Friday, April 30, 2010
When you pick-up a book entitled THE LUCKY STRIKE PAPERS, you might expect a hard-hitting investigation of the tobacco industry. But, open the first page of this breezy,affectionate valentine to the early video era and your unfiltered theory goes up in smoke.
Andrew Lee Fielding authored this smart,yet,nostalgic, tribute to a televised entertainment institution, NBC-TV'S YOUR HIT PARADE, and to the significant role his own Mother, Sue ( Fielding ) Bennett played as a star performer on the innovative and industrious, musical-variety show.
( YOUR HIT PARADE STARS SNOOKY LANSON & SUE BENNETT )
Each week a company of versatile and vibrant performers would dramatize the weeks most popular songs. Even in television's genesis, they found creative and captivating ways to visually essay the music America loved.
On occasion, YOUR HIT PARADE left the confines of NBC's, venerable STUDIO 8-H,shooting the complex, LIVE show on location at the nearby Rockefeller Center Skating Rink or on the deck of the S.S.United States,days before the oceanliner embarked on its maiden voyage.
Mr.Fielding was kind enough to send me an autographed copy of this passionate and human look at life in front of the cameras and behind the scenes at a series that may have been the true template for the music videos that filled cable television a generation later. I want to apologize for taking so long to share this story with you, and to thank him for this excellent book and for his kindness.
While I have no financial interest in THE LUCKY STRIKE PAPERS by Andrew Lee Fielding I want you to know that it is available for purchase at this website:
One note,while LUCKY STRIKE may have sponsored many of America's favorite television programs, I DO NOT ENDORSE SMOKING.
Below, I have posted some YOU TUBE clips of YOUR HIT PARADE, which aired from 1950 to 1959 on NBC-TV. Enjoy!!!!!
Saturday, April 24, 2010
MIKE MADE OUR DAY & SHIRLEY BASSEY'S WEEK - THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW - GROUP W SYNDICATION/ KYW-TV PHILA. - CIRCA 1972
One of the great privileges of my career was working as a production/desk assistant for KYW-TV's EYEWITNESS NEWS, right out of Temple University, at a time when the GROUP W-owned, Philadelphia station was home to the nationally syndicated, MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW.
Not only did I have the opportunity to learn my craft as a television news producer from some of the mediums most accomplished, broadcast journalism professionals, but I worked there in 1976 and 1977, when the recently demolished, low-slung brick bunker on Independence Mall rocked to the beat of major musical artists like Donna Summer Cher, Tony Orlando, Sammy Davis Jr.,"Little" Stevie Wonder and more.
( MIKE & SAMMY DAVIS JR.)
By the time I got to work in the KYW building, where space was at a premium from it's opening in 1972 to it's closure in 2007, Mike's 4 piece band performed in a tiny Plexiglas booth, suspended above the 100 people who comprised the audience in a small studio that looked large on TV , thanks to mirrored walls.
Comedy was the true king of the Douglas program, which was recorded on weekdays at noon and 7pm without breaks, "LIVE" on tape.
Don Rickles, Bill Cosby, Joan Rivers, Shecky Green, a young Billy Crystal, and Bob Newhart kept the audience and the KYW staff laughing, while the incomparable studio crew moved lots of scenery and bulky, color cameras at high velocity.
(THE KYW BUILDING)
While most observers would classify the program as talk/variety, music and comedy were key ingredients in the shows mix and it's madcap producer, Woody Frasier, was the mix master.The members of his team were like creative commandos.
THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW , which debuted in Cleveland, Ohio in 1961, and moved to Philadelphia in 1965 , after an arcane, federally mandated station trade, always featured a special guest star as Mike's weekly "co-host."
During that week of shows, candid photos of the co-host and Mike were snapped and would be assembled into a musical montage,that would roll as Mike sang a song of thanks to that week's partner-in-performance.
Here, posted below, from the DAANEMARTINA YOU TUBE site, is Mike offering his gratitude to his co-host, the vibrant, vivacious ( now,Dame )Shirley Bassey.
Come back to visit KINESCOPE HD , sometime,and I'll tell you about the day that Lynda Carter , star of WONDER WOMAN was in THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW green room, wearing her costume, and why EYEWITNESS NEWS AT NOON almost went down in flames :)
Right now, Enjoy the clip!!!!!:)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
WHEN GM RULED THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD - DAVE GARROWAY'S SUNDAY VIDEO MAGAZINE- NBC-TV - CIRCA OCTOBER, 1955
On Sunday, Octonber 16, 1955, NBC's resident televisionary, Sylvester "Pat" Weaver, joined with then-dominant, auto maker, General Motors, to create an innovative video vehicle that was designed to sell , both, new cars and the future promise of television to a growing American audience.
The show was called WIDE, WIDE WORLD, it was produced "LIVE" at the NBC studios in 30 Rockefeller Center and was hosted by laconic,urbane,television pioneer, Dave Garroway.
( Dave Garroway and "Pat" Weaver )
One of many groundbreaking media concepts cultivated by Weaver, WIDE,WIDE WORLD was designed to vicariously take viewers to alluring and exotic places,where they would witness electrifying events and meet unique people, all through the lens of a B&W television camera.
More specifically 40 of them, which NBC technicians deployed in far-flung locales ranging from the vast, cattle ranches OF the American West to the narrow streets of Havana. The show challenged the technical limits of Eisenhower-Era, network television, while it captured the imagination of the American public.
The eclectic and engaging effort was a fixture in the so-called, "intellectual ghetto" of Sunday afternoon, network programming from 1955 until it was cancelled in 1958.Along the way it received 6 Emmy Award nominations and critical acclaim.
Garroway's viewers visited the blood-stained,bullrings of Mexico, entered the Top Secret compound which housed the Strategic Air Command Headquarters, saw jets thunder over the Grand Canyon and did it all "LIVE," often for the first time in television history.
General Motors , then the largest company on earth, was the primary sponsor and a perfect match in its dignified,global imagery for Weaver's ambitious, elegant video magazine of American culture.
Because the show was primarily "LIVE," few kinescopes from the pre-videotape era, in which WIDE, WIDE WORLD was produced, have endured.
In the clip posted,below, from the TV DAYS YOU TUBE site, you'll see Dave Garroway introduce a commercial for GM's parts distribution subsidiary United Motors, presented by announcer Nelson Case.
Like the show in which it was played, this advertisement is complex, for its time, in production values. This spot has live music, dancers, actors and special effects. It's followed by a filmed piece, extolling the virtues of the "motoramic" 1955 Chevrolet.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
" OKAY,HOUSTON,WE'VE HAD A PROBLEM, HERE. " Astronaut Jim Lovell
Those seven words signaled a singular, terrifying episode in man's quest to explore space.
On April 13, 1970, American astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert sped toward the moon at high velocity in their Apollo 13 spacecraft, when a tank in the service module, which was filled with liquid oxygen, exploded as a switch was flipped to stir it's frigid contents.
The side of the craft was torn to shreds. Only the most basic life support systems in the ship's command module survived the blast.The very lives of three brave voyagers were in the balance, as millions of people on earth watched in helpless horror as the story unfolded.
In the days that followed, the finest and most facile minds at NASA,THE NATIONAL AERONAUTICS & SPACE ADMINISTRATION, improvised the technology and tactics that would bring the trio of daring space explorers safely home from their abortive mission to the moon.
It was, in the turbulent 1970's, yet ,another instance in which Americans shared their collective concerns, and satisfied their respective need to know, by turning to network television news. In an odd way, millions of people were brought together by this ordeal in outer space.
Posted below , from the ROBATSEA2009 YOU TUBE SITE,is a clip from NBC-TV's , flagship newscast, THE HUNTLEY-BRINKLEY REPORT, telling the electrifying story of the Apollo 13 nightmare, as it was happening, thousands of miles aloft.
Anchor Chet Hunley solos anchors, with David Brinkley off that night. Two NBC NEWS war horses, John Chancellor and Frank McGee bring calm and clarity to the chilling story of a crisis in space. Enjoy!!!!!:)
Friday, April 9, 2010
LUCY & A COUPLE HUNDRED OF HER BEST FRIENDS: BACKSTAGE AT DESILU FOR I LOVE LUCY - CBS-TV - CIRCA EARLY 1950'S
The incandescent Lucille Ball was one of early,network television's first true luminaries. You didn't need a rating book to know that America loved Lucy.
While Lucille Ball was a meticulous comic actress who made the most stringently rehearsed physical comedy look spontaneous, her husband on screen and in life, Desi Arnaz , was also a true televisionary.
Arnaz,who came to the United States from Cuba as a child and ,later,became a bandleader before embarking on his acting and producing career , adapted the notion of shooting a situation comedy with multiple film cameras , in front of a studio audience, after having seen the technique used for the video version of Ralph Edward's kinetic NBC-TV game show, TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES.
A born entrepreneur , Arnaz saw the value in replaying the filmed episodes he created for CBS-TV, on local stations and helped to create the lucrative, if annoying notion of reruns.
He leased and renovated a sound stage at Hollywood's General Service Studios, to serve as home base for I LOVE LUCY,the hit CBS-TV sitcom that launched DESILU Productions. The company in which Lucy served as vice president to Desi as president. Stage One became THE DESILU PLAYHOUSE.
Here posted below, thanks to the DESIARNAZFAN1951 YOUTUBE site, is a rare, backstage look at Desi doing the audience warm-up, which is designed to get the people in the bleachers at ease, to serve as a living laugh track and to enjoy the show. Enjoy!!!!!:)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
THE NIGHT NBC DID IT IN THE DARK - PEACOCK NETWORK COVERAGE OF THE GREAT NYC BLACKOUT - NBC-TV - CIRCA NOVEMBER 9, 1965
Imagine covering the urban chaos of a major blackout by candlelight.
On Tuesday, November 9th, 1965, in the middle of the evening rush hour, the lights went out up and down the eastern seaboard from Northern New Jersey to Massachusetts.
It was 5:30pm EST when a landmark power outage threw 25 million people into the darkness.
Before the power came back on, and the sun rose again,there was urban looting, commercial airliners were diverted as landing strip lights went dark and there was even a prison break.
The National Guard was called out and off-duty police officers were called in. First responders tended to the daunting jobs of crowd control and emergency rescue.
In tense times, that were just 24 months removed from the killing of President John F.Kennedy, the federal government and the news media tried to reassure terrified citizens that this was not the first volley in a Russian or Chinese nuclear attack on America.
The blackout shut down thousands of businesses for hours and took America's three major television and radio networks off the air for a short time, as well.
TV Networks that normally transmitted national programming to affiliated stations across America from their Manhattan headquarters quickly diverted their primary feeds to stations in nearby markets that still had power. Philadelphia's KYW-TV (then an NBC affiliate) and NBC's Washington Owned & Operated station, WRC-TV, delivered the Peacock's Tuesday Night,Prime Time line-up.
Shortly after the lights went out, and NYC broadcast operations were paralyzed ,a motorcycle courier was dispatched from the NBC Studios at 30 Rockerfeller Plaza to bring a stand-by episode of THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, to KYW-TV's gleaming, marble and steel building at 1619 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.The power was on and the lights were still burning brightly in the shadow of the Liberty Bell.
On that fateful night, the nocturnal adventures of Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon were delivered to loyal, late night viewers across the country, courtesy of the Westinghouse-Owned TV station in Philly. KYW-TV covered the arrival of that media messenger as a part of the blackout story for EYWITNESS NEWS AT 11PM.
In New York, NBC management prepared an NBC NEWS SPECIAL REPORT anchored by the affable Robert Abernathy in NBC's Washington News Bureau with late, videotaped reports from NBC News correspondents Frank McGee and Jim Hartz at 30 Rock. Their inserts were delivered from the confines of a spartan, FLASH STUDIO with illumination provided by a single, flickering candle. NBC News producers admitted some years later that the candle was an overtly dramatic touch to emphasize that power was being provided for the makeshift studio by a mobile generator.
It was an incredible effort that truly captured the angst and ambiance of the night that the lights went out on the east coast. Here, thanks to the REALAGENTOFSHIELD YOU TUBE site is a clip of that NBC News coverage Enjoy!!!!!