by Karen Hughes,



After driving through sleet and snow, we arrived in Kalamazoo on Thursday afternoon.  The new hotel was very fancy!  We explored the nearby walking mall for a couple of hours, then went to the lobby to meet up with the cast and director of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings.  Randy Larson, our illustrious director, greeted us all and led us to the presentation room to rehearse.

The script was very funny.  Rick Johnston and Julane Sullivan were wonderful as the title characters.  The rest of the cast was fantastic as well, and Randy, of course, was a wonderful director.  The rehearsal was a lot of fun, and we all took a dinner break before the meet-and-greet.

At 7:00, Daddy and I went to the meet-and-greet.  Before we left the hotel, though, we ran into Steve and Laura Jansen.  The Jansens are two of the sweetest, funniest, most talented people you could ever hope to meet.  After chatting with them, we headed to the Epic Theatre.  It was a very pretty building, and the meet-and-greet was terrific.  Andrea Smith was there, and I had the privilege of talking to Chad Rinne and Marilyn Wilt, who are both extremely nice and also fascinating conversationalists.  One of the fabulous actresses from All Ears Theatre, Justine McKinna, joined us for awhile, and Kenny Coe came over to chat as well.  There are so many wonderful people at this convention!  Daddy took a picture of me with Paul Petersen, who played the son on The Donna Reed Show and had several hit pop songs in the 1960s.  I also got my annual picture with the amazing Terry Salomonson.  At around 9:00, it was time to walk back to the hotel and go to sleep.


The next morning more people started to arrive for the official beginning of the convention.  Martin Grams set up his table of awesomeness (I bought a button that says I <3 JACK BENNY), Paul Petersen and Kathy Garver set up autograph tables, and lots of lovely people, including Larry Youngberg and Shirley Coe, gathered in the convention’s check-in area to chat.  Members of the All Ears Theatre group ran the check-in table (thank you, Glynis and Karen and everyone else!).

The official festivities started at 3, when Don Ramlow held auditions for the re-creations.  Daddy and I both got parts in Mr. and Mrs. North (which will star Paul Petersen and Kathy Garver!).  After the auditions, Rick Keating arrived.  Martin Grams gave a presentation on Tallulah Bankhead and The Big Show.  Before we knew it, it was time for the tech rehearsal of Mr. and Mrs. Blandings, and then the evening re-creations began.

Gunsmoke was the first show.  Randy Larson made a great Matt Dillon, Karen Blazier was terrific as Kitty, and Rick Fontaine continued to demonstrate his incredible ability to switch from one voice/accent to a completely different one.  Bob Daniel had a perfect announcer’s voice.  It was a truly excellent re-creation.  Our Blandings performance followed, and then it was time to set up the room for the trivia competition!

Six teams competed at trivia this year.  The categories included miscellaneous old time radio, novelty songs from the 1950s and ‘60s, Howdy Doody, and movie lines (among others).  Only two points separated the winning team from the runners-up!  In second place were the Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters—Meredith Granger, Randy Larson, Steve Jansen, and Bill Oates—and the winning team consisted of Chad Rinne, Frank Boncore, Rick Keating, and Charles Niren.  Congratulations!

Tomorrow promises to have lots of fun adventures in store.  Good night!


Our first commitment of the day was the Mr. and Mrs. North rehearsal at 11:00.  Ron Centers directed it.  He was a wonderful director!  Toni Morris was a great announcer.  Kathy Garver and Paul Petersen starred in it, and it was very exciting to be at rehearsal with them.  While Daddy and I were rehearsing, Mama went to Bob Daniel’s presentation about his grandfather, Brace Beemer.  I managed to slip in for the last two or three minutes, and even in that brief time, he told two stories that were beautiful.  I wish I could have heard the whole presentation!  Mama and Chad told me later that the whole hour was full of fantastic stories (including one about a horse from Nebraska).  

Johnny and Helen Holmes, two tremendously nice people who have visited 26 state capitols, were at the presentation.  Today they wore their matching Jack Benny shirts.  There are so many cool people here!  Shortly after the presentation ended, a video of a recently-discovered episode of The Ed Wynn Show was screened.  Mama and I caught the tail end of it, and it was very funny.

The first re-creation of the afternoon was The Whistler.  Michael Helms was wonderfully creepy as the title character, and Laura Jansen gave a fabulous performance (as she always does; she and her brother are both incredibly talented) as an evil wife.   Mr. and Mrs. North followed, and it was, once again, exciting to be a part of the same show as the stars.  It was also fun to sing a snippet of “The Way You Look Tonight” with the whole cast.  

At 3:00, Daddy interviewed the two stars.  He prepared several pages of insightful questions and did an awesome job (in my totally unbiased opinion).  Their stories were fabulous.  It was fascinating to hear the things they had in common and the ways in which their experiences in show business differed.  I cannot say enough good things about them.  They are both so kind and gracious.

The longest stretch of “down time” came during the next few hours.  Mama and I walked briefly through the pedestrian mall.  Downtown Kalamazoo has some neat little shops, and it was fun to explore.  Hopefully next year the weather will be more walking-friendly.  

The final re-creations of the evening started at 7.  Up first was the All Ears Theatre’s production of The Magnificent Montague.  What a talented cast, and what an absolutely hilarious show!  It was a wonderful.  The last show for this year’s convention was The Life of Riley.  Kathy Garver and Paul Petersen played Riley’s teenage daughter Babs and her boyfriend.  Again, it was very, very funny.

At the end of the evening, Don Ramlow thanked all of the people who had helped make the convention possible.  The two stars were presented with Michigan gift baskets, and then all of the official festivities were over.  We said good bye to Charles Niren, one of our reigning trivia champions, and Johnny and Helen Holmes.  As the All Ears Theatre group put away the microphones and sound equipment, Mama and Daddy and I wandered over to the side of the room and spent a good hour or so talking to Chad Rinne, Meredith Granger, Steve Jansen, and Rick Keating.  It was a happy end to a happy convention.

See you all next year!