In the late 1940s, a radio executive declared,
“The housewife is the heart and backbone of America’s vast daytime
radio audience.” Women could perform all of their daily household activities
while simultaneously keeping up with their favorite radio soap operas and advice
programs. However, television
executives weren’t sure if the American homemaker would turn on television in
the morning just as she did radio, and leave the set on throughout the day.
Television is a visual medium and, unlike radio, demands your attention. Would
homemakers drop what they were doing to watch daytime TV? It was a gamble the
executives were willing to take.
Detroit television in the 1950s was host to a mélange of
local morning programs aimed at the female audience. From the Lady of Charm
and Hello Girls to Ladies Day with Chuck Bergeson
the daytime hours were full of programs with a decidedly feminine flair.
One of the earliest local quiz programs on Detroit TV aimed at
the female audience was Cinderella Weekend. The show originated live from
the main auditorium of the WWJ studios and was the first program in the Midwest
to be simulcast on both radio and television. The daily program debuted on WWJ
radio in 1948. Later that year the Friday broadcast was simulcast on WWJ-TV. The
show went to five days a week on television in 1950, sponsored by Big Bear
Cinderella Weekend was an early franchise show, created
and developed by V.I.P. Service; Inc. V.I.P. supplied the scripts, prizes and
product giveaways. In turn, WWJ paid a fee for the broadcast rights. WWJ was one
of a dozen stations in the country that aired the program. The show’s
quizmasters in Detroit were Johnny King and Dave Zimmerman.
Johnny King was known as “Detroit’s Irish Tenor.” Before
coming to Detroit he travelled the country, singing and playing banjo and
saxophone with the Paul Whiteman and Glen Gray orchestras. King was the emcee at
the famed Bowery nightclub in Hamtramck for seven years, and on WWJ radio he
accumulated more airtime than any other Detroit performer. Dave Zimmerman was a
long time announcer at WWJ. He hosted the popular WWJ radio program Coffee
Club and was on the air for Detroit’s first television broadcast from the
47th floor of the Penobscot Building.
Before each show, a panel of four women was chosen from the
audience. Each contestant sat in front of a pumpkin shaped clock set for the
magic hour of midnight. During the program each contestant was asked a series of
questions. Every correct answer advanced the clock 15 minutes. The woman with
the most time on her clock at the end of the program was the day’s winner.
Daily prizes such as jewelry, cosmetics and appliances were awarded. The winners
of the first four programs during the week returned on Friday to compete in a
playoff. The grand prize winner was whisked off set with a friend of her
choosing in a pumpkin coach to begin her three-day “Cinderella Weekend” in
New York City.
The trip began as soon as the credits rolled for the Friday
show. Before leaving Detroit the winner would receive a complete wardrobe and
makeover. Then the lucky Cinderella of the Week and her guest were whisked by
cab to Detroit City Airport, where they hopped the next Capitol Airlines flight
to the Big Apple. The weekend for two included breakfast in bed, hotel and
nightclub reservations, theater tickets, a tour of the city, dancing lessons and
lunches and dinners at New York’s top restaurants. The winner was given $35.00
to cover tips. Cinderella and her companion returned to Detroit on Sunday
evening and appeared on the show the following Monday to talk about the trip.
By the time the last show aired in 1953, WWJ sent more
than 500 prize winners to New York City, had more than 300,000 visitors in the
WWJ auditorium and gave away more than one and a half million dollars worth of
Cinderella Weekend provided many women with their first airplane trip, a
second honeymoon, or just a chance to be treated like a princess.
Cinderella Weekend provided many women with their first airplane trip, a second honeymoon, or just a chance to be treated like a princess.