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"A couple of years ago Stan Freberg cut some commercials for Radio Month, promoting radio listening, you know. In this one bit, Freberg was arguing with a guy about radio versus TV, and the other guy said, 'All right, tell me what radio can do that television can't do better.' Freberg says, 'O.K., here's what I'm gonna do. First I'm gonna drain all the water out of Lake Erie.' And there are these gurgling, down-the-drain sounds—burble, burble, glug, glug, you know. Then Freberg says, 'And I'm gonna fill Lake Erie with whipped cream.' The sound goes spllllsssshhhhshsh. Now Freberg says, 'And I got this 40,000-ton cherry sitting on a field in Ohio and I'm gonna call out the whole Air Force to fly up there and get it.' So you hear zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz—the roar of a million airplanes. Freberg says, 'O.K., they got that big cherry up in the air now and they're carrying it toward the whipped cream in Lake Erie; zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.' The planes are working hard now and Freberg says. 'They're over the lake and now I'm gonna order 'em to drop that 40,000-ton cherry into that whipped cream. O.K. boys, let 'er GOOO-O-O-o-o-o!!!' Then you hear a gigantic sppppllllsssshhhhlllloooopppp!!! The cherry has fallen square into the whipped cream in Lake Erie—you've just seen it in your mind's eye, and Freberg says, 'Now, lemme see TV do that.' "
Murry Woroner shakes his head and sighs, "It's a great medium."
Although Murry has yet to throw any 40,000-ton cherries around the landscape, he has produced some remarkable audio effects himself. He is on the board of Pageantry Inc., the organization that puts on the annual Orange Bowl Easter Pageant—massed choirs, musicians and soloists performing before massed thousands. Woroner's job is to make pre-performance tapes of the pageant, which are then played through the Orange Bowl loudspeakers while the silent ranks of singers move their lips in synchronization. His own company has turned out a broad variety of syndicated radio programs, including three called The First Christmas, Easter the Beginning and July 4,1776. The shows are hour-by-hour recreations of the events of those historic days, designed and delivered with the zing-zing techniques and vernacular of modern radio newscasts. The Christmas show includes a press conference with the Magi, interviews with the shepherds of Bethlehem, an on-the-scene report from the inn in Bethlehem and an "exclusive" interview with King Herod, as well as statements from Mary, Joseph and Augustus Caesar.
Much attention was paid to accuracy. For both the Christmas and Easter shows, Woroner won the Gabriel, a trophy given by the Catholic Broadcasters Association, and for the July 4,1776 program he was awarded a Freedom Foundation medal.
Despite his earnest desire for esthetic and realistic quality in his productions, Woroner would never deny that his forte is as a salesman and promoter. "I'm in the radio syndication business and my job is to sell what I produce," he says. "Sure, I believe in what I do. I don't peddle garbage. But I don't ordinarily get involved in things deeply unless I'm pretty sure they'll be a successful commercial venture. Period."
Yet when Woroner set out to produce the heavyweight championship tournament, he had no guarantee at all that it would succeed—and lots of people to tell him that it wouldn't. Eventually, with the help of a hefty bank loan, he managed to raise $200,000. Then he assembled a cast of experts to pull it all together.
First, of course, there was the computer. A firm called Systems Programming Services, Inc. of Miami, headed by a pleasant CPA of serious mien named Henry Meyer II, had both the people and the analytical engine for the job. Henry Meyer II, 37, is a man of varied background, an amateur hypnotist, a licensed pilot and a dedicated Baptist Sunday school teacher who neither smokes nor drinks nor swears nor has any insight at all into the sport of boxing. "My Gospel," says Henry Meyer II, "this was a foreign world to me. But we figured that where there was a will there was a way." (When Meyer uses the pronoun "we," he is often referring to himself and a computer—in this case an NCR 315—which he rents for $9,000 a month.)
Given the combined boxing ignorance of Woroner, Meyer and the NCR 315, there was an obvious need for expertise. For a fee, Woroner enlisted the Dundee brothers of Miami, Nat Fleischer of The Ring Magazine and one Hank Kaplan, 48, a graduate biologist who is a full-time harbor health inspector for the U.S. Public Health Service and also happens to be a past president of the World Boxing Historians Association and the owner of one of the finest libraries of boxing lore extant. And finally Murry employed Guy LeBow, an announcer who has been doing boxing broadcasts for 20 years.
With Fleischer and the Dundees acting as a kind of window-dressing summit council, Kaplan did the bulk of the background research in his own home. To add some breadth to the project, Woroner invited some 250 boxing writers and experts to give their statistical opinions on the heavyweights. Each was asked to fill in a complex sheet of 58 rating "factors," ranging from the obvious (speed, susceptibility to cuts, ability to throw a left) to the sublime (hardness of punch, killer instinct, courage). For the middleweight tournament ratings, Woroner solicited the views of only 15 experts, hoping he could do better with quality than quantity. The rating sheets were averaged out and—presto!—there were suddenly columns of numbers to feed the computer.
But Woroner wanted more than mere statistical averages. So he, LeBow and Kaplan pored over ancient Police Gazettes and crumbling blow-by-blow newspaper accounts of old fights. They dug up blurred movies, including one of The Nonpareil Jack Dempsey that was shot by Thomas Alva Edison. Woroner or LeBow interviewed every living fighter in both tournaments, with the exception of Gene Tunney, who declined to be involved From all this they compiled as encyclopedic an accumulation of boxing trivia and technicalities as anyone had ever put together. They knew how often and where each fighter cut his opponents, where he was cut most often himself, how many punches and what kind he usually threw in a round, what pattern, pace and rhythm he preferred, what blows hurt him most, how many fouls he had committed.