The youngest guy I ever knew is dead at the age of 80.
Eddie Allen began the Cuzin Eddie Show in 2001 and was a radio personality on WMCL until a few years ago. For part of that time I was on the air with him, at first once a week and, later, from Monday through Friday for at least half an hour, often longer. Eddie was in the station; I called in. Of course I was only one of many guests on his three-hour program. In addition to authors and local people promoting various civic projects, he presented musical performers, usually on Thursdays. The musicians would sing and play live in the studio for at least two hours, Eddie joining in more often than not. In later years, live drama was a weekly feature on the Cuzin Eddie Show. Throughout his radio years Eddie had one heck of a time.
Usually I would read a poem, an essay, or a story. Most memorable, probably, or at least Eddie thought so, was our long-running Western titled the Real West. It featured such characters as Holt and Dobie, both confirmed drifters drifting aimlessly across a mostly featureless landscape leading nowhere. In the course of their pointless sojourn, the pair would ponder the verities of a Universe that appeared to have less use for them than for the tumbling tumbleweeds that accompanied them dawn to dusk and kept them from sleeping come nightfall. Bleak would have been a step up!
These guys had long ago left Meaning back in Dustville, a nondescript outpost where the barkeep kept bar by keeping a towel in one hand— for smearing dust off the bar once the wind slacked off—and a blackjack in the other for subduing trouble makers. Across town, such as it was, the schoolmarm kept order to a minimum. Far from Dustville and unsure how to return, Holt and Dobie found each day new territory, but as for the proper name of that territory, neither had a clue.
I was Holt, a more or less no-nonsense type, leaving Eddie to play the hapless Dobie. Dobie would go on and on about the night sky with all that nothing between the stars and beyond the nothing he could see, still more nothing. Poor Holt couldn’t answer a single one of his partner’s unanswerable questions, which only prompted more questions.
As with any Western worth its six-guns and saddle sores, the Real West had the obligatory villain, though not the typical menace scowling under a black hat—this outlaw was a walking disaster zone. He was bad enough, had he been one of Freud’s patients the preeminent psychoanalyst would have slipped into another profession. Needless to say, his name was rarely spoken with less than a shudder: Dave Dave The Depraved Outlaw With The Two First Names. Addressing Dave by his two first names was allowable, though just barely, but if one so much as whispered aloud his third name, The Depraved Outlaw With The Two First Names went for his gun. He couldn’t help himself, that’s how bad he was. What was that unmentionable surname, the very uttering of which guaranteed a one-way ticket to Boot Hill? Dave! Apparently depraved outlaws cannot abide being called the same name three times in a row.
There were at least a dozen other characters, including the hapless Madison Addison Edison, first cousin to the illustrious Thomas Alva Edison. An inventor in his own right, Madison Addison was fed up with hearing fellow losers drone on about some bigwig who “pulls his pants on one leg at a time, the same as everybody else.” Having heard all he could stand, the unsung inventor proceeded to invent a device bearing an uncanny resemblance to a small sliding board except it had two parallel slides. Madison Addison Edison’s brainchild allowed a man to put his pants on two legs at a time, thus destroying forever the time-honored cliché. Sadly, despite best efforts to get his invention accepted by the general public, he proved more complete as a failure than even before, and was left more than a little embittered. When people had the bad form to compare him to his cousin, he would often rip down curtains and curse at the stars, not one of which he could name.
However, the character I found most memorable of all was the oddity known as Bark-Quack-Meow. Part dog, part duck and third part cat, this little creature did take some getting used to, owing to its unique appearance; but Bark-Quack-Meow was such a good-hearted sort, it won people over almost immediately. The adorable composite didn’t actually do anything, except bring happiness to those whose pointless lives were featured daily on the Real West, heard only on the Cuzin Eddie Show.
Yes, I concocted the characters found in the Real West, but Eddie helped bring them to life. He was perfect for it. No situation was too absurd for him, no personage too bizarre. One could almost say the sky Dobie found so limitless was our limit.
Quite simply, the Cuzin Eddie Show went places where other radio shows didn’t go. Let’s leave it at that.
Three hours of unrehearsed nonsense mixed with pithier fare, Eddie’s live program was broadcast Monday through Friday from WMCL, a radio station atop a hill near McLeansboro, Illinois.
The stories about Eddie are endless.
Eddie Allen (1933-2013). Thanks, old friend, thanks for everything.