Posts in Category: Broadcast History

An Exclusive Eyewitness Account…Billy Crystal & The Debut Of SNL

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An Exclusive Eyewitness Account…Billy Crystal & The Debut Of SNL

Last week, with the debut of the 40th season of ‘Saturday Night Live’, we looked at the history of the show’s missed start date and the first episode. As you know, Billy Crystal was scheduled to appear, but he didn’t. You are about to learn the real story of why he didn’t from someone who was there…Joel Spector, who was on the audio crew for the first 17 years of SNL.

Many, including me, were curious about how this happened…was it a last minute thing or did it come earlier in the week? In later years, Billy had talked about the disappointment of being bumped but thanks to Joel, we’ll hear what really happened. Here is his account…

“This is the real story. Billy did indeed appear in the dress rehearsal and got big laughs. I was at the post-dress rehearsal production meeting. For this week only, every staff and crew member attended this meeting, held right in the middle of the studio. There were three “new young comedians” scheduled to appear that week, in addition to host George Carlin. They were Andy Kaufman, Billy Crystal and Valri Bromfeld. Lorne announced that the show was very long and that only two of the three new comedians could be on the air show: Andy (with two spots) worked to recorded music, “which couldn’t be cut.”

“Billy was set to do his “Late Show” routine, in which he did all of he sounds for the typical late movie show on a local station, complete with badly spliced film hiccups. He said that he had been doing this routine for some time and that it had already been refined to be “just right.” “I understand that this might rule me out,” he said.”

“Valri piped up: “I can cut down my piece…no problem.” Lorne then wished Billy well and promised him a spot during the next few weeks. He then was cast on “Soap” and became a big star. We didn’t see him on SNL until 1984. Andy went on to the comedy stratosphere until his untimely demise. Valri did her shortened and not very funny routine and then resumed her career as a comic actor and writer.”
– Joel Spector

To follow up on Joel’s account, as Lorne had promised, Billy returned on April 17, 1976 on Season 1’s 17th Episode which was hosted by President Ford’s Press Secretary, Ron Nessen with musical guest Patti Smith.

Thanks to Joel, we now know that it was only after the dress rehearsal that Crystal was cut. Till now, that part had never been known. Many thanks to Joel for this missing piece of history and to the many that share similar first hand information on this page.

In the photo below we see our friends Joel Spector (L) and Gady Reinhold (R)…friends since childhood and television veterans extraordinaire. Joel joined NBC in 1965 and Gady joined CBS a year later. Both have been a tremendous help to this site and their passion for television’s history and friendship is greatly appreciated! Enjoy and Share! – Bobby Ellerbee




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Saturday Night Live Transcripts

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A Treasure For SNL Fans…Save And Bookmark This Site

http://snltranscripts.jt.org/
This is the most complete and interesting ‘Saturday Night Live’ sites I’ve ever seen. If you want a full account of the show’s history, you’ll find it here. Enjoy and Share! – Bobby Ellerbee

Saturday Night Live Transcripts

Saturday Night Live Transcripts contains over 4,000 transcripts of SNL’s most popular sketches. Updated weekly with new transcripts, from the early days of the Not Ready For Prime Time Players to its current incarnation.
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Exclusive New Photos From NBC Brooklyn…3 of 4

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Exclusive New Photos From NBC Brooklyn…3 of 4

Thanks to Peter Katz, here is another of four photos taken on the set of ‘Amahl And The Night Visitors’ at NBC Brooklyn.

This was first performed on December 24, 1951 in Studio 8H where it was broadcast live as the debut production of the ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America and became a holiday staple at NBC.

For its first three telecasts, the program had been presented in black-and-white, but beginning in 1953, it was telecast in color. Because it was an opera, it later began to be scheduled as an afternoon television program, rather than shown in prime time as had been done in its first few telecasts. For years, Amahl was presented live annually, but in 1963 it was videotaped, but accidentally erased and redone in 1964. This series of four photos were taken in 1954 during the rehearsals at NBC Brooklyn, shortly after it went into service on November 12, 1954.

Thanks to Peter Katz for sharing these with us. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee


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Ultra Rare…Color Footage Of The Mouseketeers Debut

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Ultra Rare…Color Footage Of The Mouseketeers Debut

On October 3, 1955 ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ debuted on ABC, but the nation first met the Mouseketeers in the live broadcast of the opening of Disneyland in July. Here is recently discovered color footage of the rehearsal of the July 17 broadcast cut into the b/w footage. Enjoy and Share! – Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ge3QXyxwsGk

The Mousekateers appeared in public for the first time, on the day of Disneyland’s opening, on July 17th, 1955..while this appearance was televised in black …
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October 2, 1955…’Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ Debuts on CBS

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October 2, 1955…’Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ Debuts on CBS

Did you know the now famous line drawn profile of Hitchcock was actually drawn by the man himself? You’ll see him step into that profile for the first time in the attached video opening of that debut episode titled “Revenge”.

This great show ran for ten seasons, but not without changes. The biggest change was when the show’s length went from 25 minutes to 50 minutes in 1962, when the show also title changed to ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’.

Other changes included where to see it. The show aired on CBS and NBC and then again on CBS and NBC…true. It ran on CBS from ’55 till ’60 when it moved to NBC for two years. It then moved back to CBS in ’62, and in ’64, went back to NBC for the final year.

This is a true classic and for the young people that have never seen it, you should watch and learn from the master of suspense! Happily most episodes are still on in syndication. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – S01E01 – Revenge (parte1) Legendado em Pt-Br Melhor Visualizado com HQ ativado.
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October 2, 1946…Network Television’s First Soap Debuts…Or Did It?

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October 2, 1946…Network Television’s First Soap Debuts…Or Did It?

‘Faraway Hill’ debuted on The Dumont network on this date 68 years ago today and is considered by many to be the first soap opera on network television, in that the shows were produced and broadcast on more than one television station. In this case that would be Dumont’s New York and Washington stations.

BUT, there exists tales of another television soap opera, a program that may have aired for about 13 episodes in the summer of 1946, premiering just before ‘Faraway Hill’.

A television history book written by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, noted that prior to the broadcast of ‘Faraway Hill’, W2XB (which later became WRGB) in Schenectady may have aired a 13 episode drama called ‘War Bride’. The photo below is from the Schenectady Museum and is labeled “War Brides, June 7, 1946”.

NBC’s W2XBS and GE’s W2XB linked up to form the first network of television stations in 1943 and there are scattered reports of an early co broadcast of a show called ‘War Bride’ on that two city network.

Unfortunately, a lot of television’s early history is lost to the ages but often, bits and pieces of information like this help us form our conclusions and to me, it seems that ‘War Bride’ is actually the first network television soap opera. Most of the details of this article come from Chuck Miller who discovered the ‘War Bride’ photo and our thanks to him for his writings, effort and research. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee



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October 2, 1959…’The Twilight Zone’ Debuts On CBS

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October 2, 1959…’The Twilight Zone’ Debuts On CBS

There are three videos included with this article. First is the rare video embedded here which is Rod Serling’s pitch to prospective advertisers and was the lead in to the pilot episode that was shown privately to several sponsors. The pilot episode that followed the pitch was “Where Is Everybody”. You can see that episode at this link…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN4sPnIXySY

Although “Where Is Everybody” was the first ‘Twilight Zone’ produced and the first episode to air, a one hour script called “The Time Element”, written in 1957, was what Serling considered the pilot. After he wrote that script, he began to pitch the TZ series idea but to no avail. “The Time Element” never ran as a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, but it did air as a teleplay on the ‘Westinghouse Deilu Playhouse’ and here is the video, complete with the Desi Arnaz intro.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU2KirnCUZM

This was a time travel adventure about a man, played by William Bendix, who travels back to Honolulu in 1941 and unsuccessfully tries to warn everyone about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. Serling’s first pitch in ’57, and this script, was rejected and shelved for a year until Bert Granet discovered and produced it as an episode of Desilu Playhouse in 1958. The show was a huge success and enabled Serling to finally get some traction in his new pitch campaign for ‘The Twilight Zone’.

Serling’s first big television script was something you’ve heard of but didn’t know he wrote…”Requiem For A Heavyweight” which first aired on ‘Playhouse 90’.

The series ended in 1965 and after the cancellation, Serling sold his rights to CBS, unaware of what the future would hold in syndication, and the royalties he would have gained. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/JFR_lc4O6-oHere’s a great rare short of Rod Serling pushing his brand new show, The Twilight Zone, to the sponsors. From 1959
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October 2, 1953…’Person To Person’ Debuts With Edward R. Murrow

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October 2, 1953…’Person To Person’ Debuts With Edward R. Murrow

It was a Friday night when the show debuted on CBS and Brooklyn Dodgers’ catcher Roy Campanella was the first guest. As luck would have it, Campanella had just hit the winning home run in game three of the World Series, beating the Yankees that day. Campanella’s segment was paired with a visit to the home of conductor Leopold Stokowski and his wife, Gloria Vanderbilt. The program was an instant hit with viewers and remained that way for years.

The show ran from 1953 to 1959 and was a fixture in the top ten list of most popular programs. At its peak in 1957, 45 percent of all homes with television sets were tuned in to ‘Person to Person’.

The fact that this celebrity interview show had much better ratings than Murrow’s signature news show, ‘See It Now’ irritated him, but by hosting it for CBS (which he did reluctantly), it helped smooth over some of the turmoil that his weekly news and opinion show caused.

Perhaps no guest on ‘Person to Person’ was as highly anticipated as Marilyn Monroe. She appeared at the home of her dear friend, photographer Milton Green. Monroe appeared to be very fragile at first yet it soon became clear how slyly funny she was. She lamented to Murrow that although her photo graced the cover of many gentlemen’s magazines she’d never made the cover of the Ladies Home Journal.

Murrow’s guests shared prized possessions that reflected their personal lives and professional achievements, providing a natural starting point for conversation. For example, actress Lauren Bacall showed off a whistle, dangling from her charm bracelet. She told Murrow it was a gift from husband Humphrey Bogart commemorating the famous movie line she delivered to him, “If you want anything, all you have to do is whistle. You know how to whistle don’t you? Just put your lips together and blow.”

Here’s a great clip of some of the show’s highlights. Thank to CBS News for the video and part of this summary. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-best-of-person-to-person/

The best of “Person to Person”

From 1953 to 1958, legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow interviewed celebrities and newsmakers in their homes from his easy chair in a New York studio for his program “Person to Person.” The show has returned for a new generation with hosts Charlie Rose and Lara Logan.
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A New Angle For ‘NBC Nightly News’…Studio 3B Changes

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A New Angle For ‘NBC Nightly News’…Studio 3B Changes

We’ve had some questions on this lately, so here’s what I know about the changes on ‘Nightly News’.

In the top photo, we see the location of the news desk as it has been for a few years now…at the top end of Studio 3B. The red box in the top photo shows the studio door to help you get your bearings.

Last week, the desk and set was moved to the other end of the rectangular studio. Now, instead of being on an end wall, the desk has it’s back to the long wall and is in the back corner where the old ‘Rock Center’ set was. The bottom photo was taken from just in front of the studio door and the red box shows approximately where the desk is now. On the left In this photo, you can see where the desk was (covered).

From what I’ve heard and saw last night in the Ben Affleck piece, the midway point between the old desk location and the new location is now being used as an interview space. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee



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Exclusive New Photos From NBC Brooklyn…2 of 4

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Exclusive New Photos From NBC Brooklyn…2 of 4

Thanks to Peter Katz, here is another of four photos taken on the set of ‘Amahl And The Night Visitors’ at NBC Brooklyn. After posting the first one yesterday and mentioning the show was finally recorded in color in 1963, we found out that someone accidentally erased that master and it had to be redone again in 1964.

This was first performed on December 24, 1951 in Studio 8H where it was broadcast live as the debut production of the ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America and became a holiday staple at NBC.

For its first three telecasts, the program had been presented in black-and-white, but beginning in 1953, it was telecast in color. Because it was an opera, it later began to be scheduled as an afternoon television program, rather than shown in prime time as had been done in its first few telecasts. For years, Amahl was presented live annually, but in 1963 it was videotaped, but accidentally erased and redone in 1964. This series of four photos were taken in 1954 during the rehearsals at NBC Brooklyn, shortly after it went into service on November 12, 1954.

Thanks to Peter Katz for sharing these with us. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee


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A Story Of TV History Treasure…LOST

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A Story Of TV History Treasure…LOST

For a year and a half on what was then WRCA, Bill Cullen hosted a local (New York) fifteen minute television show called ‘Inside NBC’…here is a description of just a few of the shows. It would be fantastic to see all of this backstage stuff, BUT…sadly, as far as I know, all of this is gone. If you know more, please tell us.

Monday, December 12, 1955 [DEBUT] Bill Cullen hosts this 15-minute program which spotlights NBC’s personnel, history, features, and entertainment. NBC cameras pick up rehearsals in progress, previewing shows to appear the same evening or later that week.

Monday, December 19, 1955 Viewers see a Playwrights 56 rehearsal in action. Bill Cullen interviews producer Fred Coe, director Arthur Penn, and stars Kim Stanley and Louis Jean Heydt.

Friday, December 23, 1955 Bill Cullen visits David Aiken as he is made up for his role in Sunday’s Alcoa Hour production of Amahl and the Night Visitors. The cameras also pick up a rehearsal of Babes in Toyland to be seen on Max Liebman Presents.

Monday, December 26, 1955 Bill Cullen tours the Home studios. Guest: Dick Linkroum, Home’s exec. producer.

Friday, December 30, 1955 Bill Cullen’s guest, Mary Martin, discusses the forthcoming Peter Pan.

Friday, January 6, 1956 The operation of the NBC news department is explained through interviews and films. The cameras pick up a rehearsal Ken Banghart’s news program.

Monday, January 9, 1956 Bill Cullen visits NBC’s special effects dept. to show how fog, rain, snow, etc. are made for TV.

Friday, January 13, 1956 Les Colodny, director of NBC’s comedy development program, explains and tells of plans for ’56. He introduces an act by some new talent.

Monday, January 16, 1956 Richard Linkroum, executive producer of Home, conducts a tour of the Home studios.

Monday, January 23, 1956 Tex Antoine explains the preparation of his weather programs. Bill Cullen interviews Henry Salomon, producer of Circle Theater’s Nightmare in Red, to be repeated tomorrow evening.

Friday, January 27, 1956 Bill Cullen takes viewers behind the scenes of radio’s Monitor. Guest will be Gene Rayburn.

Monday, January 30, 1956 The NBC Technical Operations Department demonstrates the transmission of a TV picture from coast to coast. Cameras pick up a rehearsal of Milton Berle’s show from Hollywood, Cal. Bill Cullen.

Friday, February 3, 1956 Host Bill Cullen and Maurice Evans discuss this Sunday’s Hallmark Hall of Fame production of The Good Fairy, starring Julie Harris. Chet Huntley of the NBC News Department previews Outlook, a news program which debuts this Sunday. Special guest: J. Fred Muggs.

Monday, February 6, 1956 Bill Cullen visits Sid Caesar at his office and studios.

Friday, February 10, 1956 Bill Cullen reviews the first NBC telecast, April 30, 1939. This was the NBC special events pickup of the opening of the World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows.

Monday, February 27, 1956 The cameras switch to Hollywood to pick up a rehearsal of Tuesday’s Matinee Theater production, A Tall Dark Stranger. Its star, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and host John Conte are guests. Bill Cullen, in New York, does a feature on the early days of NBC news coverage.

Friday, March 2, 1956 The cameras switch to the RCA Hall of Progress in Camden, N.J., which holds electronics equipment developed during the past century. Bill Cullen hosts.

Monday, March 5, 1956 Guest: Stockton Hellfrich of NBC’s Continuity Acceptance Dept. Bill Cullen shows Martha Raye Show in rehearsal, via film.

Friday, March 9, 1956 Host Bill Cullen highlights NBC’s coverage of the Presidential campaign. He also interviews Laurence Olivier.

Monday, March 12, 1956 Ike Kleinerman, film editor of Wednesday’s Project 20 production, explains how the film was procured and edited.
Friday, March 16, 1956 Host Bill Cullen discusses the presentation of the TV “Emmy” Awards.

Monday, April 16, 1956 Bill Cullen conducts a remote program with WRCA-TV’s new mobile unit.

Monday, May 7, 1956 Host Bill Cullen and his special guest, Lee Ann Meriwether, conduct a quiz show. Contestants are the five finalists of the “Miss NBC” contest.

Friday, May 18, 1956 Bill Cullen is host to Thomas B. McFadden, general manager of WRCA-TV and Ray Owen from the reporting staff of WRCA’s Pulse. Owens discusses Pulse’s technique for covering news.

That is a pretty amazing trove of treasure…and only a small sample of the ‘Inside NBC’ shows Cullen hosted. I think these are all gone but hope someone knows if they survive. – Bobby Ellerbee


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October 1, 1952…’This Is Your Life’ Debuts On NBC

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October 1, 1952…’This Is Your Life’ Debuts On NBC

‘This Is Your Life’ had its genesis in radio as a good natured gesture on the ‘Truth or Consequences’ show in 1946. General Omar Bradley asked Ralph Edwards to do something to help returning World War II veterans, especially paraplegics. He said they were depressed and reluctant to see anyone, including their families. Ralph’s ingenious solution was to profile a returning hero on his radio program, which created a “voice” for all veterans. Lawrence Tranter was selected as the first honoree. His story was told by surprising him with people from his past – family, friends, school teachers, and others in an emotion-filled episode. Knowing Tranter had ambitions to be a watch repair technician, the show arranged for him to attend the Bulova School of Watchmaking in New York.

‘This Is Your Life’ began its official TV run on October 1, 1952 with the life of Laura Stone Marr, mother of actor Milburn Stone who we best remember as “Doc” on Gunsmoke. An instant hit on NBC, the show virtually stopped America in its tracks every Wednesday night and ran till 1961.

This was among the first NBC series to originate from California, so in order to get this on the air in the east in early prime time the show had to start in late afternoon with a kinescope broadcast for the west coast. The reason the east rarely ran a kine was that most of the nation’s population was there…the most viewers got the best quality.

The photos below are from the 1958 Francis Farmer episode and were taken by the father of Jim Early. Thanks to Jim for sharing them with us as these are the only known color photos of the show. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee




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October 1, 1962…’Tonight’ With Johnny Carson Debuts

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October 1, 1962…’Tonight’ With Johnny Carson Debuts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdVmWLn41y0
At the clip link above is the audio of the first 3 minutes of the debut show with Groucho Marx introducing Johnny. The video has been lost but below, we have the next best thing…rare pictures from that night!

The guests that night in NBC’s Studio 6B were Joan Crawford, Mel Brooks, Tony Bennett and Rudy Vallee. We are fortunate to have photos of all but Mel Brooks and I’ll make some comments on the pictures that you’ll see when you click on them individually.

Notice in the audio Carson mentions two intros…one for the east and one for the rest of the country. This is a bit confusing, but here is what he was referring to and why.

Carson inherited from Paar a show that was 1 3/4 hours (105 minutes) long. The show actually had two openings, one starting at 11:15 p.m. and included the monologue, the other that listed the guests and re-announced the host, starting at 11:30. The two openings gave affiliates the option of airing either a fifteen minute or thirty minute local newscast preceding ‘Tonight’, but remember…even the network evening news was only fifteen minutes long till 1963.

As I understand it, this actually started with Steve Allen. As we saw last week, ‘The Steve Allen Show’, sponsored by Knickerbocker Beer on WNBT in New York, was a big hit. This was the predecessor to ‘Tonight’ and when the show moved to the NBC network and The Hudson Theater, they wanted the loyal local audience to follow the show to the network, so they give Allen fifteen minutes to do some bits that were more for the local NYC area audiences.

The thinking was that most of the country may not “get” the local humor, so Gene Rayburn re introed Allen at 11:30 for stations to join in after that. At that mark, Allen continued with a broader but short monolog.

Somewhere along the line, the local humor emphasis went away in that 11:15 segment and it became the broader monolog but national viewers saw the show without any monolog if stations joined at 11:30. This is all quite murky and there is very little written on this, but we do know that Carson never liked this.

As more affiliates introduced thirty minutes of local news, Carson’s monologue was being seen by fewer people. To rectify this situation, Ed McMahon and Skitch Henderson co-hosted the first fifteen minutes of the show between February 1965 and December 1966 without Carson, who then took over at 11:30. Finally, because he wanted the show to start when he came on, at the beginning of January 1967 Carson insisted the 11:15 segment be eliminated and it was. Enjoy and Share! – Bobby Ellerbee






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September 30, 1960…’The Flintstones’ Debuts On ABC

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September 30, 1960…’The Flintstones’ Debuts On ABC

This short clip is what was used to sell the ‘The Flagstones’ to ABC and it’s sponsors. Before it came to air, the name had to be changed for legal reasons as Flagstone was a trademarked name.

This pilot was essentially a demo reel of what the show would look like. Note the grease pencil marks on the film, that depicts scenes from the pilot that would later be used in “The Swimming Pool” episode. It was shown to potential sponsors in the spring of 1960 with Miles Laboratories and R.J. Reynolds buying in as sponsors on the strength of this presentation. Daws Butler did both Fred and Barney’s voices; Jean Vander Pyl was Wilma and she continued as in that part in the series and June Foray was the voice of Betty.

In the series, Alan Reed was the voice of Fred, Mel Blanc was the voice of Barney, Jean Vander Pyl was Wilma and Bea Benaderet was Betty. The show was broadcast from September 30, 1960 till April 1, 1966. Although done in color, it did not air in color on ABC till 1962, after ‘The Jetsons’ debuted in color.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTpSbP9XRw0

THE FLINTSTONES-the lost pilot called “The Flagstones” a short film for u kids and all of u like “The Flintstones” cartoon. Enjoy!!:D
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Exclusive New Photos From NBC Brooklyn…1 of 4

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Exclusive New Photos From NBC Brooklyn…1 of 4

Thanks to Peter Katz, here is the first of four photos taken on the set of ‘Amahl And The Night Visitors’ at NBC Brooklyn.

If you remember from the article here a few weeks back, this was a one act light opera NBC had commissioned. It was first performed on December 24, 1951 in Studio 8H where it was broadcast live as the debut production of the ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America and became a holiday staple at NBC.

For its first three telecasts, the program had been presented in black-and-white, but beginning in 1953, it was telecast in color. Because it was an opera, it later began to be scheduled as an afternoon television program, rather than shown in prime time as had been done in its first few telecasts. For years, Amahl was presented live annually, but in 1963 it was videotaped. This series of four photos were taken in 1954 during the rehearsals at NBC Brooklyn, shortly after it went into service on November 12, 1954.

Thanks to Peter Katz for sharing these with us. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee


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3 Fantastic Dick Van Dyke Set Shots…

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3 Fantastic Dick Van Dyke Set Shots…

We’ve seen the bedroom shot before but the other two living room shots are brand new. The large one here gives us an “Ah ha moment” as we finally see the kitchen set to the right of the living room, and if you look closely you can see the office set at the far end of the studio. See the bookcase behind Rob’s desk?

This probably means the bedroom set would be to the left of the living room, but at near a 90 degree angle.

On ‘I Love Lucy’, the set up is almost the same…the living room was in the center and the kitchen and bedroom areas on either side with the bedroom and kitchen spaces the ones used for sets outside the apartment. To the far right of Lucy’s living room was the club set which was also used for non apartment scenes when there were no club shots. Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee




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Anyone Know Who Made This Pedestal? I Bet GE…

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Anyone Know Who Made This Pedestal?

You don’t see many of these but there were a few around. This is built along the same lines as the old Dumont “milk wagon” pedestals used under their Iconoscope cameras. I’m pretty sure this is an electric ped with a small motor for raising and lowering the camera, but there are no manufacturing markings on any of the photos I have.

I suspect this may have been made by or for GE. The camera is an RCA TK30 and is band new. The photo is from WGN in Chicago and was taken during their first week of operations. The temporary number on the camera looks like that old cloth like medical tape used to hold bandages on. Remember that? Let us know if you know more! Enjoy and share! – Bobby Ellerbee


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September 30, 1955…James Dean Dies In His “Little Bastard”

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September 30, 1955…James Dean Dies In His “Little Bastard”…

These are the last two photos ever taken of movie legend James Dean and were taken on September 30, 1955, by Sanford Roth who was following Dean to do a photo feature on a race he was headed to in Salinas. They never got there.

Dean is pictured here on Vine Street in the driver’s seat of his Porsche 550 Spyder, which was named “Little Bastard” and as we will discover, the car really was just that. His passenger is his mechanic Rolf Weutherich. The second photo was taken at a gas station just outside LA on the way to the race. Although he had only owned this car for nine days, he had taken up racing the year before.

While filming Rebel Without A Cause, James Dean had upgraded from the 356 to the 550 Spyder and decided that he wanted to make it uniquely his. Dean called on George Barris, of movie car fame, to customize the Porsche. He gave it tartan seats, two red stripes over the rear wheels and plastered the number ‘130′ on its doors, hood and engine cover.

On September 23 of 1955, Dean met actor Alec Guinness outside of a restaurant and had him take a look at the Spyder. Guinness told Dean that the car had a “sinister” appearance and then told Dean: “If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.” Seven days later, Dean would be killed in his beloved “Little Bastard.”

That “Little Bastard” not only killed James Dean, but killed and maimed others who came in contact with it causes many to say that the car was cursed.

George Barris, who customized the 550 originally, bought the wrecked carcass for $2500 and soon after it slipped off its trailer and broke a mechanics leg. Not long after Barris sold the engine and drivetrain to Troy McHenry and William Eschrid. While the two were both racing against one another in cars that had parts from the “Little Bastard,” McHenry lost control and hit a tree, killing him instantly and Eschrid was seriously injured when his car suddenly locked up and rolled over while going into a turn.

Barris still had two tires from the 550 which were untouched in Dean’s accident. He sold them and not long after, both blew out simultaneously causing the new owner’s car to run off the road.

Due to all the incidents involving “Little Bastard,” Barris decided to hide the car but was convinced by the California Highway Patrol to lend the cursed heap to a highway safety exhibit. The first exhibit was unsuccessful as the garage that housed the car caught fire and burned to the ground. Mysteriously the car suffered virtually no damage from the fire. The next exhibition at a local high school ended abruptly when the car fell off its display and broke a nearby student’s hip.

The curse continued when the “Little Bastard” was being transported when the truck carrying the car lost control which caused the driver to fall out and somehow get crushed by the car after it fell off the back. The car fell off of two more transport trucks while travelling on the freeway fortunately not injuring anyone. The CHP decided that it had had enough of the “Little Bastard” and while transporting the car to Barris, the car mysteriously vanished and has not been seen since.

Dean was the first ever actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, for his role in East Of Eden in 1955.
He is also the only actor to receive two posthumous Academy Award acting nominations, as he had a second one the following year for Giant. James Dean is buried in Fairmount, Indiana, near his uncle’s farm where he grew up. – Bobby Ellerbee




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BBC Telecenter Goes The Way Of NBC Burbank…But Worse

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BBC Telecenter Goes The Way Of NBC Burbank…But Worse

In it’s heyday, over half of the BBC’s output came from here where 6,000 people worked. Fortunately, Studios 1, 2 and 3 will remain in operation as the BBC Worldwide Service, but the rest of the massive structure will go under the wrecking ball. Here’s the whole sad story with thanks to our UK friend Dave Rimmington. -Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/bbc-television-centre-a-nostalgic-wander-through-the-sets-studios-and-ghosts-of-programmes-past-9751850.html?origin=internalSearch

BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

I am standing on the exact spot where Lulu the elephant evacuated her bowels live on Blue Peter in 1969 and I can’t resist the temptation to point it out. “Look!” I say. “There’s a mark on the floor – it looks like bleach. Is that what you use to clean up elephant poo? Bleach?”
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How’s This For A Flashback?

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How’s This For A Flashback?

Here’s an ad for the first ever episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and goes a long way in clearing up some confusion in the comments section from last week.

As I wrote then, Tom Snyder did a special 90 minute Saturday version of ‘Tomorrow’ with Jerry Lewis to cover the one week pushback of the SNL debut. Some had posted that Billy Crystal was to host the first show and the pushback gave George Carlin the honor of being the first guest host, but that was never the case. It was always Carlin, BUT…Crystal was scheduled to appear. Unfortunately, the show went long and Billy’s segment had to be cut.

It would be interesting to know if Billy made it to the stage in the dress rehearsal or if the cut came that afternoon. Anyone know? Thanks to Doug Gerbino for this classic ad. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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Ever See The Gemini System In Action?

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Ever See The Gemini System In Action?

Dumont was first with this video/film hybrid system which they called the Electronicam, and it debuted just before it was used on ‘The Honeymooners’ Classic 39 film episodes in 1954.

This Gemini System from UK optics company Rank (as in Rank, Taylor, Hobson) came out around 1957, and as the Broadcasting Magazine article states, would eliminate the need for Kinescopes. The problem for Rank was that videotape had just debuted too, but there was a need and use for this…especially when it came to commercial production.

Soon after videotape went into service at the networks, national sponsors began asking for their spots on tape. In order to avoid having to shoot the spots twice, once of film cameras and once for television cameras – or to avoid having a kine print, the Gemini came in handy for shooting both at the same time.

Even into the early 60s, many local stations only had one or two of the expensive video tape machines and still had to run spot from film via telecine chains. Thanks to John Schipp for the article. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee



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Ding, Dong The Witch Is Dead! GE Sign Finally Coming Down…

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Ding, Dong The Witch Is Dead! GE Sign Finally Coming Down…

Most will be glad to know that work began a few days back to take down the GE sign at 30 Rock…soon NBC’s proud peacock will take it’s rightful place here. Thanks to Anthony Quintero for this shot of the work in progress. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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The Heart Of The Magnetic Field Problems For CBS Studio 50

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The Heart Of The Magnetic Field Problems For CBS Studio 50

In one of today’s earlier post about CBS ordering the Maconi Mark VII color cameras, I mentioned the the legendary magnetic field problems they had in Studio 50 and also, Studio 52.

Circled in red is the heart of the problem. That’s where the massive transformers for the subway were located. This is on 53rd Street with Broadway being just up at the corner on your right. The dark building to the right of the transformer building is the stage of The Ed Sullivan Theater (Studio 50) where David Letterman is done.

The building on the left is the rear of what was once CBS Studio 52, with the front entrance on 54th Street. After CBS sold it, it became the famous nightclub “Studio 54”.

Even in the Black and White days, cameras had to have special mumetal shielding inside to block the interference. Jackie Gleason once hired an RCA color truck with TK41s for a test of the show in color in the early 60s, but no matter what they did or where they parked the truck, they could not get a good picture. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee


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Geeky, But Interesting Camera History…CBS And Marconi Color

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Geeky, But Interesting Camera History…CBS And Marconi Color

Being born on Halloween, things in history that happen on that day intrigue me and here are two biggies. On October 31, 1965, CBS Studio 50 made is debut color broadcast of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ with 5 Norelco PC60s.

The very next year, on October 31, 1966, this article appeared in Broadcasting Magazine. It announces the CBS purchase of 39 Marconi Mark VII color cameras, with the first 5 scheduled to arrive in the summer of 1967 at Studio 50.

It has always been my opinion that the Mark VIIs replaced the Norelcos there 18 month after they were first installed. Finally, we have the confirmation. The magnetic field problems at Studio 50 are legendary, and although Norelco modified the 5 cameras they installed to negate that interference, this makes it pretty obvious the CBS was never really happy with the Norelco picture quality from 50.

Somehow when CBS field tested the Mark VII at Studio 50 in 1966, with no modifications to the camera, it worked fine and the magnetic field problems had no effect on it. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee



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In Case You Missed It…Color Video Tape Comparison To Kinescope

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In Case You Missed It…Color Video Tape Comparison To Kinescope

Obviously color makes a big difference, but so does the quality of videotape over kine. This is the “laughing cameraman” sketch that I posted yesterday in a side by side comparison with some neat special effects inserts.

Thanks to Joao Antônio Franz dos Santos for sharing this, but most importantly, thanks to David Crosthwait at DC Video in Los Angeles for making this after transferring the show from a 2″ quad, low band videotape to a digital format for the Lewis family archives. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/XyGxlkRC3xQThe difference between videotape and kinescope.
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‘Tonight’…Son Of ‘The Knickerbocker Beer Show’

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‘Tonight’…Son Of ‘The Knickerbocker Beer Show’

In 1953, WNBT, the local NBC station in New York and its late night movie program was getting clobbered by a better package of films being broadcast every night on the CBS affiliate, WCBS.

Knickerbocker Beer, which was then a major brand, decided it wanted to sponsor something other than late movies on WNBT…say, a variety show. Ted Cott, a successful radio executive who had recently moved into television at the NBC affiliate, suggested Steve Allen as host for the venture.

At the end of August of 1953, a 40 minute weeknight program called ‘The Knickerbocker Beer Show’ debuted. Steve Allen was the host and the legendary Dwight Hemion was directing one of his first shows which originated from Studio A of the WOR 67th Street Studios. At the time, the studio was still owned by WOR and NBC was leasing space, but that changed the next year when the ‘Home’ show with Arline Francis came to the air…NBC took over the whole complex then.

A few weeks after the debut, the show’s name was changed to ‘The Steve Allen Show’ but Knickerbocker was still the sponsor. In the comment section, I’ll show you ticket from the September 16th show.

Done at first without writers and always without much of a budget, Allen’s local show was an immediate success, garnering both critical acclaim and the desired higher ratings. On the show, Allen would play the piano, chat with audience members or guests, bring on Steve Lawrence and/or Eydie Gorme to sing a song (as in this clip) and have fun with the bandleader Bobby Byrne. Allen was basically laying the foundation for all TV talk shows to come. Less than a year later, most of the operation would be moving over to do a network show called ‘Tonight’ which debuted 60 years ago today! Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee

 


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September 27, 1954…’Tonight’ Debuts From The Hudson Theater

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September 27, 1954…’Tonight’ Debuts From The Hudson Theater

Happy 60th Birthday To ‘Tonight’! May you have 60 more!

At the link are the opening minutes of the very first ‘Tonight’ show with Steve Allen. I’m not going to go into great detail on this as we have spotlighted this show’s history many times here, BUT…in the next post, I will give you something Ultra Rare!

As Steve jokes in the last few seconds on this debut video, “if ‘Tonight’ is successful, NBC will have a new show called Son Of Tonight”…actually, this show is the “son of” NBC’s local New York show which we will look at in today’s next post. The original name of that show was ‘The Knickerbocker Beer Show With Steve Allen’.

More on the way. Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8AYUfBt1dE

Taken from the documentary series “Television”, this is a clip from the first episode of the Tonight show with Steve Allen.
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Jerry Lewis…The Laughing Cameraman Sketch

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Speaking Of Jerry Lewis…Here’s The Laughing Cameraman Sketch

In the last post about the delayed SNL debut, I mentioned that Tom Snyder and his guest Jerry Lewis filled the hole left by the one week push back. Lewis and NBC have a long history going back to ‘The Colgate Comedy Hour’ days of the early 50s, and here is a clip from his show from Burbank in 1960.

The laughing cameraman is comedian Joey Faye who was in a lot of Sinatra and Lewis movies. We get to see the RCA TK41s around 2:33 but the intro to “Witchcraft” include a typical Lewis bit about the time delay of this live show.

By the way, he did this bit again in 1967 and I’ll post that clip in Comments. Enjoy and Share! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/BRLAhVFxkzU?t=33sThe Jerry Lewis Show with guest star Helen Traubel, along with appearances by Jerry’s sons Gary and Ronald Lewis.
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The Television Debut Of The SNL Original Cast…Rare & Surprising!

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The Television Debut Of The SNL Original Cast…Rare & Surprising!

As it turns out, “The Not Ready For Prime Time Players” were not even ready for late night television! Really! Here’s the story…

NBC’s new 90 minute, live comedy show ‘Saturday Night Live’ was scheduled to debut at 11:30 on October 4, 1975. The plane truth is, they just could not get the show ready in time for a number of reasons, with timing and blocking among the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Although Tom Snyder’s ‘Tomorrow’ show was a one hour, Monday – Friday production, NBC called on him at the last minute to do special 90 minute Saturday show to cover the SNL hole in their schedule. Fortunately, Jerry Lewis was in town and agreed to do the show. For the first 85 minutes, he was the single guest. The last five minutes were reserved for the introduction of the SNL cast and it’s producer Lorne Michaels.

In this clip, you will see the first ever network appearance of the original cast of ‘Saturday Night Live’. Break a leg tonight SNL and happy 40th Anniversary! Enjoy and SHARE! -Bobby Ellerbee

http://youtu.be/2xQP_Kdt2gEBefore the first show had aired, a bunch of nobodies went on the Tomorrow Show to talk about this weird little show they were starting up – SNL.
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The Brilliant Backstage Ballet Of ‘Saturday Night Live’…My Eye Witness Story …

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The Brilliant Backstage Ballet Of ‘Saturday Night Live’…My Eye Witness Story

Tonight is the debut of Season 40 of SNL, and in honor of that huge milestone, I am reposting this story for those that missed it. I wrote this Sunday morning, May 4th. The night before, I was in Studio 8H for the 8 o’clock SNL dress rehearsal. If you have ever wondered who the people behind the camera are, read on as I have listed them all…they are truly the kings of live variety television. Enjoy and share! -Bobby Ellerbee




LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!

Last night, I was an eyewitness to live television entertainment’s only living legacy…’Saturday Night Live’.

I sat on the front row of the floor seats. Looking at the stage, I was on the left side in the corner seat…only three seats on the front row and to my left was the other half of the 8H floor space…the perfect place to see everything.

I’m going into some detail this morning, but believe me…there will me much more on this! Before I go anywhere though, I must first thank the SNL crew for their incredible hospitality, especially John Pinto and Phil Pernice.

These are the pros that do the work: On Camera 1, our friend John Pinto. This is the Chapman Electra crane camera and his long time driver is Phil Pernice, with Louis Delli Paoli and Robert Mancari handling the boom arm duties.

On Camera 2, Paul Cangialisoi. On Camera 3, Len Weshlel. On Camera 4, Carl Eckert. On Camera 5, our old friend Eric Eisenstein. These are pedestal cameras, but when a portable is needed, one of them will handle that.

I know you will want to join me in wishing Barry Frisher a speedy recovery and return. Barry is a long time crew member and is usually on Camera 4, but the until he returns, another long time SNL cameraman, Carl Ecker, has returned from retirement to fill in.

These are two more men that need to be acknowledged…Ed Ruotolo and Pete Phrane. In a way, these two are “the last of the Mohicans”. Ed and Pete are the only two sound boom operators in live network television!

Knowing what I know now, we really have to thank Lorne Michaels too for keeping the show true to the way it would have been done when live entertainment television was in it’s heyday. Max Liebman and Lorne have a lot in common and it seems that Mr. Michels goes the extra mile to acknowledge that in a way.

Liebman produced NBC’s first ninety minute Saturday night hit… ‘Your Show Of Shows’ with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. That show was done the same way, with ped cameras, a studio crane, two sound booms and a live audience.

To his credit, Michaels has taken this a step further. Like last night, I and forty or so others get to sit in the floor seats each week. This adds intimacy to the presentation, but also a few more degrees of difficulty.

Sketches take place everywhere, on both ends of the studio and in the middle too which means four ped cameras, the Chapman and two sound booms have to move there, set up and be ready three minutes after the last sketch. But remember…there’s scenery too and lots of it! Sage hands are constantly in motion setting up the next scene and striking the last and some of the set pieces are quite large and elaborate, but everything has to move at the same time while staying quiet and out of each others way. This is a huge 3D chess game that is beyond fascinating to watch. On top of all this is the Q card team which has to be in place with the cards over the lens of the correct camera and are all in synch in three or four different places at once. More on them soon.

There are kings, and then there are Kings of Kings. The crews at ‘Saturday Night Live’ are Kings of Kings, and then some! In each one of them, from the floor to the control room to the dressing rooms and beyond, both talent and technical…all of them are living legacies. The art of live variety show production, in all of the world, has only one true home; NBC Studio 8H!

With all due respect to all the other live network crews, especially the brilliant New York video artists behind the cameras at Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and Seth Meyers, you are also Kings of Kings, but you have to admit that SNL is in a class by itself as the format and conditions are very different from any other show. It’s apples and oranges. There will be more on all these great crews later this week.

Before I talk about “dancing” I want to remind you to take a close look at the photos below. I have some very interesting new photos, but in these rehearsal shots, notice the equipment and the people…there is a lot of both. No robotics, no wireless microphones…no skimping. This is full blown, 100% manpower.

Now…to the dance. There is a magical coordination and flow of choreography that goes largely unseen that is absolutely stunning to watch in person. The great shots you see on screen are the product of the dance, but the dance itself is a true sight to behold!

One level of this dance is exclusive to SNL. All live shows have floor traffic but SNL has overhead traffic too, and lots of it! Here, we have Louis and Robert swinging John Pinto’s camera over head AND two sound booms! It was very interesting in Friday’s camera blocking rehearsal to hear a discussion of boom shadows. This is one of the elements exclusive to SNL that the pros there have to deal with, and they do it well. Another part of this “level one” dance is the move…the migration of men and machines from one end of 8H to the other, or somewhere in between. There are utility men and women with each camera to handle the cable which is absolutely necessary, and when they move, it’s done with care, calm and efficiency and is a thing of beauty to behold in itself.

The second level of the dance is most pronounced during the musical guest performances. Frankly, I can not begin to express the art of this dance any more than I can describe the art of this kid in the clip dancing to “Happy” on SNL a few weeks back. He has the music “in him” and it is joyous to watch him turn it loose! It’s not overdone…just tasty and cool! You can see it in him through out the clip. I’m going to find out who he is while I’m here. This is qued to his part. Take a look.

What does this have to do with the SNL camera crew? Every one of them “have the music in them” and express it visually with a ballet of moves that will bring tears to your eyes should you be lucky enough to see it done. All four ped cameramen are peding up and peding down, trucking left and right, in and out, back and forth…all constantly in fluid motion. They trade places with each other on the in and outs and in the center, Pinto and company is booming up and down, and over the heads of the others the whole time. This is true art and these are video artist at work!

Speaking of art…watching Phil, Louis and Robert handle the Chapman Electra is a thrill! World wide, this is the only true studio crane in operation in live television. Everything else that flies is a jib, and with all due respect to the jib operators…there is no comparison. The Electra boom is in perfect balance on the up and down and should Louis and Robert turn loose of the boom arm, it will not move and is rock steady. Seeing Phil back the whole thing into the tunnel under the seats is a sight to behold.

If you think this is all, it’s not. There is more and that will come soon but I’m off now for a full tour of NBC, much of which I have yet to see. In closing, my sincere thanks to everyone at SNL that have made me feel so welcome this week. I am deeply touched and truly honored to have been able to see all of you, and be a witness to the extraordinary work you do.

8H IS the home of the Kings of Kings! Thank you all for continuing the legacy of live television at it’s best! Bobby Ellerbee
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