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Tea for Two...or Three

By Emma Redmer

Rated: G

Disclaimer is on the Introduction page.

August 10th, 1944

"Hello, WENN. May I help you?" Gertie asked two elderly women who stood in front of her desk. She drew in her breath when the women turned around. They were totally identical, from their thick, silvery white hair and bright blue eyes to their round, pleasant faces and their long, thin legs. They were dressed in two different colored dresses and hats, but that was where the differences ended.

"Yes," one woman started. "My sister and I would like to see..."

"Tom Eldridge," the other finished. "We're Henrietta..."

"...and Sophia Bedrosian," the first woman added. "We're old, old, old friends of his."

"Not that old!" exclaimed Henrietta.

Gertie smiled. "Oh, you're the Bedrosian Sisters! Tom's told us so much about both of you."

"Hopefully nothing that he'll regret in the morning," said Henrietta.

"Or we'll regret," added Sophia with a laugh.

"He's probably in the green room making coffee," Gertie explained. "I'll show you there."

The two women followed Gertie down the hallway. "So this is radio," sighed Sophia.

"This is a lovely station," Henrietta added. "You must have such fun here, making up shows and performing them."

"You don't know the half of it," muttered Gertie as she showed them into the green room. Tom sat on the couch. Lia and Aggie settled on his lap. A big book of fairy tales concealed half the babies. Aggie's tiny shoes lay next to her overalls-clad form.

"...and so Snow White said to Rose Red, 'Let's untangle the little man's beard from that fishing line.' Rose Red said..."

"Tom!" exclaimed both Bedrosian sisters in unison.

"No, that's not what Rose Red said!" Mr. Eldridge began. "She said..." He finally looked up and noticed the two women standing in the doorway with Gertie. "Sophie! Hank!" He placed Aggie on the couch and embraced both women. "How are you two? Still wowing all the men on the Vaudeville circuit?"

They enthusiastically hugged him back. Gertie fidgeted. She felt out-of-place and more than a little plain next to the two beautiful sisters. "I think I'll just go back to the switchboard," she murmured.

"Who dat?" asked a little voice from the couch. The three elderly people turned to the two babies on the couch. Aggie was trying to squirm off of it, but Hank caught the little girl before she fell on the floor.

"Oh, what a little darling! Look at her tiny feet!" She tickled Aggie's sock feet and the baby giggled.

"Me too!" Lia pulled on Sophie's skirt. She kicked up one Mary Jane-clad foot so the Bedrosian sisters could see it. "I foot."

Sophie laughed. "You have a nice foot, too, young lady." She lifted Lia into her arms. "My, but you are a big girl!"

"I tall. Daddy tall, too," Lia said. "Daddy war."

Hilary Booth Singer flung the door open and headed into the green room. "Mr. Eldridge," she complained, "you forgot to make the coffee again. How can I do 'The Hands of Time' if I don't have enough caffeine to keep me awake while Elizabeth figures out that Brent has amnesia for the third time this month?"

"Hilary Booth?" exclaimed two delighted voices in unison.

"Mommy!" squeaked Lia.

"Yes?" Hilary asked. Sophie put Lia down and the little girl went to her mother.

Hank grabbed Hilary's palm with her free hand. She choked a bit as Aggie grabbed her pearl necklace. "Miss Booth, we're both big fans of yours. I'm Henrietta Bedrosian and this is my sister Sophie. We saw you on Broadway in 'The Rivals'."

"You were wonderful," Sophie added. "I wish you did more on the stage."

Hilary preened, as she always did when 'The Rivals' was mentioned. "Why, thank you both. I wish I did more on the stage myself." She sighed and picked up Lia. "There are some ghastly things on Broadway right now. I know that people need entertainment, but I can think of better ways to be entertained than bubble dancers and jokes so old Mackie would be embarrassed to use them in his comedy program."

"So can we," added Hank. She pried Aggie's hand off of her necklace. Aggie screamed. "Well, if you're going to do that..." She deposited the baby in the playpen. "Aunt Hank will just have to toss you in the hoosegow for a while."

Giselle walked into the green room reading a letter. She was so involved with it that she bumped into Sophie. "Oh, desuite, Madame. I am so sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going."

"That's all right, honey," Sophie said. "No one sees us these days, anyway."

"What do you mean, no one sees you?" Mr. Eldridge exclaimed. "I can see you fine right now!"

Hank rolled her eyes. "Sophie, I told you in the lobby that we're in town to visit Tom, not complain to him about our problems. We'll find a job somewhere."

"Where?" Sophie asked. "Face it, Hank, it's time we retired. We're too old for Broadway and way too old to cash in on any name value we used to have in vaudeville."

Giselle sighed. "I would love to see a Broadway show. I like the stage. Maman said that she if she made enough money she might take me to New York to see 'Oklahoma' for a Hanukah treat."

"'Oklahoma', smoklahoma," declared Hank. "How'd ya like to hear some real music, honey?"

"From real vaudeville performers?" added Sophie.

"We knew Jack Benny when he actually was thirty nine!" Hank went on.

"Tom and I once double-dated with Jim and Marian Jordan right before they got hitched," Sophie finished.

Hank glared at Mr. Eldridge, who immediately turned to the coffee. "Tom, you told me you were sick that night!"

"He caught the love bug, dearie. Why do you think he had lipstick on his collar the next morning?" Sophie asked. "That wasn't red paint he was rubbing off his shirt!"

Giselle blushed. "Um, you said something about a song..."


Scott sat in his office with Mr. Bob Medwick, the eternally nervous sponsor of "A Book at Bedtime" and "Great Stories from the Good Book". "I hope you have something good up your sleeve this time, Mr. Sherwood," Mr. Medwick fretted.

Scott sighed. Mr. Medwick was a very nice man, but often difficult to please. "What I would like to get started on is our newest project."

Medwick's face became slightly less gray. "Ah, yes, the vaudeville show I proposed. Cup of Comfort has never sponsored a big special before and I'd like to do something simple and old-fashioned. Bring the listeners back to their roots."

Scott nodded. "We have singers, pianists, drummers, and actors in the WENN staff, and I'm sure I can round up some magicians and a band from our Army volunteers." He grinned. "Heck, we could have Giselle Bedeux translate it into French if you wanted!"

"What we need is a headliner," Mr. Medwick proclaimed. "Someone important, to give my special stature."

"And to give WENN publicity," Scott added.

They were interrupted by an impromptu rendition of "Tea for Two" in the green room and by clapping. "Bravo!" exclaimed a French accent.

"You two haven't lost your touch at all!" added an elderly voice.

"Why, thank you, Tom," said an older female voice. "You haven't exactly lost your touch, either."

"Or anything else," giggled a similar female voice.

Mr. Medwick lifted the blinds on the office window. His color turned from gray to red when he saw who just performed. "Oh, my goodness, it's the Bedrosian Sisters!" Mr. Medwick exclaimed. He turned excitedly to Scott. "Do you have a pen and a piece of paper, Mr. Sherwood?" the sponsor asked. "I have to get their autographs! They were among my favorite vaudeville performers when I was a boy!"

Scott gave Mr. Medwick the requested items. The excited sponsor dashed through the door and into the green room. Scott watched as he asked the two old ladies for their signatures. He was getting an idea. He had the perfect headliners for their show. If the Bedrosian Sisters sounded that good singing for two babies, a French refugee, and an old man, they'd bring the house, the station down on the vaudeville special.

He just had to win his wife over to the idea of having any kind of show. He and Betty made an uneasy truce after he came back to their apartment that June night covered in bruises and limping badly. He was just happy that they let Jacqueline go with a warning. He lied and told Betty that some old enemies from his con-man days got a hold of him, but he knew very well that Betty saw straight through that thin fib.

He took his cane and walked to the Writer's Room. He was lucky he could walk at all after "Angelo" and his goons worked him over. His face and arms still hurt in certain places. Betty wasn't as angry with him as she was when he lied about the records from Jeff and Victor, but she didn't shower him with affection, either. He leaned into her office. She clacked away at the typewriter and listened for the sound of Agatha's cries. "Betty, Betty, Betty, have I got an idea!" he started.

"No," Betty said without looking up, "I don't want to do a dance marathon on the radio. I know it would raise money for the Armed Services, but if you can't see it, it's kind of pointless."

"That's not what I meant, Betty," Scott explained. "Mr. Medwick and I were talking in my office and we came up with an absolutely brilliant idea for a special event!"

Betty finally stopped typing. "If it involves women taking their clothes off, forget it. I'm never going to take part in another burlesque show as long as I live, especially with two babies and a six-year-old around!"

"No, it's nothing like that, Betty." He leaned against her desk. "Well, actually, it is something like that, but you won't have to take your clothes off. In fact, this is the kind of thing where they encourage you to keep them on."

Betty sighed. She knew her husband's "brilliant ideas" all too well by now. "What's the idea and how much is it going to cost the stations?"

"How would you like to hold a real old-fashioned vaudeville show right here at WENN, Betty?" Scott asked. "With singers and dancers and magicians and everything?"

"That would be great, Scott," Betty said cautiously, "but where would we find these singers and dancers and magicians and everything?"

"Why, from our staff, of course!" Betty looked at him skeptically. "We have singers and dancers and musicians right in our own station, and I'm sure we could manage to find some magicians and dog acts in the ranks of the Armed Forces officers who hang out in the Pittsburgh Canteen."

"What about the headliners?" Betty asked. "Every vaudeville show always had one or two big stars on the bill."

"There's these two women in the green room, the Bedrosian Sisters. I just heard them and..."

Betty stood quickly. "The Bedrosian Sisters?" she exclaimed. "My parents told me about them! They used to tour the vaudeville circuits in the mid-west and northeast when I was a little girl."

"Yeah, I just heard them sing, and they're something special. If they can put over 'Tea for Two' as well on the air as they did off the air, this show will be the biggest thing Pittsburgh ever saw!"


August 18th, 1944

There was excitement in the air at WENN. Everyone was doing a number or two, even Gertie. Betty promised her a day off if she'd play "Oh Promise Me" on her clarinet. Hank and Sophie Bedrosian stood in the ladies' room preparing their make-up as the other women prepared their skits and songs.

Sophie trembled like a leaf. "Oh, Hank, I'm nervous! We never did radio before!"

Hank laughed as she applied mascara. "Relax, sweetie. The only people who are actually going to see us are the some of the Armed Forces officers and the families of the WENN staff members." She finished one eye and started the other as Sophie adjusted her musty, flapper-style dress for the sixtieth time that evening. "That sure was nice of Mr. Medwick to convince Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood to let us headline their show."

"I'm glad they did," her sister agreed. "We haven't sung a note in anywhere but the shower since..."

"...1937," Hank finished. "Remember that awful rinky-dink theater?"

"And the dog acts and singers who were even worse? Yeah, I remember that," Sophie admitted. She patted her extravagantly beaded dress one more time. "I'm glad we pulled these out of our trunks. I didn't even know we still had them." She patted her slicked-back hair as Mr. Eldridge peeked into the bathroom.

"You're on in ten minutes, girls," he said.

Sophie took one look at him and whistled. "Well, will ya get a load of him? Hey, Hank, take a gander at Tom here! Honey, you haven't looked that good since you winked at me behind the curtain at the Broadhurst in 1921."

"No, he was winking at me, right Tom?" Hank asked as she joined them at the door.

Mr. Eldridge blushed and played with his flat-topped straw hat. "Well, I actually winked at Marilyn Miller..."

"What!" exclaimed Hank. "That little blonde manipulator of a dancer?"

"Oh, Tom, how could you?" wailed Sophie.

"Well, I just moved my eyelid, like this..."

Gertie Reece interrupted him. "Tom, you're doing the barbershop quartet with Scott, Mackie, and Mr. Foley in two minutes." She went to the mirror to re-apply lipstick.

"I'll just go join them," Mr. Eldridge agreed. "I promised to help Mr. Foley with his solo number. He wants to do more than just talk to the audience."

"Ah, that Tom," Hank sighed as the old man fled to Studio A, "always one step behind everybody."

"And always the charmer," Sophie added with her ever-present giggle.

Another head poked in, this one belonging to Hilary Booth Singer. "Excuse me, ladies, but I must prepare myself for my dramatic reading of Ophelia's mad scene in Hamlet." She gazed with distaste at the women's blatantly unfashionable costumes and primped her own fancy black gown. "If you two are the headliners, why are you dressed like rejects from one of Clara Bow's ridiculous 'let's-have-a-wild-party-and-get-screaming-drunk' films from the late silent era of moviemaking?"

"It's part of the act," Sophie explained. "You do Shakespeare. We do 'No, No, Nanette.'"

Hilary coughed. "It smells like you do mothballs."

"And it smells like you do high-falutin' mish-mash that no one understands anyway," Hank snapped.

"I'll have you know that I performed the greatest dramatic scenes of the theater with John Barrymore himself!" Hilary spat.

"I'll bet that's not all you performed with John Barrymore," Hank muttered.

"Hank!" exclaimed Sophie.


Betty Sherwood stumbled into the office. Scott said that he left his music for his number with her on his desk and he wanted her to retrieve it while he did the barbershop quartet songs with the other male staff members. She straightened the frilly white turn-of-the-century gown that Gertie loaned her for the show and searched the top of the desk for the missing copy of "Sweetheart, Will You Remember".

She found the sheets on the desk where he left them, but she accidentally gathered some other papers with them. She separated the other documents and was about to return them to the office when something caught her eye. The documents involved the records from Jeff and Victor. Betty sat on the chair, mesmerized by her discovery. They were listed as belonging to "the Falcon", the mysterious spy who apparently worked for the Allies at WENN. There were also sheets of banal messages about the W.E.N.N that also mentioned "the Falcon."

Betty's heart skipped a beat. The only person who used this desk since she first heard about "the Falcon" was Scott. Come to think of it, Scott was the first person she ever heard speak about this "Falcon". Could her Scott, he couldn't, he was 4-F, and besides, he had too much work to do here...didn't he?

She nearly had a heart-attack when Scott called her name. "Betty, Betty, Betty, Maple is going on now with one of the officers. They have some kind of magic act. We're on after them. Did you find my music?"

She hastily threw the papers down on the desk. "Uh, yeah, I found them. I'm coming!"


The Bedrosian Sisters were the last act of the night. Betty smiled as she stood in the control room with Lester and Mr. Medwick. She hadn't seen Medwick look this happy since he made shadow puppets and told ghost stories on that crazy "Amateurs on Parade" show that Betty made up nearly five years before to fill airtime after a records mishap. Her own daughter sat Helen Merriweather's lap. Helen was a neighbor and friend of Hilary's who not only agreed to watch Lia and Aggie during the show but brought the rest of her very large brood to watch it as well. Marguerite Singer proudly snapped photographs.

The Sisters' rendition of "Tea for Two" received a standing ovation. No one cheered louder than Mr. Eldridge, who stood by the door and watched the show. The two older women bowed. "Thank you, thank you," Hank said. "We're honored to be here tonight."

"We're honored to be anywhere tonight," Sophie added. "Times are kind of tough for old-timers like us."

"This is the best job we've had since the Palace became a movie theater," Hank added. "I hope everyone out there in the Steel City enjoyed our little vaudeville show."

"Vaudeville is just a memory to most of you," Sophie continued. "To the youngest members of the audience, it's not even that."

"To us, it was a vital part of our entertainment and our survival," Hank finished. "People went to vaudeville houses to see a vast variety of performers that couldn't be seen on a legitimate stage or radio or heard in the movies."

"Vaudeville is mostly dead today," Sophie admitted, "but it still lives for all those who remember when."

"Sophie and I would like to end this program with a rendition of an old favorite of ours," Hank told the crowd. "We'd also like our long-time friend Mr. Tom Eldridge to join us. Tom's been in our hearts since the day we first met him backstage at the Broadhurst."

"All right," Mr. Eldridge said, "but only if Miss Gertrude Reece accompanies us on the clarinet. She lived then too, you know."

Gertie blushed. "Aw, Tom," she said.

Mr. Eldridge took both women's hands and launched into a joyous performance of "Till the Clouds Roll By".

This war won't last forever...

To Be Continued...

Is Betty right? Do those papers have anything to do with Scott and his government mission? How is Jeff and Victor's mission going? Will they ever come home?

On the Edge of the Precipice Series

Go to On the Edge of the Precipice#20 - Coming Home Again!
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