April 25, 2022

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Got Fired? It Could Be Worse

General Artists Corporation (management); photographer: Maurice Seymour, Chicago., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Your boss just fired you. Either you angered a superior or the company is cutting expenses or it is somewhere in between. Maybe you have severance pay or maybe not but before you go into a deep depression do know that it could be worse.

Now I know that is supposedly the worst thing you can say to someone in your position but trust me, it could be worse. You could have been fired like Arthur Godfrey fired Julius LaRosa. That completely changed both lives and even affected national security, if only a little.

The hiring and firing power of a megastar

Arthur Godfrey in the early days of radio and later television was a megastar. He offered a friendly personable way of speaking on the airwaves even when he was being critical of his superiors. Faye Emerson in the Memphis Tennessee Press-Scimitar described him as one “who always says exactly what’s on his mind. Sometimes to the great distress of network officials and sponsors, but the public has loved him all the more for this and made him the most popular figure in television and radio, and also one of the most powerful.”

He broadcast mornings on the CBS Radio and Television Networks. He also ran a talent show once a week at night and that became a kind of farm system for the stars who became his ‘Little Godfreys’, the cast appearing on his morning radio and TV programs. Among them were such performers as the McGuire Sisters, Pat Boone and Julius LaRosa.

When the morning program aired on both radio and television, the majority was simulcast; then for an additional half-hour, the show continued just on the radio.

Arthur Godfrey brought Julius LaRosa into the limelight after discovering him as a sailor while the former performed for the troops. Making him a member of the regular cast; Godfrey affectionately referred to him as Julie on the air. LaRosa became a star through his appearances on Arthur Godfrey Time the morning radio and television show.

Godfrey required all the cast members to attend dance lessons weekly at night and one week LaRosa, who did not appreciate the lessons, had to miss them.

Godfrey wrote out a memo to LaRosa barring him from the next day’s program because of his absence at the mandatory dance practice. LaRosa in turn reached out and secured an agent. He was the first, besides Godfrey himself, to have representation and this greatly angered the CBS megastar. Reports indicate that Godfrey was extremely profitable for the network so they bowed to him. Jack O’Brian, writing for the International News Service described Godfrey as the foster parent of the network. Corporate decided that Godfrey could carry out his plan to fire LaRosa on the air in probably the signature passive-aggressive boss action.

The Greatest Mistake on Radio

After the television show ended for the day, while the radio program continued, Godfrey called LaRosa to the microphone and asked him to sing the song ‘Manhattan’ as he reminisced with him about their early days. When LaRosa finished the tune, Godfrey announced that the singer just sang his swan song. LaRosa had no idea what that meant only to learn that Godfrey fired him on the air. To this day, it is known as the greatest mistake in radio.

LaRosa was shocked and what made it worse is he was having some kind of a relationship with one of the McGuire Sisters — Dorothy. According to the AP, LaRosa said Dorothy McGuire planned to divorce her husband and marry him.

However, yet another passive-aggressive technique manifested itself. Godfrey had to give a press conference the next day so shocked was his audience that he would fire the beloved LaRosa the way he did. He threw into his comments, without prompting, that the romance between Dorothy McGuire and Julius LaRosa had nothing to do with the firing.

Unfortunately, her husband did not know anything about a relationship between his wife and LaRosa because he was serving in the United States Army in Korea. This was not long after the fighting on the peninsula and the creation of North and South Korea. The United States remained there and to this day as a peace-keeping force. LaRosa believed McGuire separated from her spouse.

Her husband immediately requested leave to come home. McGuire released a statement that she was shocked and disturbed that her husband Johnny was returning from Korea as they had come to an amicable agreement about their separation. Now he finds himself in the midst of a national tiff between LaRosa and Godfrey. The soldier’s words became internationally known as he had to tell the press he wanted to do what was best for his wife’s happiness. Dorothy McGuire is not the actress of the same name.

Post-firing, the dust settles

LaRosa and McGuire ended whatever relationship they had. The incident led to LaRosa embarking on his solo career as a singer. The producers of the Toast of the Town hosted by Ed Sullivan, ironically for the same network, booked him immediately for three shows. This may be an indication that CBS corporate realized they made a mistake without outright saying it. He also began singing in nightclubs starting several days later in Pittsburg and the rest is history. He never did marry Dorothy McGuire and in 1956 he married a Rosemary Meyer. Their marriage lasted until his death in 2016.

Yes, getting fired can be a terrible thing. However, if it was not on internationally public media, did not affect the US peace effort in Korea and did not involve passive-aggressive actions on the part of the boss, then indeed it could have been worse. Take LaRosa as an inspiration — things got better for him almost immediately. As for Godfrey, he never stopped being a star but he was no longer so high in the sky as he was in the moment between watching Julius LaRosa finishing his rendition of Manhattan and then the firing him on the air.

Sources

Emerson, Faye, Many Feel Godfrey Unnecessarily Cruel in Firing LaRosa and Bleyer Publicly, Memphis Press-Scimitar, Oct 31, 1953

O’ Brian, Jack, Radio-TV Talk, Tyrone Daily Herald, via INS, Oct 31, 1953

Lobosco, David, The Dark Side of Arthur Godfrey, A Trip Down Memory Lane Blog, Feb 3, 2012

AP, Husband Upsets McGuire-LaRosa Wedding Plans, Ogden Standard-Examiner, Oct 31, 1953

AP, Dorothy Shocked and Disturbed, Press and Sun Bulletin, Oct 31, 1953

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, LaRosa to Open Career in Nightclubs Here, Oct 31, 1953

Julius LaRosa, Wikipedia.org

Arthur Godfrey Wikipedia.org

Julius LaRosa Fired by Arthur Godfrey, Biography, A&E YouTube

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