NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - For one weekend a year, the ghosts and survivors of Jack Benny, Benny Goodman, Goodman Ace and hundreds of other legends of the old days of radio hold court at a hotel across the road from Newark Airport.
The annual Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention has been meeting for 36 years. But when it signs off Saturday night, it will be for the last time. The reason is simple, says Jay Hickerson, a musician who has been running the show from the beginning: the march of time.
“Lack of OTR (old-time radio) guests. And the committee is getting older,” he said.
The gathering, humble as it is, used to be able to call on a constellation of stars from the early days of radio.
Now it’s down to former child stars in their 80s and 90s. Arthur Anderson, 88, who acted as a teenager with Orson Welles, is an honored guest. Grandsons of 1930s song and dance star Eddie Cantor and Brace Beemer, the voice of the Lone Ranger for most of its run on radio, are on the program.
Collecting old-time radio shows and trivia has never been a young person’s game. But most of the convention-goers are too young to have firsthand recollections of the shows they’re buying, recreating and discussing on panels.
Gary Yoggy, 73, has been to all 36 of the conventions.
“It’s my favorite weekend of the year. It tops Christmas,” he said.
Yoggy, a retired history teacher from Corning, N.Y., is part of the committee that puts on the convention. He directed a re-creation of a Tom Mix episode for a Friday afternoon program.
“It’s like reliving my youth,” he said. “I was a kid when the golden age of radio was beginning to die.”
Simon Jones is one of the celebrity guests for the weekend. Jones doesn’t exactly qualify as a Golden Age of Radio star. He played Arthur Dent in the BBC’s hugely popular radio and TV adaptations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, starting in 1978. But he’s been here before and is delighted to be asked.
“I’ve learned quite a lot about what went on before me,” he said.
Listeners who started as children, he said, make the most loyal fans. “If you can catch them that young, maybe they’ll become addicted later on.”
But it’s not just the radio programs that bring participants back year after year.View Entire Story
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