“Hi baby,” the sultry Lonesome Gal used to whisper, privately, into the ear of her very favorite listener. “Sweetie, no matter what anybody says, I love you better than anybody in the whole world.”
That one special listener was actually countless men all over America. Lonesome Gal was a radio broadcaster with a silky, suggestive whisper and a super-sensitive microphone hungry to pick up every nuance and beam it from coast to coast, via 50 different radio stations in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Her real name was Jean King of Dayton, Ohio, but that was a secret identity. On the air, she was always Lonesome Gal, teasing male listeners with nicknames like “muffin” and “dreamboat.” As her celebrity grew, she made personal appearances wearing a cat-lady mask — but on the air, despite her fame, she always crooned about being lonesome.
“Got a couple minutes to visit with me? You better have, or I’ll be very disappointed. You know how I like you, real relaxed with your tie loosened, smoking a pipe full of Bond Street.” Advertising pipe tobacco and beer was the real point for her sponsors — but for listeners, the payoff was a little safe excitement with a virtual girlfriend.
Lonesome Gal worked hard for that illusion. She contacted local chambers of commerce and other civic groups for specific site details she could mention in her show, then customized as many as 300 different scripts per week with references to streets, parks and other landmarks. She did wind up a little less lonely after marrying her producer, Bill Rousseau — who also produced “Dragnet” — but the marriage remained a secret for years.
IF YOU GO
What: “Affairs of the Heart With Lonesome Gal,” an anthology of five short radio dramas.
When: 7 p.m. today.
Where: Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St., Vancouver.
To learn more: https://www.kigginstheatre.com/
“I need to be loved, angel. I still have a little feeling of insecurity and a tremendous feeling of loneliness,” she’d confess, before begging to hear whether you really did love her.
Do you really love her? Let her know at last, as the latest Re-Imagined Radio performance at the Kiggins Theatre goes old-timey lovey-dovey on Valentine’s Day.
Re-Imagined is the brainchild of John Barber, a faculty member in the Creative Media and Digital Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver. Starting in 2013, his ongoing project has revived, live on stage, scripts from the Golden Age of Radio that are both world-famous (“The War of the Worlds” and “A Radio Christmas Carol”) and obscured by time. For the past couple of years, the onstage voice talent has been members and friends of the Vancouver-based Metropolitan Performing Arts.
For this Valentine’s night performance, Barber said, he adapted and connected several romantic, melodramatic radio programs from the Golden Age. Lonesome Gal, voiced by Metropolitan’s Barbara Richardson, will provide the links; the tales themselves will feature storm-tossed pirates and hapless prisoners, drawn from “Theater of Romance,” an anthology series featuring top radio stars of the 1950s; a pair of lonely correspondents who connect through newspaper personal ads (remember those?) in a played called “The Good Salesman,” from a 1930s radio series called “Short Short Story”; and one mashed-up misadventure adapted by Barber from different episodes of one of the really great soap operas, “The Romance of Helen Trent.”
“Helen Trent” lasted for 27 years and more than 7,000 increasingly outlandish episodes. Despite that passage of time, Helen always remained a lovelorn 35-year-old, negotiating a world of danger, evil and sleazy suitors.
Is it possible to find romance at the terribly advanced age of 35? Will Lonesome Gal ever take off that cat mask? Do you really love her? Find out the answers to these and other questions, tonight at the Kiggins.