Thursday, November 8, 2018


Actor Ken Swofford has died at the age of 85.  A dependable actor, he contributed a lot of Toobworldlngs of varying degrees of assholery, mostly for one-shot appearances in various TV shows.  In his honor, I’m presenting this three-in-one theory of relateeveety to celebrate two of the more famous, perhaps infamous, of his characters….

From the Ellery Queen website:
At the New York Gazette, news hawk Frank Flannigan pounded out his column, writing and speaking in Flanniganisms like 'superrific!' (Any similarity to Walter Winchell is not coincidental.) Flannigan had sources everywhere, especially when he was willing to fork over a sawbuck for a hot tip, and delighted in printing information Inspector Queen wanted kept under wraps. For all his ridiculing of the police in print, when the chips were down he was there if the Inspector or Ellery needed his help.

Ellery Queen

- The Adventure of the Comic Book Crusader (1975)
- The Adventure of the 12th Floor Express (1975)
- The Adventure of the Sunday Punch (1976)
- The Adventure of the Wary Witness (1976)
- The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster (1976)

Frank Flannigan was born in 1905 in New York City.  (Manhattan, the DOWISTREPLA neighborhood.)  As a young lad, Frank became a paperboy for the New York Herald, and then worked his way up through the ranks in the newspaper business - as a copy boy for the New York Ledger, and then at the New York Record during his undergraduate years at Hudson University where he studied journalism. 

Just before he graduated, Frank suffered a massive personal tragedy.  Duke Williams, the reporter who had mentored him at the Record and who had sponsored him by paying his tuition, had been killed by a vengeful mobster working for Mickey Doyle.  Williams had been researching an expose on Doyle’s activities in Atlantic City.


Unable to continue working for the Record because of the memories, Frank joined the New York Sentinel as a reporter.  After making a name for himself at the Sentinel with hard-hitting scoops, (one of which brought Duke Williams’ killer to justice), Flannigan was snatched up by the New York Gazette to write a daily column.  All the time, though, he had his eye set on getting a job at the New York Chronicle as the City editor.  Unfortunately, he ran afoul of Arthur Kennicutt, the young owner/publisher of the New York Chronicle (and two sister papers on the West Coast) at an industry charity affair held in the Metropolitan Hotel.

In the middle of the Great Depression, Frank was feeling the strain of his job and seriously needed a break.  When he learned that a political corruption case on the isle of Jantique was tied in to the Hamilton Bank branch in the 12th Precinct, Frank leapt at the chance to cover the story.  He insisted to his editor that he needed to go to Jantique to investigate the case at its origin.

There he met an enticing young woman who had also come from New York where she was a dancer at the Charleton Club.  They clicked upon first meeting on the beach, but unfortunately their vacations were out of synch.  It was his first night on Jantique, but it was her last night of vacation.  The star-crossed lovers made the most of that night, but she never let on that she was not going back to Manhattan.  The next day she left before Frank woke up and sailed to the isle of St. Marie.  From there she took a flight back to the American mainland and took a cross-country flight from just outside of Deepwater, Florida.  She had already set her sights on a career in Hollywood and her attraction to Frank Flannigan was not going to deter her dream.

A month later, while competing for a chance to enter the Miss United States** beauty contest, she discovered that she was pregnant and only Frank Flannigan fell in the range of her pregnancy’s timetable.  One of the women she was competing against discovered the truth and informed on her to the beauty pageant’s governing board.  Denied that dream, she was determined to raise the child on her own and when the baby was born – a boy – she gave him the name Harold Stone… “Stone” being her maiden name.

That happened in 1933.  But in 1927, Frank’s life was affected by another pregnancy, and at least with this one, he was aware of the situation.  He had an older brother whose wife gave birth to a son that year and they named him after Frank.  Frank Flannigan was also chosen to be the boy’s godfather.

Frank the Younger grew up to be a dashing yet coldly handsome sophisticate, taking after his socialite mother more than his father.  His Uncle Frank got him his first break in show business by securing him a job working for Broadway public relations maestro Mike Bell.  During his time with Bell, young Frank met a few people before they hit it big: Ginger Grant, a rising starlet whose name was far from being known in the business (she was usually referred to as “the girl”) and Christine Coughlin who was working as a receptionist before starting on her career as a news reporter.


As he got older, Frank the Younger shed the symbolic link to his family tree by changing his last name from “Flannigan” to “Flanagan”. After learning all he could from working with Mike Bell, the newly christened Frank Flanagan sought his career behind the scenes in the movie business, working as an executive at Mammoth Pictures.

Seeing the future of television when his peers either dismissed the medium or fought against it, he got in on the ground floor at the CNC network.  Flanagan found the television industry a killer business (which would become a literal description a few decades later, when one of his successor’s protégés murdered her mentor to cement her own position at the network.

Frank’s unknown son found life growing up in the City of Angels to be a fight for survival on the school playground.  Whispered stories about him being a bastard and his mother a disgraced former beauty who was scrabbling to get a foothold in the movie business by working as a chorus girl in the musicals made at Sylver Screen Pictures.  Those whispers became outright taunts by those who sought to bully young Harry, but he caught them off-guard with savage beatings which often left him stranded in detention after school.  But it served to toughen him for his life ahead, always in a scrap to get what he wanted from others.

Ironically, it led to him making a living out of spreading such rumors himself as he became a private investigator and then a political hack.  Eventually he worked his way up to being the campaign manager for upstate California councilman Nelson Hayward in his ill-fated run for the governorship of the state.

While Harry was attending Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles, he ran into another Harold Stone among his classmates.  They quickly became friends when Harry took the blame for a prank committed by Harold and was sent to detention for it.  (“Don’t worry about it, Kid.  I’m used to it.”) 

After graduation, Harold T. Stone left California to attend college in New York City and never saw Harry Stone again.  But years later, having passed the bar and married a divorced woman with a small son who was born in 1951, he readily adopted the boy (despite his real father being a former magician/circus performer and at the time, a mental patient) and gave the lad the name “Harold T. Stone, Jr.”  He would tell friends that it was more a tribute to a high school friend who once got him out of trouble than it was meant to be a tribute to himself.

Harry Stone Jr. lived up to the reputations of both his fathers, true Nurture & Nature: he excelled at magic tricks like his birth father and he became a lawyer like his adoptive father.  And eventually he exceeded those aspirations by becoming a judge in Manhattan’s night court system.

Unfortunately, his father never lived to see that happen.  During his rebellious teenage years, Harry Jr. took his father’s car out for a joyride and ended up crashing it.  The stress this caused his father led to a fatal heart attack.  Years later, Harry Stone, Jr. met his birth father, Buddy Ryan.

Harry always meant to visit California to finally meet the man he was named after, the other Harry Stone, and planned to do that during the Christmas break in his first year of law school.  (For that first year of graduate work, he was saving money by attending Fred’s School of Law in Philadelphia.)  Unfortunately, Harry Stone was gunned down during the election campaign he was running for Nelson Haywood to be governor.

At first the leading theory about the murder was that it was orchestrated by Haywood’s enemies in the syndicate.  However, the investigation led by Lt. Frank Columbo revealed that it was Haywood himself who killed his campaign manager in order to cover up an affair he was having. 

So Harry Stone, son of Frank Flannigan (although he never knew it), died in 1973, seventeen years before his father.  Four years after Flannigan died, his nephew Frank Flanagan died in 1994, on the eve of one of his network’s greatest television series debuts, a detective show which launched the career of future movie star Reese Hardin.


  • ‘Columbo’
  • ‘Ellery Queen’
  • ‘Night Court’
  • ‘How I Met Your Mother’
  • ‘The Odd Couple’
  • ‘Law & Order’*
  • ‘Murder, She Wrote’
  • ‘The Patty Duke Show’
  • ‘Over The Top’
  • ‘The Roaring 20s’
  • ‘Boardwalk Empire’
  • ‘Mr. Broadway’
  • ‘Gilligan’s Island’
  • ‘McCloud’
  • ‘Going To Extremes’
  • 'Barney Miller'
  • 'Death In Paradise'
  • 'Maximum Bob'
  • ‘Bionic Woman’
  • ‘The Lot’
  • ‘The White Shadow’
  • 'The Tony Randall Show'
  • ‘Movie Stars’

* ‘Law & Order’ serves as the home for two of the crossover references listed above – the New York Ledger newspaper and Hudson University.  Both of them are to be found in other shows as well.  Hudson University can be found in at least 19 TV series (plus DC Comics), four of which are in alternate TV dimensions. 

** There is a Miss United States beauty pageant now in the Real World, but it was only founded in 1986.  The Toobworld version of the ceremony was seen in a 1976 episode of ‘The Bionic Woman’ and the event I focused on happened in 1932.

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