Friday, July 25, 2008

Have A Cheeky Christmas--In July

Plastic People Oh Now ~~ You're Such A Drag

Several months ago, I promised my friend Tony that I would blog today about Christmas. He had discovered this pair of twins on You Tube called The Cheeky Girls (London based-Romanian born), and he has (to quote his wife) developed "a sick fascination ." I was also told by his wife Kathy, "Don't encourage him by keeping the promise to blog about those two skanks."

About two weeks ago, I was in a Home Goods store, and they already had Halloween and Thanksgiving items out. Retailers have long been known to push the season. We've all seen Valentine's Day in October, Christmas in July.

Kathy sent along in e-mail an article written by Malio Cardarelli in which he remembers the Cerri brothers, Bill and Dick, and how one summer in 1971, Bill Cerri started playing Christmas music on the radio to break up the wilt of a D.C. summer. It became a tradition. Here is that article, as I wanted to share a piece of Washington, D.C. broadcasting history:

Beset with a number of ailments including Parkinson’s disease, Utica native Bill Cerri had planned to retire from his classical music radio show in the Washington, D.C., area in August 1990. Those plans never materialized because Cerri suffered a cerebral hemorrhage July 17 of that year while on the air and soon died — to the horror of his listeners who had followed him for the two decades his show was on WETA-FM. Cerri had an early devotion to radio and was not distracted from it for any reason, even forgoing graduation from Thomas R. Proctor Senior High School in Utica so as not to abandon his radio position at WGAT, which later became WTLB, still on the air today. There, he worked the night shift, which interfered with his required arrival time at school. When given a choice, Cerri decided to stay in radio. The budding announcer moved to Washington in 1950, perhaps as much to try a larger market as to become reunited with his high school sweetheart, Rosemarie Roey Girard (1929-2008), who was in the military service and stationed there. They eventually married and had three children before divorcing.

Cerri worked for a number of radio stations and for a time with his brother Dick Cerri, at the same station in Washington, WETA-FM, from 1970 to 1973. The older brother had the morning show called “AM” and Dick the afternoon slot, called “PM.” Much of Cerri’s early music was jazz. but eventually he embraced the classical market. One of Cerri’s most notable innovations occurred in 1971. In order to help distract listeners from the intense summer heat that prevails in the nation’s capital, Bill began playing Christmas music in the dead of summer. The concept was so well received, it was even picked up by the Air Force Band in 1975 with Cerri as master of ceremonies for the very first Air Force Band presentation of “Christmas in August.” To this day, it is still performed each summer. Cerri was to direct a presentation of his innovation by the Air Force Band in 1990, but his death in July denied him that long-anticipated opportunity. His longest lasting position, 20 years, was at WETA-FM in Washington doing classical music. On July 17, 1990, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and collapsed.

During this ordeal, while the WETA staff summoned emergency medical services, there were 4 minutes of dead air and scores of unanswered telephone calls from concerned listeners. Finally, WETA’s chief engineer switched to the 9 a.m. news and later announced that the host had become ill. By then, Cerri was in an ambulance, only to succumb to his illness within a few hours. After Cerri’s death, there were a number of tributes paid to him by the Washington-area media and in several memorial functions in his honor. Perhaps the most fitting might have been the memorial tribute to him at WETA-FM in which were played a number of recorded selections from Verdi’s Requiem performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Cerri’s passing left a void difficult to fill. And it all began in Utica, where his radio aspirations were cultivated. In talking about his brother’s sudden death while on the air, Dick Cerri said: “In a way I envy him; he died with his boots on.”

...and Tony? Just for you:

Have A Cheeky Christmas Time

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