Monday, March 11, 2013


I was saddened to belatedly hear of the death of radio interviewer Ralph Collier who died January 31st of this year at the age of 91. 

During my college years, I loved listening to the local classical music station WFLN-FM (now long defunct leaving our radio market without a single classical music radio station ever since) and one of my favourite shows was Ralph Collier's noon-time interview show.  For two decades until 1988, Collier hosted the half hour-long interview programme "Collier At Large" which he often broadcast from the Campbell Soup Tureen Museum (of which he was President from 1975 to 1990).  While he did interview celebrities from Fred Astaire to Charlton Heston, my favourite shows were the ones where he interviewed authors who were a lot lesser known but often much more interesting. On one of my favourite episodes, Collier took a mobile microphone and went on a walking tour of Old City Philadelphia (and I'm lucky enough to have recorded the show and I still have it) during which historic architecture was pointed out and discussed. Sadly, I've only got a handful of shows recorded and I don't know of any other place which has them preserved.  As an example of the ecclectic subject matter Collier At Large routinely provided, I can list the shows I've luckily managed to record and hang onto all these years.  The shows I taped range approximately from the years 1983-1985 and included (besides the Philadelphia Walking Tour show previously mentioned) an interview of Robert J. Serling (Rod Serling's brother) on his book "HOWARD HUGHES' AIRLINE" discussing the magnate and his ties to aviation and TWA, Mary Previte (who as a child was held in a Japanese concentration camp for three years during World War II), Michael Thomas (author of a financial thriller called "HARD MONEY"), crime historian Dr. Mark Haller on bootlegging in Philadelphia and Dr. J.J. Wilhelm on the traitorous poet Ezra Pound.  As fate would have it, however, only just today I stumbled across an old, mouldering cassette tape containing another episode I never knew I had in which Collier interviews Scott Turow on the then-just-published novel "PRESUMED INNOCENT".  Ralph Collier's interviews were always fascinating (even when I wasn't particularly interested in the subject) and I couldn't let the passing of someone who provided me with many, many hours of absorbing listening to go by without my marking it with a little tribute to an interviewer and a radio show which I sorely miss.

As a temporary treat, I've posted two episodes of COLLIER AT LARGE over there in the box at the right:  the "Walking Tour of Phila." and "Ezra Pound:  American Traitor" episodes to give you a flavour of the show.  It shares the box with the Douglas Adams "Biscuit Story" above so give both a listen . . . while they last! 

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