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2008 FOTR Convention Wrap-up

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 3:37 pm

It’s hard to sit down and describe the 2008 Friends of Old-Time Radio convention in a few words…there’s so much to say about three-and-a-quarter days of entertainment and enjoyment it’s tough to actually put it into words. But as someone who is rarely at a lack of something to say and who probably never used only a few words when many thousand would do, I’m going to try…

First, let me talk about the people at the convention: Jay Hickerson, who does way too much to keep the convention moving and is generally little more than a blur as he rushes from one place to another; Fred Berney, who puts me to work every year, but needed more than usual this year (he seemed to be constantly tired…but, as was pointed out to me, he always seemed to have a really big smile on his face…); Ken Stockinger, who spends the weekend picking on me mercilessly, making me giggle my way through the whole darned thing (though I still owe him a chorus of Bridge Over Troubled Water); all the Digest subscribers who come up to me over the weekend to tell me how important the Digest is to them - I don’t spend nearly as much time with you all as I’d like, what with my own rushing from one place to another throughout the weekend, but I’m always humbled by being the personification of the publication even though all I do is keep the machines running; the recreation directors who put up with me blasting them in the face with camera flashes so I can have the photos to share with you (and yes, this year they get posted early!); everyone at the convention who is so nice to my daughter, from complimenting her fiery-red hair to giving her OTR programs, (and special thanks to Chuck McCann and Elaine Hyman who gave her scripts she is still reading over and over); Mike and Leah Biel who supplied me with a sugar-rush whenever I started to slow down (but didn’t find me important enough to interview over Yesterday USA - harrumph!); Steve Lewis, and yes, Steve, I do have my name tag on as I type this; Sean Dougherty, who spends most of the convention on the telephone trying to set up interviews and promotions; and so many other people who make the weekend so special.

Now the performers, who spend so much of their time over the weekend not only entertaining us, but talking to us about what they do, and how they do it: Tommy Cook, in whose debt I will always be for allowing me the opportunity some years ago to work on-stage with my late friend Hal Stone; Michael Gwynne, who posts frequently to the Internet OTR Digest and does one helluva Jack Webb; Chuck McCann, who made my daughter giggle her head off as a dragon, “don’t'cha know”; Arthur Anderson, member of the Mercury Theater, castmember of Let’s Pretend, and a man I humbly call my friend; Craig Wichman, with whom my friendly disagreements about the future of radio theater don’t take away from my respect for his skills; Cliff Carpenter who becomes fifty years younger when he steps in front of a microphone and is still a working voice actor today (he is the voice of Banker in the Coldwell Banker portraits campaign); Lucie Arnaz and Laurence Luckinbill, who added a touch of class to our little gathering; Shirley Mitchell, who has a wonderful sense of humor - Gildersleeve fans are always jealous that I’ve talked to her; and all of the performers - it is an amazing experience to be able to watch them during rehearsal build characters out of nothing more than words and dreams, an experience I wish I could somehow share with everyone. When they perform it appears so effortless the audience doesn’t realize the work that goes into every line to make it believable and natural for the character. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comedy or drama, these folks take their work seriously, sometimes reworking the phrasing of a line over and over until the exact meaning is conveyed.

Of course, the dealers rooms are fun, not just for the stuff on which I spend too much money, but to run into old and new friends between panels or performances. Someone who’s never been there can’t imagine the amount of radio-related stuff that can be purchased at these conventions, from dealers who by and large love the hobby as much as we do.

Driving home, we listened to some old radio and talked about the weekend, Katie reliving every moment. Like every year, I was sorry to see it end…but immediately began looking forward to next year. I strongly urge you to plan on attending next year’s Friends of Old-Time Radio convention…don’t wait for “later,” start making your plans now.

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