Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention Recap

Photos by
My mother-in-law, Mary Ethel, runs the front registration desk at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. This past weekend one of the attendees, Roger Sirk, told her, "I would rather miss Christmas than miss this convention." Based on the feedback flooding my inbox, that appears to be the overall opinion from attendees after the convention came to a close. Michelle, my wife, convinced one of her co-workers at her day job to attend and they went back to work on Tuesday, they scolded the other employes for not going to the show, describing the event this way: "it was not a geek thing." MANC is not the kind of event that sparks comic con impressions. And after eight years I find it difficult to describe just what the three-day festival is all about.

Like many conventions, vendors offered a variety of products for sale ranging from books, tee shirts, movies, lobby cards, movie posters, glossy photos and vintage collectibles. Like many conventions, a handful of Hollywood celebrities signed autographs, posed for photographs and participated in Q&A sessions on stage. Quoting Brad Rogers, an annual attendee, "The Nostalgia Con is a throwback to conventions 20 and 30 years ago when they were fun and not like those today that try to rake people over with large admission costs and autograph fees." When Ed Asner got up on stage, he opened by telling the interviewer, "Okay, Chuckles, let's get this over with." The audience laughed and clapped with appreciation. Everyone loves the grumpy old man but Asner proved he has a soft heart and there is no doubt a special place in heaven for him.

Ed Asner and interviewer Tom Doty. Courtesy

Actress Margaret O'Brien and author Gregory William Mank.

Julie Newmar doing her Catwoman purr.
During her Q&A session, Julie Newmar answered a request from a fan in the audience and reprised her Catwoman purr over the microphone... the audience cheered and clapped. Margaret O'Brien talked about the dance sequence with Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis (1958), followed by a special screening of the movie. For fans of The Rifleman, Johnny Crawford talked about his five years on the program and Jeff Connors talked about his father, Chuck Connors. The panel went over so well that Jeff asked me to make a copy and send it to him.
This year's bill of fare included almost two dozen slide show presentations ranging from the history of DICK TRACY in the comics (courtesy of Garyn Roberts), Gracie Allen's run for Presidency in 1940, and home movies of Brace Beemer (radio's LONE RANGER) courtesy of his grandson, Bob Daniel. Attendees included museum curators, magazine editors, authors and historians, obsessed fan boys and folks who share a common interest in the times gone by. Live re-enactments of old-time radio dramas, complete with scripts, sound effects and microphones were among the highlights. On display was The Blob silicone from the 1958 Steve McQueen horror classic. Yes, the original Blob! How cool is that?

That's the real movie monster, folks!  The Blob silicone on display.

Larry Storch. Photo courtesy of Melissa Saka Ginsberg.

Abbott and Costello impersonators walked around the hotel performing routines (including "Who's On First?). They even took time out to pose for photos with the celebrities. "Mr. Asner seems to like to come off as 'cantankerous', but we found him to be playful, funny and warm," said Joe Ziegler, pictured on the right.

Ed Asner with Abbott and Costello

Who wouldn't smile when Abbott and Costello are around?

Actor Robert Loggia was among the celebrity guests who took time to talk about his appearances in movies... let's see if we can name them all... the piano sequence with Tom Hanks in Big, the general in Independence Day, Scarface, The Sopranos, The Nine Lives of Elfago Baca, Hawaii Five-O, Jagged Edge, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, three Pink Panther movies, Psycho 2, Prizzi's Honor, An Officer and a Gentleman, and a guilty pleasure of mine called T.H.E. Cat. When is that ever going to come out on DVD commercially? I asked Mr. Loggia, and his wife, and they both were as puzzled as I am.

Actor Robert Loggia with fan Kelly J. Sheridan.

Elizabeth Shepherd talked about her days on the stage in Shakespearean dramas, then introduced a late night screening of The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), directed by Roger Corman, and co-starring Vincent Price. Larry Storch was just as funny today as he was during his days on F Troop. Diana Sowle talked about her screen roles including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Margaret O'Brien was a sweetheart and I had the honor of taking her back to the train station after the convention was over.

Talk about crowds. Last year's attendance spiked past 2,000. We hit 2,250 this year. Combating an aging fan base and a declined economy, it is nice to know our attendance record continues to grow. 

"I just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed the convention. It’s the best one we’ve ever participated in. I thought driving 3,000 miles would make Roy want to swear off conventions, but he’s talking about doing it again next year. Wow!"
                              -- Sandra Grabman, author of numerous biographies

"The time seemed to pass rather fast and we didn't get to do everything we wanted to do, which indicates a good time was had by all."
                              --Ed Pippin of the Solar Guard Fan Club

"Please thank your great crew for being so courteous and treating us so nicely. This was the best show I've ever appeared at in thirty years of work in the industry. I will never forget it."
                               -- Rusty Gilligan, commercial artist

"Congratulations on a fantastic convention. Although it was my first, it will not be my last. I had a great time."
                              -- Bob Tevis

At times the convention was a bit crowded.

But who doesn't love a crowd? Adds to the excitement of the show.

Lewis Forro has a blog and posted two pages of photos from the convention. Check it out here:
Couldn’t get by without posting this photo.
I bumped into this beauty at the end of the show
as everyone was tearing down and packing up.
Love the Sock Hop poodle dress!

Check out Samantha's review on the Dick Powell blog:

No event can run smooth without a speed bump along the way. On Friday afternoon, the power went out momentarily throughout the hotel (and from what I heard, the traffic lights outside as well). Thankfully the hotel had backup generators. We video streamed the seminars so folks in Alaska, Canada and France (among other places) could view the events live on their home computers. While the attempt was merely a field test this year, we do feel confident that the technology is good enough to warrant a permanent fixture starting next year. So this time there is no excuse to overlook the event in September 2014.

Many of the photos on this site were provided by

Friday, September 20, 2013

Dragnet: The "Lost" Premiere Radio Broadcast

Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday
The evolution of detective programs on old-time radio began in the late twenties when most original detectives were inspired by the murder mystery stage plays often dramatized on stage on Broadway. By the early thirties, Philo Vance and Charlie Chan began inspiring imitations and programs of their own... sometimes adapted from the novels themselves -- others to help promote major motion pictures.

In 1946, CBS began offering The Adventures of Sam Spade and those early adventures revealed a different kind of gumshoe -- one who stole money out of a dead man's wallet and shot a crooked thief (a woman) in the back when she tried to escape. Radio listeners (and script writers) took note and began their own imitations of the Sam Spade series, more tame than the Sam Spade character. By 1947, radio detectives became a common staple in network broadcasting -- so much so that concerned parents formed organizations in an effort to curb the vicious murders that intrigued impressionistic young minds. But after you listen to a dozen of those programs -- Philo Vance, Boston Blackie, Nero Wolfe, Richard Diamond, etc. -- the conclusion is the same. The detective programs are relatively the same -- each with their own variation-on-a-theme.

Then came Jack Webb and Dragnet, which was far more original than any detective program on the airwaves. So original that it is difficult to name another radio program that attempted to imitate Dragnet. (It is far easier to name a number of programs that spoofed Dragnet.) Many collectors today know that the first broadcast of the series, June 3, 1949, does not exist in recorded form. There are numerous stories of why that disc was accidentally broken before it could be transcribed but thankfully I was able to find the original script and it is reprinted below for your enjoyment.

Vintage radio advertisement with Jack Webb
A few small notes to point out: the theme song for the first two radio broadcasts was not the classic theme you hear today. It was not until the third broadcast of the series that Webb began using an excerpt from Miklos Rozsa's soundtrack score for The Killers (1947). The second episode of the series does exist in recorded form. Listen to that one beforehand and get a general idea what the theme song was for the premiere broadcast.

There is no origin for the Sergeant Friday character.
The earliest episodes never had an official script title. Some people created their own title for the earliest episodes but be aware that not all of them really had a title -- just because a recording in your collection has a title doesn't mean the information is accurate.

There is a big misconception that the radio program is in the public domain. This is usually stated on websites providing free downloads in an effort to play stupid... and use as a scapegoat should they get into trouble for offering the recordings. The script here is reprinted with permission from the copyright holders.