On Thursday, October 19th 2000, the 25th Friends of Old Time Radio Convention opened at the Newark Holiday Inn North, and continued through Sunday, the 22nd. The convention featured dealers from across the country, selling tapes, records, cd's, and other memorabilia of old time radio shows. In addition, there were live panels of discussion on an hourly schedule featuring old radio shows and stars such as Father Knows Best, Amos and Andy, Mel Blanc, Westerns, and Gale Storm. There were also re-creations performed daily including a Mystery Theater performed by fans who tried out for parts earlier in the day. The highlight of the recreations was performed Friday by the Gotham Players who did an episode of Escape - The Blue Wall, produced by Max Schmid.
Although Jean Shepherd's radio work may not be considered "old time radio", Max Schmid of WBAI 99.5FM New York, held a very successful panel on Shep with special guests Barry Farber and Herb Squire.
Barry is a former WOR personality (1962-1977) who shared an office with Shep and was heard immediately before or after Shep's show. He recounted many tales of his experiences with Shep from the first time he heard him, while driving up the NJ Turnpike, to being responsible for sending Shep to the Amazon to meet with headhunters. He added that Shep was his own worst enemy when it came to his limited success on radio by not doing the commercials and attending meetings.
Herb was an engineer at WOR from 1966 to 1980 and worked many times as Shep's engineer. He was also responsible for the WOR tribute to Shep on October 27, 1999. Some of the things he told us about was the WOR transmitter site Shep worked from in the fifties, his being fired, and how he worked with NO script. According to Herb, Shep only showed up with a letter or two and a couple of articles from time to time. Everything else came straight from his head.
Both men touched on the subject of the engineers that worked with Shep and how he complained about one creating a hostile atmosphere.
Although it was only supposed to be a forty-five minute panel, the audience was very responsive and had many questions to ask of Herb and Barry. Max was able to squeeze a few extra minutes into the discussion before the woman running the camera began shaking her fist, telling him to end it. I think Max could have filled a full 2 or 3 hour panel without any problem. He recorded the whole discussion and will be playing it sometime soon. Also, it was recorded on video and apparently will be made available for purchase. I will post more information soon as it becomes available.
All in all, it was a great panel, and I hope that there will be more to follow. Hopefully Max will be able to do something again next year. For those who missed it this year, be sure to attend next year if you can.|