Street Smart Chicago

What Will Become of WHPK? The College Radio Station Unlike Any Other

Education/Training, Hyde Park No Comments »

My first connection with the station was when I was an undergraduate student at the University of Chicago,” says Marta Nicholas, “in 1957 through 1960.

“An oboist, I had put together a woodwind ensemble that got together weekly for our own pleasure. One of the pieces we played was being analyzed in the Humanities I class, so we were invited to come perform it live on the station WUCB, which was only five or ten watts and on only a few hours a day. It may have in fact gone through the phone lines rather than a regular radio transmitter—we used to joke that it went through the plumbing pipes and could be heard only by standing on your head in certain shower stalls. A couple of times I was on a listen-to-recordings-and-chat show hosted by our group’s French horn player.”

Soon thereafter, Nicholas “left the campus and the country.” When she returned in the early seventies, the station had morphed into WHPK, an acronym for Woodlawn, Hyde Park and Kenwood. “It was decided at that beginning to take the potential audience into account. Not only as listeners, but also as possible on-air participants.” Nicholas eventually served as the station’s international music-format chief. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark the Music: U2 and One Man’s Escape From Everyday Life at the U of C

Essays & Commentary, Hyde Park No Comments »
U2 at U Chicago, April 11, 1981/Photos: Paul Sandberg

U2 at U Chicago, April 11, 1981/Photos: Paul Sandberg

By Bart Lazar, AB ’82

Music can be a great diversion, punctuate life’s experiences or be a life’s work. New students at UChicago or new residents in Hyde Park should not eliminate music from life’s major food groups.

WHPK 88.5FM, the university’s and community’s radio outlet, is definitely worth many listens. The music includes indie, rock, folk, blues, jazz, dusties, R&B, classical and live bands, and the hosts are as diverse as the music, including a mix of current undergraduates, graduates, alumni and community members. In today’s world of computer-programmed commercial and Internet radio outlets, it is refreshing to hear an actual human being presenting music and/or information that he/she cares passionately about.

My first day of orientation week, I walked up the elbowed steps of the Reynolds Club and ran into the station’s program director hanging around talking. I told him I had been a DJ in high school and was interested in continuing. He said “great, how would you like Friday afternoon?” Read the rest of this entry »

Apocalyse How? Checking in with The Away Team, a UFO cult founded by Bo and Peep

News etc. No Comments »

Editor’s Note: In September, 1994, Chris Holmes interviewed members of The Away Team cult. A few year’s later, they achieved international infamy in their mass suicide, under the name of Heaven’s Gate.

By Chris Holmes

In late July, posters labeled “UFOs, Space Aliens, and Their Final Fight For Earth’s Spoils” were plastered up all over Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, reading like a comic-book conspiracy plot tying together the end of planet, evil aliens, holographic classrooms and UFO-riding angels. The group behind the poster, a self-proclaimed UFO cult, goes by several names: “The Away Team,” “The Representatives of the Next Level,” “The Next Evolutionary Level Above Human” and “Total Overcomers Anonymous.” They have no phone number, no permanent address, and no overt interest in converting new members. They simply want to spread their message; they assume that those who bear “the chip of recognition” will find them and join their organization.

On a summer’s Monday night, “crew members” June, Matt, Oliver and Ross—they refuse to disclose their last names—come to radio station WHPK to share their message. Unlike the Amish or other religious groups whose outward appearance makes them clearly recognizable, “Away Team” members dress conservatively, as if to not stand out. All in their late thirties to early forties, they wear their hair short, and the men are clean-shaven with slightly longer than average sideburns; members sport tennis shoes, slacks, and button-down shirts, untucked but with the top button fastened in L.A.’s. Latin gangster style. They wear identical gold bands on the right-hand ring finger. Asked if the rings have any significance, they seem surprised, then explain that the rings signify devotion to their beliefs and, in a way, their marriage to each other. Read the rest of this entry »