As most ventriloquists, especially the "older
set"; all were fascinated by Edgar Bergen's amazing career. I too,
enjoyed the "Radio Days" of Edgar & Charlie, Mortimer & Effie;
especially seeing them on the "big screen" in the movies and their
too few appearances on television.
My opportunity to become more closely associated with Charlie
McCarthy began in 1982. That year a made for TV film by ABC titled "
A Day with Mae West " starring Ann Jillian appeared on television
Dennis Alwood appeared in it as Edgar Bergen. At the time, not known
by me was the fact that the Charlie used in the film was the actual
fiberglass copy of Charlie that Edgar had used for many years.
Also not known by me was the fact that Mrs. Frances Bergen had
loaned this Charlie, along with one of the original Mortimer’s and
Effie Klinker to Edgar's alma mater, Northwestern University,
located in Evanston Illinois. The figures were have been put on
display there for a permanent display.
A few short weeks after the filming of the "Mae West" film; I
received a call from Dennis Alwood (we had known each other as
fellow vents since we were high school students, even though we
didn’t attend the same school). Dennis informed me that Northwestern
had reported that when Charlie was returned to the university, one
of Charlie’s fingers had a crack in it. I was asked to look at the
cracked finger, to see if it could be repaired.
An excited trip to Northwestern and look at Charlie showed me that
the crack was old; Dennis told me that Edgar used to put a small
band aid on the crack. I discovered that the hands on Charlie were
heavy solid fiberglass resin; they couldn't be drilled for repair or
they would shatter.
Subsequently, duplicate pair of Charlie’s hands (chalk white in
color) was sent to me to replace the original hands. Since there was
a huge insurance policy on the figure, Charlie could not be removed
from Northwestern; therefore, I had to remove the old hands, try to
match the paint and replace the hands at Northwestern, which I did.
I asked to see Mortimer & Effie while I was there replacing the
hands and was told "they can't be taken from "the vault". I
periodically checked with Northwestern to see when the Bergen
display would be ready, but the display never happened. I believe
Mrs. Bergen loaned the figures to the university a year or two after
Edgar passed away in 1978.
In 1983 I decided to carve my own Charlie which proved to be a real
challenge. I bought as many good photos as I could obtain from
collectible shows, etc. showing good photos of Charlie from
different angles. This where I discovered that there were several
Charlie’, as the photos showed there were slight facial differences.
I spent about 2 years of spare time carving my Charlie, until I
thought I had a cross section of the several Charlie faces that I
viewed. I then did the same for my version of Mortimer, which turned
out to be easier, since Mortimer’s features were so exaggerated.
Being interested in "Old Time Radio", I became
acquainted with The "Old Time Radio Guru " in Chicago, Chuck Schaden,
who had a radio program that played the old radio shows.
I had heard rumors that a Museum of Radio was going to be installed
in Chicago. Chuck confirmed the fact that, yes one was be set up in
the South area of the Chicago "Loop". It was tentatively going to
take place in 1987. This was now 1986; I mentioned to Chuck the
story about the 3 figures of Mr. Bergen‘s sitting locked up in a
vault at Northwestern for the past several years, where no one sees
I told Chuck "perhaps Mrs. Bergen would like to know this fact.
Indeed she did and she took the figures back from Northwestern where
they were put on display at the new Museum of Broadcasting at the
South Loop location known as "River South". The museum opened in
June 1987 with the 3 figures featured in a beautiful cylindrical
Chuck Schaden broadcast his old time radio programs on Saturdays
from the new museum. The program was called "Those Were the Days".
In early January 1982, Schaden announced over the air that he was
thinking of starting some groups of folks interested in performing
old radio scripts for nursing homes, churches, libraries, school,
etc. at no charge, to promote & keep the "good old days of radio
About 100 people turned up at the Museum to organize groups. Chuck
had asked me to bring my Charlie and Mortimer to the Museum to
appear before the people to "sort of advertise the possibilities of
performing shows. That was the beginning of "Those Were the Days
Radio Players". Groups got together at various Chicagoland areas
and. began getting scripts and practicing their shows. l formed a
group locally where I lived.
We performed many different shows, comedy, mystery, etc. went to
many retirement, nursing home, churches & libraries. After 5 years,
the Museum moved to a much larger location & studio in the new
Cultural Center in Chicago (the former Chicago Library) a new
library had been built a few blocks away.
Since the new facility was much larger, there were many displays of
radios, early TV’s and of course Bergen's trio. Also Schaden decide
that one of the groups of TWT'D players would perform at the Museum
on Sunday afternoons; performance were open to the public at no
charge. Since Charlie & Mortimer couldn’t be removed from their huge
heavy display, I was asked to bring my figures and perform at the
Museum. Many shows were performed of various content at the Museum.
Unfortunately, the Museum of Broadcasting lost their lease for their
section of the Cultural Center and closed the end of 2003. The
artifacts of radio and the Bergen figures were put in storage.
The new location for the Museum is located in the near North area of
the Chicago Downtown . However, since it is a totally publicly
supported venture; the millions of dollars needed have not yet be
received to construct the facility. Hopefully the monies will come.
You can find information about the Museum at "Museum of Broadcasting