Posts in Category: Broadcast History

Behind The Scenes of The Iconic Abbey Road Cover Photoshoot

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August 8, 1969…At The Beatles Abbey Road Photo Session

Where were you then? I was about to start my senior year in high school, and my third year as a part time radio announcer. Here is an interesting article on the photo shoot, with some pix you may have never seen. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

Shooting Film: Behind The Scenes of The Iconic Abbey Road Cover Photoshoot

Everything you could ever want to know about this famous photo session. I wonder if there’s any more photos in existence from this day? And I wonder if anybody living in the flats across the street shot any photos from their windows?
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August 8, 1974…Nixon Jokes With Crew Minutes Before Resigning

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August 8, 1974…Nixon Jokes With Crew Minutes Before Resigning

Forty two years ago, President Nixon announced his resignation to the nation from the Oval Office of The White House. The first seven minutes of this video capture his pre broadcast remarks which, under the circumstances, are truly remarkable, and a bit disturbing.

The CBS crews handled the pool coverage that night with two Norelco PC70s. Sensing a historic moment, a smart network tape operator started recording even before Nixon entered the office. As you will see, a lot of his very odd personality is revealed here.

Although it is not shown, after the speech, he turned to the crew and wished them a Merry Christmas…in August. Well, it was Nixon, after-all.

At the 7 minute mark, his resignation speech starts and the whole thing is here. To bad he didn’t do this a year earlier. Enjoy and share. -Bobby Ellerbee

Moments before he goes on-air to resign as President of the United States, Richard Nixon is calm and collected, joking with staff as they set up the pool fee…
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EXCLUSIVE…Inside The First Color Television Remote Unit

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EXCLUSIVE…Inside The First Color Television Remote Unit

Thanks to Chuck Pharis, and his very rare RCA “Red Book”, I have new information and images to share with you, that include not only the first color remote unit, but also, new details on the Washington, Studio 3H and Colonial Theater color trials. I will set the stage with some background on color history, and with some new dates which have been confirmed by RCA information.

Remember, Washington was where the first phase of color experiments were done, with two first generation cameras at Wardman Park studios. Both of those cameras were retired and sent back to RCA in Camden in December of 1950.

The second phase of color testing was done in New York in NBC’s Studio 3H. In January of 1951, work began on the color installation there, and was completed by March. Three experimental cameras were installed in 3H and are called the “coffin cameras” due to their size and black color.

The third phase of color testing began at The Colonial Theater in New York. RCA/NBC leased the theater and began installation in late September of 1952 and the first transmission from here was March 19, 1953. There were four prototype models of the RCA TK40 in operation there, that underwent a full year of tests before RCA began production on the TK40 in Camden.

I felt it would help to refresh your memory, as we now know that this mobile unit was used in both the 3H and Colonial field test. As I mentioned in Thursday’s (8/4) post on this unit, this is one of the original NBC Telemobile units built in 1937.

The first use of the color mobile unit was in September of 1951 with a five day remote test from The Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY. Support equipment was permanently installed in the unit, but a “coffin camera” was borrowed from Studio 3H, which for a week, sent pictures three times a day. The morning test was shown in black and white on WNBT, to see how the images looked on the monochrome sets. The two afternoon tests were closed circuit color test seen on color sets at The Center Theater, The RCA Exhibition Hall across from 30 Rock, Studio 3H and in Princeton at the RCA Labs.

In 1952, there were over 30 remote tests, including two from Palisades Park NJ, but the big one was on October 18, when two of the coffin cameras were used to telecast, in color, the Columbia-Pennsylvania football game from Baker Field. One of the cameras was equipped with the new RCA Electa Zoom lens, while the other used the a normal field array of lenses on the turret.

Although there were very few color sets, RCA’s main objective with the experimental color broadcasts was to satisfy the FCC, with the fact that their Dot Sequential system was truly “Compatible”- in that it could deliver the same quality image to black and white TV sets, that monochrome broadcasts offered. Via newspaper ads, local viewers was asked to write to NBC with their comments on reception and picture quality of the color segments.

When color operations moved to the Colonial Theater, the new TK40 prototype cameras were delivered, which had very different control equipment. So, the mobile unit had to have a complete refitting, but when remotes were done, cameras were borrowed from The Colonial for a few days at a time. For more, click on the pix. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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August 6, 1956…The DuMont Network Goes Dark

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August 6, 1956…The DuMont Network Goes Dark

In furthering television on a technical basis, DuMont brought a lot to the game, but financially, it had always been an uphill battle. Their deal with Paramount was always a problem, and without radio properties, they had no leverage with AT&T. At the link is the story of the final years. http://www.dumontnetwork.com/7.html

In a nutshell, here is how DuMont began to dismantle its network operations. On April 1, 1955, many of the entertainment programs on the network (including “Captain Video”, DuMont’s longest-running show) were dropped. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s last program aired a few weeks later, on April 26 (he would soon move to ABC).

By May, only eight shows remained on the DuMont network, and the AT&T coaxial-cable interconnection to DuMont affiliates in other cities was cancelled. Inexpensive programs like “It’s Alec Templeton Time” sustained what was left of the network during the summer months. A panel show called “What’s the Story” was the last regularly scheduled non-sports program on DuMont, with its final airing on September 23, 1955.

After that date, DuMont reserved its “live” network feed for occasional sporting events. The last program of any kind on the DuMont Television Network was “Boxing from St. Nicholas Arena”, with Chris Schenkel on August 6, 1956, although this show continued locally on WABD in New York City. -Bobby Ellerbee

DuMont Television Network | Historical Web Site

“We didn’t have a lot of stations, but we had a lot more than ABC did…The only reason ABC survived was they had been in the radio business, and they got the Paramount backing.”
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August 5, 1957…”American Bandstand” Debuts On ABC

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August 5, 1957…”American Bandstand” Debuts On ABC

61 years ago today, AB debuted on the ABC Television Network. Many tell of Dick Clark going to ABC with the show, but…according to Leonard Goldenson, it didn’t happen that way. Mr. Goldenson is the titan that built the network into the one we know today, and this narrative is based on his book, “Beating The Odds”.

In a nutshell, Goldenson’s friend and ABC’s top researcher, Ollie Treyz was responsible for bringing the show to the network. With an insatiable appetite for information, Ollie was reading the Philadelphia rating books and noticed a WFIL show called “Bandstand” had a consistent 15 or 16 rating, which was huge. Treyz was curious and called the man who had brought him to ABC in 1948…that was Roger Clipp who now managed ABC affiliate WFIL for Walter Annenberg.

Clipp sent a kinescope to Treyz, who showed it to his teenage daughter and her friends, who loved it. Treyz played it cool and told Clipp that although they didn’t think it would work, they would like to try it out on the network. They made a deal for $1500 per week for WFIL to produce the show, and Clark got a few spots a week for himself to sell. ABC sold the national spots for $1500 per minute.

At the time, ABC had a fairly competitive prime time, but not much more, which made it hard for them to gain new affiliates. Their afternoons were mostly soap operas and some game shows, but nothing special, with “Afternoon Film Festival” airing daily from 3-5. In the fall of 1955, ratings got a boost with the addition of the “Mickey Mouse Club”. It debuted as a one hour daily show that aired from 5-6. After the first 13 weeks, the MMC went to the half hour format and ran from 5-5:30 from then on.

ABC needed a game changer, and that’s what they got! It only took a few weeks for word to spread, and by Thanksgiving, “American Bandstand” was a hit! In the beginning, the local show, was 2 hours, but when it went to ABC it went to 90 minutes and then 60. In the summer of ’57, when it debuted, ABC ran the show from 3:30-5, and it was followed by “The Mickey Mouse Club” from 5-5:30.

13 weeks later, ABC decided to take advantage of thier new audience, and sandwiched the Johnny Carson hosted “Do You Trust Your Wife” into AB, with AB starting at 3 and DYTYW inserted from 3:30-4, followed by another hour of AB from 4-5. From 5-5:30, ABC rotated daily, “The Buccaneers”, “Adventures of Sir Lancelot”, “Superman”, “Woody Woodpecker” and “The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok”, followed by “The Mickey Mouse Club” from 5:30 -6.

Of course, all these times are Eastern, which begs the question, how did they handle the west coast feed? Well, fortunately, by this time, ABC had a few of the new Ampex VR 1000 video tape machines in operation. The machines debuted in April of ’56, but it took a while to put them into production and get them delivered, and the networks got the first ones. I think CBS and NBC got 6, and ABC got 4 in the spring/summer of ’57.

Just two years earlier, the Dumont Network had gone dark making ABC the new third network, but NBC and CBS were light years ahead in programs and schedules. Bandstand and Mickey Mouse helped bridge some of that gap. The show ran for 30 years on ABC, first on weekday afternoons and later, on weekends. I would rate it a 10, how about you? Got a favorite Bandstand moment? Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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Ultra Rare New Photo…The Very First Color Mobile Unit

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Ultra Rare New Photo…The Very First Color Mobile Unit

This is the first, and only photo of the first color unit I have ever seen. Not much is known about this first RCA/NBC color mobile unit, but this rare new photo helps a lot in fleshing out the backstory. The top photo shows the unit, with one of the four RCA TK40 prototype cameras from The Colonial Theater, sometime between October 1952 and late 1953.

The photo with the girl in the swimsuit shows one of the three experimental color “coffin cameras”, from NBC Studio 3H on what is believed to be the first color remote test. It was taken at Palisades Park NJ, in 1952. The closed circuit broadcast was sent back to 30 Rock, and to RCA in Camden for appraisal by the engineers.

(FYI, these black “coffin” cameras are the second generation of RCA experimental color cameras, which came into use in 1950 after the RCA color tests moved to NY from Washington. The first generation was used at The Wardman Park Studios in Washington from 1947-1950 and those cameras were sent back to Camden. The third generation of experimental color cameras were the four TK40 prototypes installed at The Colonial Theater in late ’52. Mass production of the TK40 did not start until April ’54).

My historian friends and I have always wondered just how they did that Palisades Park remote. Did they take the equipment there and set it up, or was there a mobile unit? We had heard there was a mobile unit, but no one had seen it. Now we know, and it appears that this is one of the original 1937 NBC Telemobile units, that has been taken out of mothballs and converted for color remote tests.

If you remember, the original NBC Telemobile unit was a two bus affair, one was the camera control unit, the other, the transmitter unit that could transmit a TV signal from its 50 foot tower, about 60 miles, back to 30 Rock. Given the microwave dish up-top, it appears that this unit is now able to throw a color microwave signal, and handle at least one camera, and maybe two.

Thanks to my friend and mentor Chuck Pharis for the rare photo, which comes from something just as rare…The RCA Red Book, which as I understand it, was an RCA book prepared and published for presentation to the FCC, on their dot sequential color system. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee



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How Peter Pan Flew…On Broadway And In The TV Classic

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How Peter Pan Flew…On Broadway And In The TV Classic

Peter Foy was the man responsible for the “flying” effect that all of us, of a certain age, remember with great fondness. Flying one person gracefully is an art…flying four at a time is magic!

Thanks to Terry Wilkie, the TD at Caesar’s Entertainment in Las Vegas, here is an interview with Foy that discusses the finer points of how it is done. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee





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Happy 90th Birthday! Tony Bennett…Born August 3, 1926

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Happy 90th Birthday! Tony Bennett…Born August 3, 1926

Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born in Astoria, Queens, New York 90 years ago today. To say thanks for so many years of great songs and one of a kind showmanship, here is Tony with Judy Garland in 1963. http://youtu.be/L8RlnoKNPD4?t=4m46s

In a nutshell, here’s how Mr. Bennett’s career began. In 1949, Pearl Bailey, who had seen him in a club, asked him to open for her in Greenwich Village. She had invited Bob Hope to the show. Hope liked him and decided to take Benedetto on the road with him, and simplified his name to Tony Bennett. In 1950, Bennett cut a demo of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and was signed to the major Columbia Records label by Mitch Miller.

In 1951, he had his first big hit…”Because of You”, a ballad produced by Mitch Miller with a lush orchestral arrangement from Percy Faith. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-4zvArJDGg

His first release started out gaining popularity on jukeboxes, then reached number one on the radio play charts in 1951, and stayed there for ten weeks, selling over a million copies. The rest, as they say, is history.

Below is a very rare photo of Mr. Bennett on the “Tonight” show, October 1, 1962. That was the night Johnny Carson made his debut as host of the show, and Tony Bennett was the musical guest Johnny Carson invited to share that special the night with. Happy Birthday Tony! Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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August 3, 1944…One Of CBS Television’s First Game Show Debuts

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August 3, 1944…One Of CBS Television’s First Game Show Debuts

Pictured here is John Reed King hosting “Missus Goes A Shopping”, which debuted on this day 72 years ago, on August 3, 1944, This is inside CBS Studio 42 at Grand Central Terminal. I will reveal the surprise of who the woman in the hat is a few paragraphs down.

The first CBS game show on television was actually the “CBS Television Quiz”, which aired on Wednesday nights on WCBW from July 2, 1941 to May 25, 1942. The host was Gil Fates, who went on to be executive producer of “What’s My Line”. Due to the war, the show left the air, as the broadcast schedules for both NBC and CBS flatlined.

With optimism on the war in Europe spreading, TV began to percolate and more time was added to broadcast schedules. “Missus Goes A Shopping”, began on radio in 1941 and ran there till 1951, which King hosted until the show moved to TV. With it’s radio success, CBS figured it would be a good bet to add to its TV line up, and it was. A daytime television version began on November 19, 1947 and ended on November 10, 1948.

So, who is the woman? Hint…she was the scorekeeper on “CBS Television Quiz”. Didn’t help? OK…she is none other than Francis Buss…television’s first ever female director!

In addition to his radio and television quiz shows, Mr. King was also notable as the voice of many Paramount newsreels, and for a time he was coordinating producer of the series. His voice can often be heard on the Turner Movie Classics cable network when the movie newsreels are replayed from time to time.

One of John’s best known roles in radio was as the star of “Sky King”. In television, he is celebrated as the producer of one of the most popular series of the late 1950’s, “Death Valley Days”, which featured, among other hosts, Ronald Reagan. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee





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August 2, 1942…”Here’s Looking At You Kid” Is Immortalized On Film

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August 2, 1942…”Here’s Looking At You Kid” Is Immortalized On Film

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa-dGYjSq
74 years ago today, the final scene of “Casablanca” was filmed on Stage 21 at Warner Brothers (linked above). They also shot on Stage 04, Stage 05, Stage 06, Stage 07, Stage 08, Stage 09, Stage 11, Stage 12, Stage 14, Stage 17, Stage 18, Stage 25 and French Street on the backlot. Some of the sets used in “Casablanca”, were leftovers from “The Desert Song”, and “Now Voyager” with Bette Davis.

The whole picture was shot at Warner’s except for the sequence showing Major Strasser’s arrival, which was filmed at Van Nuys Airport, and a few short clips of stock footage views of Paris were added for effect.

This scene on the “runway” was purposefully over fogged to hide the deficiencies in the cardboard mock up of a Lockheed Electra which had very short extras around it to help cheat the proportionality.

Speaking of cheating, Bogart was two inches shorter than Bergman, so…like in this scene, he wore wooden block lifts on his shoes, and sat on pillows to hide the difference.

This scene also gave us, “We’ll always have Paris” too. It is thought that the “Play it again Sam” line was delivered on Stage 11. -Bobby Ellerbee



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August 1, 1981…MTV Debuts

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August 1, 1981…MTV Debuts

The day that video killed the radio star

On August 1, 1981, MTV was born, starting its very first ever broadcast with the appropriate 1979 hit “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
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August 1, 1949…The First Made For TV Cartoon Debuts

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August 1, 1949…The First Made For TV Cartoon Debuts

“Crusader Rabbit” was the first animated series produced specifically for television. The limited animation concept was test marketed in 1948, while the initial episode (below), aired on KNBH (now KNBC) in Los Angeles on August 1, 1949.

“Crusader Rabbit” was the brainchild of Alex Anderson, the nephew of animator Paul Terry. Terry, a former newspaper cartoonist, founded animation studio Terrytoons, where he created “Mighty Mouse” in 1942. More importantly, Terry pioneered the techniques of limited animation for television, allowing his studio to compete with better-funded rivals like Disney.

When Anderson saw a television for the first time, he realized his uncle’s cheap, fast techniques might make it feasible to move animation into the new medium. Terry was uninterested with Anderson’s pitch of an animated TV show…or, more accurately, worried that Terrytoons’ theatrical distribution partner Fox would drop them if they started doing business in the threatening new medium, so Anderson returned to Berkeley and set out on his own.

While working with his uncle at Terrytoons, Anderson had pitched a character called “Donkey Hote” that was passed on by animators who didn’t want to draw donkeys. Anderson changed the character to an easier-to-draw rabbit, but kept the idea of Quixote, and “Crusader Rabbit” was born.

Since the character was unnaturally bold for a rabbit, he paired him with an unnaturally cowardly tiger named Rags. His uncle let him keep the characters for his new venture.

To get Crusader and Rags on television, he teamed up with Jay Ward, a classmate and friend of his going back to grammar school. Ward had returned West from Harvard Business School with plans to get into real estate but was hit by a truck on his new venture’s first day. Anderson approached him while he was convalescing with the idea that they could form an animation studio together, Ward handling the business and Anderson handling the animation.

The studio they formed was Television Arts Producers. Producer Jerry Fairbanks originally landed the show at NBC, but the network eventually passed, which meant Fairbanks sold it piecemeal to affiliates. The first one to bite was KNBH in Los Angeles (now KNBC), and on Aug. 1, 1949, audiences were introduced to Crusader Rabbit and Rags the Tiger.

Of course, Anderson couldn’t afford the kind of animation that made the Disney shorts work. Each episode is no more than five minutes long, with 10 to 15 episodes making up a single crusade, and, frame to frame, looks more like a comic strip than motion animation.

In some markets, “Crusader Rabbit” was dropped into shows like Romper Room, so, because there was no guarantee that audiences would see the episodes in order, each episode begins with gradually longer and longer recaps, and by the end of a crusade, more than half of the show is recaps. Which, of course, means that half of the show was already animated.

After 195 episodes, the show collapsed in lawsuits: Jerry Fairbanks had borrowed production money from NBC and not repaid it; NBC foreclosed on the show without letting Anderson or Ward know. Another studio bought Television Arts and, with it, the rights to the character, producing more episodes (in color, this time) in 1956.
As Crusader Rabbit collapsed, Anderson and Ward created two new characters that would later meet with lasting success: “Rocky and Bullwinkle”.

Rocky and Bullwinkle’s future, like Crusader Rabbit’s, was litigious: Ward registered them for copyright in his name alone, and Anderson had to sue his heirs to be recognized as the co-creator.

“Rocky and Bullwinkle”, like many shows to follow, was hailed for being ahead of its time in its use of sophisticated jokes, but “Crusader Rabbit” got there first. Without it, animated shows aimed entirely at adults, might never have come about. -Bobby Ellerbee

Jay Ward’s Crusader Rabbit – Crusade 1 / Episode 1. Like to see more?
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Camerus Giganticus Maximus!

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Camerus Giganticus Maximus!

Except for cameras shooting through a telescope, this is the biggest rig I have ever seen! Attached to the front of this RCA TK41 is a giant Fujinon 200 MM zoom lens.

Although it being photographed on the set of “Concentration”, I would find it hard to believe that it was actually used on the show. More than likely, as was/is fairly common, this was a demonstrator sent to NBC to play with for a few weeks, and this was the studio test for the brass inside 30 Rock. To really put it to the test, it would have to go to the field units for a good workout at a sporting event.

With only the regular 4 lens turret, the TK41 was 5 feet long. With the usual Rank-Taylor-Hobson 10X zoom, it was over 6 feet. This beast must be at least 8 feet. Thanks to my friend and mentor, Chuck Pharis for sending this. Enjoy, marvel and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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Food For Thought…An Hour With NBC News Legend Reuven Frank

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Food For Thought…An Hour With NBC News Legend Reuven Frank

Yesterday’s post on the final “Huntley-Brinkley Report” reminded me of this interview with Mr. Frank, who was twice, President of NBC News, and the man who first paired the duo. He is a fascinating man, with even more fascinating insight into the rise and fall of the greatest days of television news.

From 1991, here is a wide ranging CSPAN interview done in support of his new book that I hope you will enjoy. -Bobby Ellerbee

Reuven Frank (7 December 1920 — 4 February 2006) was an American broadcast news pioneer. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Israel Reuven Frank (he later dropped his…
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July 31, 1995…The Circuit Is Reversed As Disney Buys ABC

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July 31, 1995…The Circuit Is Reversed As Disney Buys ABC

Did you know that in the beginning, ABC invested in Disney?

In the early 1950’s, Walt Disney sought corporate sponsorship for his Mickey Mouse themed amusement park. Desperate for quality programing, the new CEO of the American Broadcasting Company, Leonard Goldenson, lead ABC to become Disneyland’s primary backer. Following a $500,000 investment to subsidize Disneyland’s construction, the ABC network received a 35% share of park profits and exclusive programming from Walt Disney Studios.

The sponsorship immediately paid dividends. In 1954 the ABC network began televising “Disneyland”, a series of hour long specials, which featured old Disney Films, studio documentaries and new Disney Studio features. The extremely popular Davy Crockett debuted on the Disneyland series, and soon after, “Davy Crockett, the Indian Fighter”, and “The Mickey Mouse Club” came to ABC. The popularity of Disney programming boosted ABC’s ratings, and when Disneyland park opened in July of 1955, ABC aired the special event live, with the biggest ever remote broadcast at the time.

Walt Disney continued to host the “Disneyland” series, which was renamed “Walt Disney Presents” in 1958. ABC aired the successful programs until 1961. A dispute over Disneyland profits and the ability to broadcast in color, pushed Walt Disney to move to NBC, where Disney hosted “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”, appearing on NBC until his death in 1966.

One other dividend that is not often mentioned is the fact that, despite all of the efforts from NBC and CBS to have the Hollywood movie makers supply television with programing, it was ABC’s association with Disney that finally broke the logjam. Soon, the screens were full of westerns, and detective stories from the west coast.

On July 31, 1995, Walt Disney Co. agreed to acquire Capital Cities-ABC Inc. in a $19 billion deal. The rest as they say “is history”. -Bobby Ellerbee



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July 31, 1970…Huntley-Brinkley Say Goodnight For The Last Time

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July 31, 1970…Huntley-Brinkley Say Goodnight For The Last Time

The final minutes of the last broadcast, and more, were captured on this work tape (link below) from my friend Bob Maher. Here, we see rare video of not only Chet’s NBC sign off, but also…Walter Cronkite’s tip of the hat, with A VERY SPECIAL SURPRISE ENDING. The tape should start at 11:44. Cronkite’s tribute is first, followed by the memorable NBC sign off.
https://youtu.be/P7_fE2zpSIQ?t=11m44s

In the summer of ’56, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley had been paired by NBC to anchor their political convention coverages. It was producer Ruven Frank’s idea to use them at the conventions, but when it was suggested the two men take over the nightly news reporting from John Cameron Swayze, Ruven “thought it was the dumbest idea ever”.

Bill McAndrew was the NBC News boss, and had seen a two man team reporting from different cities on NBC affiliate WSAZ in West Virginia, and liked it. While Ruven Frank was coming around to McAndrew’s way of thinking, Swayze was losing more of the audience to Douglas Edwards on CBS, so the change was made.

At first, the ratings went even lower, but after a year of seeing Huntley in New York, and Brinkley in Washington, the audience began to build and by 1958, the team had won a Peabody Award.

“The Huntley-Brinkley Report” aired from October 29, 1956, until July 31, 1970. Before it, “The Camel News Caravan” with John Cameron Swayze was NBC’s nightly news show, and after Huntley-Brinkley, it came The “NBC Nightly News” with David Brinkley, Frank McGee and John Chancellor. Only in September of ’63 did the show go to half an hour from fifteen minutes…a week after CBS gave Walter Cronkite a thirty minute show.

I remember watching every night and especially remember their famous sign off…”Goodnight Chet, Goodnight David” and at the link below, David Brinkley talks about their sign off. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6FvyXQi6mU








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HISTORY FOR HIRE: A Grand Tour of Hollywood’s Top TV Prop House

In February of 2011, Concord, California camera collector John Bolin took a tour of Hollywood’s top ”prop’ house, History For Hire. By taking his camera, he took us all on tour with him. John sent me over 100 photos of his visit, but I’ve included only about thirty here because the place is so huge, even John’s 100 plus images can’t do it justice so I’ve chosen only the ones that have cameras in them, and not even all of them. There are nearly 1000 microphones that cover every era, different size cranes and dollies, pan heads and peds galore and even a few Mole Richardson perambulators (sound booms).

Basically, if you can name it, History For Hire has it buy the hundreds, and if not, they can make an exact duplicate…even cigarette packages and bottle labels. Got a war scene? Pick a war, and they can outfit your armies…they even have replicas of “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”, the atomic bombs used in World War II.

Below right is John and his wife at KRTH radio where they had gone to visit a friend…afternoon driver, Shotgun Tom Kelly (with hat). It was a busy trip for the Bolins because they had gone down to Los Angeles to pick up a TK47 (new add to his collection) from my old friend Manny Rodriguez whom I met at ABC in New York in the late 1980s. For a long time, Manny was the director of the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” , but is now directing the CBS mid day show “The Talk”. They went to the taping of The Talk. Later that day, they went to the taping of The Conan Show and visited our friend Bruce Oldham who is on camera three. Bruce and John went to school together.

Above left is History For Hire owner, Jim Elyea. Chuck Pharis has helped Jim collect and reengineer cameras over the years and told me stories of how big the place was. Jim and I became friends last year when I helped him acquire 3 pristine Vinten Fulmar pedestals from Singapore. A collector there had short circuited their trip to the salvage yard and need help in finding them a new home. They have a new life in Hollywood now, and at this writing, the 3 peds are being used in the new Muppet Movie.

Before I lay out all the shots below with just a few comments on them, I’ve got to show you a very neat trick. I think Chuck Pharis taught Jim how to do this when they were building the three prop cameras used in American Dreams, which was a TV series that revolved around the early days of American Bandstand. You can see them below in a few pictures.

Since there are basically no working cameras from these early eras, they have to look like they are working, so all the old insides are taken out the real cameras, but saved for parts for collectors. That means little flat panel LCD screens for the view finder, and to make the illusion complete, not one, but four little lipstick cameras with different focal lengths, to imitate the different lenses on the turret that changes in the viewfinder when you rack the lenses to a new position.

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Look carefully at the photo above. First, this is NOT a real TK30. All of Jim’s other cameras are real, but oddly, he has no real TK30s, so he had to make some, but that’s not why I’m showing you this.

See the small box under the lens turret on the bottom of the camera? It’s very non descript and looks like it could be one of the many modifications made to these cameras. Now…look below. The front of the box is open and shows the four small lipstick camera lenses that feed a picture to the LCD viewfinder screen and even to monitors in a control room if that is what’s called for. When the turret turns, there is a mechanism inside the hollow camera body that changes which lipstick lens is ”taking’ the shot. All of his cameras have this capability. Cool!

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OK…here we go…enjoy!

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These 3 TK41s above are from CBS and have the lipstick cameras, too…all the cameras have them, even the TK42s below.

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WOW! Camera Row!

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Above, are the cameras built for “American Dream” , and again below behind a real TK10

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 Above, a real TK10 and below, a real good copy of a TK30 on a Panoram dolly

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Believe it or not, this is a History for Hire built 1950s control room console, and it works.

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Above, John’s friend Bob Snyder on Camera Row with TK60s, below, Noreclos!

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Above I see an Ikegami 323, TK44s and Howdy Doody? Below is one of their TK46s.

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Below are Ampex mono tape recorders…a sight near and dear to my heart. This is what I used in my first days in radio in 1964. I’m still a great audio editor and these machines are one of the reasons why…it’s where I learned to splice and edit.

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Surprise! MSNBC Primetime Convention Coverage Was From NYC!

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Surprise! MSNBC Primetime Convention Coverage Was From NYC!

Who knew? I watched MSNBC a lot, and it was just like Brian Williams and Rachel Maddow were there in the hall. Actually, they were in MSNBC Studio 3A, in a the space usually occupied by the “Morning Joe” set.

The seamless blending was made possible by the large number of isolated camera feeds (via fiber optics) from the locations, that give the 3A control room the ability to operate as if the video sources were originating inside 30 Rock. With the giant LED wall screens behind them, using the iso camera from NBC News booth in the hall made it totally believable. Kudos! -Bobby Ellerbee




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THANK YOU…AGAIN From Eyes Of A Generation!

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THANK YOU…AGAIN From Eyes Of A Generation!

Yesterday, this page hit a new all-time-high weekly Post Reach of 420,277!

That is nearly double the number in Wednesday’s thank you post, for the new 225,061 threshold, achieved then. We’ve also had 361 page likes this week which gives us 9,077 members who have made “The Home of Television’s Living History”, their home too.

As I have said, I am not the one that makes it live…you do. I do my best to memorialize historic, or interesting moments in TV, but it is all of you who bring the life to it by adding your input, much of which is a rare first hand narrative from people that were there. Thanks also for the amazing images that you so generously share with us. Most of all, I thank you for your willingness to teach me, and all that come here, from the fullness of your experiences, which include every area of the broadcast industry. -Bobby Ellerbee


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July 30, 1943…RCA Announces Sale Of NBC Blue Network To Ed Noble

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July 30, 1943…RCA Announces Sale Of NBC Blue Network To Ed Noble

It would be October 12th before the FCC approved the deal, but July 30 was the day they agreed on the $8 million price, but would you believe that Noble actually only paid $7 million? It’s true, and here is the story.

RCA head David Sarnoff had been very firm on the asking price, even as bidders including such luminaries as Chicago’s Marshall Field, the Mellon family, McGraw Hill and Paramount PIctures balked at the price. Edward Noble owned the Lifesaver candy company, and was also interested, but was also balking.

Finally, a man that had started with NBC’s WEAF as an accountant in 1922, came up with a plan. His name was Mark Woods, and as VP of the Blue Net, he had overseen the fiscal separation of Red and Blue assets that became official on January 9, 1942, a year after the court ordered breakup.

Woods saw a chance to do something for the man who was apparently destined to be his boss, so he did it. Noble wanted to pay $7 million, instead of the $8 million RCA wanted. To make it happen, Woods went to Sarnoff and discussed an RCA sponsored series to run on the Blue net in the first year after the sale. Wood’s idea included $650,000 in air time, and $350,000 in talent costs. Sarnoff went along with the deal that allowed Noble to recoup $1 million on the sale. It was, at the time, the largest sale in broadcasting history. For those to young to know, this is the beginning of ABC. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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Rare Jack Paar Images…A Camera In A Limo? Yep, And MORE!

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Rare Jack Paar Images…A Camera In A Limo? Yep, And MORE!

On this 59th Anniversary of Jack’s ascendance to host of the “Tonight” show, here are a few real pictorial rarities. There is more on each photo, but we have a couple of shots of the show still at The Hudson Theater, his walk off from a monitor shot and one from the early days in NBC’s Studio 6B. I know you are dying to click the limo shot so go ahead and I’ll explain on that page. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee






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Backstage With Jack Paar..”Tonight”, December 7, 1958

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Backstage With Jack Paar..”Tonight”, December 7, 1958

Today is the 59th Anniversary of Paar’s debut as host of the show and to help celebrate, here is a rare treat is in the form of a “New York Times” article by John Shanley gives us a look behind the scenes of “Tonight” with Paar as host. That I know of, there is no online kene footage of Paar hosting the show from The Hudson Theater, and there are very few photos from the Hudson years.

Below left is the full article, but that is hard to read, so I cut the article into two pieces which makes it easier to read.

On January 12, 1959, the show began being videotaped for playback the same day. In January of 1960, the show moved from The Hudson to NBC Studio 6B and color broadcasts began September 19, 1960. Thanks to Paul Jacobs for the article. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee




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July 29, 1957…The Jack Paar Era Of “Tonight” Begins

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July 29, 1957…The Jack Paar Era Of “Tonight” Begins

Location wise, the “Tonight” show with Jack Paar started where Steve Allen left off…in the Hudson Theater, but the final show from there came the week the 1950s ended.

The first week of January 1960, the show’s new home would be NBC’s Studio 6B. The show went color September 19, 1960, but on January 12, 1959, while still at The Hudson, the show had begun being videotaped. For the first few months of taping, Paar did the Thursday night show live for some reason, but before long that ended and over the years, the taping time moved from 8 PM till 6:30 PM.

Steve Allen hosted his final episode of Tonight on January 25, 1957. The following Monday, NBC debuted a new multi-hosted, magazine show in the time slot…”Tonight: America After Dark”. It was an instant flop and they hurriedly began searching for someone who could do a new version, that was more like the old version.
The logical choice might have been Ernie Kovacs, who’d hosted two nights a week during the final months of Allen’s run, but Kovacs had moved west and was appearing in movies. Instead, they picked Jack Paar, who had hosted an array of short-lived programs for all the networks in the preceding years.

Paar got his first tastes of television in the early 1950s, appearing as a comic on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and hosting two game shows, “Up To Paar” (NBC) in 1952, and “Bank on the Stars” (CBS) in 1953, before hosting “The Morning Show” in 1954 on CBS.

Paar took over NBC’s late night time slot on July 29, 1957, and the early Paar “Tonight” program was a mess. At one point before its debut, someone at NBC got the brilliant idea that it should consist of three separate game shows. Each night, the contestant who won the first would move on to appear on the second…and so forth. This notion was discarded, in part because “America After Dark” was sinking fast, and there wasn’t the time to develop three new game shows.

So, they went with the idea of conversation/chat show but even then, NBC wanted to save a tiny amount of money by booking guests a week at a time — the same people for five nights in a row. This too was discarded but for the initial weeks, Paar struggled to make conversation with eccentric guests in whom he had no interest. Further souring the proceedings was the man selected as Paar’s sidekick, veteran comic actor Franklin Pangborn. Pangborn had been funny in scripted film parts but on a live, ad-lib show he was a disaster.

For several months, Paar teetered on the brink of cancellation but then everything miraculously came together. Pangborn was eliminated and eventually, the show’s announcer, Hugh Downs, expanded his role to full sidekick status, and Paar found his style and the right kind of guest to have on. He soon had a whole stock company of recurring visitors that included Alexander King, Oscar Levant, Dody Goodman, Jonathan Winters, Peter Ustinov, Hans Conried, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elsa Maxwell, Cliff “Charlie Weaver” Arquette and Peggy Cass, and others.

When network censors cut a joke about a “water closet” (the British term for a toilet), on February 11, 1960, he made history by walking off the show. Between a conversation with Jonathan Winters, urging him to come back, and a network apology, he returned on March 7 to thunderous applause. Here is the departure, and return. https://youtu.be/LGU0QAG_9VI?t=55s

Paar’s emotional nature made the everyday routine of putting together a 105-minute program difficult to continue for more than five years. As a TV Guide item put it, he was “bone tired” of the grind. He signed off the show for the last time on Friday, March 30, 1962. The following six months were filled by numerous guest hosts as NBC awaited the expiration of the “no compete” part of Johnny Carson’s ABC contract.

Because NBC did not want to lose Paar to another network, they offered him a Friday prime-time hour, giving him carte blanche on content and format. Paar agreed, deciding on a variation of his late-night format and titling his show, which first aired in the fall of 1962, “The Jack Paar Program”…that ran until 1965.

At the link, Paar’s one of a kind intellect and curiosity on display as he interview’s Presidential Candidate John Kennedy, in June of 1960. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIkZK-Z21Pw




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Jack Paar…Master Of Words – Storyteller Supreme

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Jack Paar…Master Of Words – Storyteller Supreme

Earlier today, I posted an article celebrating the 59th Anniversary of Jack Paar’s debut as host of the “Tonight” show, on July 29, 1959. To celebrate his unique ability as a communicator, I thought you may want to hear special something I found a couple of years ago.

This is a very rare audio recording made by Jack Paar about a day in Hollywood, he spent with the great Judy Garland. Paar is a legendary storyteller and this is the best example of that ability, I have ever heard.

This is a bitter-sweet story which in a way, makes it all that much harder to tell, and although his touch is gentle, his intentions pure, and his heart is in the right place, some sad truths about Mrs. Garland come to light here.

I’ve wondered whether to post this or not, but given the quality of the tale, I have decided to go ahead with the following notes. First, Bless Her Heart! Judy Garland is without a doubt, one of the most talented people in the entire history of entertainment, which dates back to the Greek tragedies of 534 BC. Ironically, her life mirrored the joy and pain of those ancient productions almost to a tee.

For most of her life, she was not just a star, but a superstar, and that comes with an unbelievable burden, and a lot of insecurity. I think the only thing that was ever real to her was her children, as certainly everything else was surreal in the best and worst of ways.
God Bless You Judy! Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D31747Wy2YY

DISCLAIMER: Although we believe that Jack Paar was sincere in his intentions, he is factually off base on several points, and sensationalizes others. The gen…
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Remembering The Lost Art Of Studio Dolly Operators…

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Remembering The Lost Art Of Studio Dolly Operators…

By the 1970s, most of the Houston Fearless, and Vinton versions of the great Panoram Dolly had “left the building”, but in television’s golden age…they were a mainstay. It took some doing to be, not only proficient in operating them smoothly, but there was an art to it too, as you will see here.

The camera operators had to be part mountain goat to climb around on dolly’s, and there were many aching backs and tired feet after a long day aboard, but take a look at this polished technique.

Notice the pusher has the high-low control wheel that takes the boom arm up and down, and the hand signals from the cameraman help him know what to do. At the right hand, or right foot of the cameraman is the wheel that moves the turntable turret left and right, and this guy has some great foot action.

The Radio Canada cameras appear to me Marconi Mark II models, but the Mark I looked almost identical. The odd shaped bulge on the right lower camera door is an exhaust hood that hides the fan noise which is blowing through vents under it. Thanks to ICI-Radio Canada’s Pierre Seguin for sharing this with us. -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqTxdDUPVso

Archive personnelle de Normand Daoust FAN #1 de TVA Allez visiter mon site à l`adresse http://pages.infinit.net/souvenir/
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The Best TV Book I Have Ever Read!

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The BEST Television History Book I Have Ever Read!

The book is, “The Origins Of Television News In America”, by our friend Mike Conway.

In TV news lingo, “unpacking” is what a reporter does when he or she lays out the facts and timeline of their story. Although I have read the book twice, back-to-back, I am still “unpacking” this detail rich book, and go back to it almost daily.

The main narrative focuses on the little known story of how television news started at CBS. That is the center line on this highway, but there is not another TV history highway I have seen that goes more places than Mike Conway’s book!

All the networks, both radio and television, and all the historic events in the prewar, war, and postwar years are covered here in the greatest depth, and with more new information, than I have ever seen anywhere.

CBS legend Bob Schieffer says “Masterful research and a pleasure to read”. So say I, and to Mike Conway, I say…thank you for your years of dedicated research, and the huge effort it took to sort and present this information. You have given us new perspective on an amazing array of previously unrealized, domino-like occurrences in broadcast history. -Bobby Ellerbee

Some of my other favorites include “The Box” by Jeff Kisseloff, “The Best Seat In The House” by NBC’s Pat Weaver, “Beating The Odds” by ABC’s Leonard Goldenson, and “This Is CBS”, by Ron Slater.

http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news-archive/11723.html

IU professor’s new book reveals a lost first chapter in the history of television news: IU News Room: Indiana University

An IU professor has discovered and reconstructed a lost first chapter in the history of television. In a new book, Mike Conway tells the stories of a mostly unknown group of CBS employees who worked in obscurity to develop a new way to deliver the news.
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Naked Pictures…Big Movies, Without Their CGI Wardrobe

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Naked Pictures…Big Movies, Without Their CGI Wardrobe

Are we to the point where you really can’t even believe your own eyes anymore? Computer Generated Imaging is just amazing now, and just for fun, take a look at this second video that animates still images from 1931. https://vimeo.com/160024074
Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoQyFrqePz8


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CBS NY Master Studio List, New And Updated…1937- Present

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CBS NY Master Studio List, New And Updated…1937- Present

First compiled by David Schwartz in April 1999, here is the updated list with some new revisions on July 26, 2016. Enjoy, comment, share and SAVE! -Bobby Ellerbee
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CBS Studios 1937 – 1964

Radio Studios, 485 Madison Ave. The original radio studios were number 1 through 6. Soon after, Studios 7, 8 and 9 were added with Studio 9 becoming the network’s major news studio. Eventually the studios in the building were numbered 1-20. Studios 31, 32 and 33 were also at 485 Madison, but were shortwave studios built to receive reports from overseas. The last radio broadcast from 485 Madison was July 25, 1964, and radio operations were moved to the new CBS Broadcast Center the next day.

Radio Studios, CBS Radio Building, 49 East 52nd Street. Just around the corner from the 485 headquarters building, at 49 East 52nd, CBS had a second radio building which had more studios that were numbered 21 through 29. Studio 21 was in the basement, 22 on the second floor, with 23 and 24 on the third floor. 25 and 26 were on the fourth floor and 27, 28 and 29 were on the fifth floor.

Studio 31 & 32 485 Madison Ave., Shortwave radio studios converted to TV Studios 1948-1964. This is where ‘Douglas Edwards With The News’ originally began, then moved to Leiderkranz Hall and later Studio 41.

Studio 41 to 44 Grand Central Studios, 15 Vanderbilt Avenue (3rd floor) used from the 1937 to 1964. Only 41 and 42 were production studios…43 and 44 were “control studios” used for switching, telecine and video tape.

Studio 50 (Ed Sullivan Theater) 1697 Broadway. CBS leased this for radio in 1936, and it was called Radio Playhouse #3. First radio show was “Major Bowes Amateur Hour”. First TV show was “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts”, December 6, 1948.

Studio 51 (Maxine Elliott Theater) 109 West 39th Street. Used by CBS 1944-1959 This was CBS’s first conversion of a theater from radio use to television use. Ed Sullivan’s “Toast Of The Town” was the debut show on June 20,1948.

Studio 52 (New Yorker Theater) 254 West 54th Street. Used by CBS from 1949 until 1975. Later became “Studio 54” nightclub.

Studios 53 to 56 Leiderkranz Hall, 111 East 58th Street. Used from 1950 to 1964.

Studio 57 (Peace Theater) 1280 Fifth Avenue

Studio 58 (Town Theater) 851 Ninth Avenue

Studio 59 (Mansfield Theater) 256 West 47th Street

Studio 60 (Lincoln Square) 1947 Broadway

Studio 61 (Monroe Theater) 1456 First Avenue CBS-Edge of Night (1956)

Studio 62 (Biltmore Theater) 261 West 47th Street

Studio 63-64 205 East 67th Street (DuMont /Metromedia Channel 5 studios 1 and 5) CBS. Shows from here were ‘First Hundred Years’ (1948), ‘Bilko’ (1955-56), ‘Edge of Night’ (1956 -1960) Wrestling show (studio 5) (Dumont, 1955),

Studio 65 (Hi Brown Studios) 221 West 26th Street

Studio 71 (Radio Studio 1) 485 Madison Ave.

Studio 72 (RKO 81st Street Theater) 2248 Broadway
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CBS TV Studios-1964 to mid 70’s

Studio 41-46 Broadcast Center. Began operation in 1964, radio on July 26; TV in August or September.

Studio 50 (Ed Sullivan) 1697 Broadway

Studio 51/54 (Hi Brown Studios) 221 West 26th Street

Studio 52 (New Yorker Theater) 254 West 54th Street. Used until 1975.

Studio 53 (Monroe Theater) 1456 First Ave

Studio 54 (Cort Theater). Used for the late night Merv Griffin show.
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CBS TV Studios Mid 70’s-present

Studio 41-46 Broadcast Center

Studio 50 Ed Sullivan Theater

Studio 51 New York Production Center, 222 East 44th Street (MPO, later EUE/Screen Gems)

Studio 52/53 Hi Brown Studios (also called Studio 51/54) unknown when numbering changed.

Studio 54 was originally a film studio. Patty Duke Show (ABC,1963-5) Bilko (CBS ,1956-9)

Studio 52 402 East 76th Street (used in the 1980’s)
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CBS Radio Playhouses
CBS Radio Playhouse #1 242 West 45th Street
CBS Radio Playhouse #2 251 West 45th Street
CBS Radio Playhouse #3 1697 Broadway (became Studio 50)
CBS Radio Playhouse #4 254 West 54th Street (became Studio 52)
CBS Radio Playhouse #5 109 West 39th Street (became Studio 51)

Notes:

CBS Studio 51 from the 1970s aka “The New York Production Center” at 222 East 44th Street, is EUE/Screen Gems (1973 to Present) Prior to 1973—it was used by MPO productions (as film stage, though it was used sporadically for videotape work). EUE/Screen Gems purchased the studio from MPO, and installed Fernseh KCU-40 video camera chains early 1970s, and it has been used for video since then.

CBS and ABC studios located at 205 East 67th Street, were actually the Dumont (Metromedia) studios.

CBS studio based at 2248 Broadway ultimately became Teletape “Stage 2” early 1970s (Sesame Street, Electric Company).
Himan Brown Studios (W. 26th St.) was used for both film and video production at various times, the Patty Duke Show (ABC, 1963-5) was filmed there as well as Bilko (CBS, 1955-59-second season). Currently owned by All Mobile Video.

Biograph Studio NY (807 East 175th St, The Bronx) Studio had been abandoned, but was revived around 1967. Car 54 (NBC, 1961-3), East Side/West Side (CBS, 1963-4), and Naked City (ABC, 1958-63)—all are filmed shows. This studio was also known as “Gold Medal Studios” in the late 1950s. Studio was abandoned in the 1970s, and burned in 1980.

Filmways Studios NY (246 E. 127th St.–built in a former MTA transit garage building in the late1950s.) The Defenders (CBS, 1961-5), and The Doctors and the Nurses (CBS, 1962-5), Hawk (ABC 1966), and Trials of O’Brien (CBS 1965-6) (All filmed productions). Films shot there include Butterfield 8, The Godfather, The Wiz. Studio was demolished in the 1980s.

Fox Movietone studios (460 W. 54th St at 10th Ave.) Two sound stages—the large one with a cyclorama and swimming pool under the deck. Three small scoring stages. UPI Movietone News operated in upstairs offices into the 1980s. Stages on ground floor operated as Fox until 1964, Manhattan Sound Studios until about 1968. Operated by F&B/CECO and Camera Mart (film equipment rental companies) in the 1970s and 1980s. Norby (NBC,1955), (strangely, shot on color film. Kodak was a sponsor) Adams Chronicles (PBS, 1976, recorded by EUE Video Services), Best of Families (PBS, 1977, recorded by Reeves Teletape). Later Sony Music Studios, demolished 2008. The original ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’ was shot there in 1999 (at the time, ABC was contemplating purchasing the building). Notable films shot there: The Exorcist (1972), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Starting Over (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982).

The Town Theatre at (either 840 or 851) 9th Ave was converted to a television stage and used by CBS, WNET-13 in the 1970s, and Teletape in the 1980s, Later Unitel. It was demolished and replaced by the Alvin Ailey Citigroup theater a few years ago.


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Happy Birthday….CBS Broadcast Center, Born July 26, 1964

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Happy Birthday….CBS Broadcast Center, Born July 26, 1964

52 years ago today, the first broadcast finally originated from a building CBS had owned since 1952. From ’52, until that first top-of-hour CBS Radio newscast, the facility had been designated the CBS Production Center, and was mostly used to store and build scenery, and provide office space for shows that worked from CBS theaters like Ed Sullivan’s.

Below is the CBS Press Release that introduces the Broadcast Center in great detail. It took some time for television to get set up there, and the first network offering is believed to be use of the new Studio 41 (old 41 and 42 were at Grand Central) for election night coverage in November of ’64, in black and white. Color came the next year.

Today’s second post is an updated list of the CBS New York Studios, so watch for that…it is something you may want to copy and paste.
-Bobby Ellerbee

CBS Press Release: November 25, 1964
CBS BROADCAST CENTER OPENS NEW ERA IN TELEVISION PRODUCTION; CONSOLIDATED FACILITY IS MOST ADVANCED IN THE WORLD

Electronic Wonderland Features Six Large “Floating” Studios and Computer-Controlled Technical Operations

A new era in the history of broadcasting has begun at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York, the most modern and the most efficient production facility of its kind in the world. Built around a core of six large studios with the industry’s most advanced technical support facilities, the Broadcast Center incorporates the latest achievements in technology for producing superior programs.

It implements designs and procedures formulated after years of world-wide research and development by CBS teams in every aspect of television broadcasting. A versatile, multi-purpose electronic wonderland where broad casts ranging from a news bulletin to a dramatic play to a gala musical comedy can be developed from first idea to finished program, the Broadcast Center contains a total of 495,628 square feet of floor space — more than the combined size of 10 standard football fields, goal line to goal line.

Situated on 11th Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets, the new CBS facility offers a tremendously increased potential for television programming originating in New York City. Each floor of the production area alone covers more than 100,000 square feet, an area 25% larger than the city block on which The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is located. The opening of the Broadcast Center consolidates CBS studios and support facilities and services which previously had been dispersed in some 14 different locations in New York City.
Two off-premise studios — large theaters located at Broadway and 53rd Street and at Broadway and 54th Street (Studios 50 and 52), each with a seating capacity of close to 700 people — are still being retained to meet the needs of audience shows. Now located at the Broadcast Center are units of the CBS Television Network, CBS Owned television station WCBS-TV in New York City, the CBS Radio Network, the CBS News Division, and various central staff services.

Consistent with the broadcast Center’s announced goal of providing the highest quality of television, its six large studios — all situated on a single floor — are modern miracles of design. The floor of each studio is a concrete slab, which together with the walls is supported by coil springs and neoprene pads. Thus, each studio is, in effect, a separate “floating” structure. This feature plus buffer corridor areas around each studio in addition to ingenious soundproofing insure acoustical isolation. Another innovation in the design of the studios is a lighting grid structure which allows lights to be hung and adjusted from over head walkways without disturbing activity on the floor.

Adjacent to each studio is a control room containing the latest related technical advances of the electronic medium. While the six studios in the CBS Broadcast Center vary in size, each of the six control rooms is the same. Specially designed to assist and enhance the creative activity in the studio which it services, the control room is so arranged that the entire production team maintains continual visual contact with the program director. In a departure from common practices, the control room does not have a window opening overlooking the studio. Each control room incorporates a highly advantageous concept in functional design for broadcasting by providing separate picture, sound and production control areas, plus easy access to the studio itself. These areas can be separated from one another by sliding glass panels, yet all are within line-of-sight with the program director.

All technical equipment in addition to telecine and videotape machines, whose physical presence is not actually required in the control room, has been removed to a central maintenance area. Yet, by remote control techniques, each member of the production team retains full control over those technical elements of the production for which he is responsible. Directly below the floor where the studios are located in the Broadcast Center is the extensive Central Technical Area.

Here is housed the vast amount of highly complex and sophisticated technical equipment needed to bring the broadcast program to the homes of viewers across the nation and, with the aid of space satellite relays, to viewers in other parts of the world. Notable among this array of technical equipment are the Broadcast Center’s computers and the switching systems of unprecedented magnitude, complexity and efficiency in broadcasting. These systems provide the capability to store information on the scheduled use of facilities and the details of the broadcast schedule, and the capability to route all audio and video signals and communication circuits to their proper destination.

Additionally, the systems provide the means, where needed, to start and stop videotape machines and film and slide projectors. From one technical viewpoint, television broadcasting is a continual process of accurate scheduling, precision timing and error- free coordination of the separate elements that make up a program: film, tape, live pickup, commercials, announcements and many other elements.

At the Broadcast Center, this basic broadcast process is now controlled by computers assigned to the program continuity studios where pre-recorded network and local programs and local station breaks are originated. Two computers have been installed. Each has the capacity to store every bit of program scheduling information needed for the en tire broadcast day and, at the precise moment, automatically to select correctly the program element to go out on the air. Still another use of the computers is to record the studio lighting levels worked out during rehearsal for identical repositioning of the lighting controls during the broadcast of the program. Each computer, by itself, can handle all the basic network and local station broadcast schedules. The installation of two units provides backup protection should the need arise, especially since there is a continuing automatic interchange of information between the two computers.

As now constituted, the Broadcast Center comprises three inter connected structures. The first is an eight-story structure. It houses the Music and Record Library, offices of WCBS-TV News, offices of CBS Films Inc., CBS Data Processing, and CBS News production and administrative offices and reference library. The second structure is six stories. It contains offices of the CBS Television Network Operations Department, the CBS Radio Network Operations Department offices and one of the Broadcast Center’s five radio studios, WCBS-TV Program Department, CBS Television Network show units and accounting offices, four film screening rooms, WCBS-TV film editing facilities and the CBS Television Network sound effects department. Also contained in this structure are the cafeteria and stationery shop.

Central to the third structure are the six television studios, the largest of which has an area of 8,45O square feet and the smallest 3,260 square feet, plus their complete support facilities. In this building, too, are the CBS News newsroom, correspondents’ and executive offices, and film editing and viewing facilities. Immediately adjacent to the newsroom are four radio news studios and the television Flash Facility where bulletins are originated. Also In the building are the Television General Technical Area; storage, staging and maintenance area for equipment used in remote pickups; film distribution; scenic design area and construction shops and storage facilities; dressing rooms, wardrobe and makeup rooms; rehearsal halls; film and videotape storage rooms, and emergency power plant. Geared to serve most efficiently the needs of current production of the CBS Television Network, the Broadcast Center was designed with a flexibility factor so that it will have the capacity to meet future expanded physical and technical requirements.

Also, the Broadcast Center is designed for both black-and-white and color program requirements. The original building of the Broadcast Center, ideally located in midtown Manhattan but out of the city’s congested traffic pattern, was acquired by CBS in l952 with the thought of ultimate conversion to a centralized broadcast plant. It was utilized at once for rehearsal halls, scenery construction and storage, and production and administrative offices. A series of studies was undertaken as to the feasibility of such a plan and, after every aspect of the evolved master plan had been fully investigated and reported on by experts, the go-ahead signal was given by top management.

Among these features were massive truck ramps connecting the original floors to a loading dock on the street level. The ramps were retained to provide access to the studios on which scenery and props from the shops and storage areas could be hauled with ease by trailers and battery-powered tractors. Moreover, the extra-sturdy steel and concrete construction of the original building proved to be well suited for reinforcement to support the new, higher roof which was built over the studios.

Also, by careful scheduling to take advantage of available space in the original structure, interior reconstruction was able to precede with minimal interference to the CBS operations already underway in the “Production Center,” as the building was known at the time. When plans for converting the 57th Street property into an integrated television complex were first announced, CBS envisioned that the completed Broadcast Center would provide the CBS Television Network with “by far the finest television facilities in the world.” That vision has now become reality.


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July 25, 1964…CBS Radio Bids Farewell To 485 Madison Avenue

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July 25, 1964…CBS Radio Bids Farewell To 485 Madison Avenue

On September 18, 1927, the CBS Radio Network, with 18 affiliates went on the air from their studios in The Steinway Building near Carnegie Hall on West 57th Street.

Exactly two years later, CBS Radio moved into the new 485 Madison Avenue building on September 18, 1929.

On July 25, 1964, the last broadcast from the heart of CBS Radio News…Studio 9, was a hosted by Steve Rowan, and the next day, Rowan was the first to broadcast from the new CBS Broadcast Center. At this link is the 2 page CBS press release. http://donswaim.com/cbs-radio-moves-1964.pdf

That last show from 485 Madison, “Farewell To Studio 9” was historic in every way, and included clips from the many world shaping newscasts, and the most iconic newscasters this country
has known, including Edward R. Murrow, and many more that you can hear at this link to that last show.
http://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/historical/farewell-to-studio-9/farewell-to-studio-9-19xx-xx-xx

Some Interesting History: When 485 Madison Avenue was first built, CBS occupied only the upper floors. As need grew, CBS expanded throughout the building. Originally, there were six studios.

Studios 1, 2, and 6 were on the 22nd floor. Studio 1 was reached by a staircase as its floor was higher in order to accommodate the higher ceilings of Studios 3 and 5 which were directly underneath.
Studios 3, 5, and 4 were located on the 21st floor. Master Control and the upper part of Studio 1 occupied the 23rd floor.

Studios 1 to 6 were remodeled in the mid 30s reflecting acoustic enhancements unknown when first built. Suspended light fixtures became recessed, sound insulation, wooden panels, and rubberized flooring were among the improvements. Also in the mid 30s, Studios 7 and 8 were constructed on the 3rd floor of 485 Madison Avenue.

Studio 9, which was the news studio and the news department were located on the 17th floor. CBS also had radio studios at 49 East 52nd Street, just around the corner from 485 Madison.

CBS television studios were also in the process of moving to the Broadcast Center including 41 through 44 at Grand Central. Studios 53 to 56 at Liederkrantz Hall, 111 East 58th Street were also moving to the Broadcast Center. The corporate offices later moved from 485 to Black Rock which opened in 1965 at 51 West 52nd Street. Happy Birthday to the CBS Broadcast Center! -Bobby Ellerbee







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