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AROUND TOWN

Kids Give Old-Time Radio a New Life

August 04, 1995|BEVERLY BEYETTE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In that long-ago time before television, was there a kid in America who didn't know what the Shadow knew? Who doubted that Jack Armstrong ate his Wheaties?

We're talking radio.

But the concept of drama without the picture is just about as unfathomable to today's kids as the thrill of sending away for a secret decoder ring.

The Autry Museum of Western Heritage's Dolly Salazar thought that was a shame, so she enlisted her husband, Jon Cavanaugh-Spain, a former radio man now on the "NBC Nightly News" staff, to teach a weeklong workshop where youngsters would write, produce and act in an original drama in the tradition of old-time radio.

Going in, "Not a single one of them" knew about radio drama, said Cavanaugh-Spain. They all knew about KIIS-FM and KRTH. Rachel West, 8, of Hollywood, mentioned that other radio format--talk radio. "I have to listen to Rush Limbaugh because my dad always listens. I hate Rush Limbaugh."

At week's end, before family and friends at the museum, the Young Riders Radio Show presented "Time Travelers" complete with a nicely corny script, properly hammy acting and the requisite exaggerated sound effects.

It went something like this:

Cavanaugh-Spain: "As soon as you hear the cow, that means we're on the air. . . ."

A cow moos. Horses' hooves clatter. The music reaches a crescendo.

Jimmy Spain, 8, announcer: "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome once again as KGAM presents the adventures of Dan and Jack, The Time Travelers!"

We first meet Dan and Jack as they sit on the moon in their time machine. But wait! They're hijacked by Destructo and Killer and crash-land in the Old West.

The plot twists are a bit dizzying, but all you need to know is that the villains are sent packing in a new time machine, unaware that the good guys have programmed it to take them to the "deepest, darkest prison in the galaxy."

The kids even wrote the commercial, for Cinnamon Toasted Sugar Dog Biscuits with Lax--"It lacks almost everything--fiber, protein, iron, vitamins C, D and B-1 . . . even flavor."

Each of the eight young radio stars will get a show tape. They also got to hear lots of old-time radio--"The Shadow," the CBS Radio Hour with Norman Corwin. "And of course we had 'Melody Ranch' with Gene Autry," Cavanaugh-Spain noted.

So, what about this new idea, radio drama? Melissa Callahan, 9, of Silver Lake, decided, "It's like books without pictures. You have to use your imagination."

It was fun, all agreed. But will radio ever replace TV? "No!" said Courtney Miller, 7, of Shadow Hills.

She'll never know the thrill of lying in bed in the dark, being scared witless by a creaking door.

This Ship Never Sailed, but It Was One Heck of a Party

Abraham, the Turkish camel from out Valencia way, balks at doing a walk-through of the ship's dining salon. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing for the HMS Palmcrest's one-day cruise to Turkey.

The voluptuous belly dancers wiggle and gyrate and flirt with the gents. Considering the average age of those gents--85--and the somewhat frail state of their health, "It's kind of scary," says recreation director Cathy Turley.

We are on a ship that never leaves port, passengers on the Palmcrest House Retirement Center's 19th annual fantasy cruise. Complete with harem girls (the nursing staff), a Turkish feast and center administrator Dewayne Tremain done up like Terhan Bey in a blue costume he'd put together with a glue gun and a lots of gold jewelry.

For weeks, residents have been working to help create the illusion--the ruins of Ephesus in faux stone, a Topkapi-like cardboard palace atop the pool table, a tented bazaar.

These cruises, which have taken passengers from home port in Long Beach to exotic destinations worldwide, energize the facility, says Rabbi Julian Feingold, 76, Palmcrest chaplain. "For weeks afterward, people talk about it."

The idea, he adds, is to combat boredom, to bring a smile to the faces of those "who have reached that strange, narrow path of chronic disengagement."

Bertha Glenn, 86, says she would have "enjoyed every bit of it, if it hadn't been so damned noisy."

Albert Allen, who's "on the verge of 100," has a slight complaint about the dancers. "They should have got me up there," he says, explaining that he used to take tour groups on cruises, never missing a chance to "get up on the stage with the girls." He executes a little impromptu shimmy.

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