Posts in Category: Broadcast History

NBC 3rd Floor 1933 Configuration

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EXCLUSIVE ULTRA RARITY! NBC 3rd Floor 1933 Configuration

For once and for all, this will put to rest any doubts on the history of the conversion of NBC Studio 3H to 3K. Until yesterday, when I received this drawing of the original 1933 radio studio configuration, there had never been a reliable floor plan available anywhere earlier than one from around 2000, and that one only had tiny amounts of this information. Studio 3K was created in the fall of 1955 by combining Studio 3H and 3F and transforming it from black and white to color. Unfortunately, previous reports have stated that 3H was adjacent to 3C and the two were combined to make 3K, but as you can clearly see, that would be impossible.

If you remember, 3H was the first radio studio converted to television in 1935 and served as the home of RCA/NBC’s experimental broadcasts with the Iconoscope cameras and in 1951, the RCA color “coffin cameras” began their tests in 3H. At the time of their combining, 3F was still a radio studio.

Ed Reitan and I have had several conversations about this and with the people we have talked to that were there at the time, we have never doubted this history, but neither of us had never seen this floor plan before which is a great help. You can see Ed’s account of this at his great site, http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/studios.html

I’m not positive, but I think this would be the first operational color studio inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza. NBC began live color operations at the Colonial Theater in 1953 with RCA TK40s. Like in Studio 6B where columns were recenlty removed for the return of ‘Tonignt’, columns were a problem in creating 3K as well and two large columns had to be removed from the wall between 3H and 3F.

We all owe a huge Thank You to our new friend Joel Spector for sharing this drawing, and other floor plans to come, and to Gady Reinhold for introducing me to his childhood friend. Joel started with NBC in 1965 and Gady with CBS in 1966, but as kids and teens, they went to hundreds of live broadcasts all over the city. Joel is now semi retired but still plays all the music on the great Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade annually and works with the legendary Milton Delugg, who at 95, is still the parade’s musical director. Joel was also on the original SNL crew and still does audio occasionally on ‘Nightly News’, ‘Today’ and other shows when needed. More on Joel and Gady soon!


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NBC 67th Street Studios Control Room

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NBC 67th Street Studios Control Room

In the two ‘Password’ posts just before this, we go over a lot of the history of this studio, but here is a one of a kind shot from our friend Gady Reinhold. ‘From These Roots’ was in rehearsal at the time Gady took this shot around 1959. This NBC soap opera, which ran from June 1958 till the fall of 1961, was created and written by Frank Provo and John Pickard. This was the first successful daytime drama for Ann Flood who later became well known for, and spent the better part of two decades playing Nancy Karr on ‘The Edge of Night’. The show was directed by Joseph Behar and featured a storyline dealing with the show-within-a-show. Gady also took the photos inside the Video Tape Center (which this property became in late 1961) in the prior post. Many Thanks Gady!


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Video Tape Center

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The Password Is “Video Tape Center”…The Answer, Part 2

From time to time, all of the networks leased studio space in New York outside of their usual production facilities. In the early ’50s, CBS even leased a couple of studios at Dumont and that’s why occasionally, we see pictures of Dumont cameras on CBS sets. The ‘Password’ episode below was taped at Video Tape Center at the
67th Street Studios at 101 West 67th Street. NBC had leased that property in the early ’50s and that’s were ‘The Home Show’ with Arlene Francis (1954-1957) originated, as well as the ‘Concentration’ primetime version in 1958 in Studio A.

NBC sold the property in 1961 and it was bought by Ampex which owned The Video Tape Center. Ampex was also the US distributor for Marconi, thus the Mark IV cameras in the photos. They kept the property from 1961-1970 and more than likely the ‘Password’ video in the prior post was shot with Marconi Mark VII color cameras, although early on VTC had access to RCA TK41s as well via a mobile production truck parked outside. These photos are from the very early VTC days and show some RCA color equipment left by NBC and new Marconi CCUs as well. This building originally had four studios which were later converted to two.

Video Tape Center was always more than just a first class production house though. Ampex used the facility to develop new tape technologies as well, and what better place? A lot of innovate commercials came out of VTP including the Hertz spots that “put you in the drivers seat”. The linked spot was shot on film in Miami, but the fly in effect was achieved in the VTC studio and editing suites. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4cseXC3ols

After VTC sold the property, this became ABC Studio TV-18/19 (1970 to 1990), and was the production facility for ‘All My Children’ and ‘One Live to Live’ before they moved to ABC TV-17. Demolished in 1995, the site is now the fifty story Millennium Tower apartment building.




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NBC Television Network Map…July 1, 1948

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NBC Television Network Map…July 1, 1948

In early 1946, NBC’s television network consisted of only NYC and Philadelphia. By early 1947, Schenectady joined in making it a three city linkup. This 1948 map shows that Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Richmond have been added making seven cities linked in the network. Twelve more will be added during 1949. There were more NBC television affiliate stations than are shown here, but their programs arrived in the mail as kinescope films. Only in the linked cities could the same episodes of the same shows be seen at a regularly scheduled time. Shows that aired on a Monday on the network may have aired on Friday at unlinked affiliates. By 1952, pretty much all of the affiliates for all networks nation wide were linked in, but even up into the early 1960s, some stations were affiliated with more than one network and would pick and choose the shows they aired locally, and would take those shows as they were fed down the AT&T network lines.


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‘Tonight Show’ Camera Coup

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‘Tonight Show’ Camera Coup

It appears the first rate production team at Fallon’s new ‘Tonight’ show have made new strides in putting all their resources to good use in cutting edge camera work. Notice the lead singer of Arcade Fire is actually holding, and singing to, one of the studio’s hand held cameras at the start of this clip. The Stedicam gets a good work out and later, the rail camera over the audience pitches in too. Thanks to Steven Davis for the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjIteMfDOo4&feature=youtu.be

“AFTERLIFE” (LIVE ON THE TONIGHT SHOW) from Arcade Fire’s new album Reflektor GET THE NEW ALBUM REFLEKTOR: iTunes: http://smarturl.it/reflektoralbumit Amazon…
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Director Troy Miller…Another Of His Great Opening Parodies

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Director Troy Miller…Another Of His Great Opening Parodies

This is another of Troy Miller’s Oscar openings described in the article posted earlier today. This is from the 2012 awards show and the video is available inside this “Hollywood Reporter” article.
Great work from Troy and company, as usual! Enjoy!

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/race/oscars-billy-crystal-movie-montage-justin-bieber-295229

Oscars 2012: Billy Crystal Spoofs the Year in Film With Help From Justin Bieber, George Clooney…

Billy Crystal kicked off the 84th Annual Academy Awards with the long-held tradition of recognizing the year in film. In his signature style, the nine-time Oscar host filmed a video montage, injecting himself into the main plot lines of the most memorable movies of the past year. PHOTOS: Oscars 2012…
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Meet Sullivan Associate Producer, Jacques Andre

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Meet Sullivan Associate Producer, Jacques Andre

On Sunday nights, between 8 and 9 PM, Jacques was the “middle man” on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. During the week, he worked for producer Bob Precht, but on show night, he stood with Ed at the side of the stage keeping the show’s running time and was the hub between the control room, stage manager Eddie Brinkmann and Sullivan. Although quite capable, he would always feel the need throw up before each show. On the right, Jacques is holding the Q card and on the left is standing behind Ed. He looks a little different as the left photo is three weeks after the tape session and live show and was taken during dress rehearsal of the February 23 show. In the monitor, you can see the tape slate for the Beatles video insert. The Q card on the boom has at the top, the band members names and the second two blurbs list the songs in each set.



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A Meeting Of The Minds…The Directors And The Beatles

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A Meeting Of The Minds…The Directors And The Beatles

The first picture on the left was shot after the Saturday morning rehearsal on February 8, 1964…the more relaxed day of the weekend. In one of the world’s most unique photos, we find assistant director John Moffit posed behind Ringo’s black oyster pearl Ludwig drums (without his glasses). In the center we see Sullivan director Tim Kiley writing and behind him (with glasses) is assistant director John Moffit with Paul and Ringo. On the right, John Moffit and Tim Kiley with the whole band on Sunday morning.




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‘Hour Glass’…A Television First

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‘Hour Glass’…A Television First

(Note: Pay attention to the third paragraph in regard to the NBC ND 8G camera questions. I think this settles it.)

This show was network television’s first rehearsed, non-reality program. It was a one hour variety/sketch comedy show hosted by Helen Parrish. Parrish had been a child film star and she became the first popular TV star. With the lessons learned and a new host and sponsor, NBC would bring this show back in 1948 in a tighter and more structured form as, ‘The Texaco Star Theater’ with Milton Berle. ‘Hour Glass’ debuted on NBC in television’s first ever “fall season” and ran from 8 till 9 PM on Thursday nights from May 8, 1946 till March 6, 1947. In 1946, NBC only had 10 shows on the network which covered NYC, Schenectady and Philadelphia but that was twice as many as the only other network offering television and that was Dumont. On Thursday nights, ‘Hour Glass’ was preceded on the network by the 10 minute ‘Esso News Reel’ at 7:50 and followed by local programs. ‘Hour Glass’ pioneered sketch/variety TV, and was the most ambitious and expensive production yet with big production numbers, chorus girls, a band, famous guest stars, and more with the show’s sponsor pouring in over $200,000 for the show’s nine month run.

The program was produced by the J. Walter Thompson agency on behalf of Standard Brands for their Chase and Sanborn and Tenderleaf Tea lines. ‘Hour Glass’ featured different performers every week, including Peggy Lee and, in one of the first examples of a top radio star appearing on network television…Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy in November 1946. The show also showcased filmed segments produced by Thompson’s Motion Picture Department; these ranged from short travelogues to advertisements. Every episode also included a ten minute drama, which proved one of the more popular portions of the show.

“Although Thompson and Standard Brands representatives occasionally disagreed over the quality of individual episodes, their association was placid compared to the constant sniping that was the hallmark of the agency’s relationship with NBC. It started with unhappiness over studio space, which Thompson regarded as woefully inadequate”*! OK, this says to me that the 8G cameras were actually used in 3H first and later moved to 8G.

The tension escalated when the network insisted that an NBC director manage the show from live rehearsals through actual broadcast. The network was similarly displeased that Thompson refused to clear their commercials with NBC before air time. Parrish left the show in November to return to Hollywood and was succeeded by a much less popular host, Eddie Mayehoff. In February 1947 Standard Brands canceled ‘Hour Glass’. They were pleased with the show’s performance in terms of beverage sales and its overall quality, yet were leery about continuing to pour money into a program that did not reach a large number of households. The strain between NBC and Thompson played a role as well. Still, Hour Glass did provide Thompson with a valuable blueprint for the agency’s celebrated and long-running production, Kraft Television Theater.

* quoted from The Museum Of Broadcast Communications, “Encyclopedia of Television”.



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The Huge Mystery Of The NBC ND-8G Cameras…Part 2

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The Huge Mystery Of The NBC ND-8G Cameras…Part 2

In yesterday’s “The Huge Mystery Of The NBC ND-8G Cameras…A Discussion” post, I danced around a nagging question till I got more sources and last night, I got them*. Here’s the problem: if 8G went live on April 22, 1948, how is it that ‘Hour Glass’ and ‘Television Scene Magazine’ are shot with the NBC ND-8G cameras over a year earlier? FYI, both shows were two of NBC television’s first network shows. ‘Hour Glass’ stared May 9, 1946 and ended March 6, 1947 and the other one stared November 17, 1946. The photo on the right is Ursula Holleran of ‘Television Scene Magazine’ and all of the others are on the ‘Hour Glass’ set and the blonde “femcee” is Helen Parish. The date of the NBC/Pathe film in another of today’s posts is also 1947. The studio is too big to not be 8G as the only other studio at the time was the smaller 3H. In yesterday’s post, I also discussed the mystery of why NBC would build their own Image Orthicon cameras in 1947 and put them in service in 1948 when RCA delivered the first TK30s to them in June of 1946. Yesterday, I suggested that these cameras may have first been put to use in 3H before they went to 8G when it was completed. Another train of thought leads me to wonder why NBC would keep these ND 8G cameras in use when they had the superior RCA TK30?

I want your input and research info into this, but as of now…here’s what I think. Given the mad rush at the end of WWII for broadcasters to get television back in gear, I think the ND 8G cameras were actually in operation by early 1946. I think the 1969 “RCA Engineer” article (which was the basis for much of this information and linked in yesterday’s post and below), written twenty plus years after the fact, is ambiguous on several key issues and wrong on some dates. I’m feel sure RCA would have given NBC Image Orthicon tubes “early” (in spite of the military’s wishes) at least to “test” (wink, wink). Keep in mind that by July 16, 1947 RCA had demonstrated the first all electronic color camera with three IO tubes. Although NBC was leasing theaters to convert to studios, production space was at a premium as nothing new had been built for four years, so immediately adding a new studio inside 30 Rock, would have made sense. This leads me to think that 8G may have been converted earlier than 1948. The only source for the April 22, 1948 debut date of 8G is a 1948 “Radio Age” article which was reproduced in yesterday’s post and linked below.

Are both wrong? Are both right? Is one wrong and one right? I don’t know. I do know that this new photo dating evidence makes me wonder though! As we’ve seen before, even NBC’s marquees outside their famous studios have errors and omissions which, in the case of television’s history, seems to be the human condition.

What do you think? To read all the background info, go here
http://www.eyesofageneration.com/Archives_NBC_ND8G.php
* The dates of the shows is verified in “The Complete Directory To Prime Time And Cable TV Shows” by Brooks and Marsh.




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NBC Studio 8G Cameras In Action…1947

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NBC Studio 8G Cameras In Action…1947

This video should start itself at 21:08, which begins the television portion of this excellent look inside NBC’s 30 Rock studios. The cameras are the NBC built “ND-8G” Image Orthicons and are shooting a rehearsal of ‘Hour Glass’…one of NBC TV’s first shows that we’ll cover in detail in another post. This whole video is well worth watching as is lays out the history of NBC radio, it’s network and the studios. At 7 minutes, I’m pretty sure that is 8G as we have never seen it, as a radio studio. At 14:25, we see ‘The Fred Waring Show’ live in 8H on the same wall that the SNL sets are on now.

#t=1268″ target=”_blank”>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvNF8scIar0 #t=1268

more at http://showbiz.quickfound.net/ “Behind the scenes tour of NBC’s radio and television broadcasting facilities at Rockefeller Center, New York City.” P…
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Eric Shapiro’s Final Fade To Black As ‘CBS Evening News’ Director

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Eric Shapiro’s Final Fade To Black As ‘CBS Evening News’ Director

Well done sir…well done! Hail and farewell.

“CBS Evening News” director ending 51-year CBS career at the top

Director Eric Shapiro started at CBS in 1963 as a mail boy, working his way up with legendary director Don Hewitt as his inspiration
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From The Eddie Brinkmann Archival Collection

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From The Eddie Brinkmann Archival Collection

On a Sullivan show trip west to Television City, Eddie visits with director Ezra Stone on the ‘Bachelor Father’ set at Review Studios. When Stone’s acting life with ‘The Aldrich Family’ radio show ended, he turned primarily to directing on stage and in television—ironically, his first television directing assignment was the television version of ‘The Aldrich Family’ in 1952. From there he went on to direct for numerous shows, including ‘I Married Joan’, ‘Bachelor Father’, ‘Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater’, ‘Lassie’, ‘The Munsters’, ‘Lost in Space’, ‘Julia’, and ‘Love, American Style’.


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The Huge Mystery Of The NBC ND-8G Cameras…A Discussion

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The Huge Mystery Of The NBC ND-8G Cameras…A Discussion

Before I get into this very odd chapter, I want to go over the camera itself. On the left, Milton Berle is looking into one of the three lenses on the camera’s turret. Behind that lens is a new RCA Image Orthicon tube. Notice above, two tally lights…one is red for air, the other green for ready like the old Iconoscope cameras. In the photo on the right, with Phil Silvers and Milton, we see the dual port viewfinder and a pan handle focus demand, both of which are also carry overs from the old Iconoscope cameras, but this camera had a real electronic viewfinder which the Icons did not. The top viewing port is looking directly into the viewfinder kinescope and is used while the camera is low. The bottom viewing port is used when the camera is high and that image is provided by a periscope style mirror arrangement inside that boxy housing. Underneath is the lens turret rotation handle. There is also and extra wide camera plate underneath. Unfortunately, none of these survive and no one knows what they were called.

Now to the conversation on the mystery behind these cameras that I hope you will add to in the Comment Section. At the link below, you can read an article from 1969 in RCA Engineer magazine that discusses the shortage of cameras that broadcasters and networks faced after WWII due to the security around the new Image Orthicon technology. BUT, RCA delivered the first RCA TK30 Image Orthicon cameras to NBC in June of 1946 for use on the Billy Conn/Joe Lewis rematch broadcast which was their first ever use. Other NBC O&O stations got TK30s and even TK10s before they were sold to other broadcasters. The TK30 became available to others in October of ’46 and the TK10 was made available for sale in December of ’46.

This ND 8G camera is an Image Orthicon camera too, and may have been in operation, or in testing in NBC Studio 3H (their first TV studio and home of all the experimental broadcasts) in mid 1947. I’ve heard that at first, RCA raised hell about this, but on second thought let WNBT’s engineers go ahead to see what they came up with. It is true that the RCA TK30 field camera was developed before the TK10 studio camera because of military needs, and it is true that for some reason, some of the first TK30s sold to non NBC O&O stations came without the electronic viewfinder. It is not known whether there was a bottleneck in the VF kinescope making or if stations were used to RCA Iconoscope field cameras that had only gun sights for framing shots.

I get the feeling there was a battle of wills and some egos involved in this process. If you know more or have more information, please let us know and as always, your general comments are welcome.

http://www.eyesofageneration.com/Archives_NBC_ND8G.php



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NBC’s ‘All Star Review’ Full Episode

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NBC’s ‘All Star Review’

In the post just before this, Jackie Gleason mentioned in a letter to Eddie Brinkmann that they “had their competition at NBC on the run”. Jackie’s competition for his first season at CBS was NBC’s ‘All Star Revue’. A rare full episode is here for you to watch. Notice at the start, the show billboards as stars Jack Carter, Jimmy Durante, Olson & Johnson, Danny Thomas and Ed Wynn, however…they did not all appear on each episode. They would rotate on a weekly basis and this May 10, 1952 episode was Danny Thomas’s turn. After Gleason hit the air, Martha Raye was added to the line up and the line up was cut to four which eliminated two hosts. By the end of the 52-53 season, Martha was the sole host. In the 53-54 season, the show’s name changed to ‘The Martha Raye Show’ which ran once a month in place of ‘Your Show Of Shows’. One of these sketches is about a woman president…it’s funny. Enjoy!

https://archive.org/details/DannyThomas1952An episode of All Star Revue with Danny Thomas, Eleanor Powell, and June Havoc. Highlights include politically incorrect sketch about what would happen if…
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Reliving History…More Of The Eddie Brinkmann Papers

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Reliving History…More Of The Eddie Brinkmann Papers

‘The Jackie Gleason Show’ debuted on CBS September 20, 1952. Less than three months into his new show, he wrote this letter to his Studio 50 stage manager…Eddie Brinkmann. At the time, Eddie was also stage managing Ed Sullivan’s ‘Toast Of The Town’ from CBS Studio 51, which was the Maxine Elliot Theater. (Sullivan did not move to 50 until late in 1953.) Notice Jackie says “we have our NBC competition on the run”. Who was that? NBC’s ‘All Star Review’. In the next post, I’ll link to a rare full episode. Thanks to Eddie’s granddaughter Dee Wexler for sharing this.


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Rare! CBS Studio 50 Spec Sheets…1960

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Ultra Rare! CBS Studio 50 Spec Sheets…1960

In order to rent studio space to producers, networks have detailed information on their properties to pass along. From the 1960 CBS property book, this is the 3 page description of Studio 50, which of course is now The Ed Sullivan Theater and Letteman’s home. Looking at this diagram drawn to scale, it is amazing how little backstage room there is on the left side (stage right). For those of you like me, who wondered…the center camera ramp is 19 feet, 8 inches long and 8′ and 2″ wide. I’ll post the best high shot of the stage I have in the Comment section below to help with the visual.




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The Wildest Camera Hustle You Have EVER SEEN!

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The Wildest Camera Hustle You Have EVER SEEN!

Just in case you missed it, here’s ‘Tonight’ camera man Kurt Decker handling his pedestal camera like a jitterbug partner! The action starts as 1:09 and is frankly, amazing. This was posted in the comment section on the earlier story on Kurt. Thanks to Andy Rose for the clip. Enjoy and share it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CmUKCeR2dk

While guest announcing on Fallon, Jeffrey Tambor warmed up the crowd with the same speech Hank Kingsley gives at the beginning of every “Larry Sanders” episo…
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Truly Classic!

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Truly Classic!

In Jackie’s dressing room at The Miami Beach Convention Center, “Ralph and Ed” watch a playback of that night’s show.


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Under Construction…NBC Studio 6B

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Under Construction…NBC Studio 6B

Thanks to our friend Dennis Degan, here are a couple of photos of 6B undergoing a massive face lift. In the October 20 photo on the left we see the curved steel platform under the audience riser start to take shape. In the November 23 picture on the right, you can see that the riser in place awaiting carpet and seats. In the A of the ladder, you can see the area where Jimmy’s desk will sit. For more, click on the link below. http://www.flickr.com/photos/dennisdegan



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Behind Camera 1 On ‘Tonight’…Kurt Decker

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Behind Camera 1 On ‘Tonight’…Kurt Decker

Kurt Decker has had his new job on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ for only two days, but was behind the camera at ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ for thirteen years and ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon’ for its entire run. Below, at the link, is a very good two part interview with Kurt that I think you’ll enjoy. Last night I asked him a few questions about what’s inside Studio 6B now, and here’s the scoop. Starting with the camera crew, everyone moved with Jimmy to ‘Tonight’ and two new members are on the crew. Seth Meyer on ‘Late Night’ from 8G will start with a new crew. ‘Tonight’ from 6B is now using ten cameras…there are four pedestal mounted Sony 2400 build ups, one Vinten Merlin (see photos in comment section), two rail cams and three hand held camera available. One of the hand held cams is a Stedicam and the other two are mounted on quick release pan heads on small Vinten peds. The Stedicam is used in a two shot of Jimmy and Higgins during the monologue. This is array is quite similar to the equipment used on Conan’s ‘Tonight’ show which you will see in today’s next post. Thank you for sharing Kurt! I hope we’ll be seeing more of you and some of the other cameramen here soon.

http://woodyafterhours.com/2014/02/11/an-interview-with-kurt-decker-camera-1-at-the-tonight-show-starring-jimmy-fallon-part-1/


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‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ Debut

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‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ Debut

http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/segments/1196
In case you missed it, you can see the kick off and some interesting excerpts at the link above. HOW ABOUT THAT SET? Cool! It’s huge…tall and rich looking with all that wood. I like the new theme song too! WHAT DO YOU THINK?


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New Taping Schedules…’Tonight’ And ‘Late Night’

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New Taping Schedules…’Tonight’ And ‘Late Night’

Today at 5PM, taping starts for ‘Tonight’ as it returns to NBC’s Studio 6B at 30 Rock, and that will be their regular schedule. Next Monday, Seth Meyers starts as the host of ‘Late Night’, and their schedule for taping starts at 6:30 in Studio 8G.


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Little Known Facts Of Ed Sullivan’s Start With CBS…

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Little Known Facts Of Ed Sullivan’s Start With CBS…

in 1948, Ed Sullivan was hired by CBS as a counter to the soon to debut ‘Texaco Star Theater’ starring Milton Berle on NBC. $375 a week was the shows production budget! In today’s money, that’s about $3,700 but that’s still barely a drop in the bucket. It was hard to do, but Sullivan and co creator Marlo Lewis (see photo below) turned ‘Toast Of The Town’ into one of television’s biggest shows.

Previously a boxer, newspaper sportswriter, and vaudeville producer/emcee, Ed Sullivan made his most prominent mark on the entertainment industry as a show business columnist for “The New York Daily News”. His credentials and connections within the industry would grant Sullivan a unique synergy as the host of CBS’s new program. Ed was an influential columnist; if anyone could convince stars to work cheap, he could. CBS head Bill Paley, however, viewed Sullivan as a short-term investment: “Ed Sullivan was hired as a temporary master of ceremonies for a variety program I wanted in 1948 because the programming department could not find anyone like Milton Berle … We planned to replace him as soon as we could afford a professional master of ceremonies.”

Sullivan was hired to a dismal three-year contract to host ‘Toast Of The Town’. The contract stipulated that the show could be cancelled with two weeks’ notice, Sullivan and his partner Marlo Lewis would receive no profit or residuals, and their names would not appear on the billing (so that they could be replaced at any time). For their first two years on ‘Toast Of The Town’, Sullivan and Lewis took home no pay for their efforts, funneling their meager earnings into keeping the show alive.

‘Toast Of The Town’ debuted at 9 P.M. on June 20th, 1948 with a diverse lineup that would be indicative of Sullivan’s formula to come. The bill featured comedy duo Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Broadway producers Rodgers and Hammerstein, ballerina Kathryn Lee, pianist Eugene List, singing fireman John Kokoman, jazz singer Monica Lewis, and boxing referee Ruby Goldstein.

Reviews of the debut program’s talent were overwhelmingly positive, but many critics focused harshly on Sullivan’s on-screen persona. Sullivan had little acting ability and was immediately criticized for his wooden, deadpan delivery. Seemingly of two minds regarding his critics, Sullivan was alternately defensive and self-effacing. In response to Harriet Van Horne’s assertion in New York’s “World Telegram & Sun” that he got where he is, not by having a personality, but by having no personality, Sullivan wrote “Dear Miss Horne. You Bitch. Sincerely, Ed Sullivan.”

Critics focused on Sullivan’s shortcomings as a host, but failed to credit his singular greatest talent: that of producing his weekly variety show. His skill at scouting talent and balancing the various high-brow, low-brow, and kiddy fare acts that made up each program’s roster was unrivaled in television and vaudeville history. As the show’s producer, he took dictatorial control over every aspect of its production. In contrast to his persona as the reserved and respectful host, as producer he didn’t care who he offended.

Sullivan’s methodology was simple. After choosing and booking the acts for a given week’s broadcast, he would run a full dress rehearsal in front of a live audience on Sunday afternoon prior to the evening’s live broadcast. Ed stood offstage, carefully watching each act and gauging the audience’s response. After dress rehearsals concluded, Sullivan would drastically retool the night’s show up until the last minute, canceling some acts, extended or shortening others, changing song selections, forcing lyrical changes, and would otherwise completely alter the show based on his impressions of what would play best to a national audience. At times, he would even make changes during the show, shuffling the running order to speed up the tempo, cover backstage snafus, or to better set up the closing act.

The naturally competitive Sullivan was interested in one thing only: ratings success. He instinctively knew that the only way to ensure his place on the air was to continue to hold his audience while attracting new viewers. Throughout 1948 Sullivan was testing his formula, his version of updated vaudeville: highbrow and lowbrow, something funny, something for the kids. The bookings could ever so slightly challenge the audience, but he always included material to soften any edge. Sullivan made “variety” the strength of ‘Toast Of The Town’. By the spring of 1950, the show could safely be viewed as a success after two seasons. Sullivan and Lewis had begun to profit from the show due to contract renegotiations, advertising sponsorship had stabilized, and reviews of the program had remained favorable. The program faced considerable new competition in the fall of 1950 from NBC’s ‘Colgate Comedy Hour’, but ultimately held its own against Colgate‘s high-budget extravaganza. Sullivan even went so far as to book competitor Milton Berle himself as a guest.

Below is the rarely seen Marlo Lewis…the man who pitched the show idea and the host to CBS. Lewis was the show’s co creator and co producer. Ed handled the booking and talent end and Marlo handled the television and sponsor end. Here he is below with Elvis on his second Sullivan show.


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‘Tonight’…From Allen To Fallon

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‘Tonight’…From Allen To Fallon

This is a pretty good lay out of the who and when of the ‘Tonight’ show history, including the periods between hosts. Please share.


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50 Years Ago Tonight! The Beatles, live on ‘Ed Sullivan’ from Miami

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50 Years Ago Tonight!

The Beatles, live on ‘Ed Sullivan’ from The Deuville Hotel in Miami Beach. Thanks to Gay Linvill, here is a brand new photo…one I had never seen until today. This is the first time ever that the CBS/Ikegami hand held prototype ENG camera had been used on an entertainment show. Notice the CBS logos are on pieces of cardboard attached to the side of the cameras…it is covering the large and unique WTVJ camera art. On the camera on the left, you can see the WTVJ call letters on the viewfinder through the paper covering it.


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The Forgotten “First 15 Minutes” Of The Tonight Shows

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The Forgotten “First 15 Minutes” Of The Tonight Shows

Tomorrow night, Jimmy Fallon starts a new era in ‘Tonight’ show history. He, like Leno and Conan before him is doing a one hour show. Carson inherited a one hour and forty five (105) minute show from Paar, who had inherited it from Steve Allen, but why? In the beginning, before ‘The Steve Allen Show’ became ‘Tonight!’ and moved from WNBT to the NBC network, remember it had been a popular local show, so, they thought it best to “ease” the locals into a more generic show with fifteen minutes that was more New York oriented. I can’t find it anywhere, but I think when ‘Tonignt’ debuted in ’54 it began at 11PM on the network. The 55 affiliates on board at the time could either join the network at 11 for the local monologue, or join at 11:15 when the show had a second intro. In 1954, there was very little late news and what there was, was only in the major metro areas and even then was only 15 minutes at most. Dumont and ABC’s network schedules ended at 10:30 but CBS and NBC’s prime time ran till 11. By the time Paar took over in ’57, most locals then had late news and the show’s first open and monologue began at 11:15 and the second intro that started the guest segment came at 11:30. When Carson took over in October of ’62, that was 11 months before network news went from 15 to 30 minutes and soon after, many large local markets followed with half hour evening and late news, but a lot of the smaller markets still did 15 minutes. It was not until January of 1967 that Carson’s monologues were finally seen by the whole nation. In the first 3 years of Carson’s run, he did the monologue from 11:15 till 11:30 but from ’65 till ’67, Ed and then band leader Skitch Henderson did the first 15 minutes. Carson put his foot down in ’67 so viewers could see the whole show, including the often unseen monologue which took the show to 90 minutes. in 1980, the show went to 60 minutes at Carson’s insistence.


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Just For Laughs…Paul Lynde From ‘Hollywood Squares’

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Just For Laughs…Paul Lynde

From ‘Hollywood Squares’, here are a couple of dozen of Paul’s classic reply’s to Peter Marshall’s questions. Enjoy!

Peter Marshall: Will a goose help warn you if there’s an intruder on your property?
Paul Lynde: There’s no better way!

Peter Marshall: In “Alice in Wonderland”, who kept crying “I’m late, I’m late?”
Paul Lynde: Alice, and her mother is sick about it.

Peter Marshall: According to Tony Randall, “Every woman I’ve been intimate with in my life has been…” What?
Paul Lynde: Bitterly disappointed.

Peter Marshall: Diamonds should not be kept with your family jewels, why?
Paul Lynde: They’re so cold!

Peter Marshall: What is a pullet?
Paul Lynde: A little show of affection…

Peter Marshall: In the Middle Ages, Paul, people in convents were not allowed to eat beans because they believed something about them we now know isn’t true. What?
Paul Lynde: Well, I know they took a vow of silence…

Peter Marshall: Promethius was tied to the top of a mountain by the gods because he had given something to man. What did he give us?
Paul Lynde: I don’t know what you got, but I got a sports shirt.

Peter Marshall: When Richard Nixon was Vice-President, he went someplace on a “good will mission,” but instead wound up being stoned and shouted at. Where did this take place?
Paul Lynde: Pat’s room .

Peter Marshall: True or false, cow’s horns are used to make ice cream.
Paul Lynde: You mean those weren’t chocolate chips?

Peter Marshall: What are “dual purpose”cattle good for that other cattle aren’t?
Paul Lynde: They give milk and cookies…but I don’t recommend the cookies!

Peter Marshall: Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?
Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Peter Marshall: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics. What is the other?
Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Peter Marshall: True or false, the navy has trained whales to recover objects a mile deep.
Paul Lynde: At first they tried unsuccessfully with cocker spaniels…

Peter Marshall: It used to be called “9-pin.” What’s it called today?
Paul Lynde: Foreplay!

Peter Marshall: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?
Paul Lynde: Make him bark.

Peter Marshall: Paul, in the early days of Hollywood, who was usually found atop Tony, the Wonder Horse?
Paul Lynde: My Friend Flicka.

Peter Marshall: During the War of 1812, Captain Oliver Perry made the famous statement, “We have met the enemy and…” What?
Paul Lynde: They are cute.

Peter Marshall: Burt Reynolds is quoted as saying, “Dinah (Shore)’s in top form. I’ve never known anyone to be so completely able to throw herself into a…” A what?
Paul Lynde: A headboard.

Peter Marshall: What is the name of the instrument with the light on the end, that the doctor sticks in your ear?
Paul Lynde: Oh, a cigarette.

Peter Marshall: In one state, you can deduct $5 from a traffic ticket if you show the officer…what?
Paul Lynde: A ten dollar bill.

Peter Marshall: It’s well known that small amounts of female hormones are found in the male body. Are male hormones ever found in the female body?
Paul Lynde: Occasionally.

Peter Marshall: In the “Wizard of Oz,” the lion wanted courage and the tin man wanted a heart. What did the scarecrow want?
Paul Lynde: He wanted the tin man to notice him.

Peter Marshall: Billy Graham recently called it “our great hope in a confusing and ever-changing world.” What is it?
Paul Lynde: Pampers.

Peter Marshall: Paul, how many men are on a hockey team?
Paul Lynde: Oh, about half.


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An Exclusive From The Eddie Brinkmann Archives…Part 5

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An Exclusive From The Eddie Brinkmann Archives…Part 5

Aside from the Duke Ellington autograph, there is plenty more of interest on this show rundown sheet. Notice this is from Monday, February 23, 1970. This would be a day after the live show, and is probably day one of a two day schedule for a prerecorded show. In the 70’s, the show started to travel more and some home base shows had to be done in advance. This looks like camera blocking day and with Edward Villella and Peter Gennaro (both dancer/choreographers) there will more than likely be dance troupes involved. Notice at the bottom of the page the orchestra prerecording sessions at Media Sound Studios. The Muppets would probably go ahead and lay down their vocal parts to be played back, but with Peggy Lee and Dionne Warwick, they would only be recording the music, back up voices and effects but not the lead vocals. Someone mentioned here a few weeks back that they thought Sullivan allowed lip syncing, but I do not think that was ever the case. Bands and singers would at times record their music and backing vocals, but I’m pretty sure Ed demanded that they sing the lead live. Only in rare cases when there was some kind of effect on a well known recording that was difficult to duplicate live were acts allowed to use a recorded lead track. In the ’69, Rolling Stones last appearance, they played and sang “Gimmie Shelter” live, but a click track had Mary Clayton’s backing vocals. Even Bing Crosby with the flu had to sing “White Christmas” live one year late in his career.


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‘Tonight’…The Jack Paar Era

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‘Tonight’…The Jack Paar Era

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIkZK-Z21Pw

Location wise, the ‘Tonight’ show with Jack Paar started where Steve Allen left off…in the Hudson Theater but the final show from there came the week the 1950s ended. The first week of January 1960, the show’s new home would be NBC’s Studio 6B. In the photo below (and at the link above) we see Jack’s famous June 16, 1960 interview with JFK done with RCA TK11/31 black and white cameras in 6B. The show went color September 19, 1960, but on January 12, 1959, while still at The Hudson, the show had begun being videotaped. For the first few months of taping, Paar did the Thursday night show live for some reason, but before long that ended and over the years, the taping time moved from 8 PM till 6:30 PM.

Steve Allen hosted his final episode of Tonight on January 25, 1957. The following Monday, NBC debuted a new multi-hosted, “magazine” show in the time slot…’Tonight: America After Dark’. It was an instant flop and they hurriedly began searching for someone who could do a new version of ‘Tonight’ that was more like the old version. The logical choice might have been Ernie Kovacs, who’d hosted two nights a week during the final months of Allen’s run, but Kovacs had moved west and was appearing in movies. Instead, they picked Jack Paar, who had hosted an array of short-lived programs for all the networks in the preceding years. Paar got his first tastes of television in the early 1950s, appearing as a comic on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and hosting two game shows, ‘Up To Paar’ (NBC) in 1952, and Bank on the Stars (CBS) in 1953, before hosting ‘The Morning Show’ in 1954 on CBS.

Paar took over NBC’s late night time slot on July 29, 1957.
The early Paar ‘Tonight’ program was a mess. At one point before its debut, someone at NBC got the brilliant idea that it should consist of three separate game shows. Each night, the contestant who won the first would move on to appear on the second…and so forth. This notion was discarded, in part because ‘America After Dark’ was sinking fast and there wasn’t the time to develop three new game shows. So they went with the idea of conversation/chat show but even then, NBC wanted to save a tiny amount of money by booking guests a week at a time — the same people for five nights in a row. This too was discarded but for the initial weeks, Paar struggled to make conversation with eccentric guests in whom he had no interest. Further souring the proceedings was the man selected as Paar’s sidekick, veteran comic actor Franklin Pangborn. Pangborn had been funny in scripted film parts but on a live, ad-lib show he was a disaster.

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

When network censors cut a joke about a “water closet” (the British term for a toilet), on February 11, 1960, he received national attention by leaving the show and did not return until three weeks later after the network apologized and he was allowed to tell the joke. Paar’s emotional nature made the everyday routine of putting together a 105-minute program difficult to continue for more than five years. As a TV Guide item put it, he was “bone tired” of the grind. He signed off the show for the last time on Friday, March 30, 1962. The following six months were filled by numerous guest hosts as NBC awaited the expiration of the “no compete” part of Johnny Carson’s ABC contract.

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



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