The following reminiscence is by Hawthorne posted on the LA Radio People web
page in December 1998:
Jim Hawthorne has been part of the broadcasting landscape in Southern California since 1943 when he started at KXLA (1110AM). You may remember him as the dj at KDAY or KHJ. You may remember him from KFWB where he replaced Chuck Blore as pd. You may remember him as "ol Weather Eyes" and his instant weather at KTTV/Channel 11. You may remember him from "The Hawthorne Thing," a Saturday night coast-to-coast radio program for NBC. You may remember him from the first late evening talk show on KLAC/Channel 13 called "This Is Hawthorne." If you weren't here and don't remember Jim Hawthorne, this is by way of introduction as he shares a holiday tale:
One day (around Christmas) in the late 1940's, a couple of thousand people responded to my KXLA on-air plugs to assemble at the corner of Hollywood's Sunset and Vine -- right in front of Mighty NBC's Hollywood Radio City. I was going to "break ground" for a projected (imaginary) upside-down-pyramid. Uniformed cops were on hand for crowd control. NBC security guys stood their ground on the studio steps. Radio City was ready for anything. There was really no problem -- just a couple of thousand fans who wanted to be in on the monumental event. Those were the days when people gathered in throngs for just plain fun, no protests, no picketing, and no shouting, just plain every day fun.
THE MAIN EVENT...
Time came for the groundbreaking and I got my huge cardboard chisel in hand as Eggbert (on the air, a trained collie) handed me the bogus sledgehammer. Eggbert was my for-real technician who played the records and sound effects on my show. That day he had a fuzzy jump suit his wife had made out of an old fur coat. We rented a phony dog's head from a movie studio and he actually wore the costume at the event. He was very funny, especially when he barked.
Just as I was ready to put the hammer to the chisel, two men dressed in suits and hats moved in on me. One whispered in my ear, "Hawthorne, please don't break the cement or we'll have to take you in." I whispered back, "OK, I'll just fake it." The man seemed relieved and said, after a loud sigh, "thank you." I kept my word and went through the motions to the cheers of the onlookers. I never really planned on damaging the sidewalk anyway. I just wanted pictures for publicity purposes. After the big event I saw the same two suit-and-hat guys sitting in an obvious undercover LAPD cop-car parked across the street. I went over to them and asked the detective who had warned me, what the scoop was. He told me, "Big-wigs from New York had personally called L.A.'s police chief, Bill Parker and asked him to be sure that guy Hawthorne didn't damage his property." The detective laughed and said "I sure thank you for not causing any problems." He gave me one of his cards and told me to call him if I ever needed him. Nice man.
THE BIG CHEESE...
Later I found out that David Sarnoff, the head honcho at RCA, the parent company of NBC, had been told by some N.Y. little shot that I was going to "tear up the sidewalk in front of his (Sarnoff's) beautiful Hollywood Radio City studios." Apparently Sarnoff simply didn't want anything like that to happen to his west-coast showplace, hence his personal call to Parker. I learned that interesting fact a couple of years (1950-'51) later when I signed a contract with the network for an experiment they wanted to try -- they needed a "humorous weather show" and I was the guy to do it. There wasn't any weather on the station and they wanted me to break ground. I was going to (of all things) do a "funny" daily 5-minute weather show on KNBH-TV, (now KNBC) Channel 4. The man who hired me was the very same guy who had (in jest) told a New York program character about the event. The New York suit took the "tearing up of NBC's Hollywood Radio City" seriously and notified Sarnoff that, "Some nut on the radio in L.A. is planning to destroy our Hollywood studios." The funny weather show was a big success, started a trend and the dude who hired me was a hero. Everybody connected with the deal won. I have often wondered if Sarnoff ever knew I was the weirdo who had planned to "destroy" his famous Hollywood studios -- the very same place from which I originated my "funny" weather program, "Hawthorne Looks at the Weather." Oh, yes, if you're interested in seeing kinescopes of some of that same weather show, just go to the new Hollywood Museum of TV and Radio -- they'll run them for you.
©1998 Jim Hawthorne