Posts in Category: Broadcast History

Television for the Troops

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The First TV Network Built in a War Zone – AFVH
The American Forces Vietnam Network

Here’s another interesting article from our friend Richard Wirth. I have a photo of Richard operating one of the TK60s, so I know he knows the AFVH story well. Some of you probably do too! Enjoy!

http://provideocoalition.com/pvcexclusive/story/television-for-the-troops

Television for the Troops

As America’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan winds down, I think back to another long running war – Vietnam. It is well known Vietnam was the first war brought into people’s homes by television. But television proved useful going the opposite direction as well.
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Garry Moore & Carol Burnet

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Garry Moore & Carol Burnet

Here in a rehearsal hall, Gary Moore goes over the show with a young Carol just behind him. She joined the show in 1959 and stayed till ’62, but after this video clip, we’ll get into some of the things that lead up to this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wY-ofrmCUcE

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat-check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett along with other girls living at The Rehearsal Club, a boarding house for women seriously pursuing an acting career, put on The Rehearsal Club Revue on March 3, 1955. They mailed invitations to agents, who showed up along with stars like Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich, and this opened doors for several of the girls including Carol who was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show in 1955. She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom ‘Stanley’ from 1956 to 1957.

After ‘Stanley’, Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time. She eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number called “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time). In 1957, Burnett performed this number on both ‘The Tonight Show’, hosted by Jack Paar, and ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television’s earliest game shows, ‘Pantomime Quiz’, during this time. In 1957, just as Burnett was achieving her first small successes, her mother died.

Carol’s first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical ‘Once Upon a Mattress’, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. The same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, a job that lasted until 1962. She won an Emmy Award that year for her “Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series” on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who would later become her signature alter-ego. With her success on the Moore show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the 1962 special ‘Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall’, co-starring her friend Julie Andrews. The show was produced by Bob Banner, directed by Joe Hamilton, and written by Mike Nichols and Ken Welch. ‘Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall’ won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music, and Burnett won an Emmy for her performance. Burnett also guest-starred on a number of shows during this time, including The Twilight Zone episode “Cavender is Coming”.

In 1964, Burnett became good friends with Jim Nabors, who was enjoying great success with his series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.. As a result of their close friendship, Burnett played a recurring role on Nabors’s show as a tough corporal, later gunnery sergeant. Nabors would later be her first guest every season on her variety show.

In 1966, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett. After having guested on Burnett’s highly successful CBS-TV special ‘Carol + 2’ and having the younger performer reciprocate by appearing on The Lucy Show, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom called ‘Here’s Agnes’, to be produced by Desilu Productions. Burnett declined the offer, not wanting to commit herself to a weekly series. The two remained close friends until Ball’s death in 1989. Ball sent flowers every year on her birthday. When Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Ball had died. Later that afternoon, flowers arrived at Burnett’s house with a note reading, “Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy.


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NCIS…Season 11 Coming Up Soon…some interesting details

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NCIS…Season 11 Coming Up Soon

Here are some interesting details of the show’s history…the pilot for this series aired as a two-part episode of ‘JAG’ in the spring of 2003. Don Johnson (Miami Vice) was offered the part of Gibbs, but turned it down. The sound heard at the beginning and end of each Act, when the scene goes to black and white is Donald P. Bellisario making that noise into a microphone. He wanted a unique way of bookending each act and took a microphone and went into a studio and made that sound into the microphone. Bellisario named the character Leroy Jethro after his family. His brother’s name is Leroy and his father’s middle name is Jethro. Sean Murray (Special Agent Timothy McGee) is the step son of Bellisario, and his sister on the show is in fact his step sister in real life. Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby, actually graduated with a degree in Forensics in college, and then moved to New York to get her masters, and it was there that she got in to acting. before coming to NCIS. Producers have said that most of the personality and interests displayed by Abby come from Perrette just playing herself.


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Remember Tom Terrific?

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Can You Still Sing Along?

Many of us still remember the theme song lyrics to some of our childhood favorites. Remember Tom Terrific?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PgniqcgdFo

Tom Terrific Theme Song
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Beatles First US Concert: Part 1

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I Never Knew Till Yesterday…Beatles First US Concert: Part 1

Yesterday, I got an email from Steve White and learned something I had never known about The Beatles. This is a fascinating story told in two parts, so be sure to read part two also.

It seems that in February of 1964, Steve was working for Tele-Tape Productions in New York and was in Washington DC to video tape the first ever Beatles concert in the US. The concert was on Monday night, February 10, the night after their first appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ (more details in Part 2 below). Steve’s headset was tethered to one of four Marconi Mark IV cameras there that night to record the show. His position was to assist with the floor camera that shot up and down the left and right sides of the stage, which was actually a boxing ring without the ropes.

This photo of the floor camera shooting the band was one of two dozen never before seen shots from that night that sold for over $300,000 in 2011. In 2012, the 35 minute video was to have become part of a feature length movie called ‘The Beatles…The Lost Concert’. Unfortunately copyright issues came into play and it was never released. I don’t know who paid for the Tele-Tape shoot or what the tape was to be used for. I don’t think it was ever broadcast, but suspect Capitol Records owned the master. Only after the note from Steve was I able to find video of that historic night and you can see part of it in Part 2.


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Beatles First US Concert: Part 2

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I Never Knew Till Yesterday…Beatles First US Concert: Part 2

Till yesterday, I never knew The Beatles first US concert in Washington DC was televised (see part 1 above), but it was and below is a full description to the events of that night and the story that lead up to this night. Notice in the video, the local radio DJs introducing the band all have on Beatle wigs and there are no roadies to help Ringo turn the drum riser around. These were truly the early days of rock and roll!

On February 10, 1964, Ringo Starr stepped off the train in Washington’s Union Station and said, “It’s great to be here in New York!” He was joking, pretending to be disoriented by his whirlwind life. He was in Washington to play the first Beatles concert in the United States, scheduled for that night at the Washington Coliseum (1140 Third St. NE). How the Beatles made Washington their first public stateside performance is a story of fortuitous happenings that combined to make the nation’s capital one of the epicenters of Beatlemania.

By late 1963, the Beatles were already stars in the U.K. but Capitol Records—which owned the U.S. rights to the Beatles’ recordings—had no faith that a British act could do well in the United States. Consequently the company didn’t release the U.K. hits “Please Please Me” or “She Loves You,” instead, licensing those off to the much smaller labels Vee-Jay and Swan. They went nowhere.

But when a Silver Spring, Maryland girl saw a short segment about the Beatles on “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” in December, 1963, it started a chain of events that forced Capitol’s hand. The girl, Marsha Albert, wrote to her favorite Washington DJ, Carroll James of WWDC-AM, asking him why he wasn’t playing songs by this hot British band. Carroll had also seen the CBS report, and arranged to get a copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” from a British Airways flight attendant. He called up Albert and invited her to the station to introduce the song, and on the afternoon of December 17, Albert was on the air on WWDC-AM saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time on the air in the United States, here are the Beatles singing ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand.’ ”

The station was deluged with calls. Carroll James taped copies of the single for a DJ pal in Chicago, who did the same for a friend in St. Louis. Capitol Records demanded they stop playing the single, but soon realized the Beatles were out of the bag, and rushed its own release of the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” single, three weeks ahead of schedule.

It was soon the number one song in America, a fact that got the Beatles booked on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” They flew into New York on February 7, 1964, facing a mob at the airport. They played “The Ed Sullivan Show” on February 9, to a studio audience of 728 people but a television audience of nearly 74 million, almost half the entire U.S. population at the time. They had booked the Washington show and then two dates at Carnegie Hall at the last minute to help defray travel costs, and were preparing to fly to Washington on Tuesday February 10, but a snowstorm steered them to the train. Manager Brian Epstein hired a sleeper car and got it attached to the morning train to Washington. At Union Station, a crowd of 2,000 screaming fans greeted the band, and they met with DJ James and the Silver Spring girl Albert, whose letter had helped spark the madness.

Limousines took the foursome and their entourage to the Shoreham Hotel (they’d booked the entire 7th floor), and John Lennon scribbled the night’s planned set list on hotel stationary. At the Coliseum, more than 8,000 people, mostly young women and girls, were screaming for the Beatles, all throughout performances by the Caravelles, Tommy Roe and the Chiffons. They’d paid $2, $3 and $4 for their tickets. Inside the hall—built for sporting events—the Beatles performed before their largest crowd to date, on a stage that was a converted boxing ring (without the ropes). They ran through a 35-minute set consisting of: “Roll Over, Beethoven,” “From Me to You,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “This Boy,” “All My Loving,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Please Please Me,” “Till There Was You,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Twist and Shout” and “Long Tall Sally.”

By most reports, the audience could hardly hear a thing by the band, which was drowned out by the screams (they were hindered by a ludicrously inadequate sound system as well). They were rushed back to the Shoreham after the show to change clothes before heading to the British Embassy for a reception. It was well past midnight when they arrived, and the Beatles made mischief with the Ambassador’s attempts to greet them. “I’m not John,” said John. “I’m Charlie. That’s John.” Pointing to George Harrison. They signed hundreds of autographs and Ringo Starr lost a lock of hair to a woman with nail scissors. They headed back to New York the next morning by train, to play Carnegie Hall and to appear again on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” They left behind a snow-covered city, whose inhabitants had helped start a global wave of cultural change. They couldn’t know that, however.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT3pnZcgivw

I don’t own anything. The Beatles live at the Washington Coliseum – 11/2/1964 – Part 1 of 4.
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Gene Rayburn VS The Cameramen

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Gene Rayburn VS The Cameramen

The camera crew in Studio 33 at Television City have their hands full trying to follow Gene as he races around the studio at the opening of an episode of ‘Match Game ’78’. The Norelco PC70s are in use and it looks like the center camera ramp is still there, but now, doesn’t go all the way back…just half way. By the way, Gene was only 61 at the time, not 75. Thanks to Juan Leal for the clip.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqIQo6A6IgI

Gene Rayburn comes out jogging through entire set and studio audience
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Someone’s In The Kitchen With Lucy!

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Someone’s In The Kitchen With Lucy!

Ethyl and Lucy rehearse for a scene in the kitchen. In front of the sound boom, Director of Photography Karl Freund is making adjustments with the crew. The show goes before the motion picture cameras in much the same way it would as a live show in a television studio. As Freund pointed out, the almost continuous camera-on-dolly technique employed is adapted from standard TV camera operations for live shows.

The show is photographed on 35mm film with three Mitchell BNC cameras mounted on dollies, as shown in the photos. All three cameras shoot the action simultaneously. The camera in the center makes all the long shots with a 40mm wide-angle lens. The cameras at either side record the action in close-ups, using 3-inch and 4-inch lenses. In the beginning, the company used a cue-track method, which permitted remote control operation of the cameras individually for long shot, medium shot, and close-up, as the script demanded. This system was soon abandoned, however, in favor of regular film production methods, with the tacks from the three cameras edited on the Moviola, etc. The result is greater speed in the photography of scenes and better results in the final editing.

Cueing of camera operators, grips operating the dollies, and of the gaffer handling the light dimmers is still a major function in the production of the weekly films. When the show is being photographed, the script girl in a booth overlooking the stage is in direct contact with the key technicians at all times via two-way intercom phones. Although each man previously is briefed on the operation and in many cases has floor marks to guide him, the script girl insures against any possibility of error by her timely cues. Impressive is the speed with which the crews move on to the next setup and start shooting again. A special check made of this operation showed that elapsed time between camera setups averaged a minute-and-a-half.

A major factor making such speed possible is the lighting arrangement worked out for the production. Since invariably the players are in action over almost the entire set, the light intensity must be uniform over the entire area at all times. There are no light changes, other than those made by dimming. All set illumination, therefore, is from overhead. there are no floor lamps and the only illumination from a lower level comes from the portable fill lights, which are mounted just above the matt box on each camera.


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Measure Twice, Cut Once

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

Director of photography Karl Freund has his back to us as an assistant pulls a tape on Desi Arnaz in the living room set of ‘I Love Lucy’. The action in each weekly episode takes place on three basic sets erected more or less permanently on Stage 2 at General Services Studio. The sets, which represent the Ricardo apartment consisted of a kitchen, a living room, and a third room which is dressed as required. The sets adjoin one another and are, in fact “intercommunicating,” so that action, such as a player entering the living room from the kitchen door, becomes a natural thing; and when the continuity of such action is to be picked up by the cameras, they are merely moved before the adjoining set and filming is resumed in a matter of seconds. Beyond this three-set arrangement is still another set representing the nightclub where Ricky Ricardo is employed as entertainer…this was to the right of the kitchen set. The orchestra was assembled for every show, whether or not it is to be used in the picture filmed that evening.


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The First Order For Color Equipment…

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The First Order For Color Equipment…

Before any other local station, WBAP-TV (now KXAS or NBC5) in Dallas/Ft. Worth optimistically placed an order in the fall of 1949 for RCA color television equipment, to be delivered when ready. On April 9, 1954, WBAP-TV became the only Texas television station broadcasting color programs form the NBC television network. On May 15, WBAP staged a three-hour studio color telecast. General David Sarnoff, chairman of the board of Radio Corporation of America (RCA), and station owner Amon Carter, Sr., threw the switch to inaugurate the first local live colorcast in Texas.

The first color tape recorder in Texas was in installed by WBAP-TV in October, 1959. The new equipment had the ability to record a 90-minute segment of programming and play it back in less than five minutes.


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Good Idea!

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What Do You Think?

I think having a program monitor on a camera is a good idea. I know that you can punch it up on the VF, but you can’t see both screens at the same time.


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W6XAO Experimental Station…Now, KCBS

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W6XAO Experimental Station…Now, KCBS

In 1931 famous California broadcast entrepreneur Don Lee was granted a license to begin experimental television broadcasts with station W6XAO in Los Angeles. The station later became KTSL, KNXT and is currently KCBS-TV. The ridge above the Hollywood sign, where Lee established his transmitter, is still known as “Mount Lee”. In the photo, this appears to be a “home made” Iconoscope camera. Don Lee’s name appears on the rear under the viewfinder. It was not common for stations to build their own cameras, but the schematics were available and a few very good engineers at a few of the early stations did this.


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Durante’s Signature Sign Off…Who Was Mrs. Calabash?

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Durante’s Signature Sign Off…Who Was Mrs. Calabash?

The most revered part of Jimmy’s show was the finale when he would slowly fade away walking through a succession of spotlights, pausing in each one to either look down or look back at the audience (see the video clip below). He did this after bidding farewell, commenting, “And good night, Mrs. Calabash–wherever you are!” Who was Mrs. Calabash? No one but Jimmy ever knew. This led to all sorts of speculation. The most accepted came to be that it was a pet name for Jimmy’s first wife, Jeanne Olsen. Another was that it referred to the place where Jimmy and Jeanne lived, Calabasas, California. Perhaps the line refers to the owner of a restaurant in Calabash, North Carolina, where Jimmy and his troupe stopped once to eat. He was so taken by the food, the service, and the chitchat that when he left he turned and said,”Good night, Mrs. Calabash,” not knowing the lady’s name. Only Jimmy knew. His reply when asked: “Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaaaa!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWN97q7xtDE

Goodnight Mrs. Calabash – The Jimmy Durante Show 1959
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The cost of baseball’s broadcast rights in 1961

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Baseball Rights $$$, 1961

There is a great enlargeable graph in this story that shows, team by team, the amount they were paid for TV and Radio broadcast rights for the season. Interestingly, WGN did all the Cubs & Sox games in color and WLW-T did a lot of color too. The figures will amaze you. Thanks to Kevin Vahey for this very interesting story.

http://www.baseballnation.com/2013/8/29/4670580/the-cost-of-baseballs-broadcast-rights-in-1961

The cost of baseball’s broadcast rights in 1961

A lot has changed on the television side of baseball since 1961.
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Technically Speaking…The Dumont 124 IO Camera

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Technically Speaking…The Dumont 124 IO Camera

Finally! Thanks to 51 year TV veteran Bill Freiberg of KTRK in Houston TX, who started with Dumont equipment, we finally know some of secrets that had been lost for so long on these cameras. Below is his letter to me and a photo of a Dumont 124B in use. Enjoy!

“First let me tell you how much I am enjoying your website. I am in my 51st year in this business and cut my teeth on DuMont studio gear starting in 1962. The station was originally a UHF DuMont affiliate, but went dark, then when the freeze was over, the CH 13 people bought the facility. We had DuMont cameras, switchers, a color Multiscanner, sync generators, consoles, the whole megilla.

The DuMont TA-124 was a 3” Image Orthicon camera, it was later branded and sold by G.E, but was still made in Passaic, it was the same camera as the 124-E. The camera had the I/O at the lower
right position (looking from the rear), as opposed to the RCA, which had the I/O in the top center.

The connectors were unique to DuMont, there were A, B, C, D, and E cables, differing mostly in the number of coaxes within. The camera was fed by a small box called the “aux” unit, which contained the equipment for cable equalization, blanking and timing, and voltage regulation to compensate for differing cable lengths. Yes, the 124s could and did work on booms, perambulators, pedestals, tripods, anywhere an RCA could. There was a finite length limit to the aux to camera, but it was usually installed near the camera for setup convenience.

At KTRK, we had them at the camera control position on the
2nd floor. We built a lot of our own cables there. Even built “orbiters” to slowly move the image on the face of the I/O to minimize image burn in. RCA used an optical wedge which turned, we used coils around the front part of the tube. Wound them on a coffee can, as I remember.

The focus handle screwed to the lower right of the camera body, and moved the I/O back and forth, along with the deflection coils. We always had a set of the little flex cables, about 2″ long. They made up for the angle at which the handle presented to the camera body. The last 3″ of the handle turned in order to focus. The TK 40/41 used a similar system.

Iris setting was manual, but DuMont at one time had a kit which had gears on each lens. A handle at the rear was pushed in and rotated to set the iris for the lens in use. We just left ours at 5.6 in the studio and 8 or 10 outdoors. We never had iris control at the CCU.

We had a show we did once a year for which we had to pull all
the stuff out of the step can/milk truck and tote up four flights of stairs. We called it the annual KTRK hernia festival.”

Thanks to Bill for the note. Anyone that would like to share the same kind of information on the various cameras and video tape machines they have worked with, please send it to me!


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1 Minute Radio-Canada Color Promo” 1968

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1 Minute Radio-Canada Color Promo” 1968

Thanks to former CBC engineer Serge Bordeleau for sending this.
It was shot on film at the IBC building ( Expo67). Fast montage showing talent and equipment including the RCA TK42.

Publicité québécoise du bon vieux temps de Radio-Canada mettant en scène de l’équipement technique, un mime et un homme avec des lunettes fumées.
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Remembering David Frost

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Remembering David Frost

British journalist David Frost, who was best known for his interview with former President Richard Nixon, died on Saturday, his family said. The veteran broadcaster was 74. During his 50-year career not only were there plenty of heavyweight interviews – Frost sat down with seven US presidents and six British prime ministers – but there was also a string of satirical news shows, celebrity interviews, and some light entertainment.

“The Week That Was,” presented by Frost when it launched in 1962 on the BBC, was a groundbreaking show that mocked the British establishment. It was broadcast on Saturday evenings and its sketches lampooning politicians, churchmen and celebrities drew huge audiences. Production style also broke the established rules with, for example, technical equipment in vision.

TW3 as it was known was followed by “The Frost Report”, another satirical show broadcast in Britain. Comedian and actor John Cleese, at the start of his career, was a writer together with others who then formed Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“Through the Keyhole” was a tour of celebrity homes, and “Breakfast with Frost” a Sunday morning show where the presenter sat down with a range of guests from politics and show business. The long list of those who agreed to be interviewed by Frost throughout his career includes Nelson Mandela, Paul McCartney, Orson Welles, Muhammad Ali and Prince Charles.


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Remember ‘Mr. Peepers’?

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Remember ‘Mr. Peepers’?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1Ut9bgnqx4

This photo was taken by Mike Mathews’ mother in 1952 while in the audience of the live show in NBC Studio 8H. After it’s first year, production moved to the Century Theater on Seventh Avenue. The series starred Wally Cox and was not scheduled to air in the fall of ’52, but ‘Doc Corkle’ which was originally on NBC’s schedule was canceled after only 3 episodes. ‘Mister Peepers’, which had scored well with viewers and critics during its summer run, replaced ‘Doc Corkle’ on the schedule. The show did 127 episodes from ’52-’55 and was produced by early TV legend, Fred Coe. Above is a link to the first show of the ’52 season.


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David Letterman…First Monologue, First Show

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David Letterman…First Monologue, First Show

February 1, 1982, Late Night premiered with a cold opening featuring Larry “Bud” Melman delivering lines as an homage to the prologue of Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, followed by Letterman coming out on stage behind a group of female dancers – the peacock girls. After a brief monologue, the very first comedy segment was a sarcastic tour of the studio. The first guest was Bill Murray and here is that historic segment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNplNAjlEz8

Monologue
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David Letterman…Last Monologue on NBC

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David Letterman…Last Monologue on NBC

This is classic! Wait till you see David and Paul ice skate! Enjoy…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NnrXKxOHkw

The Last Episode of “Late Night with David Letterman”. Guests: Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen.
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A Rare Surviving Technicolor Camera

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A Rare Surviving Technicolor Camera

There were never many of these…I think no more than 30 or so world wide and some of those were rebuilt for other color processes. This camera is in the collection of my friend Carey Williams in Chicago and is valued around $50,000. It is known to have been used on ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ and possibly ‘Gone With The Wind’.


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History Of The CBS Eye Logo

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History Of The CBS Eye Logo

It was born in October of 1951 and here’s Charles Osgood’s story on it’s development on the 50th Anniversary in 2001.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB63odkphhg

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the CBS eye in 2001, Charles Osgood did this report on the creation of the famous logo.
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50 Years Ago Today! August 28, 1963

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50 Years Ago Today! August 28, 1963

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. It was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Here is one of the many cameras from every network covering the event.

NBC’s Chicago O&O, WNBQ had a big mobile unit and showed up with 6 cameras. NBC New York sent 2 mobile units and 10 cameras and NBC Washington, WRC had 5 on their mobile unit. CBS had 25 cameras there and ABC 20. They were spread all over town.


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The Burns & Allen Show…1950-1958

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The Burns & Allen Show…1950-1958

Their radio show started in 1936 but by 1950, it was time to move to television. When ‘The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show’ began on CBS Television October 12, 1950, it was an immediate success. The show was originally staged live before a studio audience and during its first three months, it originated from the Mansfield Theater in New York, then relocated to CBS’ Columbia Square facilities in Los Angeles.

Ever the businessman, Burns realized it would be more efficient to do the series on film and that started in the fall of 1952). The half-hour episodes could then be syndicated. From that point on, the show was shot without a live audience present, however, each installment would be screened before an audience to provide live responses prior to the episodes being broadcast. With 291 episodes, the show had a long network run through 1958 and continued in syndicated reruns for years.

After the live series ended, the shows were filmed at General Service Studios. The sets were designed to look like their real-life residence, often using an establishing shot of the actual house at 312 Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Although extensively remodeled, that house still exists today—including the study over the garage where George would “escape” from Gracie’s illogical logic. Burns lived in that house for the rest of his life.

One running gag of the TV show involved a closet full of hats belonging to various visitors to the Burns household; guests would slip out the door unnoticed, leaving their hats behind, rather than face another round with Gracie. The format had George watching all the action (standing outside the proscenium arch in early live episodes; watching the show on TV in his study towards the end of the series) and breaking the fourth wall by commenting upon it to the viewers. Another running gag was George’s weekly “firing” of announcer Harry Von Zell after he turned up aiding, abetting or otherwise not stopping the mayhem prompted by Gracie’s illogical logic.

During the course of the eight-year run, the TV show had remarkable consistency in its cast and crew. The episodes were produced and directed by Ralph Levy (1950–53), Frederick de Cordova {who would go on to direct most episodes of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” (1953–56), and Rod Amateau (1956–58). In addition to cast members Harry Von Zell (replacing original announcer Bill Goodwin in September 1951), Bea Benaderet (who made the transition from the radio show), and Larry Keating, the original writing staff consisted of Sid Dorfman, Harvey Helm, Paul Henning, and William Burns (George’s brother).


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The Great Fred de Cordova

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The Great Fred de Cordova

Fred joined ‘The Tonight Show’ at age 60 and left the show at age 82, but he covered a lot of ground before that! After his graduation from Harvard Law School in 1933, he worked in the Shubert Theater organization and directed stage shows for the next ten years. He was variously a performer, stage manager, stage director, and finally dialogue director, the last in ‘Ziegfeld Follies of 1943’.

He directed 23 movies. One of the better known was ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’ (1951) starring a chimpanzee and future President Ronald Reagan. He also directed Rock Hudson, Errol Flynn, Tony Curtis, Audie Murphy, Yvonne de Carlo, Bob Hope and Humphrey Bogart. Much of his career was at Universal Studios, where he was known for turning out entertaining pictures quickly, even with difficult actors, and on a low budget. His last film was ‘Frankie and Johnny’ (1966) with Elvis Presley.

His skills were perfect for TV and in 1950, his TV career began with directing ‘The Jack Benny Program’, on which he appeared several times as himself. Other programs he directed include ‘The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show’, ‘The Bob Cummings Show’, ‘The George Gobel Program’, ‘December Bride’, ‘Leave It to Beaver’, ‘My Three Sons’ (103 episodes), and ‘The Smothers Brothers Show’. He directed and/or produced more than 500 TV series or segments.

He became producer of ‘The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson’ in 1970 and executive producer in 1984. He described his job as “..chief traffic cop, talent scout, No. 1 fan and critic all rolled into one” in a 1981 interview. He was executive producer when the final Carson show signed off in 1992. He won five Emmys for his work on the show.

During tapings of the Tonight Show, de Cordova would sit in a chair just beyond the guests’ couch so that he could cue Carson directly and speak with him during commercial breaks. By the 1980s Carson would occasionally speak to de Cordova during the show, although usually the moment would pass so quickly that there would be no time to give de Cordova a microphone or catch him on camera.

In July 1991, Carson paid tribute at the end of a show to his son Ricky Carson, who had died the month before in an automobile accident. De Cordova was aware that the show was going long and gave Carson the “wrap it up sign.” This infuriated Carson, and from that point forward de Cordova was no longer permitted to manage the show from the floor of the set. For more of his credits, go here http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0208111/


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Did You Know This?

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Did You Know This?

Before the factoid, take a look at this great one minute clip from Studio 1 in Burbank with TK44s. Producer Fred de Cordova sat off camera at the end of the guest sofa and had a “go to commercial” button at his chair that lit a signal light in the studio and control room that he would use occasionally as a chance to guide Carson during the show. During the break, Fred would talk with Johnny and if a guest was bland, he suggested moving on, but if things were on a roll, they would extend the piece and juggle the remaining guests. The first to get bumped were authors on a book tour.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Wz8lhPhWVg

Fred de Cordova leaves the set of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson when Johnny’s joke bombs. Air date 05-03-1983 Visit http://www.facebook.com/JohnnyC…
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Leo And Jackie

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Leo And Jackie

In 1965, ABC provided the first-ever nationwide baseball coverage with weekly Saturday broadcasts on a regional basis. Each Saturday, ABC would broadcast two 2 p.m. games and one 5 p.m. game for the Pacific Time Zone. Merle Harmon, Chris Schenkel, Keith Jackson, and on occasion, Ken Coleman served as ABC’s principal play-by-play voices for this series. Also on the network’s announcing team were pregame host Howard Cosell and color commentators Leo Durocher, Tommy Henrich, Warren Spahn, and Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson, who, on April 17, 1965, became the first black network broadcaster for Major League Baseball. This photo is from September 6, 1965 in Los Angeles as the Dodgers prepare to take on San Francisco.


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‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ 1955-1960

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‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ 1955-1960

The Mickey Mouse Club was was first televised from 1955 till 1960 on ABC, featuring a regular but ever-changing cast of child performers. Reruns were broadcast by ABC on weekday afternoons during the 1960s, right after American Bandstand.

The series ran on ABC Television for an hour each weekday in the 1955–1956 and 1956–1957 seasons (from 5:00 to 6:00 pm ET), and only a half-hour weekdays (5:30 to 6:00 pm ET) in 1957–1958, the final season to feature new programming. Although the show returned for the 1958–1959 season (5:30 to 6:00 pm ET), these programs were repeats from the first two seasons, re-cut into a half-hour format. The Mickey Mouse Club was featured on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Walt Disney’s Adventure Time, featuring re-runs of The Mickey Mouse Club serials and several re-edited segments from Disneyland and Walt Disney Presents, appeared on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Although the show remained popular, ABC decided to cancel the show after its fourth season, as Disney and the ABC network could not come to terms for renewal. The cancellation in September 1959 was mostly due to ABC’s demand to add more spots to the show which Disney did not approve of. After canceling The Mickey Mouse Club, ABC also refused to let Disney air the show on another network. Walt Disney filed a lawsuit against ABC, and won the damages in a settlement; however, he had to agree that both the Mickey Mouse Club and Zorro could not be aired on any other network.


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‘Caesar’s Hour’…1954-57

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‘Caesar’s Hour’…1954-57

After ‘Your Show Of Shows’ ended it’s four year run, Imogene Coca was offered her own show…a half hour on NBC that ran from 1954-1955. Sid Caesar replaced Coca with Nanette Fabray. The already great writing staff including Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner added Woody Allen and Larry Glebarth. “The Commuters” was a sketch that appeared often and pictured below is a 1956 edition of that sketch with Caesar, Reiner and Howard Morris, all done live weekly from The Majestic Theater.


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‘Wrangler’…The One And Only Videotape Cowboy Show

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‘Wrangler’…The One And Only Videotape Cowboy Show

In 1960, ‘Wrangler’ was the summer replacement for ‘The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show’ on NBC. It was done by David Wolper Productions using crew and equipment from KTLA in Los Angeles. Only six episodes were were done, but all of it was shot on location by Marconi Mark IV black and white cameras and the quad video tape edited on Paramount TV’s TVola. The series starred Jason Evers as Wrangler Pitcarin. Remember, KTLA was owned by Paramount back then before being sold to Gene Autry and Golden West.


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