Curtains@8! Turning 20

Jan 17, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - For two decades, Central Kentuckians have been informed, entertained, and moved by the talents of countless authors, performers, and promoters on Curtains at 8 with Nick Lawrence.  Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the program's first broadcast.

Nick Lawrence is the host of the long-running program Curtains at 8 on WUKY.
Nick Lawrence is the host of the long-running program Curtains at 8 on WUKY.

“Twenty years, at about fifty shows a year, fifty weeks a year, three shows a week…some three thousand people have been through here best I can tell”, Lawrence told WUKY’s Alan Lytle.

Even before he started working for WUKY, the long-time host had an idea of what kind of radio show he wanted to do. 

“I had a business I had sold, and was wondering what I was going to do.  And, one afternoon I started scribbling notes about a TV program, sort of like the Tonight Show in some ways…a show with guests and conversation, and that sort of thing.”

But former WUKY General Manager Roger Chesser says at first, he wasn’t exactly wild about the concept…he gives all the credit to marketing director Gail Bennett for changing his mind.

“Her view was that a locally produced program about the arts in central Kentucky would be of more use to our listeners than a program of recorded music…so I gave the go-ahead on that and we turned Nick loose and he began bringing in basically all of the arts organizations in the area”, Chesser recalled.

Lawrence says he has vivid and fond memories of that first show on January 17th 1993, which featured two very well-known performers, Everett and Aleshia McCorvey.

“They were a couple who met at the Metropolitan Opera production of “Porgy and Bess.”  They were singing those respective roles.  They met, they married, and now they’re here at the University of Kentucky.  Dick Pardee, who was the Lexington Opera House Impresario, brought a CD by of the production because they were coming to the Opera House.”

Since that night, Lawrence has gone on to interview thousands of artists and performers, including some show business legends.

“Tim Conway was one of my favorites.  He was here live on Curtains at 8.  I put on a tuxedo and was determined that he would not kill me like he frequently did with Harvey Korman (on the Carol Burnet Show), and he tried.  He got me going one time, I had to pick up a piece of paper and start reading.  He said I was supposed to do that before I came to the studio.  That blew me away!”

No matter who he chats with, Lexington Opera House Marketing Director Sheila Kenny says Lawrence has a well-earned reputation for being a tireless promoter of all things art.

“When I speak to promoters and marketing reps to bring some of these guests onto the show, and they hear that there’s actually a radio program in our community that will devote an entire hour to talk about the arts, they’re just amazed.”

Lawrence says he’s especially gratified to see the tremendous growth of Central Kentucky’s arts community.

“LexArts, as it’s called now , was Lexington Arts and Cultural Council, but it was born as Lexington Arts Council and one of the purposes in forming the council was to have no competition for a performance weekend.  The ballet would be different than the philharmonic.  Now a group has to present whenever they want to present and they are going to be up against four or more major groups.  That’s a big change.”  

As for who will be stopping by, for tonight’s milestone broadcast?

“We’re going to have an open mic program.  We’re inviting several people back who have been here and they’re going to come up and grill Nick.”

Lawrence coyly added if you want any more details, you’ll have to tune in to find out.