Posts in Category: Broadcast History

45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Lands On The Moon: Day 6

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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Lands On The Moon: Day 6

Here is the sixth of eight daily articles written for Eyes Of A Generation by Jodie Peeler on this historic event, complete with videos. Enjoy and share!
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In yesterday’s post, you saw the moment when ABC News covered the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle’s touchdown on the Moon. If you paid close attention, maybe you noticed something funny about that moment. In fact, both ABC and CBS (and perhaps NBC, too) landed on the Moon before Armstrong and Aldrin! Here’s how it happened.

The networks’ production staffs had full access to the Apollo 11 flight plan, and had planned every aspect of the mission coverage down to the second. The networks thus knew when to start animation, when to cut to models, when to start special effects, and just about everything else. Had Apollo 11 gone exactly according to plan, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

But, spaceflight being no different than any other form of flight, sometimes things don’t go as you’d hoped. And live television being live television, audiences got to see the result.

What the networks didn’t know was that on final approach to the landing site, commander Neil Armstrong didn’t like what he saw out Eagle’s windows. He thus flew Eagle toward a more favorable landing site a short distance away, adding about 20 seconds to the flight time.

No one knew this in the New York studios; the steady hum of instrument readings from cool-voiced Buzz Aldrin, interspersed at times with the Southern accent of CAPCOM Charlie Duke in Houston, sounded like the kind of dry astro-talk they’d become used to. There was no indication anything irregular was going on. The animation and countdown clocks ticked on.

At the moment the flight plan called for lunar landing, CBS showed animation of the LM touching down and cut to a mockup of Eagle’s instrument panel. In the center of the screen was a large light marked LUNAR CONTACT. At the time called for in the flight plan, the light illuminated, and CBS cut to a model of Eagle on the Moon. Unfortunately, the instrument readings continued from Eagle. Tentatively, CBS played a camera on the LM mock-up sitting on the Moon, and the production team realized what was going on: CBS had landed on the Moon before Apollo 11.

Stomachs dropped in Studio 41’s control room. The camera held on the LM mock-up, with no caption on the screen, for what seemed like an eternal half-minute before Aldrin called “Contact light – okay, engine stop.”

Almost immediately and with palpable relief, CBS threw the caption LUNAR MODULE HAS LANDED ON MOON at the bottom of the screen.

Here’s the CBS coverage, starting about a minute before the planned moment of landing:
http://youtu.be/E96EPhqT-ds?t=13m50s

ABC, unfortunately, fared little better. Also sticking to the flight plan for its cues, ABC used a model of the LM, complete with a little flame shooting out the bottom to simulate the Descent Propulsion System, to depict Eagle’s descent to the Moon. Its model of Eagle, not as detailed as anything CBS was using, hovered in midair for the final minute, interspersed with shots from inside a mockup of the LM cabin with two “astronauts” aboard, before abruptly completing its descent.

At roughly the same moment CBS put Eagle on the Moon, ABC’s model touched down on its lunar surface and the DPS flame went out, and ABC cut to a mock-up instrument panel with a flashing LUNAR CONTACT light.

Eagle, of course, was still flying. There were a few awkward cuts between the interior mock-up and the model until, just in time for the “engine stop” call, the videotape of the model’s “landing” was racked and the little LM landed as Aldrin made the touchdown call.

Here’s how ABC handled it, starting a minute and a half before the flight plan called for touchdown:
http://youtu.be/l1AzFcsHS_w?t=3m44s

The NBC footage of the moment of lunar landing has, unfortunately, not surfaced. If NBC stuck to the flight plan the way ABC and CBS did, then it’s likely all three scored the ultimate scoop on NASA.

The story of the CBS “landing” was a favorite tale of Walter Cronkite’s, who would say with a chuckle that CBS was on the Moon “twenty seconds before Neil Armstrong.” It’s yet another example of how breaking news and live television can make even the best-laid plans go awry.

Tomorrow: A look at how the television pictures got from space to the living room.




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Who Knew? NASA Got An Emmy For It’s Pictures From The Moon!

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Who Knew? NASA Got An Emmy For It’s Pictures From The Moon!

45 years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. They also sent back live television pictures and Mr. Aldrin became the first lunar cameraman.

Five years ago, the TV Academy presented NASA with an engineering Emmy to honor the 40th anniversary of the first live television broadcast from the moon. The event was held August 22, 2009. From ‘Lost In Space’, June Lockhart presented the award and Buzz Aldrin accepting on behalf of NASA.

Thanks to our friend Bob Erbeck for letting us know about this and providing the pictures.


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The Pride Of NBC Burbank…Studio 1

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The Pride Of NBC Burbank…Studio 1

Here’s a look at this gigantic studio from around 1955. Studio 1 is 42′ feet high, 119′ long and 89′ wide with 10,591 square feet of floor space. Studio 3 next door is almost the same size but is one foot shorter coming in at 118′ in length.

Studios 2 and 4 came about three years later and are both 12, 371 square feet. Studio 9 is 11,771 square feet and Studio 11 is 18,079.

Although others may be larger, none is more famous. This was the home of many great shows, but most of all, this was the studio Johnny Carson called home. Enjoy and share!



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By Request…Dinah Shore Rides The Crane Camera…TK40s

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By Request…Dinah Shore Rides The Crane Camera…TK40s

I posted this a few months back but have had a dozen or more requests to see this again, so here we go.

This is from The Colonial Theater which was NBC’s first color facility. A few seconds after this video’s start point, the first camera we see is the TK40 in it’s original configuration…notice there are no vents on the viewfinder housing. The Colonial was the only NBC theater with TK40s and these are the original four pre production/prototype cameras that were delivered in November of 1952. Production in Camden would not start till late 1953 with only 25 TK40s built before a quick switch to the TK41 around January of ’54.

Once the crane camera comes into view, notice it has a vented viewfinder housing, but it is still a TK40. My long study of The Colonial’s cameras has always made me wonder why they left one TK40 with the original unvented VF cover. RCA supplied the updated, vented cover to TK40 owners once the TK41s went into production in 1954.

This is the ‘Dinah Shore Chevy Show’, originating from New York on January 13, 1957. Usually, the show came from Burbank, but for some reason, they are in NY for a couple of weeks. Dinah’s one hour show ran on NBC from October of ’56 till May of ’63 and was always in color. Bob Banner was the producer. Thanks to Dave Miller for sharing this with us.

http://youtu.be/bNt4duaVOYg?t=2m36sDinah Shore is her usual enchanting self on this 1957 Chevy Show with guest stars Art Carney, Stubby Kaye, and special guest Perry Como. Dinah outdoes hersel…
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Remembering James Garner….

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Remembering James Garner….

Sad to report that Mr. Garner died at his home last night in Los Angeles at the age of 86.

http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/james-garner-of-maverick-rockford-files-dies-at-86-1201265361/


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Ultra Rare Photo & Video…In More Than One Way

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Ultra Rare Photo & Video…In More Than One Way

It’s not often that we (1) find a color shot from television’s black and white days, or (2) get a great look out into CBS Studio 33 from the control room, but what we have here goes even deeper.

At first glance, you may think this is ‘You Bet Your Life’ with Groucho Marx, but it’s not. This is ‘Tell It To Groucho’ which only aired for five months in 1962. At the link is the only surviving clip of the show.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgOq9CACy38

This was his last regular series, and when it ended, he went directly to New York as the guest host of the ‘Tonight’ show in the last weeks of the gap between Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. If fact, Groucho introduced Carson on his first night as host, but only the audio of that intro survives.

‘You Bet Your Life’ was actually one of the first television series to be filmed before a live audience…eight months before ‘I Love Lucy’ began doing the same thing. ‘YBYL’ started October 5, 1950 and was filmed in NBC’s Studio D at the old Radio City West location. Eight cameras were used with four shooting and four being reloaded as the 1000 foot magazines could only shoot ten minutes at a time. They would break for commercials and switch the cameras on the dollies in just a couple of minutes.

‘YBYL’ ended it’s run on NBC in September of 1961, but began syndication immediately. With only five months off, ‘Tell It To Groucho’ debuted on CBS on May 31, 1962. Enjoy and share!


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‘Bonanza’…September 12, 1959 – January 16, 1973

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‘Bonanza’…September 12, 1959 – January 16, 1973

In the photo below we see Pernell Roberts, as Adam Cartwright, filming an episode from the first season, which was almost the last season. Initially the show aired opposite CBS blockbuster ‘Perry Mason’ and the ratings were so bad that NBC wanted to kill the show, but RCA had a different idea.

‘Bonanza’ was one of the first series to be filmed in color and looked great on RCA’s big color sets so they took over as the primary sponsor and sold a lot of sets, thanks in part to the scenic Lake Tahoe location footage.

For the first two years, the show aired at 9 on Saturday nights and didn’t break into the top 30 till the second year. In October of ’61, the third season debuted, but it was now on Sunday night at 9 and all across America, you could hear the channels flipping from CBS to NBC at the end of the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ which ended at 9.

That year ‘Bonanza’ was the number two show and stayed in the top three till 1970 and was number one from ’64 till ’67. By 1970, Bonanza was the first series to appear in the Top Five list for nine consecutive seasons (a record that would stand for many years) and thus established itself as the single biggest hit television series of the 1960s. Bonanza remained high on the Nielsen ratings until 1971, when it finally fell out of the Top Ten.

Had CBS not put ‘The Judy Garland Show’ up against ‘Bonanza’ at it’s peak in the ’63 – ’64 season, who knows how long that great show would have lasted. Learning from the Garland experience, CBS put a show against ‘Bonanza’ in 1967 that no one expected to last more than one season, but ‘The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour’ was the show that could finally hold it’s own against the Cartwrights.

In the fall of ’70, the show dropped to number nine. In the fall of ’71, to number twenty and in the last season, the show didn’t even make the top thirty.

By the way, Michael Landon was the only resident of The Ponderosa that didn’t wear a hairpiece. Even Hop Sing, played by Sen Yung. wore a wig with a queue. Enjoy and share!


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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Heads For The Moon: Day 4

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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Heads For The Moon: Day 4

Here is the fourth of eight daily articles written for Eyes Of A Generation by Jodie Peeler on this historic event. Enjoy and share!
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As noted a few days ago, “Broadcasting” Magazine estimated the cost of the networks’ Apollo 11 coverage at $11 million ($71.3 million in 2014 dollars), with $6.5 million ($42.1 million in 2014 dollars) of that in direct production costs, including the multi-network pool. With everything the broadcasts would require – facilities, remotes, and logistical considerations only scratching the surface – and with the length of the coverage pre-empting regular programming, sponsorship took on even more importance than usual. Advertising Age reported that 11 sponsors spent $4 million ($25.9 million in 2014 dollars) on network coverage for Apollo 11.

Of the networks, NBC had perhaps the longest and most famous recurring sponsorship for continuing coverage. In December 1960, Gulf Oil chief Charles Whiteford struck an agreement with NBC’s Robert Kintner for sponsorship of “instant specials,” produced by Chet Hagan and anchored by Frank McGee, which would air in prime time and provide context for events that had happened only a few hours before. When the space program came along, Kintner wanted all-out coverage, and Hagan’s “instant special” unit became the go-to team. Gulf agreed to extend its sponsorship to space coverage.

Thanks to this partnership, NBC viewers remember continuing coverage of news events featuring Gulf commercials, and often a Gulf logo on the anchors’ desks. Anchors would often throw to commercials with a line such as “We’ll be back in a moment after this word from Gulf.” While other sponsors also bought time, Gulf’s association with NBC’s special events coverage through 1973 makes it perhaps the most-remembered sponsorship.

ABC often ran its coverage on a sustaining basis, though sponsors later came on as the 1960s progressed and the network’s news operations grew.
On Apollo 11, ABC’s most prominent sponsor was Tang, the instant orange drink closely associated with the space program, and Tang logos were prominently displayed on the anchor desks.

On the other hand, CBS News policy forbade placement of sponsor logos on desks, and forbade anchors from mentioning sponsors during throws to commercial (a typical throw was something like “CBS News color coverage of the flight of Apollo 11 will continue in a moment”). The only mentions by network personnel came at the start, resumption from local station time, and conclusion of coverage, when CBS announcer Harry Kramer read the “brought to you by…” billboards.

Since Apollo 7 CBS space coverage had been sponsored by Western Electric, the manufacturing and supply unit of the Bell System, which ran soft institutional ads at intervals throughout the coverage. This association continued through the lengthy coverage of Apollos 8, 9 and 10, and CBS naturally assumed Western Electric would do the same on Apollo 11. Two weeks prior to the mission, however, Western Electric informed CBS it would only sponsor one-third of the coverage. CBS thus had to scramble to find replacement sponsors. The International Paper Company (“where good ideas grow on trees”) came to the rescue, buying a third of the coverage as its first-ever network television buy. The remaining third was split between Kellogg’s and General Foods (which promoted its new Maxim freeze-dried coffee).

Even though the networks found sponsors for their Apollo 11 coverage, the effort still ran at a loss. CBS estimated that although it completely sold its ad time for Apollo 11, it still fell short of covering costs by $2.5 million ($16.2 million in 2014 dollars).

(Among other sources, this essay is indebted to the tremendous research into network space coverage conducted by Alfred R. Hogan for his 2005 master’s thesis, “Televising the Space Age.” Hogan’s detailed analysis of CBS spaceflight coverage includes details on sponsorship deals for space coverage, along with a listing of major sponsors for each flight CBS covered.)

Although commercials from Apollo 11 are difficult to find, it’s possible to look at commercials from other missions and give you a taste of what kinds of ads you’d have seen if you’d been watching in July 1969.

Here’s a soft-sell Gulf Oil spot seen on NBC during the Apollo 12 mission – “Bringin’ Home the Oil,” featuring the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. The song, based on “The Gallant Forty Twa,” salutes Gulf’s then-new oil terminal in Ireland’s Bantry Bay.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAFMgt4FeK0

On ABC, you might have seen ads like these, which played up Tang’s fabled association with the space program:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVZz2FdtzOQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t6zoY9zaVQ

A CBS sponsor billboard from the top of the Apollo 11 launch coverage, with Harry Kramer on the announce:
http://youtu.be/fu44hY_OnHo?t=2m55s

From CBS coverage, a Western Electric ad from the Apollo 13 splashdown telecast on April 17, 1970, typical of the institutional spots you’d see from these firms.
http://youtu.be/RU-N3oeETH4?t=7m49s

From the same coverage, Lloyd Bridges narrates an ad for International Paper.
http://youtu.be/vqNIA_mMS0M?t=2m33s



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Stop The Presses! NBC/RCA TK43 History Rewrite!

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Stop The Presses! NBC/RCA TK43 History Rewrite!

Thanks to Martin Perry, here’s more on the mysterious appearance and disappearance of the RCA TK43s at NBC New York. The article is from “Broadcasting Magazine” dated November 21, 1966. This would be coverage of the Senate and House elections midway through LBJ’s first elected term.

I have heard several variations on the TK43s arrival and use that night and until now, had thought there were only two delivered but it seems there were six. I had heard that, over the objections of NBC Chief Video Engineer Fred Himelfarb, the cameras were delivered by RCA a couple of days before and he was instructed by management to use them in a conspicuous location where they could be seen in wide shots, complete with NBC logos.

I’ve also heard that the TK43 images were not actually used on the air. The set up process and time needed to tweak the pictures was notoriously long and I’ve heard that time ran out and the cameramen were just going through the motions with about six TK41s handling the coverage from the floor and the 9th floor balcony in 8H.

This was the first and only time TK43s were used at any US television network, and if what I’ve heard is true, their pictures never made it to air. I think RCA picked up five of the cameras and left one behind which NBC used in Studio 5H which was the always hot, breaking news studio and also an overnight update studio for WNBC.

If anyone knows more, or a different version of this story, and if the cameras were actually used on the air, please comment and let us know. Thank You!


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Remembering Elaine Stritch…

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Remembering Elaine Stritch…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnnGAanLlF8
At the link is a running bit she did with David Letterman on July 5, 1996 that is pure “Elaine”…just as brassy as ever.

Did you know she was the original Trixie Norton on ‘The Honeymooners’? Below is the only photo of her in that roll on November 12, 1951. That episode was the fourth ever Honeymooners sketch and was done on ‘The Dumont Cavalcade Of Stars’, which was hosted by Jackie Gleason.

This sketch with Elaine Stritch is called “The New Television” and this the first time both Trixie and Ed Norton make their appearances with Art Carney debuting as Norton. In the first ever sketch, five weeks earlier, Carney had played a policeman. Trixie, as played by Stritch, was portrayed as a burlesque dancer but Gleason thought that Trixie needed to be a more demure housewife and on December 7, 1951, Joyce Randolph took over the role.

Pictured here is Elaine Stritch, Pert Kelton (the original Alice), Jackie Gleason and Art Carney in his debut role as Ed Norton. Enjoy and share!


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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Heads For The Moon: Day 3

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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Heads For The Moon: Day 3

Here is the third of eight daily articles written for Eyes Of A Generation by Jodie Peeler on this historic event. Enjoy and share!
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For most of the United States, live coverage of Apollo 11’s journey was easily accomplished through the same network relays that brought regular programming. Viewers in Alaska, however, got to watch Apollo 11 through an unusual military-civilian partnership.

In 1969, the network programming that came to Alaska was via film and videotape that was flown up and bicycled among stations. Alaska did not yet have a civilian ground station; although what became the Bartlett Earth Station was under construction near Talkeetna, it wouldn’t be ready until 1970.

Knowing the historical significance of Apollo 11, Alaska’s broadcasters and its Congressional delegation, Senators Ted Stevens and Mike Gravel and Rep. Howard Pollock, sought help for bringing live coverage of Apollo 11 to Alaska. Out of all this came a plan to use Army satellite assets to beam pictures from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey to a military ground station flown to Anchorage. A military satellite over the Pacific would relay the coverage from Fort Monmouth to the Anchorage ground station.

This wasn’t as easy as it sounded, though. For one, the satellite would have to transmit at an awkward angle to reach Alaska. The television signal would need to be converted for transmission via the military satellite link, and then converted back for civilian use. Audio for the broadcasts would be transmitted separately and had to be synchronized with the video.

On top of that came the challenge of choosing which coverage would be transmitted. By lottery, CBS was chosen, and the broadcasts sent to Alaska would come from the live feed of WCBS-TV in New York. However, the Army refused to transmit the commercials, and technicians at Fort Monmouth cut them out of the feed to Alaska.

In spite of all the technical issues, and even though the final plans weren’t in place until 72 hours before the mission began, the unusual arrangement came through and the people of the 49th State got to watch history as it happened. The CBS feed was shared by all three Anchorage television stations, coordinated through CBS affiliate KTVA-TV.

Since the coverage was viewable only in Anchorage, many Alaskans made arrangements to spend the historic days there so they could witness history being made, and travel companies pitched in to help. For instance, Alaska Airlines offered $39.90 flights from Fairbanks to Anchorage for the week of Apollo 11.

As pioneer Alaska broadcaster (and KTVA-TV founder) Augie Hiebert, who played a crucial role in making it all happen, stated in a press release: “I had no idea that we were going to get this kind of quality on a circuit like this that was put together at the last minute and not designed for civilian television in the first place. I think the military did a fantastic job.”

By the way, the CBS color signal was transmitted, in color, on an old Dumont black and white transmitter that had been modified by the KTVA engineers the year before.

Tomorrow: A word about the sponsors that made the networks’ $11 million spectacular possible (but whose messages didn’t reach Alaska).




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July 15, 1968…’One Life To Live’ Debuts On ABC

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July 15, 1968…’One Life To Live’ Debuts On ABC

In its 43 year history, ‘One LIfe To Live’ covered a lot of ground in it’s plot lines, but none were more extraordinary than the “heaven” scenes done in 1987, 2008 and 2012.

Below is our friend Howie Zeidman (left) and Rich Westlein on camera in ABC TV 1 shooting the first visit to “heaven” in 1989 with Ikegami HK 312s and their side mounted teleprompters. The other photo shows how “heaven” would have looked on the screen.

I think the show spent most of it’s life in ABC TV 17 but in 2009 it moved to TV 23 which was about 30% larger. After months of cancellation rumors, ABC announced on April 14, 2011 that ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Life To Live’ would end their runs.

While the cancellations of both soap operas were announced on the same day, ‘One Life To Live’ was to remain on the air 4 months longer because its replacement would not be ready in time. In response to the cancellations, Hoover Vacuums withdrew its advertising from all ABC programs out of protest.

The final episode aired on January 13, 2012, with an open-ended story because the serial was supposed to continue on a cable/internet network at the time the last scenes were taped.

The departure of ‘One Life to Live’ ended a 62-year history of daytime television soap operas broadcast from New York which started in 1950 with the CBS’s daytime drama ‘The First Hundred Years’. Enjoy and share!



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July 17, 1955…Disneyland Opens: Behind The Scenes ABC Video

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July 17, 1955…Disneyland Opens: Behind The Scenes Video

61 years ago today, what was then television’s largest remote took place at the Disneyland Grand Opening. Here is the ultra rare, 14 minute, behind the scenes film produced by ABC to commemorate the massive 29 camera, live broadcast.

This video ends with the narrator saying “And here’s the show”. At this link is the full 90 minutes program, hosted by Art Linkletter, Walt Disney and many more famous faces.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuzrZET-3Ew

Since this embedded video is not available on the internet anywhere but here, please share this so your friends can see it. Enjoy! -Bobby Ellerbee[fb_vid id=”703773192993566″]
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July 17, 1955…Disneyland Opens, Part 1

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July 17, 1955…Disneyland Opens, Part 1

In Part 2, I’ll post an ultra rare ABC film shot that day on how the largest remote in television’s short history was done, but first, here are a couple of rare color shots from the Disneyland opening sent to us by our friend Mike Clark.

Who knew these KABC TK30s were painted orange and had cool, custom gold tone focus demands? The camera on the lift has a Zoomar studio lens and the other camera is using a rare Walker Electro Zoom lens which came before the RCA Electro Zoom model. This lens was designed by cinematographer Joseph Walker in the late 1930s but did not come into being till he retired around 1950, when the ever active Walker built and sold a few dozen for movie and television use before selling the manufacturing rights to RCA around 1952. Enjoy and share!



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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Heads For The Moon: Day 2

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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Heads For The Moon: Day 2

Here is the second of eight daily articles written for Eyes Of A Generation by Jodie Peeler on this historic event. Enjoy and share!
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On July 17, 1969 Apollo 11 was coasting toward its historic rendezvous with the Moon. With all the efforts of launch coverage behind them, the three networks coordinated their coverage from New York. Field correspondents at Mission Control in Houston and at several other points around the country provided updates whenever events warranted – and since not much took place during the trans-lunar coast, there wasn’t that much to report. Meanwhile, the networks prepared for longform coverage of the lunar landing and first steps on the Moon, to come on July 20.

While all three networks went to great lengths to provide special coverage, NBC and CBS dueled in terms of elaborate sets. NBC transformed 30 Rock’s famous Studio 8H into the NBC News Space Center, with Chet Huntley anchoring from a ninth-floor platform. Frank McGee and Peter Hackes, both mainstays of NBC’s spaceflight coverage since it began, handled the more detailed aspects of the flight.

A few blocks away, CBS pulled out the stops and transformed the Broadcast Center’s Studio 41 into an elaborate set for the coverage. As described in the CBS commemorative volume “10:56:20 P.M. EDT 7/20/1969,” designer Hugh Gray Raisky developed an anchor desk that stood 24 feet above the studio floor, set against an artist’s conception of the Milky Way. Two six-foot globes, one of the Earth and one of the Moon, stood to either side of the desk. Nearby, correspondent David Schoumacher provided updates from a status desk. Elsewhere in the studio were models and dioramas to simulate what was going on.

One of the most famous was a conveyor belt with a simulated lunar surface as seen in the photos below. In conjunction with a model of the Apollo spacecraft, the “lunar surface” was keyed against a space backdrop to provide a picture of the spacecraft flying in lunar orbit. In all, CBS deployed 16 cameras throughout Studio 41 during the Apollo 11 coverage, doing everything from covering the anchor desks to providing information for the anchors over a closed-circuit setup.

While NBC brought spacecraft mock-ups into 8H for technical explanations of the Apollo spacecraft, CBS used live remotes from where the spacecraft were built. Correspondent Bill Stout reported from North American Rockwell in Downey, California, where he sat inside a life-size model of the Command Module with North American test pilot Leo Krupp showed viewers what was going on. At the Grumman factory in Bethpage, Long Island, where the lunar modules were built, correspondent Nelson Benton did likewise with Grumman test pilot Scott MacLeod.

In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the unorthodox methods that got live coverage of Apollo 11 to the people of Alaska.



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The First CBS Color Trucks…Circa 1966

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The First CBS Color Trucks…Circa 1966

I’m not sure if our friend Dave Minott was involved in building this first CBS Labs Color truck, but he was there for all the rest. The cameras (with no cables attached) are newly delivered Norelco PC60s. This is quite interesting and I hope those of you that worked on these trucks will chime in with your stories. Enjoy and share!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQalMEtkSS0

CBSMUA2
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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Leaves For The Moon: Day 1

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45 Years Ago Today…Apollo 11 Leaves For The Moon: Day 1

With these daily articles written for us by Jodie Peeler, we’ll follow the story of two missions…the one “in the air” and the one “on the air”. She has done a beautiful job of capturing the details and emotion of that time with words and relevant video clips, but it will be made all that much better with your recollections, photos and comments on watching and working on the NASA space missions. Enjoy and share! Bobby Ellerbee
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On this day in 1969, Apollo 11 began its historic journey to the Moon. The first landing by humans on another world drew heavy worldwide media attention throughout the long-anticipated mission. Four previous manned Apollo flights had demonstrated the spacecraft and procedures would work, and now Apollo 11 was set to fulfill the goal established by President Kennedy in May 1961. In the coming days, we’ll take a closer look at some aspects of how the networks covered this momentous voyage.

The launch was covered by all three major networks in the United States. ABC’s longtime science editor Jules Bergman handled duties from the Kennedy Space Center, with Frank Reynolds anchoring from New York. NBC built an elaborate Space Center set in New York’s Studio 8H, where Chet Huntley and Frank McGee did anchoring duties. David Brinkley (who, oddly enough, wasn’t very interested in the space program) was sent to KSC to cover the launch.

CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite covered the launch from KSC for his network, as he had since 1961; serving as his “color man” was Apollo 7 commander Wally Schirra, one of the original seven astronauts. Also at the Cape to cover various aspects of the story were, among others, Heywood Broun and Eric Sevareid, who was covering his first manned spaceflight. Arthur C. Clarke was also on hand to provide commentary, as he had during the CBS coverage of Apollo 10.

While previous CBS launch broadcasts had been configured as remotes, executive producer Robert Wussler decided the importance of Apollo 11 meant the launch broadcast should be controlled from Florida, and a control room was constructed below the CBS studio at the Kennedy Space Center. According to the official CBS history of its Apollo 11 coverage, the only problem with the launch day broadcast came when NASA’s launch pad microphones failed a few minutes before launch. NASA offered to provide the networks with an audio recording of the Apollo 10 liftoff synchronized to Apollo 11’s liftoff, but CBS News President Richard Salant refused the offer. CBS viewers thus heard the natural sound of the launch as picked up by its microphones in front of the studio.

Apollo 11 received its “go” for trans-lunar injection, the rocket burn that would send the spacecraft out of Earth orbit and toward the Moon, shortly after midday. Soon after, once it was clear Apollo 11 was safely on its way to the Moon, the networks signed off their coverage from Florida. Reporters and producers headed back to New York or to assist with coverage from Mission Control in Houston, while “clean-up” crews remained behind to close up shop at the Cape.

“Broadcasting” Magazine estimated that, in all, Apollo 11 coverage cost the three networks more than $11 million, with $6.5 million of that for direct production costs.

In the next installment, we’ll take a look at the networks’ arrangements for developments throughout the mission, including the studios constructed for continuing coverage of the flight.
– Jodie Peeler

The start of ABC’s launch day coverage, with Frank Reynolds:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQhC2EzxKCA

Jules Bergman narrates ABC coverage’s of the Apollo 11 launch:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LTGUsEv_Mo

The beautiful and haunting intro to the CBS launch broadcast:
http://youtu.be/fu44hY_OnHo?t=1m40s

CBS coverage of the Apollo 11 launch:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmHABUfjYPI

NBC coverage of the Apollo 11 launch:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiiwAfGjLxU






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Lightning Strikes Twice! A Personal Note…Meet Teddy!

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Lightning Strikes Twice! A Personal Note…

Meet Teddy! Here he is on the left with me and JJ on Saturday…the day he came home to live with us.

As many of you know, I lost my great little buddy Jack about three weeks ago. I’d raised him from a puppy and we had twelve great years together. Teddy is not Jack’s replacement, because there can never be one, but amazingly, his personality and appearance are very similar and help fill a big hole that JJ and I have been in since last month.

Teddy is about eight or nine and I can’t tell who’s more happy to have him here…me or JJ. They have been playing almost nonstop. Life short…enjoy it! Thank you for all the kind notes over the past few weeks! Bobby, JJ and Teddy Ellerbee


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Surprise Follow Up…CBS Studio 72/Reeves Teletape

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Surprise Follow Up…CBS Studio 72/Reeves Teletape

In response to yesterday’s post about CBS Color Studio 72, which later became Reeves Teletape, WNBC’s Geoffrey DeVoe sent this interesting video. Here’s Tony Randall on WNBC’s ‘Live At Five’ with Jack Cafferty talking about the television production space shortage in New York in the early 80s.

Randall’s show, ‘Love Sidney’ which aired on NBC from ’81 till ’83 had been pushed all over NY in it’s first season of taping and had just moved to Reeves Teletape, but had to go to LA for seven weeks because another project was already on their books…’Sesame Street’. I think that prior to the move to Reeves, ‘Sesame’ had been done at WNET in New York, but I’m not sure. Anyone know?

Cafferty mentions the first couple of shows were done “across the hall in studio 6A”. Actually, the first show was taped in NBC studio 8H, and then moved for the second taping to the Teletape studio. They could only do the first show in 8H because of that studio’s commitment to ‘Saturday Night Live’.

When it returned to New York, ‘Love, Sidney’ taped in both NBC studio 8H as well as at the CBS Broadcast Center. I don’t know if they ever went back to Reeves or not, but given the long run of Reeves involvement with ‘Sesame’, I suspect those seven weeks there turned into many years. Enjoy and share!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUloz_LFz-4

This is from WNBC’s Live At Five newscast. Tony Randall and Nancy Littlefield of the NYC Film/TV Commission join anchor Jack Cafferty. At issue was the fact …
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You’ve Come A Long Way Baby…

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You’ve Come A Long Way Baby…

With the 1960 election piece just posted, this photo of a stagehand changing the tote board numbers by hand popped into my head. These photos are from ABC’s 1952 election coverage which was pretty much a landslide for Dwight Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson.

This year computers would play a part in the elections as voter forecast tools at CBS and NBC, but not in the production of the live coverage. That was all still low tech, manual labor literally done behind the scenes. More in the next post. Enjoy and share.



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The CBS Color Girl…

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The CBS Color Girl…

NBC had auburn haired Marie McNamara in New York as television’s first and original “color girl”, but Television City had the pretty, blond Ann Palmer.

Adjusting the primary colors was one thing, but getting the fleshtones right was critical. Both Ann and Marie spent hundreds of hours posing for the cameras, but were never seen on television.

This is Television City Studio 33 and this may be ‘The Gary Moore Show’ on a summer visit from New York around 1960. Enjoy and share!


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Behind The ‘Laugh In’ Joke Wall, Photo & Video

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Ultra Rare…Behind The ‘Laugh In’ Joke Wall, Photo & Video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFksUB9gWyk
First, there is an “extra special” blooper at the 1:30 mark of this great ‘Laugh In’ joke wall blooper reel. By the way, the first person you see is Producer George Schlatter, with the bead.

This is the only known photo of this famous ending portion of the show that gives us a look at how it was staged. I think ‘Laugh In’ came from NBC Burbank Studio 3, but over the years, could have been done in more than one location there.

Although this was a color show, notice the blooper reel is in black and white and here’s why. This was one of the first weekly shows to be shot and edited on color videotape, but it was still a hand splicing task back then. The best way to edit the show was to also make a kinescope of the live taping and first, edit the kine film. The cuts were very fast and it took the editors about five or six weeks to get each episode ready for air. Enjoy and share!


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The First Sign Of Trouble At RCA…

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The First Sign Of Trouble At RCA…

Thanks to John Schipp, here is a great photo of Joe Garagiola and painter Leroy Neiman with Art Parker behind the camera…a Norelco camera!

In 1964, RCA stopped production of the RCA TK41C and was switching over to the TK42. Fred Himelfarb was head of NBC Labs at 30 Rock and had been involved with the testing of the 42 and he, along with his bosses, was not thrilled with the results. About this time, NBC was stepping up it’s game in sports coverage and something had to be done to put more color cameras on their new mobile units.

In 1965, Fred had Norelco deliver a couple of cameras to his lab for testing. Over the course of a year, he made some modifications and changed a few specs which Norelco incorporated into all of their cameras. Fred also added a little “secret sauce” and had Norelco incorporate those changes into 35 special order cameras.

This was a big deal. Here is NBC, the child of RCA refusing to buy RCA’s big new cameras and going to a competitor. This made a lot of waves in Camden and Princeton, but it did force the secret TK44 development team into the lead. The cameras began to come in around September of ’67 and the World Series was coming up, so it was determined that the Norelcos would get a baptism by fire and there is a funny story that goes with that event.

The NBC and Norelco brass were at the first game and had their own special trailer with 4 monitors. Fred was in the control trailer and after the game he went to the Norelco trailer where there was a lot of backslapping. The most praise went to the shot from the left field camera. That’s when Fred told them he’d brought along a TK41C for comparison…guess where that was! Yep…left field.

Fred told me the whole story the year before he died. Just so you know, Mr. Himelfarb started with RCA as an engineer on the TK40s in Camden. When the first ones were shipped to NBC’s Colonial Theater in late 1952, Fred came with them as the direct link back to RCA and made many improvements in the TK41s over the years, including designing the single cable. Now you know. Enjoy and share!


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CBS Studio 72…Their Only New York RCA Color Facility

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CBS Studio 72…Their Only New York RCA Color Facility

In the early 50’s, the network had a Field Sequential Color setup in
The Peace Theater at 1280 Fifth Avenue. This was called CBS Color Studio 57. After RCA won the color war, that studio went back to a black and white facility.

In early 1954, CBS took over an old RKO movie theater at Broadway and 81st Street and called it Studio 72. They expanded the stage from 2000 to 5000 square feet and installed four RCA TK41 color cameras. If you look closely at the photo, you will see a fifth camera under a cover just over the third monitor from the left. That camera is an RCA TK40 which CBS had Philco purchase for it on the sly in 1953 so they could get a look inside.

Although it never got much use, the studio switching system could handle five studio cameras, four telecine cameras, two remote signals and a black signal generator which was necessary to maintain the subcarrier burst signal when the picture faded to black.
There were eight panels where the cameras could be connected with five on the stage and three in the balcony.

Does anyone know what shows may have originated from Studio 72? Also shown it the studio floorplan. Enjoy and share!



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Behind The Scenes In The Early Days Of ‘Today’

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Behind The Scenes In The Early Days Of ‘Today’

Until recently, I had always wondered where this ramp on the first ‘Today’ show set went and why they kept it instead of covering it over. Now I know…this was the short cut to the control room in the basement, but there is an interesting story about the ramp.

Charlie Andrews was one of the original writer/producers for ‘Today’ and tells a funny story about one of the show’s creators Abe Schecter. “Abe was actually the first producer of the show and a hard news kind of guy. He was a wild, profane and tough little guy that was about five feet tall and when he sat, his feet barely touched the ground”.

Andrews sat next to Abe in the control room and when a shot was too long or from the “wrong” camera, he would start to scream about it and would run up the ramp. There was a monitor at the top of the ramp and usually before Abe would get half way up, the shot had changed and he came back to the control room. The crew called this frequent occurrence “‘The Schecter Ramp Dance”. Now you know.


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J Fred Muggs…The Inside Story And Some Funny Monkey Business

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J Fred Muggs…The Inside Story And Some Funny Monkey Business

The story I am about to share is from the book “The Box…An Oral History Of Television, 1920 -1961” by Jeff Kisseloff. I highly recommend it.

The first Associate Producer for the ‘Today’ show was Len Safir, who was also in on the planning for the ‘Tonight’ show. It was his idea to add the chimp to the show and most of this is from his recollections of the events in a paraphrased form from him and Gerald Green.

Len was brought in from NBC’s ‘Tex And Jinks’ show about a month into the ‘Today’ show run as things weren’t going as well as hoped for televisions first early morning show.

Safir thought the show needed some comedy and remembered a cartoon he had seen…a gorilla leaving a desk and a man taking his place and saying, “and now the human side of the news”. He thought, let’s get a monkey, dress him up and put him at a typewriter and every once in a while, cut to him banging away.

He called a pet shop and a few days later a staffer rushed into his office and shouted “there’s one at the elevator”. Two men were there with a baby chimp in diapers. Safir said “He was about the cutest thing you had ever seen”. The next morning, they put him on the show.

All they did was sit him next to Garroway and Muggs was an immediate sensation…the chimp was irresistible. Ratings started to climb and so did J Fred…all over the place. He had the run of the studio and his own cameraman…Jack Heyman who followed him all over the studio and at the window with the street side crowds.

Gerald Green was one of the people tasked by NBC President Pat Weaver to create the ‘Today’ show, and here is his remembrance of the J Fred days. This is the funny part.

“I liked him and he liked me so he never bit me, but he would occasionally bite people he didn’t like or deserved to be bitten, like Martha Ray.”

Green said, you were alright if you petted Muggs and talked to him. Muggs liked Paul Cunningham who put the newscast together overnights and Paul usually stopped to say hello to him when he passed by. One day though, Cunningham was rushed and frazzled by a big breaking story and when Muggs reached out, he told him to F. O.

A few minutes later, someone cracked Cunningham across the back with a broomstick and knocked him out of his chair. Can you guess who did that? If you guessed Muggs, you’re right.

As is usually the case, as Muggs grew older, he became more aggressive and at times, Garroway would be on camera with a hidden hand bleeding from a bite. The search for a new home for J Fred was begun and Marlin Perkins at The Chicago Zoo agreed to accept him and one morning on the show, a three limousine caravan left for the airport with J Fred Muggs. Enjoy and share!




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‘Mr. I Magination’…First CBS Childrens Show

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‘Mr. I Magination’…First CBS Childrens Show

I must admit, I’m to young to have seen this, but have heard about it. Do you remember this?

This show debuted on CBS on April 24, 1949 and ran live as a half-hour weekly show till 1952. In a way, this was the CBS answer to ‘Howdy Doody’ on NBC and ‘The Small Fry Club’ on Dumont, but those shows were M-F shows. It’s likely the WCBS had a local kids show, but I don’t know…do you?

The host, Mr. I. Magination (Paul Tripp), dressed as a train engineer, and each week, different child actors would come in and ask questions about occupations, historical figures and activities and guests would come in to answer. The train could also travel in time so figures like Annie Oakley could be interviewed as is the case in this 1952 video. https://archive.org/details/Mr.I.Magination1952

Guests were as diverse as Damu, a lion tamer from Ringling Brothers Circus, and test pilot Scott Crossfield. Yul Brynner served as the director of the show at times, but did not appear as a performer. Two other actors that were later famous did perform on the show…Walter Matthau and Richard Boone. Incidentally, Tripp later made an appearance on Boone’s ‘Have Gun Will Travel’. Enjoy, share and help us fill in the blanks if you know more on this and ealy WCBS kids shows.


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The NBC 8G Studio Cameras…One Of Television’s Rarities

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The NBC 8G Studio Cameras…One Of Television’s Rarities

NBC’s official grand opening date for 8G, their second ever studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza is listed as April 22, 1948. Actually, television had been coming from 8G long before that while it was still designated a radio studio.

The first show ever to come from 8G was also television’s first variety show…’Hourglass’, which debuted May 9, 1946. Later that year, ‘Let’s Celebrate’ was done here as a one time show on December 15, 1946 with Yankee’s announcer Mel Allen as host.

‘The Swift Show’ (a Swift Company sponsored game show), and ‘Americana’ (a game show about American history) started here in 1947.

With the RCA TK30 planned release date of late 1946, I have often wondered why the NBC engineers built these cameras to use in 8G but recent research put a new face on this and answers a few big questions.

NBC knew television had to grow fast after WW II, but there were still war related shortages, like phosphorus for kinescope screens and military embargos on technology like the Image Orthicon which was used in guidance systems. Believing that new cameras would come more slowly than RCA was planning on delivery, NBC engineers knew they had to have more than the cameras in 3H to work with. On the sly, the got four RCA Image Orthicons and four seven inch kinescopes for the VF and started to work building a camera I call the NBC ND-8G. The ND was an NBC engineering code that stood for New Development.

I think these cameras were actually ready for use by the spring of 1946. ‘Hourglass’ debuted from 8G on May 9, 1946 which was six months before the TK30 scheduled release in October. NBC got their first four TK30s in late June, just in time for the Billy Conn – Joe Louis rematch at Yankee Stadium.

I don’t think 8G, as a radio studio, had built in audience seating like 6A, 6B and 8H, but it was thankfully three times the size of NBC’s only other television studio, 3H. “Radio Age” states that 8G could handle four consecutive shows, which meant the often fifteen minute and half hour shows, with only one small set, could be staged one after the other from different walls of the studio.

Below we see the cameras in action on ‘The Philco Television Playhouse’ which originated in 8G beginning in October of 1948. Notice the camera peephole in the wall covered by a painting. Enjoy and share!



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‘The Patsy’…Marconi Mark VIs and RCA TK60s In Action

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‘The Patsy’…Marconi Mark VIs and RCA TK60s In Action, Exclusive

From the 1964 Jerry Lewis, Paramount release, ‘The Patsy’, here is an edited clip you can only see here. This gives us a good look at two classic cameras in action. The Marconi Mark IV cameras in the first part are owned by KTLA which was then owned by Paramount as well.

‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ used Marconi Mark IVs, but in the movie version of the show, they are using RCA TK60s. Had they switched the cameras used in the shoots, they would have been historically correct, but hey…it’s only make believe right? By the way, Lloyd Thaxton is the “host”. Remember his shows? Enjoy and share![fb_vid id=”701688746535344″]
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History In The Making…The Start Of RCA’s World’s Fair Exhibit

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History In The Making…The Start Of RCA’s World’s Fair Exhibit

In these newly discovered photos. we see from left to right NBC President Lexon Lohr and RCA Chairman David Sarnoff signing the agreement to build the RCA Exhibition Building with Grover Whalen, who was President of the World’s Fair Corporation.

I don’t have a firm date for this, but suspect this is 1937. The photos are among the first that show us the original RCA Iconoscope studio cameras in NBC Studio 3H. These dark color cameras precede the RCA A500 Iconoscope cameras, which were painted silver.

The NYWF of 1939–1940 was the first exposition to be based on the future, with an opening slogan of “Dawn of a New Day”, and it allowed all visitors to take a look at “the world of tomorrow”.

Until just before the fair opened on April 30, 1939, Studio 3H was under the control of RCA and had been since it was converted from radio in 1935. In early April, 3H was put under the control of NBC Television in preparation for the network’s official launch which occurred on April 30, 1939 with live broadcasts of the fair’s opening with remarks from President Franklin Roosevelt. Enjoy and share!



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