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‘FAIR OAKS’ ARRIVES MONDAY--’WORLD’S FIRST’ PHONE SOAP

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Too busy to watch your favorite soap opera? Beginning Monday, you can listen at work or at home when a new telephone soap opera, “Fair Oaks,” opens its lines.

Billed by its creators as the “world’s first telephone soap opera,” the 2 1/2-minute daily drama can be heard by dialing (213) 976-OAKS, any time of the day or night. There’s a 95-cent charge per call (plus any applicable toll fees).

“Fair Oaks” features actors Rick Jason, Pierre Jalbert and Tom Lowell, who worked together on the ABC series “Combat,” plus others, telling us the story of people who had money and lost it, said scriptwriter Jack Hogan.

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It’s hard times and the father has lost the family fortune and is fighting to keep the manufacturing business going. His children--ranging from a daughter who is set to marry a dirt-poor rock ‘n’ roll star, to the young son who was to take over the family fortune--all add to the conflict.

The brainchild of Dick Peabody, another “Combat” veteran, the show will be similar to a radio drama with sound effects, musical bridges and constant references to the names of characters. “I studied a lot of old radio and used the same techniques,” Peabody said.

The segments are short and to the point. “We realized that we could create a situation and then give it a little twist within that time span,” Hogan said.

And each 2 1/2-minute episode ends in something of a cliffhanger. “The listeners will be drawn to call back,” Peabody said.

With an investment of more than $50,000 in computer equipment and $6,000 in radio spots for the first week alone, a lot is riding on the experiment.

Peabody is hoping that the popularity of soap opera with women will draw working women to the telephone soap because of the convenience of being able to dial up a short daily storyline. The plotlines have the same problems and sexual encounters as the TV dramas . . . “about the same degree of suggestiveness as you find on television,” Peabody said.

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After evaluating the initial response, they’ll add telephone lines (they have 12 to start) and increase advertising. “This thing could be a smash hit, or it could be a total flop,” Peabody said.

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