The Swinger



By Tom Soter

It all started with a song – well, really, with a camera. My friends and I were about 14, and we had this cool record of music from TV commercials (I probably got it from my dad, who was an award-winning advertising copywriter). I don’t remember what the other songs were, but I do remember, “The Swinger.” It was not an ad for spouse-swapping (a popular game among “swinging” couples in the 1960s) but for a Polaroid camera called the Swinger. It was a bouncy tune, with the simplest (i.e., most inane) of lyrics: “Meet the Swinger, Polaroid Swinger, meet the Swinger, Polaroid Swinger, oh, what a swinger, la la, oh, what a swinger.” Not exactly “Send in the Clowns.” (The record version left out the word “Polaroid.”)

Well, cut to 1971, when Christian Doherty, Tom (“Siny”) Sinclair, and I are together concocting another in our seemingly endless series of 15-minute tape-recorded (TR) shows. These are the creative ingredients involved: the tune; our obsession with British TV series like THE SAINT and the (now forgotten) STRANGE REPORT; a fascination with all things relating to Sherlock Holmes, in this case, THE WOMAN IN GREEN, a Basil Rathbone Holmes film; and the absurd chemistry that occurred when Doherty, Siny, and I got together.

To digress (just slightly): as apparently easily impressed TV watchers, we all thought it was pretty nifty in the opening, pre-credits sequence of THE SAINT when someone would invariably say to Roger Moore’s character, “You’re the famous Simon Templar,” and then this animated halo would appear above his head, and that would lead into the opening titles. We liked it so much, in fact, that we appropriated it (as well as THE SAINT’s theme) for one of our earlier TR series, THE SISTER, about a notorious nun named Hedwig Zorb. Now, I had this idea, “What if we create a character called ‘The Swinger.’ Someone could say the character’s name, and then the theme would appear” (no halo, of course; this was audio). Everyone must have liked it (or couldn’t come up with anything better), so THE SWINGER was born.

Exactly who was The Swinger, anyway? A suave character, naturally, and British most assuredly. Now, of the trio, only Christian could do and sustain a reasonable British accent (our fourth partner-in-TRdom, Alan Saly, could also do a fair impersonation but was not around that day). So Christian would be “The Swinger,” a sort of ersatz Simon Templar, roaming the world, searching for adventure.

As for the character’s name: “The Saint” was Simon Templar so “The Swinger” was... Chet Doherty? In reality, Chet was Christian’s father, an actor by trade, and a sort-of-mysterious figure to Siny and me. He wasn’t English (although he’d occasionally use the phrase “old chap” when addressing one of us), so I don’t know why Christian appropriated his name. Since all of Christian’s English-accented heroes sounded alike (“Patrick Johnson” was his most common nom-de-plume for an English actor), that one will have to remain a mystery (Christian’s “Chet Doherty” character also appeared in a series called THE ACTOR, which was essentially THE SWINGER with a different title tune.

Chet, Gloria, and Christian Doherty, c. 1967.Chet, Gloria, and Christian Doherty, c. 1967.

Now, if you’re still with me, you must be asking, “What do Sherlock Holmes and STRANGE REPORT have to do with all this?” Well, STRANGE REPORT is easy. That was a short-lived crime series, with an idiosyncratic titling method: one word, followed by a colon, followed by a catchy phrase (“Revenge: When a Man Hates,” for instance). Christian so liked the style that he used it here (“Murder: When You Lose Your Head”) and on other series we did such as PLANET OF THE NUNS (“Voice of Horror: Who Mourns for Lonely Nuns?”)

As for Sherlock Holmes: we were all (and still are) big fans of the great detective, and we (sort of) appropriated the plot of THE WOMAN IN GREEN for THE SWINGER. In the former, Holmes investigates “The Finger Murders,” so-named because the killer of young women cuts off one of his victim’s fingers as a “grisly souvenir” of his crime, as Holmes puts it. In our version – with this plot point concocted by Siny – the murderer cuts off not the fingers but the heads of his victims. The reason? The killer didn’t “see why people should have heads when they might just as well be wearing hats.”

We were odd children, don’t you think?

Listen to:

Murder: When You Lose Your Head
Episode 1 Taped: 1971
The Swinger looks into a case of decapitations, all apparently done by the same man. Swinger: Christian Doherty.