Getting to Know You (Again) – Influential WGBH colleagues

We enjoyed reading your memories of your first days at WGBH in our June update. We hope you’ll contribute again this month. This time, the theme is:

  • “Tell us about someone from WGBH who was influential in your life”

Please post your recollections in the comments below.

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Let the storytelling continue!

(Read all about the reunion here.)

3 thoughts on “Getting to Know You (Again) – Influential WGBH colleagues

  1. I am afraid my irreverence knows no bounds. Hartford Gunn taught me that I could stand up to the status quo, even after he grabbed me by the tie and thrust me against the wall (1962). David Sloss and I had written a memo lambasting David Ives about his memo raising fears of the musicians union and our unorthodox use of folk singers on the series Folk Music USA. Gunn, his face quite red and close to me, assured me that he and David were committed to do great entertainment and not just education. I told him that was wonderful. The show continued to use big name singers and there were no complaints from the union or Ives. Ives and I became very close as the years went by. He and I were the last of the “standard” non electric typewriters types and shared a laugh or two about those crazy early days.

    Then there was Ed Scherer. Ed had been the TV director of the Army/McCarthy hearings at a very young age. He eventually ended up directing baseball games in Cuba when the revolution happened. He was thrown out of the country and was looking for a job. He knew Dave Davis and soon was at WGBH, the highest paid TV director at $175 a week. Ed told me over and over, whenever management calls you on the carpet to complain, always agree, see it their way, and agree to comply. Then go and do whatever you want. Well, that happened to me a lot with my immediate boss Greg Harney. Over and over, I would agree and commit to do it his way. Of course, I didn’t. After many episodes, Greg was totally frustrated with me, stopped me in the hallway and complained that I never seem to listen to him. I immediately agreed, said it was my fault, and promised to do it his way. Never did. I miss Greg. He set a high standard for all of us, a group of very young inexperienced directors. He made us strive for professionalism in those early days.

    Then there was Michael Rice. He and I had what I would call a love/hate relationship. I seemed to tick Michael off a lot. Several times in his office, during heated arguments, his shoulder would pop out, and he would have to struggle to put in back in place. I have asked others about this and it never seemed to happen when they were with him. Sorry Michael.

    He was a very brave man. He gave me carte blanch over a series called “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” I really pushed the limits. Double channel viewing, a show based on John Cage’s theory of chance which had one viewer say it gave her brain cancer. I later found out that Silver and I were under surveillance by the Army intelligence, that my phone had been tapped and they assumed we were agitators. Not really. We were doing street theater in a TV studio. But here is where I have to tip my hat to Michael.

    We did a show in which we accused Nancy Sinatra of having false boobs.

    This finally did it. Michael was going to take the show off the air. Then, somehow, we both agreed that the showdown between management and Silver and myself should BE ONE OF THE “WHAT’S HAPPENING MR SILVER?” SHOWS. Yes, we went on the air to be scolded by Michael and the program director of the Washington ptv station, WETA. I asked David Atwood to direct and to cut to David or myself during caustic put downs. Silver and I would look concerned but proud, professional but somehow amused. Well, the show ended and phones rang off the hook. Viewers accused the station of censorship. The Globes TV critic, Greg MacDonald (who later went on to write the Fletch mystery series) backed us up. Michael backed down and we were allowed to finish the series with one provison … no live shows, everything had to be on tape so they could view before hand. I won’t even get into the time when Michael threw a roll at me in a high end restaurant while in conversation about a show with NET.

    There are many more, Henry Becton, Henry Morgenthau, Chas Norton, to name just a few. Maybe, more memories later.

  2. Hartord Gunn was the most far-seeking fellow I ever met.
    My first task at WGBH was to design a TV Station to fit into a long narrow space, an unlikely configuration for real efficiency.
    He wanted to take my blue prints to the President of the University of New Hampshire, to pursuade him to excavate the basement of the new UNH student union, then under construction.
    He told the President that some years in the future, the two of them might be testifying before the New Hampshire Legislature for funds for a New Hampshire public television network, and the President could show them that he had the empty space in the student union basement all ready for construction!
    That is the way an executive thinks.
    He was a good mentor.

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