Friday, January 29, 2021

Ypsilanti's Frog Island Bridge Murder Podcast

In 1935 on a blustery day in March, the body of a seven-year-old boy was found frozen to death under a footbridge adjacent to the Huron River in the section of Ypsilanti, Michigan called Depot Town.

True crime podcaster Dan Zupansky interviewed me on his weekly podcast True Murder: The Most Shocking Killers on January 12, 2021 about The Richard Streicher Jr. Murder. (90 minutes)

Richard Streicher Jr. Murder Podcast

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Kelly & Company's Marilyn Turner

Let's face it, folks! John Kelly was a Detroit television news second banana to Jac LeGoff at WJBK-Channel 2 and Bill Bonds at WXYZ-Channel 7 until he married Action News weathercaster Marilyn Turner. Together, they made Detroit television history when their popular morning show Kelly & Company ran for seventeen years. The live talk show was a mixture of show business gossip, fashion news, celebrity interviews, and the discussion of community issues of interest.

John William Kelin II was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1927. He served as a radioman in World War II and again in Korea. After his enlistment was up, he worked as a TV program director and production manager in Rockford, Illinois before moving to WJBK in August 1965. John changed his birth surname to the more mainstream Kelly and began working as a field reporter before becoming co-anchor of WJBK's evening news program with senior correspondent Jac LeGoff. The toughest part of the job was having to laugh at LeGoff's tepid sense of humor.

In the 1970s at the direction of parent company American Broadcasting Company (ABC), WXYZ began an aggressive build-up of local news. Early in 1972, John Kelly jumped from WJBK-Channel 2 to WXYZ-Channel 7 and became co-anchor opposite Bill Bonds. Not long after, WWJ-Channel 4 fired Al Ackerman for editorializing on-air during his live sports broadcast. The popular sportscaster was swooped up by WXYZ. Then, later that year (October 1972), Marilyn Turner left WJBK to join the Channel 7 Action News team as a weathercaster five nights a week.

After seeing a newspaper ad referring to her as a weather girl, forty-one-year-old Turner let WXYZ management know she bristled at the weather girl label. "I don't believe any woman over 21 should be called a girl. You don't call a man a weather boy." The ad ran only once.

Marilyn Miller was born and bred in Windsor, Ontario across the river from Detroit. She was educated at Hugh Beaton Public School and graduated from Walkerville Collegiate before attending the University of Western Ontario at London where she studied psychology before switching to teaching. Subsequently, Marilyn married Dr. Robert Turner of Kitchener, Ontario. She began modeling and doing print ads for local retailers, first in Canada and then in the United States. In 1961 at the age of thirty, Turner became a weekend weathercaster at Detroit television station WJBK, known as "Miss Fairweather." She was still able to pursue her modeling and advertising career during the week.

While working at WJBK, Turner made a commercial that followed her throughout her years on television. She became the spokesperson for Carpet Center. Her ads appeared on all three Detroit television stations; they were broadcast on local radio stations throughout Detroit; and print ads appeared in local newspapers. One ad had Turner riding on a Persian carpet throughout the carpet warehouse. Her new contract with Channel 7 Action News prohibited their news personnel from making commercials, but her previous advertising work ran for many years, much to the annoyance of some viewers.

Initially, Turner was not a popular choice because she replaced familiar weatherman Jim Smith. Smith was Detroit's only genuine meteorologist and Turner had no experience except reading the weather from a script at her previous job. The outcry was so great that Smith made a public statement saying "Marilyn did what any person would do when they are offered a better job opportunity and more money." Smith quietly moved over to WJBK and took over their weather time slots.

Kelly and Turner met when they worked at WJBK, but it wasn't until Marilyn began working on the Action News team that they started dating. The couple kept their romance a secret as long as they could. They married on December 27, 1974 in a private home in Oxford, Michigan after their 6:00 pm newscast. The bride wore a salmon-colored, ankle-length dress and held a bouquet of roses and daisies. The groom wore a black suit with a gray vest. The newlyweds planned a Jamaican honeymoon between their next ratings period. Kelly (47) had three children from a previous marriage, and Turner (43) was married twice to Dr. Robert Turner and divorced him twice. She had a son from each marriage.

The triumph of hope over experience was a big enough challenge for the newlywed couple, but when the ABC network found out, the Kellys discovered there was a corporate policy against married couples working on the same TV news program. WXYZ had no such policy, but the chemistry of the new dynamic was palpable on the Action News set. The newspaper gossip columnists began referring to Kelly and Turner as the "Power Couple of Detroit." Even the station started to promote their news program that way.

But the wisdom of the policy was made apparent on Saturday, April 24, 1976 when Kelly moved into his own apartment due to domestic problems. Though the couple acted professionally on the air, the strain on the Action News team was perceptible. After fifteen months of separation and marriage counseling, John and Marilyn patched things up. He moved backed into their Farmington home.

Hoping to quell the persistent concerns of their parent ABC network, WXYZ pitched John Kelly the idea for a new type of live, morning program with a studio audience. At first, the Kelly & Company idea had no appeal for him. The rude awakening of getting up at 4:30 every morning was a deal breaker.

The station manager asked Kelly what it would take for him to change his mind. Kelly added terms to his contract he was sure would make his bosses look elsewhere for their daytime program host, but the station manager made Kelly an offer too good to refuse that included "more money, longer vacations, and out-of-state assignments." It was also a good move for his wife who was tired of doing the weather forecast.

When Kelly and Turner left Action News, John was making $175,000 as co-anchor and Marilyn was making $45,000 as weathercaster. Upon the debut of Kelly & Company on October 25, 1978, the couple signed a package deal for $500,000 a year. Kelly got $275,000 and Turner's salary jumped to $225,000.

The ninety-minute, live show was viewer friendly, community focused, and guest oriented. Co-hosts John Kelly and Marilyn Turner maintained an on-screen chemistry and lighthearted atmosphere that appealed strongly to women in the 18-40 year-old demographic. The show soon became first in its time slot, but in early June 1990, Kelly underwent emergency surgery for colon cancer and needed several months to recover. Turner stayed by her husband's side for two weeks while the station used various substitute hosts until her return.

Kelly returned to the show after his recovery and soldiered on for another four years until he announced on January 8, 1994 that he would be leaving the show on March 4th at the age of sixty-seven. Marilyn, now sixty-three-years-old, would continue the show without him.

The program was quickly reimagined. Former urban reporter for WXYZ, Nikki Grandberry, was hired to co-host. The show was rebranded Company with Marilyn Turner and Nikki Grandberry. As hard as these women worked to make their show a success, the Arbitron ratings fell off sharply. Detroit Free Press media columnist Bob Talbert pronounced on October 11, 1994 that Turner and Grandberry "are the most unmatched pair on (Detroit) television." As the saying goes, "If it don't gel, it ain't aspic." At the end of their contract period, WXYZ uncermoniously cancelled the program. Kelly & Company was the last Detroit-produced, non-news program when it went off the air in 1995 after seventeen years serving Detroit's morning audience.

John Kelly passed away on September 18, 2016 at the Health and Living Center in Southfield, Michigan at the age of eighty-eight. Marilyn Turner passed away in mid-May, 2024 at the age of ninety-three. The exact date and cause of death was not revealed by her family.

Marilyn Turner interviews serial killer John Norman Collins from Marquette Prison

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Detroit's Lady of Charm Brings Home the Bacon

Edythe Fern Melrose, Detroit radio station WXYZ's Lady of Charm, and her business executive husband, Forest U. Webster, formed their own radio and print advertisement production company called House O'Charm Studios in 1941. This shrewd move put Edythe on a firm business footing which was rare for a woman of her time. Together, she and her husband produced her popular women's radio program and also made commercials for many of the products she used and recommended on her show. The Lady of Charm's seal of approval was money in the bank for advertisers, and sponsors were lining up to get her endorsement. It is difficult to overestimate her influence over women consumers in the Detroit area in the 1940s through the 1950s.

The Lady of Charm had long dreamed of the perfect kitchen, and she asked her viewers for their ideas. Once Edythe worked out what she wanted, she hired Ann Arbor consulting architect Walter T. Anicka to draw up the blueprints of her vision. Because Edythe was a savvy business woman, she took advantage of the tax benefits of dedicating a sizeable portion of the home to create America's first test kitchen home with a media production studio. She was masterful at product placement and literally set the stage for all cooking and fashion shows to follow.

The state of the art kitchen appliances and gadgets used in the home were donated by some of America's top manufacturers simply for promotional consideration. Everything used in the home inside and out was the most modern and finest available. The Lady of Charm was known for mentioning the brand names of the products she used whenever she used them. Her list of advertisers was impressive:

  • General Electric
  • Frigidaire
  • Hotpoint
  • Wrigley's Grocery Stores
  • Robinson's Furniture Company
  • Fisher Wall Paper and Paint Company
  • Palombit Tile
  • Restrick Lumber 
  • Hollywood Glass and Shower Door Company
  • Harold C. Southard--Designer and Builder
  • Grinnell Brothers (China and silver settings)
  • and many more
Their ads ran prevalently in the Real Estate and Property section of the local Detroit newspapers linking their products to the House O'Charm. This form of advertising was an early example of effective cross-marketing.

The House O'Charm was built on Lake St. Clair lakefront property in St. Clair Shores and doubled as the residence of the Websters--Edythe and Forest. The street view of the home appeared to be on one level, but the house had seven levels. The exterior of the home was light-faced brick. The entrance was a raised flagstone patio leading to a reception hall and gallery which the rest of the house radiated from. Straight ahead and a few steps down was a sunken living room with a black marble fireplace. Wide 6' by 9' expanses of thermopane glass windows flanking both sides of French doors, providing an impressive view of Lake St. Clair and leading outside to a flagstone terrace and sun deck facing the lake.

A fully-equipped kitchen to the right of the gallery was four steps above the living room level which included a dining room terrace and a breakfast nook . A stairway led down to a laundry and utility room. Another winding stairway led up to the maid's private apartment. A wide stairwell off the service entrance led down to the basement where the radio studio was located which included three production offices and a 13' storage wall. On the opposite end of the basement was a family recreation room.

Back on the ground floor, two spacious bedrooms, each with its own private his-and-hers bathrooms, were off the left end of the gallery. The master bedroom had a commanding view of the lake. The gallery was so long that each end had it's own fully-equipped, cleaning closet. This dream house also included an attached, two car garage facing the street and a boathouse on ground level facing the lake.

On November 28, 1948, the building was dedicated during a live radio broadcast when the Lady of Charm set the cornerstone. The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press each featured full, front page articles in the Real Estate and Property sections of their newspapers about the House O'Charm, with artist renderings of the home and targeted advertising.


Edythe and Forest were frequent vacationers to the United States Territory of Hawaii and admired the way tropical homes opened to the outdoors for inside-out living. Edythe was inspired to create a tropical-style home adapted to the often harsh Michigan weather.

Using modern construction materials and imaginative design, their new, innovative concept house would also double as a test home for products Edythe would later recommend for promotional consideration--not only kitchen products but also building materials and services used in the home's construction. Shrewdly, she and her husband deducted a percentage of the home's footprint from their federal taxes while taking full advantage of donated materials and product endorsements as they had done with the original House O'Charm--now for sale.

The new house was built in Grosse Point Woods and christened the Tropical House of Charm on May 28th, 1955. Unlike its predecessor, which was occasionally used for WXYZ tours and entertaining purposes, this home was not open to the public and more of a private residence. Harold C. Southard of Charm Builders once again was chosen to construct the tropical home. Edythe and Harold Southard were to build two more homes together in Grayling, Michigan. Closer examination reveals that Harold was Edythe's son from her first marriage, and in the interest of full disclosure, Edythe's television kitchen helper was her daughter-in-law Gretchen both seen in the above photo.

Tropical House of Charm facing Lake St. Clair.

The living room of the tropical house had 14' ceilings and a huge, sliding glass, thermopane wall that opened on pleasant days onto a 56' wide flagstone terrace leading towards Lake St. Clair. Waterproof marine-grade mahogany was used for exterior paneling. Inside the home, there were 30' of built-in planters filled with tropical plants and pygmi palm trees lit by a series of skylights. Edythe even had a flowering banana tree flown in from the Islands. A specialized wrought-iron stairway led to three bedrooms on the second level. The master bedroom had a lanai balcony overlooking the lake. Cork floors were used throughout the living and sleeping areas. The home was wired for television, telephone, and an intercom system. 

The dream kitchen had a built-in refrigerator, a double oven, and a dishwasher. The double sink was equipped with a garbage disposal. A convenient cooking island containing counter-top surface burners with plenty of storage was conveniently located. House O'Charm Studios filmed segments in her spacious test kitchen for her weekly television program and produced syndicated shows for other television stations in Michigan and Windsor, Ontario. She and her husband also produced television and print commercials for the products she tested and gave her seal of approval to. 

From her WXYZ salary, extensive product endorsements, and speaking fees, it is estimated the Lady of Charm made close to $100,000 yearly. In the 1950s, that was an impressive amount. She was active in Detroit and national business organizations and chosen Advertising Woman of the Year four times by the Women's Advertising Club of Detroit. In 1963, the Lady of Charm won the Zenith Television Award "for excellence in local programming and distinctive service to the community and its welfare." 

Edythe Fern Melrose was a television trailblazer and a woman ahead of her time. Miss Melrose left such an impression on comedian Lily Tomlin, who grew up in Detroit, that she based her Tasteful Lady character on Melrose.

Lady of Charm biography 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Detroit's Lindell AC Sports Bar Relish Tray Brawl

Lindell Athletic Club Bumper Sticker

It looked to Jimmy and Johnny Butsicaris like 1980 was going to be the Lindell AC's year. The Alex Karras/Susan Clark co-produced a Made-For TV Movie Jimmy B. and Andre which debuted on March 9th to strong reviews. Much of the movie was shot inside the Lindell, and the bar got lots of free publicity.

Sixty-year-old Jimmy Butsicaris also had a popular Sunday night radio program on WXYZ-1270 AM which aired 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm called Sports Talk: Live from the Lindell AC. Jimmy interviewed coaches, managers, and local sports heroes from Detroit's professional sports teams and their opponents from a booth set off in a quiet corner of the bar. A special phone line was installed so Jimmy could take questions from area sports fans to ask his guests on-air.

Then on April 29, 1980, some out-of-town trouble walked into their neighborhood sports bar. Two off-duty Pontiac police officers left a Tigers vs. Texas Rangers afternoon game early at Tiger Stadium that they attended with sixteen fellow Pontiac policemen. The game wasn't going well for the Tigers, so two of the officers left early. They tucked a note under the windsheild wiper of the church bus they had taken from Pontiac, Michigan. The note said they were at the Lindell and come by to pick them up after the game. Incidently, the Tigers lost that game 10-5.

The pair had a few beers at the ballpark before they walked several blocks to the Lindell.The brawl started when the police officers became loud and rude to some of the Lindell customers. Fifty-nine-year-old Johnny Butsicaris told them to tone it down. Then the pair began eating from a relish tray at a nearby table without ordering food. Johnny told them the relish tray was for people who bought hamburgers. The two men became obnoxious and threatened Johnny.

Johnny Butsicaris

Jimmy Butsicaris told the Detroit Free Press two days after the brawl, "Johnny took their beers and told them to leave. Then one of them grabbed a nearby beer bottle by the neck motioning like he was going to hit my brother with it. His partner wanted to get in on the action too, so I grabbed him and threw him up against a pole. That's when my bar's security stepped in and started pushing them out the front door.

"Then their friends arrived. Ten or twelve of them. They saw what was happening and jumped in. They knocked my brother John down and punched and kicked him until they broke his ribs. My tailbone is still bruised and my spine hurts. My foster son Andre Reynolds got hit hard on the head with a steel beer keg tapper, and my son-in-law David Jackson was hit in the eye with it too. When Andre went outside to write down the license plate number of the bus that the group had taken to the ballpark, one of the original trouble-makers pulled a concealed weapon and waved him off." 

Detroit police investigators discovered the rowdy bar patrons were off-duty Pontiac police officers. They questioned several Pontiac officers involved in the incident who claimed they were attacked rather than the other way around. When Jimmy heard from a reporter that the assailants were police officers, he was outraged.

Jimmy Butsicaris

"Thirty-one years I've been in the business, I never had anything happen like this and then to find out it was coppers. Cops are supposed to stop fights, not start them. I'm gonna do something. I want some satisfaction. They just can't come in here from the suburbs and jack up my bar. I'll never allow bus loads of people into the bar again. They're always zonked and make trouble. We don't run that kind of bar."

Beyond the bar fight, his brother Johnny was bothered by how the press portrayed their bar as a dangerous place to go. "Me and my brother worked hard to make the Lindell a neighborhood sports bar where Detroit fans might meet their professional sports heroes."

On May 2nd, officers Donald Weyer (34) and Raymond Felice (32) were suspended with pay pending an internal investigation. At the end of the month, the Pontiac Police Department released the findings of their investigation concluding that the incident was caused by "unauthorized consumption of peppers and pickles from a relish tray which caused unjustified and excessive harshness on the part of Lindell AC employees."

The investigation concluded that Officers Weyer and Felice "were not drunk anytime during the (two-minute) incident nor did they conduct themselves in a disorderly or unlawful manner." No mention was made of the gun Officer Weyer pulled on Andre Reynolds.

Jimmy was incensed. "The reputation of our establishment is hurt after this white-washed investigation. My brother and I promote the Lindell as a place where people can bring their families. We don't want the reputation of being a skid row saloon where a brawl can break out at any time."

Although Jimmy Butsicaris said there was no real damage to the bar, the brawl sent four people to Henry Ford Hospital. The Butsicaris brothers brought a $50,000 lawsuit against the Pontiac police officers and the City of Pontiac on June 5th. The suit asked that police pay for injuries he and his family sustained, their court costs, and their attorneys' fees. Any money beyond that would be donated to a church charity.

Sixteen days later, the two Pontiac police officers countersued the brothers for one million dollars apiece for assault and slander. Both lawsuits were settled out of court, but Jimmy was the victim of further collateral damage.

In July, Jimmy's radio program contract ran out. Operations manager Michael Packer at WXYZ-AM cancelled Jimmy's popular Sunday evening Sports Talk: Live at the Lindell AC after nine successful months on the air. The bad publicity from the brawl was more than the station bargained for, but Jimmy wasn't too broken up about it. Preparation for the Sunday night show took up a good part of his week, and he wasn't making enough money to make it worth his while.

Jimmy B. and Andre made in Detroit