THE BOB & KAY SHOW
A lifetime before Regis, long before Jim Conway, and years before Fox News In The Morning were Bob Murphy and Kay Westfall, two popular television personalities that entertained Chicago audiences weekly mornings on WENR-TV.
In September of 1948, WENR-TV, Chicago's third television station hit the air on channel 7. Owned and operated by the cash poor American Broadcasting Company, WENR-TV (or "Weiner" as it was referred to in those days) struggled to make a name for itself in a market served by Paramount's WBKB (on the air since 1940) and Col. McCormick's Tribune Company owned WGN-TV (which launched the same month). The following January, WNBQ, run by the powerful NBC, debuted, further tightening the young Chicago television market.
WENR-TV struggled along until February of 1953 when as a result of the ABC-United Paramount Theaters merger the station was replaced by Leonard Goldenson's newly cash rich WBKB (moved down the dial from channel 4).
However, the station did have a few memorable shows in it's roughly four year existence. WENR-TV was the first home of King Calico, a Johnny Coons-voiced puppet show based on window-dressing characters introduced by department store giant Marshall Field. Self-made millionaire and philanthropist Jim Moran, "the Courtesy Man," talked with guests and pitched brand new Hudsons during the commercial breaks of "the fastest -moving variety hour on television"- The Courtesy Hour, Friday nights at 10 pm.
Curiously, WENR-TV's greatest asset is largely forgotten today. The Bob & Kay Show premiered on June 5, 1950 at 11 am. Indicative of the spontaneous, free-form, and informal approach the show would take, their first guest was none other than the Civic Opera House window washer, who while on a break, stuck his head in the studio's doorway wanting to check out this new thing called television. Bob and Kay invited him onto the set and chatted with him for the first half hour of the show. One day they invited the building doorman to come up and talk. The doorman, whom we learned had thirteen children, became a local celebrity overnight. Even the elevator operator got to be on the show.
By their first year on the air, Bob and Kay had interviewed more than 1500 guests, from celebrities to quite possibly your neighbor next door. At times, the show could get serious. In 1951, in response to a growing problem in Chicago, Judge Gibson Gorman, head of Narcotics Court, and Peter Grosso, assistant state's attorney for The Narcotics Bureau were asked on as guests to discuss dope addiction. The same year, The American Heart Association honored Murphy and Westfall for their work in the AMA's drive for funds to combat rheumatic fever. In a highly publicized event, they were crowned "King and Queen of Hearts" by brother and sister Bill and Connie Konvicka. Bill, 13, and Connie, 12 were both victims of rheumatic fever spending four years at Rabida Jackson Park Sanitarium.
That first year anniversary also marked a major change for the show when it was moved from the 16 x 22 foot studio space on the 42nd floor of the Civic Opera Building down to the Civic Theater stage where the show would open it's doors to a live audience. It had been only a few months before that the original studio was "remodeled" with a new clock and a riser for their desk.
A special first year two hour anniversary show, which aired on Monday June 6, 1951 at 11 am welcomed guest stars from other WENR-TV programs including Claude Kirchner and Mary Hartline of Super Circus (airing Sundays at 4 pm), Wayne Griffin (who announced the Wednesday 8:30 pm wrestling program), Pat Denny of Commodore Club (which aired Monday nights at 9:30), and Westfall's Oh Kay! co-star David LeWinter. That program aired each Saturday morning at 10.
The team's chemistry was welcomed with open arms by a city hungry to be informed and entertained by television. One woman wrote to the station saying that before watching The Bob & Kay Show, she had nothing to talk about with her husband besides what happened with the children or how far she got with the laundry. Now when her husband comes home, she has a wealth of subjects to converse about.
In 1952, The Bob & Kay Show was voted first place as television's best interview and discussion program by 286,667 votes. In the same poll, they also went home with second place for "Master of Ceremonies" and third place for "Top Favorite Show." The poll was the third annual conducted by TV Forecast Magazine.
Like many early television personalities, Bob Murphy and Kay Westfall cut their broadcast teeth in radio. Bismarck, North Dakota born "Ace" Murphy's first attempt at Chicago radio failed, so he landed a job at St. Paul's KSTP. It was there that he met a scriptwriter by the name of Louise Glesen. Bob and Louise wed on June 1st, 1940 followed by nine children born throughout the next two decades. He landed his first Chicago broadcasting job shortly before World War II sent him off to the Navy, as a nighttime staff announcer at WMAQ Radio. He was the emcee of the popular Quiz Kids program, The Crosby Show, The Voice of Firestone, R.F.D. America, and The Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour, handling the announcing chores first on radio and then double-duty when the show came to television via WENR-TV. Bob was also part of the stable of talent that made up Don McNeil's Breakfast Club, a Chicago wake-up favorite that lasted on radio as late as 1968! When that show briefly (and unsuccessfully) came to television, on Wednesday nights at 9 pm (as Don McNeil's TV Club), Bob pitched the Philco commercials for both shows. Early risers could even catch Bob's voice on Alex Drier's WMAQ Radio newscast each weekly morning at 6:45.
Chicago born and raised Kay Westfall, once called "the prettiest girl in television" was performing a ballet/tap dance routine at the tender age of 4. A Lake View High School graduate, she also attended both Northwestern and DePaul Universities studying drama. On radio, Kay was featured on The Bennetts and Hawkins Falls. On television, in addition to her aforementioned Saturday morning show, she could be found doing the commercials for Four Star Revue on WNBQ. On film, she landed the female lead in "The Golden Gloves Story."
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