Press and People

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series The Don Hallock Collection

Here, dear friends, is a small collection of images from a series of programs which few will remember, though it was, indeed, quite memorable. WGBH produced Press and People for what was then NET (National Educational Television) in what I believe was 1959 or ’60.

I found this episode — a kinescope recording of the interview with Edward R. Murrow — on You Tube some years ago, and grabbed stills from the salient parts. The video seems to have been taken down since.

The program featured Louis M. Lyons — distinguished journalist, WGBH-TV’s nightly newscaster, and curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard — talking with important print and photo-journalists of the time about their work and philosophies. The guest list was truly impressive.

This series was decidedly over-produced, using the entire of studio A for a simple one-on-one interview format.

Extreme camera angles and distances were employed, and boom microphones purposely hung in the shots, all for dramatic effect. A rear projection screen can be seen behind Louis, which I don’t remember ever seeing used (and I ran Louis’ camera). In fact, as I recall, it was placed so close to the studio wall that there would have been no room for a projector behind it. A steno-typist, as you can also see, was included in the background of the wider shots of Louis — why? Only for more drama.

Louis was seated about 35 feet away from his guest, necessitating the practice of voicing his questions at what was for Louis an unusual volume. The guests also had to project their answers, which gave a somewhat artificial feel to the proceedings.

Furthermore, Louis and guest were never seen in juxtaposition; there were no two-shots from either direction. They might as well have been as far apart as Boston and New York. Empty drama.

This was the era in which we were trying anything and everything to make our shows interesting, and some of it, such as this approach, simply didn’t make much sense. (It should be said that the director was not one of ours. He was imported from Canadian Broadcasting, and was possibly trying to make an impression.)

At the close of the show, the program title was shown with “and 30,” “-30-” (or, in this case, just “30-“), an expression traditionally used by journalists to indicate the end of a story. The camera then a dollied in through the “0” of “thirty” (a hokey technique used before we had keying known as a “gobo shot”) to a card showing the steno-typist once again, and the address where one could write for a printed copy of the interview. The repeated typist would have been for emphasis, no doubt. A transcript could much more easily have been struck from the audio tapes we were quite capable of making — even then.

This slightly irreverent commemoration demonstrates how primitive even our national productions could be, and is further intended to redress, however modestly, the relative scarcity of images of Louis who was, in himself, a WGBH-TV institution.

Oh, yes, those are old fashioned, hot-pressed flip cards you see in the credits. And they are clearly crooked, as was so often the case in those days.

Press and People

Click any image to view slideshow.

Remembering “The Club”

“The Club” began on channel 44 as “Club 44.” I think it was around 1977-80.

Studio A was converted into a bar/club where each Friday night we would tape four, half-hour, back to back, “live” 30 minute segments. These featured local bands and musical acts, cooking segments, political editorials from Barney Frank, interviews with local celebs, and a variety of Boston based info segments. It was made more interesting by the audience who was served wine and beer. They roamed about standing, sometimes tripping on camera cables and generally being helpful. As the night wore on the fun increased.

Silvia Davis was the Executive Producer. She and her team did a great job coming up with fresh talent and ideas for the show. I recall Dick Cavett doing a guest host spot, as did Garrett Morris from SNL. We did segments on CB radio (all the rage at the time) and hot tubs (one night we had a 6′ wooden barrel that mostly didn’t leak all over.) There were movie, book and eatery reviews and even the odd pet segment.

Some might remember the unique innovation called “the stick”.  This was used to ID guests. During a segment, David Atwood who was the ringmaster and chief would call out, “Okay, give ’em the stick.” At which point a piece of foam core attached to a dowel would be thrust into the frame…usually in a mostly lower third position. The guest’s name was painted on the sign.  This all happened in the days before Chyron.  You will hardly ever see it done today.

I’m sure others have fond “Club” memories… Care to share?