The Cincinnati Old-Time Radio Convention - 2010

by Karen Hughes

The new hotel is beautiful! As we were checking in, Bob Burchett came up to give us all big hugs (the people at this convention give such good hugs!). After we’d greeted Bob and checked in, Mama and I unloaded the car as quickly as was humanly possible, then joined Daddy in the dealer’s room. Doug Hopkinson generously gave us each a beautiful pin that looks like an old microphone. Steve Jansen appeared shortly thereafter. Talking with Steve is always so much fun. He’s brilliant and funny and kind, just like all of the other wonderful folks here.

Inside the dealer’s room, I got to chat and take a picture with Bruce Raleigh (who patiently listened to me prattle on about my studentlings). We saw Randy Larson, who has one of the coolest license plates you will ever see (and is incredibly nice as well). I also found some fantastic deals, including CDs and MP3s for only a dollar each—all of the kids will have souvenirs from Miss Hughes’ day off. The dealers, Neal and Bob Ellis and Phyllis and her husband (whose name, I’m ashamed to admit, I can’t remember) are terrific and are so much fun to talk to.

Hal Sampson was setting up his booth when we arrived. We met a sweet man named Alan who was a movie buff. Mama went to Martin Grams’ film screening, and Daddy and I meant to join her there but got caught up talking to JR and his wife, Sharon, and lost track of time.

Another sweep around the dealer’s room, buying a picture of Fred Allen and Portland Hoffa (don’t tell Jack!) from Hal’s booth, then the Hughes family snuck away to grab a quick lunch. When we came back, it was time for Ryan Ellett and Doug Hopkinson’s presentation about two obscure shows from the early days of radio (Louie’s Hungry Five and Gleason and Armstrong). It never ceases to amaze me how knowledgeable the people in the world of radio are. It is humbling to be surrounded by so many brilliant researchers who are doing an amazing job of keeping radio alive.

When the presentation was over, it was time to get ready to audition for the re-creations. The endlessly talented and absolutely delightful Meredith Granger was there, as were the indescribably wonderful Thompsons! Steve and Rene and David and Bree are such a sweet family, and seeing them every year is one of the highlights of the convention. The auditions were fun but nerve-wracking, as any audition is. I tried not to shake too much as I sat with Meredith and Chad, a very sweet man from Nebraska who was polite enough to listen to me gush about the wonderfulness that is Omaha.

Don Ramlow chose some terrific shows this year: X Minus One, Gunsmoke, Duffy’s Tavern, and Our Miss Brooks. Steve and Rene were both cast in Duffy’s Tavern (Steve as Archie and Rene as a quack “genialologist”), Bree was chosen as the announcer in Our Miss Brooks, Daddy landed the role opposite Bob Hastings in X Minus One, and I was cast as Harriet in Our Miss Brooks. (Ken Borden was also there, and when Don began the auditions, he called out, “Are there any pervert roles?” I love OTR convention inside jokes!)

Rick Keating arrived at the end of auditions. I chatted with him while Daddy rehearsed X Minus One. After rehearsal, we came back up to the room to grab a quick snack (leftover Taco Bell directly from the refrigerator could only taste so good at the convention) and make some last-minute preparations for the evening’s festivities.

The evening’s re-creations were, as always, marvelous. Randy Larson was the announcer for The Bickersons, starring Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings. Seeing them right there onstage in front of you and thinking of all they’ve done is awesome (in the true sense of the word) every year.

Following The Bickersons was X Minus One. My talented Daddy played a man who was onto the massive conspiracy to re-wire people’s brains (to be completely honest, I didn’t really understand the whole thing, but it was fun to watch anyway). Bob and Rosemary and Esther Geddes (who may very well be the sweetest, most bubbly human being I have ever met) starred in it as well.

When the re-creations were over, the illustrious and accomplished Martin Grams and Terry Salomonson came in to judge the trivia competition. Daddy has been writing and polishing questions for it since February, and it was so much fun to watch! Contestants divided themselves into groups of four, and there were a total of seven teams. Each round was a list of 10 questions in categories such as Animals (Question: On what show did Howard and Berniece appear? Answer: Vic and Sade), Radio History (I was proud of myself for knowing who Nathan Bedford Forrest Stubblefield was), etc. Mama and I couldn’t participate on a team, of course, so Mama sat with a sweet little couple and informally tried to guess answers with them while I circulated and collected the teams’ answer sheets. The winning team consisted of Meredith Granger, Jack French, Jim Widener, and Randy Larson (congratulations, guys!).

When the festivities drew to a close, Melanie Aultman called Derek Tague (whom we all miss very, very much) and passed the phone around so we could all talk to him.

Tomorrow will be a busy day!

It was nice to sleep in a little bit on Saturday morning. When I finally stopped being lazy, it was a quick walk to Bob Evans to get a carryout breakfast to eat back in the room. After breakfast, Mama and I went down to the dealer’s room again to chat with everyone and see what bargains we missed. At 10:30 we went back upstairs to hear Ryan Ellett’s presentation about the early sci-fi show Phenomenon. Meredith and Chad and Randy and Rick were all there too, and Meredith gave me an OTR t-shirt afterward (it is impossible to overemphasize how thoughtful and generous and wonderful all of these people are).

Back downstairs, Mama and I watched some recordings of Hal Sampson riding in competitions on his prizewinning horses. What a multi-talented man! At 1:30 it was time to go back into the performance room for the matinee re-creations, where I had the privilege of sitting with the lovely and delightful Laura Jansen. Don gave a nice introduction to Duffy’s Tavern, describing all of the work that Derek put into getting it ready for the convention (laboriously copying the heretofore unreleased script by hand, transcribing it on the computer, etc.). Derek’s dedication to OTR and its preservation is truly remarkable. I am very lucky to have such an incredible friend.

Duffy’s Tavern and Gunsmoke were both wonderful, of course. The people who attend are so talented and make the re-creations so much fun to watch. What an honor to be among all of them!

Daddy was the auctioneer at 3:00, taking bids for autographed copies of the re-creation scripts. Immediately following the auction was the drawing for raffle prizes. We all missed Peyton very much and wondered who would win all of the prizes since he wasn’t here this year. It was fun running the prizes to the winners when Daddy called their names. I had to head to rehearsal for Our Miss Brooks at 3:30, though, so I missed part of it.

When the rehearsal ended, it was time to find dinner. We had a pretty long stretch before we had to be back for the evening’s performances, so Mama and Daddy and I went to Golden Corral. It was nice to have some down time (and a chance to work on this report for a few minutes!).

We came back and got ready for the coming re-creations. The first show of the night was the All Ears Theatre’s production of Dan Turner, Private Eye, an original script based on a pulp magazine character from the 1930s. What followed was one of the highlights of the convention: half an hour or so of Rosemary Rice and Bob Hastings reminiscing about their careers and taking questions from the audience. It was magical. It was hard to fight back tears when Rosemary recited the intro from I Remember Mama from memory.

The last part of the performance was Our Miss Brooks. Of course part of me was thinking, “What in the world am I doing onstage with these people?!” but the excitement quickly overcame the nervousness. It was a fun show and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

The last official part of the evening was the awards ceremony. Terry Salomonson began by presenting the Parley Baer Award (for OTR preservation) to Ken Stockinger. Don Ramlow then presented Dave Warren Awards (for OTR re-creations) to Jack French and Laura Jansen. Bob Burchett wrapped up the presentations by presenting a third Dave Warren Award to Terry Salomonson and then the Stone-Waterman Award (for efforts to preserve radio history) to Jack French.

And then it was over. Steve and Rene and Meredith all had to leave early, but we stuck around to chat with the people who were still there. We met Chad’s parents, and they served as further proof that Nebraska is one of the nicest places in the world. We called Derek Tague and passed the phone around to the people who were left. And now I am sitting in the lobby with Rick Keating, finishing this report and listening to the wonderful voices of Martin Grams and Chris Holm and my dad and several other people as they sit in the hotel restaurant and talk OTR. I am so proud to know these people and be a part of this group, even if I’m on the periphery right now. Just being near them is such an honor. This is the most magical time of the year.