Created exclusively for Scholars in the year 2100 to help facilitate their research.
Videos in this Highlight compilation are copies from Director’s 3/4inch cassettes. Master videos are available only at WGBH Archives.The archives, including documents, etc. are housed at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI and WGBH, Boston, MA.
NOTE: Only videos marked X and Barzyk’s comments are cleared for use in all forms of print and media.
Link to VIMEO: https://vimeo.com/fredbarzykarchive
LIST OF CONTENT
Fred Barzyk describes the purpose of the Highlight videos. A short video collage of content is shown. Barzyk thanks the collaborators and his family for making this Archive possible.
Fred Barzyk tips his hat to Dan Beach, Alan Potter, Olivia Tappan, David Atwood and Dick Bartlett. Thanks management Greg Harney, Michael Rice and Henry Becton.
Fred Barzyk Autobiography: 1936-1959
Fred Barzyk recalls his early days in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2009, Barzyk took a video tour of the important places in his early life: Chester’s Tavern where he saw his first TV, and Ohio Street playground where he attempted to learn to play tennis. Barzyk tells the tale of competing in a citywide tennis match representing the playground, and its unbelievable result.
Barzyk recalls WWII and Milwaukee’s celebration of VJ Day. He visits his old grade school and tells how the entire school was crammed into the auditorium to watch Harry Truman’s inauguration. The TV screen was so small that hardly anyone could see anything. Pulaski High School was the next stop. His homeroom teacher, Mr. Schmidt, had issues with young Fred. At a ball field behind the High School, Fred recalls selling his only prize possession, his small Stamp collection, to secretly take a bus to see a GIRL in Chicago…a girl he met at that ball field just a few nights earlier. This crazy adventure has been made into a movie script, which is available for production.The rights reside with Marquette University.
Off to Marquette University, 1954: cost is $250 for the first semester. Barzyk joins the MU Players and it changes his life course. He decides to become a stage director. His mentor is the impish priest who runs the Players, Father John J. Walsh. Walsh was a charismatic Yale Drama School scholar, with a touch of P.T.Barnum. Father Walsh’s 1950’s productions introduced Milwaukee to its first professional theatrical experiences. A documentary on the 30-year reunion of more than 250 former MU Players honoring Father Walsh is featured. The documentary highlights the crazy history of Father and the Players, while Barzyk interjects his own personal memories such as: the required disastrous Ballet classes; the late night rehearsals that drove his parents nuts; Father Walsh’s phone call to The Red Circle bar asking Barzyk to drink his beer and get over to the theater so he could begin rehearsals. In his senior year, Barzyk and Dick McCullough join forces to produce their first movie. Working with a small windup Bolex camera and no sound, they produce “The Music Box and the Bottle”.
In 1958, Barzyk planned to go to Yale Drama School but had no money. Friend and MU grad, Bill Heitz, had received a scholarship the year before and he insisted that Barzyk apply. Miracle of miracles, Barzyk and fellow classmateTom McGrath were both awarded scholarships. The deal: You studied for your graduate degree in communication at Boston University and had to work three days a week at a small Educational Television station, WGBH. Each scholar received free tuition and $600 to live on for the year in Boston! Bill Heitz said this scholarship would change Barzyk’s life. He was right.
A graduate from University of Wisconsin, David Nohling, was also a recipient. Nohling had a car and the three traveled across the country, stopping off in NYC. At Grand Central Station they see one of the great movie directors at work. Cruising into Boston, the car radio finds a Classical Music Station on an AM station which was a cultural revelation. Barzyk realized he was going to have to replace beer, baseball and bowling with Brahms, Beethoven, and Bach.
Barzyk recalls Boston,1958; visits “Rat Alley” where he and Tom McGrath lived; returns to the bar where they drank their beer. Then to the campus of Boston University School of Communication. Barzyk does not write a dissertation while at BU and does not receive a master’s degree. Barzyk decides to spend most of his time at WGBH. A crew training Tape shows how inept the new BU Scholars were at working a TV show. Always short of money, Tom McGrath signs up to be a paid guinea pig for a new blood thinning vaccine. He walks to Mass General Hospital, gets his shot and receives $15. The Doctor warns him not to be hit by a car. What did happen next to Tom could have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. It was Barzyk who was hit by a car. 16 stitches and $600 insurance helped him go to many theatrical matinees in Boston’s theater district. In 2018, Barzyk travels to the new WGBH Building and shows us the vault which houses his archive.
CHAPTER 1: Early Shows +Experiments +Artists +Video Art
In an interview with Susan Gates, Director of the Chelmsford Center for the Arts, Barzyk recalls the day he saw his first TV set at Chester’s Tavern in Milwaukee, WI. Barzyk shows first drama for WGBH, an anti war, Brech- influenced story of two soldiers caught in an ugly war “Five Days” He describes his attempt to influence the producers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra by trying a more creative way to show the orchestra. A clandestine creation called Jazz Images is created after managers go home. Barzyk describes his 1961 documentary of the leaders of Black America, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and James Baldwin entitled “Negro and the American Promise.” Barzyk talks about his breakthrough series “What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?” This 16-part experimental series is aimed at the young college students during the 1960s, complete with hippies, love revolution, and drugs. One of the shows uses composer John Cage’s theory that “any sound is music;” Barzyk took the idea and changed it to “any image is a TV show.” In a psychedelic happening of a show, Barzyk created a non-linear exploration of Death. It wins him his first award from Educational Television. The Early Show Video ends with WGBH station manager confronting David Silver and Barzyk for breaking rules and the possibility of taking the series off the air. An amazing ending to this confrontation revealed the popularity of the show. Then, 50 years after it had gone off the air, the Boston Globe Magazine featured a special remembrance of the series.
In this drama, David Silver, the host of a fairly successful public television talk show travels around America searching for something intangible, leaving his wife and their infant child behind. Disillusioned with his life in television he tries to talk things over with director Fred Barzyk who is in the middle of a studio shoot involving singing and dancing children and teenagers. He travels to New York with a friend, and the two take to the streets, dispensing a pile of free used books and eventually finding themselves at a Hare Krishna gathering and Ellis Island. Eventually, Silver journeys to Washington to be part of a giant anti-war demonstration attended by the likes of Pete Seeger and Abbie Hoffman. He returns home to his wife, and the two journey to the beach in winter, where a giant billboard of some sort is being dismantled. He inscribes a piece of it with the words "Silver was here." This fairly straightforward story is interrupted by tongue-in-cheek advertisements for something called "America, Inc." narrated by Jean Shepherd.
In discussion with Susan Gates, Director of the Chelmsford Center for the Arts, Barzyk remembers 1968 and the first time artists took control of TV in the studios of WGBH. There was Nam June Paik, Otto Piene, Aldo Tambellini, Alan Kaprow, Thomas Tadlock, James and Mimi Seawright. Eight years later, Baryzk showcases Nam June Paik and his strange music to a national audience on CBS’s program “Camera 3”.
With grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Barzyk and WGBH set up The New Television Workshop to help artists of all disciplines to experiment in the new medium. Barzyk ran the Workshop for 10 years and over 100 artists participated in the grand experiment. Featured in this video are Nam June Paik’s invention of the world's first video synthesizer. Also featured are excerpts from the work of seven artists: Brian O’Doherty, Thomas Hilty, Andy Mann, Peter Campus,William Wegman, Jerry Ulesmann, Jerry Liebling, Bill Viola and Ron Hays.
With new grants, the Workshop expanded into the world of dancers and composers. Featured are a documentary on composer Michael Colgrass, and excerpts from choreographer Dan Wagner’s “George’s House; legendary tap dancer Honi Cole; Rudy Perez’s “District One” dance inspired by Boston’s new City Hall; Concert Dance Company’s dance for nudes; Trisha Brown and her “Dancing on the Edge;” and Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow Round My Shoulder” performed outdoors at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 1969.
Barzyk ventures off into his personal vision and attempts to stretch the scope of the Workshop. First up, humor. “Mother’s Little Network” is a visual cacophony of crazy ideas inspired by Ernie Kovacs, an early TV visual humorist. Following is the world’s first interactive drama done in conjunction with Qube, an interactive experimental station in Columbus, Ohio. The 15,000 viewers vote that this antic drama should be called “The Chicken that Ate Columbus.” Barzyk’s NBC production “People”, hosted by Lily Tomlin, leads to an original drama for WGBH called “Collision” and starring Lily, Dan Ackroyd, and Gilda Radner. It commissions video artists to complement the drama with their unique visions of “Collisions” and results in an unexpected major event in Barzyk’s career.
CHAPTER 2: The Television Shows with American Humorist Jean Shepherd
In 1962, American humorist Jean Shepherd makes his first program with Fred Barzyk. Shepherd tells the tale of the Great Ovaltine Caper and his secret de-coder ring. Shepherd and Barzyk's next collaborations are 3 “Rear Bumpers”-- short video essays aired at the end of the WGBH programming day. Shepherd celebrates baseball at the Boston Red Sox home field, Fenway Park. Shepherd waxes poetic about the American Drive-In Movie fad. Shepherd tells of the sinful pleasures of Slob Food. And in the last Rear Bumper, Barzyk does a surreal look for a missing Jean Shepherd.
Video 2: Jean Shepherd Drama: “Phantom of the Open Hearth” (1976)
This comedy/drama was written by Jean Shepherd, who appears at the beginning and the end and narrates it through voiceover. It tells the story of several events as they occur through the eyes of Ralph, a high school-aged boy. Ralph is anticipating the upcoming prom and is working up the courage to invite Daphne Bigelow, a beautiful and popular student who does not seem aware of his existence. Meanwhile, Ralph's father, referred to throughout as “the Old Man,” has just been informed that he has won a prize from a Nehi soft drink sponsored contest. He awaits the prize eagerly and when it arrives it is a tasteless lamp, which causes friction between Ralph's mother and father. Ralph's mother is seen going to recurring "Dish Nights" at the local movie theater. Those who attend receive free dishes, but week after week mistaken shipments result in multiple gravy boats, angering the patrons. Finally, Ralph invites not Daphne Bigelow, but his geekish neighbor Wanda Hickey to the prom. He and his friends go out afterwards with their dates and drink heavily. The evening culminates with them vomiting in the stalls of the men's bathroom. "Phantom of the Open Hearth" appears to take place in the 1950's or early 1960's and has a bittersweet feel to it. The anecdotal remembrances of Ralph are both humorous and nostalgic, revealing touching qualities, especially in his father. Nominated for the prestigious “Critic Choice” Awards.
Video 3: Jean Shepherd Drama: “Great American 4th of July and Other Disasters” (1982)
Starring actors Matt Dillon, James Broderick and Barbara Bolton in “The Great American Fourth of July,” writer Jean Shepherd, as an older “Ralph,” recalls his memory of a particular Fourth of July from his high-school years in Hohman, Indiana. Ralph plays the sousaphone in the high-school band to the instructions of the baton-twirling drum major Wilbur Duckworth. Ralph is grudgingly set up on a blind date, only to find himself in the company of the gorgeous Miss Junior Corn Blossom, who rejects his advances. On the Fourth of July Duckworth causes a power outage by twirling his baton onto an electrical line during a parade; the town drunk Ludlow Kissel sets off an enormous firework that explodes under his own porch; and Ralph’s father entertains the neighbors with his annual dramatic display of fireworks, a display that brings out the fire department and the police.
Video 4: Jean Shepherd Drama: “Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski” (1985)
The work opens with Jean Shepherd, as an adult "Ralph," at the screening of a Polish movie, which brings back memories of Josephine Cosnowski. Jumping back in time to the 1950's the story unfolds. Six weeks before Thanksgiving, a Polish family moves in next door. Ralph, who has a romantic fascination with Polish girls, finds himself pining for the elusive Josephine Cosnowski. The two become close and she invites him to a party, the same night as a big school basketball game. Meanwhile, Ralph's father obsesses over the cars at "Friendly Fred's" used car lot, and his younger brother Randy has been assigned the role of the turkey for the Thanksgiving play. When Ralph picks Josephine up for the party he is confronted by her two "beefy" brothers. The party turns out to be in the basement of a church, and Ralph is slowly introduced to members of Josephine's family. Howie, a former basketball star who married young, is at the party, looking trapped. He advises Ralph to get out of there while he still can, insinuating that Josephine is about to snare him into an early marriage. On Howie's advice he makes a run for it, chased by the brothers, finally escaping to the basketball game. Meanwhile at the pageant, Randy makes a huge splash in his gorgeous turkey outfit. At the end of the piece the whole family settles down to a magnificent Thanksgiving dinner.
Video 5: Jean Shepherd Drama: “Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss” (1988)
The fourth in a series of Jean Shepherd stories about a typical American family and its not-so-typical adventures. In this story, Ralph gets his first job and the family dog temporarily runs away to a better home, both of which threaten to cancel the annual summer vacation to a cottage on a lake. But in the end the family goes on their trek to Ollie Hopnoodle’s. In one disastrous event after another… a bee in the car, Randy getting car sick, the taking of a disastrous shortcut, then finally after reaching the wonderful rundown Haven of Bliss, the rain pours down as the family snuggles in their shack with a leaky roof. But it is their vacation and becomes the shared memories of summers past. Produced by American Playhouse and the Disney Channel. It was awarded “Critic Choice, June 5, 1989.
Video 6: TV series: “Jean Shepherd’s America” (1972 - 1985)
In these humorous and affectionate television poems, humorist Jean Shepherd celebrates America in all its richness and diversity -- from cars to candy, baseball to beer, motels to money. Each week a different aspect of our national psyche is explored as Shepherd travels to the Okefenokee Swamp, Death Valley, Milwaukee, the Old South, the tundra of Alaska, Inland Steel in Indiana, slop art in Florida and other far-flung locations. This series is the first to use a broadcast battery-powered color camera, the PCP-90 portable camera. It was the first program to give credit to the camera person as a “videographer.” There are 2 seasons of this series.
CHAPTER 3: TV Dramas by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Charles Johnson; Arthur Miller; Lynn Nottage; Ursula LeGuin
Video 1: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Drama: “Between Time and Timbuktu” (1971)
This work is based on materials by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Stony Stevenson wins first prize in a space poetry competition and trains to become an astronaut. Newscasters track his progress as he travels through space and time in the Prometheus Five spaceship. Mission control loses track of his movements, and he finds himself wandering from one bizarre situation to another. Elements of various Kurt Vonnegut stories are incorporated, and Stony finds himself on the island of San Lorenzo with the outlawed spiritual leader Bokonon, in a bizarre totalitarian courtroom, in a laboratory where the "Ice Nine" formula is being created, in a society where everyone's talents are equalized by government-imposed "handicaps," and in a suicide assistance "parlor." Finally, Stony meets a young girl on a fire engine, and she tells him he is in heaven. The parade that ensues is interrupted by the appearance of an Adolf Hitler figure who is supposed to represent death. He and Stony face off in a match that Stony pegs as "death against imagination" with Stony as the victor. In the final scene of the work, Stony finds himself back at his own grave on earth, where he is told that his space ship arrived at its destination, but his body was never found. Vonnegut's works were adapted for television by Fred Barzyk, David Loxton, and David Odell. David Atwood provided special effects, some of which appear to have used the Paik-Abe videosynthesizer.
Video 2: Charles Johnson Dramas: “Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree” (1978) and “Bubba” (1979)
This is the story of Charlie Smith, a 134-year-old black man, who tells his life story, via flashbacks, to an orderly at his nursing home. The story moves from his childhood days when he was bought as a slave by a Texas farmer, Charlie Smith. Charlie treats the boy as a member of his family. When slaves are free, he decides to stay with Charlie until he dies. After Charlie's death, he assumes his name, as Charlie asked him to do. The story becomes picaresque, as Charlie moves throughout the Old West, being a ranch hand, gambler, train robber, bounty hunter, family man, honkytonk owner, and, finally, circus sideshow attraction. Through his life the viewer sees the changes in the history of the Old West, including attitudes towards blacks and racism. The drama was written by Charles Johnson, National Book Award winner for his novel “Middle Passages”
After the dramatized account is finished, video footage of the real Charles Smith's134th birthday party, filmed at his nursing home, is shown. The credits say that "his life has been the inspiration for this television fantasy."
Video 3: Arthur Miller Drama: “The Ryan Interview” (2000)
Arthur Miller's career as a writer spanned over seven decades, and at the time of his death, Miller was considered to be one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century. After his death, many respected actors, directors, and producers paid tribute to Miller, some calling him the last great practitioner of the American stage, and Broadway theatres darkened their lights in a show of respect. The Actors Theatre of Louisville commissioned short plays from many playwrights. “The Ryan Interview” was Miller’s contribution. The story: Young big-city journalist Fredericka Rose is assigned to do a "puff piece" on Bob Ryan on the eve of his 100th birthday. Fredericka goes through the motions, but Ryan gradually gets to her, and changes the way she thinks about her life. The TV drama starred Ashley Judd and Edie Bracken.
"Poof!" was part of the PBS' American Shorts series, which premiered in Aug. 2000 with Arthur Miller's "The Ryan Interview." Based on Lynn Nottage's play of the same title, "Poof!" concerns an abused housewife and her husband, whom she damns to hell. Rosie Perez, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in 1993's "Fearless," stars in the drama, as does Tony Award winner Viola (King Hedley II) Davis. Fred Barzyk directs.
Lynn Nottage is a playwright and a screenwriter. She is the first, and remains the only woman to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice. Her plays have been produced widely in the United States and throughout the world. Nottage is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship, Steinberg "Mimi" Distinguished Playwright Award, a PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award, and a Merit and Literature Award from The Academy of Arts and Letters.
This was the most requested show ever from PBS and was eventually released as a DVD. The Lathe of Heaven is a 1980 film adaptation of the 1971 science fiction novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was produced in 1979 as part of New York City public television station WNET's Experimental TV Lab project, and directed by David Loxton and Fred Barzyk. Le Guin, by her own account, was involved in the casting, script planning, re-writing, and filming of the production. Excerpts with commentary from Le Guin.
The film stars Bruce Davison as protagonist George Orr, Kevin Conway as Dr. William Haber, and Margaret Avery as lawyer Heather LeLache.
In Portland, Oregon, in the near future, George Orr is charged with abuse of multiple prescription medications, which he was taking to keep himself from dreaming. Orr volunteers for psychiatric care to avoid prosecution, and is assigned to the care of licensed oneirologist William Haber. Orr's explanation of his drug abuse is incredible: He has known since age 17 that his dreams change reality, and tries to prevent himself from this "effective dreaming" because he fears their effects. Haber initially considers Orr's fear as a delusional symptom of neurosis or psychosis, referring to him as "possibly an intelligent schizophrenic". The doctor puts Orr into a hypnotic trance while attached to the "Augmentor," a device he has invented for monitoring and enhancing, or augmenting, brainwaves during dreaming, to help with patient therapy. He encourages Orr to have an effective dream, recording his brain function all the while. The world changes slightly during this dream, and Haber realizes that Orr is telling the truth. Haber begins to use Orr's effective dreams, first to create a prestigious, well-funded institute run by himself, then to attempt to solve various social problems. But these solutions unravel quickly: Haber suggests that Orr dream of an answer to overpopulation (resulting in a plague wiping out three-fourths of the human population), the end to all conflict on Earth (resulting in an alien invasion uniting mankind), and an end to racism (resulting in a world where everyone's skin becomes a uniform shade of gray). Only after several failed attempts to "make the world right" does Haber admit to Orr he believes in Orr's power. Having used the Augmentor to record and analyze Orr's supremely complex dreaming brainwaves, Haber begins creating a machine that will allow him to have his own effective dreams, and remake reality directly. Orr turns to lawyer Heather LeLache for help in getting out of his government-mandated treatments with Haber. LeLache doubts Orr's sanity, but agrees to help him, eventually becoming an ally. Orr falls in love with LeLache. As Haber continues to use Orr's dreams to create change in human society, Orr remembers a dream he experienced years ago, which is briefly portrayed at the opening of the film (and which, it turns out, is in fact reality): The world was destroyed in a nuclear war, and Orr was poisoned by radiation. In his dying moments, Orr dreamed a world where the war did not happen, resulting in the events of the film as we see them. Haber enters the final version of his machine for directing dreams and learns this truth, driving him mad. Orr, who has joined him in the dream state, is able to stop Haber's nightmare before it destroys the world. The result is a reality that jumbles together elements of the different worlds that Haber created via Orr's dreams, but is relatively stable. But he is heartbroken because the LeLache in this reality was never his close friend or lover. As the film ends, Orr is working in an antique store run by an alien. LeLache comes in to browse. She has only a vague memory of him, but agrees to join him for lunch. They encounter a wheelchair-bound Haber on their way to lunch. Haber recognizes Orr, but cannot come out of his catatonia.
CHAPTER 4: HBO and CBS Cable (1975-1985)
Fred Barzyk is interviewed by Susan Gates, Director of the Chelmsford Center for the Arts about early HBO Shows. In 1975, HBO was just starting out. To save money they approached Barzyk about doing a special where they would pay for the talent and WGBH would provide the studio with Barzyk as director. WGBH also aired this very first HBO Special because Boston had no cable at the time. The show was called “Bob and Ray: The One and Only.” This comedy special stars the comedy team of Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, performing skits in a theater-in-the-round setting. Highlights include the following: Wally Ballou (Elliott) interviews Ward Smith (Goulding) about cranberries; Dr. Dexter (Elliott) is interviewed about the whooping crane; Alfred E. Nelson (Goulding) defends his faulty history of the United States; Goulding grows exasperated while interviewing Harlow P. Whitcomb (Elliott), president of the Slow Talkers of America; Lester K. Grogin (Goulding), an alderman from Kansas, argues that his small town should be the site for a bicentennial celebration; Wally Ballou visits a diner; Thomas Rote (Goulding) receives a lucky phone call; sportscaster Biff Burns (Elliott) interviews a yo-yo champion (Goulding); and a news parody, "News In-Depth." The program concludes after subsequent visits with Wally Ballou; David Chetley (Elliott); Ralph M. Thayer (Goulding); and the McBeebee Twins. HBO asked Barzyk and partner David Loxton to do a series of docu-dramas based on Famous American Disasters. Three of the shows are featured: “Fire at the Coconut Grove” , “The Hindenburg Disaster” and the “Fire on the Morrow Castle” starring John Goodman. Barzyk was hired to do several other shows for HBO: “Crazy and Wonderful” featured celebrity lookalikes, mud wrestling and demolition derby; “So You Wanna be a Star?” documents struggling performers trying to become stars. It includes comedian Larry Miller, country music singer Charley McClain and Zora who paid the Coca Cabana nightclub to house her performance for critics and agents.
CBS Cable is a short-lived venture that focuses on the fine arts and is supported by Mr. William Paley, head of CBS. Susan Dowling, a member of the WGBH New Television Workshop, approaches Barzyk about pitching a drama based on Calamity Jane’s Diary to CBS Cable. Susan Dowling’s best friend Jane Alexander agrees to be the star. CBS Cable picks it up and it is videotaped in the studios of WGBH. WGBH does not air it but is paid for the use of the facility.
In 1984, HBO asks David Loxton and Barzyk to produce and direct a major TV movie based on the success of the Flashback series. The show is called “Countdown to Looking Glass” and is fashioned from a war game developed by a Navy Admiral Lincoln Bloomfield. Albert Ruben wrote the script working with Bloomfield. HBO would only put in half the money, so Loxton found a Canadian producer who would put up the finishing money. This also meant that the production would have to be shot in Canada with their crews and have significant characters played by Canadian actors. The full plot is in “more info below.”
The show wins an Ace award as best Cable drama of the year and Barzyk is awarded the Venice Film award for best TV director. Barzyk is listed as a Canadian Director.
CHAPTER 5: Shows for Broadcast TV (1980-1992)
ABC show “All American Pie” asks Barzyk and Loxton to provide some comic segments where real people are put in some unusual and hopefully funny situations. The show features football star Joe Namath. Barzyk chooses a worm farmer from New Hampshire and thrusts him into a first day as a counter guy in a crazy and busy deli in Boston. Barzyk then talks about how two local commercial stations in Boston decided to produce dramas as part of their public service, which allows them to keep their broadcast license. WBZ Boston asks Barzyk to direct a drama written by a 14-year-old boy whose parents have divorced. It is called “Tender Places” and features Jean Stapleton and young actor Freddy Kohler. The drama wins a Peabody Award. Then Barzyk gets a call from WCVB, the competing TV station in Boston, asking him to direct their drama. It is a docu-drama of a family in crisis because of their son’s addiction to drugs and alcohol. Barzyk plann to show the drama to a group of high school students but is advised that the show contains too much violence, nudity, drugs and alcohol. This would not be appropriate to “force” some kids to watch and who might be disturbed by the content in the classroom. So Barzyk creates a special video online that can be watched at home: “Secrets” starred a young Christian Slater and Barbara Feldon (she was Agent 99 on hit sit-com “Get Smart”). Barzyk goes on to direct each of the stations’ other dramas: “MAD HOUSERS” for WBZ; “NO ROOM FOR OPAL” for WCVB; “THE CHEATS” for WCVB and ABC After School Special; “JENNY’S SONG” for WBZ; and “MATTER OF PRINCIPAL” for WCVB.
CHAPTER 6: Education Projects (1960-1997)
Barzyk recalls his first Language shows, RUSSIAN and PARLON’S FRANCAIS, 1962. With a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, Barzyk and Prof. Capretz of Yale University embark on a unique way of teaching the French Language. “French in Action” was shot entirely in Paris, 1987. It is now the longest-running telecourse still in use nationwide as of 2021. Barzyk embarks on another language telecourse “Destinos”, 1992. Shot on location in Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Mexico, this 52-part series has been one of the most watched Spanish language programs. It is based on the continuing story of a family in search of a missing mother of the family. The story leads us to each country allowing the student to hear the special dialect each speaks. Barzyk, who is not fluent in either of these languages, is finally given a 52-part series on teaching English as a Second Language. It is called “Connect with English”, 1998. Again the story is a drama that follows a young woman who desires to become a musician. Leaving her middle-class family in Boston, she gambles on going to music school in San Francisco. As a brave single woman she drives across the country alone. This leads to many teachable adventures… including meeting a young man in the desert of Nevada. Soon, a romantic triangle between this young man and his brother ensues. This 52-part mini-series is no longer available on Annenberg Learner website.
Barzyk, now a full-time director at WGBH, is assigned a lecture series on “European Imperialism,“1960. The lecture is given by Harvard Professor Albion. Barzyk does a promo for the show that runs into problems with management. The next series is part of the NET series for kids entitled “What’s New?”, 1961. These four half-hour shows feature musician and educator Tony Saletan. Each include the history of the location plus the songs of the era. The shows are “Saugus Iron Works,” “Fort Ticonderoga,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Wayside Inn,” and the “Shakers.” In 1987, Annenberg and WGBH ask Barzyk to take over a series in financial trouble, “Western Tradition”. Working with a limited budget, Barzyk manages to get the full cooperation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in selecting and providing all relevant images for the 26-part series for $30,000. As of 2021, it is still available on YouTube. In 2000, Barzyk executive-produced “Biography of America,” an historical telecourse led by acclaimed professors. Barzyk adds his personal vision by convincing the professors to have comments by TV Critic John Leonard and novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Appearing in the last show is Charles Johnson who was the playwright of “Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree”
Barzyk and two young academics produce a pilot for kids teaching “Aesthetics.”
It has no title and uses a simple Sci Fi story line. It offers visual experiences and word play. It also features the appearance of Ron Hays, video artist and how he uses the Paik/Abe Synthesizer to create his video work “Tristan and Isolde.” The pilot is never aired. In 1963, WGBH asks Barzyk to direct a video documentary on a group of black parents who had banded together to raise money so their kids could be bussed to a school on Beacon Hill. It features noted child psychiatrist and educator, Dr. Robert Cole. His work with the children shows how much they benefit from being taught in this new school. He uses drawings to elicit observations from the children. One of the big take-aways: they have never seen a VW car before. And so the title of the show is “Kids, Crayons, and VWs”. In 1993, Barzyk teams up with the Connecticut Public TV station to create a half-hour show called “What If I am Home Alone?” 1993. It stars a young actor, John Taylor Thomas, age 10. Thomas goes on to be a star of TV sitcoms and the voice of the Lion King pup in the Disney movie. CPB funds it as a companion piece to a brochure they had produced years before. The brochure is much praised; however, this pilot is never aired. The powers in charge feel seeing dangerous situations that are portrayed will be too much for the children. Barzyk feels that it is a good show and is disappointed by it not being aired.
PBS Specials for WQED, Pittsburgh
“Breast Care Test” 1994
“Listen Up!” 1991
In 1994, Barzyk produces and directs a special documentary for WQED, Public Television, Pittsburgh. It is called the “Breast Care Test” hosted by TV news anchor Jane Pauley. Also created for WQED in 1991 is one of Barzyk’s signature documentaries. Using a vast number of people, from noted artists and singers, from academics to the Muppets, from comedians to the teacher of the year, the show demands the audience pay attention to the problems with education in this country. It is called “Listen up!”
CHAPTER 7: The Museum Shows (1981-1985)
WGBH burns to the ground in 1961. It finds various places to continue to broadcast for the next year. One of those locations is the Museum of Science.
WGBH builds a small studio in the basement of the museum and becomes an exhibit for the museum goers. In 1976, when the founder Brad Washburn is about to retire, Barzyk produces and directs a feature on his creation. It is WGBH’s way of saying thank you. The show is called “The Museum that Brad Built”
Russel Connor, artist and TV host of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, secures a grant from the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York to do a documentary called “Art in Public Spaces”1973. In Connor’s expansive walk-through New York City he visits and comments on dozens of public art projects old and new.
Barzyk and Connor collaborate on a tribute to the artist and sculptor Noguchi in 1978. This documentary is done for the Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Chicago Institute of Art exhibits photographs from Polaroid artist Marie Cosindas in 1967. Barzyk produces and directs a documentary on her work for the NET series “Creative Person”. The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum commissions Barzyk and video curator George Fifield to produce a documentary on the state of video art in America. It starts with the early video art experiments to the futuristic work in CybeArts. It is called “The Electronic Canvas” 1996.
And last, Barzyk presents excerpts of work done for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In its original format, the Museum wants to explore all things “wood” or “trees” and use them as station breaks on WGBH. After the pieces are produced, they are edited together to make one half hour show called “Trees” 1969. This eclectic assemblage showcases works in the museum and more unusual devices. For example, Barzyk places a tree in the middle of a bustling urban street in Boston and captures people as they try to figure out why a tree is there. It finishes with a quote: “When was the last time you looked at a tree?” It also showcases a couple arguing in the style of Eugene Ionesco's play “Bald Soprano”. Words created from the concept of trees and wood are used instead of normal conversation. For example: Woman says “You’ve got a chip on your shoulder;” Man says “Don’t go knocking on wood.”
CHAPTER 8: Writers & Books Book of the Month Club (1982-1986)
Barzyk, in the middle of the 2021 Pandemic, records from home. He explains his relationship to books and recalls several more personal stories that should have been in the Autobiography. He recalls the first visit to his little neighborhood library; the book that made him yell at his mother; the time he got involved in the spy ring at the Milwaukee Public Library and finally his dismal time as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, crunching through the snow looking for a customer. Barzyk was hired by Book of The Month Club to produce and direct a TV series based on interviews with some of America’s finest novelists. The series was called "First Edition” and aired on A&E Cable and then on PBS. The majority of the shows are hosted by John Leonard, editor of the New York Times Book Review and Nancy Evans, then editor-in-chief of the Book of the Month Club. The authors interviewed are John Updike, William Styron, David Halberston, Jimmy Breslin, John Korda, Gail Goodwin, Joe McGinnis, Joseph Heller, Elmore Leonard, Toni Morrison, Robert Gottlieb, Lewis Thomas, Louie Auchincloss, Maureen Howard, Robert Caro, Seymour Hersh, Paul Theroux, Saul Bellow, Barbara Tuchman, Norman Mailer, William Kennedy, William Conroy, P.D. James, Raymond Carver, Janwillem Van de Wetering, Robert Hughes, Tracy Kidder.
CHAPTER 9: Barzyk, Self- Proclaimed WGBH Historian and Advocate
Barzyk describes how he became a self-proclaimed historian. He begins with the reasons he calls WGBH his “spiritual home”: GBH allowed him to do a drama as a condition of his being hired; the clandestine creation (after management went home) of “Jazz Images;” assigning him to an experimental series called “What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?” and then letting him break all the rules with no consequences. Barzyk then turns to his actions as a station advocate: How he brought HBO’s first Entertainment Special “Bob and Ray, the One and Only” to WGBH; his securing the production funds to WGBH for a drama he did with CBS Cable, “Calamity Jane,” starring Jane Alexander.
Barzyk’s advocacy for artists working with new small TV equipment allowed WGBH to produce the “Very First Half Inch Video Festival’ in 1967. Barzyk recounts doing a show for NBC, “People '' starring Lily Tomlin, that let him bring Lily and writer Jane Wagner to WGBH to create an original Sci Fi comedy called “Collisions”. The production also commissions 5 video artists to enhance the drama. The show is a disaster and has never aired. Again, WGBH allowed Barzyk to continue his experimental ways by making him the Director of the WGBH New Television Workshop for 10 years. Barzyk then became determined to capture the history of this station. WGBH’s important history is revealed in a series of 18 video clips.
Barzyk describes how the WGBH Auction brought the entire staff into a “family”. He gathers all his notes, awards, etc and donates them to the WGBH Archive, then revives archival interviews with staff. He and others host over 125 archive interviews. In 2000, Barzyk convinces WGBH to hold a reunion. Over 400 alumni come to celebrate WGBH’s history. From this event, 3 important volunteers create and maintain the WGBH Alumni website. It is filled with history and stories of WGBH. After 5 more reunions in the next 10 years, Barzyk, Michael Ambrosino (creator of NOVA)) Olivia Tappan (long-time producer) David Atwood (much-awarded Director) and Bruce Bordett (alumni of 30 years of service)
take one last tour of the old WGBH studios before it is torn down. Barzyk describes his attempt to have the history of WGBH written. Since that attempt was futile, he decides to create this highlight reel filled with comments and stories that a historian can use to write WGBH’s history.
CHAPTER 10: The Access TV Shows (2007-2010)
Barzyk joins forces with his town’s Public Access station, Chelmsford Telemedia.
He decides to train town volunteers, none who have ever done TV shows, to become his crew to capture for history the activities of the Town’s institutions. He enlists the help of another volunteer, John MacAuliffe to be his host for the series. The team’s first venture was “Our Town, Our Voices: The Senior Center”. Next came “The Library”; then “Celebrate Food”, focusing on where to eat out in town; and then a musical journey through the town with “Celebrate Music, Chelmsford Style”. What follows are excerpts of these four local specials.
Barzyk puts together 4 teams of volunteers and they videotape for days before the big parade. Each crew is assigned certain aspects of the Celebration; the singing competition (in the style of American Idol) for a townsperson to sing the national anthem; the making of several floats; the parade committee’s efforts to raise money and publicize the parade; the setting up of the street festival the night before the big parade; the Chelmsford Tradition of setting up of hundreds of chairs days before the parade; the John Carson road race, done each year in honor of a high school boy who was killed while running… over 2100 people came to the race that year; and then the big Parade itself. After weeks of editing with his volunteers, this video was screened for the people who made the celebration happen. A packed house of more than 200 people gave a standing ovation to the amateur crews who had videotaped the event. Barzyk considers this the best of his documentaries on the town.
CHAPTER 11: The Access Dramas (2011-2012)
Barzyk embarks on the challenge of taking non-professional actors and technicians and making acceptable dramas. First up for viewing is “The Treasure Hunt” 2012. Barzyk convinces his neighbor (Ken Cantrell, who was at the time teaching computer science in a Massachusetts jail to inmates) to write up a script of his childhood experience. The search for child actors is painfully slow and Barzyk settles on the only two boys who showed promise. The story is simple: A soldier is furloughed during WWII, returns home and begins to dispose of his childhood toys. Two boys, friends for years, agree to pay him $15 cents for all his toys. He makes it a game and sells them two Treasure Maps to the toys. The boys find the treasure and find themselves in the middle of a strange mystery, a mystery that has become a “tale of legend” in their hometown.
The first of the access dramas “The Journey” 2011 was written by Barzyk.
Its story revolves around a poem that he wrote when in college:
“A soft cold hand that soothes, smooths and smothers.” With a nod to the TV series “The Twilight Zone” the drama explores “other world” experiences, and then breaks off into a take-off on Pirandello’s play “Six Characters in Search of an Author” The story, true to the literary conceit of the time, employs a deconstructionist ending. Barzyk not only videotaped the drama with volunteers but convinced 40 volunteer musicians to perform a commissioned original score …. also written gratis. The total cost for the drama was $500.
One of the volunteer technicians, Dan LeBlanc, shoots a documentary of the entire production, including the recording of the music. Dan uses a sense of wry humor and sarcasm in his construction of the documentary. Some people enjoy his documentary more than they do the play. And so it goes.
CHAPTER 12: Miscellaneous
Barzyk produces and directs two fundraisers. First, a light-hearted audience participation mystery format where the audience is given all the clues to solve the crimes. Featured are Radio/TV stars William Conrad, Gene Barry, Tammy Grimes, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Howard Duff. The second fundraiser is a musical tribute to America, “Of Thee We Sing.” The hour-long show features Peter, Paul, and Mary; Loretta Lynn; Gospel Singers; Singalong Messiah from San Francisco; and Diana Ross who gets the entire Las Vegas crowd to join in song.
Barzyk produces and directs a Boston Tourist Bureau video “Boston Is.”
Barzyk produces and directs a series of cooking shows: “Romagnoli’s Wonderful World of Pasta”; Craig Claiborne & New York Times TV Cook Book; Julia Child creates a video for the Smithsonian Museum with her take on “Primordial Soup; ” and then celebrated Chinese chef Joyce Chen takes her family to China and produces the first film report after President Nixon diplomacy opens the door to the country.
Video artists and the Boston Symphony Orchestra join forces in producing an experimental visual interpretation of classical music.
Barzyk directs a series of 4 shows showcasing female comics in a celebration of feminist humor, 1992. Features standup routines, musical songs and satire. 1992.
CHAPTER 13: Fred’s Last Show (2019)
Barzyk self-evaluates his creative work and compresses his more than 50 years of work into a 22-minute collage of highlights. The second part of the show finds Barzyk coming to terms with his main topic of creative imagining: That much of the work had to do with death. He shows examples and says goodbye.
Brian O’Doherty writes and narrates this piece to document the growing field of video art. The work features segments from approximately 25 different experimental works, ranging from documentary-style interviews and political works to feedback experimentation to polished "classics" by artists like Peter Campus, William Wegman, and Joan Jonas.
This double-channel work is created with video artist and filmmaker Stan Vanderbeek, a Rockefeller Artist-in-Television. During broadcast on WGBH channels 2 and 44, viewers are asked to place two television sets side by side. "Violence Sonata" mixes live studio action and a prerecorded video work to question violence, race relations, and man's ability to communicate at the beginning of the 1970's. On channel 2, the original work created by Vanderbeek is shown. This includes archival film footage of the Ku Klux Klan, street scenes, images of outer space missions, riots, and so on. This imagery is manipulated and enhanced through overlays and color saturation. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is featured. A white man and black man repeat the phrases, "I want to like you" and "Adapt or die." Raised fists are recurring images. On channel 44, sections of this work are played before a live studio audience who responded to the question "Can man communicate?" At home, viewers are also encouraged to call in their responses to this question and, despite the somewhat dire issues raised by the work, viewers vote overwhelmingly in favor of man's ability to communicate. In one image from the work, a black woman and a white man appear in bed together.
Because the viewing of a double-channel program is impossible to duplicate online, it will be necessary to view it at the WGBH Archives.
DIRECTOR NOTES: Short Videos from Fred Barzyk Video Archive
CREATED list in October, 2010 (added others in 2017)
I have decided to try and list as many of the people I have worked with into some kind of credit list. By nature, since this is pure recall, I will surely miss someone. It is quite a strange feeling to see all these names in print. Many memories. Fred Barzyk
Lily Tomlin (Collisions for PBS/PEOPLE for NBC)
Professor Irwin Corey (Collisions)
Dan Ackroyd (Collisions)
Gilda Radner (Collisions)
Jane Alexander (Letters of Calamity Jane for CBS Cable)
Matt Dillon ( Great American 4th of July, & Other Disasters, PBS)
Christian Slater (Secrets for Hearst Network)
Barbara Feldon (Secrets was Agent 99 on Get Smart)
Peter Gerity (Secrets)
Christopher Reeve (Last Ferry Home for Hearst)
Ashley Judd (Ryan Interview by Arthur Miller for Kentucky Public TV)
Eddie Bracken (Ryan Interview stage actor and movie star 1940’s))
Bob and Ray (Between Time and Timbuktu, PBS, + Double Channel show)
Kevin McCarthy (Between Time and Timbuktu, PBS)
Bill Hickey (Between Time and Timbuktu, PBS)
Bruce “Juicy Bruce” Morrow (“ was big time DJ NYC radio)
Dorothea Duckworth (“
Franklin Cover (“ went on to star in TV series The Jefferson’s)
John Devlin (“)
James Sloyan (“)
Hurd Hatfield (“ was Dorian Gray in the Hollywood movie)
Dolf Sweet (“)
Benay Venuta (“)
Susan Sullivan (“ was pitch person for pain reliever on TV for years)
Charles White (“)
Phillip Bruns (“ went on to Mary Hartman TV series)
Ariane Munker (“ was little Wanda June on Broadway)
Page Johnson (“)
McIntyre Dixon (“ starring in stage show Boston, 2010)
Bruce Davison (Lathe of Heaven for PBS)
Kevin Conway (Lathe)
Margaret Avery (Lathe -nominated Best Supporting for The Color Purple)
Richard Ward (Charlie Smith)
Richard Dysart (Charlie Smith)
Mary Alice (Charlie Smith)
Glynn Turman (Charlie Smith - married Aretha Franklin, proposed on set)
Morgan Freeman (Charlie Smith started on Sesame street, now big movie star)
John Amos (Listen Up for PBS)
William Conrad (Great Whodunit! for PBS great radio guy, Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke)
Gene Barry (Great Whodunit! Radio, TV stage, was great in La Cage aux Folles)
Tammy Grimes (“ she wanted to me to be her “director” …nope)
Geraldine Fitzgerald (“)
Howard Duff (“ was the radio star Sam Spade detective)
Loretta Switt (Matter of Principal for Hearst Network was in TV Mash)
Tyne Daly (No Room for Opal for Hearst Network- one of the few who had trouble with me as director… interesting story)
Daniel J. Travanti, Jr. ( was star of TV series Hill Street Blues)
Claire Dane (“ has become a TV star in series “Homeland))
Moses Gunn (“)
Theresa Wright (“ was in a lot of movies, Hitchcock))
Ben Vereen (Jenny’s Song for Westinghouse Network – song and dance)
Freddie Kohler (Tender Places for Westinghouse Network- best kid actor ever)
Jean Stapleton (Tender Places famous for Edith in All in the Family TV series)
James Broderick (Phantom of the Open Hearth for PBS- great man, father of
Mathew Broderick, the movie star)
Barbara Bolton (Phantom wife of composer Norman Dello Rio)
Roberta Wallach (Phantom, - daughter of the actor Eli Wallach)
David Elliot (Phantom, was in Jaws 2)
James Sikking (Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss , Disney PBS – he was big in TV series Hill Street Blues)
Dorothy Lyman (Ollie, funny actress, in many TV series)
Jerry O’Connell (Ollie – fresh off film Stand By Me, now TV series and Now a stud!)
Rosie Perez (Poof! For PBS made splash in Spike Lee’s first movie)
Mark Consuelo (Connect with English, PBS married to Kelly Rippa, TV star)
Geoffrey Holder (What If I Am Home Alone for PBS great dancer)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas (“ was star on TV Home Improvements And voice of Lion King in Disney movie)
Ed Asner (Listen Up… lead in TV Mary Tyler Moore TV series)
Jason Robards, Jr. (Madhousers for Westinghouse
Richard Kiley (Madhouser was star of Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha)
John Goodman (Flashback for HBO- gone on to be big movie star)
Larry Miller (So You Want to Be a Star for HBO comedian/movie actor)
Eric Severeid (Countdown to Looking Glass and intro to Flashback, HBO
used as news commentator, gentle nice man)
Newt Gingrich (Countdown – used as Congressman, which he is was lead the Republican take over of Congress in the 90’s)]
Helen Shafer (Countdown – Canadian actress, in many movies)
Mike Farrell (Of Thee We Sing – was big name in TV’s Mash)
John Houseman (Cable Arts, in many films, worked with Orson Wells)
James Wood (Andrew Silver drama, went to Hollywood and did well)
Mary Kay Place (People, Mary Hartman TV series, docu on Louise Lasser)
Louise Lasser (People, was married to Woody Allen and was controversial)
(Michele Pfeiffer In So You Want to be a star. Was in Scarface)
Jane Curtin (Pretzels for HBO, original SNL cast )
Joe Summers (Last Ferry Home)
Jessica Walters (Jenny’s Song)
Robert Protsky (Hindenberg for HBO)
Scott Glenn (Countdown to Looking glass
Michael Murphy (Countdown to Looking Glass)
Kevin McCarthy (Between Time and Timbuktu)
Paul Simon (walk on in People with Lily Tomlin)
Garret Brown (Jenny’s Song)
Mike Farrell (Of thee we Sing member of TV sit com MASH)
Pete Seeger (Two links of a Chain – WGBH)
Taj Mahal (Folk Music USA)
Dave Van Ronk (Folk Music USA)
Kweskin Jug Band (Folk Music USA)
Sonny Terry and Bownie McGhee (Folk Music USA_
Loretta Lynn (People – docu she named her sister on a bus trip back to
Butcher Holler after her favorite fast food place, Crystal Hamburgers)
Baltimore Symphony (Did visuals for Alan Miller who had PBS grant
Good review in the New York Times)
Boston Symphony Orchestra with Eric Leinsdorf (Inside Symphony Hall)
Joe Raposo (theme song for WGBH school program, Joe went on to
wrote most of the songs for Sesame Street)
Tom Leherer (Listen UP,. Song writer big in the 50s and 60s, wry sense
Of humor, math teacher. He, Raposo and I attempted to write an original TV musical in 1962. It was going to be a musical of an English farce called “Sweeny Todd” Tom still has some of the songs stored in his basement. This was three years before Sweeny was done by Sondheim and its spectacular Broadway run)
Lukas Foss (Soundings for PBS)
Michael Colgrass (Soundings for PBS)
Gunther Schuller (Soundings for PBS(
Arthur Fiedler (Inside Symphony Hall for WGBH)
Jose Feliciano (Folk Music USA for WGBH)
Tom Rush (Folk Music USA)
Charles River Valley Boys (Folk Music USA with legend Joe Val)
Phil Ochs (Folk Music USA)
Charly McClain (HBO- So You want to be a star C&W singer)
KISS (traveled with them for 6 weeks directing big projections so the audience could see their faces.. also did music video)
Tony Saletan (folk singer and educator, What’s New? 4 TV series NET)
Leonard Bernstein – did his opera Trouble in Tahiti, early days WGBH
Luigi Nono – (“Intolerance” Opera for NET – worked with Greg Harney who had directed a live coverage of Sarah Caldwell’s staging I re visualized certain dark scenes from the live coverage. Worked with Sarah and her crew, but she got concerned that I was taking over the artistic direction. She had a lawyer serve me with a cease and desist legal order. I did it anyway. NET
Exec. Prod. Curt Davis. Sent me a nice letter. He later became involved With Russ Connor and Cable Art.)
Michael Small (Lathe of Heaven, original music. He has many
Movie credits under his name, did Marathon Man/Parallax View)
John Mauceri (Music , USA spots for WGBH, John has gone to conduct many major orchestras in US. )
Peter Gabriel (did a music video with Peter Campus)
Joan Tower (Soundings)
Ivana Themmen (Soundings)
Ralph Shapey (Soundings)
Geroge Rochberg (Soundings)
Harry Somers (Soundings)
Walter Robinson (Soundings)
Sarah Caldwell (founder Boston Opera Co., worked on Intollerenza )
Itzak Perlman (Hartford PTV< From the Top)
Michael Tilson Thomas (while at BSO he did music for Ron Hay Music Image Workshop.)
Eric Leinsdorf (feature early TV show, Inside Symphony Hall 1960)
Diana Ross (Of thee we sing special)
John Cage (did several things with Paik and John)
Jean Shepherd (Many, many projects, worked with him for over 30 years)
Jane Wagner (Collisions and People for NBC)
A.R. Gurney (Pete) (did first TV movie when he was teaching at MIT>
Early 1960’s, drama tape lost in WGBH fire)
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Between Time and Timbuktu)
Ursula LeGuin (Lathe of Heaven)
Arthur Miller (Ryan Interview)
Lynn Nottage (POOF1 for KET)
Greg MacDonald (artist in residence Workshop, Globe TV critic
fan of my work, went on to write the Fletch mystery series
which were made into movies starring Chevy Chase)
Charles Johnson (Bubba, Charlie Smith and Fritter tree, Listen Up!
Long time relationship with Charles, who won National
Book award for Middle Passage, Prof at University of Washington,
and given the MacDonald “Genius” grant.)
Charles Olson (Brattle St. Forum, early WGBH show, Poet)
Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I Was Puerto Rican
Arthur Golden (Bio of America… Memoirs of a Geisha)
Book of the Month Club shows (ABC and PBS) “FIRST EDITION”
(Hosted by John Leonard and Nancy Evans. List all the writers interviewed.)
Janwillem Van de Wetering
Nam June Paik
Stan Van Der Beek
Brian O’Doherty (aka Patrick Ireland painter, also art critic for Today show NBC)
Russ Connor( Artist, Rose Museum director/NY state Arts adm./Whitney Ed. Chief)
Marie Cosindas ( Polariod Photographer docu for NET American Artist series)
Jerry Liebling ( Photographer On Photography ½ hr. show WGBH)
Jerry Ullesman (Florida photographer artist at Workshop)
Tony Oursler (Electronic Canvas)
John Cage (Cage on Cage with Paik)
Melanie Kahane (archive , NEA at WGBH, Int. Design Black & White room)
Lee Krasner interviewed by Barbara Novak (archive project)
Noguchi (great sculpture, docu for Walker Art Musuem)
Minor White ( photographer , did lighting for Andrew Silver drama Workshop)
Derek Lamb ( created animation for Shepherd/director of Canadian Film Board)
Alan Kaprow (creator of Happenings was in Medium is the Medium)
Trisha Brown (Workshop artist)
Rudy Perez (District 1)
Donald McKayle (Jacob Pillow NET dance program)
Twyla Tharp (aborted project All About Eggs, given to WNET LAB)
Merce Cunningham (PBL segment for Ford Foundation)
Concert Dance Company (As Quiet As)
Honi Cole (Archive interview, tap dancer)
Honi Cole (Archive interview, tap dancer)
Gus Solomon Jr. (Five Days. MIT grad/ danced with Merce and
did City Motion Space Game for Workshop )
Mimi Seawright (Medium is the Medium,)
Louie Falco Company (Collision)
Alexia Hoff & Avind Haerum(dancers ‘Between Time ‘ Vonnegut)
Jacques d'Amboise (Of Thee we Sing =works with students)
Marcel Ophuls (docu at WGBH archives)
Richard Attenborough (People for NBC. Included in scenes Sean
Connery and Anthony Hopkins)
Stan Latham ( black movie director, worked with Stan at WGBH early years)
Scott Rudin (movie producer, who was my casting director for Great American 4th of July and other Disasters…cast Matt Dillon as lead)
Andy Warhol (interviewed for What’s Happening Mr. Silver)
Dennis O’Neil (worked on Collisons with me, then went on to Hollywood and wrote the film The River Wild)
Sam Mercer (interned for me at WGBH, now producer in Hollywood)
Sally Dennison (my first prod. Asst at WGBH, she went on to become Casting director for Antononi, and Speilberg’s Close Encounters I helped her cast Zapriski Point.)
Douglas Brinkley (Bio of America)
Prof. Robert G. Albion (early WGBH telecourse, European Imperialism)
Donald Miller (Bio)
Eugene Weber (Western Civ for Annenberg)
Robert Coles (Kids, Crayons and VW’s local WGBH show)
Kenneth Keniston (What’s Happening Mr. Silver, Yale prof.)
Edward Rowe Snow (pilot for NBC, local historian of harbors and islands, wrote many, many books. Was the Flying Santa delivering presents to light houses at Xmas)
Hans Holzer (Ghost Hunter, early WGBH show on Halloween.
Went to haunted houses. Bad reaction from the WGBH board.. too commercial)
Dick Gregory (Comedian/activist Whats Happening Mr. Silver)
Bill Buckley (Conservative commentator, publisher, What Happening)
James Baldwin (writer, Negro and American Promise)
Martin Luther King (minister, Negro and Am. Pro.)
Malcolm X (Black Muslim spokesman, Negro and Am. Pro.)
Abbie Hoffman (hippie spokesman, Whats Happening)
Living Theater (artists at Workshop friends of Paik)
Theater USA (early docu series traveled to the fledgling rep. acting Major Companies across America)
Richard Schechner (Artist at Workshop, The Drama Review publisher
Editor and avant garde stage director)
Nicholas Negro-Ponti (Whats Happening, MIT Lab, spokesperson championing in expensive computers for the world)
Bob Vila (CTA took him commercial with a series called Home Again With Bob Vila. His PBS show This Old House inspired sit com” Home Improvement”)
Jane Pauley (Breast Care Test for Pittsburgh PTV)
John Kenneth Galbraith (several shows at WGBH)
Eugene McCarthy (Countdown to Looking Glass)
Erica Jong (Cable Arts,NYC.. A for Arts program on Poetry)
Cooks and Cook Book Authors
Craig Caliborne (New York Times Video Cookbook)
Julia Child (many shows with Julia, Primordial Soup for Smithsonian.
James Beard (with Julia at Wayside Inn doing clam chowder ¾ only)
The Romngoli’s (Pasta videos for Rizzoli, Franco and Margaret)
Anne Willian (Pilot for cooking show)
Joyce Chen Joyce Chen Goes to China docu)
Books published from TV show I directed
Negro and the American Promise
Phantom of the Open Hearth
Between Time and Timbuktu
Lathe of Heaven.
Bruce Cronin and Babe Sargent (filmmaker amateur actor/.Workshop)
Kate Clinton (World according to us)
Margaret Cho (same )
Paula Poundstone (Listen Up local comedian, gone national)
Muppets (Listen Up)
Larry Miller (So you want to be a star? HBO)
Bob and Ray
Blow it Up! (Booooom!)
Shot in the chest! (Agggh!)
War games in a back yard under warm dark soot skies
Kids fighting the Big War again, while Mom washes clothes.
Dyin’, collapsin’, writhin’, oh so faux pain!
Laughing, then standing, victorious, shooting imaginary bullets.
Killing over and over. Then dying onto the freshly mowed grass.
Laying there, squinting up at the hot, hazy sun.
The wash swings in the summer breeze...
white, wet, billowing like sails of a distant ship.
Plop, plop, plop... running feet
(Knock on wood). loud banging on the side door
Yelling! Then yelling again, louder!
“No, I’m not.”
“Swear to God!”
We run in ridiculous anticipation, breathing heavy,
winded, finally reaching the stained glass window.
Peering through, smelling beer in the air, looking...
Then, there, flickering black and white like a ghost in
the smoky air, a head talking, a mouth we could not hear.
It had arrived, sitting above the bar at Chester’s Tavern.
Could Life be any better?
“I can’t even remember his name”
Like a lingering shadow in my memory bank
Hanging there in the void, frozen, pale, fragile-
Almost brushed aside by other fading images
His freckled face-
His sandy hair-
His wet hazel eyes-
His grimy glasses-
So often I ignored him, thinking nothing of him
And now, I can’t even remember his name
It was the end of summer, hot and dry
He came to my porch and knocked on the door
He had never come to my house before
My God, we hardly even talked
But there he stood-
How could I have ignored him, thinking nothing of him?
And now, I can’t even remember his name
He heard that I played the piano, that I knew music
He was just a 14 year old Polish kid from the South Side
Not polished or trained in music, awkward and shy
He told me his dream and thrust the papers into my hands
Can you play it?
I wrote it myself.
I can’t play the piano, you know-
Can you play my concerto?
He stood, waiting, hoping
And I can’t even remember his name.
Where did he get the blank music paper?
How did he know about D minor?
I stared hard at his hand written notes, bewildered-
How could this be?
But there it was
It looked real,
way too difficult-
I stuttered, swallowed hard, and admitted my failings
It’s too tough,
I’ve only begun to play the piano
Maybe someone else----
He said nothing, smiled and nodded his head
took his papers back, and left
I watched as he walked away down my street
We saw each other on the playground near St. Helen’s
We played basketball and hung around a little
summers are like that
He never mentioned our meeting
Neither did I
My piano lessons went on and on
Never mounting to much
I stopped thinking of him
I wonder if he ever heard his concerto?
I hope so.
So sad that I can’t even remember his name.
Just a lingering shadow in my memory bank
Video #1 Early Shows, 1959-1968
Running time 43:56
Laboratory; Five Days
Live staging of the Henry Ziegler play “Five Days.” This Bertol Brecht-like drama, introduced by Elliot Norton, was recorded live in the WGBH studios and featured a cast of local amateurs. Produced and directed by Fred Barzyk, 1961.
1) When produced: 1963
2) Creator: Fred Barzyk, Producer Artist: Peter Hoving, Mark Stevens, Bill Cosel, Bill Aucoin
3) Contributors: engineers/support staff Dan Beach. Bobby Hall, Larry Messenger, Wil Morton.
Ever since arriving at WGBH, I had serious questions about the coverage of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Couldn’t there be a more visual interpretation of the music? Something besides the endless shots of the trombones, violins and flutes? I talked to many of the people directly involved in the production but they really didn’t want to hear my ranting. So I had to do something to prove my thesis.
I would need 3 camera people, a new TV director and 3 engineers to help create 4 visual interpretations of short Jazz pieces in the studio AFTER THE STATION SHUT DOWN.
This would have to be a clandestine production.
I convinced Bobby Hall, Larry Messenger, and Wil Morton (engineers) not only to do video and audio, but also to videotape the 4 videos. I asked Mark Stevens, Peter Hoving, Bill Cosel and Bill Aucoin to create the visual interpretations. They agreed with enthusiasm.
Each would choose a Jazz piece and direct the shoot.
Dan Beach, who was head of traffic, somehow found an
“old” 2-inch tape for us to record on. Remember, during this
era, tape was very expensive and many regular shows were wiped so the station could use the same tape over and over.
The clandestine production was going to take 3 nights. In 1962, WGBH’s studio was in the basement of the Museum of Science. We usually shut down around 10:00 pm and no execs were around. This is when we went to work.
First up was Peter Hoving. He picked a Miles Davis piece and used layers of scrim, screens and a constantly moving candle for his visual tools. Using the focus changes of the fixed lens on the black and while camera, his images melted and flowed into each other, while the candle slowly danced to the sad music of Davis.
Mark Stevens picked a Sauter-Finnegan piece and his vision included a 50-cent kaleidoscope attached by tape directly to the lens, a turntable with a mound of crumpled aluminum foil, and 3 lights, each hitting the foil from different directions.
Bill Cosel and I had seen “Steve Allen Show” record a comic bit on videotape and then run it backwards. This was a major technical breakthrough for the industry. Bill planed to do the same for a Blossom Dearie song. Bill peeled a potato to the rhythm of her song and then he was to run it backwards, so the potato would magically add its peel. We never could get it to work. It should be noted that Bill Cosel became the renowned producer/director of the Boston Symphony Pops in which he perfected the coverage of an orchestra via the traditional images.
The last person was Bill Aucoin. He hung real instruments from the grid and moved the camera around them to the strains of a Jazz piece. It was the most traditional of the Jazz Images as we eventually called the effort. But more importantly, Bill Aucoin went on to NYC and soon created the rock group KISS.
Bill hired me to direct what may have been the first attempt at projecting CU shots of the musicians via an Eidofore projector and TV cameras live during the performance.
The conclusion of my 6 week tour with KISS was at Madison Square Garden in NY. By this time, I had 10 cameras covering the band. On the very first shot, the camera in the pit spun around and went to black. Some jackass in the crowd had thrown a beer bottle and hit my cameraman. He quickly recovered and was able to continue.
A French critic has hailed this clandestine experiment, labeled as “Jazz Images”, as one of the first “video art” pieces. Merci!!!!!!
Perspectives; Negro and The American Promise
“The special one-hour program was a brilliantly conceived examination of the racial crisis in America, illustrated through interviews with powerful Negro leaders of widely varying viewpoints. Brought together, in separate interviews, were the Rev. Martin Luther King, author James Baldwin, and Black Muslim leader Malcolm X. Under quiet, penetrating and perceptive probing by Dr. Kenneth Clark, a professor of psychology at City College of New York, these three seethed with emotions and ideas that were communicated with force and immediacy.” 1963.
Note from Fred Barzyk
David Silver was the host of an experimental series at WGBH called “What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?
David, a young teacher at Tufts University, looked at the society of the times: free love, drugs, hippies, etc. The show broke many conventions and was highly controversial, both inside and outside the station. David reflects on his time hosting the show.
First up is a memory of Bud Collins, columnist with the Boston Globe.
Career as a journalist
Collins started writing for the Boston Herald as a sportswriter while he was a student at Boston University. In 1963, he moved to the Boston Globe and also began doing tennis commentary for Boston's Public Broadcasting Service outlet, WGBH. From 1968 to 1972, he worked for CBS Sports during its coverage of the US Open tournament, moving to NBC Sports in 1972 to work that network's Wimbledon coverage. He also teamed with Donald Dell to call tennis matches for PBS television from 1974 to 1977.
For several years with the Boston Globe, he was a general and political columnist. In 1967, he was a candidate for mayor of Boston.
He was inducted in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
WGBH 1968/69 MEMORIES
by David Silver
I always looked forward to hanging with Bud Collins. He genuinely liked our show “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?" and told me so. Bud’s passion, his camaraderie, his warmth and wit were irresistible to me, and I was ecstatic that he enjoyed what we were doing. Obviously, I savored spending any time with him. One day he called me and told me that his guest in the upcoming taping was Muhammed Ali. This in itself was exciting to me, and everybody else. But the cream in the coffee for me was that Bud asked me if I’d like to meet the amazing champion. After the taping, I went on to the studio floor and Bud introduced me to Ali. I distinctly remember the size of the legend’s hand, when we shook hands. It utterly enveloped mine and yet somehow expressed goodwill to me in its firmness and enthusiasm. We talked for about twenty minutes, and it was quite clear to me how much respect and liking Ali had for Bud. Who didn’t, truthfully? Bud’s effervescent energy is unique and very pleasing to be around. Another example for me of the great “casting” TASTE of the station – such a bright crew of TV personalities, from Julia to Bud, all having enough brio and TV feel to change the quality of how to BE on television.
Julia Child often did her show in Studio B when we were doing “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” in Studio A. One of my fondest (and most delicious) memories is of eating leftovers from her show along with our two studio crews. Question: What could be more wonderful than that? The answer: Well, it’s having dinner cooked by her at the Child house and eating with Julia and Paul, her gentle, witty, knowledgeable husband, not only dining on the obviously supremely tasty food, but hearing from the two of them a series of juicy, hysterical anecdotes about their learning curve on French cooking early in their marriage. As a 23 year old on-camera TV neophyte, watching Julia’s completely honest and wonderfully natural television presentations actually helped me in my own slightly panicky weekly approach to hosting a television show.
Conspiracy/televisual anarchy without anger or agenda. That was basically the underlying urge in the work we did on “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” way back in 1967 and 1968. Fred Barzyk’s vision was never static, never ideological, never even self-consciously artistic. He consistently utilized and manifested his muscular mischievous side as a way of creating TV. This irreverence was effortlessly coupled with a remarkably liberated intellectual and visceral vision of what TV could be. Everyone working on our show thoroughly enjoyed production meetings, shoots and post. So he fused a little Ernie Kovacs into Boston-imaged Fellini-esque caricature and then threw in the already ongoing madcap everyday gestalt of the later sixties and voila – you had television without the usual and sometimes tedious cadences of both spoken word and visual presentation. I remember with glee the repeated trick of shooting the live show on a Thursday night, usually with me more or less alone in the studio, while multiple film chains, often controlled by the brilliant mind of David Atwood, sort of spluttered into the ongoing show, be that an interview or a monologue or a purely visual piece of madness. The mix of absurdist stock footage and locally captured 16mm weirdness never allowed the show, or the staff, to settle. So I never knew what was about to happen, which made for an attack on the clichés of broadcast television. It didn’t always work, but it pushed the media envelope, when almost all the other envelopes were being relentlessly pushed by the wild spirit of those days – in politics, music, civil rights, protest, movies, fashion, culture, design, etc. Fred and Olivia Tappan and David Atwood et al dropped the conventional wisdom plan of attack, as it were, and came up with a very potent, if eccentric, TV display of total spontaneity, sixties zeitgeist, and did it trusting all the participants to be somehow revolutionary and, simply put, different.
The two 16mm cameramen on our show were Peter Hoving and Boyd Estus. How magically fortuitous was that? It was a constant source of humor and skill, in entirely different ways, from both of them. It simply made their film inserts in the show an art form all unto itself. I was always magnetized during filming (occasionally in obscenely early morning hours) because of the wonderfully lethal mix of Fred’s endless creativity and their usually spontaneous expansion upon that. And I was amazed that we always had access to these two highly dexterous professionals working a couple of times a week usually on a myriad of remote films for us. Completely different personalities and attitudes towards the art of Arriflex/Éclair/Aaton shooting – Boyd, the consummately calm camera operator, quietly taking in every detail of a scene (whether it was a head shop in Cambridge or a political be-in on the Common) while, in marked contrast, Peter Hoving hovering intensely over all he surveyed, guiding his lens rapidly to the expected shots that we basically needed for any given show, and also to the unexpected and explosive. These days, all is video it seems, but I maintain that the texture and visual resonance of 16mm film added a very special feel to the show we did, where the audience was triggered by the film segments to sense yet another dimension to the Barzykian vision. But even more than that, I have to say, the sheer fun of working with these two totally WGBH level-of-excellence operators was a once-in-a-career gift to me as well as a consistent delight for our viewers.
Thalassa Cruso was my English pal and compatriot at WGBH. Her gardening show “Making Things Grow” was almost a sister show of Julia’s. Thalassa was equally idiosyncratic, yet, just like Mrs. Child, was a clear and no-BS articulator/teacher. WGBH presented three women-hosted TV series in just a few years, with three groundbreaking female TV hosts: Thalassa’s show along with "The French Chef" and, just a bit later, Maggie Lettvin’s “Maggie and the Beautiful Machine” put WGBH-TV years ahead of the Food Channel and workout videos. Thalassa could be quite pugnacious, always audacious and horticulturally very sagacious! Maggie was married to the late, lamented MIT scion, Jerome Lettvin (also a terrific guest on “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?”) Her verve and brio and knowledge was a joy to watch and she was and is a joy to be around.
We once did a “What’s Happening Mr. Silver?” show when we invited soldiers (who were still in uniform and had been in Vietnam) to a Studio A party where the other invitees were draft resisters and antiwar activists. Fred had the studio decorated with military objects – guns, swords, footlockers, medals, and I was frankly kind of anxious that when these two diametrically opposing groups came together, a mini-war might ensue! Well, we lubricated everyone with beer and spirits and before long, a remarkable confluence occurred, rather easily. Everyone started talking together, and there was a completely counter-intuitive thing happening. Everyone got along famously. There were disagreements obviously, given the roles of the men in the studio, but there was almost no anger. I wafted around chatting ad lib with everyone, and I remember vividly the good vibes generated and a subtle truth emerging quietly. Civility prevailed, cordiality grew and even though there was the crucial element of the demon alcohol in the mix, it was a truly lovely evening. Unfortunately, this show was wiped. Two inch high band videotape was very expensive and it didn’t even seem weird at the tine that this show amongst quite a few others from the series had to go bye-bye. After all, NBC wiped many tapes of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, so who am I to complain?
What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?
Excerpts of 4 shows from Series
Program 1 DOUBLE MEDIA Program Number 125
This series experiments with new form and new ways of handling its subject matter by incorporating a youthful style and sense of concern. Series release date: 1967
Program Description/ADDITIONAL INFORMATION This was the first double channel broadcast in the world. WGBH owned two TV stations, Ch. 2 and 44. Barzyk and his team were challenged by visiting artist in residence, Richard Schechner, theater director who published a magazine “The Drama Review”, to think outside of the box. Together we created two separate but related TV shows. One appeared on Ch. 2 and the other on Ch. 44. To get the full realization of the experiment the viewing audience needed to put two TV sets next to each.( If anyone ever did this we will never know) This double channel broadcast inspired a number of other experiments: a drama by Mary Feldhouse Weber, an hour long experiment by artist Stan Vanderbeek, “Violence Sonata”, and a dance experiment featuring Gud Solomon, Jr. called “City/Motion/Space/Game”. Barzyk, working with his friend David Loxton at WNET, NY, they produced a double channel program which aired on WNET Ch. 13 and on the independent Station, CH. 5. To our knowledge that was the last double channel ever broadcast.
Program 2 MADNESS AND INTUITION Program Number 115
Program Description; ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
This is the show that won NET Award. It read;
` “National Educational Television Award
for individual contribution to outstanding Television Programming
“What’s Happening Mr. Silver?—Madness” WGBH 1968”
Barzyk had become intrigued in the musing of composer/philosopher John Cage. In one of Cage’s most outrageous composition, he appeared on stage, sat at the piano, took out a stop watch and waited for 4 minutes and 33 seconds, never playing a note, just lifting or lowering the cover over the keys. This small piece embodied his concept that any sound can be music. Whatever you heard during that 4 :33 minutes could be called music.
What would happen if I applied that concept to TV. Any image, from any where, without rhyme or reason, could be considered TV. Barzyk decided to try it and called it “Madness and Intuition”
The elements gathered: 7 young artists from Western, MA working overhead projectors with glassine sheets, squeezing paint and water into ever moving patterns on the cyc: two elderly 90 yr. olds seated in the middle of the studio, watching: seven groups of young people dancing to the music of the time: a man dressed all in black, riding a motorcycle around the studio: every videotape machine and film chain running unrelated images we provided: audio person given a stack or records which he can choose to run whenever he wanted; an Artist splashing paint on a large canvass; a smoke machine; David Silver in bed with a woman talking about the end of the world: in the control room, a large group of people instructed to yell out when bored making Barzyk change the image; and finally, Barzyk leaves the control room 20 minutes into the show, letting it run itself. He returned after a few minutes to finish the show.
The show made no sense, it was a happening. After the show ended, the staff took phone calls. Barzyk got one from an older lady who pleaded, “Please stop … you’re giving my brain cancer!
Program 3 Magazine Show Program Number 116
David Silver and Russ Connor anchor an irreverent news magazine style show that includes an interview with Bill Cosby regarding Eartha Kitt’s recent anti Vietnam war sentiments; anti Vietnam war commentary by Howard Zinn; remote interviews featuring vintage clothing store owner “Harry the Greek”; a visit to a Boston head shop; art and film reviews; and a countdown of the five worst pop songs of the week. 1/17/1968
This was the show that almost ended the series. It’s irreverence disturbed the station mangers of WGBH and WETA, Washington, DC educational station, to such a degree, they threatened to cancel the rest of the programs. In this show, Silver alleges that Nancy Sinatra wore falsies.
See the companion show, “Reaction to the Magazine Show” for the confrontation of managers with Silver and Barzyk.
Program 4 Reaction To Magazine Show Program Number 116A
Program Description: ADDITOIONAL INFORMATION
In what might be the most experimental program in the series, David Silver and Fred Barzyk are confronted by the WGBH Station Manager, Michael Rice and Washington Educational TV station manager, over their objection to last week show “The Magazine Show” In it David Silver alleges that Nancy Sinatra wears falsies. The series was in jeopardy ready to be taken off the air. Somehow Barzyk and Rice decided that the confrontation would take place on camera and in the evening slot of the show. The reaction was monumental, with the Boston Globe’s TV critic, Gregory MacDonald (author of the FLETCH detective novels and movies based on them)
Who labeled us “underground filmmakers” somehow situated in a Educational TV station.
Letters and phone calls cried foul citing censorship. The show was back on the air the next week, but not longer live. It had to be taped and viewed my management before airing.
A stranger in a strange land
December 20, 2010 | 3
This entry is part 6 of 23 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection
Fred Barzyk (2007)
The story of a BU/WGBH scholar, 1958-59
By Fred Barzyk — 12/20/2010
It all began on a hot summer’s day. The two of us waited, standing on the corner, staring hard at the passing cars. We were searching for our ride.
We waited, not quite sure of our new adventure. Not that one, not that one. Tom McGrath and I waited there for what seemed hours, our overstuffed suitcases surrounding us on the hot pavement.
It was 27th street and Oklahoma Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, just up the street from Leon’s Frozen Custard Stand, an icon of all things dairy in America’s Dairy Land, and right across from Pulaski High School. I had graduated from Pulaski just four years ago. You could tell by its name that this was the South Side, and very Polish. My Aunt Jenny had a sausage shop just a few miles down Oklahoma Avenue; she had all kinds of Polish delights in her white gleaming glass cases. Kiszka, Headcheese, Mettwurst, Kielbasa, and of course, Blood Sausage.
“Hi, guys. Nice to meet you.” As we loaded the suitcases into the car, I wondered if it could actually make it all the way to the East Coast.
A big old black car pulled up and out stepped our fellow traveler, David Nohling. “Hi, guys. Nice to meet you.” As we loaded the suitcases into the car, I wondered if it could actually make it all the way to the East Coast.
Tom sat in front and I in the back, shoved in with everyone’s belongings. We were all to bear the cost of the drive — gas, tolls, etc. — we were all to take turns driving, thus avoiding the cost of having to stop at motels, just drive right on through to Boston. It was going to take 16 plus hours.
And then it hit me. This was a standard shift car! I could only drive automatics! They were kind to me. Don’t worry, we can do all the driving, they reassured me. I felt like a jerk.
On the road
The car lumbered down 27th street toward Chicago. Soon we were on the interstate heading East. Dave had figured out that if we drove at night, the car would be a hell of a lot cooler than it would be driving during the day. His car did not have air conditioning. Dave was a good planner.
Dave had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a Communication major, very knowledgeable. Tom and I had just graduated from Marquette University, with degrees in Speech. Yup, that was what they called it.
Why us? God works in mysterious ways. I could understand why Tom was chosen. He had already worked part time at a local commercial TV station, he had experience. I had no experience. I mean, Marquette didn’t even have real TV cameras: we used wooden mock up cameras, faking TV shows. But as I huddled in the back seat, I knew the only reason I was here was because of Bill Heitz.
Paul Noble and Bill Heitz
Bill was finishing up being a BU/WGBH scholar that summer. He had graduated from Marquette the year before. He insisted that I try to get into this scholarship program; he said it was absolutely great. You studied for your graduate degree in communication at Boston University and worked three days a week at the Educational Television station. Free tuition and you got $600 to live on for the year in Boston! Bill said this program would change my life. He was right.
I slept a lot during the trip. Darkness came and went, and we drove on and on. Then Dave gave us his real surprise. He had never been to New York City. Neither had we. He was a good planner.
It was late morning when we drove into the heart of NYC, the big enchilada. We drove through the traffic, staring up at the tall buildings. And then Dave pulled over into a no parking zone, got out of the car, opened the hood and peered at the engine as if the car was having trouble. He told Tom and I to go in first. He had stopped outside Grand Central Station. Tom and I moved though the crowd and into the giant train station.
Alfred Hitchcock, from Wikipedia
And there he was.
Just sitting in a chair while the rest of the film crew moved around the cameras and lights. Someone came to him and asked a question. He responded, but never left his chair. Tom said “It is Alfred Hitchcock!”
We had stumbled into the filming of “North by Northwest.” There was Gary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. They were walking towards one of the train tracks.
While they were acting inside the station, Dave was doing a wonderful acting job outside. Tom and I came back and now we stared into the engine while Dave rushed into have a look.
We couldn’t believe our luck as the car headed off toward Boston.
Boston at last
I had left behind Milwaukee’s three B’s: Beer, Baseball and Bowling. And now I was in Boston with its three B’s: Brahms, Beethoven and Bach.
Several hours later, tired, sweaty, thirsty, we drove into the Boston area. We had made it, and it took just over 18 hours.
Dave turned on his radio and searched the dial. And there it was… classical music on the AM dial! Can you believe it? The only classical music station in Milwaukee was on FM and wattage so low hardly anyone could hear it. I had left behind Milwaukee’s three B’s: Beer, Baseball and Bowling. And now I was in Boston with its three B’s: Brahms, Beethoven and Bach. This was going to be some kind of year.
Heitz opened his apartment to us. We showered, had some beers, told about our trip, and went to sleep. The next day Bill took us to what he thought would be the perfect place for us to rent. It was just down the block from Massachusetts Ave., right on Marlboro street.
The entrance to Fred Barzyk’s and Tom McGrath’s little hovel in “Rat Alley,” 1959. Photo by Brooks Leffler.
The 3 scholars from Wisconsin rang the doorbell and the landlady opened the door. Mrs. Gautraux. Her hair was frizzed, her elderly eyes had that crazy look after all these years of renting to college kids. She led us to the basement, to a two-room apartment fashioned around steam pipes and the furnace. “$80 bucks a month.” We took it.
She gave us the key and said we should use the backdoor for coming and going. She opened the door, which led directly to the alley. The alley. What can I say? Here among the garbage cans, cars parked in little spaces, lived some of the largest rats in Boston. Bill told us this was known as Rat Alley. Ah, yes and now it was our home.
That night Bill took us to see the latest WGBH remote. There was a huge arts festival happening in a park called the Boston Public Garden. The three of us stood besides a pond in the middle of the Garden and watched as members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra drifted by in a Swan Boat playing Handel’s Water Music. And our little TV station was broadcasting it live! Wow!
That night as bedtime approached, Tom and I acted like freshman who had just moved into a dorm. Both Tom and I had lived at home while going to Marquette. This was real freedom. Alone at last in our own space. We giggled on about Rat Alley, you know, “Snow White and Seven Rats,” that kind of thing. Stupid stuff.
The big day arrived. The 1958/59 scholars were to assemble at WGBH. We walked down Massachusetts Avenue, over the bridge into Cambridge.
Dave soon made arrangements to move in with another scholar, Brooks Leffler. Now it was up to Tom and myself to make the $80 monthly rent.
Then the big day. The 1958/59 scholars were to assemble at WGBH. We walked down Massachusetts Avenue, over the bridge into Cambridge. On the bridge were strange markings, Smoots, based on a man named Smoot who was placed end to end in the ’40s by his MIT fraternity.
Finally, we arrived at the address. And there it was, right in the middle of the MIT complex of buildings. It was in a low-slung three story building. It appeared to have some non descript businesses, a drug store that served lunch, not much else. In the middle of the building was a plaque on a pillar announcing that this was the home of the WGBH Educational Foundation.
84 Massachusetts Avenue
We climbed the wooden stairs leading us up to the reception area. There sat Rose Buresh, receptionist, the one person who really knew what was going on at WGBH. We were ushered into the studio. It was huge. It was once an old roller skating rink. Its wooden floor proved to be problematical when moving the TV cameras. If you went straight forward, going with the floorboards, you got a pretty smooth ride. But going across the grain, led to some very bumpy dollies. We all took notes.
The notorious Boston University Scholars “Crew of ’59.” Top left to right: Al Kelman, Phil Fields, Tom McGrath, Fred Barzyk, Don Knox, Bert Bell, Sue Dietrich, Dave Nohling, Jim Hennes, John Sunier, John Engel. Bottom left to right: Lew Yeager, Joe (Mark) Mobius, Brooks Leffler, Mel Bernstein. Not present: Hiromichi Matsui. Caption by Al Boyns.
We met our leader, Bob Moscone: from then on to be known as the King. Bob was once an Arthur Murray Dance teacher; a slender attractive Italian man who carried a little note card on which he kept track of what was going on at the studio. And he also controlled when we were to work at WGBH. He was the man in charge. He was the King.
“Prospects of Mankind.” Left to right, Bob Moscone, Dave Davis, Virginia Kassel (behind Dave), Paul Noble, and Eleanor Roosevelt, fall 1959.
His second in command was Kenny Anderson. Kenny was a young slender guy with a terrific Boston accent, full of energy. I found out later he was a true lover of women, all women. The King asked him to show us on how to hang and focus a light. Kenny climbed the ladder, moved the light and then to show off, slid down the ladder. The scholars gasped. The King smiled. He hoped we should all be able to do the same in a few days.
Our audio man was Wil Morton. He seemed to be very young but with a keen sense of professionalism. He showed us the mikes, the cables, the endless cables. Eventually we met the TV directors and producers. Jean Brady (The Queen) a sweet, lovely woman with a wonderful southern accent; Gene Nichols (the Court Jester) a quiet man with a great smile; Ted Steinke, a big smiley guy from the mid west; Lou Barlow, who seemed to smoke whenever he directed. I don’t remember him smiling much.
And then there was Paul Noble, who had been a BU scholar in Bill Heitz’s group and had just been hired as a producer/director. It is important to note here that Paul and his crew really set the culture of WGBH scholars. It was family, fun, and camaraderie. His team bonded like no other, still meeting yearly, nearly 55 years later. Paul and his team created a WGBH yellow journalism news rag, The Ille Novi. (Latin for “Here’s the News,” which were the words used by Louis Lyons each night when he opened his news program. Copies of it are in the WGBH archives.) This mimeographed tabloid told all the “real news” for the scholars. Paul once told me his greatest talent was reading memos upside down as they sat on the executives desk. Long live yellow journalism.
Sitting front row: Vic Washkevich, Paul Noble and Ed Donlon.
There was Whit Thompson, who seemed to do all the music shows. His dad was Randall Thompson, composer of symphonies and other pieces, who taught at Harvard; Lenny Bernstein was one of his students. Whit wore glasses and was very erudite. And then there was Cabot Lyford who had a nasty habit of kicking the wall every once in awhile. He was the director of the Museum of Fine Arts show “Invitation to Art,” a big remote production from one of the country’s great museums. (Not many people know that the museum was internally wired with TV cables in expectation that the MFA and WGBH would be doing shows for a long time. I wonder if they are still there.) The host was Brian O’Doherty, a visiting Doctor from Ireland who had come to Boston to study heart related illness at Harvard University.
Brian became a dear friend. Years later, Brian became head of the National Endowment for the Arts Media Panel. His panels awarded many grant dollars to WGBH. Brian was also the fine arts commentator for NBC’s Today show for 9 years and is a celebrated artist painting under the name Patrick Ireland.
Brian would occasionally invite me to have lunch at Ken’s deli restaurant in Copley Square. I mean, we never even did a show together, but he had somehow become interested in what I thought about TV and art. That was really hard to imagine. I was just a kid from the South Side of Milwaukee. It was very unexpected but complimentary. I really enjoyed the talk and the food.
An aside: the culinary arts
Tom and I existed on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta and cheap canned tomato sauce, and every once in awhile, a piece of meat.
Yes, the food. Food was a constant concern at our apartment in Rat Alley. Tom and I existed on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta and cheap canned tomato sauce, and every once in awhile, a piece of meat. Milk, when we felt really rich.
I remember one day, I traded my jelly sandwich with cameraman Don Hallock for his tongue sandwich. Tongue! I wasn’t sure about eating tongue but what the hell, it was meat. After all, I had eaten a lot of weird things in my mother’s Polish kitchen. Czarnina, a black duck blood soup with prunes and raisins; boiled chicken hearts and gizzards over mashed potatoes. I sort of liked the tongue sandwich, even though it was kinda chewy.
Brian, I can still taste those big Reuben sandwiches at Kens. Thanks. It meant a lot. More than you ever knew.
Back to introductions
Russ Morash, who would soon become one the most important producer/directors at WGBH, had just married. He and his wife took an extended honeymoon in France that summer. Russ eventually returned to direct a French Language show for kids called “Parlons Francais.” He had studied acting at BU and his wife had graduated with a degree in set design from BU, fellow theater artists. I ended up using Russ in a number of dramas that I did for PBS. The most memorable is when I cast him as a fellow TV newscaster with actress Lily Tomlin. They were perfect together.
There was also Bob Squier. Talk about energy. He was the quickest, the most animated of our directors. He took more shots in one show than most of us ever thought about. Bob soon moved on to become an independent producer and eventually became the Democrat’s PR spokesman. He appeared often with Roger Ailes, the Republican counterpart (now head of Fox Cable News). Bob passed away a few years ago. Sad.
Don Hallock, Al Kelman, and Tom McGrath
A reflection: As I now look back at the staff of WGBH in those days, it dawns on me how young we all were. I mean, the average age of the camera people, lighting, audio was 23. Even the engineers were young; Bobby Hall, blond, happy guy; Jerry Adler, FM engineer, the only practicing Jew with a Southern accent I had ever met; Andy Ferguson, the only African American on staff, were all in their late 20’s. And the staff camera people, Don Hallock, a true artist and one of the greatest TV camera operators I have ever known, was not even 20. Bob Valtz, a recent Harvard grad who wore his tie flung over his shoulder while running camera, was 23. Frank Vento, a dark-haired, intense camera/lighting person was probably near 30. Even the executives were only in their thirties.
Frank Vento and Mary Lela Grimes
The Executives. The visionaries who helped make WGBH so special. There was Dave Davis, manager of the station. He was a former trumpet player and lover of jazz and good music. In addition to his duties as station manger, he also directed the Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts. His was a tightly run production, which created the most sophisticated music/camera shot list ever.
It was amazing that he could take a bunch of BU Scholars along with this young staff, and make the broadcast seamless and professional. (The BSO and WGBH have paired up to release some of these early TV concerts on DVD, to be released in 2011.)
It is fair to say that Dave was the paternal figure in the organization. He didn’t say much and it was expected of you to present your questions in an exact and quick manner. He would then give a quick answer back.
Dave appreciated hard work and creativity. Once, after a music show that I did, he called and complimented the staff and me. It was really a big moment for us. That didn’t happen too often. We celebrated by going out and having a few beers at the Zebra Lounge.
Aside: The Zebra Lounge
The Zebra Lounge on the corner of Mass Ave. and Beacon Street. The home away from home. (Now, called The Crossroads.) The corner booth covered over with fake Zebra cloth. Our corner booth. A place for the young scholars to relive the day, laugh at what we did and did not do.
Our BU Scholar group broke into three groups. First, there were those who had come back from the war and were going for their master degrees. They were older, married, some with kids. Second, there were the serious scholars who wanted their degree. They studied hard, did their WGBH work and acted like adults. And then there were the rest of us.
We thought all of this was fun and games. A great time to learn, try new things, drink beer, laugh, what me worry? Not many of us finished the degree. We went to class and were responsible students, but spent most of our time at WGBH. I mean, we used to go to the studio after closing hours, crank out the big boom mike into the middle of the studio, and play volleyball. This was fun. The whole thing was fun.
Young ladies came into Tom and my lives. Tom hooked up with a sparkly woman, Peggy. I met Ruth Smith casually at the Zebra lounge. She was from Revere, graduated from Chandlers, and now was a special assistant to some big wig at Bank Boston. After a few dates, we became a number. As a matter of fact I ended up marrying her. As she likes to remind me, we will be married 50 years next March. How time files.
Back to the executives
Three important executives who influenced my life were Mike Ambrosino, Greg Harney, and Bob Larson. Bob was program manager. He had graduated from Harvard and was a practicing Christian Scientist. It was Bob who saw the potential of a TV series for a tall Cambridge woman who had appeared on our weekly book show: her name was Julia Child.
Bob thought I could only be a director since he questioned the kind of education I might have gotten at Marquette. I accepted his opinion then and said, “I will show him that there is more to me than he thinks.” He was my challenge. Years later he accepted me as someone who could become a producer. Bob passed away from stomach cancer, much too young. His religion, which he cherished, did not allow him to see a doctor. His prayers were not answered. Sad.
Michael Ambrosino, September 1956.
Mike Ambrosino, though an executive, also produced and directed a number of shows. He was in charge of creating the Eastern Educational Television Network. He also created the 21 Inch Classroom, a coordinated program between WGBH and 35 independent school systems to see if TV could be used in the classroom to enrich the teaching experience. We did a lot of 15-minute shows directed to grade school kids.
Mike did a lot of science shows, especially with Gene Gray, a teacher from Newton. It was during one of Gene’s shows that he poured some acid into a plastic cup only to see it dissolve the cup. (This is still in the archives.) Not much you could do because the show was live. Gene did a great job making the disaster into a teaching moment. Ambrosino later went on to create one of the great staples of PBS: NOVA.
Greg Harney. What can I say? He had arrived from CBS at about the same time as our crew. He was one of the best lighting directors at CBS. However, Greg was ambitious and took the job as production manager at WGBH to expand his choices. He took a hefty pay cut and supplemented his WGBH salary by teaching a grad course at BU,Lighting and Production. This was a class that all of the BU scholars took. His style of directing, lighting and program style was gleaned from his days at CBS and it was soon our style, too.
Script Conference, A Time to Dance, 1959. Left to right: Paul Noble, AD; Jac Venza, Producer; Martha Meyers, host; and Greg Harney, Director.
Greg and I always had an “interesting” relationship. Greg liked to call you into his office after one of your shows and critique your performance. A dear fellow director, Ed Scherer, told me how to handle these sessions. Agree and then go do what you normally do. I did this many times. Many.
Finally, one day Harney confronted me in the hallway, and accused me of not really listening to him. He had me caught. What to do? I blurted out that he was probably right. I should really listen to him. He looked relieved. Of course, I just went back to what I was doing anyway.
Greg was pushing me to be the best I could. Many years later, he said that he had tried to hire me as a director when our scholar year ended. But there wasn’t any money. He kept after me, bringing me back three times to WGBH for short stints as a director.
Then one day, when I was back in Milwaukee doing a silly job working for a Polish Newspaper, he offered me a permanent TV directing job. Somehow, he had found me at this little office where I was doing blind calls for a Polish newspaper, Novini Polski. I would call up people who were trying to rent apartments and suggest that they should rent to good Polish people who were clean and reliable payers of rent. All they had to do is place an ad with the Polish newspaper.
Greg’s offer was exactly what I was needed. I walked up to the office manager and quit. It wasn’t even 10:30.
So, for the next 50 years I did at least one show a year for WGBH. Sometimes, I did as many as 100 TV shows in a year. It became my professional and spiritual home. As I often said to the present executives, this is my station.
I haven’t said much about Hartford Gunn. He was the head of the whole thing. He was the brains behind the operation and soon left to create the whole PBS system. Hartford was there, but we didn’t interact with him on a daily basis. He was gracious to us all as he bustled about his business.
Years later, Hartford and I had an interesting confrontation. In those days, I wore white shirts and ties. Hartford grabbed me by the tie and pushed me up against the wall.
Why? My fellow producer/director Dave Sloss and I had written an internal memo criticizing David Ives for not being adventurous, as we wanted him to be.
The musician’s union had complained about our local folk music show because we didn’t pay anything. David felt we were in danger of being blackballed by the union and we should cancel the show. He said we always get in trouble when we do entertainment. Our memo took Ives to task for this position, in rather brutal language.
Hartford wanted to make a point to me while holding me by tie and up against the wall, that he too wanted the station to venture into entertainment. He warned me that we had to be careful. Go slow. I agreed with him. The folk music show continued. It was my most intimate moment with Hartford.
Left to right: Fred Barzyk, Barbara Goble, Libby Alford, Al Reese, Don Hallock, and Ruth (now) Barzyk with her back to the camera.
Fact: Our personal history is not made up by remembering specific days, but by remembering the special moments. There were three special moments during this period.
First, was my birthday party. I turned 22 in October and the gang gathered at our apartment in Rat Alley. Beer flowed, laughter filled the small apartment, there was even food that somebody brought.
And then, Hallock and Vento paraded into the packed place carrying a birthday cake. The crowd sang Happy Birthday. Then they plugged the cake into a wall socket and the whole thing exploded. BOOM! The room filled with smoke. At first, everyone cringed but then, realizing it was a joke, broke into loud laughter. In she came.
In her bathrobe.
She yelled and screamed.
The place cleared out fast.
What a birthday!
Second was Halloween. It had been decided by our crew that Educational Television was dead. It would go nowhere. ETV is dead. It was even chalked on the side of the building in Rat Alley. (I think that was me who did it.)
Anyway, it was decided that WGBH scholars, along with the staff, would join in a Halloween parade that was planned for Boston. Don Hallock, God Bless him, built a wooden coffin. They dressed Nohling up as a cadaver and placed him in the coffin and drove around the city in a convertible. A banner declared that ETV was dead. Probably no one in the crowds ever knew what it meant.
The driver of the convertible had a little too much to drink and I guess it was a pretty harrowing drive. The WGBH crowd ended up at some apartment on the seedy side of Beacon Hill. The next day, Don Hallock and I carried the coffin across town to my apartment. And there the coffin stood, propped up against our wall, open and empty. It stayed that way until I moved out months later.
Picnic in Rat Alley
And finally, the last week in the apartment, we had a picnic in the alley. Everyone brought whatever booze they had and we poured into one of our old pots. We called it a Wassel bowl. English phrase I guess. As I sat there thinking about the last days in Boston, I looked over to our open apartment door. A rat quietly walked out of the apartment and into a garbage can next to the building. It was the end. The end of my scholar days. The end of a great year.
Wait! Not yet. I haven’t talked about Henry Morgenthau III.
Mrs. Roosevelt and her staff. Henry Morgenthau, Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Noble, and Diana Tead Michaelis, fall 1959.
Henry was a producer at WGBH. He was rumored to be wealthy. I know that he had a man, someone to drive him around, cook his meals. I guess you would call him a butler. But Henry was one of us. He laughed and played just like the rest of us.
But one important fact: Henry knew Eleanor Roosevelt. He convinced her to be part of one of WGBH early important shows, “]Prospects of Mankind.” (This program is also in the archives.) Everyone was on that show; John F. Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, you name it. And it was all because of Henry.
Henry’s father was Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Treasury, signer of all the nations currency. And here he was, one of our producers. Henry was great. Fun and creative. He and I ended up doing a whole ton of shows together, none more important than “Negro and the American Promise.” (Also is in the archives.)
My Dad was very impressed that I knew a Morgenthau. My Dad was a lifelong Democrat. He was very pleased that I was in good company, especially the son of the man who signed all the nations money.
My Dad always said “follow the money and you’ll find the truth.” All I know is we never had enough of it in those days.
Tom and I had each derived ways of making ends meet. Some of them were not very pretty. Fortunately, Greg Harney and Henry Morgenthau were bringing in big budgeted shows that were shot on weekends. That meant the crew was paid overtime. Tom became one of the regular paid crew members. That money really helped him
However, in some kind of desperation, Tom signed up to be a medical guinea pig. He went to the Mass. General Hospital and was injected with a blood thinner. Then they took out some blood and tested to see how thin it really was. I guess it was pretty thin because of what happened next.
Tom walked home. The Doctor told him not to get hit by a car or he might bleed to death. Ha, ha, I guess this is Doctor humor. Tom told me all about it as he combed his hair in our little bathroom.
In some kind of desperation, Tom signed up to be a medical guinea pig. Tom’s payment … 15 bucks
All of a sudden, the bandage came off and he started squirting blood all over the place. I mean pumping, squirting blood. He held his arm over the tub to catch the blood. I went crazy. I handed him a towel, got the name of the Doctor, raced upstairs to the pay phone in the hallway, dialed MGH and asked for the Tom’s Doctor. As I waited, I wondered if I should have called 911.
The operator came back on and said there was no such Doctor at the hospital. Egads! I rushed downstairs to see if Tom could make it to the street where I could call an ambulance. Fortunately, he had applied enough pressure to the wound that the blood had started to coagulate. Whew! Disaster avoided. Tom’s payment for all this … 15 bucks.
My money problems were solved in other ways. Bill Heitz had told me to try and get the Sunday master control job.
The local CBS station would not carry the networks Sunday morning shows, so WGBH, as a service to its audience, worked out a deal with CBS for Ch. 2 to air the programs from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The station needed an engineer, a booth announcer and a master control operator.
I got the job. My pay was $10 for each Sunday worked. That took care of the rent.
My buddies during these Sunday stints were (usually) engineer Bobby Hall, booth announcer Bob Jones, and Jerry Adler who was right next door to master control running WGBH-FM from a small control room. We were a quiet group, sometimes fighting off hangovers, planning what we would do with the rest of Sunday.
There were talk shows, and then there was Camera Three. Camera Three had been a cultural godsend to me when living at home in Milwaukee. It did segments on the fine arts, the theater, dance, photography. It was up to speed with the NYC art scene and exposed me to ideas and concepts that were beyond my wildest dreams. It helped determine my style and approach to TV.
An aside: Camera Three and Nam June Paik
Many years later I was asked to be a guest producer for Camera Three. And to show what a small world it really is, one of the executive producers was a former BU Scholar from Bill Heitz’ group. I choose video artist Nam June Paik as the star of my Camera Three.
Nam June Paik
That meant bringing into the CBS union studio all his broken down TV’s, Charlotte Mormon, who would play her cello while wearing Paiks’ Video Bra, an upright piano which Paik would destroy, and lots of his small non-broadcast electronic gear.
It probably was the first time that this kind of electronic equipment had been brought into a studio of CBS. I think every engineer in CBS found some reason to walk through the studio on their way to wherever. And every last one of them had to stop and gaze at what Paik had created.
The show was called “The Strange Music of Nam June Paik.”
CBS never asked me back to do another show. As a matter of fact, this turned out to be their last season, Camera Three was no more.
Still, it was wonderful to see the cycle completed. From an avid viewer as a college kid to a full-fledged TV producer creating something for a show that meant so much to me. Special.
And then, my money problems were solved.
Late in that first summer, I walked across Mass Ave. heading from WGBH to MIT’s indoor pool. We were going to do some kind of remote. As I crossed the street, I was hit by a car. Not really hit, more like bumped.
The problem was that, in those days, cars had hood ornaments. This was a Pontiac, which carried a shiny Indian-face ornament. This sharp little piece of metal pierced my left side, causing a rather deep wound.
Moscone took charge. Somehow, I was in a car racing to Boston City Hospital. They took me to the emergency room. The King kept telling them it was not a knife wound. I don’t know if they ever really believed him. Anyway, they washed out my wound, stitched it up, bandaged it and told me not to lift anything heavy for six weeks. I went home and rested and healed rather quickly.
Bob Moscone took me to see a lawyer … I went to his office and with great fanfare, he presented me the insurance company’s settlement. A check for $600.
But Bob Moscone, being the King, went a step further. He took me to see a lawyer. The lawyer’s office was situated in a back room of a walkup in a seedy part of Boston. The lawyer listened, got the name of the person who hit me, and said he would get back in touch. I didn’t hear from him for over 4 months.
Then I got a message from Moscone. The lawyer wanted to see me right away. I went to his office and with great fanfare, he presented me with the insurance company’s settlement. A check for $600.
This money changed my lifestyle. Since I’d dreamed of making the professional theater my career choice, I spent a lot of the money going to plays, Wednesday matinees, in Boston’s theater district. Yes, in those days, there were still plays up and running in one theater or another. It seemed like there was a new one every couple of weeks.
I became a regular in the balcony section. I shared the spot with a group of ladies who were also weekly attendees. We became great friends. They started bringing me sandwiches. They were great. I saw Carol Burnett, Tom Bosley, Tommy Tune, so many great stars. It was heaven.
I decided to celebrate my new wealth by taking Ruth out on a real date. We went to a little French restaurant, which existed on Mass. Ave. (and is no longer there). We had Duck a l’Orange and a glass of wine.
Then we took a bus to Harvard Square and went to see a New Wave French film at the Brattle Theater. The Brattle, whose theater history I knew and appreciated, was not built in the faux-Oriental style that I was used to in Milwaukee. No, the Brattle was a basic box theater with little international flags on the wall, tight hard seats, and a back screen projection system.
It was clear the audience was young, college kids, most likely, intellectuals. Probably Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Brandeis, BU.
As Ruth and I settled into our seats, it was clear the audience was young, college kids, most likely, intellectuals. Probably Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Brandeis, BU. We were early and so sat back to wait for the beginning of the film.
And that’s when it happened. Like a flash of bright white light, the truth bopped me on the head. This was the Eureka moment!
Somewhere in the theater, somebody had turned on some music to keep the customers entertained until the movie began. It was a scratchy, LP record. The audio was slowly turned up until you could finally hear it. It was a harpsichord. Oh no, it was a Scarlatti Sonata.
And right then, at that very exact moment, I knew I was a hopeless stranger in a wildly exotic land. It was as if I had been plunged into some distant planet, a planet filled with flying things, a planet so different from where I had come from that it left me speechless. Clueless. Sitting, watching, not believing — right there in the Brattle Theater!
The recorded music grew more intense, filling the cavernous room with harpsichord music. The young couple in front of us moved closer together. Tighter and tighter.
She looked up at him, lovingly.
“They are playing our song.”
“I know, I know.”
And then they kissed.
by Nat Johnson,
In my youth, before talk-shows ruined radio, many of us had our own, hallowed heroes of the airwaves—some were writers and actors, with prominent air personalities all rolled into one. Mine was Orson Welles. For others, it was the late-night American storyteller, radio and TV personality, writer, and actor, Jean Shepherd, often referred to by his nickname —Shep, the now largely forgotten, genius creator of A Christmas Story.
At night, Shep could be heard across the country over clear-channel WOR in New York, and he certainly had his followers around Boston. WGBH producer-director Fred Barzyk was one of them and, eventually, succeeded in bringing Shep to public broadcasting. Despite the success of this significant undertaking, working with Shep turned out to be somewhat more of a challenge than Fred or his colleagues could have anticipated.
Cut to the shoot: I was a freelance assistant to the production manager on this shoot. I was on the set early one morning in Somerville on the set of The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1985). Shep was in true form, chewing out Fred for his displeasure with the design and details of a small grocery store.
“I told you, Fred, I told you! This is not nostalgia; it’s all wrong, all wrong,” and so on, hardly stopping to catch his breath.
Fred stood fast, without speaking—his face flushed but smiling.
“It’s all wrong,” continued the Shepherd rant. “You’re missing the whole point, Fred. This is not what we agreed to,” etc. Having encountered Shep’s temperament while engineering his live radio show on WGBH Radio, I realized it was probably time to retreat and prepare the next set: “Friendly Fred’s Used Car Lot.”
At noon, Fred—frustrated and at the end of his tether, but still smiling— walked over to the car lot set, handed me a twenty-dollar bill, and said, “Take Shepherd off the set and out to lunch, now!” Accompanied by Jenny, our script manager, we left the location and walked down the road where, we were advised, there was a gourmet pizza parlor. Shep talked non-stop all the way; I have no memory of a word he said, but in fifteen minutes, the three of us were standing in front of the restaurant.
“This place is supposed to have great food,” I indicated, holding the door open for Jean and Jenny. Inside it was dark and peaceful. In one corner stood a large gentleman in a black, shiny suit—watching us and not smiling. Shep walked right over to a display case where the menu was posted:
Deep Dish Pizza
Tuscany Grilled Chicken Pizza
Immediately, Shep turned to me and, in tones audible throughout the entire restaurant, cried, “You know, Nat— heh, heh—this isn’t real pizza!”
When the man in the shiny black suit jumped and lurched forward, I wondered if we were about to find ourselves either out the door or headed on a one-way trip to Boston Harbor. Yet, we managed to order, eat our lunch, and return to the shoot…unscathed.
Shep jabbered through the entire meal; neither Jenny nor I could get a word in, but on the way home, I brought up my story about meeting a colorful cast character from one of Shep’s other stories. Shep listened and never uttered a word—I had done all the talking during that fifteen-minute walk back to the shoot. Jenny looked up at me, grinned, and gave me a big wink.
Fred Barzyk, TV Producer/Director
Boston, Massachusetts 1995
I always remember Nam June Paik standing in a television studio, in big old rubber boots, his hands somewhere inside an old TV set, telling me to stand back since TV sets sometimes explode when he does this. I backed off. The TV did not explode but gave forth a dazzling array of colors, buzzed and slowly died, never to live again.
"Don't worry. I got more TV sets." said Paik.
And more he did. That day, in the television studio's of WGBH-TV, the flagship station of America's Public Television network, Paik burned out more than 12 TV sets. Fortunately, this time their dazzling images were captured on 2 inch videotape. These " visual moments'' became part of a six minute video piece which was included in a half hour program called "Medium is the Medium." This was the first time that artists were allowed to control the professional TV cameras, producing their own unique vision for a network show. And quite a show it was.
Paik was one of five artists who created video pieces for this segment of 'PUBLIC BROADCASTING LABORATORY", a weekly two hour show supported by the Ford Foundation. The artist's had been selected from a 1969 gallery show, "TV AS A CREATIVE MEDIUM" Howard Wise Gallery, New York. For his video piece, I had to deliver Paik a videotape of Richard Nixon speech and a woman dancer in a bikini bottom and pasties for her nipples. He did all the rest, to the great delight of the TV crew. This was not the normal PTV show!
This program began my long association with Nam June, along with my partner Olivia Tappan and colleague, Dave Atwood. The three of us became the supporters, defenders and co conspirators in the creation of the Paik/Abe Video Synthesizer.
Why did it happen at WGBH? with me? I had been interested in using television in a more "artistic" way for a long time. My background was theater and art and I was longing to find a way of expressing it. I got into an aesthetic argument with our senior producer/director about WGBH's coverage of the Boston Symphony concerts. Why couldn't the cameras paint pictures instead of showing old men blowing horns and bowing violin strings? Not possible, not at WGBH. I finally convinced a group of engineers and camera people to stay late a couple of nights and we created what is supposed to be the first video experiments, "JAZZ IMAGES" (1963). You must remember, we were like a closed society. No one had TV cameras except TV stations. They were just too big and too expensive. We were like a fortress surrounded by a moat, and no artist was allowed to cross over. So we, those on the inside, had to put a break in the structure.
This kind of experimentation gave the three of us (Barzyk, Tappan, Atwood) a reputation for being "far out". We were bringing this kind of "experimental" look to a local jazz show and a local series called 'WHAT'S HAPPENING MR. SILVER?" This kind of continued experimentation within the system was what brought Paik and ourselves together. The producers had heard of our work and we lugged heavy 2 inch tape to New York to show to the artists. Fortunately, they liked our work. We agreed to collaborate.
Howard Klein of the Rockerfeller Foundation became the next major player in the creation of the video synthesizer. Klein offered an artist in residence grant to WGBH. I was asked to head up the project. Paik was one of my first choices.
He was brought to Boston for an extended stay as a Rockerfeller Artist in Residence. We tried small little video experiments, but Paik was frustrated because using WGBH's TV studios, crews, etc. was very expensive. He saw his small grant disappearing without any major creations. He looked for ways to make his work " as inexpensive as Xeroxing."
One day he presented me with a most complicated looking diagram. I am not an engineer and sometimes have trouble understanding what Paik is saying, and was totally unsure that day of what he was describing to me. What I was able to fathom, was that he wanted to go to Japan and work with a Japanese engineer(Abe) to create a low cost video machine. This machine would cost $10,000 and give Nam June the ability to create constantly without worrying about costs. He further explained that the $10,000 would include his travel, the engineer's time, all the electronic equipment, and bring the machine and engineer from Japan to Boston to set up its operation. Was this possible? He insisted he could do it. And he did.
Paik and I had a lunch with the head of WGBH, Michael Rice, to try and sell him on the expenditure of the grant money to create this video machine. Michael sat there and listened as Paik went on and on about the beauty of the synthesizer and the images it would create. We laid out the diagram on the lunch table, and Paik gave his best presentation yet. To his credit, Michael Rice agreed there, on the spot.
Nam June would soon be on his way to Japan.
"That's the easiest $10,000 grant I ever got?" said Paik.
For the next three months, I heard from Nam June every once in a while. Back here in Boston, I had convinced the station to give over a very small studio to house the synthesizer. Finally, passing through customs, Paik and Abe arrived with boxes and boxes of equipment. Paik had also purchased an old record turntable on which he would construct objects and spin them at either 33rpm or 78rpm. This was the focus of the synthesizer's black and white cameras as the two men set up their video machine. I knew the day it was working, when Nam June showed me a mound of shaving cream whirling around on the turntable, which was being transformed into a melange of color and images on his color TV sets. The Video Synthesizer lived.
The first broadcast of the synthesizer was a New Years eve video marathon, broadcast live from 10:00 pm to 1:00 AM. Paik called it "Beatles, from beginning to end". That night he played every Beatle tune that had been recorded (some several times) and created abstract image after another. People, friends showed up to help. The costs of this three hour television broadcast, including shaving cream, tin foil, and assorted objects plus supper for Paik and Abe was $100.
He had done it. He broke the back of expensive broadcast TV. The only problem with that evening's broadcast was that he blew out the TV transmitter. The chroma level coming out of the synthesizer was
much too high and destroyed a component. It had to be replaced and it was very expensive.
"What's television coming to?" said WGBH's head engineer.
"I can't believe what's happening on my TV." said a TV viewer
"Beautiful. Like video wall paper." said Nam June Paik.
I first heard Jean on the radio in Boston. It was 1961.
I was babysitting my young son and while idly scanning radio stations, I heard this person, this intense personal voice, talking to ME. Whoa! Is it possible? Something clicked in me. Had I found a kindred soul? Jean had grown up in the Midwest-Hammond, Indiana. The industrial Midwest. Me, too. I grew up just an hour away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My father worked in a factory, International Harvester. My mother worked in a factory during the war, Perfex. My neighborhood was surrounded by all kinds of Factories. You could smell them in the air. Jean was weaving a tale about the Steel Mill. Running, delivering the mail. He recalled a horrible accident. A vat had turned over, killing one of the steel men. But he also talked about the beauty of the giant plant. He talked about tapping the heat. He never played any music. He just talked!Come on! This was a Saturday afternoon, for God sake. Who the Hell is this guy?
Right then and there I knew I had to work with him.I was a young television director (22) working at WGBH-TV, a little Educational Television station housed in a former roller skating rink, above a drug store at 84 Massachusetts Avenue and right across the street from MIT. There were 45 employees running the TV and FM radio station. I was on contract to direct a series of French Language shows aimed at grade school students. But what I really wanted to do was dramas for TV. Maybe this Jean Shepherd person might be the storyteller I was looking for. Maybe. How the hell am I going to meet him, or get to work with him?
Youth is great. I figured I would just write him a letter and offer him a half hour of airtime on our little station. I huddled with Mike Ambrosino (a fan; Mike was responsible for the development of the Eastern Educational Television Network) and John Henning (a fan; John had grown up in New York City listening to Jean on the radio. John became one of Boston’s most distinguished newsmen.)
Here was the problem. WGBH had no money. We were lucky to meet the weekly payroll. I was making $80 a week and trying to support a wife and baby. I had no money. So we offered an artist the one thing they can’t resist. Free airtime to do anything he wanted to do.
We couldn’t afford his airfare. He would have to sign a release devised by our financial officer, Jack Hurley. Jack insisted that some hard cash pass between WGBH and the talent. Each person was to receive $1. The chances of Jean Shepherd even responding to this offer were very low. Probably, non-existent. Boy, was I wrong. He wrote back and agreed! We talked on the phone and decided on a date. Now I had to tell management that I had made this offer and it had been accepted. No, I never did get permission before I sent the letter. What the hell? I never thought he would respond. Bob Larson, programming manager, looked dubious. A comedian? No, I said, a great storyteller. How much will this cost? A one-dollar release.Somehow (don’t remember what I said) Bob agreed to let me go ahead with the show. Bob had graduated from Harvard and was very erudite. He once told me I would never be a producer because of the school I had gone to. Marquette University in Milwaukee. I shrugged and said OK. Time will tell. Bob took a chance on this one. And for me, it started a 30-year working relationship with Jean Shepherd.
There is an important event that I forgot to mention. That little TV station above the drug store - it had burned down to the ground several months before. With an amazing amount of public support from institutions and viewers, a campaign to build a new state of art studio was created. We were offered free space from many institutions while the new studio was being built. WGBH was spread out across the city in 7 different locations. The TV studio was a small room in the basement of the Museum of Science.There was a window from which the paying visitors could watch us make TV shows. We were an exhibit. The producers, directors, execs were housed in a small red wooden building behind the Museum, right on the waters of the Charles River.
Bob Larson laid out the rules of the game. I would have a single camera and the show would be a half hour live and recorded on tape. (That original tape exists in the WGBH archives, “JEAN SHEPHERD, AMERICAN HUMORIST”) I decided we would shoot from the dock behind the building.I would need a big light to cover the area since the show would air at 9:00 PM. The opening and closing credits would be created on a large piece of cardboard perched carefully on an easel. Camera starts on cardboard, pan to Jean, he talks for a half hour, pan back to the cardboard. Done.
The day arrived and so did Jean with a young woman, Leigh Brown.She was introduced as his secretary. She never said much but watched with great interest. Jean was affable and eager to do his bit. I introduced him to the crew and we headed out to the dock. He had a crew cut, wore a summer jacket and tie. He was fit and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to do this for WGBH. I later found out that it was our connection to Harvard, MIT, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Brandeis, Tufts, Boston University, which made this gig really appealing. Jean was looking to forge his credentials in the world of academia.
Jean had brought his theme music on audiotape. The time arrived and we were on the air, in living black and white with the Charles River behind him. He proceeded to tell us two of his classic stories. First came the Ovaltine story and the magic decoder ring. He ended with the blind date story. The stage manager gave him the one-minute cue and he concluded his bit and we panned to the cardboard credits. The crew applauded. Egad, this wasn’t like our normal shows. I mean we were doing lectures, piano shows, educational courses for distant learners. And here was this guy entertaining us. Wow!
This called for a celebration. Jean, Leigh, myself and most of the crew made off to one of our favorite watering holes. This night was going to be on me. Might blow the family budget, but it was worth it. I would pick up Jean and Leigh’s drinks. I had assumed that Jean was a beer drinker, like my Dad. But no. He ordered a martini! And just one. The rest of us bought the cheapest beer in the house. We laughed and talked.
And then something amazing happened. Jean asked how WGBH was doing. We said what do you mean? How are the ratings? We all laughed. We never knew if anyone was watching us. Jean asked what kind of shows did we do. At that moment, WGBH was doing a lot of Harvard extension courses for the Navy. Physics, calculus, trig, etc. It was a
series of show for the crews of atomic subs that stayed submerged for months at a time. The crew could get academic credit for taking this course when they took an exam on returning to base.
Shepherd’s eyes twinkled, and he smiled that crooked smile of his. And he created a story right in front of us in this seedy beer-smelling bar. Jean: I can see it now. Professor Schmidlap appears at a blackboard and begins to explain calculus to the TV audience. He is amazing, his voice flying over Boston, talking MATH. Suddenly, after just two weeks of his little show, the ratings are soaring. The local commercial stations take notice.“Who the hell is this guy? What’s going on? Maybe it’s that theme music.I mean who the hell can understand calculus?” Four weeks later, Professor Schmidlap is number one in Boston TV. The news spreads to New York. They call up and get an air tape. These Big Time execs gather in a large conference room and they watch! The theme music comes up (They lean forward), Prof. Schmidlap appears and begins, writing a long equation on the blackboard. (They lean in further) Professor smiles as he shows us the solution. (They are now standing)“Get this guy on the phone. Now!” Professor Schmidlap is at home when the phone rings. It’s one of the big time New York agents.“Professor Schmidlap?”“Yes?”“This is _________, who’s your agent?”“My insurance agent?” By months end, Professor has his own show on NBC. His show is Broadcast over the entire nation. And the ratings take off. Before long he has won the coveted 9pm slot NATION WIDE. The other networks respond. Soon there are shows on Physics, Metaphysics,Epistemology. And what about WGBH and educational TV? They’re running old Ed Sullivan shows.”FACT: IN 2008, WGBH AND PBS ACTUALLY RAN OLD KINES OF THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. NO NETWORK HAS EVER PRODUCED A SHOW ON EPISTEMOLOGY.
GENERAL NOTES ON JEAN SHEPHERD. Who was Jean Shepherd?Jean was a genius. He told us a story about what happened to him as young boy. He took an IQ test in grade school and did so well that he was called down to the principal’s office and accused of cheating. He was always underrated. Jean had total recall. Somehow this man’s brain retained the smallest of details from his early life. I mean, he could tell you all the names of candy bars, the names of countries and their capitals, the kind of import/export that they did. And he always used this minutia to give a ring of authenticity to his stories. Jean was an avid crossword puzzle man. His recall of obscure words was amazing. Jean loved cars. He told me that he had five antique cars. He drove one up during a shoot back in the early 80’s. Because he and Leigh brought their dog (Fuzzhead) we had to put them up at a Ramada Inn on Soldiers Field Road. They were one of the few motels that allowed dogs.
After we finished business and returned to the Ramada, Jean found that his $50,000 car had been stolen. We immediately went to the Brighton Police station and reported it stolen. They did not give Jean much hope.I was surprised how calm Jean was through all this. I assume he had adequate insurance on the car. But maybe he didn’t. He never told me.
Jean liked dogs, but Leigh adored them. The first two dogs they brought up to WGBH died. They were left in Jean’s car during a hot summer day. Leigh found them. She totally lost it. One of my crew members, Greg MacDonald, kindly got rid of the dogs. Any hope of working further that week was over. Leigh was so in love of animals she actually suffered when watching anything bad happening to a critter. Jean and Leigh were at my house, watching (I think) the Kentucky derby when a horse went down. Leigh knew right away that it would be put down. She was a total wreck and had to go back to the hotel to recover.
Jean had a place up in New Hampshire that he used to go to when he first got to New York. Leigh convinced him to buy two horses. (I think Jean saw it as a way to not pay some taxes.) They hired a local guy to take care of the horses while they were away… which was most of the time. Leigh took a liking to this guy. Jean was really quite jealous. It was a subject that was taboo to talk about.
Jean attracted a young and devout audience, mostly teenage boys. I once attended some kind of function put on by WOR. There must have been 100 boys, all lined up to get his autograph. The interesting thing was that many were surprised so many other kids were actually there, too. Each thought Jean was talking to them, and them alone. One of the kids, a really big fan, was Bobby Fisher the chess champ. Jean said Bobby would trail him around, almost a nuisance.
Another great story is the one about Stanley Kubrick. It seems that Kubrick’s mother used to listen to Jean. One night, Jean lit into Dr. Strangelove, calling it a polemic instead of true satire. Jean said Kubrick should have had the Russian’s also sending a bomb toward America. That way, each country would be seen as crazy and unable to make sane judgments. Well, Kubrick’s mother told Stanley. Kubrick rushed over to see Jean, demanding an audience. He showed Jean his scrapbooks with all the rave reviews. Jean couldn’t have cared less and still insisted he made a flawed movie. Never did hear how it ended that night.
Jean also claimed that he and Norman Mailer had gotten into a big fistfight.
Jean claimed to have known the Beats and was considered one of them.
Countdown to Looking Glass is a Canadian made-for-television movie that premiered in the United States on HBO on 14 October 1984 and was also broadcast on CTV in Canada. The movie presents a fictional confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union over the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the Persian Gulf. The narrative of the film details the events that lead up to the initial exchange of nuclear weapons, which was triggered by a banking crisis, from the perspective of an ongoing news broadcast.
Unlike similar productions such as the previous year's Special Bulletin and the later Without Warning, the producers of this film decided not to make the entire production a simulated newscast, but instead break up the news portions with dramatic narrative scenes involving Shaver and Murphy. The appearance of real-life newscasters, as well as noted CBC Television host Patrick Watson (although he does not appear as himself in this film) lent additional authenticity to the production.
The CVN news network's nightly program, starring Don Tobin (Watson), with reports from correspondents Michael Boyle (Glenn) and Dorian Waldorf (Shaver), discusses a terrorist bombing of the American embassy in Saudi Arabia that killed the American ambassador. The week before, a global banking crisis, caused by several South American countries defaulting on their loans, led to turmoil in Southwest Asia. Before the unrest spread to Saudi Arabia, Soviet-backed militants led a coup in Oman when the Omani economy collapsed. Shortly after, a new report shows the banking crisis may soon begin to ease.
The following day, it is revealed that a large military operation was launched to keep the peace in Saudi Arabia, with many American soldiers, ships, and planes being sent at King Fahd's request. This move is heavily criticized - in the US and abroad. The United Kingdom, America's closest ally, refuses to take part in the operation as do many other of America's allies. However the attitude of the American representatives is clear that they can perform the peacekeeping mission alone, citing the success of the British in the past in containing the Russians' previous provocation in the area.
In response to this move, which the Soviet Union sees as provocative, the Soviet-backed puppet government in Oman imposes a $10,000 toll for every oil tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. The Soviet government claims it will remove the toll if the Americans withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia. The captains of the tankers refuse to pay the toll, effectively creating an economic blockade in which no oil can be transported through the Persian Gulf.
A breaking news alert on the fifth day of the Middle East crisis reveals that a short battle took place between American warplanes and unidentified enemy warplanes, presumed to be from Iran or Kuwait, in which an American reconnaissance plane was shot down over thePersian Gulf before two of the five attacking planes were shot down. The attacking aircraft were presumably aiming for an oil refinery in Ras Tanura in retaliation for Saudi Arabia's request for American troops.
Meanwhile, Waldorf brings a story to CVN: her Pentagon insider boyfriend provides her with satellite photos that suggest the Soviets have pulled out some troops and materiel from the Middle East. However, Tobin reluctantly insists that Waldorf have more than one source for the story.
On day six of the crisis, an American aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz and its battle group, armed with both nuclear and conventional weapons, are sent by the U.S. President to the Persian Gulf to ensure the free passage of oil tankers in the region. The Soviet Union quickly responds to this action by sending submarines to the Persian Gulf. CVN sends Michael Boyle to the Nimitz to cover the deployment.
On day eight of the crisis, in response to the growing urgency of the situation, CVN begins to broadcast 24 hours a day. Shortly after a state department briefing, the Defense Secretary dies, perhaps of a heart attack brought on by the stresses of crisis management.
On day nine, the crisis deepens when an Omani gunboat attacks and apparently destroys an unarmed Dutch vessel which tried to go through the Strait of Hormuz. The CVN broadcast also notes the presence of Soviet attack subs[N 1] near the site of the attack. At this point, people begin to evacuate cities, overseas air travel is suspended by the FAA, many American schools begin closing, the Strategic Air Command redeploys B-52 bombers throughout the nation's airports, and people are urged to stay off their phones. By nightfall, an evacuation of the White House is ordered. A night battle then erupts between Omani gunboats and the U.S. Navy in the Strait of Hormuz, with an Omani gunboat firing first and disabling an American warship, then subsequently being destroyed. Despite the gravity of the situation, Tobin discusses his optimistic viewpoint of the situation with correspondent Eric Sevareid, believing that "[r]easonable people, once they've looked the Devil in the face, aren't going to shake hands with him."
Shortly after the Omani gunboat exchanges fire with the American ship, a Soviet submarine slips through the perimeter of American ships and is tracked towards the Nimitz, which begins exploding depth charges towards the submarine before eventually firing a nuclear depth bomb at the submarine when it gets too close. Shortly thereafter, a nuclear weapon[N 2] is launched at the battle group, causing an unknown level of damage, yet apparently not sinking the Nimitz. Shortly thereafter, Boyle and the Nimitz lose contact with CVN.
At this point, the White House is completely evacuated, with the President, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other White House officials evacuated onto the National Emergency Airborne Command Post plane with the Strategic Air Command's airborne command center Looking Glass in accompaniment, and the Emergency Broadcast System is activated.
In the moments before CVN's broadcast is transferred over to the Emergency Broadcast System, Tobin reiterates his optimism, discussing the opinions of a deceased colleague who was considered an expert in nuclear war scenarios. His colleague held the belief that a nuclear exchange would someday take place, but when the two superpowers were confronted with the horror of the situation, they would choose peace over war. As a now-bewildered Tobin prepares to turn things over to the EBS, it is obvious that he is shaken by the events that have occurred, and is, moreover, almost mournfully fearful over the inescapable realization that both mankind and the planet Earth may very well not have any future at all.
· Scott Glenn as Michael Boyle
· Michael Murphy as Bob Calhoun
· Helen Shaver as Dorian Waldorf
· Patrick Watson as Don Tobin
· Nancy Dickerson as herself
· Eric Sevareid as himself
· Matsu Anderson as Matsu Yamada
· Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr. as himself
· Newt Gingrich as himself
· Eugene McCarthy as himself
· Paul Warnke as himself
· Robert Ellsworth as himself
· Gene La Rocque as himself
Venice Film Festival
Date: August 26 - September 6 1985 Location: Venice, Italy
Awards for 1985
Venice TV Prize
Tied with Les lendemains qui chantent.
Tied with Countdown to Looking Glass.