Simanaitis Says

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RICHARD DIAMOND TEACHES ME ABOUT AN EARLIER ERA

I AM ADDICTED to SiriusXM’s “Radio Classics.” Indeed, Wife Dottie says that one day I’ll wake up in 1944 and get all nerdy about our Ration Book’s missing red stamps and our Crosstour having only an A Sticker. 

On the other hand, “Radio Classics” are highly educational, as exemplified by a recent Richard Diamond episode and its details of transportation circa 1953. Here are tidbits gleaned from “Hollywood Story,” together with my usual Internet sleuthing.

Richard Diamond, Sleuth. Diamond, as portrayed by Dick Powell, is a private detective, a shamus, a sleuth. He has shown up here at SimanaitisSays in “The Singing Detective—With a Sinister Overtone.”

Dick Powell, 1904–1963, American singer, actor, film producer, and director. Image from his song-and-dance days in the 1930s.

Powell swapped musical comedies for a sleuthing role as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in the 1944 film noir Murder, My Sweet. This led Powell into radio portrayals of Marlowe within a year. Other shamus gigs included the pilot episode of “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” and a more lasting gig, 1949–1953, as “Richard Diamond, Privative Detective.” 

Diamond’s Hollywood Gig. “Hollywood Story,” originally broadcast August 23, 1953, begins with typical Diamond banter. A prospective client, Fred Caine, asks the New York City-based shamus, “Do you ever leave town, Mr. Diamond?”

Diamond responds, “Occasionally, but I can never get used to the tar and feathers.”

“I’d like you to go to California with me.”

“Oh… Just lonesome, or have you got a problem?”

Caine says, “I represent a very wealthy man in Hollywood and he has a problem…. It’s four-o’clock now, we can leave Laguardia by five. Mr. Harvey’s private plane and pilot are standing by.”

Pre-Learjet Travel. Having recently described my own state-of-the-art business jet experience, I find Diamond’s New York-Los Angeles trip noteworthy in its 1950s’ contrast.

Indeed, Wife Dottie recalls the era’s commercial air travel with her mother, typically El Centro-Albuquerque or El Centro-Orange County-San Francisco. In those days, Dorothy, her mother, and other passengers wore their Sunday-best for flights. 

Diamond’s NY-LA Flight. Diamond muses, “Private plane, private pilot, and worth millions, how cozy can you get?” His usual fee was $100 a day, plus expenses. No cheap gumshoe, Diamond. A ’53 Benjamin is worth $988.77 today. 

“By 5:30,” Diamond says, “I was riding with Fred Caine in Mr. Harvey’s private plane heading for sunny California.” 

(Sound effects: prop plane noise.) 

“Comfortable?” Caine asks. 

“Ah,” says Diamond, “I haven’t seen furnishings like this since I got lost in the mens room at the Waldorf.” 

“Fred Caine and I played gin for the next couple of hours,” Diamond says. “By 8:30 we were somewhere over Kansas and I was getting sleepy, so I turned in. Around six the next morning we landed in Burbank.”

Kansas City is not far below Google Map’s data box arrow.

A Flight Analysis. Hmm… A lot depends on whether Diamond changes his wristwatch with time zones.

Let’s assume no wristwatch fiddling: The Harvey plane leaves Laguardia at 5:00. At 8:30 (three and a half hours later), they’re somewhere over Kansas. New York City to Kansas City is 1096 miles. Hence the Harvey plane is averaging 313 mph. (Even with a watch-fiddled four and a half, it’s 244 mph).

What did G.L. Harvey own, a converted, hopped-up B-29?

Assuming a B-29’s range of 5592 miles, Harvey’s could have done NY-LA’s 2446 miles easy-peasy on half-a-tank.

But maybe it wasn’t a converted B29? Given their Burbank arrival time of a non-fiddled wristwatch  “around six the next morning,” their average speed for a 13-hour non-stop flight was 188 mph. (Watch-fiddled, it’s 153 mph)

Could Diamond have mistaken Indiana for Kansas?? I mean they’re both flat, but geez.

A California Drive. As part of Diamond’s cover, a party is arranged at G.L. Harvey’s Malibu beach house. “By eight-o’clock that evening, I was driving down [locals would say “up”] the coast highway on the way to Malibu… There was a big yellow moon sitting up in a cloudless sky, and a warm breeze was blowing in off the Pacific. I even put the top down.”

Generally, “up PCH” is north/northwest, “down PCH” is south/southeast.

You’re spot-on about the covertible, Diamond. We’re not over Kansas anymore. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

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