WHEN AOR RULED THE EARTH

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With apologies for noticing late: The documentary Radio Daze: Cleveland's FM Air Wars won a local Emmy in July. The Lower Great Lakes Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gave the film, which aired on Western Reserve PBS (WNEO 45 Alliance/WEAO 49 Akron), the gold for Best Nostalgia Program. Stations from Ohio to Indiana competed for the regional awards.

“Historically, from a Cleveland perspective, I think [Radio Daze] is important,” says Tom Cummings, whose Harvard 131 Films company produced the program. “It’s a document of Cleveland’s history and the city’s place in music history.”

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Cummings co-produced with Harvard 131 partner Dave Rogant, working with Mike Olszewski to adapt his 2003 book, Radio Daze: Stories From the Front in Cleveland's FM Air Wars. Covering the late 1960s through the 1990s, local DJs, national musicians and behind-the-scenes players recall how stations battled on the air and off.

Cummings and Rogant have known each other since childhood, and have been producing together since 2003. They’ve previously worked with Olszewski — a former Channel 19 reporter and golden-era WMMS DJ who had a basement full of radio memorabilia — on DVDs about Rustbelt rock heroes Michael Stanley and Donnie Iris.

The Radio Daze adaptation was two years in the making. Olszewski conducted new video interviews and tracked down old footage. Cummings shaped the project. Rogant, a former ‘MMS intern, edited the film late nights, after his family went to bed. Rogant used to watch rock documentaries and fume when they skimmed over years in just minutes. Western Reserve PBS aired an hour-long version of Radio Daze, but the full DVD version runs two-and-a-half hours.

The documentary didn’t air in Cleveland, so the producers have just launched a website, RadioDazeMovie.com.

The win caught them by surprise; none of them attended the ceremony. “It’s probably one of my favorites,” Rogant says of Radio Daze. “Mike did a good job. The Emmy’s for him.” — D.X. Ferris

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