A moment of whimsy

We here at Garroway at Large World Headquarters have to apologize for the lapse. The culprit was the other manuscript on which I was working. The good news is, it was submitted to a prospective publisher last week. The bad news? It’s left my writing impulses a little depleted, and I’ve yet to recover the energy needed to do one of the in-depth pieces of the sort we’ve recently featured here.

Instead, here’s a little moment of wonder that never fails to lift my spirits. Here’s Chicago School-era Dave stopping by to visit his friends Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Whatever’s in your head right now, whatever worries you may have, put them aside, click “play,” and let these few minutes of kinescope footage work their magic.

The Great Paris Blackout of 1959

It had all the makings of television history. For the first time, a regularly-scheduled program would not only originate from overseas, but it would do so through a series of fascinating new technologies that would revolutionize the medium. That’s what Today had planned for April 1959, when its producers planned to originate the show from Paris, France. But what should have been a triumph instead was a fiasco involving a network, a broadcast union, and Brigitte Bardot. Sounds implausible, doesn’t it? But it happened.

To give you the whole picture, let’s begin with a little bit of technological history. For much of the 1950s, getting pictures from Europe to America had been lengthy and complicated. Communications satellites were years away. Transatlantic cable lines had nowhere near the bandwidth for live television. In 1953, CBS and NBC had raced to get films of the Coronation on the air, which turned into a giant and expensive mess involving jet bombers, chartered P-51s, and two television networks desperate to be first. (That whole story, a particular favorite of mine, is worth a blog post of its own, but it didn’t involve Dave Garroway all that much; instead I’ll refer you to this story from someone who was there. And this one is pretty darn good, too.)

There had been a couple of major advances since the Coronation race. For one, commercial jet service between Europe and New York, which in 1953 had been in the teething stages, was now routine. It would be easy to have footage flown back on a scheduled flight to New York. The other big innovation was the dawn of videotape. Today had already moved to previous-day taping the year before, so it was nothing new. But it added new flexibility to an overseas remote. Today segments, or entire shows done live-to-tape, could be recorded and the videotapes sent to New York, ready to put on the air just as any other Today program would be at the time.

But all this raised another issue. Sending NBC mobile units to Paris would be a huge and expensive logistical effort. Budgets were already tight, and Jack Paar had to cancel a planned series of shows from Paris due to budget issues. The Today adventure had itself been at risk for a period. The services of Intercontinental Television were contracted for production of the Paris remotes, using what was billed as “a 15-ton, 35-foot, self-contained mobile videotape unit.”

Garroway told AP television writer Charles Mercer what he hoped to achieve. “I want to show Paris to Americans in the way that only television can,” he said. “Tape, you know, has a live quality unlike film.” Garroway envisioned going to a different spot in Paris each day and doing the program from there. “There won’t be any editing or retakes. I’ll talk and interview people and generally be a guy showing Paris to friends back home.” NBC’s publicity held out promises of such famous sights as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Left Bank, the Eiffel Tower, and others. The usual Today hosts – Garroway, Jack Lescoulie, and Charles Van Doren – would do stories from around the city, while the role of “Today Girl” would be filled each day by a different French actress. The first program, to be aired Monday, April 27, would feature an interview with actress Brigitte Bardot.

While the Bardot interview would make headlines that Monday, it wasn’t for reasons she, Garroway, or NBC anticipated.

At 7 a.m. that morning, at the time Today was to go on the air, the NBC employees responsible for airing the tape walked off their jobs. As members of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, they claimed the tape had been produced with the help of non-union French personnel in violation of NABET’s contract with NBC. In solidarity, NABET workers with the NBC Radio Network also walked out. In all, about 1,500 workers across NBC’s operations nationwide walked out that morning, including engineers, news writers, traffic and communications personnel, operations directors, and even publicists and air-conditioning technicians.

NABET spokesman Tyler Byrne claimed that NBC was in violation of its contract with the union regarding video tape jurisdiction. Byrne said that NBC had promised to use union technicians and had taken nine union members to Paris, but claimed that many technical jobs were being done by local men being paid “coolie rates.” Byrne charged NBC with using a “runaway shop” approach on the Paris remotes, and warned, “If the networks find it cheaper to produce video tape abroad it will result in unemployment and cutbacks among workers here.” (The president of Intercontinental Television later claimed his workers were paid equal or higher to the NABET personnel, and that they belonged to the French union.)

NABET had initially called the walkout a “no-work period” so workers could write grievance letters, but later conceded it to be a general strike. Picketers outside NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza carried signs reading “lockout.” But NBC countered, “They simply walked off their jobs. There was no lockout.” NBC held that the tapes made in Paris were done in compliance with its contract with NABET, and threatened to sue.

For three hours, NBC network programs were off the air. There was no Today program in most markets. KSD-TV in St. Louis found itself having to fill time with old films from its film library. WINR-TV in Binghamton, New York aired several films, whose subjects included the Sea Scouts, diesel engines, and even one about men cooking, during the time Today would have been on the air. On radio, the biggest loss was NBC’s five-minute News on the Hour updates at the top of each hour, so the effect was limited on that side of the network.

Not until 10 am that morning did supervisory personnel have both networks back to regular operations. The television network had Dough-Re-Mi airing on time at 10 am, and News on the Hour and other news programs were back on the air soon. The Associated Press reported “there were occasional fluffs,” and noted that NBC had received calls from ad agencies complaining about commercials being inserted abruptly, appearing dim, or not having sound. (At least one of Kermit Schaefer’s “Blooper” record collections includes a clip from a News on the Hour from that day, with audio from another circuit intruding on Howard Reig reading the sponsor billboard.)

NBC hoped to work out an agreement with NABET before the next morning, but had plans in place to make sure Today got on the air as scheduled the next morning. As it happened, no agreement was reached, so network supervisors were at the controls the next morning and Today aired as scheduled. Part of that morning’s program included the Bardot interview that hadn’t aired the day before. Meanwhile, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service scheduled a sit-down between NBC and NABET that morning. An hour and twenty minutes of meeting later, nothing was accomplished, and NBC filed a $500,000 suit against NABET. On May 5, it rescinded the NABET contract and invited negotiations for a new contract.

Two days later, NABET employees picketed the Emmy Awards in Hollywood and New York. Three of the marchers in Hollywood wore black tie. Finally, on May 14 NBC and NABET reached an agreement, and operations began to get back to normal. No longer were salesmen having to do double duty as cameramen.

As for the program that started the whole affair? Television critic John Crosby wrote, “One can’t escape the impression that this is the sort of thing television should have been doing all along – bringing a city like Paris right into your living rooms with live cameras (even if the show is on tape.)”


  • Associated Press, “Fluffs Mark Strike Of Television Crews,” Dover, Ohio Daily Reporter, Apr. 28, 1959, 1.
  • Associated Press, “Garroway TV Show Aired, Despite Row,” San Mateo, Calif. Times, Apr. 28, 1959, 23.
  • Associated Press, “NBC Rescinds Union Contract,” Corpus Christi Caller-Times, May 6, 1959, 33.
  • Associated Press, “NBC Technicians Quit in New York,” Muncie Star Press, Apr. 28, 1959, 1.
  • Associated Press, “Sudden Strike Disrupts NBC’s TV, Radio Chains,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 27, 1959, 1.
  • Associated Press, “TV Pickets Dress Right,” Klamath Falls, Or. Herald and News, May 7, 1959, 3.
  • Associated Press, “U.S. Mediators Try to Settle Strike of Technicians at NBC,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 28, 1959, 2.
  • John Crosby, “Garroway View of Paris in the Spring,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Apr. 29, 1959, 72.
  • John Crosby, “Tape Crews, Crowds Raise Issue of Reality,” Hartford Courant, May 4, 1959, 17.
  • Charles Mercer, “Dave Garroway Has Interesting Theory,” Pensacola News Journal, Mar. 5, 1959, 59.
  • “Monday Television Highlights,” Salem, Oregon Statesman Journal, Apr. 26, 1959, 36.
  • “Strike Over Paris ‘Tape’ Ties Up NBC.” Chicago Tribune, Apr. 28, 1959, 54.
  • Marie Torre, “‘Maverick’ Garner To Gambol,” Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, Feb. 26, 1959, 40.
  • Marie Torre, “Video Strike Yields Laughs Too,” Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle, May 15, 1959, 8.
  • United Press, “Bardot Tape Brings TV Strike,” Cincinnati Enquirer, Apr. 28, 1959, 2.
  • United Press, “NBC, Union Negotiators In Accord,” Tucson Daily Citizen, May 15, 1959, 30.
  • United Press, “Strike Hits NBC, Protests Bardot Interview in Paris,” Binghamton, NY Press and Sun-Bulletin, Apr. 27, 1959, 1.

Lost Garroway: “Dave’s Place,” 1960

There are moments in Dave Garroway’s career that are well known. But for every one of those, there must be at least ten that have vanished into the ether and are likely gone forever. One of those is a curious entry from 1960, when Dave Garroway tried one more time to bring the Chicago magic to prime time. Very little material exists on it, and so far as we can tell there’s no known recording – not even the Paley Center seems to have a copy. Which is a shame, because on Friday, November 18, 1960, NBC invited viewers to spend an hour at Dave’s Place.

According to Robert Metz in his book The Today Show, the idea for Dave’s Place began sometime in 1960. Garroway had sensed his days at Today might be numbered, and that a good showing on a prime-time special could lead to a series. Garroway asked his producer, Robert “Shad” Northshield, to head the project.

Northshield hired Andy Rooney, who had written for Arthur Godfrey, to write the program. At least once, Rooney visited Garroway’s town house to discuss the project. But Garroway was unhappy with Rooney’s script, and turned to Today writer I.A. “Bud” Lewis, on whom he had come to depend in recent years – so much that Garroway informed other Today writers that he refused to speak any lines unless Lewis had approved them. Lewis and Lester Colodny completed the script; more than a decade later Lewis himself later referred to the script as “slap-dash” and “not a particularly good show.”

As if that wasn’t enough, during the special’s gestation, Northshield fell out of favor with Garroway and was soon gone from both Today and Dave’s Place. Norman Kahn was brought in to shepherd the prime-time special to its air date. The program went over budget, and Garroway himself funded part of the production. Lynwood King was tapped to direct.

The thought of Garroway in prime time tantalized columnists. Larry Wolters of the Chicago Tribune noted that the title reminded him of Studs Terkel’s old program Studs’ Place, and that like Garroway’s Chicago program, “the atmosphere will be relaxed, and the format free wheeling.”

As it happened, the completed script wasn’t so much about Garroway himself. Instead, the script connected everything through the RCA Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, a place Garroway had called his professional home for decades. “The theme, the mood and even the format of the program are an expression of how Dave Garroway feels about the building and the NBC studios it houses, where he has spent such a large part of his life,” read NBC’s press release. “As Dave puts it, ‘Twenty-three years is a long time to be in love with an idea…but I have…and it’s all been connected with this building.'”

The day before the program aired, newspaper columns previewed the program. Most had high hopes. The Nashville Tennesseean looked forward to “an amiable amble” through the RCA Building as Garroway told stories and met people, while the Salt Lake City Tribune noted “it seems that Mr. Garroway has decided that ordinary stage settings are inadequate for his Friday night show…thinking big, he has decided to use the 70-story RCA Building.” Another columnist suggested, “If you’re one of his early morning addicts or want to know if you could be one, here’s an hour-long amble, visit, sentimental journey or what-have-you, with NBC’s goggle-eyed philosopher-astronomer-huckster at his “home” in New York City…mostly this is Garroway, wandering about from lobby to studios to roof, the happy historian of 23 years at Dave’s Place.” Several listings had it as a viewing “best bet.”

According to surviving accounts, the program began with a view of the outdoor skating rink at 30 Rock. Garroway arrived in his beloved Jaguar, walked to the rink, and began telling the audience about “Dave’s Place” and what it meant.

Inside 30 Rock, Garroway took viewers to several points of interest, including the central videotape facility; Studio 3B, where The Dave Garroway Today Show originated; and the eighth floor, which Garroway noted was the home of all the big shows back in the day. Garroway reminisced about his first job at NBC, as a page on the eighth floor, and about being present on Christmas Night, 1937, as Arturo Toscanini debuted the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Studio 8H.

Along the way, Garroway met up with his old Chicago friend, comedian Cliff Norton; comedians Sid Gould, Bernie West, Helen Halpin, and Al Kelly, known for his double-talk routine. Singer Julie London performed three songs: “Making Whoopee,” “Well, Sir” and “All of You.” The Joe Wilder Sextet performed “Heat Wave,” and the New York Woodwind Quartet presented “St. Anthony’s Chorale” by Haydn. In a joint performance, the two groups presented an original song, “It’ll Never Sell,” by Alec Wilder. As the program went on, Garroway segued into several commercials – for American Tourister luggage and Elgin watches, among other sponsors.

Near the end of the program, Garroway stood on the RCA Building’s observation deck, looked down on the lights of Times Square, and then cast his gaze on the stars above. This led into a sequence (likely based on one of Garroway’s favorite works, The Cosmic View by Kees Boeke) that showed how, in the grand scheme of things, humans and the world itself were both insignificant and unique against the scale of the universe.

Along the way were some innovations. A “motion sculpture” sequence, using stainless steel rods that were vibrated with electricity, provided what one reviewer called “fascinating images” on the screen. And at 45 minutes into the program, Garroway remarked that closing credits usually go unread. As Julie London sang a song, the closing credits were seen in the dark background behind her.

Other little whimsical moments took place during the hour. At one point, Chet Huntley passed by Garroway in one of 30 Rock’s corridors. “Good night, David,” he said, reprising his famous Huntley-Brinkley signoff. As Huntley walked on, Garroway said, “He says that to everybody.” And at the end, in a sequence a reviewer called “eerie,” a photo of Garroway morphed into a photo of RCA chief Gen. David Sarnoff. “We’ve called this Dave’s Place, and it surely is,” Garroway said. “Good night, and thank you, David.”

Reviews were lukewarm; the consensus was that while the Garroway charm was there, the execution was off. “N.B.C. made a stab at re-creating the atmosphere of the old Garroway at Large program last night,” read a review in the Louisville Courier-Journal. “A closing sequence rather oversimplified the theory that man is pretty small potatoes compared to all creation. The show, though pleasant in spots, bore out this viewpoint.”

Harry Harris of the Philadelphia Inquirer generally liked the program but was distracted by the constant commercials. “We kept wondering if it wouldn’t have been more appropriately tagged ‘Dave’s Store.’ Almost every moment, he seemed to be peddling something – luggage, watches, spark plugs, NBC and, not least of all, Dave Garroway. Maybe it just SEEMED like a commercial-studded commercial because, except for a song interlude by Julie London, Dave was endlessly present, making with the soft-voiced hard sell.” Harris also noted that by confining the proceedings to within 30 Rock, the former Wide Wide World host “seemed reduced to serving as guide to an extremely narrow world.” However, Harris was entertained enough by the musical and comedy segments to call Dave’s Place “a winner of a ‘Place’ show.”

While Dave’s Place was a pleasant Friday night diversion, it never led to anything beyond that single program, and records about it remain scant; even finding this much about it has been a challenge. I’d like to hope a kinescope or videotape exists – not only because of the obvious Garroway connection, but having roamed the halls of Dave’s Place myself, I would love to see how some familiar places looked in 1960, made even better with Garroway as my tour guide. It may have been an odd little program, but if a copy exists, it would sure be a treat to see.


  • “Dave’s Place.” Fort Lauderdale News, Nov. 18, 1960.
  • Harris, Harry. “Screening TV: Hallmark’s “Macbeth” Is Excellently Filmed But Not Top Video.” Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 21, 1960.
  • Londino, Cathleen. The Today Show: Transforming Morning Television. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. p. 52.
  • Martin, Richard O. “Checking the Channels: TV Goes Bizarre Today.” Salt Lake City Tribune, Nov. 18, 1960.
  • Metz, Robert. The Today Show. Playboy Press, 1978. p. 130-133.
  • “Radio, TV Highlights: Visit to ‘Dave’s Place’ Is All Dave Garroway.”
    Eugene (OR) Guard, Nov. 18, 1960.
  • Rooney, Andy. “The Death of Dave Garroway.” Lakeland Ledger August 3, 1982.
  • Terrace, Vincent. Television Specials: 5,336 Entertainment Programs, 1936-2012. 2d ed. McFarland, 2013. p. 119
  • “TV Review: N.B.C. Tries To Re-create Old Garroway Program.”
    Louisville Courier-Journal, Nov. 19, 1960.
  • “TV Scout: Garroway Ambles Through RCA.” Nashville Tennesseean, Nov. 18, 1960.
  • Wolters, Larry. “Dave Garroway to Do 1-Night Variety Show.” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 13, 1960.

“No wider than the heart is wide…”

I was working on another post for today until I remembered that October 16 is a special day. For it was on this date in 1955 that Dave Garroway welcomed us to Wide Wide World. The ambitious program, which had aired as a special presentation earlier in 1955, made its regularly-scheduled debut on October 16.

Not much Wide Wide World footage is available, and not even the entirety of the debut is out there to see. But about 60 out of those first 90 minutes is available, starting below. Take the time to watch it, and think about how the remotes we take for granted today seemed like a miracle in 1955.

Another time capsule

Time got away from us here at Garroway At Large World Headquarters, and the Wide Wide Blog has suffered as a result. Last week I had to take a trip to conduct research on my other project. (Maybe I’ll write something about that project in a future post. It’s pretty interesting.)

To make up for my absence, here’s a really big present for you. Perhaps the best way for you to get a glimpse of what the Garroway magic was like, as it happened, is to unplug yourself from the present, journey back to November 1957, and enjoy Garroway and friends in long form. (Note: the title gets it wrong – that’s Kokomo Jr. and not Muggs – but don’t let that distract you.)

Detective work

Back in June I spent a day at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a long story, but Wisconsin has a huge collection of papers related to broadcast history. And, as things turned out, it’s where the NBC papers ended up. For anyone needing to conduct research into broadcast history, Wisconsin is a mandatory stop. (And don’t think one day will suffice, either. I am certain that had my schedule allowed, I could have spent a week and not scratched the surface. The NBC collection is huge.)

It had been about a decade and a half since I’d last done honest-to-goodness research in archival materials. Teaching at a small college means you don’t get much time to do research, because you have a dozen other duties demanding your attention and the day only has so many hours. Research has been one of those “I’ll get around to it” things. The Wisconsin trip let me break that cycle, and getting back into the documents was as delightful as I remembered. I had missed it, and each box the archivists brought out for me contained a new treasure.

This was my view most of the day: a big box of folders full of documents from yesteryear, each of them its own little time machine. I had little time for reverie; as soon as I opened a folder with a worthwhile document, I had the phone on my camera going like crazy capturing pages. It got really interesting in correspondence files, for so many of those documents were file copies produced with carbon paper (anybody remember that stuff?) on onion-skin paper. I’d hoped to get a copy of one especially intriguing document, only to find about ten pages in that it was just about half a ream of onion-skin paper, and I’d expend precious time and battery life to get a document not really related to Dave Garroway. (Argh! The choices we must make!)

Sometimes, though, I’d come across a box that left me speechless. For instance, a box containing the scripts, coordination charts, and other miscellany for each installment of Wide Wide World. I’ve watched this countless times, and yet before me was this:

It was the genuine, game-used (in the coordinating studio) script from that very telecast. In my hands. It was truly a moment. (And reading the script as written really drove home to me just what Dave Garroway could do with a piece of material – that little intangible something that took plain words and made them magic.)

There were dozens upon dozens of finds during that trip, and all of them will come to play somehow in this book we’re working on. But of all of them, this is definitely one of my favorites. It reminded me why I love the historian’s craft, how much I’ve truly missed it, and why I’m so glad I get to engage in it from time to time.