He was Washington's answer to American Bandstand's Dick Clark. Thousands of teen-agers danced on The Milt Grant Show from 1956 to 1961, the only locally produced television show for teens.
The show was broadcast live on Channel 5 Monday through Friday at 4:30 p.m. from a ballroom in the old Raleigh Hotel at 11th and E streets NW. Youths with ducktails and flat-tops and dressed in white shoes and white socks danced to Top 40 records and participated in a rate-the-records contest.
"Hi kids," said Milt every day in starting the show. "Hi Milt!" they screamed back in unison. "What's our favorite drink?" he would ask. "Pepsi," the kids dutifully replied, eager to please their host.
Grant's show was so successful that popular singers from all over the country appeared to promote their records. When it was canceled in 1961, high school students in the Washington area protested, writing letters to the station in hopes of gaining a reprieve for the television dance party.
In April 1966, Grant left WTTG and took on an entirely different role: president, general manager and part owner of newly founded WDCA-TV, Channel 20. His new job brought a new image. He was no longer Milt; it was now Milton.
Throughout the years, Grant gained a reputation as a first-rate broadcast executive. Then in 1979, after nearly 14 years at Channel 20, Grant decided to form his own firm, the Grant Broadcasting Corp. He moved to Arlington, Texas, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth, where he is president, chief executive officer and general manager of KTXA-TV, Channel 21.
Grant Broadcasting Corp. also has applications pending for television stations in various locations, including channel 14 in Washington, which he would run with two partners.
Looking back, Grant says the dance program trained him to be a corporate executive. "I had an enormous amount of fun through the dancing. It definitely prepared me for owning a station. Being the performer was the tip of the iceberg. When I was doing the show, I was also selling advertisements and things. Washington was so highly competitive that when we got down here, we didn't have to reinvent the wheel, we just put it in place here."
Grant said his Texas station was making money within a few months after going on the air. His next project also will involve a channel 20, but this time in Houston.
Not a New Thing For Topper: Colin "Topper" Carew dizzied the District in the late '60s and early '70s with his flair for fund-raising and his charting of many programs for young blacks in music, painting, photography, graphics, arts and crafts, and African dance.
He was founder and director of The New Thing Art and Architecture Center, a black cultural center in Adams-Morgan that provided artistic opportunities for black youths. Artists at The New Thing painted a series of wall paintings throughout Northwest Washington. The center introduced jazz music to youngsters with a weekly workshop series and brought pride to hundreds of black families in the District.
Carew could court white liberals as well as mingle with streetwise blacks.
The man dubbed "Topper" moved to Boston in 1972, earned a doctorate in communications, worked in a rhythm and blues band and began producing children's programs for WGBH, a public television station in Boston. He also was executive director of a black TV magazine show called "Say Brother," which was aired nationally on PBS. He started the Communications Institute of New England (CINE) to help youngsters get entry-level jobs in television.
Shortly after he left Washington, the center he founded here had trouble getting grants and finally closed the following winter.
Carew moved to Los Angeles in 1978 and began producing "Righteous Apples," a PBS television show for young adults, seen locally on WETA-TV, channel 26. He also is producing a 10-part movie series for public television called "The Rainbow Movies of the Week," scheduled to appear next January. He also is working on a drama-music series for 1984.
Carew, now 38, no longer wears the wild Afro that helped give him his nickname. He sees his television work as an extension of The New Thing. "When I was in Washington, I helped 300 or so kids better their lives. I left because the only thing left to do was become politically active." He's an artist first, he says, and an activist second. "I'm still doing The New Thing, only now its different. I'm more tied to the television industry and less tied to the community."
MYSTERIOUS FIRES: There were more than 30 mysterious fires on Wiltberger Street from February 1980 to February 1981. The fires left a once close-knit group of neighbors bewildered, suspicious and slightly paranoid.
Most of the fires were in a single apartment complex on Wiltberger Street, a tiny alley behind the historic Howard Theatre in inner-city Shaw. Most of the fires were small and were contained quickly, leaving soot stains on the walls of homes and apartments. Though there was a significant amount of property damage, the real damage was the division created in the neighborhood. No one, including police, could pinpoint the cause of the blazes.
It is now one year later and the blazes have stopped. In fact, according to police, there has not been a fire in that area in the last year. Police Detective Melvin Langley, who investigated the apparent arsons, said recently, "I understand that a few people moved out and the problem died down, but I don't know who was responsible for the fires."
Roswell Dilworth, who lives in one of the apartments, says that as far as he knows there have been no fires recently. "The person that we distrusted has moved. And now the people here trust each other again."
Ironically, Dilworth says his drug-riddled neighborhood has benefited because of the fires. "The good thing the fire brought was security locks on the front doors. It pretty much stops the majority of the drug traffic."