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Fritz the Nite Owl Returns to Grandview Theatre

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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Fritz the Nite Owl is a true local legend. With over 50 years on long-running radio and tv shows, his name is well known throughout the region. After a short hiatus following the end of his radio show on WJZA, Fritz is back in action with a new web-based version of Nite Owl Theatre that doubles as a monthly theatrical event at the Grandview Theatre.

We recently spoke with Mike McGraner, director, producer and co-editor of the new series to find out more about the launch event taking place tomorrow night.

Q: For the uninitiated, tell us a bit about the history of Fritz and Nite Owl Theatre.

A: Fritz was a late-night television host from 1974-1991 on WBNS 10TV. He was the first late-night movie host to use special effects and not just be standing on a set or in front of a movie poster. Fritz would host all genres of movies, but it was Friday Night Chiller that seemed to spark most of the attention. Fritz started on the air in radio in 1959 and has been on radio, tv, and/or newspapers since then through 2010. He won five Emmys for his on-air performances on TV.

Q: There were some folks here on Columbus Underground who were quite upset when WJZA recently switched formats and Fritz’s radio show was dropped. Can you tell us anything about what happened over there?

A: It’s the simple story of a corporate company wanting to have a more accessible station. Their genius answer was the “Hits of the 70’s and 80’s” format, even though Sunny 95 is also run by the same people. Hmmm… create competition for yourself… great idea, brainiacs.

Q: So after only a short break, Fritz is returning to the web. Tell us a bit about the move to Youtube and what drew you both to continuing the show online.

A: I was always a fan of Fritz as a kid. He was my childhood hero. About a year ago, thanks to both Andyman and Dino Tripodis, I started work on a documentary called “The Owl” about Fritz and through that, we formed a friendship. When Fritz was fired from the jazz station, he called to tell me the bad news. It echoed 10TV’s firing quite a bit in that they chose to have a “change of format”. Fritz had mentioned hearing about the buzz of internet TV. Then, the idea hit us both at the same time. We figured we’d bring the Nite Owl back exactly like it was on channel 10, only uncensored, unrestrained, and on our own terms. The Grandview Theatre then offered to host the monthly premieres, hence where we are now.

Q: Can you give us a preview of what we can expect this Saturday night?

A: You can expect to see Nite Owl Theatre exactly how it looked and felt back in 1974. Fritz will host the film, Night Of The Living Dead as well as bringing you his commercial break commentary, vintage commercials, and even a fake station sign-off, the way TV used to end the broadcasting evening. We also will have T-Shirts, posters, and DVDs available.

Q: Anything else we should know about the show?

A: You can also watch it online at fritzlives.com. There will be a new episode every month. There are seven people that make this show possible. Fritz “the Nite Owl” Peerenboom (writer/performer), myself, Mike McGraner (director, producer, co-editor), Matt Parker (co-director, co-producer, editor), Wayne Sells (director of photography, co-executive producer), Rusty Crooks (music), Dino Tripodis (executive producer), and Rome Maynard (logo design).

More information can be found at fritzlives.com and HERE on the CU Messageboard.

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