Monday, September 1, 2014

Ron Giles TV Stories: The Woody Hayes Show, WBNS-TV, Columbus, Ohio, 1968

Every Saturday night during College Football season, Channel 10 carried the Woody Hayes Show live at 11:30 pm, right after the news. The TV Director assigned to the weekend 11:00 pm Newscast also picked up directing the Woody Hayes Show. Additionally, because of the importance of Ohio State Football and of Woody Hayes, the station’s Director of Sports, Marty DeVictor, or the Assistant Sports Director, Ted Mullins were always there to host, even though Saturday was not their regular shift.

When my boss, Paul Yoakum asked me to do the Weekend 11:00 News, I was unaware of all that it entailed--getting in at Noon and being responsible for the station’s afternoon programming which was a mixture of sports, movies and cartoons, with a hard break at 6:28:30 to hit the CBS Evening News from New York at 6:30:00, straight up.

If the afternoon baseball game was rain-delayed or ran into extra innings, it was my job to “fill” the remainder to the next regularly scheduled program, or join our regularly scheduled movie “in progress” (the station rule was that if you missed the first 10 minutes of a movie because of a run-over sporting event, you were on your own to fill with something else – cartoons, a half-hour western or comedy or documentary, etc. It was a real juggling act and caused me a lot of agida.

Once into the CBS Evening News, I then would “time” each story they ran because we were taping it to use in our 11:00 pm News. I would decide which of the stories to use – generally, I used one hard news story, a Haywood Hale Broun sports story and a human interest story if possible, since our Anchorman, Wayne Byers – an acerbic, curmudgeon of sorts – did have a soft spot, and I liked to show it.

Then it was off to see what local news the Channel 10 News Department was working on -- accident on I-70, local inventor, Mayor Sensenbrenner raises parking meter rates.

In the middle of all of this, I would meet with the Ted Mullins about THE WOODY HAYES SHOW – three segments; first, Woody and Ted discuss game; second, Woody, Ted and the offensive star of the game; finally, Woody, Ted and the defensive star. But, not on this night – Woody was bringing the entire Defensive Team, because they had been outstanding in the 50-14 defeat of Michigan. Aaaand … Woody wanted each of the players miked, so they could talk at any time and because in Woody's mind, having your own microphone was a status symbol.. 

"Whaaaat! Their own mikes? We don’t have that many mikes!" I said with agida.

“Well, Ron you’re a bright guy. Figure something out!” said Ted with calm logic.


When I first understood that I was going to be involved with THE WOODY HAYES SHOW, I decided to try for a meeting with the Coach himself – to get to know him and so he could get to know me (like that would make a difference).

We met in Woody’s office at Ohio State. He was expecting me and made me feel welcome. At no time during the hour did I feel that he was unhappy at having to do this or that he was speaking down to me. He accepted me as a professional and seemed to enjoy the time we spent together. This could have been because the first five minutes were about me and the next 55 minutes were about him, the game of football and War, in general, and World War II specifically. Woody related everything in football to WAR – a titanic struggle of importance to the young men involved and to Ohio State. 

“It’s not just a game, dogonnit, Giles. IT’S WAR!” and with that he slammed his ham-sized fist down on his standard issue gray metal desk. 
  • BANG
Woody was not a maniac. He was passionate and intense and studied.

Wayne Woodrow Hayes had enlisted in the Navy before Pearl Harbor and rose to become Lt. Commander by the end of World War II, commanding a Submarine Chaser, PC 1251, and then later the Destroyer-Escort, the USS Rinehart in the Pacific. The words “flank”, “block” and “offense” had many meanings to Coach Hayes.

“I want what’s best for each one of these players and to me that means that they have to give their best, do their best, be their best – and it just might take ME to bring it out of them. They need to know discipline, teamwork, how to set each other up for a personal victory, how to take one for the team. They might need to know what defeat tastes like and BY GOLLY they will taste VICTORY!
  • BANG
That meeting must have gone well for me because Joan and I were invited to a pre-season party at the Upper Arlington home of Woody and his wife, Anne. It was a big, two story brick affair with a large front yard and a larger back yard – perfect for a large party. In this case, the invitees were the sponsors of the TV show – Grange Mutual Insurance Company – the TV station management (and me) along with spouses/friends and the entire Ohio State Football team.

I introduced Woody to Joan and he shook her hand. I saw the barely contained grimace on her face as Woody gave her his standard handshake which could deflate a football.

Just then a player rushed up to the coach and explained that they were having trouble “tapping” the beer keg. Woody excused himself and went over to the keg which was in a sling between two sawhorses. Woody bent over and looked at the keg, then backed up and hit the keg on the top with his fist.
  • BANG
The beer was flowing in no time at all after that. Joan would have had a glass but her hand was unusable for two days after Woody’s handshake.


I approached the Engineering Crew Chief, Oliver McNally, about the microphone problem. We only had four lavaliere mikes and Woody and Ted would wear two of them; I needed 14 more mikes!
I asked the Crew Chief if we could use a boom mike which would require another operator in the studio; someone would have to stay over an extra 30 minutes and get paid an hour of overtime (even though we did not have a Union, we behaved as if we did so as to prevent the need for one.)

“And who’s going to authorize the overtime?” the Chief asked. 

“I will,” I said authoritatively, not knowing if I could in fact authorize it. 

 “You can’t do that,” he responded, knowing more than me in his fifteen years at the station, compared to my two. 

“Look, Oliver, if it comes down to it, I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket.” (Joan and I couldn’t afford to buy beef stew meat rather than hamburger, so the overtime might set us back to bologna this month.) 

“OK, but I’m going to hold you to paying the overtime if management won’t,” said Mac. 


Now to position it with Coach Hayes. The Grange Mutual reps arrived with Woody at 10:30 pm. I explained that instead of everyone having their own mike, we had even a better situation for the Defensive Team – a Boom Mike.  It would be cleaner than fourteen mikes because the players could trip over so many cables! Everyone loved the solution, and Yoakum told me later that keeping Woody happy was good business for all of us; the station would pick up the overtime – no bologna necessary for the Giles family! Beef Stew was still a little ways off, though.


Quotes from Woody Hayes:
  • "You don't get hurt running straight ahead...three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense. I will pound you and pound you until you quit."
  • "I don't live in the past. I'm a student of the past, and I try to learn from the past, although some people will say, 'You haven't done a very good job of it.' But for me to live in the past? No.”
  • "The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium."
  • "I'm not trying to win a popularity poll. I'm trying to win football games. I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people."
  • “Coach, you were ahead by an insurmountable margin. Why did you go for a two point conversion after the final touchdown?”     Coach Hayes: “Because I couldn't go for three points.”
Wayne Woodrow Hayes, 1913 - 1987

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The US Presidents

Having received an undergraduate degree in History and having taught the subject for three years, I still maintain a passion for American History. As we approach President's Day, I invite you to peruse this list of US Presidents with a brief Curriculum Vitae of their lives. This is taken from the teachers guide at the website for Scholastic Magazine:

Guide to U.S. Presidents from Scholastic Magazine

1. George Washington
Born: February 22, 1732; Westmoreland County, Virginia.
Died: December 14, 1799
Party: None
Age when inaugurated: 57
Term: 1789–1797. The first President unified the new nation and shaped the chief executive's duties. He refused to run for a third term.
Famous Fact: On their wedding day, Martha Washington gave him a miniature portrait of herself. He wore it on a chain around his neck until his death 40 years later.

2. John Adams
Born: October 30, 1735; Braintree, Massachusetts
Died: July 4, 1826
Party: Federalist
Age when inaugurated: 61
Term: 1797–1801. Adams had a tough job filling Washington's shoes. His advocacy of the Alien and Sedition Acts allowed him to silence critics, but made him unpopular. He lost reelection to Thomas Jefferson.
Famous Fact: Adams was the first President to live in the White House.

3. Thomas Jefferson
Born: April 13, 1743; Albemarle County, Virginia
Died: July 4, 1826
Party: Democratic-Republican
Age when inaugurated: 57
Term: 1801–1809. Jefferson approved the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which nearly doubled the size of the U.S.
Famous Fact: Considered the most brilliant President, he wrote the Declaration of Independence, founded the University of Virginia, and was an architect, a farmer, and a scientist.

4. James Madison
Born: March 16, 1751; Port Conway, Virginia
Died: June 28, 1836
Party: Democratic-Republican
Age when inaugurated: 57
Term: 1809–1817. Madison presided over the War of 1812 with Britain, during which the White House was burned. The war ended in a draw.
Famous Fact: Madison is considered the father of the Bill of Rights.

5. James Monroe
Born: April 28, 1758; Westmoreland County, Virginia
Died: July 4, 1831
Party: Democratic-Republican
Age when inaugurated: 58
Term: 1817–1825. His term is called the "Era of Good Feeling" because there was little partisan fighting. He formulated the Monroe Doctrine, which declared the Americas off-limits to European meddling.
Famous Fact: Monroe lived out his retirement in poverty.

6. John Quincy Adams
Born: July 11, 1767; Braintree, Massachusetts
Died: February 23, 1848
Party: Democratic-Republican
Age when inaugurated: 57
Term: 1825–1829. Accused of winning the White House through corruption, he was plagued by accusations of misdeeds often untrue and he accomplished little.
Famous Fact: John Adams and John Quincy Adams were the first father and son to have served as Presidents.

7. Andrew Jackson
Born: March 15, 1767; Waxhaw settlement, South Carolina
Died: June 8, 1845
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 61
Term: 1829–1837. Though he was a rich planter, Jackson was considered the common people's friend. Dubbed "Old Hickory" because he was so tough, Jackson greatly expanded the powers of the Presidency.
Famous Fact: Jackson was the first President to ride on a train.

8. Martin Van Buren
Born: December 5, 1782; Kinderhook, New York
Died: July 24, 1862. Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 54
Term: 1837–1841. Van Buren's Presidency was marred by an economic depression that led to bank failures and food riots. He was easily defeated for reelection.
Famous Fact: Van Buren was the first President to be born an American citizen, rather than a British subject.

9. William Henry Harrison
Born: February 9, 1773; Berkeley, Virginia
Died: April 4, 1841
Party: Whig
Age when inaugurated: 68
Term: 1841. Harrison delivered a marathon inaugural speech during which he caught a cold. He died a month later.
Famous Fact: Harrison was the first President to die in office and he served the briefest term.

10. John Tyler
Born: March 29, 1790; Greenway, Virginia
Died: January 18, 1862
Party: Whig
Age when inaugurated: 51
Term: 1841–1845. Tyler was expected to be a passive "acting President" while he finished Harrison's term. But he refused to be passive. He made enemies in Congress and was the first President to be threatened with impeachment. The effort failed.
Famous Fact: Tyler had 15 children, more than any President.

11. James K. Polk
Born: November 2, 1795; near Pineville, North Carolina
Died: June 15, 1849
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 49
Term: 1845–1849. Polk was the first "dark horse"or little-known nominee to become President. He presided over the Mexican War, which added Texas, California, and other territory to the U.S.
Famous Fact: Polk is the only President to have served as Speaker of the House.

12. Zachary Taylor
Born: November 24, 1784; Orange County, Virginia
Died: July 9, 1850
Party: Whig
Age when inaugurated: 64
Term: 1849–1850. Taylor threatened to use force to keep the South from leaving the Union. After his death, a compromise allowed slavery to continue in the South.
Famous Fact: Taylor won fame as a general in the Mexican War. His soldiers called him "Old Rough and Ready."

13. Millard Fillmore
Born: January 7, 1800; Locke, New York
Died: March 8, 1874
Party: Whig
Age when inaugurated: 50
Term: 1850–1853. Fillmore approved the Compromise of 1850, allowing slavery in the South. But neither North nor South was happy with it, and Fillmore was blamed for the law's failure.
Famous Fact: In 1856, Fillmore ran for President on the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party ticket.

14. Franklin Pierce
Born: November 23, 1804; Hillsboro, New Hampshire
Died: October 8, 1869
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 48
Term: 1853–1857. Pierce supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which gutted the Compromise of 1850.
Famous Fact: Pierce's wife hated Washington, D.C., so much, that she fainted when she found out he had been nominated for President.

15. James Buchanan
Born: April 23, 1791; near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
Died: June 1, 1868
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 65
Term: 1857–1861. Buchanan tried in vain to find a compromise to keep the South from seceding from the Union, but failed.
Famous Fact: Buchanan was the only bachelor to ever serve in the White House.

16. Abraham Lincoln
Born: February 12, 1809; near Hodgenville, Kentucky
Died: April 15, 1865
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 52
Term: 1861–1865. Lincoln led the Union into the Civil War to preserve the nation and end slavery. He was assassinated just five days after the Confederate armies surrendered.
Famous Fact: Polls show that Lincoln is the most admired President.

17. Andrew Johnson
Born: December 29, 1808; Raleigh, North Carolina
Died: July 31, 1875
Party: National Union
Age when inaugurated: 56
Term: 1865–1869. Succeeding Lincoln, Johnson found himself in bitter battles with Congress over Reconstruction. He was impeached and tried by the Senate, but was acquitted by one vote.
Famous Fact: Johnson was the only southern Senator to stay loyal to the Union.

18. Ulysses S. Grant
Born: April 27, 1822; Point Pleasant, Ohio
Died: July 23, 1885
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 46
Term: 1869–1877. Grant was the top Union military hero of the Civil War. His two terms were marred by scandals.
Famous Fact: Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. But an error on his application to West Point changed his name to Ulysses Simpson Grant. He liked the initials so much that he kept the name.

19. Rutherford B. Hayes
Born: October 4, 1822; Delaware, Ohio
Died: January 17, 1893
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 54
Term: 1877–1881. Hayes is one of only three Presidents to lose the popular vote but win the office. He won the election by one electoral vote.
Famous Fact: Hayes's wife, Lucy, was the first First Lady to graduate from college.

20. James A. Garfield
Born: November 19, 1831; Orange, Ohio
Died: September 19, 1881
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 49
Term: 1881. Garfield set out to reform the "spoils system" by which politicians gave their friends low-level political offices. He was assassinated by a disappointed office seeker.
Famous Fact: Garfield was the first left-handed President.

21. Chester A. Arthur
Born: October 5, 1829; Fairfield, Vermont
Died: November 18, 1886
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 51
Term: 1881–1885. Arthur was unknown before being elected, but surprised people by being honest and responsible. He helped create the Civil Service.
Famous Fact: As a lawyer, Arthur defended a black woman who had been abused on a streetcar. He won the case, which led the streetcar companies to integrate.

22. Grover Cleveland
Born: March 18, 1837; Caldwell, New Jersey
Died: June 24, 1908
Party: Democratic
Ages when inaugurated: 47; 55
Terms: 1885–1889; 1893–1897. Cleveland expanded the Civil Service and ended wasteful government programs. But an economic depression wrecked his second term.
Famous Fact: Cleveland is the only President to be elected to two non consecutive terms.

23. Benjamin Harrison
Born: August 20, 1833; North Bend, Ohio
Died: March 13, 1901
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 55
Term: 1889–1893. Harrison was caught between reformers who were fighting the spoils system and those who wanted to continue it, and was defeated after one term.
Famous Fact: Harrison's grandfather was President William Henry Harrison.

24. Grover Cleveland
Born: March 18, 1837; Caldwell, New Jersey
Died: June 24, 1908
Party: Democratic
Ages when inaugurated: 47; 55
Terms: 1885–1889; 1893-1897. Cleveland expanded the Civil Service and ended wasteful government programs. But an economic depression wrecked his second term.
Famous Fact: Cleveland is the only President to be elected to two non consecutive terms.

25. William McKinley
Born: January 29, 1843; Niles, Ohio
Died: September 14, 1901
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 54
Term: 1897–1901. McKinley led the U.S. during the Spanish-American War. The U.S. won several important overseas colonies.
Famous Fact: Only moments after handing a girl his "lucky" red carnation, McKinley was assassinated.

26. Theodore Roosevelt
Born: October 27, 1858; New York, New York
Died: January 6, 1919
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 42
Term: 1901–1909. Roosevelt was one of the most activist Presidents. His many accomplishments included the building of the Panama Canal, cracking down on business monopolies, and creating many national parks.
Famous Fact: Roosevelt was the first President to visit a foreign country while in office.

27. William Howard Taft
Born: September 15, 1857; Cincinnati, Ohio
Died: March 8, 1930
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 51
Term: 1909–1913. Taft continued many of Roosevelt's policies. A conservative, he alienated the progressive wing of his party and lost reelection.
Famous Fact: Taft is the only President who became a Supreme Court Justice.

28. Woodrow Wilson
Born: December 29, 1856; Staunton, Virginia
Died: February 3, 1924
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 56
Term: 1913–1921. After initially opposing World War I (1914-1918), Wilson led the U.S. into the war and drafted the peace plan that ended it. Wilson then fought to create the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations.
Famous Fact: Wilson was the first President to hold a news conference.

29. Warren G. Harding
Born: November 2, 1865; near Blooming Grove, Ohio
Died: August 2, 1923
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 55
Term: 1921–1923. Harding died in office, just as massive corruption in the Teapot Dome scandal was about to become public. Because of these scandals, Harding is regarded as the worst President.
Famous Fact: Harding's election was the first in which women voted.

30. Calvin Coolidge
Born: July 4, 1872; Plymouth Notch, Vermont
Died: January 5, 1933
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 51
Term: 1923–1929. Coolidge's term was marked by economic prosperity. However, he ignored signs that the stock market was likely to collapse.
Famous Fact: Coolidge was known as "Silent Cal." Once a reporter said to him, "I bet my editor I could get more than two words out of you." Coolidge replied: "You lose."

31. Herbert C. Hoover
Born: August 10, 1874; West Branch, Iowa
Died: October 20, 1964
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 54
Term: 1929–1933. The stock market crashed a few months into Hoover's term. The Great Depression that followed was widely and some say unfairly blamed on Hoover.
Famous Fact: Hoover organized relief efforts in Europe after both World Wars.

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Born: January 30, 1882; Hyde Park, New York
Died: April 12, 1945
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 51
Term: 1933–1945. Roosevelt led the nation out of the Great Depression of the 1930s and to victory in World War II (1941–1945). He also greatly expanded the size and role of the federal government through his New Deal social programs.
Famous Fact: Roosevelt is the only President elected four times.

33. Harry S. Truman
Born: May 8, 1884; Lamar, Missouri
Died: December 26, 1972
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 60
Term: 1945–1953. Truman made the fateful decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. World War II ended days later. Truman also led the U.S. during the Korean War (1950-1953).
Famous Fact: On his desk, Truman had a plaque that said "The Buck Stops Here."

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Born: October 14, 1890; Denison, Texas
Died: March 28, 1969
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 62
Term: 1953–1961. A former World War II general and hero, Eisenhower helped end the Korean War and steered a moderate course during the Cold War.
Famous Fact: One of America's most famous soldiers, "Ike" had wanted to go to the Naval Academy instead of West Point. He was turned down for being too old.

35. John F. Kennedy
Born: May 29, 1917; Brookline, Massachusetts
Died: November 22, 1963
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 43
Term: 1961–1963. In 1962, the U.S. and the Soviet Union hovered on the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy eventually forced the Soviets to back down. He was assassinated in the third year of his term.
Famous Fact: Kennedy is the only Roman Catholic to become President.

36. Lyndon B. Johnson
Born: August 27, 1908; near Stonewall, Texas
Died: January 22, 1973
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 55
Term: 1963–1969. Johnson passed sweeping antipoverty and civil rights programs. However, he also involved the U.S. in the unpopular Vietnam War. Antiwar protests caused him to drop a reelection bid.
Famous Fact: Johnson was sworn into office on an airplane after the Kennedy assassination.

37. Richard M. Nixon
Born: January 9, 1913; Yorba Linda, California
Died: April 22, 1994
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 56
Term: 1969–1974. During Nixon's first term, he improved relations with the Soviet Union and China and wound down the Vietnam War. But the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign before Congress could impeach him.
Famous Fact: Nixon is the only U.S. President in history to resign his office.

38. Gerald R. Ford
Born: July 14, 1913; Omaha, Nebraska
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 61
Term: 1974–1977. Ford became Vice President after Nixon's Vice President resigned in disgrace, and President after Nixon resigned. His pardon of Nixon was unpopular, probably costing him reelection.
Famous Fact: Ford is the only President never elected President or Vice President.

39. James E. (Jimmy) Carter
Born: October 1, 1924; Plains, Georgia
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 52
Term: 1977–1981. Carter had success promoting Middle East peace. But soaring oil prices, high inflation, and the Iran hostage crisis made him look weak and ineffectual.
Famous Fact: Since leaving office, Carter has traveled the world doing charity work.

40. Ronald W. Reagan
Born: February 6, 1911; Tampico, Illinois
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 69
Term: 1981–1989. Reagan is credited with reviving national pride after the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s. He enjoyed great popularity, though his conservative policies were controversial.
Famous Fact: Reagan is the only President to survive after being wounded by a would-be assassin.
41. George H. W. Bush
Born: June 12, 1924; Milton, Massachusetts
Party: Republican
Age when inaugurated: 64
Term: 1989–1993. During Bush's term, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. He also led the U.S. in the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. But economic troubles at home cost him his reelection bid.
Famous Fact: Bush was the first sitting Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren.

42. William J. (Bill) Clinton
Born: August 19, 1946; Hope, Arkansas
Party: Democratic
Age when inaugurated: 46
Term: 1993–2000. Clinton achieved goals such as passage of the NAFTA trade agreement and cuts in the budget deficit. But his popularity was uneven and opponents tried to link him to several scandals.
Famous Fact: At 16, Clinton met President Kennedy at the White House. It inspired his interest in politics.

43. George W. Bush
Born: July 6, 1946; New Haven, Connecticut
Party: Republican.
Age when inaugurated: 54
Term: 2001–2008. Just eight months after being sworn in, President Bush had to unite a mournful country after the September 11th terrorist attacks. A self-proclaimed wartime commander-in-chief, President Bush, like his father, led the United States into war against Iraq.
Famous Fact: Before focusing on national politics, George Bush was the managing partner and part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team from 1989-1998.

44. Barack Obama
Born: August 4, 1961; Honolulu, Hawaii
Party: Democrat
Age when inaugurated: 47
Term: 2009–2013; 2013–2017
Famous Fact: Barack Obama is the first African American president of the United States.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"The Audition" from Ron Giles TV Stories

TV Stories is a compilation of interesting people and incidents from my 35 years in Television. The following is an excerpt from this book I have been working on since 2007.  This story happened in Cincinnati, Ohio, at WCPO-TV where I was Executive Producer of Programming, 1974-1977.  It is about an audition that I was holding to uncover "kid talent" for an upcoming production that the General Manager wanted to undertake.
Although we felt that to find the “right” boy and girl leads we would have to go to New York agents, we wanted to use local talent if possible. I arranged a Saturday Audition for adolescents, ages eleven to fifteen and asked my casting agent, Art, to fill out the schedule, 15 minutes at a time for as long as it took. 

The auditions took place in our Green Room and were to be recorded on videotape by our videographer, Denny.  Each candidate would come prepared to present a reading of their choosing, then we (me and them) would do some improvisational acting, and finally, we would read a dramatic passage from “The Velveteen Rabbit,” a 1922 story about a stuffed rabbit who wants to become a real rabbit.

We began at 10:00 in the morning and saw a tremendous number of children, all scrubbed and perky.  Although it was tiring, I was having a good time interacting with these young minds, similar in age to those Junior High students that I had as a history teacher which seemed like eons ago, but in fact there was only ten years separation my class room days.

At Art’s urging, we kept the parents out of the audition room.  Occasionally, I would make an appearance in the lobby, a “walk through” as Art phrased it, so that the parents could see that I wasn’t a pervert, but was instead a warm, witty human TV Producer.  Art, who was a jovial man, entertained the parents, primarily mothers, keeping them away from me and their offspring.

As the clock approached two in the afternoon, we had the last two children –  two boys from the Parker family, which Art described as the best theatrical family in the area – the Parker family with a large number of children from two marriages, three of which as children were involved in the theater scene in Cincinnati.  I was seeing Pippin Parker and his brother Britten Parker.

Pippin and Britten were by far the best I had seen that day.  Both had obviously benefitted from theatrical training, but both were too mature for the envisioned male lead.  Their voices had changed and they were getting muscular as young boys do on their way to manhood.  Of course, we did not disclose our decision then, but I knew that we had to find someone of their caliber but only aged twelve or thirteen.

We had worked our way through the entire list.  Denny and I were very tired, but felt that we had been privileged to see such talent and hope in the young people that we had met, even though I knew we had not seen anyone that fit the lead roles.

Art came in to the Green Room.

“Ron,” Art asked cautiously, “can you take one more candidate?”

“Did someone who cancelled show up?  Who is it?” I asked.

“You’re not going to believe this, but it’s another Parker, a girl who came with her brothers and mother.  The Mom is not pressing me for her to audition for you, it’s the kid herself who wants to read for you.”

I couldn’t turn that down.  Somebody who knows what they want and is not afraid to ask for it deserves a look. Denny was already turning his gear back on before I answered Art.  He knew what I was going to say.

“Send her in,” I said smiling.

Soon Art brought in just the cutest girl I had seen that day.  “Ron, this is Sarah. And Sarah, that’s Ron who will be reading with you and Denny, who will be taping the audition.” 
She strode over to us and confidently extended her hand to me and said, “Thank you for seeing me,” and then moved on to shake hands with Denny.  The room was hers.

Sarah was nine years old, wearing a casual dress with white anklets and canvas shoes.  Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail.  Physically, she was small, making her appear younger than she was.  I knew that she was too young for the role, but wanted to go ahead with the audition.

We got down to business following the same procedure as I had with the others.  Sarah had prepared a reading, which means she had planned to jump into the audition even though her mother had not signed her up.

We turned to improvisation.  I started out easy on her.  “Let’s say I go to the zoo and you are the animals I see, but you can speak to me.  Ready?”

We went through the elephant, and the lioness and she was doing a lot more with the animals physically and intellectually than I expected so I upped my game and went to the peacock and asked about her physical beauty.

“I like my colors, there are so many,” she cooed as she moved smoothly, to a sideways position. ”Can you see them all?”

“Yes,” I answered her.  “You must feel sorry for your sisters, the poor sparrows, they are so drab and not beautiful like you.”

“Oh, I think we are all equally beautiful, but sometimes it’s hard for our eyes to see the prettiness of others,” she counseled.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a big smile cross Denny’s face.  Sarah not only held character, but gave the peacock a depth which was unexpected.  Had it been me, I would have feigned sadness and pity for the poor dingy sparrows.

“Aren’t you jealous of the Owl who has eyes in the front of his head?”

Sarah dipped her head slowly and moved her shoulders fluidly, adding physicality to her portrayal of the peacock.  “We all have what we were given.  And…look what I have.” She took three slow steps forward with pointed toes, elegantly, like a dancer and then stopped, posing.

“Terrific,” I smiled, breaking exercise.  “Let’s turn to a reading using the Velveteen Rabbit.”

Once again, she surprised me with the use of her voice and the emotion she could produce on the spot, plus she was reading material that many eleven year olds would stumble through.  Sarah was wonderful, but she looked seven, and simply could not be cast in the role we had envisioned.

Both Denny and I were effusive in our praise of her performance in the audition.  I escorted her out to the Lobby where her Mother and brothers were waiting.  Sarah went to her brothers and they huddled to talk about their experiences in the audition, leaving her Mother with Art and I.

“Sarah,” I said in a low but enthusiastic voice to Mrs. Parker, “was the best I saw today.  She is very talented at this age and will only get better and better.  I know you are getting coaching for your other children, and that is expensive, but Sarah is exceptional.  Unfortunately, she is simply too young for what we need as a central character, but if we go forward with this project, I will make sure we will have a role for her.”

Mrs. Parker was gracious and understanding.  I thought about asking Bob to reconsider his concept so that we could write a script around Sarah, using a different story-line, but the whole idea got placed on a back burner when the major department store in Cncinnati, Pogue’s, wanted to sponsor a Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I was placed in charge of the production.

I never forgot the little girl, Sarah, who grew to become quite a star as Sarah Jessica Parker.

“Annie,” Broadway Production, 1979.
Sarah Jessica Parker (age 14) in the lead role of Annie.  Sarah succeeded Andrea McCardle who was originally cast as “Annie.” A year earlier, Sarah and four of her siblings were in “Annie” at a St. Louis regional theater.

1984 – “Footloose,” starring Kevin Bacon.
Sarah Jessica Parker as “Rusty”
John Lithgow as “Rev. Shaw Moore”
Lori Singer as “Ariel Moore”
“Sex and the City,” HBO Series 1998 – 2004
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw

Awards -- Emmy, Golden Globe

“Time Magazine” one of the best 100 TV Series of all time (2007)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Flippo, Dan Imel and The Early Show on WBNS-TV, Channel 10 -- Columbus Ohio

From 1968 to 1970, I had the pleasure (and pressure) of working with the #1 TV personality in Columbus, Ohio -- a wise-cracking, saxophone player who hosted the afternoon movie from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm dressed as a clown.  He was Flippo, King of the Clowns, played by Bob Marvin, and the program was titled "The Early Show."  This is an excerpt from my unedited manuscript, TV Stories, about working 35 years in Television with some of the finest characters.
For the Television Director, me (and every other Director who worked The Early Show with Flippo), the problem was getting all the commercials in, getting the movie all the way to “The End” by 5:57:30, while dealing with a performer who had a great sense of comical timing, but cared less about the timing of the show.

           “I get paid to be funny and you get paid to control the show.  That’s why you work in the Control Room and I work with a red ping pong ball glued on my nose.”

The only way to do all of this and let the Clown be the Clown was to roll off the movie during the break when no one could see it in order to make up the lost time that the Clown would consume.  I would time the show down to the second before sitting with the Clown while he put on his make-up in the dressing room and then follow the plan to the second. I even had the Art Department make up a “The End” slide to superimpose over the movie in case we got in real trouble; I never used it, but the slide was always loaded.

Timing of The Early Show got more complicated when the Writer’s Guild at the Columbus Dispatch Newspaper went on strike.  The station depended upon TV Guide and the Dispatch for printing TV schedules and our advertising of special programs.  The lack of a newspaper was a big promotional loss. 
In  order to make up for the missing promotion, Station management asked the Booth Announcer scheduled during the Early Show to be the station's on-camera promotional vehicle, replacing the newspaper.  Who was in the Booth?  A man just discharged from Armed Forces Radio in Germany. He was golden-voiced, handsome, well-dressed, and straight-laced--a guy named Dan Imel, a perfect foil for Flippo’s zaniness.  The break nearest the 5:00pm hour quickly became the highest rated break of all the Early Show because that was when I would schedule Imel.  Flippo was witty and edgy with Mr. Nice Guy; Dan was ever the gentleman.
The Clown would introduce Dan, saying something like “and now here’s the only man I know who drives to work in a milk truck (standing up so as not to wrinkle his clothes) … Dan Eye-mul.”
“That’s Ih-mul,” Dan would say, walking into the frame of the shot.

The Clown would sing the tune of “You Say Potato and I say Potahto, “instead substituting the words… “You say Ih-mul and I say Eye-mul, you say …”

Dan would interrupt Flippo and start the promotion. “At 8:00 tonight on Green Acres…,” and the Clown would continue singing off-camera, humming the tune while Dan spoke.  After the newspaper strike was settled, Dan became a permanent feature of the Early Show because the Promo segment  had become so popular with the audience.

Sometimes when Dan was on camera by himself in a medium shot, chest up, the Clown would stand just outside the camera frame and slowly move his head forward, till just the curve of his red nose showed on TV; they would be inches apart.  Dan would continue reading but occasionally do a side-glance at the nose.  The comedic tension was palpable.

Once, a viewer sent me 15 brain teasers, for what reason was not clear.  #3 was
“How do you pronounce the Capital of Kentucky, Lewisville or Loueeville?” Answer:  “Neither. Frankfort is the Capital of Kentucky.”

I decided to give the Clown one of these brain teasers each day to ask Imel.  Without the Clown knowing it, I would then give Dan the answer.  Although the Clown always did the “snappers,” this was a reversal – which Dan and Flippo played to the hilt.

Clown:  “Say Dan, I was wondering—if I had two coins that totaled 55 cents, and one of them was not a nickel, what are the two coins?”

Dan would look at him and say without missing a beat, “A nickel and a fifty cent piece, since one of them was not a nickel.”  Then they would continue to look at each other, silently, staring.  The TV staff, gathered in the studio for these two, would start chuckling; finally Dan would turn to the camera and start his promotion.  The Clown always smiled.  I never told Flippo how Dan knew the answer every time.

Whatever the timing problems with the show were, however, there always had to be time for  Bob's signature goodbye at the end:  Remember -- I love you; keep smilin' and don't fight.

TV Stories
by Ronald D. Giles © 2013

Flippo photo by Howard R. Krommes
Dan Imel photo by Ron Giles