TALLY TAGS TALKERS BEST
Midways Eye Platter Future
Moan Shortage of Old Time Spielers, but Survey
Shows Jobs are Safe for Humans
CHICAGO, Aug. 25,-
Gone tho he is, the fabled old-time side show talker left the
modern carnival midway a descendant whose words are colorful
actions will survive today's mechanical age.
For. however, nostalgic their yearning for the old-timer himself,
America's top carnival owners agree that his offspring is still
more adept at turning a tip than any mechanical substitute yet
Queried specifically recorded voice transcriptions
to bally shows, a wartime measure employed by some carnival, most
midway operators the practice is, in their opinion, not likely to
put the spielers out of business.
"Your milling midway crowds want to see the talker in action,"
asserts Peter Kortes, manager of the North American Exposition
Shows, summing up the majority viewpoint. "It takes a real, live
talker to gather a tip, then hold and sell it with his tricks or
They Will Come Back
"Records are being used now, due to manpower shortage," explains
John H. Marks, owner and manager of the Marks Shows, well-known
Eastern carnival organization. "Many of our best talkers are in
the armed forces and managers would rather rely on canned openings
than inexperienced talkers."
But Marks voices the belief of most managers in predicting that
"transcriptions will pass out of the picture with the discharge of
our men in the service."
Few, if any, of the nation's showmen view the synthetic spieler as
a serious threat to the so-called "barker," a legendary figure as
American as apple pie, and a favorite of fiction, stage and
Platters for Grind Shows
But his lesser known comrade of the lots, the
grinder of the small shows, faces opposition that should alarm
him, in the belief of many, including Roy E. Ludington, of Crafts
29 Big Shows, Pacific Coast organization.
"To old-time showmen," says Ludington, "nothing will ever replace
those bygone orators whose silver tongues and pulpit gestures held
crowds spellbound. But Crafts Shows is now using transcriptions
on three grind shows and one Funhouse and the operators report
they would not be without these mechanical grinders."
Ludington points out that recorded voices on grind shows not only
eliminate novice ticket sellers, but are constantly dependable,
always in "good voice" and censored for correct and proper lingo.
But he doubts that platters will ever be widely used in front of
Wilson's Points Socko
John W. Wilson, co-owner with Issy Cetlin, of the Cetlin & Wilson
Shows, also marking the distinction between grinders and bally
talkers, points to radio to support his contention that talkers
must be seen as well as heard.
"Why." he asked, "would the radio industry spend millions
perfecting television except for the certainty that their patrons
want to see as well as hear the programs?"
Wilson, in a careful and detailed analysis of the subject,
concludes that a real talker, adept at catching the whims of his
listeners and quick to seize opportunities, will survive the
threat of mechanical gadgets.
Supporting the minority opinion, such leading showmen as Max
Goodman World's Wonder Shows impresario, argue that voice records
will solve many bally problems.
"Sure," says Goodman, "crowds prefer a talker who is a good
salesman, but in late years they are few and far between. The old
ones are going and no new ones are being developed."
Goodman's statement is echoed by Ernest Sylvester, secretary of
the Regal Exposition Shows, now touring Tennessee fairs.
"There are very few Duke Drukenbrods on fronts as presents,"
asserts Sylvester, "so I am using recordings made by professional
announcers from radio stations."
Conklin Scores With "Cans"
While not yet employing platters himself, Goodman is enthusiastic
about them after observations made on a visit to the Conklin
Frolicland at the Regina (Sask.) Exhibition.
"Patty has them in front of several grind shows, and believe me."
he says, "that is the money. I am for them for small
shows and if the new wire recording system is as practical a they
claim, records will solve many a bally."
Frank Conklin, vice-president of the Conklin Shows,
grounded in the tradition of leather-lunged talkers, admits that
he finds it hard to get used to the new trend.
"It was bad enough when the lads turned to the microphones, but if
they're going to leave carnivals altogether, the life won't have
much color left to it," he says.
This theme is expanded in reports from others,
including M. G. Dodson, manager of Dodson's World's Fair Shows,
who recalls when he was considered a first0calls talker himself.
"Most anyone you put in front of a show today thinks himself a
talker," but asserts Dodson, "take the p.-a. away from him and he
would be speechless."
Platter Has Its Place
Many showmen most vehement in defense of real
talkers concede the value of transcriptions for special purposes.
Dodson, for example, points to the use of a "laughing record" in
front of the Funhouse operated by Charles Goss on the Dodson Shows
as an effective piece of mechanical salesmanship.
Carl J. Sedlmayr, general manager of the Royal American Shows, is
another who has found transcriptions valuable under certain
"When Zorima was over here five years ago." he relates, "we played
a record for the inside lecture. This worked out satisfactorily,
because the show was presented in semi-darkness, and the lecturer
was not supposed to be seen."
Sedimayr believes the first record ever used in front of a show
was cut by Jack Dadswell, Royal American
press representative, who transcribed Raynell's regular opening
with a machine carried in his press wagon.
"When the crowd was small," says Sedlmayr, "Raynell would use the
record, holding the mike close to her face and barely moving her
lips, but saving her voice for larger crowds."
Another record effectively employed on the Royal American Shows
was that cut for Mrs. Dodson who, confronted with extreme manpower
worries, handled both the inside of her Monkey Show and the
grinding in front by use of the transcription.
Can It for Follow-Up
General Manager F. E. Gooding, of the Gooding
Amusement Company, can see some point in employing records to
follow up a talker but believes the public prefers to see the
talker in action for at least the main openings.
"It is the same principle as an orator or a band," he adds. "It
is always better to see them than to hear them over the radio."
Jack Ruback, general manager of the Alamo
Exposition Shows, sticks to his belief that "a talker who comes
out in front of his show and looks like he slept in a bed instead
of a beer joint the night before and not as if he had to tell a
story to his audience will get more business than one of those
Hennies Wants Talkers
Harry W. Hennies, owner of Hennies Bros.' Shows, is
convinced that carnival grosses would drop with any wholesale
invasion of the vocal robots. He believes firmly in the power of
the talker to sell midway crowds.
:He tells them about his attraction." say Hennies, "and the entire
tip turns heads as he points down to the end banner. Then,
walking to the other end of his platform, he swings attention to
the other end banner-line. He commands attention in a way that no
stereotyped record will ever achieve."
Art B. Thomas reports that, while not yet using transcriptions on
his own Art B. Thomas Shows, he believes, from observations made
on other lots, that "they will be a blessing to the smaller
operators who cannot afford to pay a good bally man."
"The records are here for good," he says, "but they will never
replace a good talker."
Frank Bergen, general manager of the World of Mirth
Shows, himself a former talker, scoffed at the idea of
transcriptions ever replacing talkers, His answer was summed up
with a quick: "What the hell?"
Image - Dailey Bros' Circus Museum - courtesy
of Ward Hall
Article - Aug. 25,
1945 - The Billboard
All stories are the property of
Sideshow World & their respective authors. Any republication in
part or in whole is strictly prohibited. For more information
contact us here.
Back to the
Good Old Days
Back to Main