WGMS-AM/FM (570/1035) morning host Dennis Owens found Navy personnel stationed in the Persian Gulf to be "very up, very positive" during his weeklong pre-Christmas gulf tour with three performers from the National Symphony Orchestra. Owens delivered "a Bob Hope-like monologue" and narrations in two 75-minute shows aboard the mess decks of the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge and the hospital ship USNS Comfort. He said he found that younger sailors "appeared unusually moved" by the reading of "A Christmas at Sea," Robert Louis Stevenson's classic poem of a young sailor's despair at watching his family's home disappear with the shoreline as his ship sails off into the sea on Christmas Day.

"It hit them emotionally. They weren't that hard-shelled that they couldn't be reached," said Owens, who returned to his on-air morning shift last Thursday. Owens also filed seven news reports while abroad.

Although many aboard the Comfort are from Washington and were familiar with WGMS and its morning host, fewer were ready for a classical presentation on the Blue Ridge. But when Owens informed them that at one point in his life he'd been a country-western jock, he was awarded "a murmur of acceptance." He neglected to tell the sailors that that gig was long before many of them were born -- 1959-60 at CFSL-AM in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Public Network to Buy Top 40 Station In one of radio's more unusual moves, Emmis Broadcasting announced last week that it would sell its 100,000-watt Minneapolis Top 40 station to Minnesota Public Radio for $12 million. WLOL-FM's (99.5) Top 40 format, call letters and some physical assets will not convey in the sale. MPR said it will move its classical programming and call letters from St. Paul's KSJN (FM 91.1) to 99.5 FM and make it the flagship for its eight-station classical-based arts and performance network.

Craig Oliver, president of the Public Radio Program Directors' Association in Olney, said he was not aware of any previous purchases of commercial stations by public broadcasting. Oliver, however, believes that news, information and talk programming will continue to boom in public radio and that more FM stations will add the format. Public radio is becoming "more market-oriented, more market-responsive," he said.

Indianapolis-based Emmis, which owns expense-plagued Top 40 WAVA-FM (105.1) here, put WLOL on the market in September 1989 after it purchased a station in Houston and five other stations from NBC Radio, and after its owner, Jeffrey H. Smulyan, bought the Seattle Mariners. Those business deals forced Smulyan to develop a "financial restructuring plan," resulting in the sale of WLOL and the continued hunt for a buyer for its Boston station, WCDJ-FM.

Most employees of WLOL are expected to lose their jobs when the deal is completed next month, including the staff of the popular morning show "Miller, Mondale and Hines." The Mondale is Eleanor Mondale, the 30-year-old daughter of the former vice president, who has appeared on the show several times, including in August to discuss the Persian Gulf crisis. There was no word from Emmis about whether the trio would be moved to another Emmis-owned station.

Shop Talk Ben Dudley has returned to WOL-AM (1450)/WMMJ-FM (102.3) as news director. He is also anchoring news on the AM during "The Cathy Hughes Show" ... Chase Communications of Hartford, Conn., has named Sarah W. Taylor general manager of adult contemporary WASH-FM (97.1). Taylor had been general sales manager of WASH's sister station, news-sports-talk WTOP-FM (1500). Michael Douglass, who had been managing both stations since they were combined three years ago, will continue to run WTOP. Meanwhile, other moves at the Idaho Avenue complex include the hiring of Donna Francavilla as an off-air assistant news director beginning tomorrow. She had been at WPGC-AM (1580) as program director and the FM (95.5) morning news anchor. Also joining WTOP full time is former WWRC-AM (980) morning talk co-host Bruce Alan, who has been a weekend news anchor at WTOP since late September ... Former WJFK-FM (106.7) evening voice Sandy Edwards has joined another onetime-JFK'er, Rob Carpenter, at progressive WHFS-FM (99.1), where she works weekends and fill-in shifts. ... Urban adult WKYS-FM (93.9) has hired Mike Chase to host the evening pillow-talk show, replacing Melvin Lindsey, who left two months ago after failing to reach a contract agreement with Albimar Communications. Lindsey had been earning about $200,000 annually. Chase, who had been earning about $28,000 hosting middays at WMMJ-FM (102.3), reportedly will earn $35,000 at WKYS.