Karen's Cincinnati OTR Convention Report - 2006

The Cincinnati convention was a truly amazing experience this year--but then, it always is. 

From the beginning:

Left Grandma's house (Lafayette, IN) at around 5:30 in the morning so we could be there by the time the dealers' room opened. I slept the whole way and woke up just as we were arriving. We checked in, looked at the list of names of people who had already arrived, and were hugged by Jim Skyrm, who is one fo my favorite people in the world (a lot of my favorite people attend this convention). We also saw Peyton, a tremendously nice man, and zipped through the dealers' room before unpacking.

The dealers' room was so small this year! Of course, there were still lots of good things to find (I picked up a picture of Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa from Hal, with whom Mama and I had a very nice chat--his wife couldn't be there this year because of a fireworks festival in their hometown, for which she was providing t-shirts), and lots of good people to say hello to. The room next to it, which is usually half of the dealers' room, was used this year for the Blue Coal Trio and Derek Tague's celebrity panel.

After we'd been there a little while, we saw Derek Tague out in the lobby! It was wonderful to see him, especially because we knew about Melanie's plan to have him named Mayor of Etherville on Saturday night (we had fun conspiring with Melanie to try to finalize last-minute details of her delightful idea). He gave me two beautiful Paul Gallico books and a still picture from my favorite movie. Derek is such a thoughtful person. 

Later that day, we had the pleasure of meeting Derek's sister, niece, and nephew (Gwen, Amy, and Patrick). They were all just as sweet and friendly as Derek is, and we were excited to have them join us this year.

Mama and I ran out for a quick lunch before auditions (it's always so much fun to leave the convention for a few minutes so that you can feel the excitement of coming back again), and when we returned we saw Steve and Rene Thompson and their son, David! David is huge now--he's already nine years old!--and we love Steve and Rene very much. They are two of the best actors and nicest people you could meet. They both have a wonderful sense of humor, too, and it's impossible to be around them for more than a minute or so without laughing. They're great! Steve is a recently published author: a brilliant short story of his was published in a collection of OTR-based stories, which was for sale at the convention. Steve also brought a photo of the Jack Benny cast which he had magically altered so that my face was on Mary Livingstone's body. Aren't they wonderful?!

We all headed into the audition room to catch up and to wait for the casting of the re-creations. A few minutes after we sat down, Rick Keating arrived, and I helped him unload his annual supply of Faygo. Rick, who is a delightful, supportive friend, stayed with us to watch the auditions. Daddy came in a few minutes later, and we all moved up to the front of the room.

When the casting began, Hal Stone--HAL STONE!--came in and announced that Don Ramlow was very ill, and had asked him to take over direction of most of the re-creations. Randy Vanderbeek (sp?), another terrifically nice person, was Don's assistant, and helped Hal hand out scripts and so forth. 

Auditions were a lot of fun, and Daddy, Steve, and I were fortunate enough to get the same roles in the "Lone Ranger" re-creation that we had at our very first convention, 10 years ago. Daddy and Steve were both bad guys (though Steve, who turned out to be my real father, reformed at the end), and I was a 12-year-old named Sally. 
It was so much fun!

The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up with all of our OTR family: Randy Story, Meredith Grainger, Steve and Laura Jansen, and everyone else. Ed Clute and his housekeeper talked to us for a little while, and they are both so warm and kind and friendly. I checked in at Jim's booth every so often to get more hugs (I tend to go into withrdawal seeing my favorite pseudo-grandfather only once a year).

The evening's performance of part 1 of "Let George Do It" was great. It was a shame that it was so short, but the actors all did a fantastic job. After the show, Mama, Daddy, Rick, Meredith, Randy Story, and I all squeezed into our car (have I mentioned how much fun all of these delightful people are?), which was quite an adventure, and joined the rest of the conventioneers at the Longhorn Steakhouse. We had a fantastic time! It was extremely crowded in the restaurant, but since it was all OTR people, it was a very nice crowd. The six of us, along with Mike and Leah Biel, went to the ice cream place across the street after dinner, and more jollity was had. The ice cream place was just about ready to close, but Meredith ran across the street to make sure they stayed open long enough for us to get our treats. I collapsed into bed that night thoroughly exhausted, but it was the happiest kind of exhaustion imaginable. 

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for another exciting day. Mama and I rushed out to grab a quick breakfast, which we brought back to eat while we waited for Derek's celebrity panel to start. At 10:00, Derek, Fred Foy, Rosemary Rice, Bob Hastings, and Hal Stone all came and sat at a table at the front of the room, and the stars reminisced about their experiences in radio and television. Their stories were funny and sweet, and it's always such a treat to watch them interact with one another. 

Rehearsal for "The Lone Ranger" started at 11, and we were sad to learn that there had been a mix-up and Steve wouldn't be the reformed bad guy after all (though he still had a delightful part in "Sam Spade"). Bob Hastings played the role instead. Hal Stone directed and played Tonto. 

After rehearsal, the dashing and delightful Jim Skyrm gave me a wonderful CD with the episode of "Studio One" in which Rosemary Rice played Francie in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."Mama and I ran out for a quick lunch at Perkins with the Thompson clan. We rushed back to the afternoon performance, and saw part 1 of "Sam Spade" (with Steve Jansen in the title role, his sister Laura as Effie, Rene as a witch, Steve Thompson as a "foppish" party planner, and Leah Biel as a woman 
planning her fifth engagement party). After the performance, we performed "The Lone Ranger." It was so much fun! It was a little surreal to be doing the same thing I'd done 10 years ago, but it was a wonderful experience.

In the afternoon, Rick played a recording of "The Damiani Diamond" for me (the radio script he wrote which was performed at the Cincy convention a few years ago and was performed and broadcast in Michigan a few months ago). Mama and Daddy went out to Golden Corral for dinner and I stayed at the hotel to get ready for the Saturday banquet (to which I was escorted by the dashing Derek Tague, who was soon to be named the Mayor of Etherville). I was so excited, anticipating the presentation of a sash and a giant "key to Etherville"! Dinner was okay in terms of food and great in terms of company. Derek and I sat with the Biels and a few other very kind people whose names, I'm embarrassed to admit, I don't remember.

After dinner, Ed Clute played requests from the crowd, and then the evening performances began. We saw part 2 of "Sam Spade," a performance of "Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective" by Don's Michigan re-creation group (Don was feeling well enough to come to the dinner that night), an episode of "Suspense" with Rosemary Rice as a high-schooler on her first date, Hal Stone as her boyfriend, and Bob Hastings as her worried father, and then a surprise episode of "Ethel and Albert" (Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings). It was all so wonderful!

There was a short break after the performances, and then the awards began. I was excited, because I knew that Derek would get his surprise soon. But he had a surprise for us, too. First, the Dave Warren Award was presented to Ed Clute. Then Bob Burchett announced that there was a second Dave Warren Award. Derek, Steve, and Rene all came onto the stage, and Rene began to talk about the importance of spreading OTR to the next generation. She talked about my parents and how enthusiastic they were about promoting OTR--by this point my mom and I were both crying our eyes out. Then she called us onto the stage--our family won the other Dave Warren Award!

Mama and I were both still crying too much to say anything. We didn't know what to say anyway; we were too surprised and touched. Daddy made a wonderful speech, and Rick snapped pictures. Finally, we all went back down to the banquet floor and watched the rest of the awards from the side of the stage. I must confess, I was too dazed to pay much attention, but I know that Terry Salomonson (sp?) 
won one. 

After all of the awards, Rene presented Derek with a sash and the key to Etherville. It was so exciting to finally see the surprise Melanie had planned taking place!

At the very end of the night, Bob Burchett made the most wonderful announcement: This would not be the last convention! We all cheered. Our family reunions will continue! Mama and Daddy and I talked to Steve and Rene for awhile longer. Steve gave me a beautiful card that Jim had written me--evidently everyone knew about the award beforehand!

And then it was over. People trickled out, and we went back to our room, overwhelmed with all of the kindness and affection that we had been fortunate enough to experience over the past two days. We are extremely grateful and honored to have received the award, and we look forward to seeing all of you next year!