Jimmy Durante among personalities to be inducted in National Radio Hall of Fame
TWO RADIO GREATS - - Doris Day and comedian Jimmy Durante, two greats from the radio's hey-day when big band music ruled the airwaves, starred together with Martha Raye in Durante's final starring role in a feature film, "Billy Rose's Jumbo" in 1962. Durante, who died in 1980 of pneumonia just a few weeks before his 87th birthday, will be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame this year. (Archive photo courtesy of MGM)

Broadcast bravo

One has broadcast baseball for more than 40 years. One is a legendary radio comedian. The others are a rock-radio pioneer, a jazz icon and a ground-breaking African-American writer/producer.

Although they have different backgrounds, these radio legends share a common connection. They are all upcoming inductees into the National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago.

"This prestigious and diverse quintet was elected from a highly competitive field of nominees and we are excited to honor them," said Museum of Broadcast Communications president Bruce DuMont.

"A nationally broadcast ceremony on Nov. 3 will spread word of their life long accomplishments to radio lovers all across America."

As a voting member of the National Radio Hall of Fame organization, I was equally pleased with how our voting results turned out.

So here are the 2007 inductees into America's only National Radio Hall of Fame:

* The late Jimmy Durante has finally found his place in this hall of fame. A legendary vaudevillian turned 1940s radio comedian and singer known for his mangled English and raspy voice, Durante began as a piano player on Coney Island. He was a welcome and regular guest on many radio programs. After filling in for Eddie Cantor on "The Chase and Sanborn Hour" in 1933, he was offered his own program. "The Jimmy Durante Show" enjoyed success both as a solo act and as a comedy duo, with Garry Moore serving as Durante's on-air sidekick from 1943 to 1947.

* Jerry Coleman has been broadcasting baseball for more than 40 years. The former New York Yankees infielder has been the voice of the San Diego Padres on XPRS/San Diego for 32 seasons, the last 23 consecutively. Known for concise play-by-play and trademark calls (such as "Hang a star!" and "Oh, Doctor!") Coleman also was a regular announcer for the CBS Radio Game of the Week.

* The late Richard Durham was born in Mississippi and raised in Chicago. He wrote and produced the groundbreaking radio drama "Destination Freedom." Durham began his career during the Depression with the Writers Project of the WPA and later wrote for CBS affiliate WBBM/Chicago. As sole writer and producer for "Destination Freedom," his goal was to combat negative stereotypes of blacks in the media. The series debuted on WMAQ/Chicago in June of 1948 and included 91 episodes showcasing the lives of prominent black Americans.

* Dan Ingram was a rock radio pioneer and is considered by some as the best Top 40 DJ of all time. Born and raised in Flushing, Queens, he mixed humor with an edgy, irreverent style and spent more than 40 years behind the microphone beginning at WNHC/New Haven, CT. He rose to fame in the 1960s as a rock DJ on WABC/New York where he stayed for 20 years until the station changed formats. He spent the last 12 years of his career at WCBS-FM/New York before retiring in 2003.

* Marian McPartland is known to many as the host of "Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz" for more than 25 years on National Public Radio, McPartland taught herself how to play piano at age 3. Since 1978 the English-born jazz musician has hosted one of NPR's longest-running weekly programs. McPartland, revered for her own talent, welcomes a wide range of guests including legendary and fledgling jazz talents.

The emcee for this year's National Hall of Fame Induction Gala on Nov. 3 will be Sean Hannity of ABC Radio and Fox News Channel. ABC Radio will produce and distribute the live program from the Renaissance Chicago Hotel. State Farm Insurance will sponsor the broadcast and American Airlines and the Renaissance Chicago Hotel will provide promotional support.

Tickets for the black-tie induction gala and broadcast may be purchased online at www.radiohof.org or by calling (866) 860-1640.

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'High School' grade

After months and months of writing about Disney's "High School Musical," I had to check for myself what all the hype has been about since this show hit the road, a tour that includes its current stop though Sept. 2 at the LaSalle Theatre in Chicago.

Based on the 2006 Emmy-winning Disney Channel movie, the stage production is quite well done and features a live orchestra and a cast of 35.

If I had to give it a grade, I'd post a solid "B."

It starts out a little "Greasy" (a few moments/concepts seem blatantly lifted from the John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John 1978 film), but there are a few catchy songs like "Get'cha Head in the Game" and "Stick to the Status Quo" and definitely some very worthy, positive messages for young audience members about acceptance and not falling into cliques. (I did spot a lot of bored Dads in the audience. But for the most part, everyone seemed to be having a great time.)

Watch out for the usual Disney merchandising trap in the lobby. "High School Musical" magnets and ink pens are $5, T-shirts are $25 and "Wildcats" basketball jerseys and jackets are $85.

Tickets for "High School Musical" range from $20-$78 and are available by calling (312) 902-1400 or visiting www.broadwayinchicago.com.

Oh. . . and. . .for die-hard fans of the Disney Channel original movie, inserted postcards in the play programs are promoting the cable channel's premiere of Disney's "High School Musical 2" at 7 p.m. Aug. 17. I'm told that work is already underway for Disney's "High School Musical 3," which this time around, will made to air on the BIG screen (cha-ching) in late 2008.

Thank you

I had plenty of readers contact me that a column I wrote two weeks ago about an ailing Merv Griffin gave the wrong attribution for a very famous quote. Readers Charles Holtzback and Neill Augustine were especially conscientious about my mistake, which was to mention it was Will Rogers who once said: "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." This quote is actually from Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at ppotempa@nwitimes.com or 219.852.4327.


Singer Al Alberts of The Four Aces is 85. Actress Rhonda Fleming ("Spellbound") is 84. Singer-turned-sausage-king Jimmy Dean and singer Eddie Fisher are 79. Baseball great Rocky Colavito is 74. Actress Kate O'Mara ("Dynasty") is 68. Singer Ronnie Bennett Greenfield (Ronnie Spector) of The Ronettes is 64. Actor James Reynolds ("Days of Our Lives") is 61. Singer-flutist Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull is 60. Singer Patti Austin is 59. Mandolin player Gene Johnson of Diamond Rio is 58. Actor Daniel Hugh Kelly ("Hardcastle and McCormick") is 55. Actor Don Swayze (brother of Patrick, "Carnival") is 49. Actress Rosanna Arquette is 48. Actor Antonio Banderas is 47. Drummer Jon Farriss of INXS and actress Beatrice Alda (daughter of Alan Alda) are 46. Singers Neneh Cherry and Aaron Hall and female wrestler Nicole Bass are 43. Guitarist Todd

Nichols (Toad the Wet Sprocket) and singer Lorraine Pearson of Five Star and boxing champ Riddick Bowe are 40. Singer Michael Bivins (Bell Biv Devoe, New Edition) is 39. Actress Angie Harmon ("Law and Order") is 35. Country singer Jennifer Hanson is 34. Actress Joanna Garcia ("Reba") is 28. Singer Nikki Bratcher of Divine is 27.