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A singing telegram is a message that is delivered by an artist in a musical form. Singing telegrams are historically linked to normal telegrams, but tend to be humorous. Sometimes the artist is in costume or formal clothing. Singing telegrams are often given as a gift.
Western Union, the American telegraph company began offering singing telegram services in 1933. On July 28, 1933, a fan sent Hollywood singing star Rudy Vallee a birthday greeting by telegram. George P. Oslin (1899–1996), the Western Union public relations director, decided this would be a good opportunity to make telegrams, which had been associated with deaths and other tragic news, into something more popular. He asked a Western Union operator, Lucille Lipps, to sing the message over the telephone, and this became the first singing telegram. While Oslin created the singing telegram because he thought "that messages should be fun," he recalled that he "was angrily informed I was making a laughingstock of the company."
As relatively few telegram recipients had telephones, most telegrams, including singing telegrams, were first delivered in person. The popularization of the telephone in the 1960s reduced telegrams in general. By 1972, Western Union was receiving a small number of requests for singing telegrams and was seeking regulatory approval on a state-by-state basis to eliminate the offering. Western Union suspended its singing telegram service in 1974, but independent singing telegram companies, specializing in often costumed personal delivery of gift messages, have kept up the tradition.
A DIY Singing Telegram is a specially written song all about the person in karaoke DVD form, so that any singer anywhere in the world can deliver the fully personalised singing telegram.
A kissogram, also called kissagram (short for kissing telegram), is a message delivered along with a kiss, usually arranged as a fun surprise for a person for a special occasion. Message deliverers can be hired either by themselves, or as part of an agency. A kissogram is usually presented by a female or male performer dressed in a costume or uniform such as a police officer, nurse, french maid or nun.
A stripogram is a form of message delivery in which a female or male stripper will perform a striptease while singing or dancing. The word is a combination of telegram and striptease. This type of entertainment became popular in the 1970s in the US and spread to the UK and Europe during the 1980s. Typically a Strip-O-Gram is most often a form of gift given for a birthday, anniversary or bachelor party. A common practice is for the strippergram to be dressed in an outfit of one kind or another and to act out some form of charade connected with this, before commencing their act - for example a police officer 'arresting' somebody, a lawyer pretending to serve papers, a jilted bride and so on (sometimes this charade will be relevant to something the intended 'victim' has experienced, such as a divorce, or brush with the law).
A Cilla-gram was a feature of popular British singer Cilla Black's television show Surprise Surprise, where she would go around to sing songs to people. Typically these were related to the noteworthy occasion or the person Black was surprising, and a few original songs have been made from this concept. The current host, Holly Willoughby, does not practice this tradition.
The Star System
In the early 1980s, a collaboration of independent singing telegrams companies in the U.S. was formed by Larry Balsamo, Hey!Wires Sing Telegrams in Chicago. Similar to FTD florists, the Star System was a referral system allowing people to send a singing telegram to friends and family throughout the U.S.
In popular culture
In the 1976 season 5, episode 1 of The Bob Newhart Show, Bob receives a singing telegram announcing a visit from his college roommate and his new wife.
- "Special delivery: The singing telegram endures", Columbia News Service, July 7, 2002.
- "George Oslin, 97, creator of the singing telegram", Chicago Tribune, p. 11, October 31, 1996.
- "Western Union Tuning Out Singing Telegram", The New York Times, p. 27, July 29, 1972.
- "Definition of kissogram". OxfordDictionaries.com. Retrieved 2010-04-18.