Last week the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held in Las Vegas where production 3-D televisions were unveiled for consumers. But according to research done by Lou Milano for his biography of Russ Columbo television was first displayed publicly at the eighth annual Radio Electrical World’s Fair in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1931. A total of 28,000 people attended the opening day to hear David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America predict that “sight will be transmitted though the air to large numbers. We are on the threshold of television.”
Periodically demonstrations of television were held throughout the evening. The hot lights were switched on in a cramped makeshift television studio that had been set up inside Madison Square Garden. A viewing audience was ushered into the television theater and all eyes were glued to the ten foot screen as the shadowy image of a human being appeared before them. (The image was projected onto the ten foot high screen from a much smaller television.)
A familiar face came into focus singing, You Call It Madness. Russ Columbo made his live television debut at the Radio Electrical World’s Fair and the audience response clearly indicated that it had been a success. You can hear the song here.
After his song Russ stepped away from the hot lights and mopped the beads of perspiration from his head. He observed the scene for a few moments then left the studio welcoming the cooler air outside the door. He paused briefly, lit a cigarette, then headed down the hallway for an autograph session sponsored by the Daily Mirror.
As Vince reminded us January 14 marks the102nd anniversary of the birth of Russ Columbo. He was 23 years old when he debuted on television. Happy birthday Russ.