Posts in Category: Broadcast History

The “F” Word’s Television Debut!

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The “F” Word’s Television Debut!

George Carlin would love this. In March of 1947, nine months before Howdy Doody debuted in December, Bob Emory went on the air with the first hit kid show, live from New York. The show was called ‘The Small Fry Club’. It was an instant hit and New Yorkers fought tooth and nail for tickets for their kids.

Several years earlier, Emory had worked with Bob Smith to create ‘The Triple B Ranch’ for radio, which is the forerunner of the Doody show, so Emory knew what worked. The Small Fry show aired Monday through Friday at 7PM for five years on The Dumont Network.

As we all know now, no live show is without peril…especially kids shows. ‘The Small Fry Club’ had a large set and even though Dumont’s studio was state of the art, the overhead lights were not powerful enough, so cherry lights were added to the front of the camera pedestals. One day in the summer of 1947, the floor manager was listening in his headset for a cue from the control room and with his concentration diverted, backed into one of the cameras set of cherry lights.

First, there was a blood curdling scream, then a very loud and clear “Fu*k” from the floor which Emory tried to cover with an extra big laugh (which wasn’t hard to do). The photo below shows the result of this occasion as from then on, the cherry lights were enclosed in metal boxes.


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Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 2

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Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 2

The 13-story, brown brick and terra cotta office building with a ground-floor theater was built by Arthur Hammerstein between 1925 and 1927, and was named Hammerstein’s Theater after his father, Oscar Hammerstein I. The theater auditorium had a number of beautiful stain glass windows that were removed for safe keeping when the Letterman renovation was done.

Below left you can see part of one of a dozen or so wooden crates that these windows are safely packed in. The NYC Historical Commission requires that they be safeguarded and stored on site.

In the center we see the “elephant columns”. At some point in the 1950s, Sullivan took interest in an elephant act touring with Ringling Brothers and wanted them on the show. Before they arrived, some calculations were made and it was determined that they were too heavy for the stage without some extra support, so, these two columns were added under center stage. Today, this space is the Green Room for visiting bands that close the show.

Behind the doors on the right is where the Studio 50 control room used to be. This photo was taken from the lobby entrance near the box office. To the left is the interior theater lobby and directly behind me is the arrival lobby and the main entrance doors on Broadway. This space is now part of the auditorium again and the control room is in the basement with all the other production and technical elements of the show. More soon!




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Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 1

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Deep Inside The Ed Sullivan Theater, Part 1

On the left, Jackie Gleason’s favorite door! This door is located in the basement and on the other side of it is a now capped set of stairs, but in Gleason’s time, the stairs let to The Cordial Bar. The Cordial was located inside the 13 story office building which adjoins the ground floor theater. Gleason and later, Sullivan guest stars could have a cocktail without ever leaving the building.

Unlike Hurley’s near NBC, The Cordial did not have a hotline, but the phone number was as familiar to stage manager Eddie Brinkmann as his own home number.

Speaking of Gleason, here is a great wall size photo of him in the crew lounge. The cameraman on the right is CBS legend Pat McBride who worked both Gleason and Sullivan. ‘The Jackie Gleason Show’ debuted from here, CBS Studio 50, on September 19, 1952. Although Sullivan’s show started in 1948, his show came from CBS Studio 51, The Maxine Elliot Theater till 1954, which is when the show moved to 50.

Speaking of legendary CBS cameramen, I was thrilled to see Dave Dorsett’s locker still intact…name plate and all! Dave retired from Letterman a few years ago, but comes back occasionally for fill in and, just for the fun of it. Dave Dorsett was with CBS for over 45 years and where Walter Cronkite went, Dorsett went too. Dave moved to Late Night when the show moved to CBS and was one of Letterman’s favorite foils on the set.

The staff and crew of ‘Late Night With David Letterman’ is a very warm and loyal bunch. It’s a family all it’s own and I am grateful to them for their hospitality and welcome. The Dorsett locker says a lot about their attitude and style. It’s a nice touch from some very nice people.




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More Early French Television…What An Interesting Camera!

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More Early French Television…What An Interesting Camera!

This footage is from 1956 and shows what I think is one of the very first Thomson made cameras. We first climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, where the transmitter is but at 1:20, get into the control room and at 2:27, we get a full minute of this camera at work.

Notice the cameraman’s intercom mic is mounted under the viewfinder cover. I have never seen an entire lens turret move back and forth to achieve focus, but this one does and snaps smartly when racking from one lens to the next via the rear clutch. Around 3:20 there is a few second of black screen and then the stage hands tear down (not strike) the old set and put up a new on. Bon Ami!

Thanks again to our friend in Ireland, Brock Whaley for sharing this look inside the 819 line system.

http://www.ina.fr/video/CPF02009182/tournage-tele-dans-les-studios-de-la-tour-eiffel-video.htmlReportage sur le processus de fabrication d’une émission de télévision, à partir de l’émetteur de la tour Eiffel pour arriver dans un studio de télévision. Document muet.
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I’ve Seen Alligator Shoes, But Never An Alligator Camera…Till Now!

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I’ve Seen Alligator Shoes, But Never An Alligator Camera…Till Now!

You won’t believe the paint job on these 1947 French cameras! The build is pretty interesting too! Notice that the viewfinder is built into the pedestal column.

Thanks to Brock Whaley in Ireland, we are able to see behind the scenes of the French 441 line television system. We get into the studio at 2:42 and stay in the studio and control room till 6:30. At 2:30 and 4:42 we get a quick glimpse of an EMI Emitron camera which has been replaced by the newer Iconoscope cameras with their Alligator paint jobs.

http://www.ina.fr/video/CPF04010181/television-oeil-de-demain-video.htmlDans un premier temps, un exposé sur les techniques de la production télévisuelle en 1947 (caméras, plateaux, régie…). Le tournage a lieu en studio et les cameramen filment un spectacle de flamenco.
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The Other Half Of ABC TV3

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The Other Half Of ABC TV3

Last week, I posted a photo of me at the ABC News anchor desk, the place Diane Sawyer sits. It is an L shaped desk with the long part of the L on her left in the opening few shots. I was sitting at the long L part of the desk.

As she delivers the news, this is what she sees in the other half of TV3.

On the left below, you see the short part of the L desk and beyond it is the set of ‘Real Biz’ with Rebecca Jarvis. This is a business headlines show mostly seen on the ABC News website, but I think it’s also a GMA insert.

There are four Ikegami robotic cameras in the studio which has half of the long wall (to our left) open so that cameras can move into the adjoining producers space (with windows to the outside) when Diane turns to deliver the news from the long side of the L. Either way she is shot, there are huge video walls behind her. On the right is part of the massive TV3 control room.

Soon, we’ll see that Brian Williams also reports from a studio with two sets at NBC.




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What Do These RCA TK41 Color Cameras Have In Common?

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What Do These RCA TK41 Color Cameras Have In Common?

On the left is a bank of TK41s at NBC’s Ziegfeld Theater in 1961. On the right is a bank of TK41s at NBC Studio 8H in 1969. What they have in common is matching serial numbers…they are the same cameras!

A week ago today, I had lunch with SNL crane cameraman John Pinto, and this information was among the many historical gems from that conversation.

The first show the new TK41Bs broadcast was the debut of ‘The Perry Como Show’ on September 22, 1956. NBC had just converted the Ziegfeld from a live theater to a color television facility at great expense. Como left for NBC’s Brooklyn I in 1961, but color shows continued from the theater till 1963. Around spring of ’63, planing work began for 8H’s color conversion and after the new shows for the 62-63 season had completed, the physical work started.

There were four cameras at the Ziegfeld which moved to 8H. The 8H photo is on the set of ‘The Match Game’ in the first few months of 1969. This photo from our friend Bob Batsche is quite likely one of the last shots of 8H with 41s as the first four RCA TK44A cameras were delivered to WBAP in Dallas in mid 1969.



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‘Today’…Then And Now

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‘Today’…Then And Now

The photo on the left was taken January 14, 1952. This was the debut of ‘Today’ and on camera is our friend Frank Merklein, who’s now 91. Also on camera that day (not shown) was Harry Katzman who’s now 90. Harry later moved to video and stayed on the show for 15 years.

Many crew’s have come and gone, but the team on duty Tuesday morning included David Chesney, Jim Corgan, Mason Gunch (jib), Thomas Hogan, Robert “Rope” Jaeger, Robert Lieberman, John Montalbano (stedicam) and Jimmy Mott.

On the right is a photo from 1958, just before the move inside to color studio 3K. I’ve always wondered why they never made use of RCA’s fantastic little portable mini cameras. NBC used them at the political conventions in 1952 and Steve Allen used one occasionally for his “man on the street” segments on ‘Tonight’ in 1954.

I guess they were comfortable sending Dave Garroway outside with a mic and shooting him through the window. Except for their four years in 3K, ‘Today’ has spent it’s whole life on 49th Street. First at the RCA Exhibition Hall which is now Christie’s, then in The Florida Showcase which is across 49th Street from Christie’s and now Studio 1A. I’m sure the show’s creator, Pat Weaver, is proud…maybe even proud as a peacock!

Thanks to our friend, ‘Tonight’ cameraman, Kurt Decker for his help with the crew names.




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Camera Bashing…David Letterman’s Favorite Warm Up Trick

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Camera Bashing…David Letterman’s Favorite Warm Up Trick

I hope Larry Thorpe and our friends at Canon are seeing this. You couldn’t ask for a better ad campaign premise on Canon durability.

This is Camera 2 on the set of the Letterman show. The bashing started long ago when Dave Dorsett was on this camera but continues with Al Chalino at the controls.

Before the show, announcer Alan Kalter comes out and starts the warm up with some help from Paul Shaffer and company. The second half of the pre show is done by David himself and the first thing he does on his entrance each night is to swing the hand held mic a few times and with practiced aim, let’s it land with a loud “thunk” on top of the Camera 2 lens.

With the camera in the full down position, he talks to the audience with one foot on the pedestal base and rests his right arm on the lens. The end of the lens is against his chest and actually, it looks extremely comfortable. I wonder just how many lens shrouds they’ve been through over the years? As for the handheld mics, I think they may last about a month (photo below in Comments) before they peter out.




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Will Buster and Riley Go To ‘Late Night’ With Stephen Colbert?

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Will Buster and Riley Go To ‘Late Night’ With Stephen Colbert?

Left and center are the dogs of ‘The Colbert Report’, Riley and Buster. I met them the other day while I was visiting the show at NEP Studio 52. Believe me…I was impressed.

I had already picked up on a warm atmosphere at Coblet’s HQ, but when the dogs showed up…that sealed the deal. I was already glad that Stephen was chosen to succeed David Letterman, but now that I know he and his staff are “dog people”, all the better. With all due respect to “cat people”, dogs rock and in my opinion, it is not a coincidence that DOG is GOD spelled backward.

There is in dogs a love like no other! On the right is me with my dogs Jack (L) and JJ. When I got home yesterday, we had a full half hour of face licking and belly rubbing, and I loved every second of it, and with them in the bed with me (as usual), I slept like a baby last night.

Thanks to Bill Willig, Studio 52 facility manager, for the tour on Monday and for sending along the photos.




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NBC Studio 8G…’Late Night With Seth Meyers’

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NBC Studio 8G…’Late Night With Seth Meyers’

Yesterday, I showed you the “smoke machine” and described the theatrical effect of bringing the light beams into play. You can see that on the right.

On the left is the 8G camera crew with some real pros! Two of these names will be quite familiar to the ABC family as Paul Martens and Gene Kelly have spent many years there before becoming part of the new NBC crew assembled for the Meyers show.

Left to right are Paul Martens (camera), Buck Buchanan (jib), Ryan Fox (utility), Gene Kelly (camera), Kenny Coyle (utility), Mike Knarre (camera) and Mike Zecca (camera).

When I was in 8G last Wednesday, I didn’t get to meet them but to my great delight, Mike Knarre invited me back to say hello. When I got there Monday morning, Buck Buchanan’s jib had been remounted on a Vinten Fulmar pedestal for smoother action and better control. Paul spent thirty five year at ABC and his first camera was a Norelco PC70. Gene was at ABC nearly thirty years.

The one thing I forgot to do while I was in 8G was to get a few pictures of Bob Friend, but I hope Mike will help me with that. Bob has been the head electrician in 8G since 1992, but his service at NBC started long before that. As I have said before, Bob Friend has the perfect last name…he’s a nice as they come and knows 30 Rock like the back of his hand.

For the record, although we in the south have the better known reputation for hospitality, I am here to tell you that northern hospitality is alive and well! I can not fully express my gratitude for the warmth of the reception that I had in New York. Everyone at ABC, CBS, NBC and NEP (the Colbert and Stewart show homes) were gracious and friendly beyond description. I did not encounter even one “grumpy New Yorker” anywhere…even on the streets! For yankees, they’re actually pretty good people! Bobby Ellerbee



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The CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley

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The CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley

On April 19, 1962, Walter Cronkite took over as CBS news anchor. Like the Douglas Edwards program that had preceded his, the show was fifteen minutes long and the title was ‘Walter Cronkite With The News’.

On September 2, 1963, CBS was the first to go to a half hour format and that day the show changed it’s name to ‘The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite’. Since 2011, Scott Pelley has been the anchor and the show is done from Studio 47 at the CBS Broadcast Center.

I was on that set last week while some camera tests were being done and as you can see, they are using robotic cameras on the show. All three of the network news shows come from large studios with spacious sets, but the Pelley set is the largest. In the photo on the right, you can see that this is the only network news set with a contingent of news staffers and producers adjacent to the anchor desk.

In my market, Atlanta, NBC and CBS news both air at 6:30 and ABC news airs at 7. I split my time between Brian Williams and Scott Pelley, but I tend to like the CBS news a little more because to me, they seem to have more hard news where NBC seems to have a softer news feel. ABC seems to be softer than NBC.

Frankly, I long for the Cronkite days. Not because Walter was a great reporter, which he was, but because as Managing Editor of the show, he chose the stories they covered. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, all the networks had harder news and in depth coverage. Usually the last story of the night, across the dial, was a human interest story a minute or two long. It seems that now, the soft news has crept back to the halfway point of the shows which leaves only 21 or 22 minutes of actual air time without the commercials.

I wish network news would go to an hour and bring back hard news. We’ve got plenty of ‘ET’ type shows to handle the Kardashians and the fluff.




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Final Wrap From New York…

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Final Wrap From New York…

I leave for the airport at 10:30 this morning and hope to be home by 5, but part of me will still be here. Every time I watch NYC shows from now on, I’ll be right back in these studios seeing the faces of the many extraordinary people that I have had the pleasure of meeting on this incredible trip, be they on stage on in the control rooms.

I was going to post a picture of the crew from the Seth Meyers Show in 8G, but seem to have lost the paper with their names, but one of my hosts on yesterday’s visit there, Mike Knarre (Camera 2) will get that to me and I’ll have it tomorrow.

One interesting bit of show biz magic was going on there yesterday and answers a couple of questions I have had for years. I had always wondered about the use of “smoke” on sets…why it was used and how it was made. Now I know. When you “smoke” a set, it allows the camera to see the beams of light focused on the actors or band, and adds a kind of theatrical edge to the scene being shot. Below center is the machine that makes the smoke and is virtually a huge version of an e cigarette, using the same chemical mixture. Bob Friend said that in the old days, you didn’t need these because everyone was smoking real cigarettes.

To back track briefly, my first event of the day was a meeting with NBC Executive VP of Corporate Communications, William Bartlett. That’s William’s official title, but unofficial he is the in house historian and has been a tremendous help to me over the years. William has also been a key player in the recent revival of NBC history inside 30 Rock.

Since Comcast took over ownership from GE a few years back (insert big cheer here), a lot of very good things have happened. Long delayed upgrades and renovations are in full swing and NBC’s proud history has made a comeback. Ian Trombley has been the key man in all of this as he was responsible for the planning and building of many new elements and here is an example. The new audience load in lobbies on the seventh floor for 6A and 6B shows is a site to behold. There are huge curved screens on each side that are full of historic NBC photos and headline history and William was a big part of making sure the content on those screens was as memorable as the show experience the audience members were about to have. He’s also done a fantastic job with the historical display cases in the new NBC commissary ‘Studio 9’. There are four glass enclosed cases there with everything from ‘Law And Order’ badges to Johnny Carson’s mug to a great tribute case to Pat Weaver. They are all full of interesting historical memorabilia and change every few months. I am happy to report that unlike in the GE days, NBC’s proud history is BACK in a BIG way! BRAVO!

Around noon, I was back at the historic Ed Sullivan Theater and was finally able to meet Rick Sheckman and Letterman director Jerry Foley. That’s Jerry and I in his office (below left). Jerry and Rick and a surprisingly large number of people on the staff and crew have been with Dave since his days at NBC. They are a tremendously loyal group and well deserving of the spectacular success of the show.

One of the most interesting things that came out yesterday’s conversations was this…believe it or not, the final edit of the show is not fed to CBS. It is hand delivered on video tape daily for replay from the Broadcast Center!

My other two visits yesterday were to ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘The Daily Show With John Stewart’. I met Stephen Colbert yesterday and was able to speak with John Stewart too. John’s guest yesterday was the Yankee’s legendary relief pitcher Mariano Rivera who got a street named after him today in NYC. He and Willie Mayes are the only two living baseball players to have their own New York streets.

I have to go now but will leave you with a great clip of Dave taking over Al Chalino’s camera. FYI, Al took over for legendary CBS cameraman Dave Dorsett and much to my delight, Dave Dorsett’s locker is still active downstairs at The Sullivan Theater. I’ll show you the photo soon. Enjoy! Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-bsuYmLuEQ




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Today at ‘TODAY’

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Today at ‘TODAY’

Just got back from the ‘Today’ show. “Bullets Over Broadway” was today’s featured performance in the Broadway series and here are a few shots. More later. Got to pack. I’m sorry I was not able to get the names of the camera crew, but if someone can send it to me, I will appreciate it and post them with more pix from this morning. One more post to follow and then I’m off…back to Atlanta.




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Inside NBC…Like Few Have Ever Seen It!

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Inside NBC…Like Few Have Ever Seen It!

Yesterday, from 10:30 till 3:30, I had the tour of a lifetime! My NBC tour guides were two men that have forgotten more NBC history than most ever knew. Dennis Degan and Joel Spector lead the way as Gady Reinhold, Ron Simon and I looked and listened.

Dennis of course is a long time video editor for ‘Today’ and Joel started with NBC in 1965 as an audio engineer. His boyhood friend, Gady, started at CBS in 1966. When Joel retired a few years ago he was on SNL, but like many, he still comes back for more and does fill in, usually on ‘The Nightly News’ and was actually on standby yesterday for that show.

Like all good television people, we started at the bottom and worked our way up…from the second floor to the ninth. On the second floor is the BOC, or Broadcast Operations Center. It seems that Joel and Dennis know everybody, but I was pleasantly surprised to find our friend Alan Coffield at work there.

Let me pull over to the side of the road for a moment and tell you that there was just way too much seen to go into here and now. When I get home, I’ll cover the tour in more detail but for now, I’m just sharing some highlights.

Today, I will spare you the photo of me kissing the floor in television’s first studio…3H. If you remember 3H, became 3K in 1955 when G and F were combined and color was added. This space is still 3K and is now used as a second studio for MSNBC.

3B is home to NBC’s Nightly News and is where the Brian Williams broadcast originates and to his credit, at Brian’s request, there are no robotics in 3B…real live cameramen are used on the show. There are three pedestal cameras there with a Melin camera and a job camera. WNBC news is in 3C and MSNBC’s main studio is in the expanded 3A space.

Although Gady is a CBS man, he knows NBC inside and out. I mention this because I want to tell you that yesterday, I was drinking from three firehoses…not just one! Some of what I saw yesterday escapes me, but with their help and the pictures, I’ll reconstruct much of this in detail later.

The thing I remember most about the fourth floor was 4G and J. Back in the 50s, radio studio 3G had it’s height cut in half so that a
television film chain room could be built above it.

Remember, even as radio studios in 1933, these were all two stories tall and had upper windows for the observation decks on the floors above. This was the same for studios on 6 and 8 as well.

As you can imagine, over the years the interiors have changed over and over, but the history is still there and Dennis and Joel know where it was. On the fifth floor, we stood in the space once occupied by 5HN where Frank McGee and Chet Huntley gave the first NBC television reports of President Kennedy’s assassination. That floor is now news ingest, satellite news ingest, video editing and video playback for the NBC news shows. This is where Dennis works.

On the sixth floor, the ‘Tonight’ studio floor in 6B had just been repainted so we didn’t go in, but I got a good look at that Tuesday. 6A is idle now awaiting a redo for Meredith Viera’s show later this year. On the seventh floor, there is a lot new construction going on as several new control rooms are being added.

On the eighth floor, we took a look into the newly remodeled 8G which is now home of the Seth Meyers show and I’ll be in there again today to meet Mike Knarre and the Late Show crew. I was there Wednesday but they were in meetings and then straight into the show taping.

Of course 8H is there, the largest of all with 10,000 square feet of space. Seeing it quite, you can appreciate the size more. The control rooms are on the eight floor too. There is much more to come, but for now, I have to get ready for today.

I’m at NBC this morning for a couple of meetings and at noon, I’m going back the The Ed Sullivan Theater to meet Rich Schekman and Letterman director Jerry Foley. I hope to watch the guest band rehearsal there too. This afternoon, I’m visiting Steven Colblet’s studio and after that, attending the taping of ‘The Daily Show With John Stewart’, just down the street. More later! Bobby Ellerbee

P.S. The shots of us inside were taken on the spot were NBC’s always ready, breaking news studio was located. That was studio 5H and was later named 5HN. That is where NBC broke the first Kennedy news in 1963.




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The NBC Tour & Best Seat At CBS…The Desk Of William S. Paley

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The NBC Tour & Best Seat At CBS…The Desk Of William S. Paley

Yesterday I finally saw ALL of NBC…top to bottom. It was an incredible six hour stroll through history that ended at The Paley Center For Media which is where the photos below were taken.

This is the desk of CBS founder William S. Paley; a leather topped card table with numbers that marked the place of each player. Paley sat at the #1 position (seen below left), Frank Stanton sat at the #2 position. It’s likely that Fred Friendly of CBS News spent a lot of time at the #3 position.

Who else sat at this table? You name them…Jackie Gleason was probably lured from Dumont at this table. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Edward R. Murrow, Don Hewitt, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Douglas Edwards, Mike Wallace, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan and most of the names that are synonymous with CBS have probably sat here at one time or another. This is the true “catbird seat”.

We were able to end our day here because television history’s true protector and conservator was with us. It was a pleasure and honor to have Ron Simon join us for the NBC tour. Ron is the Curator of The Paley Center and since around 1988, has been archiving and collecting kinescopes and video tape of programs that would have otherwise been lost. Thanks to his efforts, thousands and thousands of hours of rare recordings are alive and well…safe for future generations. We all owe Ron and The Paley Center a debt of gratitude for their efforts.

I spent several hours there Saturday watching some of these rare videos, including the fist ever ‘Honyemooners’ episode in which Art Carney played a policeman. His ‘Norton’ character had yet to be created.

While I am on the sad subject of lost footage, here is a story SNL cameraman John Pinto told me at lunch Friday. John had worked at ABC and was hired for SNL’s debut a few months before it started. To keep him occupied till that October 1975 debut, John was assigned a job he still regrets having had to do.

For three months straight, it was his job to bulk erase tapes, most of which happened to be from ‘The Tonight Show’. To quote the announcer at the Hindenburg crash, “Oh, The Humanity!”




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LIVE FROM NEW YORK, IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT! Last Night, I Was There!

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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.
http://youtu.be/qFHzmDZcL34?t=1m44s

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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From The Letterman Stage, To The Set Of Saturday Night Live!

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From The Letterman Stage, To The Set Of Saturday Night Live!

Yesterday was so incredible, I can hardly believe it myself! Below is a picture of me kissing the stage floor at The Ed Sullivan Theater (we’ll come back to this). Ten minutes later, my phone rings and I got invited to NBC Studio 8H to sit in on rehearsal for ‘Saturday Night Live’! It doesn’t get any better than this! Or does it?

It might…I’ve got floor seats for tonight’s SNL Dress Rehearsal and will be right in the middle of all the magic!

When I got off the elevator on the 8th floor, I was listening for the voice of St. Peter, because I was definitely in Pearly Gate territory. Instead, it was the voice of St. John…Pinto! I got there at 3 and sat in the center of the studio while all this incredible magic unfolded around me. At 4:30, there was a meal break and John and I went to a lunch served up with a big side order of great stories.

We got back around 5:30 and rehearsal with this week’s guest host Andrew Garfield, the star of “Spiderman”, picked up with a new sketch. By the way, Cold Play is this weeks musical guest and they’ve brought in a giant video display screen as a backdrop.
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live

I sat in awe till 7:30 when ‘Tonight’ cameraman Kurt Decker came up and got me and away we went for dinner and drinks at Hurley’s! How’s that for nostalgia? For those that don’t know, the original Hurley’s was right there at NBC, on the corner of 6th Ave and 49th Street. It was the network’s official watering hole and was lovingly referred to a Studio 1H…with it’s own NBC extension phone.

I’ll go into more detail later on what I saw in 8H, but I want to go back to before the phone call. Thanks to the incredible generosity of our friends at ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’, I was able to go into the theater on a quiet day and really see it.

The first stop…the secret door. In the basement, there is a door that opens into a small stairway and it was Jackie Gleason’s favorite door. The stairs lead up into what is now a Steak and Shake, but from the late 40s till the early 70s, it was a bar. You probably had already guessed that hadn’t you? This little gem was not lost on guests in the Sullivan years as many took advantage of it.

There is just too much to tell about all of this, and it will be best told with pictures, so I’ll again beg your forgiveness for not getting them up now, but next week…look out, because you’ll get both barrels at once!

Today, I’m going to The Paley Center For Media, which was formerly known as The Museum of Television And Radio, and The Museum of Broadcasting. This is the ultimate video archive!

Around 6:30, I’m going to SNL’s Dress Rehearsal, so you won’t see me on television. This is the performance I wanted to see because first, it’s longer and second, I can get back to the hotel in time to see the live show. In Dress Rehearsal, which actually starts taping at 8, several extra sketches are included and are evaluated as the show runs and some will make final air, while others get rewrites and pop up later. Taping could run till 10:30. By the way, counting tonight, there are only three new shows left in this season. The new season starts in September.

Tomorrow, I’m back at NBC for the full studio tour. I’ve been very fortunate in having the ability to spend time on the 6th and 8th floors in 6B, 8G and 8H, but there is a lot yet to be seen. I can’t wait to stand in the space where NBC’s first television studio, 3H was located.

I go home Tuesday afternoon, but there is still a lot left to do. On Monday, I have a meeting at NBC and final quick stop in 8G. Around noon, I’ll be with Rick Scheckman at Letterman and look forward to meeting him and Late Show director Jerry Foley. I didn’t get to meet them yesterday as their Friday meeting were canceled.

I go from Studio 50 to Studio 54, home of ‘The Colbert Report’ for a tour and then on to ‘The Daily Show’ taping a few blocks away. I’ve invited New York Times writer James Barron to come with me to the Stewart show. We became acquainted back in February when the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan was going on.

I’m hoping for one final meeting Tuesday morning and then, off to Atlanta. I hope you have a great weekend! I know I’m going to and I’ll share it with you! More Tomorrow! Bobby Ellerbee

P.S. I just read my posts from yesterday and the day before. It’s like I wrote then a month ago…so much is going on I can hardly keep track of it, much less find the time to write about it. I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself but when you are drinking water from a firehose, it’s hard to focus on anything but the massive stream coming your way. I thank God for this incredible good fortune, and thank all the great people here in New York at NBC, CBS and ABC for turning the hydrant wide open!


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Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Better…IT DOES!

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Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Better…IT DOES!

Today, is the halfway point in my trip that has just been incredible. Yes, I’ve seen a lot of cool stuff, but the best part is the people I’ve met! Today, the pace changes a bit and I have a little more time between events, but the intensity stays the same.

At noon, I’ll meet Rick Sheckman and some of Letterman crew at Studio 50. I couldn’t do this yesterday because it was a double tape day. You can not begin to imagine the frenetic pace behind the scenes of even one of these daily major network shows, but doing two shows in one day…now you’re talking major effort!

After that, I’ll have lunch and go back to Studio 50 for an in depth tour of one of television’s most hallowed venues with Gady Reinhold who was my guide for yesterday’s three hour tour of the CBS Broadcast Center.

At four this afternoon, I enter live television’s ground zero…NBC Studio 8H to visit with the man that has the best job in the world! John Pinto’s camera is the one on the Chapman Electra crane, and that I know of, is the only crane cam operator on the face of the planet. Around five is the dinner break and we’ll get a bite and tell stories, which I can’t wait to hear. Maybe some of the other cameramen will join us?

After that, I’m taking ‘Tonight’ cameraman Kurt Decker to dinner. I wish he could come with to dinner with John and I but Fallon is in the middle of taping then. To my surprise, both Fallon and Seth Meyers tape Fridays. Most of the shows, like Letterman, John Stewart and Colbert do two shows on Thursday for replay on Friday. Monday, I’ll be at Colbert’s studio and go to John Stewart’s show.

Tomorrow, I’m spending most of the day at The Paley Center For Media. Yesterday, Paley curator Ron Simon gave me a grand tour (pictures soon) and I can tell you that they have a very nice Ampex AVR 2 quad VTR and tons of other interesting video machines in their archive office.

Tomorrow night…well, let’s see…that would be Saturday night in New York, right? I humbled to report that I will get to experience the best of both worlds. I’m going to the dress rehearsal of ‘Saturday Night Live’, and will be able to get back to the hotel in time to see the live version at 11:30.

Dress rehearsal is a bit longer than the show because they include a few extra sketches to see how they register with the audience and the best ones get to air. The sketches that didn’t make the cut either die or get a rewrite for a chance to be seen on another episode.

On Sunday at 10, I get the full top to bottom tour of NBC. My hosts will be Dennis Degan (who came with me yesterday for the CBS tour) and Joel Spector, who started with NBC in 1965, a year before his boyhood friend and neighbor Gady Reinhold started at CBS. Gady will be joining us too.

I know you want to see pictures. I want to show them to you, but it is very difficult for me to do this on the road. I’ve taken over 400 pictures so far. I’ve tried as best I can to take notes and even bought an audio recorder to help me place things. I’ll have to wait till I get home to organize and name them.

As I have said, this is like drinking water from a firehose. I love it and am trying hard not to spill even a single drop, but there is so much to take in!

I am closing with this shot from Tuesday’s visit to ‘Tonight’. This is their great camera crew, AND the director. The tall man on the left is ‘Tonight’ director Dave Diomedi. On his left is Edward Pladdys who’s control area is under the audience seating where he controls 4 robo cameras including the two rail cameras on each side of the studio. On Diomedi’s right is Richard Carter who operates camera 5…the Merlin. My gracious host at ‘Tonight’ is Kurt Decker who is to the right of Richard and Kurt is camera 1 on the show. In red next to Kurt is Mike Cimino on camera 3, and if the name is familiar, his dad is the TD on SNL. Pat Casey is next to Mike and Pat is on camera 2. All the way on the right is camera 4 operator Bruce Dines. In just over seven weeks, these seven men have brought a very appealing and fresh new look to the way ‘Tonight’ is presented. CONGRATULATIONS on a job WELL DONE! More later! Bobby


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Even The Energizer Bunny Needs A Break Now And Then…

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Even The Energizer Bunny Needs A Break Now And Then…

Just a short post tonight…I’m exhausted. The day started at The Paley Center For Media and then moved to the CBS Broadcast Center. It just ended at the The David Letterman Show. On the left, me taking one of the 182 photos I shot today. On the right…well, I’ll show what was on the other side of the door soon! More in the morning. Right now, I’m going to have another Carnegie Deli corned beef sandwich…the worlds best! Good Night All! Bobby



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My ABC Tour And NBC 8G Tour & Taping On The Seth Meyers Set

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My ABC Tour And NBC 8G Tour & Taping On The Seth Meyers Set

On the left, me at Diane Sawyer’s desk at ‘ABC World News Tonight’ in ABC TV 3. The same studio the Peter Jennings reported from. When this was taken, ‘Good Morning America’ was still on, as you can see in the monitors behind me. The desk is L shaped and the long part of the L is on my right, but this is the usual reporting view.

As I was getting up from the desk, Howie Mandel happened to walk by. Glad to report that he too is a Squidbillies fan! Speaking of Squidbillies, I just left ‘Late Night With Seth Meyers’. The warm up comedian, Ryan Riess, walked up into the audience and happened to speak to my guest…Ron Simon, Curator of The Paley Center For Media. He noticed my ‘Squidbillies’ jacket and asked about it. I told him I was the voice of Sheriff and he had me stand up and take a bow! There were a lot of ‘Squidbillies’ fans there tonight!

I was in the elevator with Steve Higgins today, announcer for ‘Tonight’ and he too is has been known to watch ‘Squidbillies’ “now and then”.

In the middle, below is a shot of me with an brand new Ikegami on the set of ‘The Chew’ which had just ended. This is in ABC TV 2 and in a different building that the news set. TV 1 and TV 2 have a collapsible wall between them and were used together when Regis Philbin debuted ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’? Katie Couric’s show ‘Katie’ is done in TV 1 just after ‘The Chew’ finishes and on the right is a shot of ‘Katie’, just before just two minutes before the show started, as the warm up was ending.

I have many more pictures to share, but will have to wait till I get home to post them and do justice to the details…my schedule is just too packed here. ABC’s Bob Franklin was my host today and I’m thrilled that he took three hours of his time to show me around. You could not ask for a better guide…he’s a rare gem and has been at ABC since 1975, which makes him one of the few veteran broadcasters left in the building. Bob knows where all the bodies are buried! He buried them!

I felt very at home at ABC as many of our Eyes Of A Generation friends were there and I got to meet them. Walking down the hall at NBC this afternoon, I ran into our friend Alan Coffield who I had thought of earlier in the day and wondered if I would see him.

At 2 today, I had the pleasure of spending an hour with the busiest man at 30 Rock…Ian Tremboly. He is NBC Executive Vice President of Television Operations, Production & Engineering and for him, 18 hour days have been the norm for the past couple of years.

With ‘Tonight’ moving to NYC, renovations to the sixth floor studios A and B, and preparing 8G for Seth Meyers have been major tasks. There are also new control rooms being built on the seventh floor that will be on line in a year or so. Meredith Vieira’s show will be done from 6A which will soon be renovated soon.

One of the things I was most impressed with, is Ian’s personal interest in NBC’s grand history, and his desire to preserve it and have it reflected in the very place that this unique history was made…even in the new facilities there. 30 Rockefeller Plaza IS television’s living history! I think you will all agree that his efforts have been wildly successful. 6B and 8G looks fantastic, sound incredible and feels very warm and welcoming. This is truly state of the art television…and then some!

At 3 today, I went to meet Bob Friend in Studio 8G, where Bob has been the chief electrician since 1992, but he’s been with NBC a lot longer. No one ever had a last name that fit them better! I got to see everything you could possibly want to see, AND MORE! Believe it or not, there are German swastikas on some of the old, original plumbing. RCA’s builder bought a lot of the metal piping from a manufacturer in Munich which is where the Nazi party was very strong and the owner of the plant included a swastika into the raised metal letters on the piping made in 1933.

Bob also showed me where famous NBC Orchestra conductor Arturo Toscanini’s elevator was. The private, one person elevator is gone, but the call button and the plate with lit up and down arrows remains beside where it used to be in what is now a small maintenance office. He conducted in 8H, which was known for many years as “the Auditorium Studio”. Ian Trembly told me that he had seen the original blueprints for 8H and in that first set of plans from the late 1920s, it was then being designed as a live theatrical space…much like a broadway theater stage.

Again, I felt right at home and was treated like a friend of the family at NBC and am most grateful for the warm reception and incredible hospitality of the many I met today. My thanks also to those at ABC who extended their kindness at every turn. New York hospitality is alive and well!

In closing tonight, I’ll give you the answer to a question that I had wondered about. Most of you know that among other things, the floors in 6B and 8H were jack hammered up and the old suspended floors replaced with new suspended floors. I wondered how, in a skyscraper in the middle of NYC, do you do that? How did they get the thousands of feet of old concrete out and the new concrete poured? The answer…with an army of men with wheelbarrows! Can you imagine the cost? I was afraid to ask!

Tomorrow I’m at The Paley Center in the morning with Ron Simon. At 1, I’m with Gady Reinhold for a three hour tour of the CBS Broadcast Center and then it’s time for ‘The Late Show With David Letterman’ at The Ed Sullivan Theater! I’m drinking from a fire hose, but loving every drop!

One last thing. My hotel is incredible. A friend recommended it and it is one of the most elegant places you have ever seen. Right behind it is The Ziegfeld Theater…home of Perry Como. A block over is Carnegie Hall. Best of all…the world famous Carnegie Deli, with NYC’s greatest corned beef sandwiches, is a half a block away! Can it get any better? Stay tuned…it’s only Wednesday!!!

Till tomorrow! Bobby Ellerbee




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My Day At ‘Tonight’ And NBC Studio 6BYep! That’s me at Jimmy Fallon’s Desk

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My Day At ‘Tonight’ And NBC Studio 6B

Yep! That’s me at Jimmy Fallon’s Desk and behind Camera 1 on the set of ‘The Tonight Show’!

This morning, I told you I was on a “special mission” and that there would me more later. Well…it’s later and frankly, I am having a bit of difficulty putting into words what this day has been like! It is without question, one of the greatest days I have EVER spent anywhere, doing anything!

I told you that I had tickets for ‘Tonight’, but what I didn’t tell you was that I had been invited to spend the day on the ‘Tonight’ set. I arrived at NBC, my first time there, at 11:30 as the guest of Kurt Decker, who is behind Camera 1. He took me into Studio 6B, sat me at the producer’s table and immediately, the first of three rehearsals of tonight’s musical act, David Byrne, started.

I promise you that within two minutes, tears of joy welled up in my eyes! Honest! What I saw was a ballet performance without description! Before me, five of television’s sharpest camera men were dancing with their cameras like you have never seen! It was like watching a flock of birds move in a beautiful unison. Their coordination is amazing…their instincts razor sharp! Every camera (four peds and one Merlin arm) were constantly moving…up and down, in and out and back and forth. I was truly a thing of beauty!

I can not honestly recollect ever being made to feel so welcomed and instantly relaxed by a group of men whom I had never met. I’ll introduce you to the cameramen and director of the show in a separate post with a “class picture”.

After the Byrne rehearsal, Kurt showed me all of the 6th floor studio spaces and the 7th floor control, video and audio rooms. Then, we went to lunch at The Playwright, which is as much like the famed atmosphere as Hurley’s as one could possibly get. Kurt and I were joined by Camera 3 operator Mike Cimino and our friend Dennis Degan from ‘Today’. Mike’s dad is the long time TD on SNL and he showed me pictures of his dad sitting behind Johnny Carson’s desk when the show came from the famous Studio 6B.

After lunch, Kurt and Mike went back to 6B for meetings and Dennis and I went to ‘Today’ Studio 1A and to his edit room on the 5th floor. At 4, we picked up our VIP tickets and went up for the taping and had a blast! Dianne Keaton is on tonight as is Dane Dehaan who is playing the Green Goblin, in the new “Spiderman” movie.

As I write this, I am still swaying from the four hour train ride from Boston to New York. I have thought about this and have come to the conclusion that I can not do justice to the photos and stories behind them with the schedule I have here. I will be posting some along the way, but the bulk will have to wait till I get back.

Tomorrow morning, I’m at ABC and tomorrow afternoon I have meetings at NBC starting at 2. Around 5, Ron Simon, Curator of The Paley Media Center will be joining me for the taping of ‘Late Night With Seth Meyers’!

Yes, I’m drinking water from a firehose, but loving every drop! MANY THANKS TO KURT DECKER, AND THE WHOLE ‘TONIGHT’ CREW FOR A DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET! Bobby Ellerbee



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Headed For ‘Tonight’ Show And 30 Rockefeller Plaza!

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Headed For ‘Tonight’ Show And 30 Rockefeller Plaza!

It’s 5 AM in Boston, and and I’m leaving on Amtrak for Penn Station in NYC now. Dennis Degan will be joining me for the taping this afternoon at 4, but as soon as i get to the city, I have a “special mission” which I will report on later “Tonight”. Wahooooooooo!


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Eyes Of A Generation…On Tour

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Eyes Of A Generation…On Tour

By noon today, I hope to be standing in The Museum Of Broadcast Technology in Woonsocket, RI with my good friend Paul Beck. I’ll be taking as many pictures along the way as I possibly can, however my usual early morning posting schedule may be out the window for a few days.

I’ll show up when I can with what I have, so keep and eye out and remember…visit the page itself. Some of these posts will probably be albums and you can see everything better here. Remind your non Facebook friends that they can see everything on this page at the main site’s “Live Stream” tab. Be good and I’ll see you soon! Bobby Ellerbee

http://www.eyesofageneration.com/live-stream.php


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Eyes Of A Generation…On Tour…One Week From Today

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Eyes Of A Generation…On Tour…One Week From Today

Next Sunday morning, I’ll get a top to bottom tour of NBC. My tour guides will be Dennis Degan of ‘Today’ and Joel Spector, who began with NBC in 1965. Joel is still the chief audio engineer on the ‘Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade’ and has been doing the show for around twenty five years. Although he “retired” a few years back while working on SNL, he gets called in frequently to work shows like the ‘NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams’.

Accompanying me will be my tour guide from Thursday and Friday at CBS, Gady Reinhold, who’s been with CBS since 1966. Who better to show you the CBS Broadcast Center and Studio 50?

Joel and Gady were neighbors, and both loved television. As teenagers, they made it their mission to visit all the shows and studios in the 50s. Both are walking encyclopedias, but add Dennis to the mix, and this will be one of the most interesting tours anyone could ever imagine, much less have the experience of taking.

Since my first interest in television at around age 11, 30 Rockefeller Plaza has been my “somewhere over the rainbow”. My first friend in network television was Mrs. Kathryn S. Cole. She was head of the NBC Viewer Relations Department. Starting in 1961, I would write to her once a month and ask for pictures of the studio and she never disappointed me!

Thick packs of 8×10 glossy’s would appear in my mail box, inside the blue grey envelope with the NBC snake logo on the outside. I was ecstatic and would pour over them for hours on end. I think the last time I wrote to Mrs. Cole was around 1965.

I wish I still had ALL of what she sent, but below are three of about a dozen photos I still have and cherish. On the left is a photo that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever visited the main web site at http://www.eyesofageneration.com/home.php

That’s Perry Como at The Ziegfeld Theater in 1962. In the middle is John Davidson and Bert Lahr, taping “The Fantastics” for ‘The Hallmark Hall Of Fame’, which was done at the Brooklyn studios in 1964. On the right is a rehearsal photo from a 1963 ‘Andy Williams Show’ at NBC Burbank.




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‘The Andy Williams Show’…Photos & Videos To Match

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‘The Andy Williams Show’…Photos & Videos To Match

Occasionally, we get lucky and can match up rehearsal photos to the performance video. Today, we’ve matched two photos. On the left is Williams in rehearsal for the first show of the third season taped on October 5, 1964. Andy’s guest are Jack Benny, Janet Leigh and Jonathan Winters. This clip is Williams and Winters.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opBOM4TQDbI

On the right is a photo from our friend Fred Wostbrock from the first season, with guest Sammy Davis Jr. This is either episode five, on October 25, 1962, or episode seventeen from January 24, 1963, as Davis was a guest on two season one shows. They are shown here rehearsing a big drum number. Apologies in advance for the condition of the clip video. In it’s day, the Williams show was the pinnacle of color television production and the only way to really appreciate it is to see the DVDs of the show, or see the Christmas specials on PBS.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np79KdZmgPc&list=PLBE680C7CE6015EF3



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“Parting The Waters”…Follow Up Pictures

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“Parting The Waters”…Follow Up Pictures

Yesterday’s video on how the effects for ‘The Ten Commandments’ “parting the waters” scene were done have brought a couple more interesting tidbits, thanks to Glenn Mack.

On the left is an aerial view of the Paramount lot showing the huge water set directly in front of the “big sky” backdrop. In the photo, the tank is empty, but when you add a foot or two of water, it can become a peaceful lagoon with docks (as seen), or be used as a open ocean with scale model battleships or ocean liners for dramas at sea.

Directly in front of the wet set is the western town set. This is where the Virginia City scenes for ‘Bonanza’ were shot. On the right is a photo from that show…notice the “mountain” in the background. It’s not a real mountain, just a handy backdrop to hide the water tower and the structure behind the “big sky” back drop. There were several “sky” treatments…from angry storms to clear blue with no clouds, which is the one showing in the ‘Bonanza’ shot. I think the sky backgrounds are on big rolls and within a few minutes they can roll up or roll down to one of the six or so moods on each roll.

By the way, all of the buildings on the left side of this photo, were formerly owned by Desilu. The ‘Bonanza’ mountain was hiding the water tank and the tops of the studio buildings. Enjoy and share!



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This Looks Interesting…

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This Looks Interesting…Anyone Know How This Turned Out?

Canon must be proud to know that their lenses are “Letterman Proof”. As we all know, Dave has been known to rough house with them and his friend, Craig Ferguson, has learned from the master.

William French, our friend in San Francisco, sent this overnight. I don’t know what’s happening here, but with a prop lens shroud over the real one, you know that a physical gag is only seconds away.

A note said this was from a Letterman episode taped 4/24/14. I can’t find the clip…anyone have it? 4/24 would have been Thursday, and both the Thursday and Friday shows are taped that day, so this could be from either show.


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April 26, 2005…9 Years Ago Today, NBC First HD Broadcast

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April 26, 2005…9 Years Ago Today, NBC First HD Broadcast

NBC’s first High Definition broadcast was of ‘Late Night With Conan O’Brien’ from Studio 6A. I don’t know how fast or furious the roll out was there, but below is a photo that shows that when the Sony SD camera were replaced with Sony HD cameras, NBC may have started with new pedestals and pan heads too. These SD cameras are outside 3C in 2007, which at the time was home to ‘NBC Nightly News’. The show now calls Studio 3B home, but guess what…the control room used to switch the show is the Studio 1A control room under the ‘Today’ show’s main set.

Below is a clip from Conan’s first night in HD, but in this, he makes no mention of the fact. Thanks to Dennis Degan for the tip and the pix.

http://nataschamcelhone.org/videos/displayimage.php?pid=2


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The “Parting” Of The Waters…’The Ten Commandments’

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The “Parting” Of The Waters…’The Ten Commandments’

With Easter just past and the annual showing of ‘The Ten Commandments’ (which I watched), I wanted to post this great video of how the effect was done.

The illusion of the Red Sea parting was achieved by large “dump tanks” that were flooded, then the film was shown in reverse. The two frothing walls of water were created by water dumped constantly into “catch basin areas” then the foaming, churning water was visually manipulated and filmed sideways for the walls of water. A gelatin substance was added to the water in the tanks to give it more of a seawater consistency.

Although the dump tanks have long since been removed, the catch basin section of this tank still exists today on the Paramount lot in the central portion of the studio. It can still be flooded for water scenes, but when not being used in a production, it is an extension of a parking lot.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bliUHhcd3Sc

in this video they show how the visual special effects were created for the parting of the red sea scene using a number of camera tricks, matte paintings, op…
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