Edison, Radio Maverick, 146
EAST ORANGE, NJ (AP may 27, 2004)
Courtney T. Edison, a radio broadcaster and 78 rpm
record archivist popularly known as "The Old
Codger," passed away Wednesday evening in his
bunker on Springdale Avenue, in East Orange, New Jersey.
His age was estimated to be 146.
Earlier that day, Edison had programmed radio for
three hours at Jersey City-based WFMU, a station with
which he had been loosely affiliated for a decade.
The cigar-chomping Edison's familiar tagline was that
he "played 78 rpm records like they're going
out of style." His exact age could not be verified,
but he often taunted listeners by sneering, "I've
got shoes older than you." The Oxfords he was
wearing at the time of death dated from the late 1870s.
The cause of death was being investigated. Several
bloody chromium Victrola styluses were reportedly
discovered on the premises.
WFMU general manager Ken Freedman insisted that Edison
was not officially on staff, but that "out of
a sense of pity for a pathetic nuisance," the
station had on infrequent occasions accommodated Edison's
insistent requests for airtime. "The Codger"
refused to play compact discs, cassettes, long-playing
vinyl records, or any format except 78 rpm discs from
his own collection, which he lugged to the station
in a dilapidated shopping cart. WFMU program director
Brian Turner alleged that Edison routinely abused
studio equipment and staff, and disregarded station
protocol with impunity.
On what turned out to be his final broadcast, Edison
noted that he had been asked by a female staffer what
he wanted for Christmas. He replied, "My house
needs a dishwasher and a doormat. Which would you
prefer to be?"
Although obsessed with musical sounds from yesteryear,
Edison was consumed with hatred for Big Band music
of the 1930s and '40s, once boasting on the air that
he had "killed the Dorsey Brothers" (referring
to Swing Era legends Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey). It is
not known if his contention was literal or figurative.
"The Codger" was notorious for on-air come-ons
to female admirers, often crooning that he loved "younger
women -- age 45 or 50." Although never married,
Edison had been linked romantically to actress/comedienne
Sophie Tucker, vaudevillian Effie Cherry, singer Rosetta
Duncan, actress Ida Lupino, R&B siren Nellie Lutcher,
and TV sitcom star Betty Rubble.
Rumors that he was a disowned relative of inventor
Thomas Alva Edison, who lived in nearby West Orange
until his death in 1931, could not be confirmed. However,
the broadcaster was alleged to be something of a pioneer
himself, claiming credit for devising the speed bump
and discovering dust mites. He also insisted he had
taught the curve ball to early baseball legend Arthur
"Candy" Cummings in 1867.
Edison began his broadcasting career in 1935 at WZKZ,
Baltimore. After two months on staff, he was dismissed
from that facility for ignoring station rules against
disposal of cigar butts in the men's room urinal.
Upon termination, Edison allegedly removed his shoes
and nailed them to the station manager's door, attaching
a note that said: "FILL THESE!"
Despite his remarkably advanced age, Edison was actually
the second oldest active broadcaster, surpassed by
his longtime friend Paul Harvey. Edison leaves a collection
of over 48,000 78 rpm discs, 16 functional crank-wound
Victrolas, and nine overflowing spittoons.
In lieu of flowers, mourners are requested to donate
to the Museum of Forgotten Formats, in Pasadena CA.