William Grant, 72, Producer and Editor

From Current

grant-500x500William Grant, an influential producer at both WNET and WGBH, died Sunday in Atlanta of complications from pneumonia. He was 72.

During his long career Grant won 13 Emmys and eight Peabody Awards.At WGBH in Boston, Grant was executive editor of Nova from 1985–95 and managing editor of Frontline from 1983–85. He joined WNET in New York City in 1997 and spent 16 years there as executive director of science, natural history and features, bringing such groundbreaking shows as Frontier House and African-American Lives to air.

Fred Kaufman, executive producer of Nature, worked with Grant for years. “I have so many fond memories of sitting with Bill in some nondescript convention hotel, sipping martinis and solving all the world’s problems,” Kaufman told Current. “He was my boss for many years but he never acted like one. He was a friend first and foremost.”

In 1991, Grant helped found the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, considered the Oscars of documentary conservation and nature film. Grant was chairman emeritus of the festival board at the time of his death.

“His impact was indelible and his leadership was very much a reflection of what he was as a human — insightful, wry, intelligent and always a true Southern gentleman,” said Lisa Samford, executive director of the festival.

He was born July 5, 1943, in Winchester, Ky. Grant attended the University of Kentucky and in 1965 became the school’s first student to earn a master’s degree in mass communication. He was named to the University of Kentucky’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2005.

Grant retired in 2011 and moved from New York to Atlanta to be near family.

He is survived by his wife, Ellen; two sons, Mitchell and Rees; daughter Elizabeth Mitchell Grant; brother Walter; two sisters, Anne Grant Holloway and Mary Grant Anderson; and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be 6–8:30 p.m. Friday at H.M. Patterson & Son Funeral Home in Sandy Springs, Ga. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Saturday, with reception to follow, at Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta.

His family suggests donations to the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, P.O. Box 3940, Jackson, WY 83014.

Samford also asks friends and colleagues to share their memories of Grant for a book to be presented to his family. Email her at lisa@jhfestival.org.

From the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival

William R. Grant, an award-winning producer of some of public television’s most successful programs, died May 15 in Atlanta of complications from pneumonia. He was 72.

Mr. Grant, who in 2001 was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, spent 28 years working in television after 18 years as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Kentucky, Michigan and California.

He won numerous awards over the course of his career, including 13 Emmys and eight Peabody Awards. He was executive editor of the PBS science show “NOVA” and managing editor of the public affairs program “Frontline.” He was executive director of science, natural history and features for WNET, the New York City flagship of public television. He produced many of PBS’s most popular and critically acclaimed series, including “The American President” and “Stephen Hawking’s Universe.”

His work in print journalism, specializing in reporting on educational issues, also was frequently lauded. He won five awards from the National Council for the Advancement of Education Writing, two Charles Stewart Mott education writing awards and the American Bar Association Silver Gavel. Mr. Grant also was a Nieman Fellow in the prestigious program at Harvard University from 1979 to 1980.

In addition, Mr. Grant was one of the founding board members who launched the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in 1991. He became chairman of the board in 2002, a role he maintained for a decade, when the board agreed to let him retire only if he remained on the executive committee and maintained his position as chairman emeritus. “Under Bill’s leadership, the Festival grew to become the most prestigious event of its genre,” said Lisa Samford, executive director of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, where winning an award is considered the “Oscars” of conservation and nature film. “His impact was indelible and his leadership was very much a reflection of what he was as a human – insightful, wry, intelligent and always a true Southern gentleman.”

But Mr. Grant’s proudest achievements came closer to home. In a 2007 interview with WildFilmNews, Mr. Grant said there were only a few things he couldn’t live without. “My children and grandchildren are the joy of my life,” he said, adding wryly, “That, and my big screen HD television.”

Mr. Grant was born on July 5, 1943, in Winchester, Ky. He attended the University of Kentucky, initially planning to become a lawyer before he got the journalism bug, and became editor of the student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. In 1965, he became the school’s first student to earn a master’s degree in mass communication. He was named to the University of Kentucky’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2005.

He started his career during a golden age for print journalism. He worked for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Detroit Free Press and the San Francisco Chronicle. The reporting and storytelling skills he honed there held him in good stead when he switched to television, working at WGBH, the Boston affiliate of public television, for two years as managing editor of “Frontline” and 10 years as executive editor of “NOVA.” He joined WNET in 1997, where he was executive producer for important and well-received public television series and specials, including “Savage Skies,” “America on Wheels” and “Knife to the Heart.”

“He knew all the J-school stuff, and how to drill down,” said Tamara E. Robinson, vice president of programs at WNET and Mr. Grant’s boss during his years there. “He was very good writer. Coupled with that, he knew his craft as a television producer.”

Robinson described Mr. Grant as a perfectionist and a voracious reader of history. On the rare occasions when he did not already know a lot about a subject she assigned him to produce a program on, he quickly mastered it and figured out not only the best experts to talk to but the best person to help frame a proposal for a grant.

“He was, bottom line, an absolute joy to work with,” she said. “His staff adored him, and would kill for him. He gave them enough space to be innovative and creative. He also had the most generous heart in the world. If someone was in trouble or needed money, he would quietly try to find out how to help that person, and never seek credit. There is much to admire with Bill Grant.”

When Mr. Grant retired in 2011 and moved from New York to Atlanta, where many of his relatives live, he received an accolade more dear to his heart than any of his professional awards. His older son, Mitchell, noted his dad’s retirement on his Facebook page, and concluded, “If I can have a career half as successful as him, I will retire an extremely happy man.”

Mr. Grant is survived by his wife, Ellen G. Grant of Alpharetta, Ga.; two sons, Mitchell Grant of Boston, Mass., and Rees Grant of Columbus, Miss.; a daughter, Elizabeth Mitchell Grant of Athens, Ga., and two grandchildren, Owen Grant Shalin and Theodore Henry Shalin, both of Marietta, Ga.; a brother, Walter M. Grant of Atlanta, Ga.; two sisters, Anne Grant Holloway and Mary Grant Anderson, both of Lilburn, Ga. Bill was preceded in death by his parents, R. Russell Grant and Mary Mitchell Rees Grant of Winchester, Ky.; a daughter, Katie Grant Shalin of Marietta, Ga.; and a brother, R. Michael Grant of Winchester, Ky.

His family requests in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, P.O. Box 3940, Jackson, WY 83014.

Margaret Faulkner, 80, Development Leader

candle-500x500Margaret J. Faulkner of Newton, MA died on May 1, 2016, at age 80. A devoted wife, mother and grandmother, Margy is survived by her beloved husband of 57 years, Robert K. Faulkner (Bob), her grateful children and their spouses, Robert C. (Donald MacDonald) and Elizabeth (Kevin O’Halloran), and three adoring grandchildren, Chase, William and Margaret O’Halloran. She is also survived by her brother, Alan McConaghan, his wife Barbara, and their children William, Megan, and Adam.

Margy was an exceptional student and could have been a scholar and professor had she so chosen. Her undergraduate studies were at Earlham College and the London School of Economics. As a Woodrow Wilson Scholar, she earned her Masters degree in political science from the University of Chicago, where she met her husband. Later, she turned a paper for a continuing education course into a children’s book, “I Skate,” published by Little Brown & Co.

Re-entering the professional sphere once her children were in school, she led a distinguished career in institutional development spanning positions at the Belmont Hill School, the Museum of Science Boston, and WGBH. Margy then enjoyed a long and enriching association with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, serving happily on the Ladies Committee, class of 1998, and thereafter with the alumnae in the MFA Senior Associates. She was also an active member of the Chilton Club.

Those who knew Margy will remember her for her “effortless” entertaining that made every guest feel special, her refinement in the artistic pursuits she loved, her high personal standards, her uncomplaining perseverance through physical hardships, and her penetrating and candid demeanor. She was an avid homemaker, hostess, gardener, photographer, reader, community volunteer, participant in the arts, and world traveller. Always wise, judicious, exacting, generous, and gracious, she will be deeply missed by all who knew her.

In lieu of flowers Margy requested donations to her beloved MFA Senior Associates, made payable to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and mailed c/o The MFA Senior Associates Tribute Fund, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 7, at 2:00pm in Lindsey Chapel, Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury Street, Boston.

Source: Legacy.com

Jim Kaup, 71, scenic carpenter

jim-kaupJames Albert Kaup of Watertown, 71, with grace and courage, died at home on January 25 after a long illness.

Son of the late James A. Kaup and Ruth Connolly Kaup, he is survived by his wife, Deborah Myerson Kaup of Watertown, his sister, Susan Kaup Kelley and his nephews, Andrew, Matthew, and Daniel Kelley.

Jim was quiet and unassuming, unless he felt called upon to make a stand on a principle. An autodidact with a vast knowledge of many subjects, he listened more that he spoke. His sense of humor endured to the very end. Some people thought Jim “could do anything.”

From the mid 1970s until 2006 Jim was a scenic carpenter at WGBH, a job that utilized his many talents. As president of AEEF, the in house union, he negotiated for fairness and safety.

In his youth he was involved with Club 47, a folk club in Harvard Square. Later he designed posters for the local concerts. While taking courses at Boston Architectural Center he interned at The Architects Collaborative.

A celebration of his life will take place in the spring. Donations in his name may be made to Good Shepherd Community Care or the charity of one’s choice.

  • Published in The Boston Globe from Feb. 2 to Feb. 7, 2016. Source

From Chas Norton

A celebration of Jim’s life will take place on April 30, 2016, at 9:30 am at Story Chapel, Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.

Julia Child finds a place on … Twitch!

From the Boston Globe

On Twitch Creative, artists get an audience

twitch-globeSince launching in 2011, Twitch, the massive live-streaming video platform acquired by Amazon for nearly a billion dollars in 2014, has primarily been understood (blame the tagline) as “social video for gamers” — that is, a place for gamers watching other gamers game. (And, skeptics, speaking as a man who’s spent a considerable micro-percentage of the past three decades happily watching people other than myself play “Zelda,” from my pre-Web adolescence all the way up to last week on the sofa with hubby, I can and will attest to the actual entertainment value in this.)

But a growing portion of Twitch’s 100 million-plus monthly viewers aren’t just logging on to watch the hordes battling through “League of Legends” or “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” They’re also quite into knitting and watercolors.

Last October, Twitch launched a new vertical, landing page, whatever — simply titled “Creative.” As the company observed more and more of its 1.7 million monthly broadcasters breaking terms and live-streaming non-gaming activities, the site’s Rules of Conduct were revised to permit such broadcasts, and the Creative page was created as a way to corral and showcase this growing sect of the usership.

Creative celebrated the launch by hosting an authorized series-long marathon of Bob Ross’s instructional PBS program “The Joy of Painting.” Similarly, last week, a marathon rebroadcast of Julia Child’s “The French Chef” marked the launch of twitch.com/food, a 24/7 platform for livestreamed cooking (a realm also under exploration by some YouTube vets with the newly launched Nom network).

Read more at the Boston Globe

David Silver on Bud Collins, Julia Child, Fred Barzyk, and more

By David Silver

silverI always looked forward to hanging with Bud Collins. He genuinely liked our show, “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” and told me so. Bud’s passion, his camaraderie, his warmth and wit were irresistible to me, and I was ecstatic that he enjoyed what we were doing.

Obviously, I savored spending any time with him. One day he called me and told me that his guest in the upcoming taping was Muhammed Ali. This in itself was exciting to me, and everybody else. But the cream in the coffee for me was that Bud asked me if I’d like to meet the amazing champion. After the taping, I went on to the studio floor and Bud introduced me to Ali. I distinctly remember the size of the legend’s hand, when we shook hands. It utterly enveloped mine and yet somehow expressed goodwill to me in its firmness and enthusiasm.

We talked for about twenty minutes, and it was quite clear to me how much respect and liking Ali had for Bud. Who didn’t, truthfully? Bud’s effervescent energy is unique and very pleasing to be around.

Another example for me of the great “casting” taste of the station was the bright crew of TV personalities, from Bud to Julia Child, all having enough brio and TV feel to change the quality of how to be on television.

Julia often did her show in Studio B when we were doing “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” in Studio A. One of my fondest (and most delicious) memories is of eating leftovers from her show along with our two studio crews.

Question: What could be more wonderful than that? The answer: Well, it’s having dinner cooked by her at the Child house and eating with Julia and Paul, her gentle, witty, knowledgeable husband, not only dining on the obviously supremely tasty food, but hearing from the two of them a series of juicy, hysterical anecdotes about their learning curve on French cooking early in their marriage.

As a 23 year old on-camera TV neophyte, watching Julia’s completely honest and wonderfully natural television presentations, actually helped me in my own slightly panicky weekly approach to hosting a television show.

Conspiracy/televisual anarchy without anger or agenda. That was basically the underlying urge in the work we did on “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” way back in 1967 and 1968. Fred Barzyk’s vision was never static, never ideological, never even self-consciously artistic. He consistently utilized and manifested his muscular mischievous side as a way of creating TV. This irreverence was effortlessly coupled with a remarkably liberated intellectual and visceral vision of what TV could be.

Everyone working on our show thoroughly enjoyed production meetings, shoots, and post. Fred fused a little Ernie Kovacs into a Boston-imaged Fellini-esque caricature and then threw in the already ongoing madcap everyday gestalt of the later sixties and voila – you had television without the usual and sometimes tedious cadences of both spoken word and visual presentation.

I remember with glee the repeated trick of shooting the live show on a Thursday night, usually with me more or less alone in the studio, while multiple film chains, often controlled by the brilliant mind of David Atwood, sort of spluttered into the ongoing show, be that an interview or a monologue or a purely visual piece of madness.

The mix of absurdist stock footage and locally-captured 16mm weirdness never allowed the show, or the staff, to settle. So I never knew what was about to happen, which made for an attack on the clichés of broadcast television. It didn’t always work, but it pushed the media envelope, when almost all the other envelopes were being relentlessly pushed by the wild spirit of those days – in politics, music, civil rights, protest, movies, fashion, culture, design, etc.

Fred and Olivia Tappan and David Atwood et. al. dropped the conventional wisdom plan of attack, as it were, and came up with a very potent, if eccentric, TV display of total spontaneity, in a sixties zeitgeist, and did it trusting all the participants to be somehow revolutionary and, simply put, different.

The two 16mm cameramen on our show were Peter Hoving and Boyd Estus. How magically fortuitous was that? It was a constant source of humor and skill, in entirely different ways, from both of them. It simply made their film inserts in the show an art form all unto itself.

I was always magnetized during filming (occasionally in obscenely early morning hours) because of the wonderfully lethal mix of Fred’s endless creativity and their usually spontaneous expansion upon that. And I was amazed that we always had access to these two highly dexterous professionals working a couple of times a week usually on a myriad of remote films for us.

They had completely different personalities and attitudes towards the art of Arriflex/Éclair/Aaton shooting: Boyd, the consummately calm camera operator, quietly taking in every detail of a scene (whether it was a head shop in Cambridge or a political be-in on the Common) while, in marked contrast, Peter Hoving hovering intensely over all he surveyed, guiding his lens rapidly to the expected shots that we basically needed for any given show, and also to the unexpected and explosive.

These days, all is video it seems, but I maintain that the texture and visual resonance of 16mm film added a very special feel to the show we did, where the audience was triggered by the film segments to sense yet another dimension to the Barzykian vision. But even more than that, I have to say, the sheer fun of working with these two totally WGBH-level-of-excellence operators was a once-in-a-career gift to me as well as a consistent delight for our viewers.

Thalassa Cruso was my English pal and compatriot at WGBH. Her gardening show “Making Things Grow” was almost a sister show of Julia’s. Thalassa was equally idiosyncratic, yet, just like Mrs. Child, was a clear and no-BS articulator/teacher.

WGBH presented three women-hosted TV series in just a few years, with three groundbreaking female TV hosts. Thalassa’s show along with “The French Chef” and, just a bit later, Maggie Lettvin’s “Maggie and the Beautiful Machine” put WGBH-TV years ahead of the Food Channel and workout videos.

Thalassa could be quite pugnacious, always audacious and horticulturally very sagacious! Maggie was married to the late, lamented MIT scion, Jerome Lettvin (also a terrific guest on “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?”) Her verve and brio and knowledge was a joy to watch and she was and is a joy to be around.

We once did a “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” show when we invited soldiers (who were still in uniform and had been in Vietnam) to a Studio A party where the other invitees were draft resisters and antiwar activists.

Fred had the studio decorated with military objects – guns, swords, footlockers, medals, and I was frankly kind of anxious that when these two diametrically opposing groups came together, a mini-war might ensue!

Well, we lubricated everyone with beer and spirits and before long, a remarkable confluence occurred, rather easily. Everyone started talking together, and there was a completely counter-intuitive thing happening. Everyone got along famously. There were disagreements obviously, given the roles of the men in the studio, but there was almost no anger.

I wafted around chatting ad lib with everyone, and I remember vividly the good vibes generated and a subtle truth emerging quietly. Civility prevailed, cordiality grew and even though there was the crucial element of the demon alcohol in the mix, it was a truly lovely evening.

Unfortunately, this show was wiped. Two-inch high band videotape was very expensive and it didn’t even seem weird at the tine that this show amongst quite a few others from the series had to go bye-bye. After all, NBC wiped many tapes of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, so who am I to complain?

Bud Collins, 86, tennis authority, broadcaster

Excerpts from the Boston Globe

1964 Collins WGBHIn the early 1960s, after joining the Globe as a tennis writer, Bud Collins took a giant leap into the future of sports journalism when he stepped in front of a TV camera to offer commentary. As he expanded the reach of columnists, he called himself a “scribbler and a babbler,” and the words that emerged were as colorful and memorable as the custom-tailored pants he wore while covering more than a half-century of tennis championships.

In newspaper columns and as a TV commentator, Mr. Collins provided the sport with its most authoritative voice, and he also wrote a tennis encyclopedia and a history of the game. He was 86 when he died Friday in his Brookline home…

Considered the first sports print journalist to establish a regular second home on TV, Mr. Collins began offering tennis commentary for Boston’s WGBH-TV from the Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill not long after he became a Globe columnist in 1963…

“He broke the barrier, the notion that you could be a newspaper guy and they would want you on TV,” said Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy…

Mr. Collins’s first Globe byline appeared on Dec. 22, 1963, with a dateline of Adelaide, Australia, where he covered the Davis Cup. “This is another world,” he began, “where Christmas comes in the Summertime, the Davis Cup matches come the day after Christmas, and both events have achieved such spectacular acceptance that they are regarded almost as seriously as beer drinking.”…

Having begun his tennis run in an era when players were far more accessible, Mr. Collins was on a first-name basis with the sport’s luminaries. After losing a Wimbledon match to Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert walked off the court to find Mr. Collins waiting, microphone in hand, on live television. “Nice pants, Bud,” Evert quipped…

While visiting Vietnam with the US Davis Cup team in 1969, he wrote about US combat soldiers and flew with Marines who fired rockets at enemy bunkers from a jet that “quivered abruptly as the fireballs left the belly pod. ‘Cu-wump! Cu-wump! Cu-wump!’ ” At one point in the trip, Mr. Collins also dined on terrier stew. “I felt like a traitor to Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, and Old Dog Tray,” he wrote…

Born in Lima, Ohio, Arthur Worth Collins Jr. grew up in Berea, a suburb west of Cleveland. In 1999, he reminisced in the Globe about winning a third-grade spelling contest in 1938. As a prize, he and his mother rode in a Pullman sleeper railroad car to Buffalo, where a limousine spirited them to a swanky hotel to see Niagara Falls. “As the Depression raged, it seemed all the more unimaginably plush,” he wrote…

He stayed in Berea to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, and after a stint in the Army, he drove to Boston, undaunted by a rejection letter from Boston University’s graduate program. BU admitted him, and he also worked part-time at the Boston Herald. No one wanted to cover tennis, and an editor sent him to cover the state women’s championships at Longwood. “ ‘Now, don’t question me. You’re new on this and you just have to do what I tell you to do,’ but I was secretly thrilled,” Mr. Collins recalled his editor saying, in a video interview on a BU website…

“Of course he was this country’s foremost authority on professional tennis — that much is indisputable,” said Timothy Leland, a former managing editor and assistant to the publisher who joined the Globe as a reporter in 1963, at the same time as Mr. Collins. “He was a walking encyclopedia of tennis history.

“But that’s not really what Bud was all about. He was a sweet, kind, gentle man. To know him was to love him. There wasn’t an egotistical bone in his body. He was just a wonderful human being.”…

A memorial service will be announced for Mr. Collins, who in addition to his wife, daughter, and Rob Lacy leaves his stepchildren with his second wife, Betsy Bartelt and Kristin Hunt of Colorado, Sharon McMillan of New York City, and Gretchen West of Ohio; his stepchildren with his wife, Danielle Klaussen of Cambridge and Karl Klaussen of Brookline; and 11 grandchildren.

 

Stereo Television: Origins

By Jack Caldwell

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.44.13 AM“OK RCA, if you build a stereo television transmitter and TV sets, we will prove to you that you need to.”

I can take no credit for this. Credit goes to Hartford Gunn, the visionary in whose shadow many of us have built our careers.

He believed, and I concurred, that, back in the late 1960’s, the absence of stereo sound for television was not a feature WGBH management, staff, listeners, or viewers would wish to endure for a very long time. Indeed, WGBH-FM was already attracting listeners who cared about the quality of sound. Why just radio? Why not television?

“Why not” became a buzzphrase that Hartford passed on to me … and I have embraced it ever since.

Back then, all TV sets had mono sound.

All TV transmitters transmitted mono sound.

TV set makers and transmitter manufacturers pointed fingers at each other. If the transmitters only delivered mono sound, why build TV sets that could deliver stereo … and vice versa?

So, Hartford, with me in tow, went to Hollywood to observe and learn — in a few days — how the recording of stereo was being accomplished in the film and LP recording businesses. (I did my thesis research on AMPEX — another story of how the video recorder came into being)

When we returned to Boston, I reorganized part of our engineering department to create a sound department. Bill Busick, engineering leader for WGBH FM was a reluctant player in this new undefined pursuit to establish WGBH as the leader in sound production for any media. Tom Keller was the EIC (Engineer-in-Charge) and welcomed the challenge.

Why wait to follow? Get out and forge new ground. That was WGBH. That is WGBH. We had two TV stations, a film department, and a radio station. Where would this pursuit of stereo sound for television take us? We didn’t know. We had bright people on staff, and Boston was rich with talented new companies that were focused on sound. KLH was founded by Henry Kloss in the late 1950’s. He came in to help. As did others.

24NETI came to WGBH from Ann Arbor where the-then NET (National Educational Television network) had the largest videotape duplication center in the world. I managed the national distribution to all public (then educational TV stations) of all kinescope, film and videotapes. And I managed the duplication of all film and kinescopes.

There were various processes to put sound on film products. And key producers of video programs would often come to Ann Arbor to edit sound and pictures. So, I had some background in putting sound with pictures for television distribution. But I was not the engineer/tech guru. That was Howard Town. He and I were the two VPs of NET, based in New York, that oversaw the Ann Arbor based duplication and distribution center. (On any given day we had 10,000 program units bicycling through the system)

Shortly after I left to join WGBH, my old buddy and colleague Howard Town left NET for AMPEX. (Back then, an AMPEX quarter inch tape recorder was the best there was.) Howard’s assignment was to develop a 24-track audio recorder using two-inch tape. All the “mechanics” for the VCR were in place. Why not use the concept for audio — where multiple tracks could be edited down to mono, stereo and four-track composites for the recording industry?

Naturally, Tom Keller, WGBH chief engineer, Howard Town, and myself (and Bill Busick, I think) started a conversation about syncing the AMPEX device (finally, I believe, named an MM1000) with a two-inch VCR. That took us to New York to talk to the folks who used the Selsyn Interlock system for syncing sound and pictures for motion pictures. Was there something we could learn?

While the technology development was underway, the creation of program material — and ultimate delivery of same — was front and center. The Boston Pops quickly became the lead contender for the experiment.

With all of “players” working as a team, we reached out to England to purchase a Neve audio board. We bought a truck to house it as a mobile sound recording facility. And we arranged with Howard Town at AMPEX to acquire an early MM1000. Serial number two, I believe, and that, too, went into the truck with the Neve board.

Someone, probably Bill Cosel and Hartford, worked with the Pops, Fiedler, the union and stage hands, et. al., to allow us to put cameras and lights and staging on the stage of the Pops. I remember Fran Mahard creating flats that would help us with the sound and the pictures. Back then, the lights were bright and hot. We needed the musicians to wear blue tucks instead of black, and we had to dig up the street in front of Symphony Hall to put in special transformers to handle the power we needed for lighting.

Yes, we had our big mobile television truck already in hand. Think Tennis.

A genius gentleman — Bill Pierce — produced the mix. We saved a track for mono TV, two tracks for stereo, a rehearsal track or two, and the rest of the 24 tracks were dedicated to the various sections of the orchestra. I’m sure Bill Cosel has a lot of memory and details to fill in.

After a concert by the Pops, the video came back separately (with a mono track) and the sound came back to WGBH in the sound truck. In post production, even a single note could be corrected — and was. The sound was edited to perfection. Then the video was edited to match. Now, remember, back then, editing video was done with a razor blade and a very expensive “splicer” where the cut two-inch tape was joined with aluminum adhesive tape. And the splice mark pulse was revealed by applying stainless steel “dust” in an alcohol base to the tape. (That’s another story!)

With some trial and error, we learned that we could place the video tape on machine A and the take up reel on machine B — some 20 feet or so to the right — in order to get the MM1000 and the VCR in sync. I don’t remember what it was we developed to sync the VCR and MM1000. It was a “black box.”

The broadcast, finally, was mono to channel 2 and stereo to WGBH FM. Viewers were taught to put their stereo speakers on each side of their TV set, turn off the TV sound and turn up their stereo FM amps. And the press in Boston was encouraged to watch and listen. They did … and they liked it. The new clippings were then delivered to RCA — who made both TV sets and transmitters. They “got it.” And, you know the rest of the story.

Hartford Gunn was the one who dreamed about what isn’t happening — and could or should be — and then made it happen. And that took a team of folks who had no experience of failure. Indeed, all we had was the thrill of inventing a then better “tomorrow” in the evolution of our chosen career of television.

Among the manny lessons taught to me by Hartford — from almost my first day at WGBH — was a critically important message on leadership. The first principle was, without reservation, to have no interest in WGBH being a follower or a second place player. Then, secure the most advanced technology the world has to offer, let the world know you have it, and the most talented will beat down your door to gain access to it. Hire the most creative who come forth, give them objectives and goals to be met, give them the necessary financial resources, give them encouragement and mentoring, — and get the hell out of the way!

Why is WGBH what it is today? Look around WGBH, then and now, and consider pioneering stories like this one. That’s why.

Do you have other memories of stereo television at WGBH? If so, send them to jay.collier@thecompass.com or post below.

Conrad White, 80, Stage Manager, Colleague, Friend

Excerpts from the Boston Globe

conrad_white_1-9645-croppedAs the first African-American student admitted to the Cambridge School of Weston (MA), Virginia native Conrad White lived in two worlds.

A popular student at the private boarding school, he started the first campus radio station and was elected president of the class of 1954. “He was sort of the center of our class,” said his classmate and longtime friend Joan Walther.

Back home in Hampton, Va., however, Mr. White lived under Jim Crow laws and segregated public schools. When friends from boarding school gave him a ride home for winter break, they had to plot their trip carefully as an integrated group riding through the South.

“Once they got past a certain area, they couldn’t stop,” Walther recalled. The students made sure they had plenty of gas and plenty of food in their big old car, a former hearse nicknamed “Mehitable,” a Hebrew variant word for “God rejoices.”

At the 2000 WGBH Reunion with John MacKnight
At the 2000 WGBH Reunion with John MacKnight

Mr. White, who often credited his experience at the Cambridge School as the foundation for his confidence and multimedia skills, worked at WGBH on popular public TV shows including Julia Child’s “The French Chef” and spent 27 years at Harvard University, where he retired from the Media Production Center.

A former longtime Cambridge resident, Mr. White died Nov. 9 in Miriam Hospital in Providence following a heart attack. He was 80 and lived in Providence….

Mr. White was in the studio audience for a WGBH show called “Folk Music USA” when he inquired about volunteer opportunities at the station and wound up with a new career. “I walked up to someone I knew who worked there, explained my background in television, and asked if they took volunteers,” he told Harvard Community Resource. “It was one of those ‘and the rest is history’ kind of jobs.”

He worked for WGBH for 15 years, holding various positions in production for shows including “Crockett’s Victory Garden,” “Say Brother,” and “The 10 O’Clock News.”

At the 2015 WGBH Reunion
At the 2015 WGBH Reunion, with Nancy Schuetz

 

After “The French Chef” ended, Mr. White gave a piece of Julia Child’s cutting board to his longtime friend Lou Greenstein, a culinary consultant and chef who appeared on the Boston television show “Good Day” for many years.

Mr. White and Greenstein first became acquainted as young men on the docks at Community Boating in Boston, where Mr. White was a longtime member.

“He was wonderful with people. He was a gentleman, as everybody should be a gentleman,” Greenstein said. He recalled that Mr. White was a favorite guest at the Greenstein family’s Thanksgiving table for several decades. Mr. White always brought deviled eggs to the party.

Sailing was one of Mr. White’s passions. He enjoyed skippering and sailing on what are known as Shields class boats in Newport, R.I., which he initially visited for the folk and jazz festivals…

“I wish I had 90 more years to do all the things I still want to do,” he said in the 1997 interview.

The Making of “The Lathe of Heaven”

This entry is part 15 of 19 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection

By Fred Barzyk — 12/2015

FredIt is still amazing to me how many people of a certain age remember watching this TV movie. I mean it was 1979 when it aired! It was on PBS, whose ratings were nowhere near the networks audience numbers. That’s a long time for a TV movie to stick in someone’s memory bank. It is very gratifying and wondrous. A tribute to Ursula Le Guin and David Loxton.

Let me begin at the beginning. David Loxton, an ambitious young Englishman was working for Jac Venza at WNET New York. Jac was head of cultural programs and David was one of his main assistants. I was working at WGBH Boston doing a show called “What’s Happening, Mr Silver?” David Silver, also a young Englishman, was teaching literature at Tufts University in Boston. Silver and I got together to create an experimental show, “What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?”

mrsilverThe year? 1968. The summer of The Love Revolution! Hippies! Drugs! Don’t trust anyone over 30! Free Love! Love-ins! I was asked to produce and direct a series reflecting the Cultural Revolution and David Silver became the on camera host. He was in his early 20’s, English and looked a lot like Mick Jagger. And he was teaching at a University! Perfect for our audience. The two Davids knew each other from school in England. David Loxton came to watch one of our productions. He couldn’t believe what we were doing. Sometimes we couldn’t either. I almost got fired … twice.

The show lasted almost a year and tested the very boundaries of television. We were the first to do a double TV broadcast. The show asked the audience to take two TV sets and place them six feet apart, turn one TV to Ch. 2 and the other to Ch. 44 (both owned and operated by WGBH). The audience was presented a show that was in stereo, both in picture and sound. The images and sounds were different on each channel. They were responding to each other while the audience tried to relate the happenings on the two screens.

loxton-crop2David Loxton and I became partners in doing television shows together. We produced “People” for NBC starring Lily Tomlin; “American Pie” for ABC with Joe Namath; “Flashback” hosted by Eric Severeid and “Countdown to Looking Glass” for HBO; “Phantom of the Open Hearth” a drama by Jean Shepherd for PBS; “Between Time and Timbuktu” a crazy mix of the writings of Kurt Vonnegut for PBS.

I was also instrumental in getting David the directorship of WNET’s TV Lab, an experimental project similar to the WGBH New Television Workshop that I ran for 10 years. Each of us had different strengths but usually assumed a shared producer/director credit. In practice, David was the producer and I was the director. We ended up doing many shows for HBO, a special for NBC with Lily Tomlin, and many dramas for PBS.

leguinDavid had a vision for doing sci-fi dramas for PBS. However, the label of “sci-fi” sounded a little too pedestrian for PBS. So David began calling his proposed dramas “speculative fiction.” He raised enough money to do one drama and he selected the novel “Lathe of Heaven” by Ursula Le Guin.
He traveled to Portland, Oregon and convinced her that he could do a creditable interpretation of her book. She agreed and David went out and cobbled together a budget of $750,000. (To be honest, David and I both used cash from our respective Experimental Labs to defray over-run costs)

A description of The Lathe of Heaven from its DVD release in 2000:

For George Orr, sleep is not a respite.
For Dr. William Haber, dreams are tools.
For sci-fi fans, the wait is over.

dvd2Praised as ‘rare and powerful’ by The New York Times, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven is one of the most celebrated science fiction novels ever written. This innovative adaptation-never before released on DVD-brings the towering vision of Le Guin’s masterpiece to life.

George Orr is haunted by dreams that become reality. In a world where pollution has destroyed the ice caps and plagues rage unchecked, a psychiatrist sees Orr’s power as a way for humanity to escape its bleak fate. But as each attempt to direct Orr’s dreaming ends in failure, the doctor’s obsession with playing God grows stronger… a chilling fable of power uncontrolled and uncontrollable.

And so we began.

David was the Executive Producer and we shared the Director credit. David hired a writer, Roger Swaybill, to write the treatment. His work was adequate but it lacked a special vision that we wanted. David, myself and a young writer, Diane English, holed up in a New York office for 4 weeks rewriting the script. (Diane went on to Hollywood and became a star producer, creating a hit TV series “Murphy Brown. She and her husband helped fund the Broadcast Museum in NYC.)

The most difficult part of the script to realize was when the lead character, George Orr, has an “effective dream” in which he dreams up the plague reducing the world population by millions of people. How the hell do we create such a disaster, and especially before computer magic as we know it today? And with as little cash as possible? I turned to two influences. First, the British film, Great Expectations. It was the scene of the scorned bride who still sits in her dust filled castle room, now old and wrinkled, left only with her dreams that gave me the emotional foundation. The other was a video artist, Peter Campus, who created a video art piece where he wraps plastic wrap around his face, over and over again. My vision took all of George Orr’s friends and relatives, sat them at a large banquet table, lit large English style candelabra’s and had the camera truck around the table over and over again. Each time it went around, the people’s heads became covered with dark scrim, until they slowly slumped into the table. Geroge Orr, Dr. Haber and the woman psychologist watched but did not expire.

Cobwebs, dust, and darkened lighting of the scene culminated when George stands and gives an inhuman scream, while a door opens, again and again, the constantly dolling in of the camera revealing a blazing white screen.

The white screen became the sky outside Haber’s lab finding George Orr standing in the window, devastated by what he had just witnessed.

The first order of business was to find the right actors. David and I viewed a number of films that our casting director asked us to watch. We were impressed with Bruce Davidson’s work in “Short Eyes”. He had the vulnerability and soft demeanor, but with a flash of anger and combativeness that was needed for the part of George Orr. We made him and offer and he accepted.

haber2Kevin Conway had appeared in a WGBH production of “Scarlet Letter.” David and I went to see him in a New York stage performance and were impressed. He had a crispness of speech, the breath of deep and grand voice, a smaller man who could embody the Napoleon complex of Dr. Haber.

We offered him the role and he accepted.

The role of the psychiatrist went to Margaret Avery. Her bio includes the following:

heather-crop“Avery scored a major success with her role as the sultry and spirited blues singer, Shug Avery, in Spielberg’s The Color Purple (1985) opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover. Her performance in this screen adaptation of Alice Walker’s prize-winning novel of the same title earned Avery an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.”

The production was shot in Texas, with a few exterior cutaways in Portland and a scene on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. It was the first time that we had worked with a Hollywood based Director of Photography, Robbie Greenberg. He brought his people along and they did a professional job. Our audio person was Dennis Maitland, one of the best audio people I have worked with on a film shoot.

An example: during one of the opening scene, I had George Orr walk through a crowded hallway. I asked that as he passed by groups of people, we could hear their conversations. I set up the camera dolly and tried the move a couple of times. In a very short time, we were ready to shoot. However, I didn’t see Dennis or his boom person setup for the shot. I asked if he heard the various groups as Orr walked past.

“Oh, yes” he said.

“Really?”

“Heard them all”

“How’s that possible with no boom mic?”

“I have a wireless mic on every group.”

I never saw him do it. He never once asked for a rehearsal. He just did these quick and perfect setups, time and time again. It was amazing. Dennis has retired but his son has followed in his footsteps.

The costume person, Laura Crow, created magic working closely with David. Especially her design for the “future” costumes the characters wore. Not too far out, and yet somehow special and reflective of a dysfunctional world. And when the world turns “grey” and all characters, black or white, became grey, she outdid herself in look and budget. No small feat.

all-gray

I want to take this moment to express my great respect to the set designer, John Wright Stevens, and his staff for their ability to work with the smallest budget ever, to create such unbelievable locations and settings.

He helped us find the great locations: Haber’s most expansive lab at the new City Hall in Dallas, Texas (the mayor had not even moved in at the time of our shooting!) and the glass exterior of Haber’s final lab at the Hyatt hotel in Dallas. We used both the inside and interior with the complete cooperation of the hotel management.

future-set3

John found great locations in Fort Worth: the Tandy Center and its mirrored elevator, the abandoned Oil Company building, and the bombed out exterior of the opening scene. He even convinced city officials to let us set off special effects — fire, coloring the fountain red and bubbling with dry ice, a 30-foot explosion on the base of the memorial site — in one of its prized monument plazas. Explosion, fire, smoke and the city let us do it. Thanks Ft. Worth!

Small back-story: As we setting up for the big scene which had to happen at night, the local police told us to move out for a while. When asked why, they said a drunken cowboy was walking down the street toward us, shooting as he walked along. We moved out for about a half hour and then the police said the coast was clear. That’s shooting in Texas in more ways than one.

One of the most difficult of all was trying to create special effects with a limited budget. Since David and I both had been working with video artists in our respective labs, we knew people who could create some effects for little money. Ed Emschwiller, a prolific video artist who also created works for sci-fi magazines helped with several difficult images, including flying saucers.

laserThe most inspired effect was a laser creation as the two leads fight out in the cosmos. David had located a laser company and we descended on them with our two lead actors and no knowledge of how to make this work. The owners of the company showed us what smoke and sprayed water looks like when added to the laser beams. What followed was a total free for all as we improvised actions that we thought might help the movie. It worked way beyond what we had hoped for. A fitting look for a sci-fi movie with a very low budget.

Now comes time for the biggest thanks. The editor, Dick Bartlett, a long time collaborator on my projects, created a marvelous product. The cameraperson hated it because the editor did what he does, mix and match. The DP wanted his long and complicated shots. But Dick was right. He spent along time in NYC working with David. The most daring part of the show was the opening 2 minutes, were nothing happens at all. Just shots of a peaceful world, until the bomb. That kind of opening would never have made it through a commercial network. Only on PBS could that of happened.

It made the show special right at the beginning. Today, cable networks would accept this as normal, but those were different times.

Only three times in my professional career did I ever have original music.

Lathe was one of them. Michael Small and an orchestra of 20 created a wonderful musical score. Michael worked for scale because he liked the project. We were very lucky.

“Michael Small (May 30, 1939 – November 24, 2003) was an American film score composer best known for his scores to thriller movies such as The Parallax View, Marathon Man, and The Star Chamber. Relatively few of his scores are available on compact disc. Michael Small died at the age of 64.”

The TV movie was released on PBS nation wide. Its reviews were good.

More importantly, Ursula liked what we did. The buzz lasted for a while and then died away. That was until a group of sci-fi groupies started pestering WNET to release the show on DVD. The cost of step up fees to actors, writers, musicians, etc. was considered too costly. But the noise reached new levels as sci-fi writers started writing articles about the lost masterpiece. Against many objections, WNET did finally break out the cash for a DVD release. WNET said they have never had as many requests for a DVD of one of their shows ever. I thank them for their commitment.

People still tell me how important that film was to them when growing up.

Some are real fanatics, able to recall scenes, shots, even dialogue. This has never happened to any other show I have ever created. It is a tribute to all who made this happen, no one more important than David Loxton.


New York Times, 1989

loxtonDavid R. Loxton, a producer of documentaries and other programs for public television, died of pancreatic cancer on Wednesday morning at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He was 46 years old and lived in Manhattan.

Mr. Loxton joined the production staff of WNET, the major New York public-television affiliate, in 1966. In 1972, he created the Television Lab, which presented the work of independent film makers like Nam June Paik and of the choreographer Twyla Tharp, who has worked with video.

In addition to serving as the director of the Television Lab from 1972 through 1984, Mr. Loxton developed the Nonfiction TV series, which presented such works as ”Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang,” ”I Remember Harlem” and ”The Times of Harvey Milk.” Mr. Loxton was the executive producer of Nonfiction TV from 1978 through 1983.

Mr. Loxton was the executive producer of programs for the ”Great Performances,” ”NET Playhouse” and ”American Playhouse” series.

He received many honors, including an Academy Award for ”The Times of Harvey Milk” (1985), Emmy Awards for that documentary as well as for ”The Police Tapes” (1977), ”Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang” (1979) and ”Third Avenue: Only the Strong Survive” (1980), and Du Pont/Columbia Awards for ”Lord of the Universe” (1974), ”The Police Tapes” (1977), ”I Remember Harlem” (1982) and ”Pesticide and Pills” (1982).

In 1985, he won an ACE. award, cable television’s equivalent of an Emmy, for best original drama, for ”Countdown to Looking Glass,” about a United States-Soviet confrontation in the Middle East. He was co-executive producer, with Frederick Barzyk, of the program.

”It’s very hard to put together projects in public television, and he had the resources and drive to put them together and the skill to produce them,” Arnold Labaton, a senior vice president of WNET and director of the station’s production center, said yesterday. ”He also had a great talent for working with others. He did it with immense tact and judgment.”

Most recently, Mr. Loxton was director of drama for the ”Great Performances” series and senior executive producer for specials, both at WNET. He was executive producer of ”Tales From the Hollywood Hills,” a critically acclaimed series shown under the auspices of ”Great Performances.” When he became ill, he had just begun production of ”Childhood,” a six-part documentary for the Public Broadcasting Service.

Mr. Loxton, a British citizen, was born in Kingston, Ontario, and grew up in England. He is survived by his wife, Pamela, and two sons William and Charles, all of Manhattan; his father, William, of Ruscombe, Berkshire, and a brother, Peter, of London.

Sam Tyler’s new film on Kickstarter

From Sam Tyler

Sam TylerDear WGBH Colleagues,

Two matters — first an observation:

What fun to see many of you at the reunion in May. Friendships renewed, memories surfaced, and a deeper appreciation of the team approach that made WGBH such a winner. 

I believe most people in every department felt they played a role in getting the shows on the air. And they did. It was the sense of team that provided the  WGBH edge, permeating everything and making the station the #1 PBS supplier.

Now the pitch:

Since 2013, I have been producing, for free, a series of three one-hour programs about a largely unknown, but fascinating,  part of American history, called West of the West: Tales from California’s Channel Islands

California’s eight Channel Islands lie west of what is traditionally regarded as America’s frontier. In fact, they are our western frontier. 

They are as much a part of our country’s history as Bunker Hill, the Civil War, and The Great Depression. Yet, their story, including that of the oldest known site of human habitation in all of North America, is virtually unknown. 

Our films bring this “ignored” history to life … important for all Americans to understand and particularly valuable for young people as we are delivering a new body of knowledge for them to learn and consider.

With a few of us working for free and 90 years of combined experience, we are creating three films of Ken Burns/American Experience quality levels for under $400,000 total. No overheads.

Even with our successful Kickstarter campaign, which is running out of time, we still need to raise the final $40,000, so I ask that you consider a pledge to our campaign. The KS site makes for an interesting read with some engaging film clips:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/westofthewest/west-of-the-west-tales-from-californias-channel-is

I’ll be deeply grateful to anyone who can help push this along and for the part WGBH played in my life.

Thanks and best,

Sam