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`War' makes radio waves
by Louis B Parks
Houston Chronicle; Houston, Tex.; Oct 28, 1988

Orson Welles' famous Halloween trick hasn't been topped in 50 years. When he cried wolf, people believed.

Welles' ``Mercury Theater'' first presented its version of H.G. Wells' classic novel, ``The War of the Worlds,'' on Oct. 30, 1938. Yet the country is still fascinated by it. The program accidentally, Welles claimed, created a panic across the nation when many listeners took its story of a Martian invasion to be true.

Cassette recordings are available of the program, and stories about it still appear regularly. A 1975 TV movie, ``The Night That Panicked America,'' retold the story. This year, various celebrations will mark the occasion, some of them with people who played some part in the hoax, or who were fooled by it.

To mark the 50th anniversary, KUHF (88.7 FM) and KPFT (90.1 FM) are both airing a new, updated version of the famed Welles program. It stars Jason Robards as Professor Peirson, who witnesses the near destruction of Earth by invading Martian forces. Also in the cast are Steve Allen, Douglas Edwards and Scott Simon.

The new script has updated language and settings, but director David Ossman consulted on the script with Howard Koch, 86, the famed screenwriter ``(Casablanca)'' who wrote the original radio script.

It's hard for audiences in this media-saturated age to understand fully what happened when the ``Mercury Theater'' broadcast ``The War of the Worlds'' in 1938. Listening to recordings of the program, any modern listener can readily discern it is a dramatization. There are repeated announcements that the production is merely an entertainment.

But audiences in 1938 were just getting used to the idea of hearing radio news flashes about wars in Europe. Many of them, joining the show in mid-broadcast or catching the panic from others, took the ``news'' of invading Martians destroying the world as fact. There were many dramatic and sometimes tragic incidents across the nation as people prepared for the end of humanity.

In any case, H.G. Wells' 19th-century story was certainly a milestone which has been retold and copied. There is even a new syndicated television version, loosely based on the book, seen locally on Channel 26.

KPFT will broadcast the new production at 7 p.m. Sunday and Monday. The KUHF broadcast is at 10 p.m. Sunday. And remember, however real it seems, just keep saying to yourself, ``It's only radio; it's only radio.''

KNUZ disc jockey Bruce Nelson sings ``Haunted House'' on a special Halloween edition of the ``Dr. Demento Show,'' broadcast on KNUZ (1230 AM) 4-6 p.m Sunday. Nelson recorded the old 1960s hit last year on the Sun record label, and sold about 2,000 copies in the Houston area. Since it was the first recording on Sun for several years, it has become a collector's item, Nelson said.

Dr. Demento's program, which is no longer heard regularly in the Houston area, features wacky songs from both professional performers and his listeners. The Halloween show will include such seasonal favorites as ``Lurch'' by Ted Cassidy, ``My Son the Vampire'' by Allan Sherman, ``Please Mr. Grave Digger'' by David Bowie, ``I Want to Bite Your Hand'' by Gene Moss, the ``Dark Shadows'' theme and many more.

Monday is Halloween, but Saturday is probably the night to stay off the streets. That's when the Z-107 Halloween Party Patrol will be out haunting.

The patrol, consisting of ghouls Ted Carson, Lauren Valle, Donna Mackenzie and the Catfish, will be decked out as ghostbusters to visit five private Halloween parties that won a station contest. It's not clear if they won the trick or the treat, but they asked for it. Happy Halloween.

At 11:15 a.m. today, KUHF broadcasts the ``Cullen Overture,'' a piece written for the grand re-opening performance of the University of Houston's Cullen Auditorium Oct. 22.

The overture was conducted by Niklaus Wyss with the UH Orchestra. The performance will be aired on 200 stations by National Public Radio's ``Performance Today'' program. A longer version of the opening program, including the UH Chorus, will be heard at 1 p.m. Sunday on KUHF.

By the way, the figures are in on the recent KUHF fund drive. Despite giving listeners a break by shortening the drive from 10 days to eight, the fall drive raised $259,717 in cash, about $9,600 more than the spring drive. Matching funds will bring the figure to more than $300,000.

The George R. Brown Convention Center rocks Saturday to the KLOL (101.1 FM) Rocktober Music Festival. Recording artists such as the Georgia Satellites and Jon Butcher will share the spotlight with five Houston bands. Rocktober is sponsored by KLOL, Budweiser and Coca-Cola to benefit the Houston Food Bank.

The local bands - Private Numbers, the Pack, Civil Eyes, the Allisons and Cordray - were selected by KLOL from taped submissions for this local competition of the national Budweiser Battle of the Bands. In addition to the contest bands, there will be sets by Butcher, the Georgia Satellites, David Lindley, In Tua Nua, Broken Homes, Jay Arron and Ronnie Lane.

Music starts at 12:30 p.m. and ends at midnight. Tickets are $5 at the door. For information call 266-2378.

Talk about scary. On Halloween, KPRC (950 AM) presents a Coach Jerry Glanville Look-Alike Contest on ``Martini and Edmonds Sportstalk.''

You can't say the guy doesn't have a sense of humor. The contest is broadcast 6:30-7 p.m. from Mr. A's Uptown, 6396 Richmond. Glanville, head coach of the Houston Oilers, is heard every Monday on ``Sportstalk.

'' Starting Monday, ``Sportstalk'' expands. It will now be heard 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. So if you just can't get enough sports.

 

 


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