Created by Jack Webb (1920-82)
Richard L. Breen (1918-67)
and William P. Rousseau (1915-72)
Johnny Madero, Pier 23 was the second of three short-lived detective radio shows that Jack Webb starred in before he launched the Dragnet on radio in 1949 (see also Jeff Regan, Investigator and Pat Novak For Hire). It’s essentially a rip-off, in fact, of the latter, although it’s a self-rip-off, I guess, perpetuated by the creators of both shows (Jack Webb, Richard L. Breen and William P. Rousseau).
Amazingly enough, both shows overlapped, although Webb, by then, had left Pat Novak for good.
And yes, there were lawsuits. You betcha!
Johhny Madero, Pier 23 took place on the San Francisco waterfront, where JOHNNY MADERO would rent boats out of a small office on San Francisco’s Pier 23, wheras Novak had rented boats out of a small office on Pier 19 in the same city. Both moonlighted as “freelance trouble shooters,” basically doing anything that could make a buck.
In Madero’s case, most of them involved solving crimes before Warchek, the local cop, could do so. (William Conrad, who went on to play television’s Cannon, played Warchek.)
The plots were not intricate and served mostly as a launching pad for Madero’s one-liners, delivered in that first-person delivery that Webb and crew had perfected; a wisecrack-heavy patter, top-loaded with over-the-top similes even Chandler might have balked at. In solving cases, Madero usually consulted Father Leahy, a waterfront priest, played by Gale Gordon. Madero always had a chip on his shoulder and a snappy comeback, and Webb delivered it all in what can only be called his customary deadpan flair.
This weekly series only ran from a few months before Mutual cancelled it, which was not a popular decision with its listeners. which may have been why, a few years later, the Novak/Madero character reappeared, under yet another monicker, Dennis O’Brien, in three B-films starring High Beaumont. This version, you’ll be shocked to know, rented boats out of a small office on Pier 19 in San Francisco, and moonlighted as a sort of freelance trouble shooter.
YOU SAY MODERO, I SAY MADERO…
- We try to be as accurate on this site as the next jasper, but sometimes it’s difficult. The initial source, when this was originally written in 1998 or so, was an old OTR encyclopedia, out of print even then, that misspelled Johnny’s last name, but our little stub of a page back then apparently sparked a couple of decades of copy-cat confusion and misspellings (Modero, Madaro, Modaro, etc…) on the web. I’m not sure if this qualifies us as one of “the most notoriously inaccurate vintage Radio article sites on the Internet,” as the generally reliable Deli Digital Too tagged it, but there ya go…
- “She had red hair–about this side of 98 degrees. She wore a black evening gown that was held up by one snap and prayer.
- “He didn’t say anything for a minute, and you noticed his eyes were as soft as the inside of a woman’s arm. He had one of those faraway looks you couldn’t follow with a roadmap.”
- “I drove down to Eddie Street and parked near the Jade Club. Oh it’s not a bad place–but on a slow night, even the winos are afraid to go in.”
- “Up until now it was like selling a toupee to a bald-headed eagle.”
- JOHNNY MADERO, PIER 23
Premiere: April 24, 1947
Last episode: September 4, 1947)
16 30-minute episodes
Created by Jack Webb, Richard L. Breen and William P. Rousseau
Writers: Richard Breen, Herb Margolis, Lou Morheim
Announcer: Tony LoFrano
Starring Jack Webb as JOHNNY MADERO
with William Conrad as Warchek
and Gale Gordon as Father Leahy
Guest stars: Francis X. Bushman
- “Title Unknown” (April 23, 1947)
- “Redhead—Blonde Trouble” (April 30, 1947)
- “The Widow, the Wrestler and the Rap” (May 7, 1947)
- “A Complicated Mess” (May 14, 1947)
- “Charged With Murder” (May 21, 1947)
- “A Speechless Parrot” (May 28, 1947)
- “Madero Goes to The Circus” (June 4, 1947)
- “Payoff In Counterfeits” (June 11, 1947)
- “Find Pete Sutro” (June 18, 1947)
- “Fatal Auction” (June 25, 1947)
- “Lonely Hearts Club” (July 2, 1947)
- “A Different Story” (July 9, 1947)
- “Title Unknown” (July 16, 1947)
- Death via Kayo Route” (July 23, 1947)
- “Insurance Skulduggery” (July 30, 1947)
- “Title Unknown” (August 6, 1947)
- “Title Unknown” (August 13, 1947)
- “Title Unknown” (August 20, 1947)
- “Murder At the Racetrack” (August 27, 1947)
- “Title Unknown” (September 3, 1947)