MANSION OF MYSTERY
Mansion of Mystery? Stay with me on this. Trust me, It will be worth it. It’s going to be fun.
There's an old story about a tourist seeking directions who stops an elderly gentleman on Fifth Avenue in New York City and asks, “Excuse me sir. Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?’ The old man ponders the question for a few seconds before he says, “Practice. Practice.”
I told you it’s an old story. But, I never get tired of telling it.
Over the years I have been asked a similar question by aspiring TV and theater students, “How does one get a show on radio or TV?” My answer is slightly different from that old gentleman on Fifth Avenue. I usually answer, “Prepare. Prepare.” Many opportunities come as the result of plain old dumb luck and one must always be prepared for such surprises in order to move forward.
In 1975, I helped create a sports game show called “Pro-Fan.” The idea was pitched to a backer who put up the money to produce a pilot. We then took the finished pilot to New York to pitch to the television networks. While in New York our agent, Stan Moger, who was representing the show, asked me if I also had any ideas for a four or five minute radio show. One of his other clients, The Mobil Oil Corporation, was looking for five different short radio shows to put into series in order to launch a six-month daily advertising campaign. Each series would broadcast five days a week for a total of 130 shows.
At the time I was doing a Sunday afternoon talk show on KABC radio in Los Angeles. Always looking for a gimmick to get people involved enough in my program to call in, I had written and produced a three-minute mystery drama that I called “Mansion of Mystery.” The cast included,
SERGEANT TWILLY GIRTHBOURNE
And an extremely “heinous” killer. The idea was to set up the scene with a hidden clue. The listener would try and find the clue, call in and solve the crime.
I told Stan about what I had written and he asked me to send what I had on tape. The problem was there was no taped ending. I had left that blank hoping my KABC listening audience would call in and supply the ending. Undaunted, Stan told me to go back and write, produce, and tape an ending and bring it back to New York on my next trip in.
I went back to LA, recorded an ending, came back to New York, and Stan and I went off to the Mobil Oil offices to pitch the show. I’ll never forget that day. The advertising department was on the 46th floor. We sat across the desk from Mobil Oil's head advertising honcho and I started my pitch. He stopped me as soon as I gave him the title and said, “Why don’t we just listen?”
He took out a small reel-to-reel player, placed it on his desk and played my tape. We sat silently listening and when it shut off he just sat there staring at the stopped tape. Finally he looked up and said, “OK, Stan, that’s three. I need two more.”
Without further ado, we were ushered out of the office and headed for the elevator. After pushing the down button, I said to Stan, “What was that all about? What does, ‘OK, Stan, that’s three, I need two more’ mean?” Stan smiled and answered, “You just sold your show. My goal was to find five different radio series for him. He's already bought a movie review series and a sport commentary series. Your show makes number three. What he was telling me was to find two more shows.”
Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. This was the fastest sale I had ever experienced. As the elevator was plunging down to the first floor, I had to ask, “What do I do now?” Stan looked at me and said, “Go home and write 129 more episodes.”
Dumb luck? Yes. But, I had already been thinking of other episodes for the KABC show and now I had stumbled into something even more exciting, syndication. I actually wrote and produced a total of 131 episodes (one extra for good luck).
The title was changed to “Mobil’s Mansion of Mystery.” After its initial 6-month run, the series was picked up by “Watermark,” a Hollywood radio syndication company, and the show ran for an additional six months.
Recalling this story gave me a new idea. The shows have not aired for 30 years. I thought you might be interested in reading the script for that first show that sold the series and play the game. All you have to do is listen (read, in this case), find the clue and solve the crime. When the show first ran, radio stations would play it, stop at the break, and then offer a prize for the first person to call in with the answer. Why can't we do the same thing? My plan is that if it works on this blog, we can do it as a regular series. I just happen to have 130 more.
We have to start somewhere. How about right here and now?
c BLT Productions 1975-2006
All Rights Reserved
It’s time for Mansion of Mystery
SOUND: DOG HOWLS – SLIGHTLY OFF-KEY (actually way-off)
Time for another hideous crime that you are invited to solve. Today, “Murder With Style.”
SOUND: THUNDER followed by STREET NOISE
The scene is just outside a ladies dress shop in Soho. A customer was found strangled in the dressing room and Inspector Thomlason and Sergeant Twilly Girthborne are investigating.
You are the proprietor, Sir?
Yes. My name is Harold Dior. I am the owner of this shop and style setter of the beautiful people.
I say, did you say Dior?
Oh, yes. I am a distant relation to the Great One. I inherited his designing talent. But it was the innovative Chanel who taught me how to use it with style and flair. He was like a father to me.
We are off the track here, Mr. Dior. We have a murder to solve. Who was that lady?
Oh, yes, the dead one in the dressing room. The one with the typically patterned Pucci scarf, the tan and blue Galanos dress and the saddle brown Gucci shoes?
That’s the one.
I really didn’t notice her, Inspector.
Mr. Dior, I am determined to get to the bottom of this foul crime. And my first question is, why are you lying?
Sergeant. Arrest Mr. Dior. He’s going to jail.
Well slueths, the INSPECTOR really has style, doesn’t he? He caught the flaw in DIOR’s story. Did you? We’ll help you after this announcement.
OK, Mouse Cliquers, did you get the clue? The mistake in Dior’s story? Remember, the first time I wrote this there was no ending. What you are about to read next is what I went home and wrote after that first meeting. However, before you scroll down too fast, think about it. Try and solve the crime first. You have one minute.
Sorry … Time is up.
And now back to our mystery.
INTERIOR OF THE STATION HOUSE.
Dior has been placed in a cell. Sergeant Girthborne is in the cell with him. The Inspector stands in the open door.
Mr. Dior, please give me that dress. This is the station house.
This is my new creation, Sergeant. I wouldn’t dare leave it. Someone would steal it. Why am I here, Inspector?
Because you lied. That shop is not your shop, Dior. You are just a stockroom worker. I knew you were not a dress designer when you said that Chanel was like a father to you. Mr. Dior, Coco Chanel was a woman.
In reality, the victim was the real owner.
SOUND: MAN RUNNING
Come back here, Dior.
Oh gracious! Look what you did to my dress. You spilled tea on my beautiful dress.
Sorry about that. Here let me wipe it.
Get away. You’ve ruined it. Sergeant, I’m only going to say this one time. Leave my cell at once and never darken my DIOR again.
SOUND: MUSIC UP AND OUT
OK, how many of you got the clue and solved the crime before the last segment? Be honest now.
Would you like more of this stuff on up-coming blogs? If so, let me know. I’ll figure out some kind of prizes for correct crime solvers.
Like I said, I have 130 more, ready to go.