An original scan for this article is located at Old Time Radio Researchers website.
Radio Stars, February, 1934, pages 10-11, 66-67:



He  had  an  ambitious  idea,  plenty  of  money,  and  faith  in  his  co-workers--all  the  ingredients  necessary  to  insure  success.  Yet,  they  failed  him  and  left  this  fine  comedian  a  somewhat  disillusioned,  but  infinitely  wiser  man

In  spite  of  everything--and  he  has  been  through  plenty--Ed  Wynn  can  still  laugh.  Even  when  he  thinks  of  the  $180,000  he  spent  over  a  period  of  seventeen  years  to  build  himself  as  "The  Perfect  Fool"--and  the  fact  that  when  he  was  but  two  weeks  on  the  air  everyone  knew  him  as  "The  Fire  Chief."  For,  he  says,  "My  business  is  to  make  people  laugh,  not  to  make  myself  feel  like  crying."

B   y       J   O   H   N       S   K   I   N   N   E   R

THE grinning mask of the comedian has always been destined to conceal tragedy. It's the pathetic tale immortalized in "Pagliacci." A few years ago, millions were singing the same story to the tune of "Laugh, Clown, Laugh." Ed Wynn
    Ten minutes before, Ed Wynn had been on the stage of the NBC studio, joking with Graham, hooting his ridiculous laugh, convulsing a studio audience of hundreds and invisible listeners to the number of forty million. Now, sitting in the ante-room of the studio, he was haggard and worn. The grease paint and powder served, not to hide, but to accentuate the lines of pain and trouble which creased his face.
    Ed Wynn was sick. Even in the chair, he was unable to relax. His body was strapped with leather and adhesive tape. "Sacro-iliac trouble," he explained. But it was the mental torture which twisted his countenance so grimly. Men in such a state say, "What's the use of trying to go on?" Was Wynn ready to give up? He had every reason to be.
    Ed, you see, had put his faith in his friends and had found them wanting. Business men often believe they could be good actors. Wynn, like many another actor, thought he'd be a good business man.
    He'd had lofty hopes then. He'd had visions of himself as the master mind of a network stretching from coast-to-coast through which he'd intrigue the nation with the magic of master showmanship he'd learned in his years on Broadway. It was to be a profitable enterprise too. Radio should be financially generous to him as it had been to the Columbia Broadcasting System and to the National Broadcasting Company.
    He lavished his enthusiasm on members of the press when he made the formal announcement of the formation of the Amalgamated Broadcasting System. He told them of the important advertisers who stood ready to support him with their sponsorship of programs. Rumors flitted about the radio world that the chain had the moral support of President Roosevelt. The supposition was strengthened when Curtis M. Dall, son-in-law of Mr. Roosevelt became one of the executives of the organization.

BUT experienced radio men shook their heads dubiously. They were thinking of such barriers to Wynn's success as the difficulty of obtaining good outlets for his programs. If you couldn't reach a large audience, what was the sense of trying to organize a new network? They advised him against it. It couldn't be done.
    Couldn't be done? Ed was certain it could. He knew that his dream couldn't fail to become real. But the first thing was to get the organization together. The stations could come later. They needed fine offices, offices that would instill in his lieutenants the spirit of success. He'd show those unbelievers.
    The offices were expensively decorated and furnished. At first the radio world was impressed. But as weeks slipped by with little seeming to materialize in the Amalgamated headquarters, it began to wonder. Ed, however, wasn't the least bit worried. He knew everything was going to be just fine. Why in a few days, they'd move into new and larger quarters on Madison Avenue, just across the street from the Columbia Broadcasting System building. Work on the studios had already begun.
    The cynics became temporarily less raucous in their predictions of failure when Amalgamated finally did move, and Ed himself was full of confidence. And he expected to he able to register satisfaction soon. Here in the new headquarters, was something reassuringly tangible. The studios were being equipped in up-to-the-minute manner. The executive offices and a board room, for lavishness of design, were exceeded by few in New York.
    A date had been set for the formal opening. Now he'd be able to prove the skeptics had been hasty in their forecasts of failure. But that opening was postponed. And again it was put off. And again. The critics opened fire once more.

WYNN wouldn't listen. Things were going all right. Too bad he'd have to be in Hollywood for the filming of his picture, "The Fire Chief," when the opening finally did take place, but he'd have his day of triumph later.
    Now a star engaged in making a motion picture is a pretty busy person. Wynn was particularly occupied with his trying, wearing work, for he was eager to get back to New York to watch the progress of his network. But he could always steal a few minutes to study the reports wired to him each day. They were full of hope. Sponsors seemed eager to pay good fees for time on his chain. Then he received word that the long-delayed opening had taken place. At last his network was on the air.
    But his elation was destined to a short life. Soon came the first day of a week of tortured doubt, suspicion. Rumor had whispered that all was not well within the Amalgamated Broadcasting System. It is said along Radio Row that a syndicate radio column written by Peter Dixon was shown to him. It revealed the Amalgamated Broadcasting System as an unstable organization with little hope of success.
    Oh, but this couldn't be possible. Nothing like this could happen to his brain-child. But he must know. Were all his ideas, his investment of $112,000 to vanish? That couldn't be. But he must make sure.
    Telegraph wires hummed with a sharp query. Long distance telephone conversations followed. Confidence struggled with the bewilderment of fear and doubt in Wynn. He must take a fast train to New York instantly. He must find out the truth.
    The train rushing across the continent hummed a steady dirge. If all this were true, how would he be able to face the radio world again? They would laugh at him. His ears would catch "I told you so's" from every side.

BUT he was determined to see the thing through. Immediately on his arrival, he went into a conference which lasted far into the early hours of the morning. Every hour brought him new revelations. Each revelation was a sharp blow which dropped a burning shaft of shame deeper into the pride which so shortly before filled him. Money bag
    What bitter irony was this that, though Amalgamated had had beautiful offices and studios and a Rolls Royce for executives, that for weeks the employees had worked without pay, and when they finally had begun to draw salaries, it was half pay. Many of them were competent radio workers, long out of employment, hoping for a future with this network.
    And the artists? He'd known that they'd agreed to wait for the sponsor's money to start pouring in before they were paid. But he'd been so sure that sponsors were ready to start. Yet there wasn't a single account in sight. Now he was told that the artists, some of them once-famous names, almost all without money, watched enviously as the Columbia artists stepped from their fine cars and entered the studios across the street. A few of the Amalgamated artists, evicted from their homes while waiting with blind hope, had begged to be allowed to sleep in the studios.
    That opening too, he learned, had been a disgraceful affair. The world and its brother, apparently, had been invited. It had been like a milling subway jam. Many of his old Broadway friends had been there and gone away disgusted. What could they have thought of him? What could they be thinking now?
    And what about the programs up to the time they went off the air? At last they must have been listened to. No? The audiences had been small. The stations were too low powered. Too difficult to tune in. But why all this? Why?

THERE had been competent men in the organization, to be sure. But there had been others who hadn't the slightest idea how to conduct the business of a network. Amalgamated had split into two factions, then tottered and crashed around Ed Wynn in ruin. Radio Row had snickered at him before. Now it was laughing openly. Employees were besieging the disillusioned comedian for unpaid salaries. Some of the final pay checks had been dishonored by the bank. He was faced with the threat of litigation on other counts for years to come. Men discouraged, humiliated, have committed suicide for less. What does a man like Wynn do under such circumstances?
    He was asked why, when he was a successful radio comedian at $5,000 a week, when he was to return to the air at $7,500, he should have attempted to become a broadcast baron.
    He shook his head in a slow, sad, puzzled manner.
    "I never dreamed it would he like this."
    He thought bitterly of the $180,000 he'd spent in seventeen years to build himself as "The Perfect Fool." He pondered on the fact that he'd been on the air but two weeks and everyone knew him only as "The Fire Chief."
    "Gentlemen," he said with a wry smile to the reporters gathered around him, "you may once more characterize me as 'The Perfect Fool.'"
    But let's return to talk with him after this, his second broadcast following his great misfortune. Like a true trouper, his first thought is, not of his own troubles, but of how well he'd done on the program.
    "All night I've been in pain." he says. "I could never say such a thing on the air, but I'm sure my audience must have suspected it. My performance was bad, very bad. The Texas Company didn't want me to go on tonight, but I had to had to in spite of everything."
    We attempt to reassure him.
    "No," he answers with a sigh. "I know when I'm good and when I'm not. All the trouble I've had--oh, well, I brought it all on myself. I have no one but myself to blame."
    Would he make another attempt at organizing a network?
    Lines of determination drive away the creases of pain on his face for a moment.
    "Never again'" he declares vehemently. "My business is to make people laugh, not to make myself fell like crying."
    The same day, Wynn was being shown through the enormous studio in Radio City. The tour consumed considerable time.
    "Now, boys," said Wynn when two hours had passed, "if you'll just give me one second, I'll take you over and show you Amalgamated's studios."
    In spite of everything, Ed Wynn can still laugh. That's right. Laugh, clown, laugh. And a world that is full of friends will laugh with you.
If  you  are,  a  certain  story  in
next  month's  RADIO  STARS
may  change  your  whole  life!