Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween and Radio

As most of you know, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year. As a kid, I enjoyed getting dressed up as a superhero or a soldier and going on the great hunt for candy, as an adult, I enjoy the parties and seeing all the kids come
by the front door dressed up in their finest costumes.

Halloween was a part of radio too; the local stations all did something special for Halloween, usually some sort of on air prank, but not quite on par with the biggest radio prank in American history. Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds was performed as a Halloween episode on October 30, 1938 that aired over the CBS radio network. The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated "news bulletins", which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Adding to the realism was the fact that the program ran without commercial breaks. In the days following the show, there was widespread outrage and panic by certain listeners who believed the events described in the program were real. The program's news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast. Orson Welles insisted that there was no attempt to trick or scare the audience but one could see in his eyes as he was denying that he had pulled one of the greatest Halloween pranks ever that he was enjoying the uproar.

Many years later, as a young DJ in the late 60s, I enjoyed playing Halloween songs such as Buchannan and Goodman's Flying Saucer - Parts One and Two, Jumpin' Gene Simmons' Haunted House and Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers' Monster Mash on the radio. At the time, I was doing my WCOS show from a cinder block announce booth on the grounds of Doug Broome's Drive - In. I would decorate the booth's windows with cutouts of ghosts and goblins. Many times the kids in the audience would come by on their way to Halloween parties just to show me their costumes. It was such innocent fun. No one worried about razor blades and tainted candy and everyone took special care to watch out for the little ones in the streets. The Halloween musical tradition continued after I left top 40 radio with Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper and of course, the masterpiece: Michael Jackson's Thriller!

During my 30s and 40s the Halloween spirit came in the form of costume parties. Boys that used to wear superhero costumes became men wearing vampire or ghoul costumes, anything scary. Girls who used to dress up as princesses came dressed as movie stars or vamps, anything sexy. How things had changed. I must admit that I enjoyed the women's costumes more than I did the ones they wore as little girls.

My Halloween tradition changed again when one of my goddaughters began throwing an annual Halloween party. She asked me to DJ those parties and I was all too happy to oblige. It was great to see those kids come to the party all dressed up, even if I didn’t always get the costume. I will never forget when a pair of girls came in with their eyes blackened wearing white t-shirts with the letter P on them. Finally it dawned on me that they were the Black Eyed Peas, what fun! I was dreading the day when my goddaughter became too old for these parties but fortunately her sister, also one of my goddaughters, kept the tradition up for many more years. Those were good times.

This weekend, two of my favorite traditions came together! Back in the day, at WUSC, we used to drop a cable out the control room window to the patio below and broadcast impromptu "Patio Parties." In recent years, the station created a Zombie Walk, where the DJs would make themselves and other students up as Zombies and "walk" down to the nearby Five Points hospitality area and party at one of the establishments there.

This year, they brought back the Patio Party and combined it with the Zombie Walk. I supplied the DJ equipment and we did a four hour broadcast that culminated in a flash mob that even got coverage from the local news media. We had so much FUN! Oh MY!

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