Starring: Dan Hughes (the Dad), Kathy Hughes (the Mom), and Karen Hughes (the 16-year-old Jack Benny nutso)
We got up Friday morning (Apr 20) at 3:00. Left home (Urbana, IL) at 4:00, and got to the Cincinnati Radisson about 10:30 am Cincinnati time.
From arrival to departure two days later, there was hardly any time to sleep, let alone eat. I haven't been so rushed and busy since my Air Force basic training!
As we were in line to check in to our room, we talked to a couple who had driven in from California. Derek Tague met us at the door--that guy is everywhere!
The dealer room had opened at 9:00, and was quite crowded when we got there. It looked pretty much as it usually does, with all the regulars there.
Folks, let me tell you right here that the Cincinnati convention is a warm, friendly, wonderful get-together. The regular attendees are like family, and the newcomers are welcomed with open arms.
The vendors know of my daughter's Jack Benny fanaticism, and several of them were waiting to give her Benny memorabilia. We spent a couple of hours in the dealer's room, and barely scratched the surface.
The programs at the Cincinnati convention are set up like this:
The visiting radio stars act in several re-creations of old-time radio programs, and attendees are invited to audition for acting parts in these programs. In other words, convention visitors have the opportunity to appear on stage with original actors from old-time radio.
The first year we attended, Karen (then 11) was picked to appear in a Lone Ranger episode with Fred Foy, who was the "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear" announcer on the original radio program. It was the thrill of a lifetime.
The visiting stars this year were Rosemary Rice, Esther Geddes, and Tyler McVay. Two other stars (Bob Hastings and Peg Lynch) had to cancel at the last minute due to illnesses in their families.
Short bios of the stars in attendance: Rosemary Rice averaged 40 shows per week as a child actress. She played Betty on the Archie program, and she was also the daughter in the early television series I Remember Mama. And she guested on literally thousands of other radio shows.
Esther Geddes was in a series called The Golden Days of Radio, and also the children's program The Magic Garden.
Tyler McVey appeared in Fibber McGee and Molly, Burns and Allen, and hundreds of other shows as a guest actor. He also toured military bases during World War II with Gene Autry. When Karen found out he had been on the Jack Benny show, he had her lifelong devotion.
There were four programs scheduled: one to be performed Friday night, another Saturday afternoon, and the third Saturday night. The fourth was split, with the first half Friday night and the second half Saturday afternoon. Additionally, the three professionals presented a hilarious Fred Allen-Tallulah Bankhead skit.
Karen and I auditioned for roles, and Kathy went with us to the auditions. Karen was chosen to Play Effie, Sam Spade's private secretary, and Kathy was given a role in The Fat Man (she didn't even audition--the director just assigned her the part).
I was very lucky and got two roles. I was the murderer (who dressed as a werewolf!) in The Adventures of Michael Shayne, and I was Casey in Casey, Crime Photographer. (This role was to be played by Bob Hastings, but he was not able to come).
Since at least one of us was in each show, we had to attend all the rehearsals. This left little time for anything else. This was our schedule:
5:30--7:00 Rehearsal for Michael Shayne and part 1 of Sam Spade
11:00--12:30 Rehearsal for The Fat Man and part 2 of Sam Spade
1:30-- 3:00 Performance
3:30-- 4:30 Rehearsal for Casey, Crime Photographer
5:30-- 7:30 Formal dinner
Pack up, say goodbyes, hit the road.
It was all over so fast.
As always, the highlight of our year.
Until next year's convention, let me leave you with this:
Photos of two great OTR license plates!