New Book by Gray & Co. Collects Stories from Golden Age of Cleveland TV

Stories about some of the biggest names in Cleveland television history are retold in the new book "Cleveland TV Tales" by Mike and Janice Olszewski. The book profiles dozens of colorful men and women who helped invent local television programming from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Two of the best known personalities featured in "Cleveland TV Tales" are Ernie Anderson, who as "Ghoulardi," the late-night movie host, got top ratings by trying to shock his audience, and Ron Penfound, who thought his job as genial cartoon-show host "Captain Penny" would last only a few weeksand then stayed on the air for 16 years. Less-well-known innovators are included, too, such as confrontational talk show host Alan Douglas, who frequently baited his guestssometimes to the brink of violence.

"These were some pretty colorful people," Mike Olszewski said. "Maybe eccentric would be a better word. Okay, downright odd in some cases. But they were very creative."

They had to be.

"When television broadcasting began in Cleveland, there was no formula," Mike Olszewski said. "There wasn't a model for regional hosts to follow. They had to use their creativity. And back then almost all TV was live, so they had to be on their toes; whatever could go wrong usually did."

Anecdotes in the book include:

• Linn Sheldon, as children's host "Barnaby," an elf, handling a young fan who casually used a racial epithetseveral timeson live TV
• Early game show host Paul Hodges, whose "Dress and Guess," had contestants trying to figure out what famous person he was portraying before he got all his clothes on
• Late night host "Big" Wilson purchasing a wild wallaby to live on his yacht and serve as KYW TV's mascot (because he couldn't get a kangaroo)
• Tough-as-nails news commentator Dorothy Fuldheim irritating various celebrities, including NFL star Joe Namath (she didn't recognize him), political activist Jerry Rubin (she threw him off her set, on-air), and comedian Richard Pryor (they argued about poverty on "The Tonight Show").

Dan O'Shannon, the writer/producer of "Cheers" and "Modern Family" and a Cleveland native, wrote the book's foreword. In it, he refers to Cleveland's early TV professionals as, "pioneers, a community of inspired, dedicated, artistic, lucky and just plain insane human beings."

"Cleveland TV Tales: Stories from the Golden Age of Local Television" (Gray & Co.; $15.95; softcover; 187 pages; 60 photos) is available at Northeast Ohio bookstores and online from Amazon.com. More information at www.grayco.com.

About the Authors:
Mike and Janice Olszewski are a husband-and-wife team. Mike is a veteran Cleveland radio and television personality and the curator and archivist for the Ohio Broadcast Archive and Museum. He teaches media and communications at Kent State University, the University of Akron and Notre Dame College and is the author of two books about radio: "Radio Days" and "WIXY 1260." Janice has more than three decades' experience in the travel and tourism industry. Her photography has been published in "Filmfax," "Outre," and other national magazines.

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