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Radio | Weekend Chat

A Renaissance in the Air

Museum of Television & Radio gathers luminaries for first Los Angeles festival.

October 26, 2000|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On Friday, the Museum of Television & Radio launches its first Radio Festival in Los Angeles, continuing through Nov. 3. Radio buffs will have a chance to mingle with members of L.A. radio's creative community through seminars, live broadcasts, radio dramas and family events.

Seminars will explore news radio, the rise of FM rock and feature a conversation with personality and novelty record expert Dr. Demento. Veteran radio writer-director-producer Norman Corwin, as well as novelist Ray Bradbury and director Robert Altman, will engage in a special "Dialogue About Radio." There will also be live radio broadcasts of local and nationally syndicated programs including "Jim Ladd's Living Room," "Loveline" and the "The Phil Hendrie Show."

Ken Mueller, the radio curator for the Museum of TV & Radio, recently discussed the genesis of the festival and what he expects will be several of the week's high points.

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Question: Do you believe radio is going through a renaissance?

Answer: I think radio is doing very well right now. There has never been a time when more people have been listening to the radio. With radio, there are 12,000 or so stations across the country . . . [but] radio stations don't get the millions and millions of numbers for the ratings [like prime-time television] because it is just more fragmented, but that's what makes radio great. Then you throw in the Internet and the Internet radio into the mix and you have people listening to that as well. There's a lot of exciting stuff going on.

Q: The Museum of Television & Radio has had an annual radio festival in New York for the past five years. What was the impetus for deciding to do one in Los Angeles?

A: We figured that it was time. Los Angeles has such a rich radio heritage--such a great radio community--we wanted to make sure we got them involved [in a festival].

Since we opened the museum [in Los Angeles] in '96, the radio community has been extremely supportive. It's a very active community--they love the museum and they have helped the museum. It just made sense to do this now.

Q: Would you discuss what's happening on L.A. Radio Day on Saturday?

A: It's a lot of different things. The purpose of the radio festival first of all is to really honor radio and showcase how great radio is. Radio is a very vibrant medium and there is a lot going on. L.A. Radio Day is taking one of those days [of the festival] just having wall-to-wall events from first thing in the morning to late at night--so that the general public can come in and meet a lot of different radio personalities and get to talk to them and ask them questions. It also gives them a chance to learn how radio works.

In the morning, there are a number of workshops. The Re-creating Radio Workshop is a workshop we do on a regular basis where kids can come in and learn what it took to put an old-time radio show together.

We have Dr. Demento [appearing]. He is doing a little presentation and we'll bring Stan Freburg in. They will talk together and then Stan will do a live version of his show "When Radio Was."

Q: The crown jewel of the festival has to be the evening with Norman Corwin, Ray Bradbury and Robert Altman on Nov. 3. How did that come together?

A: It's a really exciting event. We have worked with all of these men in the past. We were looking for something to do with Norman Corwin this year and this idea came up. Bradbury and Altman site Norman Corwin as a major influence on their work. So you get the three of them together and just let them talk about radio and how important radio is and how radio influences other media. It is a one-of-a kind of event.

Q: Like the rest of the series, the seminars seem to cover a broad spectrum of L.A. radio.

A: There are so many stations, so many issues, so many individuals you could do seminars with. It's hard to choose who you are going to do. So we had to pick and choose. We have never really done anything on all-news radio. I think when you look at L.A.--the fact that radio is such an important part of everyone's lives as they drive around--a lot of news stories are broken on all-news radio and people tune into all-news radio for continuing coverage of a lot of stories that are breaking.

Q: Were broadcasters eager to do their shows live at the museum?

A: Oh, yes. We have live broadcasts from the radio studio in New York and Los Angeles all year round. But to get this many in such a short period of time is amazing. The response was great. We have some really great broadcasters from some of the top stations. There is something for everyone.

What goes on during a radio broadcast is something you don't always see. That's one of the most exciting things you can do at the museum. It's almost like a living exhibit.

Q: Is there special listening series during the festival?

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