Enlightened by Dark Radio: Announcer Johnny Dark, who introduced the British Invasion to listeners in Baltimore, will be honored for a lifetime of achievement

Radio and Television

September 30, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

It may not rank up there with introducing the Beatles, but it's an honor nonetheless.

Local radio legend Johnny Dark, whose early-'60s radio program on WCAO helped introduce the British Invasion to Baltimore, will be commended for a lifetime of achievement as part of the second annual Achievement in Radio awards, organized by local radio stations and the March of Dimes.

Dark, a native of Cambridge, Mass., had already established himself as a major force in radio by the time he signed with WCAO (600 AM) in 1961. His "Tops Tele-Quest Time," a request show on Washington's WEAM, had been the D.C. metro area's top-rated evening program, introducing listeners to such seminal pop stars as Bobby Rydell, Brenda Lee and Connie Francis.

But it was at WCAO that Dark passed into the realm of local legend. Thanks to his British connections, he broke songs by not only the Beatles (whom he introduced when they played the old Civic Center), but also Petula Clark, Tom Jones and the Spencer Davis Group.

In 1962, Dark set a Baltimore radio standard by earning a 68.3 ratings share, meaning that more than two of three people listening to their radio were listening to Johnny Dark.

Dark stayed with WCAO until 1991 and continued to prosper, even after the station changed formats to country music in 1982. The next year he was named program director and earned a citation from Billboard magazine as the Program Director of the Year. In 1989, he was a finalist for the magazine's Major Market Broadcast Personality of the Year award.

After leaving WCAO in 1991, after its switch to a gospel format, Dark took to the air as host of a weekend oldies show on Washington's WBIG-FM (100.9), where his "Dial-a-Hit" can be heard Saturdays from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Dark will receive his award at the A.I.R. awards luncheon, set for Nov. 9 at the Belvedere. Tickets are $50, with proceeds going to the March of Dimes. For information, call 410-752-7990.

Kelley to be inducted

As if it's not enough for David E. Kelley to be married to Michelle Pfeiffer and be the dominant creative force behind three of TV's best hourlong shows -- "Chicago Hope," "Picket Fences" and "Ally McBeal" -- he's about to be inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.

Among the nine TV veterans joining Kelley will be Jane Pauley, Mike Wallace, Casey Kasem and daytime soap creator/writer Agnes Nixon.

Turner scoops up 'Seinfeld'

Ted Turner, who just can't seem to find enough places to spend all his money, has decided to shovel a few barrelfuls at "Seinfeld."

Turner's flagship station, TBS, has agreed to pay an estimated $180 million -- about $1 million per episode -- for reruns of the hit NBC sitcom, which ended its network run in May.

The show already airs on broadcast stations throughout the country, but TBS' deal gives it exclusive cable rights for four years beginning in 2002.

'Zap It' makes debut

pTC "Zap It," a quiz game for kids that asks contestants to answer questions from among 500 make-believe channels displayed on a huge video screen, makes its debut at 9: 30 a.m. Sunday on Discovery as part of the cable channel's "Discovery Kids" programming block.

Fleming, Carroll unite

Olympic figure skating champion Peggy Fleming and actress Diahann Carroll are spearheading this year's efforts by the Lifetime cable channel to increase public awareness of issues concerning breast cancer.

Fleming, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, will serve as host Sunday for "2 Chicks, 2 Bikes, 1 Cause," a documentary look at two women, Porter Gale and Dona Murphy, who bicycled 5,000 miles across 18 states to help educate young women about early detection and prevention. The program airs from 10 p.m. to 11: 30 p.m.

Fleming will also serve as host for a weeklong series of shows on life after breast cancer surgery. "New Attitudes" will air from 11 to 11: 30 nightly beginning Oct. 19.

Carroll, who recently underwent successful breast cancer surgery, is national spokeswoman for Lifetime's public awareness campaign. She'll be appearing in public service spots throughout the month.

'WENN' just a memory

Say it ain't so

AMC's "Remember WENN," a look at life at a Pittsburgh radio station in the early 1940s that was one of television's most delightful and original comedies, has been canceled. The show's 56 episodes will be rerun in order beginning in January, but the cable channel has opted to replace "Remember WENN" with "The Lot," a series set in 1937 at a small-time movie studio, with real gossip from vintage newspapers being worked into the story line.

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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