Dock of the Bay

Vol. 9, No. 3
Jan. 18-24, 2001
  Profits Prevail over Progressive Freeform

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Annapolis' icon of progressive, free-form radio, 103.1 WRNR, is changing its tune to a conventional programmed format.

For seven years, WRNR, an offshoot of the original WHFS 102.3 Bethesda, prided itself on staying out of the mainstream by spinning music that few stations would dare spin. Nearly all FM radio stations are programmed, meaning the songs are picked not by but for the jockeys. WRNR was one of the last commercial stations in the nation where the jocks had musical autonomy.

The change went into effect on January 8, after WRNR received disappointingly low numbers in the Arbitron ratings.

Because WRNR depends almost entirely on advertisers for revenue, a drop in the ratings could mean a loss in advertisers. As program director Alex Cortright explains, WRNR is trying to figure out a way to successfully blend art and commerce.

"Although total free-form craziness is a beloved idea and philosophy, it just doesn't work," said Cortright. "But we're doing our best to keep it alive and kicking."

By mixing more contemporary and popular music into their eclectic style, WRNR is hoping to reach newer audiences and to draw more advertising.

"We were so far out of the mainstream," explained Cortright. "Now we will be embracing more new artists and new music while still playing the artists everyone knows and loves."

While the pressure to reach new listeners increases, long-time listeners can expect to hear a "tighter," more current WRNR, with "less music from bands that nobody cared about when they were recording and still don't care about now," said Cortright.

Pop rock groups like The Bare Naked Ladies, who were virtually never aired on WRNR, will now be aired as frequently as the Grateful Dead, a WRNR favorite. A programmed format will also mean less chat from the jocks and smoother transitions between songs.

Undoubtedly, the changes at WRNR will receive mixed reviews from fans. "The thing that makes WRNR so cool is that it's one of the last stations to play underground music," said Annapolis musician and WRNR listener Dean Rosenthal. "But even with the very extreme change, I think WRNR will still be cooler than any other station around."

Cortright expects good reviews as well as bad. "I think people are going to be excited as well as disappointed by WRNR trying to pen up to a broader audience," he said. "Sadly, there are just too few music enthusiasts these days, and we've got to grow to reach the people that should be listening to us."

WRNR's programmed format does not affect the entire 24 hours of music. About one-third of WRNR's format, the wee evening and early morning hours, will remain freeform. Specialty shows such as Bill Wright's "Road Trippin'" will not be programmed.

Primetime jocks like Damian Einstein and Scott James will have all or part of their songs picked for them. Neither would comment on the changes.

Faithful listener Keith Gomsak of Severna Park says he "liked WRNR the way it was, cool, different and less popular. But at the same time," he added, "the change may reach new listeners who find they enjoy the less popular music as much as the popular."

-Matthew Thomas Pugh

Will Your Ship Come in at London Town Antique 'Homeshow'?

This weekend, your ship could come in.

Maritime antique appraiser Al Lawing might find that the old sextant you earmarked for Goodwill belonged to Christopher Columbus.

And if you're fresh out of sextants, fortune might shine on your grandfather's clock, your Cousin Cora's doll or that dark, dingy old oil painting hiding behind the staircase.

"Everybody's hoping they'll find their treasure," said London Town's Lee Butler of the some 200 people signed up to be appraised at London Town Foundation's 31st annual Annapolis Heritage Antiques Show this weekend. Local and regional antiques dealers and specialists like Lawing, each with their own areas of expertise, will appraise potential valuables on Friday and Saturday from 11am until 4pm and Sunday from1 until 4pm.

"We had three people last year who walked out with the biggest grin on their faces," Butler said.

Appraisal days have stretched from two to three this year, in part because of the interest - and hope - stirred by PBS's popular Antiques Roadshow. To meet the demand, two dozen appraisers are devoting their time to help the Foundation raise $20,000 for historic London Town and Gardens. Their expertise runs from maritime artifacts to vintage clothing to timepieces to clocks and collectibles and beyond. In three to 10 minutes, the experts will burst bubbles - or make the wildest dreams come true.

Assistants will be poised with dollies and carts to help move items. Bring anything - as long as it fits through the Armory door. Appointments are by reservation, at a cost of $15 for the first appraisal and $10 for a second. These fees include a free pass to the show, which otherwise costs $7.

"We've been inundated with calls," said Butler, who could have used as many arms as an octopus to meet the demand. Still, drop-ins might manage an appointment. But not necessarily with the appraiser of choice, since they're working shifts. "We have the most at a single time - seven - on Friday," she said.

If you're too late this year, or your closet's too bare, your ship still might come in this weekend.

Thirty-three dealers will be selling their wares; one may be selling the overlooked treasure that makes your fortune. What's more, this year's show's theme is Educate the Eye, so you can learn to spot next year's treasure. "When you see a little card with big eyeballs in front of something, a dealer will be around to help people see what to look for. Plus, the dealers will be giving teaching sessions in their booths," Butler said.

To better educate your eye, you'll want to hear celebrity appraiser J. Michael Flanigan, a Baltimore antique dealer who's made a name for himself nationally on Antiques Roadshow. He'll share Lessons from the Road: The Changing Face of Collecting in America at London Town. "I think he's going to tell people what to look for," said Butler. "And show them, too, with slides."

Butler hopes your eye will become so educated that you'll make her job harder next year. "This antique show is already a full-time job for volunteer Jane Cooper, who runs it with her committee of 15 and all of us at London Town," Butler said. But with a new education building going up, London Town needs money. A director of education needs to be hired and paid. And the building must be filled with stuff for children to touch so they get to know history first hand. "None of that," said Butler, "is cheap."

The Annapolis Heritage Antiques Show fills the Annapolis Armory Friday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 20 from 11am to 6pm. It continues Sunday, Jan. 21 from noon to 5pm. With Flanigan's Sunday lecture - 10am to noon at London Town - you get brunch and free admission to the show for $30. rsvp: 410/222-1919.

-Bay Weekly

Diversions & Excursions

Cabin Fever on the Boardwalk

Indications are Chesapeake Country is going back to those long, cold winters. The last month of 2000 went in the books as the 14th coldest December on record. If the trend continues, cabin fever may come early this year

Calvert County - the peninsula county surrounded to the east by the Chesapeake Bay and the west by the Patuxent River - has some perfect places to escape that closed-in feeling. It now boasts three boardwalks, each offering a different and rewarding experience. Even if Santa overlooked the hiking boots on your Christmas list, Calvert County, these are places where sneakers will do just fine.

Two of the boardwalks are in the north end of the county. North Beach boardwalk, a .4-mile wooden walk, runs between First and Seventh streets on the Bay. It carries you along the town's edge passing a mixture of houses, old and new; stores, occupied and closed; a long fishing pier, plenty of benches and even a stage. A separate bicycle path adds a parallel option. The view of the open water and the tranquil Eastern Shore is spectacular. The saltwater smell is invigorating; just what the doctor ordered. Its ambiance will draw you back into summer, when musicians perform on the stage, crabbing and fishing thrive at the pier and one of the few remaining public beaches on Chesapeake Bay is open for sun worshiping.

If solitude is more to your liking, another boardwalk beckons just one mile south.

The second boardwalk, located at Bay Front Park one-half mile south of Chesapeake Beach on the east side of Route 261, is a bit more of a challenge. But this pristine boardwalk along the Bay is well worth the one-quarter-mile walk to what the locals call Brownies Beach.

The wood boardwalk heads north one-half mile, ending at 17th Street. It's off-the-beaten path location offers great views of the cliffs of Calvert and of Chesapeake Beach as well as of the Eastern Shore. You won't find stages, benches or bike paths along this boardwalk, just a peaceful view of magnificent Chesapeake Bay. Shark-tooth hunting is good along the narrow beach and, if you like what you find, swimming, crabbing and fishing could lure you back in the lazy, hazy days of summer.

Chesapeake Beach Town Councilman, Bruce Wahl, a driving force behind the Bay Front boardwalk, is proud of it - and of the work it took to make it happen.

"There's a lot of environmental studies, town and county approvals, grant-writing and red-tape that must be done before a boardwalk can be built, and the process is very slow," says Wahl, "But people are constantly praising our boardwalk and enjoy it year-round."

Perhaps that's why Wahl is working so hard to make the Fishing Creek Trail a reality. The proposed trail would follow the abandoned Chesapeake Bay Railway right-of-way from Richfield Station across Fishing Creek to Abner's Crab House. Wahl testified before the Calvert County Commissioners in December, seeking their support.

"We know from past experience these types of projects take a lot of time," says Wahl. "But the boardwalks' success proves they are well worth the time and effort."

To shoo away cabin fever another day, head for Solomons, about a 30-mile drive south of the Twin Beaches.

The .3-mile-long wooden boardwalk better known as Solomons Riverwalk overlooks the Patuxent River, offering a breathtaking view of the Governor Johnson Bridge and St. Mary's County. Benches are scattered along its length and a large gazebo offers extra seating. A fishing pier also jets into the river. Running parallel to Route 2, it is just across the street from variety shops and restaurants.

Die-hard windsurfers, sailboats and kayakers glide under the bridge even on the coldest of winter's days, recalling a summer's visit. But missing is the water taxi, boats to rent and the ice-cream stand, popular summer stops.

So if those walls start closing in a tad early this year, try a calm walk along the water to sooth your frayed nerves.

-Connie Darago

Way Downstream

In Western Maryland, conservationists are appealing to the Department of Natural Resources to protect 1,500 acres of rare old-growth forest. Some of the sweet birch, chestnut and white oak trees are over 400 years old, but they're on Big Savage Mountain land subject to logging and road-building, the Sierra Club says

In Thailand, Motola, a Thai elephant drew worldwide sympathy and donations after a land-mine blew off one of her legs. But in a strange turnabout, someone has been trying to kill Motola, even releasing deadly king cobras nearby, Reuters reports. Authorities speculate that someone is jealous of her fame

Our Creature Feature comes from Olympia, Wash.,where the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is doing some spying of its own. The department has installed two live-feed video cameras near the six-feet-wide eagle's nest, which is situated in a tall tree near the governor's mansion.

State biologists promise that the cameras, complete with infrared devices for night viewing, are shielded from the bald eagles' sharp eyes and won't interfere with the goings-on in the nest. By next month or March at the latest, you can tune in on the Internet for the eagle show at

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly