January 1949 issue. It stated that the best "census of TV" was attributed to
NBC Research's monthly report. It reported the number of television stations operating, television
sets installed and the number of families within a 40 mile service area of the urban area.
The report also made a distinction between Interconnected cities (mainly on the east coast and in
the Midwest) and Non-Interconnected cities - mainly the western US area. Our focus is the
western cities as this was Hoffman's target markets. New York and Chicago are shown
for comparison purposes.
Census of Television - January 1949
|TV Service Area
||No. of Stations
||No. of Families
||No. of TV Sets Installed
Source: Television Digest and FM Reports, January 1949
The Hoffman Radio Corporation (as it was known then) reported prices in March 1949 of
their new models. A new 10-inch set would be $299.50; a 12-inch set would be $385; and a
16-inch set $595. Stands on casters would cost extra.
In April 1949, we get an indication of the growth of television and its impacts on Hoffman
sales. Hoffman reported that their first quarter earnings were up 124% in the first quarter
of 1949 compared to the same period in 1948 - about $1,198,000 versus $533,000. Hoffman
did not start television production until the third quarter of 1948. In July 1949,
Television Digest and FM Reports wrote that Hoffman was "…reporting accelerated TV set sales
in West Coast TV areas in which it markets (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle)."
By August 1949, San Francisco had a third station - KRON-TV and Los Angeles had its seventh.
Hoffman's competitor on the west coast was Packard-Bell. During that same month, Hoffman
announced it was extending distributorships of its products to Texas and other southeastern markets.
With the addition of the seventh station in Los Angeles - KECA-TV, we see how live sports
programming began to play a role in garnering interest in the new medium. One of KECA's
first broadcasts was to be a live broadcast of a night time college football game between
UCLA and Oregon State and was sponsored by Hoffman. This seemed to start a trend for Hoffman.
In October, Television Digest and FM Reports wrote that Hoffman was said to have 8 to 25%
of the TV set market in the 11 western states. It was spending $200,000 of TV time
in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston and Fort Worth, much of it
on football broadcasts and similar amounts in other media.
Television Digest and FM Reports published some interesting results from a Woodbury
College survey of the TV viewing habits of 2,000 families in Los Angeles.
- 91% listened less to radio
- 68% decreased movie attendance
- 56% read fewer books
- 43% read fewer magazines
- 15% read fewer newspapers
The kinds of programs favored by those in the survey were sports, Milton Berle, movies,
but football was well in the lead and the survey said that even back
then, 34% would pay for "championship boxing match".
Another interesting aspect was the market share of TV set manufacturers:
- 16% - RCA
- 15% - Philco
- 13% - Admiral
- 9% - Hoffman
- 7% - Packard-Bell
- 6% - GE
- 34% - others
But even with the results of that survey and the seeming interest in the new medium,
Hoffman reported that demand was such in "…non-TV and fringe areas" in the Western markets
that it had to resume the manufacture of radio sets.
But some negative impacts in the growing television industry occurred in late 1949. Some western
colleges were banning the broadcast of their football games as the thought was that broadcasting the
games were causing ticket sales to decrease. H. Leslie Hoffman was named to lead a
committee of television manufacturers that included the heads of DuMont, GE, and RCA to work
out a way to keep colleges happy.
That same November issue gave us another look into the size of the television market at end
of the third quarter of 1949. This time, Television Digest and FM Reports provided third
quarter shipments by the manufacturers as well as a cumulative total
since January 1, 1947. The list is primarily to show the west coast figures since it was
Hoffman's target market. Other cities at the bottom of the listing are for comparative purposes.
Television Market Size - 3rd Quarter 1949
|TV Service Area
||3rd Quarter 1949
Since Jan 1 1947
Source: Television Digest and FM Reports, November 1949
Hoffman then started to move into the Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma markets at the end
of 1949. One of their first distributors in that market was the Jenkins Music Co. in Kansas City.
Demand for televisions spurred Hoffman Radio Corporation to add 20,000 square feet of
space for Plant No. 3 by purchasing a structure adjacent to the plant's property. Later
in 1950, Television Digest and FM Reports reported that Hoffman had added a 7th plant
with 17,000 square feet and two buildings at 335 S. Pasadena Avenue in Pasadena, California.
It was reported that the company then had 260,000 square feet. Its other six plants were
in Los Angeles.
The earnings report for 1949 for Hoffman Radio Corporation showed sales jumping 134%
from 1948 volume - $11,987,650 vs $5,112,889 and the gain was attributed to TV demand.
There was a bit of a rivalry between Hoffman and the Packard-Bell company. It seems
that VP Robert S. Bell felt they were the largest radio producer in the west with better
facilities than any other manufacturer west of Chicago. He was claiming they were cranking
out 8,000 TV sets a month. But then, Hoffman was reporting that it was producing at a rate
of 180,000 sets annually and expected to even reach 200,000 by end of 1950. Mr. Hoffman
addressed a gathering of New York Society of Security Analysts by stating his company
would only make 180,000 sets in 1950, but could produce 300,000 as there was a scarcity
of parts; radios were in shorter supply than TVs and the company has had to air freight
parts to its Los Angeles plant in the past few months.
It seems the leader of the household was the focus of attention in marketing television.
Hoffman Radio was buying advertising on wrestling shows on stations KECA-TV and KTLA-TV
in Los Angeles. It was termed "…good sales insurance for second and third quarter sales."
What was interesting was that many manufacturers would shut down for a couple of weeks
in the summer for vacations. Hoffman and its competitors such as Admiral, Emerson, GE, Magnavox,
Philco, RCA, Westinghouse, and Zenith - were reporting plant shutdowns in the first two weeks
of July 1950 for vacations.
By July of 1950, Hoffman Radio Corporation had worked out an agreement with several
west coast colleges to sponsor 30 home football games of USC, UCLA, UC, Stanford and Washington.
The deal included guaranteeing minimum gates and could cost about $350,000 while the previous
year cost was only $80,000 for USC and UCLA games. Then came the "Hoffman Plan" where the
company started a "Gridiron Club" to sell college football tickets through its TV dealers.
Similarly, it was reported that the Admiral company made a deal to guarantee a minimum gate
in exchange for sponsoring broadcasts for the NFL team, Los Angeles Rams. The end of 1950
results of this marketing and broadcasting effort showed that for 4 of 5 teams, they had one
of their best seasons. Television Digest and FM Reports indicated that 10% of the ticket
sales came through schemes such as the "Gridiron Club". USC had a bad season and
reported 5% less in the way gate receipts from the previous year.
The growth of TV also created a problem in households early on. H. L. Hoffman related
a tidbit he had heard from his sales teams. "When Dad wants to see the wrestling bouts,
the kids want to see "The Lucky Pup" or Mother wants to see the Hollywood show, who do you,
think wins? Why, the kids, of course!" He indicated they were seeing a trend where a second
TV set was added to accommodate this new demand.
Mr. Hoffman's interest went beyond electronics and a stated desire to diversify its business.
In late 1950, the Hoffman Radio Corporation made a bid of $10,000,000 for the Mutual
Don Lee Broadcasting System. This arose due to the death of Tommy Lee. The will of Mr. Lee
was contentious as he left everything to an uncle by marriage, but an aunt and two adopted
daughters contested the will. However, the First National Bank of Akron, Ohio successfully
bid $12,300,000 for the network and bought it as an investment for the retirement plans
for General Tire and Rubber company employees as it acts as a trustee. The Columbia Broadcasting
System joined with the bank on the deal, but its primary interest was in the Don Lee station,
KTSL and would give them an outlet in Los Angeles.
Hoffman Radio Corporation
The news of the origins of the Hoffman Radio Corporation was reported in a small six line
newspaper article in The Los Angeles Times on November 20, 1943. H. L. Hoffman was the
president of the new Hoffman Radio Corporation after completing the merger of the Mission
Bell Radio Manufacturing Company and the Mitchell-Hughes Corporation. Mr. Hoffman indicated
in one interview, "I entered the radio business on a bad debt. When I tried to collect the
debt I wound up in the business. That was three days before Pearl Harbor, and we had a 5,000
square foot plant. The original investment was $10,000. By June of 1950, the company had
over 250,000 square feet of floor space and employed 1,500.
When the military's need for manufacturers to support the World War II effort, Mr. Hoffman
was able to convince the government to allow his company to do electronics manufacturing.
He wanted to show that the west coast could be a hub of manufacturing. In November of 1949,
the company was awarded the Army-Navy E Flag for excellent war production. It was to be awarded
at the company's No. 3 plant at 3751 S. Hill Street in Los Angeles.
One can see the initial vision that Hoffman had for his company as it was something used
in their newspaper advertising. Here's an example of the company's story and approach
to its manufacturing:
"The Hoffman Idea…and what it means to you.
11 years ago in Los Angeles, a handful of men led by H. Leslie Hoffman started a company
important today to television buyers. They saw a need for a major western producer
of radio-phonograph combinations built for the West. Behind these products-and the Hoffman
television of the future-was an idea.
Here, in the rough, was The Hoffman Idea:
…to build a quality instrument
…to engineer into it the extra performance needed to meet the vast distances and rugged
terrain of the West
…to house it in a distinctive cabinetry, crafted to find furniture standards
…to price it as low as we could without lowering quality.
Then, days later, came Pearl Harbor. Instead of entertainment, military electronics became our business. Yet one thing didn't change. The Hoffman Idea of quality-translated into complex wartime electronic equipment-stayed alive and kept growing. It was later reflected in the Army-Navy "E" Award presented to the Hoffman Company,"
Mr. Hoffman spoke to the growth of the manufacturing sector on the west coast that jump started during the World War II efforts and continued. By 1953, the west coast electronics industry had become a $600,000,000 a year business and was then twice as large as the nation's prewar radio industry. He was quoted:
"Before the war, West Coast manufacturers did 3% of the national electronics business.
Now they do about 30%. As far as television is concerned, West Coast production is not
earmarked for local consumption alone but is produced with the nationwide market in mind."
He indicated that the electronics industry in the Pacific area was now incorporating what
it learned during the war time efforts into their business such as atomic and guided missile
research and other electronics.
H. Leslie Hoffman and his Hoffman Radio Corporation which became the Hoffman Electronics
Corporation took advantage of what he learned from sponsoring Spade Cooley in Los Angeles
and Dude Martin in San Francisco to help grow the market for television. Doing the research
with the resources the internet now provides was quite an eye opening experience and led to
going beyond documenting this local Hoffman Hayride show that we learned
of that originated in the San Francisco area. His company would often sponsor a "live"
show in western markets where television stations were beginning to sprout up.
Below is a partial list as we deduce there are probably more instances of a Hoffman Hayride show that we do not have access to at this point.
Hoffman Hayride — KTLA-TV (channel 5)
Los Angeles, CA
Host: Spade Cooley
Tickets for the show were given out at Hoffman dealers such as Walker's, Bullocks, Macy's.
One notable remote broadcast was in April 1949 from the Naval Hospital in Long Beach, California.
Part of the telecast was an amateur contest that featured patients and hospital staff doing the entertainment.
Hoffman Hayride — KFMB-TV (channel 8)
San Diego, CA
Went on the air on May 15, 1949
Transmitter on Mt. Soledad
On May 16, 1949, the Hoffman Hayride was rebroadcast by direct pickup from KTLA in Los Angeles.
The broadcast included a greeting from KTLA GM, Klaus Landsberg. The distance between the two transmitters was 125 miles - KTLA was on Mt. Wilson and KFMB was on Mt. Soledad.
Billboard reported that Bostick Western and his Country Cousins would host the show weekly on KFMB.
Hoffman Hayride — WOAI-TV (channel 4)
San Antonio, TX
Went on the air on December 11, 1949
Hosted by Red River Dave
Station was allowed to retain its call letters when FCC indicated that radio stations west
of Mississippi begin with letter "K".
Hoffman Hayride — KPHO-TV (channel 5)
First mention of show seen in February 1951
Test pattern went on the air each day at 1:00pm and sign-off was at 11:30pm.
Show aired at 8:00pm for 30-minutes. A review of an old Country Song Roundup led to a tidbit that may indicate that Marty Robbins appeared on this show. Marty had put together a band and actually had his own show on KPHO-TV. A TV listing for March 12, 1951 indicated his show came on at 5:30pm.
Country Song Roundup told readers the cast members of this show: Slim Forbes, Gene Herndon, Sheldon Gibbs, Bud Croy, Jeannie Lane, Art Hawkins, Foy Elliott, Brick Herndon, and Dale Noe. Sheldon led a group called the Arizona Ranch Boys that also appeared locally at the Willow Breeze Ballroom in Phoenix.
Hoffman Hayride — KOB-TV (channel 4)
Show first aired on March 11, 1950
Hosted by Dick Bills and his Sandia Mountain Boys. The first airing was on a Saturday afternoon from 3:00 to 4:00pm. The remainder of the day's programming was from 7:00pm to sign-off at 9:10pm.
Hoffman Hayride — KPTV-TV (channel 27)
Station's first broadcast on September 20, 1952
First commercial station on UHF frequency
Show first aired on May 8, 1953
Hosted by Taylor Morris and His Country Gentlemen.
H. Leslie Hoffman
Their home was at 1100 Avondale Road in Pasadena, California. In 1950, the Pasadena Area
Girl Scout Council planned a tour of five households and their gardens. The Hoffman
residence was one of them. It was described as"…set in a natural redwood grove and has
a broad expanse of lawn which slopes to a swimming pool and brick terrace. This emphasizes
deep perennial borders."
The Hoffman's were involved in their community. In 1952, we read that the San Marino Guild
of Huntington Memorial Hospital would hold its first regular meeting at the Hoffman home on
He was known to lead the California state fund raising drive for the American Cancer
Society. In 1954, he helped raise over $1.6 million and was selected to lead the drive
again in 1955.
In September of 1954, the H. Leslie Hoffman and Elaine S. Hoffman Foundation was created. It appears
the primary benefactor of the foundation was the University of Southern California, where
contributions over $2.5 million were made. Two buildings were named after them -
the H. Leslie Hoffman Hall in the school of business and the Elaine S. Hoffman Medical
Research Center in the school of medicine. Their philanthropic work extended to
their children. The Jane Hoffman Popovich and J. Kristoffer Popovich Hall were named
in their honor in the USC Marshall School of Business. Later in June of 2015, Jane and
her husband pledged $4,000,000 to create the Jane and Kris Popovich Chair in Cancer
Research at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.
We were able to obtain two oral history documents from the Country Music Hall of
Fame of interviews of Dude Martin and another with Ted Johnson, who became Mr. Martin's
music director. But the interviews did not really delve much into whether they knew they
were part of the early development of television and its lasting impact that helped it grow.
But Dude did relate that it was the most popular show in the area for two years and led
to a move to Los Angeles.
Dwight Newton wrote an article in December of 1977 that outlines a bit of what early
television was like in the San Francisco area. He noted that out of necessity, for the
first two years, television in the Bay Area relied "…heavily on do-it-yourself entertainment."
There was no microwave or cable connections to other television outlets. Shows that
originated in New York would be broadcast on a delayed basis via kinescopes. Mr. Newton noted
that his employer, the San Francisco Examiner newspaper assigned him to write a daily radio and
television column. He noted that the data he had indicated there were only 14,000 television
sets in the area and many of them purchased as promotional gimmicks.
Indeed, prices of the new-fangled medium may have given customers pause - upwards to $500.
Mr. Newton noted that consumers were also reluctant to buy due to "…a preponderance of
infantile programming that would bring to the new medium such snide sobriquets as "boob tube",
"idiot box", and "chewing gum for the eyes". The "vast wasteland" epithet would come later."
Early television stations were seen to be a way to throw away money. Mr. Newton notes
that a writer for the Associated Press stated, "The sooner you get on the air with a
tv station the sooner you start to lose money." He noted that sponsors were aloof and
initially distrustful of the new technology. But the early sponsors were the risk takers -
the television set manufacturers. At that time it was RCA Victor, Admiral, Hoffman, Philco,
Columbia, Westinghouse and Zenith.
Dwight said when he started his column in October of 1949, San Francisco had two
television stars. Dude Martin hosting the Hoffman Hayride on
KGO-TV (channel 7) and sponsored by Hoffman Television was one. The other was Ruby Hunter
starring in the Tell The Admiral show sponsored by Admiral over KPIX-TV (channel 5).
He further commented on Dude Martin's uncanny ability to sell the audiences, radio or TV,
to open their wallets and purchase sponsor products. For instance, the pitch for the Star
Outfitting Company - "…no money down, thirty days to make your first payment, six months
in all to pay." The founder of the Hoffman Radio Corporation took advantage of Dude's
salesmanship by sponsoring a show to promote the sale of their television sets.
Mr. Newton tells readers that it was not until September 15, 1950 that a microwave
was setup to link San Francisco to Los Angeles. But it was a luxury for the initial
television stations. The half-hour rate at that time was $850 was hard to justify as
there may have only been about 90,000 sets in the area at the time.
In those early days, costs were daunting for those broadcasting pioneers. Mr. Newton
noted that ABC reported a loss of $877,000 in its first nine months. Then he states
that the president of NBC, Joe McConnell told employees that "Due to tremendous expenses
incurred in the infant tv industry, the traditional Christmas bonus will be omitted."
One wonders what those early pioneers would think of the amount of money now generated
by the medium they helped start.
The early development of television did not go unnoticed in television. It gave birth
to "critics". One such person was Terrence O'Flaherty who wrote for the San Francisco
Chronicle. We found a couple of articles he wrote towards the end of his journalistic career.
He wrote one such article for the "TV Week" publication put out by the Chronicle when
he brought back some of his memories of early days of television while attending the
grand opening of the new studios for KGO-TV. In the interest of providing readers with
details of those early days, we include his description of the early home of that station.
"The first studios of KGO, from 1949 to 1954, were in the abandoned turreted mansion of
Adolph Sutro in a eucalyptus grove on the mountain named after him. It was built in a
style that might be called Hollywood Tudor with strong suggestions of Hansel and Gretel.
The mansion's major cultural attraction was a petrified whale's penis embedded in plaster
over the fireplace, an object that was to have a profound influence on the subject matter
of the KGO-TV News Department. To the best of my knowledge no other television studio
on the North American continent has such an appropriate talisman. Cry your eyes out,
He then noted in one of his last columns in April of 1986 that he was interviewed
over the phone by a student from Yale about the effects of television on society. He wondered
why he got called. He noted his reviewer told him, "My research shows that you have been
covering television longer than any other critic on any major paper on earth." He told
readers how he got the job.
"I had been plucked from the copyboy ranks, wet-eared, to cover the new medium because,
frankly, no one else wanted to do it. The first day I asked myself if I should plunge
through the doorway of this wonderful invention like a true believer or stand back and
take a more casual look at its magic with as much humor as I could summon under the
circumstances. … In those days television was a small window in a very large box. Through it
we could see all the way to The Hoffman Hayride and Ruby Hunter's Magic
While doing the research for this essay, I stumbled across an old movie I saw many years
ago while channel surfing - Network. You know the movie, where the main character Howard
Beale immortalized the phrase, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." When
I found the movie, it was already half-way through the story. But there was a scene where
William Holden's character (Max Schumacher) was getting ready to leave his lover (played
by Faye Dunaway) and go back to his wife when he said the following dialog that kind of struck me.
"And I'm tired of pretending to write this dumb book about my maverick days in the great
early years of television. Every god-damned executive fired from a network in the last
twenty years has written this dumb book about the great early years of television. And
nobody wants a dumb, damn, god-damn book about the great years of television."
Maybe Mr. Holden's character was too close to it all and did not see it through the eyes
of the audience who saw it develop. After compiling the results of research on what seemingly
was just one Hoffman Hayride out of San Francisco, one can see how
the vision of H. Leslie Hoffman who saw television as the wave of the future and found
success in promoting that new medium with a live local country and western music
entertainment show hosted by Dude Martin who was well known to the local Bay area radio
audience in the preceding years.