|Sidney S. Fox
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
Education: Harvard, Munich and Paris Art Institutes
1934 Diamond Dramas
Sidney S. Fox on the occasion of the 1st 'birthday' of Salt Lake television station K-D-Y-L circa 1940
KDYL's 1935 Promotional copy for Broadcasting Magazine
KDYL logo circa 1946
|Sidney Fox was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He did not enjoy school as a boy, but rather showed an early interest in show business, and occasionally performed a small vaudeville act in local saloons. He was a good dancer, but abandoned a performing career because dancing was his only talent. He wanted to retain a show business connection, so he got a job as an usher in a vaudeville theater. His career as an usher was short-lived however, because his parents wished him to further pursue his education. He quit his night job and found employment during the day. He attended night school for about three years, working at the St. Louis Post Dispatch as a copy boy and also working as aclerk and as a bookkeeper.
Fox moved to Denver, Colorado for medical reasons at age seventeen. He met Al Hirschfield, who later became his employer. Fox represented Hirschfield's printing business by taking orders for business cards in Denver's Assignation District, which housed about five hundred prostitutes--and was a popular section of town for miners and other men in the city. Fox's task was to sell business cards to prostitutes.
Eight years later, Fox began working for Pathé and Selig Essenay Film Distributors, securing theater contracts for the firms throughout the country. He later moved into the state rights motion picture distribution business.
By 1919, Fox was living in Denver, but visited Salt Lake City with increasing frquency. He was once invited to go on a business trip to Pocatello, Idaho, where he met a business contact, Eva Provol, at the Bannock Hotel. Fox subsequently married Eva Provol in July of 1919. She was a widow with five children. Once they were married, Fox transferred his film distribution office from Denver to Salt Lake City.
Fox and his wife eventually honeymooned in Los Angeles during 1922. Some time later they returned to Los Angeles, bought a house, and Fox dabbled in real estate. When the market slowed there, Eva returned to Salt Lake City, while Sidney went to Florida to exploit the real estate boom there.
Fox returned to Salt Lake City in 1925. By 1926 Fox had assembled the capital to found Miracle Diamonds, Incorporated. The company produced and marketed a laxative called "Miracle Diamonds," made from the dried salt crystals of the Great Salt Lake. It was similar to a competing product already called "Crazy Crystals."
Fox also planned to produce a series of radio programs about famous diamonds in order to market the laxative crystals. He hired writers to research the history of famous diamonds, write the scripts, and Fox would ultimately sell the programs to radio stations. The stations could then sell the programs to jewelers or others who had an interest in promoting diamonds.
Fox created and produced 26 radio shows about famous diamonds at a cost of a reported $35,000. Shortly thereafter, Fox received notice from the Postal Department (as did the Crazy Crystals company), concerning the advertising and packaging of their laxative products. Owing to the increased scrutiny, Fox subsequently withdrew from the corporation, taking with him the 26 radio programs. He was ultimately able to successfully market the shows to 700 radio stations across the country, both recovering his original investment, and a $7,000 profit to boot.
In 1927 Fox was approached by Fred Provol, his stepson, and president and major stockholder of the Intermountain Broadcasting Corporation, for help with a struggling radio station. Fox agreed to reorganize the Corporation later that year. Upon examination of the station's books, the net asset value of station KDYL was determined at $4,000. With the help of Gene O'Fallon of KOA in Denver, Fox established an Operating License account in the amount of $11,000.
By 1930, KDYL was showing a profit of $14,000 and Fox was drawing a salary of a similar amount. The Intermountain Broadcasting Corporation's Operating License account increased from $11,000 in 1927 to over $98,000 in 1930. By December of that year, Fox and his wife owned almost all of the outstanding stock. Fox was also responsible for the financial records of the station, which made it possible for him to draw the salary of his choosing.
During an examination by the Internal Revenue Service in 1931, Fox claimed that withdrawals were made to cover customer entertainment expenses, over and above the amounts shown to cover traveling expenses and Christmas gifts. The Internal Revenue Service viewed this as acceptable, but determined that the salary Fox had drawn was much higher than amounts paid by similar corporations. The IRS ordered Fox to return all amounts drawn in excess of $10,000 during 1929 and 1930 to the International Broadcasting Corporation.
KDYL opened its KDYL Playhouse in 1938, a 350 seat theatre for live radio broadcasts in the remodeled Masonic Temple at the corner of First South and Second East in Salt Lake City. It was subsequently closed in 1944.
In September 1939, NBC installed an early demonstration television camera unit in the ZCMI department store, and offered public demonstrations for three weeks. The unit was also demonstrated at the Utah State Fair for the next two years. KDYL and NBC made plans to modify the equipment for over the air use, but the Japanese attacks at Pearl Harbor brought all such plans to a halt. The War Production Board placed a temporary hold on the sale of television broadcasting equipment by regular manufacturers during the war.
During the interim, the engineering department at KDYL spent the next few years modifying the closed circuit equipment for use with a television broadcast transmitter. The transmitter was built by the station's engineers with parts acquired from all over the United States. With such advance testing already having been accomplished, KDYL was ready to begin television broadcasting as soon as the war ended.
By September of 1945, KDYL was the first independent television station to broadcast test patterns in the United States.
Fox was frequently recognized as a philanthropist. He contributed regularly to charities, organized parties for children at Shriners Hospital, and in several instances, paid for employee medical expenses. Unfortunately, Fox was also recognized as having a compulsion for gambling that began in 1942. Over a twenty five year period, his losses amounted to $1.5 million. He also lost his wife, Eva Provol Fox in 1947. He subsequently married Zelda McQuarrie in 1949.
KDYL television eventually began regular daily transmission on April 19, 1948--the first privately owned television station in the United States (the other twelve were owned by manufacturers, newspapers, experimental laboratories, and the motion picture industry), and the first television station between Chicago and Los Angeles. By 1952, KDYL TV was serving its audience with more than 100 hours of programming, 9:30 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. The station had one of the longest schedules in the nation.
By early 1953, rumors started to circulate about the sale of the KDYL stations to Time Incorporated. Arrangements were made in March of that year for Time Incorporated to purchase the KDYL stations, pending FCC approval. In all, the Fox family owned 93 percent of the common stock. The FCC authorized the sale and transfer of the properties of the Intermountain Broadcasting and Television Corporation to TLF Broadcasting, a subsidiary of Time Incorporated, on June 25, 1953, for $2.1 million.
During the summer of 1958, Fox announced the formation of a corporation in assocation with Alan Marquis, a Hollywood producer. Fox Marquis Productions though ultimately short-lived, had been organized to produce films for television.
During the 1960s Fox's gambling losses were steadily increasing, and he made several abortive attempts to gain control over his gambling by reading books and articles about reformed gamblers. Indeed, by 1963 his losses decreased to $44,000. The following year Zelda McQuarrie Fox died of a congenital heart condition.
Fox was virtually broke by the early 1970s, his only source of income remaining was his Social Security pension. In 1972 a group of anonymous supporters began monthly contributions to help Fox, handled by Fox's lawyer and long time friend, Calvin Rawlings. Rawlings managed Fox's finances throughout the 1970s, even holding some money aside for Fox's funeral.
Fox died March 3, 1980, in a Salt Lake City nursing home of natural causes at age ninety one.