Last night, for the first time in a while, I tuned in to the KNX Drama Hour, which has been on the air here on KNX 1070 AM since the 1970s, I believe.
I "found" it when I was about 12 years old, and it was a huge part of my life during my adolescence, during the height of my old-time radio show fandom/collection sensibility. It went hand-in-hand with my then-fledgling interest in films from the 1930s-’50s, and my fascination for the media culture of that period definitely made it hard to share interests with my peers. It was difficult finding anyone my age who had heard of Orson Welles, Jack Benny, Frank Lovejoy or Norman Corwin, let alone appreciate them or the dramas in which they were involved. For me, Alad Ladd will always be Dan Holiday from the radio show Box 13 before he is Shane. William Conrad will always be Matt Dillon from Gunsmoke. June Foray, famous for (among other things) Natasha on Rocky and Bullwinkle, will always be a Stan Freberg character first (Miss Jupiter…Edna St. Louis Missouri…Lucretia). Admittedly, when I think of Orson Welles now, I tend to think of Citizen Kane before anything else, but for the longest time, he was always first Harry Lime from the radio show version of The Third Man; he was the spooky narrator from The Black Museum; he was the brains behind The Mercury Theatre on the Air radio theatre group. Needless to say, old-time radio (OTR) was a huge part of my life, and KNX was the station that introduced me to it, and provided one or two OTR shows every night at 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.
Anyway, I tuned in to KNX last night, and was not surprised that the regular Friday shows had been pre-empted by the annual Halloween broadcast of Orson Welles & The Mercury Theatre group’s infamous 1938 production of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. What did surprise me, however, was the canned announcement at the beginning of the show, saying that it would be the final installment of the KNX Drama Hour. Final, based on the need for news recently: the SoCal fires, strikes, recall election, continuing war in Iraq…
It’s true, KNX skipped the Drama Hour during the first Bush/Iraq war, but it came back. It came back after September 11th. So perhaps this isn’t the true end? Perhaps they will bring it back? Unless another factor was a lagging listenership over the past few years.
So many years, so many shows. I feel old, and like I just lost a friend. A constant, true friend that’s no longer there. No Jack Benny on Saturday nights at 9. Unbelievable. It’s been a part of my life for 15 years.
It means absolutely nothing to the people who have lost friends and family and homes in recent days…maybe it means nothing in the grand scheme of the world. But it’s still sad to see what had been a true staple — a rare hour of old, historic drama, on a major CBS radio affiliate — disappear.
Thankfully, today being Saturday, I tuned in to Anne Litt and Weekend Becomes Eclectic on KCRW and it helped me remember to be grateful for what’s still here in terms of radio media and culture. I hope, hope, hope that her show (and NPR and KCRW for that matter) will be around for a long time to come.