Wide Wide Blog

The first “Today,” as it happened

The very first Today program aired on January 14, 1952. The complete program is lost to history, since in the run-up to “T-Day” nobody thought to order a kinescope. All that remains on film are the 7:00-7:29 segment and the segment from roughly 8:44 to 8:58. Many years ago the Today website had a rundown transcribed from the NBC archives, but some segments in the original document were out of sequence, and some other information was missing, incorrect, or didn’t seem to square up somehow.

What is presented below is the result of a years-long effort to reconstruct that first program. The detailed portions are from my notes from the kinescope (which you can watch here), while the rest is reconstructed from the rundown document, from the photographs Peter Stackpole took for Life that morning (many of which are linked below), from contemporary articles, and other sources. I have also embedded a few screen captures (credit: NBC) to illustrate from time to time. This is a living document, and as more information is found this post will be updated. If you have information that will help make this more complete, please share (gently) in the comments or drop us an e-mail.

TODAY – January 14, 1952
7:00 am – 10:00 am Eastern Standard Time

(kinescope begins)
6:59:30: NBC ID
6:59:35: Telop and v/o promo for Richard Harkness and the News
6:59:50: WNBT ID telop/spoken ID

The very first images of Today came from this camera position, which stayed busy that morning. (NBC photo)

7:00:00: Program begins. Jack Lescoulie spoken intro.
7:00:15: Garroway’s “preamble” begins.
7:02: Time stamp and headline crawl begin. Garroway walks to headline board for “Today in Two Minutes.”

NBC photo

7:04: News film of Capt. Carlsen of Flying Enterprise.
7:05: Return to studio; sports stories. Garroway explains when news summaries will be presented during the program. Begins tour of communications center.
7:06: Introduces Jack Lescoulie. Visits with Mary Kelly, who tells him the weather bureau is on the line for him. Garroway shows off Kelly’s electric typewriter.
7:07: Garroway shows off tape recorder and telephoto machine. Visits with Buck Prince, who has Romney Wheeler from London on the line. Also talks to Ed Haaker in Frankfurt. The big story there is the first big snowstorm of the year. “It’s really chilly here today.” Garroway: “You’re not alone. Thank you very much, Ed.”
7:09: Garroway introduces news editor Jim Fleming.
7:10: Garroway shows off wire service machines and wall of newspapers flown in for the program.

Newspapers from around the country. I think that’s Estelle Parsons holding the newspaper. (NBC photo)

7:11: Garroway walks back to telephoto machine and looks at photo – “still wet.” Walks back to his desk.
7:12: First remote – view from top of RCA building.

The first remote gives a view of 30 Rock’s ventilator stacks, but the rainy and cloudy morning prevents seeing much else. (NBC photo)

7:13: Remote from outside Pentagon. Frank Bourgholtzer v/o. Says things aren’t too visible from the Wardman Park Hotel location. Pans right from Pentagon to view of Washington skyline. Cut back to monitor view in New York.
7:13: Remote from Chicago. Jim Hurlbut interviews two Chicago police officers who are sitting in their patrol car.
7:14: In the middle of Hurlbut’s interview, we cut back to the studio. Call over studio PA from control room: “Station break, Dave.” “Oh…recess time, right back!”
7:15: Telop and v/o promo for The Mel Martin Show and WNBT ID.
7:15: Garroway at desk attempts to resume remote to Chicago but cannot get through to Hurlbut (although Hurlbut is visible on monitors with police officers).

Garroway gives up on trying to reach Jim Hurlbut: “Peace, lad.” (NBC photo)

7:16: Jim Fleming gives a news update (Mark Clark nomination as Vatican ambassador withdrawn; China accuses US of flights over Indochina; investigation into inflammable sweaters).
7:18: Garroway on phone with Jim Fidler for weather report, but Fidler not heard on the circuit. Control room (via studio PA) tells Garroway as much and asks him to continue. Garroway relays Fidler’s forecast while drawing it on map (which Garroway has to erase first).
7:20: Garroway finishes weather report, informs viewers they will play records from time to time.
7:21: First record: “Slow Poke” by Ralph Flanagan and His Orchestra (backtimed with no instrumental lead-in; music about 90 seconds in duration). Slow pan over newsroom; clock dissolves in.

NBC photo

7:23: Garroway walks over and cues Jim Fleming at the newspaper board on far end of communications center. Fleming compares Minneapolis headlines vs. San Francisco headlines. Lescoulie (next to Fleming) marvels that the late headlines from San Francisco would come in via wirephoto so quickly. Garroway comes over and announces “recess time.”
7:24:30: NBC tones. Telop promo for Dave and Charlie. Telop and v/o promo for Lights Out with Frank Gallop. Telop ID for WNBT; v/o promo for Tex and Jinx. V/O ID for WNBT.

NBC photo

7:25: Jack Lescoulie explains what viewers can expect on the program and over the next half-hour. Previews records, upcoming interview with family with son in Korea. Introduces Garroway, who interviews Lescoulie about his background and experiences.
7:27: “Sentimental Journey” fades up. “Recess; right back.” Garroway walks back to desk.
7:27: Film PSA for Treasury Dept./US Savings Bonds. No sound from film; instead, sounds from inside communications center (teletypes, phones, bells, etc).
7:28: Garroway at desk: “I didn’t know there was any sound with that film or I’d have whistled ‘Dixie.’” Remarks that he didn’t hear it over his speaker. Also notes they lost the time at the bottom of the screen and “we’re having some new times made.”
7:29: Garroway does time check, explains program for those just tuning in. Notes people looking in through windows. “Recess time right now for a minute.”
7:29: Telop promo for Richard Harkness and the News.

(end of kinescope segment; until further notice, this is reconstructed from program log sheet and other sources)

7:30: Garroway provides a briefing on what the program is about and talks with one of the remotes.
Garroway talks to the families of two soldiers stationed in Korea, Sgt. Mickey Sinnot and Sgt. Bill Cassidy. They are then shown films taken in Korea of the soldiers when they had talked to their families in days previous.
7:41: Record: “I Wanna Love You” by the Ames Brothers.
7:45: Jim Fleming gives a news update.
7:48: A live shot from a busy Grand Central Terminal as commuters hurry to work. Record: “It’s a Lonesome Town” by Mary Ford and Les Paul.
7:51: A similar live shot from Washington, D.C.
Garroway at newspaper rack takes a look at the headlines, and Jack Lescoulie gives sports update. Curious passersby watch.
Record: “Weaver of Dreams” by Nat King Cole.

8:00: Central time zone joins the program. Garroway introduces program; gives rundown of “Today in Two Minutes.” Newsreel of Capt. Carlsen of Flying Enterprise shown.
8:07: Garroway goes to newspaper board, then checks in with the overseas correspondents via shortwave radio. Robert McCormick in Paris says the big story of 1952 will be about SHAPE and NATO. In a moment widely criticized, Garroway asks a favor of Romney Wheeler in London: “All we want you to do is start our next record.” Wheeler obliges. “I hope it’s ‘Domino.’ It’s very popular over here.” You can guess what happens next. On the way back to his desk, Garroway visits with Mary Kelly.
8:12: Views of Grand Central Terminal.
8:13: Views of Washington from the Wardman Park Hotel and the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, Ray Scherer flags down Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Fechteler on his way to work. “Can you give us a pronouncement on the state of the Navy?” Fechteler: “Well, I don’t know. When I left it yesterday, it was in great shape.”
8:15: Views of the rush hour in Chicago.
8:20: Jim Fleming with news update.
8:22: Garroway interviews Fleur Cowles about her book Bloody Precedent, published today.
8:31: Garroway does “Today in Two Minutes” briefing. Bill Stern, just arrived from California, walks into the studio and greets Fleur Cowles.
Record: “October 32nd, 1992” by the Modernaires.
8:40: Jim Fleming gives news briefing. Talks with Garroway, Bill Stern and Fleur Cowles.

(kinescoped segment resumes)

“Changing Times” was with “Today” on its first telecast. Kiplinger’s publications remained “Today” sponsors into the 1970s. (NBC photo)

8:44: Garroway does live spot for Changing Times while leaning on desk. Notes that a lady from Brooklyn called in reference to a spot earlier in the program: “Tell Garroway that the penny postcards he’s talking about now cost two cents.” Remarks that’s a sign of changing times.
8:45: NBC chimes/telop promo for Howdy Doody. Film promo for Boston Blackie. V/O promo by Don Pardo. Film ID for WNBT with V/O promo for Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
8:45: Back to studio. Garroway sees he’s on camera – “Oh, I’m talking to a friend! Is that all right?…Mort [Werner, producer], will you tell our cue people that they’re running about three inches high?” Gives time check; throws to Jim Fleming. Fleming gives story just in from Tokyo: US Navy patrol bomber crashed this morning near Yokohama. Recaps Mark Clark story, Douglas will not run for president or VP, attacks in Suez zone, Chinese charges that US planes overflew Manchuria, AEC chairman says we’re still working on H-bomb, new US proposal in Paris about control of A-bomb, Secretary of State Dean Acheson to testify before Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh refuses to rescind order to close British embassies in Iran next week, economic adviser Leon Keyserling predicts $85 billion US budget for the year, recap of inflammable sweater story, bad weather in Pacific prevents search for survivors of missing freighter. Late bulletin comes in: Capt. Carlsen received a decoration today from the king of Denmark; Fleming notes that he will be honored in NYC Wednesday. Throws back to Garroway: “Brother Garroway, are you there?”
8:46: Garroway is on phone; grins at Fleming. Goes back to phone; asks control room if the mobile units are coming up after “Frenesi.” Asks them to hold “Frenesi” and to go to mobile units first. Cues Frank Blair in Washington. There’s a pause, cue channel chatter audible; picture from Wardman Park comes up, cough over audio. Garroway says he sees Jim Hurlbut in Chicago. Frank Bourgholtzer comes on, identifies himself. Picture shows morning traffic on Connecticut Avenue bridge and Rock Creek Parkway. Bourgholtzer says he’s at the Pentagon. Picture cuts to Pentagon and crowded parking lots there. Bourgholtzer says Ray Scherer is standing in front of the Pentagon, doesn’t know if they can cut to him or if they’ll show the yacht basin. “Sherm, can we have that shot? There we are!” Bourgholtzer notes that some come to work by boat, including Air Force brass from Bolling Field. Pan over parking lots; Bourgholtzer notes some can contain 6-7,000 cars. Bourgholtzer then throws to Ray Scherer, who notes parking lots on Mall side of Pentagon and how quickly they filled up. Notes Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial in distance. Says he expects Secretary of the Army Frank Pace at any moment. Gloomy, overcast morning in Washington.
8:50: Quick view of Pentagon exterior before cuts back to Garroway: “There! We got it that time!” Garroway, smiling, gives quick explanation of how these are some of the tools that will be used on the program to take you to various places, how they can get into just about any place. Cues Jim Hurlbut in Chicago.

NBC photo

8:51: Hurlbut in Chicago, outside the Loop Terminal of the Illinois Central suburban railroad. Shows people coming out of terminal to go to work. Cuts to corner of North Michigan and East Randolph, showing pedestrians and traffic. Hurlbut notes how busy that corner gets during rush hour. Cuts back to Hurlbut outside terminal with people coming out of terminal. Hurlbut notes the fog will be with them all morning long. Cut to view of bridge tower in fog and NBC mobile unit on bridge, panning left. Cut to view of buses waiting for passengers. Cut back to Hurlbut, who wraps with “so, take it away, Dave Garroway.”

The state of the art in 1952. If only this baby could come up for sale in Hemmings the month after I win the lottery. (NBC photo)

8:53: “Thank you, Jim, old friend…and he is that.” Garroway notes Chicago is his old hometown and it looks familiar to him, but NYC is his new hometown and how busy and populated it is. Time check as he cues camera at Grand Central Terminal and Peter Roberts. Shots of commuters arriving as Roberts explains what’s going on.
8:54: Back to Exhibition Hall and Garroway. “We’re going to take a time-out for a short recess at this minute. Be right back, folks.”

There’s no way I was leaving this out. (NBC photo)

8:54: NBC chimes. Telop promo for Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Telop card for Mothers’ March on Polio with Eddie Cantor v/o. Don Pardo v/o repeats phone number. Telop ID for WNBT with Pardo v/o for Ben Grauer’s Seeing is Believing. WNBT verbal ID.
8:55: Lescoulie at desk recaps what program has done thus far and what it intends to do, bringing you top stories “as regularly as coffee is served.” Wire service photos will also be shown. “And, of course, we’ll always have…Dave Garroway!” Garroway standing near desk realizes he’s on, gives time check. Time and headline crawl return to screen. Garroway notes a lady has called and said it’s an interesting program but they haven’t once mentioned Brooklyn. Garroway walks over to Lescoulie, says Jack was telling him something about “a rhubarb between [Roy] Campanella and the Dodgers.” Lescoulie notes the lady calling about the lack of a Brooklyn mention; Garroway taps Lescoulie’s shoulder and says “I just said that.” They laugh about it.
8:56: Lescoulie begins telling story about Campanella’s refusal to have bone chips removed. “Sentimental Journey” comes up and Lescoulie is faded out in middle of story.
8:56: Filmed PSA for Big Brothers of America with Gene Lockhart. “Sentimental Journey” still plays over first few seconds.
8:57: Back to Lescoulie in studio; no audio for first few seconds. Lescoulie recaps his conversation with Campanella about a story that he was holding out on re-signing with the Dodgers for the 1952 season. Campanella debunks story, saying he would return to the Dodgers.

Jack Lescoulie not only smiled between every sentence, but kept smiling while he was talking. It’s truly amazing to watch. (NBC photo)

8:58: Garroway at desk notes they have a box of gadgets. Shows off needle-threading device.

NBC photo

8:59: Garroway notes it’s time to say goodbye to east coast viewers. Notes he wants to stand because he means it sincerely, and notes that the show has a lot of bugs but they will work them out. “Today” super comes up. “Peace.”

NBC photo

(end of kinescope)

9:00: Program continues for Central Time Zone. Garroway does “Today in Two Minutes.” News update.
Record: “Frenesi” by Artie Shaw
9:20: A view of commuters at Grand Central Terminal. Music: “Grand Central Station.”
9:22: Weather report from Jim Fidler. Jack Lescoulie marks weather map.
9:23: Jim Fleming has AP report on Northeast Airlines Flight 801, which crashed on approach to LaGuardia 20 minutes ago. The bulletin is broadcast one minute after it was received via teletype.
9:27: Fleming illustrates story with viewgraphic map showing location of crash.
9:40: Jim Fleming gives news update. Garroway at newspaper board shows the headlines in different parts of the country.
Record: “I’ll See You in My Dreams” by Hugo Winterhalter.
9:48: Visit with families of soldiers in Korea.
9:55: Garroway shows wire service photo just received.
9:59: “Peace.”
9:59: We’re clear.

My Own Sentimental Journey

Hey, there. I’m a research partner on the Dave Garroway biography project. I’m pleased to begin as a contributor here (my colleague has been killing it since “Garroway at Large” launched), and I hope I can give you some interesting items and stories from my own research into Dave’s life.

I was born three years after Dave took his own life, so I have no living memory of the man. At no point did I switch on the black-and-white Philco in the kitchen to watch J. Fred Muggs drag Jack Lescoulie’s flimsy desk across the newsroom. I grew up with Today in the ’90s. I have memories of Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric, and Fred Facey’s authoritative “LIVE from Studio 1A!” voiceover. Like many viewers, I counted on Today to be on television each morning, but I gave nary a thought to what came before.

That changed, dramatically, in January 2002. TV Guide told me Today was turning fifty. Fifty! Impossible! (And Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters were once young and non-ABC anchors?)

I was sufficiently interested that on Monday, January 14, I handed a VHS tape to my grandmother and asked her to record the whole show. I wanted to see what this was all about. When I got home from school, I rewound the tape and started watching.

I was mesmerized. The clocks, maps, teletypes and microphones were a true delight. But I was particularly struck by this monochrome fellow in the bow tie and glasses. He was bookish and erudite, unafraid of polysyllabic words or arcane musings. He seemed to exude class and unflappability.

For whatever reason, this deeply impressed me. I started wearing argyle socks and picking up a few jazz records. There’s no doubt that in Dave Garroway, I saw a kind of masterclass in How to Be Interesting and Cool. I confess; to some degree, I still do.

In the ensuing sixteen years, I learned much more about Dave’s darker sides, his struggles and his untimely end. But instead of pushing me away, the complexity and nuance held my fascination. Here was his reality, beyond the fond, gray-tinted viewer memories.

Now for the last year or so, your main author and I have been trading notes, mulling, speculating, harnessing information and otherwise trying to make sense of Dave’s narrative in a way that can be published and enjoyed. It’s beyond time for the Communicator’s story to be told. I look forward to helping tell it.

Garroway with Bob and Ray, 1952/Garroway with Fred Allen, 1952

During the run-up to the premiere of Today, Dave Garroway made guest appearances on some NBC programs. In the process, he got to match wits with some comedy legends. Here’s Dave paying a visit to Bob and Ray in the week before Today‘s premiere:

Maybe it’s me, but in that sketch Bob looks a lot like Pat Weaver and Ray reminds me of Today‘s first newsman, Jim Fleming.

Another preserved bit captures Dave’s January 6, 1952 visit to Fred Allen’s program. It’s a real treat.

I’m working on a very special post for the 14th, to commemorate that first morning. In the meantime, enjoy the clips!

The dawn of a new horizon

NBC’s promotional push for its brand-new morning experiment, as seen in a two-page ad in Broadcasting, January 7, 1952. (Trivia: Today had been scheduled for a January 7 debut, but in December 1951 it was decided to bump the debut back one week; among other things, it allowed a little more time to get everything ready in the RCA Exhibition Hall, plus it allowed a few more run-throughs before the big day.)

To spend hours upon wonderful hours exploring a huge archive of Broadcasting and other industry periodicals, visit the incredible American Radio History website.

Young Dave Garroway and the Triple-Dog-Dare

Courtesy Schenectady Historical Society

In a few days we’ll renew the annual tradition of watching A Christmas Story on the network that shows it on a loop for 24 straight hours. Somehow I never saw A Christmas Story until I was into my 30s, but in the last decade and a half it’s become a special movie to me, and I won’t dare go through the holidays without watching it at least once.

If you’ve seen A Christmas Story (and if you haven’t…well, what are you waiting for?), you’re familiar with the scene involving Flick, a flagpole, and a triple-dog-dare. But could you ever guess there’s a similar story involving a young Dave Garroway? Dave himself told it in the draft of the memoir he never completed. In the spirit of the season, here it is.

The Crane Street Bridge in more favorable weather. (Courtesy Schenectady Historical Society)

One day in Schenectady, fourth-grader Dave Garroway was headed to school. As he recalled, it was snowing that day and about ten degrees. His route took him across the Crane Street bridge, which spanned a little valley near the school. About halfway across the bridge, young Dave looked down at the thick snow blanketing the valley below, and thought it was beautiful. For some reason – “just out of love, I guess,” he later said – he had the impulse to lick the bridge. His tongue reached out to the bridge’s metal railing.

You get one guess what happened next.

No matter how he tried, Dave couldn’t pull his tongue away. He began to yell for help, but his pleas were muffled. Some of his friends came to help, but when they tried to pull him from the railing, it made things worse. Dave kept trying to yell “Get help! Get help!”

Someone had the idea of getting pails of hot water, pouring it on the rail to free Dave’s tongue. Three pails later, Dave was scalded but still stuck. The metal held the cold too well for the water to have any effect. Dave had the idea that heating the rail would do the trick, and finally had the idea to yell “Fire! Fire!” Which then prompted a call to the fire department. Young Dave had reasoned they would have torches that could heat the rail.

By the time firemen arrived, Dave had been stuck to the bridge for about 45 minutes. He was tired and his tongue was bleeding. The firemen brought over a gas torch and held it against the rail a short distance from Dave’s stuck tongue. “Gradually, slowly, I could feel the warmth creeping toward my tongue,” he remembered half a century later. Soon one side of his tongue let go, and then the rest peeled away. “Oh! What a relief. And then my tongue began to hurt worse than ever.” As he recalled, “I didn’t taste anything for some time, except the bitter flavor of the Crane Street Bridge.” Worse, he had several people upset with him. The school principal sent him home, and the fire department paid a visit to his father to tell him to stop doing that. “As though I did it every day,” Garroway remembered. “I was the guy who should have done the complaining.” Why not, the inventive fourth-grader thought, have a heated Crane Street Bridge? “But I kept my mouth shut. After all, I was only in the fourth grade. And, besides, my tongue hurt too much to talk.”

Like so much of the Schenectady that Dave knew, the old Crane Street Bridge is long gone. It’s been replaced by a newer and wider span – and though it still has a rail, I doubt today’s fourth-graders feel the urge to give it a lick. But if you look the modern bridge up on Google Earth, you’ll find an interesting bit of graffiti just a little more than halfway across the span.

No matter the real reason why that graffiti’s there, I can’t help thinking that if Dave saw it, he’d get a chuckle from it.

Whatever you celebrate, make sure you celebrate it well. And be sure to keep your tongue away from frozen metal.

Grateful acknowledgment to the Schenectady Historical Society for the two images above. See more about Crane Street on the Society’s website here.

What a little love can do

Today’s installment really doesn’t have to do with Dave Garroway. (Well, maybe tangentially, because it does involve RCA and something that NBC once used a lot of, although long after Dave had left the network.) Instead, it’s kind of a love story, an unexpected one. And in the spirit of the season, it’s kind of like my version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree: maybe it just needed a little love.

Let’s begin the story with a younger version of me, surfing the web, coming across websites like the one Chuck Pharis has, being green with envy at that kind of camera collection. Or the great collection at Eyes of a Generation. For a long time, I’d wanted a decommissioned television camera of my own. But I had a feeling it would be serious money getting into the hobby. Much as I would dearly love a TK-11/31 or a PC-60 (for my money, the most beautiful camera ever built), I knew from looking around that they were too rich for my blood. Still, a girl can dream, and every few days I’d do a search on eBay just for fun.

Bailey Stortz at his TK-47 on Letterman’s program in the early ’90s. This is how I best remember these cameras.

A couple years ago, a search yielded an RCA TK-47. Now, the TK-47 never really got me excited. I remembered them from Letterman’s later years on NBC, and you’d occasionally catch glimpses of them on Saturday Night Live, but I never cared much for how they looked. They were a little too modern, I guess. The newest RCA camera I really cared for was perhaps a TK-44; maybe it was all those years of watching Johnny Carson when I was a kid, but the -44 spoke of a time just as those beautiful Norelcos epitomized the CBS of my childhood.

And yet…the more I looked, the more that TK-47 tempted me. It had a buy-it-now price of $500. And the manuals were up for sale, too. I dithered and dithered on it. By the time I decided to act, the manuals were available but the camera had disappeared. I bought the manuals and told the seller if he still had the TK-47, I was interested. He replied that he didn’t have that TK-47 any longer, but he did have a second one and some additional components, and told me to call him.

That afternoon I gave him a call, and he told me what he had available. The TK-47 he had was stripped of most of its internals, but would make a fine camera for display. Better still, this one still had its lens and cables. And even better still, the set included the components of the camera chain. He sounded a little reluctant to sell, but the more we talked, the more he warmed up to a deal, and we finally arrived at a number that worked for us both.

A tired TK-47 and matching Fujinon lens on the afternoon they arrived at my home. My feelings were an amazing combination of “I can’t believe I own a studio camera!” and “How am I going to do this?”

A week or so later, a series of large boxes showed up at the office. One was particularly large, too large to fit in my car, so a co-worker and I ripped it open. Inside was the blue-and-cream body of the TK-47, which barely fit in my car’s little trunk. Somehow, I got it all home: the control units, the lens, the setup console. The only item that didn’t come in the deal was the camera computer, which was too heavy to ship (about 90 pounds), so I’d agreed to let that one go since I knew where to find another one closer to home. The zoom and focus controllers, I hunted down from another source (and I’m fortunate to have found them, since I don’t think I’ve seen another set since).

My little helper inspecting the restoration.

The poor TK-47 had seen better days; it had years of dust and a little dirt on it, and for a time I thought about stripping and repainting it. But as I started to clean it up and applied some polish to some stubborn spots, I saw it was worth keeping as it was. Besides, those little scrapes and dings were part of this camera’s story. And, about that story…

The seller had sent some pictures before we closed the deal, and on the lens I noted an intriguing detail. Seems the lens had a property tag for KCET-TV. When I opened the camera body, I found another KCET-TV property tag. If that call doesn’t ring a bell, let me do a little explaining.

It’s a ratty picture, a screengrab from an old RCA publication, but I’m pretty sure that’s my TK-47 on the set of “Cosmos.”

Back in the day, KCET-TV was the PBS affiliate for Los Angeles (it’s since gone independent). And in the late ’70s, KCET replaced its TK-44s with new TK-47s. And the new capabilities of the TK-47 – the only RCA studio camera to win an Emmy – would aid in the production of a new series that was in the works. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Much of the series would be shot on location using film, but the in-studio segments, notably the famous “Spaceship of the Imagination” sequences, were shot with TK-47s. Which meant…yep, this camera met Dr. Carl Sagan.

The more I thought about the property tags, the more I knew what I had to do.

My original plan for the camera was to put it in NBC markings, as a tribute to all the late nights I spent watching Letterman or staying up for SNL. But the more I got into the KCET story, the more I knew what I had to do. A conversation with Bobby Ellerbee convinced me it was the right thing to do. So I did.

As you’ll notice in the restoration photos, the original jeweled finish on the handle recesses was long gone, probably stripped off when the KCET logos were removed. I searched as best I could for something that could replicate the finish. Nothing quite matched it, but I did find some self-adhesive vinyl that was almost the same. I cut some sheets of plastic in the shape of the insets, applied the wrap to the plastic, and stuck them in place with archival-grade adhesive dots. If I ever need to remove them, it’s as easy as just peeling them off. The KCET markings were drawn in Adobe Illustrator and laser-printed on clear decal film. (I still need to have some “4” decals cut for the top of the camera below the tally light, but that will come in time.)

All cleaned up and reassembled and looking almost as good as new, with new KCET logos in the right places. Temporarily bolted atop a Vinten Radamec plate so it won’t topple over.

To be completely accurate this camera should be atop a Vinten Fulmar pedestal. Unfortunately, those cost a lot more than I can afford. A month or so before I got this camera, I’d happened across an inexpensive ITE pedestal and head for sale in Virginia (and the story of how I got *that* beast home is one I’ll have to tell someday…it involves an overnight trip, a rented van, a Tina Fey audiobook and a front-end loader. Seriously). It was all I had, so I used the TK-47 with this pedestal. To my knowledge KCET didn’t use this setup, but I have seen photos of TK-47s atop this very pedestal (including pictures from CNN’s earliest days), so it’s allowable. The head was missing its handles, so I had to buy some aluminum stock and my father and I formed them into passable handles one afternoon. (Isn’t it sweet, that kind of father-daughter bonding over metalwork?) The rubber grips were from a medical supply house, intended for canes and walkers, but they worked fine here.

A very happy TK-47 back in its natural environment.

After a few months it was time for the completed project to make its debut. I wasn’t going to park it in our living room, though; our cats would find it a plaything, and aside from that it would be weird having a studio camera in our little den. Nope, this belonged in my office. I rented a truck one afternoon and brought it all in, and put everything together at last. I hung a spare Clear-Com box and a retired headset on the side of the camera. And, like Charlie Brown’s little tree, all it had needed was a little love. That camera, all cleaned up and back on a pedestal, looked happy. A few days later, we had a special event in our television studio, and I wheeled out my TK-47 alongside one of our current studio cameras, and alongside one of the new HD cameras we were switching to. It was quite the exhibit.

That TK-47 now lives in my office. I still wheel it over to our seminar room sometimes if we have guests in, or on special occasions I’ll take it down to the studio and put it on display. It’s not quite complete; I’d love to find an original-equipment lens hood, a shade for the viewfinder, and a shot box to hang on the side, and I still want to get an equipment rack to mount the control room side of the chain. It’ll never function again as it originally did, but even as a static display it tells a great story.

And don’t tell anybody this, but most days I give that camera a hug. It’s my baby, and I’m proud of it.

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.)”

SOURCES:

  • 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.

SOURCES:

  • “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.