Above is my Norelco PC-60. Below, here’s a close up of the now-rare J-handle used for mounting the zoom controls.
Before talking about this camera, I’d like to continue a kind of CBS camera modification discussion that started in the RCA pages. In a few places I talked about how CBS stripped all of the RCA markings from all its RCA cameras, but another unique thing about CBS cameras is that they were all painted a medium grey…even the Norelcos.
I was curious as to why this was and got the answer from CBS Vice President of Technical Operations Robert Seidel. According to him, there were two good reasons. First, then-CBS President Frank Stanton wanted all CBS gear to have a uniform, easily identifiable, corporate look. Second, if Frank Stanton said paint them grey, we painted them grey. I suspect Stanton did not want to see the special Umber Grey RCA used to paint all of all their cameras. Notice even the Norelco badges were painted over, as seen below on the Cher image and even further down the page in the Cronkite camera pictures.
This Norelco PC-60 came from CBS New York’s Studio 52. (That studio later became the infamous Studio 54 nightclub.) Before CBS sold it, it was home to a lot of the network’s soap operas and game shows. Pre-David Letterman, Studio 52 was accessible from Studio 50 – which, of course, is the Ed Sullivan Theater, so it’s possible this camera was used there too. I believe its last home was in Washington, D.C. on Face The Nation.
The first place I ever saw Norelco cameras at work was on the Carol Burnett, Smothers Brothers and Glen Campbell shows from Television City in Hollywood. That is why my camera is dressed with the camera art seen on those cameras…as a tribute to that great era of television and the shows that represent it. Thanks to Paul Beck of the Museum of Broadcast Technology near Boston, my camera art was built from a close up of the CBS COLOR logo on the side of one of four Norelco cameras from CBS’s Walter Cronkite news studio as seen in the picture below. At one time, these historic cameras were all in Paul’s basement and that is where the close up above was taken, but now, these four Cronkite news cameras are, thanks again to Paul Beck, on display at the Newseum in Washington D.C.
Below is a shot of two of the Cronkite cameras still at CBS in 1978. They worked in the Dan Rather set until 1990, when they were donated to the Catholic Broadcast Center in Boston where Paul helped out a lot, like the good and faithful man he is.
That era was a major high for CBS, due in part to the great Norelco Plumbicon cameras. With the Norelco’s introduction, all the waiting for someone other than RCA to make great color cameras was over, and CBS went full-color. Remember, due to the color system contest CBS lost to RCA, CBS bought as few of “you know who’s” color cameras as possible. Combined with not wanting to help RCA sell color sets, CBS did not do much color origination…but when the Norelco cameras came on the scene, that changed everything!
CBS spent millions to buy color cameras and upgrade systems, and really took on NBC’s leadership in color origination. NBC was still using TK41 color cameras, and there was about a three- or four-year lag until the TK44s came on the scene.
By the way, here’s a couple interesting facts from NBC video engineering legend Fred Himelfarb. Fred told me that by 1971, all of NBC’s east coast TK41s had been replaced by TK44s, and that contrary to popular belief, NBC did buy and use 35 Norelcos, but only on remote trucks.
Fred told me a story about Norelco executives at a World Series game. The game was the first use of Norelcos at NBC, and the Norelco brass spoke of how great the outfield pictures looked. They did not know until after they had spoken that Fred had actually used a TK41 in the outfield as his own yardstick to measure the six Norelco PC60s used to televise the game. (There is more on Fred Himelfarb at the top of the RCA TK41 page, and in this article on RCA’s Harry Wright.)