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Man From Mars Productions

Growing Up Parker
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The young children of WDRC program director Charlie Parker became station insiders.

Kathy: "We were privy to a lot of secrets. The first couple of Secret Sounds we did at our house. One of them was roller skates. I think I was actually skating up and down the sidewalk in front of the house."

What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - July 28, 1963
What's Doing 'Round Connecticut column - July 28, 1963
Fun is...WDRC 1360

They were also recruited to record commercials on a Wollensak tape recorder.

Kathy: "We recorded Borden's Ice Cream in the bathroom. He wanted that certain sound."

In unison: "We like ice cream. We like Borden's Ice Cream."

Kathy: "I like chocolate."

Steve: "I like vanilla."

They collapse in laughter as they recall how silly it sounds now. But they remember being paid $31.60 each for the spot. Steve has vague memories of his Dad coaching him to say commercial lines as early as the age of three.

Kathy: "There was some talk when our Mom first passed away about us going back and living with our aunt and uncle in West Hartford. My Dad said, 'I need them as much as they need me. I need them in my life.'

As a young teenager, Kathy took on the role of lady of the house and remembers a certain amount of role reversal. She remembers Charlie bringing home a stack of new pop records and playing them with Steve.

Kathy: "I'd be trying to study and I was, like, 'Dad, can you turn down the music?' He was very creative, insane, crazy - always making everything fun."

Some of their fondest memories are of attending Big D Big Shows at the Bushnell Memorial Auditorium with their father.

WDRC's Charlie Parker
WDRC's Charlie Parker

Kathy: "When my Dad emceed all those shows we were young enough that he had to keep an eye on us. So the majority of the time we would be backstage with him. Sometimes he would put us in the orchestra pit, but very rarely did we sit in the audience."

She was about ten years old during the show that featured pop artist Diane Renay.

Kathy: "Dad said, 'you're going to have to be very, very good and very polite.' I remember Diane was very, very tiny."

Steve: "Blonde, she had like this Navy outfit on."

Kathy: "And all this makeup and all this hair. I'd never seen a person that looked like this. And we watched her perform from, like, 12 feet away backstage."

Later, she remembers watching in awe as the Ronettes and the Supremes practiced their dance steps backstage.

Kathy: "I always had my little Girl Scout autograph book. I've got everybody! We just loved all that. The one I remember being so kind to us, absolutely without a doubt, was Cher."

Steve: "I sat on her lap. She said to me, 'someday I want to have a little boy just like you.' And now I'm too old to even date her if I wanted to!"

Kathy: "They used to do two shows. We usually ate with whoever was performing. Cher spent a tremendous amount of time - most of the break between the two shows - sitting there eating and talking with us. Then there was the time Steve actually danced on the stage with Chubby Checker - he was little. Remember the Bobby Rydell thing?"

Steve: "Oh boy!"

Kathy: "Bobby was performing way out at the end of the stage and at some point a whole bunch of people - a whole bunch of girls - just vaulted up onto that stage. That was it. He dropped the microphone and he started running and they were grabbing him. He was cut, he was bleeding, his ring was stolen. And I grabbed Steve. We were about to get trampled. My Dad went with Bobby and he turned to me and he went, 'hang on to your brother!' They went out the back door right out to the limo. I didn't know what to do. I've got Steve by the hand and I'm going, 'Dad!?' I was probably 10 or 11."

WDRC's Charlie Parker in the production studio
WDRC's Charlie Parker
in the production studio

There were times when Charlie's responsibilities prevented him from coming home at night, like during the Great Northeast Blackout in November 1965.

Kathy: "He slept on the conference room table that night. There was never a doubt in our minds that no matter what was going on over there, he was going to be concerned and taking care of us first."

And when Charlie couldn't, Kathy did.

Steve: "My sister had the reputation, in my neighborhood, of being the ultimate Tomboy. She was always the first one they picked for baseball. And I was the 'we had him last time' kid. If I ever got into trouble...one of the kids used to bully me. He'd say, 'promise you won't call your sister'."

Kathy: "He sometimes would bring home the 45s for us, because we got to be that age, to get our opinions. That used to be pretty interesting. I remember one in particular. It was that darned Bobby Goldsboro...Honey. My Dad said, 'Kathy, I think this would be a good one for you to listen to. I really need your opinion on this one.' I remember just bawling my eyes out - 'oh, it's so wonderful!'"

And there were other perks, like the time WDRC music director Bertha Porter invited them to a concert.

Steve: "She's the one that got tickets for us to see the Beatles. It was my Dad, Bertha, Kathy and I in Shea Stadium, in 1966. My Dad always said that the success of the station was Bertha. She knew how to pick the mucic." Beatles ticket - August 23, 1966, Shea Stadium
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