Julia Child – in memory

A 1962 appearance on a book review show on the National Educational Television (NET) station of Boston, WGBH, led to the inception of [Julia Child’s] first television cooking show after viewers enjoyed her demonstration of how to cook an omelette. The French Chef had its debut on February 11, 1963, on WGBH and was immediately successful. The show ran nationally for ten years and won Peabody and Emmy Awards, including the first Emmy award for an educational program. Though she was not the first television cook, Child was the most widely seen. She attracted the broadest audience with her cheery enthusiasm, distinctively charming warbly voice, and non-patronizing and unaffected manner.

8 thoughts on “Julia Child – in memory

  1. In 2011, someone posted asking about the theme music for the show. It is true that John Morris wrote the better known music for the later French Chef series. But I want to know who did the first two themes used in the series’ early days. I can’t find references to them anywhere, and music isn’t credited in the series itself. Does anyone know who wrote those two pieces?

  2. Julia was the best person ever to work with! I was on the crew driving the mobile unit and working as floor manager when the black and white series was done at Cambridge Electric and my back still aches when I remember hauling the TK-60’s and heavy coils of camera cable up the exterior fire escape on snowy January mornings. The reward of course, was that we did two shows a day and got to eat everything!

    I had a “sweat” cue card to remind Julia to wipe her brow. It drove fastidious Ruth nuts that Julia would wipe off the sweat and then flick her hand and spray perspiration every which way. Ruth would also go ballistic when Julia tasted something with a spoon and then plunged it back in – so I had a “spoon” card as well. Julia, of course, totally ignored it.

    Many favorite memories of those shows – the best was of Julia’s decision to come up with her own opening for Roast Suckling Pig. She convinced Russ Morash to do as she directed and she had him roll the credits and music over a close up of the cutting board. They rolled and Julia said (more or less) voice over, “Today, Roast Suckling Pig” at which point she dropped the uncooked piglet, splat, onto the cutting board and exclaimed, “Why, it’s just like a baby” as she skewered it with a very large knife.

    And she was a great sport. Mark (name please!) and I produced and directed a special show for the first holiday party at the then new studio at 125 Western Ave. (sigh…) We asked Julia if she would demonstrate video tape editing and she happily set up shop in master control and with a cleaver, rolling pin and chewing gum ad libbed the greatest demonstration ever. Louis Lyons, another blast from the past, did the French Chef segment by showing how to prepare, after consultation with Julia, Pan au Peanut Butter et Jellee.

    I have no idea if the tape of that show is still extant, although there was a clip with Julia’s segment on a documentary about the French Chef. The rest would be a festival of in-house nostalgia, if was it still around.

    … Jordan Whitelaw (BSO) reciting “There are fairies at the bottom of my garden” while being hand fed grapes

    … George Weiner (our grumpy and over the top custodian) cleaning the women’s restroom

    … Hartford Gunn (GM) crooning a Soviet military song (Soviet Press This Week) interspersed with hilarious out takes from the engineering department’s extensive (and embarrassing) blooper reels.

    It was a hard scrabble time (I miss-wired a camera connecter in master control during the move in phase and nearly blasted Jack Kean through the roof one night), but we did have fun. And, speaking of Jack and the cigar butts stuck away in the strangest places, I’ll never forget his fixing a completely bent out of shape TK 60 with the huge rusty jack from the bus and a brick when we were far from home and help out in Corning, NY doing an MIT Science Reporter. He was the Julia Child’s of Engineering.

    • (Quote from Alex Pirie) “We asked Julia if she would demonstrate video tape editing and she happily set up shop in master control and with a cleaver, rolling pin and chewing gum ad libbed the greatest demonstration ever. …I have no idea if the tape of that show is still exists?”

      RESPONSE: Well somewhat good news for you. As an editor in the early 1980’s an engineer gave me a copy of this Great Julia Child Moment to become one of my favorites. In black and white, Julia introduces her co-host as a Mr. John Glitch. She pulls out a cart with some large strips of 2 inch videotape. First she uses a large knife to cut the tape, then proceeds to use her chewing gum & rolling pin with instructions on how to make a video dissolve with them. I think her best comment was when Mr. Glitch asks how long it takes her to make a TV program & Julia responses with “I can make a whole day’s TV programming in about a half an hour! She also comments on how much she “likes all the blinking colored lights in the master control room”. My copy was lost a few years ago in a storage mishap. & I have been trying to track down the engineer that I got it from(or any other source). So it still does exist out there. Just need to keep looking.

      I though this was pure comedy and very unusual for Julia child to offer videotape editing instructions at MIT, to resemble a cooking class. most appeared as improv. What wonderful memories of Julia.

      … an emmy winning editor. (I will recieve follow up comments…)

  3. When Fund Raising was moved to the garage stalls at 110 Western Ave — 1974-ish — our office was a big open area with work spaces made up of file cabinets and formica counter tops. Julia shared this area with us. We delighted when she, Avis, and Ruth Lockwood would come in to setup show menus and answer viewer mail. We didn’t get much work done on those days, and there is one a few of us remember vividly. The conversation between Avis and Julia went something like this.

    AD: Oh, here’s a good question Julia: ‘My steel (knife sharpening rod) is getting caked. Should I put it in the dishwasher?’

    Almost simultaneously….
    JC: YES! AD: NO!

    JC: Yes Avis. The dishwasher is perfectly fine.
    AD: No Julia. You should NOT put it in a dishwasher.
    JC: Yes Avis, if you want to keep the steel sharp you should put it in the dishwasher.
    AD: No Julia. You know my husband is a Metallurgist and said that the dishwasher would harm the quality of the steel. I never put it in the dishwasher.
    JC: Well Avis… THAT would explain why I can never find a sharp knife in your kitchen.

    Bah-dum-bum. Silence for about 3 seconds, then the entire room broke out in laughter, Julia and Avis included.

    I remember those days fondly when “the Ladies” would delight us with their banter. So many more stories when Julia would join us for my major donor appreciation events. there was the one when Vincent Price was our guest host and Julia showed up by surprise … but that’s another story.

    Memories to treasure.

  4. Believe it or not, I was the first to direct a program with Julia Child, although I was not aware at the time that I was in the presence of a legend.

    It was early 1962 and we were operating out of the Catholic TV Center. I was still a BU intern and in addition to operating master control I was assigned as director for two small 15-minute live shows. One of the shows was a book review program titled, I’ve Been Reading. The set consisted of a riser, two chairs, a coffee table and a music stand on which to place the book for the opening and closing shot.

    That evening I asked the host who was coming for the interview. He said it was some woman who wrote a cook book. About 15 minutes before the program in walks Julia and Paul, her husband, with a hot plate, a skillet, and a bag full of groceries.

    I asked Julia what she intended to do with all that stuff. She said she was going to cook a soufflé. I explained that the show was an interview program and that we were not set up do that sort of thing. She said “sure you can,” and she a Paul proceeded to hook up the hot plate on the coffee table. Both I and the host were dumbfounded but with ten minutes to air, what could we do?

    To make a long story short, Julia took over the show, made her soufflé, and then walked off the set before the show ended and fed it to the crew. That was an evening of wide shots, poor lighting, and a hyperventilating director.

    Within minutes of the program ending, the WGBH phones were jammed with viewers wanting more of this lady. Within weeks, Julia did a pilot and the French Chef program was launched. And I returned to doing dull book review programs once again. But this was a point in my life that I enjoy reflecting on because I was there at the creation.

    What a lady! She is greatly missed.

    – Dick Hiner, 1961-1963.

  5. Because I lived on Beacon Hill, (in an apartment I’d taken over from Don Hallock), it was always a temptation to ride my motorcycle to work, even during a Boston winter. If Storrow Drive was free of snow and ice, I could put up with the ten or fifteen minutes of windy cold rather than waiting an equal amount of time on the windy Charles Street subway platform and Central Square bus station – and I could do it on my schedule.

    There was a problem in winter, though. My bike, a BMW twin of the type called “Boxer”, had a kick starter. When the temperature got down to 30 degrees or below, the engine oil got thick and kicking-starting the bike was hard. Since we didn’t finish work in the studio until ten or eleven at night, it was often pretty cold on a winter’s night when I would go out to begin the laborious process of starting the bike for the trip home. The solution turned out to be right in front of the building. The air exhaust duct for 125 Western Avenue was just off to the side of the main entrance.

    Through this duct came the “used” warm air of the building. By placing my bike in front of that duct, I was able to leave it bathing for eight or ten hours in the 65 degree air exhaust. Starting the bike in the evening became easy and, since the duct was in a portico, the bike was out of the rain and snow. It was such a good spot for parking that even after winter passed, I kept parking the bike in there, out of the weather.

    Twice a week, Julia Child would be in the studio. On the first day, she, Ruth Lockwood and the rest of her crew rehearsed. They would run through the recipes for the show, and then there was the show day itself. On Julia days, the studio would be filled with the wonderful smell of poultry and meat being cooked in odiferous sauces that smelled wonderfully of challots, garlic, and a few things I’d never heard of.

    That flavored air would be gathered up by the air exhaust system and that is what would flow over my motorcycle outside in the portico, keeping it warm.

    Week after week I parked the bike there and even on the coldest nights it started with one kick of the starter. Month after month, my BMW marinated in the smells of a French kitchen until my motorcycle was so infused with the smell of Julia’s kitchen that wherever and whenever I would start my German motorcycle, it would give off a unique combination of odors from the finest French cuisine. While I was working at WGBH, I had the distinction of driving what may have been the world’s best smelling motorcycle.

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