It’s a Wonderful Slice

December 23, 2012

“It’s a Wonderful Slice 2012″…with an all-star cast!

It’s that time of year again (and aren’t we glad that the holiday season comes only once a year?), which means that I trot out my annual dismantling of one of the great holiday film classics, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

I started this strange tradition about 21 years ago, when I was still working for Gargantua Radio down the dial (sometimes known as WGN). This was when Republic Pictures, the original copyright owner and producer of Wonderful Life, neglected to renew the 1946 copyright in 1974. Slate has the basic story here. This Wikipedia entry covers it in more detail.

At any rate, it seemed to me that folks might like to hear the movie on radio, especially since it wasn’t going to cost the station a nickel. However, I doubted that listeners would be willing to sit through all two hours and ten minutes without visuals. So I recorded the sound track and cut it down to exactly ten minutes and thirty seconds. I tried to get it to under ten minutes, but that’s something I suspect not even God could do.

The ten-minute version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” aired on Gargantua Radio for several years. Then something unfortunate happened. According to Slate:

Republic regained control of the lucrative property in 1993 by flexing a new Supreme Court ruling that determined that the holder of a copyright to a story from which a movie was made had certain property rights over the movie itself. Since Republic still owned the copyrighted story behind It’s a Wonderful Life and had also purchased exclusive rights to the movie’s copyrighted music, it was able to essentially yank the movie out of the public domain: It claimed that since Wonderful Life relied on these copyrighted works, the film could no longer be shown without the studio’s blessing. (Technically, the film itself is not copyrighted. One could hypothetically replace the music, rearrange the footage, and sell or show the new product–but no one has done this.) In 1994, Republic * signed a “long-term” deal granting NBC exclusive rights to broadcast the movie, and the network typically does so between one and three times a year.

So there I was, with a brilliant (if I say so myself) ten-minute version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” with no venue. Unless…

Eureka! I knew what to do–memorize not only the script, but also the voices and their inflections (after all, I had everything on tape–and in those days, it really was tape), add some blocking and schtick and Voila: “It’s a Wonderful Slice of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’

Since that time, I have performed the piece on stages, in living rooms, in bars, in Savings and Loans (yes, really), outdoors, indoors and just about any place large than a postage stamp. I have done it on radio numerous times, as well as on video.

And so I present the 2012 version, with a great cast of folks from Chicago’s Progressive Talk, AM & FM. Here’s the cast, with the “actors” listed first, followed by their roles:

Ron Cowgill (host of WCPT’s Mighty House) – Uncle Billy
Mike Sanders (host of WCPT’s OurTown) – God, Bert, Ernie, Martini, Truck Driver, Harry
Lisa Albrecht – Mary
Sarah Batka – Violet, Mrs. Bailey, Janey (she even “plays” the piano!), Zuzu
Dennis Schetter – St. Joseph, Man #1, Man #2, Mean Man, and probably some other character that I’ve lost track of

If you don’t catch it live during the 10:00 a.m. hour on Sunday’s show, you can always listen on my podcast page.

Rick DiMaio gets his Masters…Congratulations!

After last Sunday’s show, I grabbed my stuff, quickly headed out of the station and made my way to Chez Rick DiMaio, where a number of us gathered to surprise my excellent meteorologist on the completion of his M.S. Degree in Meteorology (what else?) from Nothern Illinois University. You haven’t lived until you’ve been in a room full of meteorologists waxing poetic on various weather phenomena.

As Rick stated on the air last week, he didn’t exactly count on finishing his degree 30 years after getting his bachelor’s…but I guess that’s life. Anyway, I was happy to be a part of the surprise celebration at Rick’s apartment overlooking Lake Michigan.

Seriously, I can’t thank Rick enough for having shared his weather wisdom with me and my listeners for almost five years now. In my opinion, he’s the best in the business in Chicago, and I wish him much, much success and happiness in the years to come.