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Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
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Podcast Bio: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red Nosed ReindeerRudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is the most famous reindeer of all. Bigger than Dasher or Dancer or Vixen. Comet or Cupid or Donner or Blitzen. And he’s about 110 years younger too.

That is only the first part of this amazing story of popular culture of Christmas in the 20th century. Rudolph, in fact, is as big a legend in the 20th century as Scrooge was in the 19th century. And that’s saying something of a character who was written for a department store give-a-away.

The year was 1939 and fame Chicago department store Montgomery Wards gave writer Robert May the task of coming up with a Christmas character for children. The character did not need to Scrooge-like — he just had to fit within the pages of a simple coloring book that would be given away to children who lined up to visit Santa Claus in their stores.

May went to work and quite nearly screwed it up. He decided to feature a reindeer based on the simple fact that his young daughter loved reindeer and the part they played in Santa’s story. So May created a reindeer he decided to name Rudolph.

The trouble came when May decided to give Rudolph a distinct feature: his bright red nose.

Ironically, just like the in the story itself, that crazy nose of Rudolph’s created some trouble. May’s boss was not so sure a character in a children’s book should sport a red nose. It might infer that Rudolph had a drinking problem.

Such were the sensibilities in pre-war America in 1939.

~ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for the Christmas Hall of Fame ~

But May got past that by showing Rudolph visually to his boss — the story was saved and a Christmas legend was born.

Here we are, now 81 years later, talking about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer entering the Christmas Hall of Fame.

And why not?

Rudolph has sold more books, more records, and more videos of his story than just about any other Christmas creation in the past 100 years — including the prodigious Christmas works of Bing Crosby, Jimmy Stewart, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra combined.

Rudolph sells.

And he appeals to children like no other character every created. Well, except for Santa Claus.

Will you vote for him in the Christmas Hall of Fame?

Listen to this episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
Author: Jeff Westover
Title: Podcast Bio: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

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Podcast Bio: Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby

Christmas Hall of Fame PodcastBing Crosby was the biggest name in Christmas and in music in the 20th century — hands down. Others will argue it might have been Elvis or Frank Sinatra or Johnny Cash or someone else. And they would be completely wrong. Bing was the one everyone else imitated.

Crosby’s story is classically American. He was a typical American kid born of middle-class folks in small-town Spokane, Washington who rose to fame due to the blessed talent of golden pipes. He came along during the emerging media technology of radio. He transitioned from radio to film and then to television.

The story of his fame as an artist is marked by many things but it is his Christmas creations that keep him remembered.

~Crosby the Sound Recording Pioneer~

In a way, that is kind of a shame. Crosby’s talents were far more than that of just a singer. He was an innovator in the use of technology. He invented the laugh track. He pioneered the art of over-dubbing, the harnessing of recordings that allowed a singer to harmonize with himself — a technique that artists still widely use today in their recordings.

Crosby was a performer and he for years had to grapple with producers and networks over the quality of what he considered his product – himself. Long before Elvis slung a guitar low on his hips or Sinatra crooned into a microphone it was Crosby who showed them how to do that. Crosby fought the battles of corporate media to get them to see that the nuanced visuals of musical performing were critical to ultimate success.

But nothing was more important than the music. Crosby had to fight them continually on the “bigger picture” of how it all came together. There is a famous story of an epic battle waged with a producer who was more concerned with his toupee than with the song being performed. Crosby had to remind him that the listening radio audience was never going to see the hair piece.

~Crosby the Actor~

These days, nearly fifty years since his passing, Bing is remembered for the song White Christmas. And well he should be. White Christmas continues to be the biggest selling single of all time and the defacto anthem of Christmas. No other song comes close to being performed or records as much by other artists as White Christmas. The song, of course, we spun into a movie starring — who else? — Bing Crosby.

The transition of Bing Crosby the radio star and recording artist into the Academy Award winning actor seemed to happen seamlessly. That transition was build on the fame that cast Bing Crosby as a trusted source. In an era with historical figures of politics and war looming large it was artist Bing Crosby who for well over a decade following World War II was the most trusted man in America.

Crosby also gets little recognition for his business savvy. He invested his riches in new technologies and in industries far away from his specialty. He was a huge name in horse racing, in golf and he helped to pioneer the frozen orange juice industry.

Crosby was ever forward-looking in his artistry. As he passed his prime he wisely embraced the idea of working with emerging artists. He partnered famously with Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley. As he transitioned again from film into television he worked with stars ranging from Glen Campbell to Johnny Cash to Jose Feliciano to David Bowie — never letting his style outshine their own. The result is a catalog of beautiful and unmatched collaborations.

Christmas was a staple for Crosby and America seemed to celebrate the traditions of Christmas through Bing’s television specials of the 1960s and 1970s.

In all, Crosby’s career followed the arc of emerging media technology of the 20th century — from the early days of radio to the cable era of television.

His was a remarkable run that spanned better than half a century that forever connected him to Christmas.

Listen to this episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
Author: Jeff Westover
Title: Podcast Bio: Bing Crosby

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Podcast Bio: Charles Dickens


Charles DickensCharles Dickens has a most amazing run in the history of Christmas. His greatest Christmas work, A Christmas Carol, has seen continuous play on stage, on film and in print since December 1843.

How many other literary works can you think of that has that kind of history, popularity and staying power? And that’s the thing: we see no end to his run.

Charles Dickens is as worthy of a candidate for the Christmas Hall of Fame as anyone.

~ The Beginnings of Charles Dickens ~

He was born at just the right time, in just the right place and his career followed an arc in the emergence of publishing technology that made it possible for Charles Dickens to become the first media superstar of worldwide acclaim.

Born in 1812 Dickens enjoyed a pleasant childhood before things took a devastating turn for his family: his father was cast into debtors prison. Young Charles and at least one of his siblings had to find employment in order to help the family survive. He began work at the tender age of 12 at the peak of work abuses to both adults and children at the beginning of the British industrial revolution.

His experiences between the ages of 12 and 20 would color the pages of his later written works. Just as he wrote in A Christmas Carol, the themes of ignorant, poverty, want and neglect were ones he would not shy away from.

Dickens had developed a love of theater, attending frequently and dabbling here and there in acting. He was well known among his friends and work associates as clever, funny and a great mimic.

These were passions he quite nearly pursued as a career. But along with his scholarly pursuits came a course in a system of shorthand that proved useful to journalists. He worked for a time as a political reporter then as a columnist and satirist penning a regular column detailing fictional story lines.

~ Dickens the Writer ~

This was where the writer in Dickens began to flourish and before long his works of fiction in England’s press began to develop a lucrative following. He began to publish and soon was one of England’s leading authors. He married and started a large family.

As he matured he naturally did battle with publishers, who he felt were taking more than their fair share of the profits. Some historians portray Dickens as nearly broke and desperate when he wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843. This is a distortion. While Dickens was at a career crossroads at about the age of 30 he was also in need of finding more profitable shares of his creations. Due to a dispute with a publisher, he decided to self-publish A Christmas Carol.

Self publishing didn’t pan out for the first edition of A Christmas Carol but it did in subsequent editions. In fact, it took Charles Dickens and his family to a whole new level financially and that changed both his outlook and his economic prospects.

A Christmas Carol made him permanently viable and made publishing everything else he would create in the future easier. Dickens went on to a successful and lucrative career as one of the biggest literary stars of the 19th century.

But it was A Christmas Carol that defined him both in his time and in ours. For the rest of his life he would tour frequently, “doing readings” of his work which meant acting out the characters in different voices and mimicking their behaviors. Here is one review of a performance of Charles Dickens performing A Christmas Carol:

Dickens Performs a Christmas Carol

By the time Dickens died in 1870 he was a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic. Christmas simply was not Christmas without Charles Dickens.

That is still true.

Listen to this episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
Author: Jeff Westover
Title: Podcast Bio: Charles Dickens

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Podcast Bio: Jesus the Christ

Jesus the ChristJesus the Christ is the very reason we celebrate Christmas at all. Historians and politicians have throughout time debated where Christmas originated, some claiming the winter solstice celebrations of paganism were hijacked by Christians as a political power ploy.

This episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast explores the origins of the Christmas story and explains just what The Christ means (it’s not a name, it is a title).

Christmas is much older than the story of the Nativity that most know so well from the 2nd Chapter of Luke in the New Testament.

There is far more to explore in the history of Jesus and the aftermath of his death and resurrection than can be covered in a brief podcast.

However, the fundamentals of why we celebrate Christmas and how it has endured so long is a fascinating topic that cannot and should not be ignored. This episode briefly touches on the true celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas and of his resurrection at Easter and why they both go together.

A world growing ever more secular in the celebration of Christmas is missing a powerful opportunity with each passing Christmas season to not only come to know God but also to celebrate the divine within themselves.

This is at the at the very heart of celebrating the coming of The Christ into the world.

The impact of Jesus on the history of the world, and by extension, the history of Christmas simply cannot be calculated. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas.

It is likewise important to note that much of the history of Jesus is shrouded in myth, speculation and outright deception.

His memory has been corrupted by major and minor figures in history for their own purposes. Constantine, a Roman Emperor who feigned later conversion to Christianity, led the charge of the Council of Nicea. It was there that the divinity of Christ was debated and compromised.

In the process of these and other events, the pure doctrines of Christ were corrupted, changed and molded to political and worldly ends.

Even the Bible and how we came to have it today emerged from generations of religious and political leaders who for whatever their reasons added to, took away, or denied access to precious truths kept in sacred texts that both pre-dated and came after the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ.

In fact, we know of more than 70 ancient texts that were considered for “the Bible”, but that never were canonized. The Book of Enoch, the Book of Mary and other texts that largely denied the world greater knowledge of the life Jesus led before his ministry were excluded.

This is largely why the search for understanding of the Christ, and thus of Christmas, is as much a spiritual journey as it is an intellectual pursuit.

We could draw parallels to both Joseph and Mary of old: they knew of the coming of the Messiah and yet when faced with an intimate inclusion in that story they were only educated by spiritual means.

The promise of Christmas, as demonstrated by them and the Shepherds, is that the miracles of spiritual discoveries can and do happen.

It is critical to note that everyone in the Nativity story knew of Jesus was before he was born. Joseph, Mary, Zacharias, Elizabeth and even the wick King Herod knew exactly who he was. They were taught the prophesies of Isaiah and Abraham and Moses and others. They knew.

Those of us living thousands of years after all of these individuals need to trust their experience if we are to enjoy the full measure of true Christmas celebration. Without them, and without Christ, our Christmas would be hollow and incomplete.

Listen to this episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
Author: Jeff Westover
Title: Podcast Bio: Jesus the Christ

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Podcast Bio: James Stewart
James Stewart

Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful LifeJames Stewart is the only actor in the inaugural nominated class of the Christmas Hall of Fame. (Yes, Bing Crosby acted…but we know why he is really here).

Jimmy Stewart won’t be the only actor who makes the Hall of Fame.

But there is something appropriate about him being the first to be nominated. In our preliminary surveys for the Hall of Fame his name was the first mentioned of all actors associated with Christmas movies – by a wide, wide margin.

Why do people think of James Stewart and Christmas?

There are many reasons, the first of which is quite obvious: the most popular Christmas movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life.

~ James Stewart: Actor and Patriot ~

The story of that film is well known by Christmas fans.

Based on a short story by Phillip Van Doren Stern called The Greatest Gift the movie bounced around for a while between Hollywood studios before falling in the lap of Frank Capra.

Right after the war, Capra called Stewart and asked him to look at the lead part.  Stewart describes his conversation with Capra about it:

“Now, listen,” Frank began hesitantly. He seemed a little embarrassed about what he was going to say. “The story starts in heaven, and it’s sort of the Lord telling somebody to go down to earth because there’s a fellow who is in trouble, and this heavenly being goes to a small town, and…”

Frank swallowed and took a deep breath. “Well, what it boils down to is, this fellow who thnks he’s a failure in life jumps off a bridge. The Lord sends down an angel named Clarence, who hasen’t earned his wings yet, and Clarence jumps into the water to save the guy. But the angel can’t swim, so the guy has to save him, and then…”

Frank stopped and wiped his brow. “This doesn’t tell very well, does it?”

I jumped up. “Frank, if you want to do a picture about a guy who jumps off a bridge and an angel named Clarence who hasn’t won his wings yet coming down to save him, well, I’m your man!”

Of course, there’s a lot more to the story of this movie. But movie fans for generations came to love this film — and it eventually ranked as the #1 inspirational film of all time — because it played on television for decades every Christmas season.

For over 35 years Jimmy Stewart and George Bailey were as big a part of every Christmas as Santa Claus.

Stewart was no one-hit wonder however. He was THE leading man in Hollywood in the 1930s. Then he interrupted his soaring career and joined the Air Force during World War II — completely distinguishing himself in new ways.

Once the war was over, he picked up the pieces and returned to his film career, starting completely over. He went on to a storied career that was capped by a low-budget and at-first rarely seen made-for-television Christmas movie called Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.

~ James Stewart as Willie Krueger ~

Mr. Krueger's ChristmasThis television movie was a simple story: Stewart played a lonely senior citizen janitor who is prone to falling into bits of remembering the past and fantasizing about a more meaningful present.

He’s lonely, missing his dead wife, and anxious to celebrate Christmas. A group of carolers come to his door one day and he responds enthusiastically, getting caught up in the music and fantasizing about being a part of it all.

This 30-minute film, made by an Academy award winning director, would like It’s a Wonderful Life find constant replay on television Christmas after Christmas for decades. It would make a new Christmas star of Jimmy Stewart, mostly because of his one-take scene as he approaches the Baby Jesus in the manger.

In all, Jimmy Stewart the actor and Jimmy Stewart the American are beloved to the Christmas-loving world because his messages of Christmas still resonate, now decades after he has passed on.

It's a Wonderful Life

Listen to this episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
Author: Jeff Westover
Title: Podcast Bio: James Stewart

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Podcast Bio: Santa Claus

Santa Claus is fairly recent entrant on the Christmas stage. At least compared to some others nominated for induction into the Christmas Hall of Fame. His actual date of origin cannot be definitively determined. But for well over 200 years he has been at the center of that Christmas stage.

As Dutch and German immigrants settled into the North Eastern United States they brought traditions of St. Nicholas with them as they celebrated Christmas.

Their images, their customs, their names and their traditions for St. Nicholas all varied just a little. But artists looking to unify the community by quelling the raucous celebration of Christmas on the streets (especially in New York City and in Philadelphia) looked to St. Nicholas as a symbol of what Christmas could be: peaceful, giving, and joyous.

While evidence suggests several works that attempted to unify the image of a Christmas gift-bringer there is one poem that delivered on that hope and gave rise to the individual we now know as Santa Claus.

~ Santa Claus: Born in New York? ~

That poem was A Visit from St. Nicholas, a little work written by a father on Christmas Eve for his children. He was a distinguished man of education. He never intended for the poem to be used outside of his family. His name is Clement Clark Moore, and he too, because of his poem, is nominated for the Christmas Hall of Fame.

In this first episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame podcast we explore the impact of Moore’s poem and the stature it created for the man most just call Santa.

He is recognizable around the world instantly. He beloved by millions.

Santa Claus had the good fortune of coming to the public mind during a time of media explosion. First he was known in print, then in painted art, and then in song. For more than 30 years after the first publishing of Moore’s poem, he enjoyed a kind of singular Christmas existence — he was for the children.

But as his traditions and the stories of him expanded into music, then recorded music and finally into film making that would take him from the Silver Screen to every small screen now available today, Santa’s influence has been unstoppable.

Merchants and marketers use him as a salesman. Parents use him to create Christmas magic. Historians use him as an example of how media has spread influence.

Thankfully, we have a solid record of nearly two-hundred years of Santa’s goodness. His generosity, creativity and influence for good have been documented by young and old alike for generations.

He is one of the more enduring elements of Christmas. He is modernized by art yet at the same time honored as tradition. He occupies a unique place in the history of Christmas.

~ About the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast ~

This first episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast begins a new level in our outreach for more votes.

Each episode will focus on nominees. But we do not want the voices heard to be ours alone.

We invite podcasters, historians, radio DJs and other interested parties to voice these episodes or to lend their own podcasts in support of candidates for the Christmas Hall of Fame.

The Christmas Hall of Fame is all about the voice of those who celebrate Christmas.

We believe in the years ahead we can make an impact on the history of Christmas by documenting Christmas in this way — through the voice of the people. If you vote, you let future generations know just the who, what, when and where of Christmas that our generations wanted remembered.

We hope you make your voice heard first by voting — and then by sharing the efforts we make here, including the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast.

Listen to this episode of the Christmas Hall of Fame Podcast
Author: Jeff Westover
Title: Podcast Bio: Santa Claus