IF YOU happened to be near Palm Springs, Calif., late on a Sunday afternoon with the radio turned to KCBH, you might have heard Arthur "Dagwood" Lake, co-hosting a talk show with his wife, former actress Patricia Van Cleve.
"The station is an NBC affiliate," Lake said recently, in a voice slightly reminiscesnt of Dagwood complaining about having to mow the lawn. "It was called the 'Cocktail Hour,' and we talked to old friends like Jackie Coogan, Jack Kelly, Roman Gabriel, sang songs and drank champagne."
Lake, 73, and his wife of 41 years have two homes, one in Santa Monica and the second in Palm Springs, where they spend most of their time, alongside the Thunderbird Golf Course in Jerry Ford's new neighborhood.
He was born Arthur Silverlake in Corbin, Ky., and raised in a circus family. His father and uncle were trapeze artists who called themselves the "Flying Silverlakes."
"When I say a circus family, that's what it was," Lake said, "my father, mother, uncles, aunts, cousins and grand cousins. We had three small shows that traveled the country fair circuits - you might say a one-elephant show."
His father was a talented acrobat, but wouldn't teach Arthur the trapeze or tumbling. "The work was too hard, he would tell me. The stand-up comedians were becoming popular and my father would say, 'They walk out before an audience with a rolled-up newspaper in their hands and tell jokes. That's better than moving from town-to-town setting up your own rigging.'"
Convincing himself, the elder Silverlake settled the familly in Nashville, Tenn., where he set up a small business.
Lake's mother was an actress and eventually the family tired of the slow pace of business. They sold out, put together a vaudeville act and joined a traveling tent show.
After his father died, Lake's mother took him and his sister to try their luck in Hollywood. And the movies.
"We made the rounds every day, the movie sets, casting offices, my sister holding onto my hand," he said.
"She did better than I did when she landed a part in the old Edgar Kennedy comedies."
His sister heard about a part that might fit Lake and got him a screen test, and there he was in his first part in the "Sweet 16" comedy series.
Next was a part in "Harold Teen," and then back to vauderville until he heard about the casting calls for the first "Blondie" film. And his "Dagwood," of course, is now history.
"That wonderful Penny Singleton," he signed."We made about 30 of those movies, from '37 to '47."
When Singleton left the Blondie role, Lake's wife Patricia took it over for a while and also did the radio shows. Pamela Britton was Blondie during a TV series in 1957. At one point Lake's son Arthur Jr. played "Baby Dumpling" and daughter Marion played the part of "Cookie."
During the '50s, Lake and his wife co-starred in a TV series called "Meet the Family."
Most recently he appeared with Penny Singleton in a revival of "No, No Nanette."
The Lakes are financially secure. Patricia Lake was the only niece of Marion Davies and one of her principal heirs.
Son Arthur Jr., father of four, is a Hollywood stuntman and daugther Marion lives in Paris. She has two children.
The Lakes keep busy splicing together the 26 radio talk shows and are trying to syndicate the package nationally.
Lake says he still plays plenty of golf, gets occasional fan mail and answers it with a sketch of Dagwood and his autograph.
"Blondie," the comic strip, is still his favorite and he never misses a day.