I am Sam Lieberman. In the 1950s my name was Hank McNulty. I used that name until I quit radio announcing in the 1990s. I was a well known and highly regarded announcer for many comedy and children’s shows during that period.
There were no Goldsteins, Simons, or Levys doing any sort of radio announcing in those decades. We had all changed to professional names in order to secure employment in radio and the beginning of television.
I am physically fit and in great shape at the age of 84, and walk a mile each and every day, depending on the weather. I maintain a one-bedroom, rent-controlled apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where I have lived for over 50 years.
I am very lonely. Having lost my wife many years ago, I miss those conversations that we enjoyed during our many years of marriage. Yes, I go to the local senior center. But it is difficult to have lengthy conversations with people who are hard of hearing and cannot manage to stand for more than a few minutes.
I take great pride in my large collection — 4,217 at the present time — of CDs of the famous radio shows of that period. I am talking about Fred Allen, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Milton Berle, and so many more.
My children don’t want my CD collection and my grandchildren ask me, “Who are those performers?” Selling them would take a long time and at most might bring $2 each, and then what? I don’t need the money or the hassle of dealing with eBay, but I do have the urge to talk to people who remember those radio stars.
The other evening, as I was gazing at those piles of CDs on my dining room floor, an idea hit me. The next day, I obtained a vendor’s license to sell merchandise on the streets of New York.
Two days later, on a beautiful Sunday morning at 11 a.m., with an old card table that I had in my apartment when my wife and I used to play bridge with our friends, I was in business on 77th and Broadway. I set myself next to Yoshi, the fruit vendor, with my card table, 42 various CDs of old-time radio shows, and a chair from my kitchen table, and I was ready for customers. No price signs on any of the CDs as I knew everyone would try to get a lower price no matter what I asked. I wanted people to stop, ask questions, talk about their favorite radio shows and I knew that most of the purchasers would be over the age of 50.
By five o’ clock I had bought some cherries, peaches, and grapes from Yoshi and had only three CDs left, all Our Miss Brooks, the show that featured Eve Arden.
A well-dressed gentleman stopped by and asked where he might get a nice meal in the area. I told him of Fine and Schapiro, an old-time New York deli just east of Broadway on 72nd Street, five short blocks from where we were. He thanked me, but not before he told me this story.
He was staying at a four-star hotel a few blocks north of where we were and had just gone into the dining room a short time ago for dinner. A male host by the name of Henrie had approached him, and Art, my storyteller, told Henrie that he would like a table for one.
“Sorry,” replied Henrie, “we are full.”
Art looked around the dining room and saw that there were more tables unoccupied than occupied. He questioned Henrie about that, and was told that the empty tables were for guests who had reservations and would soon show up.
Art left the dining area, went to the entrance of the hotel, and using his cellphone called the hotel dining room requesting a dinner reservation.
Henrie, the guy at the other end, asked Art how long it would be before he could actually show up for dinner. Then Henrie stated that there was immediate seating. So Art rushed back to the dining room, told Henrie his name, that he had a reservation, and that he had been told there was immediate seating.
“That is true,” Henrie informed Art, “but we will only seat two at a table and a single is not allowed, even with a reservation.”
“You didn’t tell me that when I made this reservation five minutes ago.”
“Sorry, sir, please step aside for this gentleman.”
“Good evening, sir, may I help you?”
“Yes, I would like a table for one.”
Art continued telling me his story, explaining that the same scenario played out with the second diner as with Art. No single diners.
So Art caught up to the second diner as he headed for the hotel entrance and quickly told him that he, Art, had also just been turned away because singles weren’t served. Art suggested that the two of them now approach Henrie to get a table for dinner. Frank, the other diner, agreed and they walked up to Henrie with big smiles.
Art spoke up. “A table for two, please, near the window if possible.”
“Sorry, sirs, I can’t seat you two because you have no reservations.”
And that’s why Art was headed to Fine and Schapiro’s Deli.