Henry Becton Remembers: Alistair Cooke

From Henry Becton

Alistair_Cooke,_head-and-shoulders_portrait,_facing_front,_gesturing_with_left_hand,_during_interview,_March_18,_1974Vanya Tulenko — now an alumna but formerly in charge of the Ralph Lowell Society — reminded me recently of this letter from Alistair Cooke. 

In 1987 with encouragement from our Board we decided to create the major giving society named after our founder.  The intention was to encourage annual fund donors at the $1,000 level and above with special events and recognition in our annual report.  

I don’t recall whose idea it was to solicit some of our on-air stars, but in any event I sent a solicitation letter to Alistair.  He replied promptly with this characteristically dry-whitted, tongue-in-cheek response.  It was one of those letters that makes one’s day!

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The text went as follows:

Easter Monday 1987

Dear Mr. Becton:

I am thrilled to receive your
invitation to join the Ralph Lowell
Society. I am not a clubman, but I
have always yearned to rub shoulders
with some of the glamorous starts of
television. And even though I dislike
champagne almost as much as its frequent
accompaniment (caviare), I cannot resist
sending you the enclosed in the hope, one
day, of meeting such breathtaking
celebrities as Vincent Prince and
Julia Childs. Do let me know if a
Ralph Lowell T-shirt comes with the membership.

Yours sincerely,

A. A. Cooke

Seven thousand video tapes transferred to digital

From WGBH Archives — July 2014

On March 11, 2013, WGBH Media Library and Archives’ Archives Manager Keith Luf and Digital Archives Manager Michael Muraszko loaded 7,010 tapes from the WGBH vault onto 12 palettes, which were then shipped via an 18-wheeler to be digitized at Crawford Media Services in Atlanta, Georgia for the American Archive of Public Broadcasting.

Only a few months later would the WGBH MLA in collaboration with the Library of Congress be selected as the permanent home for the American Archive collection, an initiative to identify, preserve, and make accessible as much as possible the historic record of public media in America.

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WGBH’s tapes were stored in 306 archives boxes, totaling 459 linear feet (longer than 1 1/2 football fields!) and comprising more than 6,400 hours of content. In many cases, the archives staff knew only the program title of the tapes — they often knew nothing about the recorded participants.

The content dated back as early as March of 1947 and was as recent as 2005. The MLA sent material on 15 different video and audio tape formats, the majority of which had exceeded the manufacturer’s intended lifespan. MLA’s Keith Luf compared the situation to a child’s 18 year old cat, which everyone knew wouldn’t — and couldn’t — be around much longer.

In June of 2014, WGBH’s 6,400 hundred hours of content was returned. In addition to the original 7,010 tapes, the content was delivered as digital files on a second copy — on 17 LTO-6 tapes…. stored in one box!

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And with the digitized material came a new ease of accessibility — the MLA staff have been able to easily watch or listen to the digital files and discover content they never knew had been sitting in the vault for all these years.

Among the new discoveries includes a 1967 10-minute monologue by American historian and activist Howard Zinn on the social unrest of the times; a recorded speech given by JFK in either 1962 or 1963 at the Armory in Boston; and a 1975 video recording of a cello class taught by Harvard professor Mstislav Rostropovich, who during the recording asked a graduate student in his class “What kind of a name is Yo-Yo?”

As additional funding has become available, the MLA has recently coordinated with Crawford on the digitization of 800 more hours of 3/4″ videotapes and 1/4″ audiotapes, which will be shipped out next week.  Who knows what we’ll find next!?

Ben Wattenberg, 81, author and host

From Current.org

Ben Wattenberg, a neoconservative author and host of a nationally syndicated talk show on public television, died June 28 in Washington, D.C. He was 81.

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Think Tank With Ben Wattenberg aired from April 1994 through January 2010. Episodes featured historians, anthropologists, political scientists, demographers, economists and social philosophers taking deep dives into single subjects. Notable guests over the years included director Sydney Pollack, entrepreneur Elon Musk, economists Milton Friedman and John Kenneth Galbraith, author Kurt Vonnegut, feminist Betty Friedan and social critic Camille Paglia…

Before Think Tank, Wattenberg also hosted weekly programs produced by WGBH in Boston and WETA in Arlington, Va.

Paul Noble Remembers: Eleanor Roosevelt

By Paul Noble

In the fall of 1959, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt began her series of monthly discussion programs for National Educational Television. It was called “Prospects of Mankind,” and was a production of WGBH-TV for National Educational Television.

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From Eleanor vs JFK: The Back Story. From WGBH.

It was made possible because Mrs. Roosevelt’s longtime friend Henry Morgenthau III was able to secure funding from the Ford Foundation for a monthly seminar to be conducted by Mrs. Roosevelt at Brandeis University in Waltham. The monthly programs were produced on Sunday afternoons at Slosberg Music Center on the Brandeis campus (with occasional forays to New York, Washington, London and Paris).

During the first year, the programs were directed by David M. Davis. They were executive produced by Henry Morgenthau, and the two co-producers were Paul Noble and Diana Tead Michaelis. Virginia Kassel and Beatrice Braude rounded out the production team. In the second year, Paul Noble was the director; in the third year, the director was Gene S. Nichols.

The programs were recorded and distributed on videotape.

Most of the programs dealt with political issues. Guests included Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, Governor Luis Munoz Marin of Puerto Rico, Dr. Ralph Bunche of the United Nations, economist Barbara Ward, playwright Santha Rama Rau, Richard Crossman, M.P., Chicago educator R. Sargent Shriver, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, Indian ambassador Krishna Menon, Tanzanian president Julius Nyrere, Uganda president Tom Mboya, Gen. James Gavin and Voice Of America chief, Edward R. Murrow.

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Eleanor Roosevelt, Sargent Shriver, and Hubert Humphrey on Prospects of Mankind from Wikimedia Commons.

Mrs. Roosevelt always was partnered with a journalist or specialist on each program, such as Erwin Canham or Saville Davis of the Christian Science Monitor, Dr. Henry Kissinger from Harvard University, Dr. Jerome Weisner from MIT, and others.

Untold stories about the series:

  • In her later years,Mrs. Roosevelt suffered from a loss of hearing. She also tired easily under the hot lights. To remedy that, our engineering department fitted her with an earpiece giving her program audio. If she seemed to be losing attention, we boosted the sound going into the headset.
  • One day in Manhattan, while crossing the street, she stepped between two parked cars on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village, and a car backed into her, knocking her down. She said to the stunned driver “I’m fine! Just keep going!” “After all,” she said, “I was the one at fault and I didn’t want to get him into trouble.” She limped to her destination, gave her scheduled speech, then went home (to the house she shared with her doctor and his wife), and was then taken for X-rays. She suffered a sprain, but it meant we had to move the following Sunday’s show to WNEW-TV in New York.
  • The only time I ever had a fight with a Nobel Prize winner was with Dr. Ralph Bunche, then Under Secretary-General of the United Nations. He refused to wear a “TV Blue” shirt, which I offered him. “I am not a clown!” he shouted.
  • When Mrs. Roosevelt decided to take a fall holiday in the Dolomites in Europe in September 1960, this interfered with her scheduled tapings in Boston. Henry reached out to his old friend Leonard Miall in London, then Head of Talks at the BBC. Within a few days, arrangements were made to tape two shows in London, which would not only be part of “Prospects of Mankind” but which would air on the BBC. We headed to London on August 8 to prepare for the early September tapings. We were assigned a director for the programs who later became one of the longest-lasting BBC directors, a Welshman named Huw Weldon, whose program “Monitor” was a precursor or model for America’s “60 Minutes.”
  • One of the key guests was the 88-year-old Lord Bertrand Russell, socialist, atheist, mathematician, and philosopher. I introduced him to Mrs. R. “Madam, I admire your energy!” he said. “What about you, sir?” she responded.After a lunch with a great deal of wit and teasing remarks, Lord Russell asked me if his parent had to sign the standard release form where it said “parent’s signature.” I said, “Yes, where does your parent live?” He responded “That is a question that can only be answered by theologians.”
  • In 1939, a young reporter for the Boston Globe attended an “off-the-record” press briefing in a Boston hotel with the then-Ambassador to the Court of St. James, the Honorable Joseph P. Kennedy. The Ambassador said that under no circumstances should the U. S. get involved in the war against the Nazis, a war which was then imminent and threatening to Great Britain as well as the rest of the continent.Louis Lyons ignored the “off-the-record” request, printed the story, and it made headlines nationwide. The next morning, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt read the paper, stormed into Franklin’s bedroom and said “Franklin, fire that man!”Twenty-one years later, Sunday, January 3, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy was one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s guests on the campus of Brandeis University for her monthly “Prospects of Mankind” program. It was the day JFK announced his decision to run for President. Henry Morgenthau persuaded his friend “Jack” to appear on the show. After the taping, there was an impromptu press conference for JFK on the set. Who asked the first question? You guessed it, Louis Lyons!Did JFK know that Louis had done his father in? We’ll never know.And how did JFK later convince Mrs. Roosevelt to support his candidacy? Was it because she traded that support for his agreement to start the Peace Corps ? Historians will have to answer that question.
  • When Senator Kennedy arrived at Slosberg Music Center to record Mrs. Roosevelt’s program, he was wearing a J. Press shirt, initialed JFK.  I asked him if he wouldn’t mind exchanging it temporarily for a TV Blue shirt.  He agreed, and I gave him one from our supply, size 16 1/2 neck, 35 sleeve.Later that week, I had his shirt laundered, and I returned it to him at the Senate Office Building.  He kept the WGBH shirt.Years later, I still regret not keeping his shirt as a memento or to wear on special occasions.

 

Paul Noble Remembers: Elliot Norton and Rodgers and Hammerstein

By Paul Noble

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Eliot Norton. From WGBH Open Vault.

One day in August 1958, a giant machine was rolled through the studio and into the new “videotape room.” It was the first Ampex “quad” tape recorder, using the new and revolutionary 2-inch magnetic tape.

After several weeks of tinkering, the first test of the machine was a recording of Jean Brady (later, Moscone) (later, Jolly) playing the piano. But the equipment didn’t have its first on-air use until Tuesday, November 11 (Veterans Day), the day after Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Boston premiere of “Flower Drum Song” in its pre-Broadway tour.

Tuesday evenings at 6:45, traditionally, we presented “Elliot Norton Reviews” his live, weekly, drama review show, which had premiered that September. Broadway shows often opened “out of town” in Boston or Philadelphia. After a Monday evening opening, Elliot would usually ask the author, director and a star or two to join him the next evening on his program.

“They came into the studio and taped a half-hour show with Rodgers at the keyboard and Elliot and Hammerstein standing behind the piano.”

The morning of the 11th, the press agent for “Flower Drum Song” called and said Rodgers and Hammerstein would be unavailable that evening. I immediately suggested that R&H might come in the afternoon, and we would tape the show. I called the engineering department, and Larry Messenger said we would be ready to do an on-air show for the first time.

At 2 o’clock, the limo with Rodgers and Hammerstein pulled up in front of 84 Mass. Ave. We brought them upstairs. I put on their makeup (I was a jack-of-all-trades in those days, as were our entire BU crew staffers and grads). They came into the studio and taped a half-hour show with Rodgers at the keyboard and Elliot and Hammerstein standing behind the piano.

After the taping, we invited the entire staff downstairs for milk and cookies with R & H. While the strains of “Victory at Sea” played over the PA system (courtesy of Wil Morton), the WGBHers mingled and shook hands with our guests.

Then, I asked R & H if they’d like to see the show. “Don’t you have to develop it?” asked Rodgers.

I brought them into the room with the one machine, sat them on the two stools in the room, and Larry pressed the play button. Their jaws dropped! At the end of the showing, Hammerstein said, “You know, Dick, the next time we do ‘Cinderella’, we’ll never have to do it again!”

Frank Lane, 74, Cameraman and Studio Engineer

From the Boston Globe

Francis X. Lane of Hyannis, formerly of Norwood, passed away peacefully at home on June 28 at the age of 74.

lane-BWBeloved husband of Nancy E. Lane. Devoted and loving father of his son Ryan C. Lane of Natick and adoring daughter Elizabeth B. Lane of Norwood. Francis was the youngest of eleven children born to the late Thomas M. and Nora (Cunningham) Lane of West Roxbury and the son-in-law of the late Patricia (Brown) Wolley of Norwood and Francis W. Cooney of TN. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Ronnie Lane of Braintree, and many nieces and nephews.

Francis (aka Franny, Frank and Fran) was a cameraman and studio engineer for WGBH TV (Channel 2) for 35 years until his retirement in 2003. He was the former president of NABET-CWA Local 18 and the former treasurer of the Barnstable Newcomers Bowling League. In addition to bowling, he loved the beach and playing cribbage, but his greatest joy came from spending time with his family and many friends.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, July 3 at 11 AM at the Kraw-Kornack Funeral Home (1248 Washington St. in NORWOOD) immediately following a visiting hour at 10 AM. Burial will be at Highland Cemetery in Norwood. The family is especially grateful to his dedicated nurse, Diane Munsell.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to VNA of Cape Cod Hospice, 434 Route 134, S. Dennis, MA 02660.

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Memories

Elizabeth Lane

My dear father, known as Frank to his ‘GBH family, passed away over the weekend. I always loved hearing his work stories (Zoom, the news, the Pops on the Esplanade, the BSO, The French Chef with Julia Child, This Old House, The Victory Garden…the list goes on), visiting him at the station, watching the Auction in hopes of catching a shot of him behind the camera, his days in Master Control, and his many escapades with his best friend, Greg Macdonald. He retired in 2003 after 35 years. Feel free to share your memories of my father!
Elizabeth Lane’s photo.
June 30 at 11:40am

Bob Manosky

I’m very sorry to hear this. Frank and I worked together on many many WGBH programs. He was a great guy.
June 30 at 11:50am

Ben Mayerson

Frank was such a character. He was a leader, a master of his craft, a Teddy Bear, and just an all around super great guy. To you my friend!!
June 30 at 11:51am

Tonia Magras

My deepest condolences! He was a dear friend and father figure to me. Always with a great big smile and bear hug! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time. I will miss him dearly!
June 30 at 12:16pm

Jack Comeau

I’m so sorry to hear this. There was always something that seemed indestructible about him. At first look he could seem intimidating. I remember thinking, “Who’s this leg breaker?” It took only minutes to discovery his kind, sensitive sense of humor and intelligent. I love working with him on many of the shows that you mentioned above. The world will miss him.
July 1 at 12:17pm

Ilene Fischer

Truly one of a kind. Frank made every shoot that much more fun.
June 30 at 12:20pm

Emily Yacus

Frank was wonderful. I worked with him from 1998-2001 or 02, sitting as an admin assistant behind Master Control. Thanks for sharing these pics of him- I’m smiling and teary at the same time.
June 30 at 12:29pm

Chas Norton

Frank was perhaps one of the brightest persons I ever met; his insightful and trenchant words were always right on.

May he rest in peace!
June 30 at 1:41pm

Dick Heller

Back in the old everybody-does-everything days of the Auction, Frank took over as Director. After a few minutes he handed the headset back to me saying, “I’ll never talk back to you, ever again.” Wonderful guy, always a pleasure to work with.
June 30 at 1:51pm

Cathy Page

Oh no…. I’m so sorry to hear this. Frank was a wonderful guy.
June 30 at 1:56pm

Emily Norman

I’m so sorry for your loss. I loved seeing his friendly face around the hallowed halls of GBH.
June 30 at 2:04pm

Kevin Kalunian

I’m deeply saddened by this news about Frank , but happy that I got to know him on a few rare overnight trips for La Plaza, Say Brother, or other programs that we worked on for The Foundation. He spoke very highly of his colleagues, some who have posted here, and others that left us already for another journey elsewhere. Frank also often mentioned his family while we waited for some event to happen, or while at lunch. He will be missed dearly.
June 30 at 2:14pm

Nancy Walker

I’m so sorry for your loss….Frank was a gentle giant to an 8 year old Zoomer…after College I came back to work with your Father in the field …I was a Production Assistant for Local Programming…what a wonderful person..RIP Frank
June 30 at 2:17pm

Mark Helton

Frank was a true pioneer at Wgbh and the broadcast nation. I learned a lot from both he and Greg. It was a honor to work with your father. Although only a freelancer for gbh all these years, Frank always made me feel welcome at the station and with the union. A pleasure to work with. Peace to Frank, and to his whole family.
June 30 at 2:42pm

Scot Osterweil

Frank was a wonderful guy to work with. On Pops shows he was always Camera 2, the camera at the far back of the hall, getting the widest shots.
June 30 at 2:54pm

Scot Osterweil

In ’85 When Pops played the Lincoln Memorial, camera 2 was at the top of the Washington Monument. But more memorably, he was just a kind, thoughtful person.
June 30 at 2:56pm

John M. Sullivan

So sad to hear this. Frank was warm and wonderful man!
June 30 at 2:59pm

Kathy Gleason

I am so very sorry for you and your family,
June 30 at 3:25pm

Joe Forte

My condolences. Franky was a lot of fun to work with. Sad day.
June 30 at 3:33pm

Mark Helman

I don’t think I’ve ever worked with anybody as well-liked as Frank. My best to you and your family.
June 30 at 3:42pm

Courtnay Malcolm

Frank was one of the first people I met when I started at WGBH in 1991. When I directed the auction Frank and Greg would always play pranks on me and sometimes I would laugh so hard I nearly fell out of my chair. My thoughts are with you and your family.
June 30 at 5:10pm

Maria Agui Carter

Frank was lovely and shot some of the first things I worked on at WGBH. So, so sorry to hear of his passing. Sincere condolences.
June 30 at 6:34pm

Mike Wilkins

We were happy to have Frank at the NABET 18 picnic last fall!
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June 30 at 6:37pm

Hilary Finkel Buxton

Sending sincere condolences… Frank was always kind, and wonderful to work with!
June 30 at 7:59pm

Alison Bassett

So sorry to hear this news, thinking of your family, and what a great and talented man your father was…
June 30 at 9:14pm

Frank Coakley

Frank was one of the first people I met when I came to work at WGBH in 1981. He was tough, smart, funny and most importantly a good friend with a heart of gold. RIP brother, my thoughts go out to his family and his many friends and admirers.
June 30 at 9:17pm

Amy Tonkonogy

I am so sorry to hear this. Frank always made me smile. He had such dedication to Gbh and taught me so much. My thoughts to your entire family.
June 30 at 9:21pm

Sharon Corey Sleicher

My time at WGBH was a few years ago but I remember your father because he was always friendly, kind and fun to be around.
June 30 at 9:24pm

Bruce Bordett

Such sad news. Many happy memories of working with Frank and Greg. He is, and will be missed. This shot from the day the Pope came to Boston… Late 70’s
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June 30 at 11:25pm

Marcia Hulley

So sad. Frank was a great friend and mentor to me — like so many others at wgbh. It was a delight working with him over the years. An amazing cameraman, an amazing man. My heartfelt condolences to his family.
July 1 at 12:17am

Sherylle Linton

Jones Frank was just awesome. I worked with him frequently back in my Say Brother days. I am profoundly sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace.
July 1 at 12:38am

Lo Hartnett

Whenever I saw frank behind the camera for pledge, I knew things were in good hands. He always made me smile.
July 1 at 5:38am

Russ Fortier

I’m so sad to hear about Frank. He was a wonderful professional. Attentive and pleasant, he was, as I recall, virtually error free as a cameraman on the shows I directed. Most notably, as others have mentioned was his camera (2) at Symphony Hall; a deceptively challenging position. I recall one broadcast in which Frank had to zoom back from a single shot of the concertmaster (first violin) to a cover shot of the entire orchestra over 32 (slow) measures of music; a devilishly long move. Perfectly done. So normal and routine for Frank to deliver that way.
July 1 at 7:56am

Jennifer Jordan

Love the shot of him shooting at the Kennedy School Forum! I remember him well from my days both at WGBH and directing the Forum. Class act and all around great guy.
July 1 at 9:28am

Elizabeth Lane

Thank you all so much for sharing your beautiful memories of my dad. It’s bringing us so much comfort hearing from people who loved my dad as much as we do.
July 1 at 9:56am

Syrl Silberman

I worked with Frank for 12 years at WGBH. He was truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever known and more often than not made difficult times in the studio less so. I could always count on him to do whatever was needed and do it well. I can honestly say that I loved him and fully understand how much you will miss him. I wish you comfort.
July 1 at 10:04am

Anne Sweeney

God bless your family. May Frank rest in peace.
July 1 at 10:23am

Jane Arsham

I had the pleasure of working with Frank in the “early” years 1968-80. He started a year after me and we had a great friendship. Frank laughed a lot (I can still hear him) and enjoyed both work and play. He loved to sing Irish songs and we joined him often at a pub in Norwood I think it was!! He was a talented camera man and always willing to pitch in and help out in anyway he could. I don’t remember him ever saying no when I asked (which was often). Although we lost touch after I left GBH, he remains in my heart. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
July 1 at 10:36am

Edye Baker

The auction volunteers loved Frank and the way he made them feel like stars!! MANY memories of him. Sincere condolences to you and your family.
July 1 at 12:14pm

Vladimir Stefanovic

My deepest condolences. Frank was really an awesome guy. RIP Frank.
July 1 at 1:45pm

Nora Sinclair

So sorry to hear! My sincere condolences. I loved working with Frank in the studio, always a pleasure.
July 1 at 2:00pm

Ben Mayerson

Literally on this day, I quoted one of the lessons Frank taught me. “I only move at one speed, and this is it.”

It wasn’t a statement of non cooperation. It was a declaration of pacing, proficiency, and calm. I recall that mantra often, from my teacher Frank Lane.
July 1 at 4:53pm

Susan Dangel

In my brain and heart, when I think of WGBH, I think Greg and Frank. Your father was one of a kind. All those Pops shows and how he made us laugh. So sorry for your loss.
July 1 at 11:46pm

Larry Lecain

I loved Frank. Kind, generous , welcoming,quick to share a good story. He seemed immune to the pressures of long lens camera work at Symphony Hall. Frank was willing to share his insight on the ironies of life, work and people he knew. I miss him.
July 2 at 7:03am

Christy George

I loved Frank, too. One moment at the Ten O’Clock News stands out: I covered John Lakian’s libel trial against the Boston Globe, and for five weeks GBH was the pool camera – a rarity to be so well staffed. So all the Boston TV stations were using video shot by Frank and Greg. And their reporters were blown away. Years of shooting the Pops had taught Greg and Frank how to follow the action seamlessly and gracefully. Their camerawork made the trial seem like a Hollywood movie. And when a much-lauded commercial station shooter filled in one day, all the reporters grumbled. They wanted Frank and Greg back! I was delighted our guys got the respect they deserved.
July 2 at 2:46pm

Elizabeth Lane

Love these stories!
July 2 at 2:48pm

Nancy Walker

The dynamic duo!!!
July 2 at 2:53pm

Mary Helen Doyle

Frank was always a bright light bouncing (in his big way!) through the engineering tape room downstairs at GBH. He always welcomed a quick fun chat, never really grouchy as I remember, despite whatever the day had been. I’m so sorry to hear that he has passed, I’ll never forget him.
July 2 at 9:49pm

Bernadette Yao

I am deeply sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. I send my sincere condolences to you and your family. I remember your father with great affection and I am so sad to hear of his passing. I always looked forward to seeing him since my childhood days on ZOOM, and through the years after college when I sang with the TFC, BSO & Pops at Symphony Hall, and during live pledge drives and auctions when I worked behind the scenes at WGBH. Years later, whenever I visited WGBH, he would greet me with that familiar grin, and share what was going on in the moment as if no time had passed. I will remember Frank and his kindness always.
21 hrs · Like ·

Paul Binder Remembers: The Day I Met Julia Child

Paul Binder is the founder of the Big Apple Circus and author of Never Quote the Weather to a Sea Lion. Read his profile, with videos, here at WGBH Alumni.

 

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Paul Binder (Maike Schulz/Big Apple Circus)

I graduated Dartmouth and landed in Boston to work on my Masters in Theater Directing at Boston University’s School of Applied Arts.

Within two weeks, I realized that the one place I didn’t want to be was studying for my Masters in Theater Directing at Boston University’s School of Applied Arts.

On the same day I quit school, I went over to WGBH for an unannounced visit to see George Tuttle, who had been a teacher of mine at Dartmouth, and who was now a producer/director in what they called, in those days, “Educational Television.”

His secretary came out to tell me that George wasn’t in, but that if a Paul Binder ever came by when he wasn’t there, to tell him that he was expecting a visit sometime, and that he had a job for me.

Well, with my Ivy League Bachelors Degree in History in hand, I was quickly hired at WGBH Television as Vice President of National Programming. At least that what I planned to tell my parents.

In reality, I was hired as an entry level Production Assistant at $55 dollars a week … plus overtime.

Far and away my best early assignment was to be Floor Manager on a new program being produced for the network. When I heard about the show, it was obvious, at least to me, that the show would never last. But, for $55 dollars a week plus overtime, I was publicly enthusiastic about its chances.

The show I was so sure wouldn’t last, and why I never did have a career in a network’s programming department, was called “The French Chef” — and it was hosted by a remarkable woman named Julia Child.

At six feet two inches, she was taller than I, but it was her passion that wowed me. She loved the food she discovered while living in Paris, and wanted everyone to share in those culinary delights. Her passion was teaching and eating, and over the years, in half-hour segments, Julia Child changed the cooking and eating habits of America. Her home kitchen, designed by her husband Paul in 1961 and subsequently used in three television series, is now on display at the Smithsonian.

I was barely 21 years old on my very first day as floor manager for The French Chef. I could see that this was a labor of love for Julia. We would record two shows a day – a main course and a dessert course. Julia not only did all the cooking for the shows but, unlike the pampered present day stars on the Food Network, she did all the prep work for each course as well – her only assistance coming from our producer Ruth Lockwood.

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With the production crew in mind, Julia would always prepare the main course for the morning taping, so we could all count on a delicious lunch. The dessert show she saved for the afternoon’s taping, and by end of each shooting day, she would give me a shopping bag full of food to take home.

On that first day I was naturally nervous, but resolved not to let her see it. No easy task, as I would be positioned twelve feet directly in front of her. During that first taping I heard the voice of our director, Russ Morash, loudly in my headset, “Tell her she’s sweating, Paul.“

I (Gulp!) quickly considered all the possible ways of communicating to her this tricky, personal, and potentially embarrassing situation. Then, I wrote one word on my large paper pad and held it up for her to see: PERS-PIR-A-TION. A moment later she casually mopped her brow with a dishcloth, and I proudly thought to myself: whew, I got that one right!

As the show ended, I counted her down with my fingers: 5… 4… 3… 2… out. She was laughing and happy. The show had worked, the food looked great. She walked up to me, engulfed me in that large frame with a hug, and said with a laugh in her high, diphthong-laden voice: “Paul, where I come from, they call it SWEAT!!”

Where I come from, they call it that, too.

Julia was endlessly curious. She took a sincere interest in every crew member. She cared about our individual lives and interests, our favorite shows, our families. The works!

And, she had an insatiable curiosity about the business of television. When she asked to be taught the use of “those huge cameras,” we trained her as well as we could. She enjoyed it so much she starred in a birthday celebration for the station that we taped, doing a parody of herself. I can still hear that bold, bemused, delighted voice: “And this slimy stuff is called one- inch videotape. You just take a cleaver and Whack! It’s edited!”

Inspirational? Yes. And, I think Julia was a great leader. I sure learned the power of leadership from her. To be leaders, we need to take a sincere interest in everyone on our teams. She sure did. Show them we are committed to their success, and that we are there to support them. Most importantly, to treat everyone as individuals, by celebrating their individuality.

 

  • Read Paul’s profile, with videos, here

From the Vault: Video interviews with WGBH pioneers

Between 1992 and 2013, Fred Barzyk, Joe Anderson, Henry Becton, and Michael Ambrosino conducted over 100 hours of interviews with dozens of former WGBH-TV and FM staffers.

For the 2015 reunion, Fred and David Atwood compiled a highlights reel from those interviews with:

  • David Atwood
  • Bob Carey
  • Phil Collyer
  • Bill Cosel
  • Ron Della Chiesa
  • Anne Damon
  • Bob Ferrante
  • Helen Fox
  • Greg Harney
  • Jack Hurley
  • David Fanning
  • David Ives
  • Benny Krol
  • John LaBounty
  • Frank Lane
  • Karl Lorensic
  • Emily Lovering
  • Robert J. Lurtsema
  • Gordon Mehlman
  • Russ Morash
  • Henry Morgenthau
  • Chas Norton
  • Chris Pullman

Also included are classic clips with Tony Randall, Julia Child, and Hartford Gunn. Enjoy!

Boston-based ‘Frontline’ names new executive producer

From Boston.com — 5/13/2015 

Frontline founder David Fanning has stepped down after three decades as the executive producer of the landmark public television series. He will be replaced by Raney Aronson, the show’s deputy executive producer.

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This is the first time the top leadership position at the Boston-based investigative documentary series has changed hands.

In its 33 seasons, Frontline has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including 69 Emmys, 31 duPont-Columbia University Awards, 17 Peabody Awards and eight Television Critics Awards. Fanning received his own Lifetime achievement Emmy in 2013.

Fanning will stay with Frontline and, beginning June 1, will develop new projects as executive editor at large, according to a statement released by WGBH, which produces the show.

Aronson has been with the series since 2001.

‘Frontline’ Getting a Change in Leadership

From the New York Times — 5/13/2015

“Frontline,” the PBS documentary series, is getting a leadership change for the first time in its 32-year history. The founding executive producer, David Fanning, is stepping down at the end of the month, and Raney Aronson, the colleague he has been grooming for several years, will take over.

Mr. Fanning, 68, said that he wanted to start making documentary films again, and that he needed to step aside for the show to continue to thrive.

“This is a generational shift,” he said. “There’s no question about it. That’s a discussion that Raney and I have had for some years now, about bringing some younger producers in, identifying them, looking for the next generation. We want ‘Frontline’ to survive.”

Mr. Fanning’s new title will be executive producer at large. He said he would also have an opportunity to “beat the bushes for major funders and donors and new sources of revenue for the series,” he said.

Mr. Fanning began preparing Ms. Aronson for the job years ago, and in 2012 all but named her his heir apparent when he gave her the title of deputy executive producer. He said her leadership would be critical for keeping the show relevant at a tricky time in the media business. He also said bringing in “new blood” was important to keeping the long-form documentary series alive.

“If we don’t do it, it doesn’t get done,” he said. “There aren’t many places left in the world, in television certainly, that does this. You can’t expect the independent film community to operate under the banner of journalism because it’s often not what they do. This kind of journalism matters and these hourlong films, 90-minute, two-hour films, the big multipart series, we do become real works of record. We need them in the culture.”

“Frontline,” which had its debut in 1983, is produced by WGBH in Boston. Over the years it has won 69 Emmys, 31 duPont Columbia University Awards and 17 Peabody awards. “Frontline” recently won awards for a documentary on ISIS and the National Football League’s concussion crisis.

Ms. Aronson, 44, joined the show in 2001. In the last few years, she has made it her priority to work on joint-journalism projects with organizations like ProPublica, the Center for Investigative Reporting and ESPN (the latter pulled out of the concussion documentary “League of Denial,” before it aired, to great controversy). She is also working on partnerships with digital outlets like YouTube and Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism in order to find new ways to broadcast their work.

She said she had been “given the gift of time” over the last three years to work on these types of partnerships before stepping into the big job.

“In a lot of ways, we’ve been working on the ideas that I care about, like working aggressively to find new audiences,” she said.

But with every prospective deal with a player in new media, she said, her job remained fundamentally in line with what Mr. Fanning created decades ago.

“When I look to the future, my biggest gaze is on making sure we always protect the big important work we should be doing,” she said. “That is what I care about most: protecting the big important journalism.”

Jim Lewis Remembers: Julia Child’s Car Talk

From Jim Lewis

In 1985 Julia Child received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Smith College. One of WGBY’s supporters, cookbook editor Charlotte Turgeon, arranged for her old classmate to stay on the day after the ceremony to do a reception for our donors called Tea with Julia.

Julia_Child_at_KUHT2Charlotte asked me to pick Julia and Paul Child up at a hotel in Northampton and drive them to the WGBY studio in Springfield.

Julia and Charlotte hopped into the back seat of my car, while Paul sat next to me. I tried to engage him in conversation, but he didn’t want anything to do with me or the event, so just sat there sulking.

While we rode in silence, Charlotte and Julia, who sat immediately behind me, chirped back and forth as I drove south on I-91.

“And these food faddists,” Julia exclaimed, “always going off in some strange, new direction. These vegetarians! How can you have a lovely dinner party and not serve meat?”

Suddenly it got very quiet in the back seat. I could feel her staring at me. She reached forward and pounded me on the shoulder. “Oh, dear,” she said, “you’re not one of THOSE, are you?”