By John Silva, Tech-Notes Contributing Editor
|In the early days of television at KTLA, Channel 5,
I had the opportunity and pleasure of combining both, the directing of
television shows, and serving as Chief Engineer for the station -- all
at the same time.
This unusual combination came about because the Vice President and General Manager of the station, Klaus Landsberg, had come from an engineering background, but had an enormous flare for television production. He created and directed most of the early TV shows that started as far back as the 1940's.
Over the years, Klaus and I developed a great friendship. This happened as we worked closely together in the experimentation of television programming and engineering in the "early" days. I joined Klaus at KTLA in 1946.
As Klaus developed each show, he then proceeded to
direct it for a
At that point, Klaus would turn the show over to me to direct. I knew each show fairly well because I was his Technical Director on all of these early productions.
In time, Klaus' search for talent led him to the discovery
In 1952, after about a year of doing the show, Klaus
This went on for a while. Finally, Klaus said to me, "enough of this - - John, you have just inherited the Lawrence Welk Show -- I'll show him!" --- He probably thought I would mess it up, and serve him right!
At that point, I started directing the production.
As a matter of fact,
The "Lawrence Welk Show" was both interesting and exciting
The sheet had no music on it, but instead, a sequential
listing of the
It was a matter of getting together with Lawrence before
Once the show was over, and the dust had settled, Lawrence,
At that point in time in the television world, commercials
However, as time went on, the networks began shifting
All was well until he decided to inaugurate the new commercial break timing on the Lawrence Welk Show.
Lawrence was very unhappy about the whole thing, to put it mildly. He felt very strongly that his show would suffer greatly if it were broken up every 10 minutes with commercials. He told Klaus that in no way was he about to change his show format to accommodate a 10-minute commercial interval. Klaus, of course, had other ideas and was not about to be distracted.
During the days preceding the next show, both of them argued their own cases, with neither giving in. Lawrence declared he was doing his show around the 15 minute commercial break timing. Klaus declared the 10-minute format was going to be implanted right on schedule, and that meant on the "Lawrence Welk Show".
On Friday, the day of the impending show, I was confronted
When I got to the Aragon Ballroom prior to the show,
He said that he was not going to hold me personally responsible, but that I had better not work against his format timing. We shook hands and went our own ways.
Finally show time came, and it went off like clockwork in the beginning, that is.
Nine minutes into the show the phone rang, and who's on the other end of the line but Klaus Landsberg, himself.
We've just started a fairly long musical number. I'm busy counting bars to the beat, and switching and dissolving between cameras -- and Klaus is telling me to standby, as we are about to come back for the first commercial break.
As the 10-minute mark came up, and the band was right
in the middle of this intricate number, we switched back to the studio.
I cued my stage manager, who was John Polich, that
we were in a
As performers always play to the camera with the red
tally light on,
When this happened, I saw a strange look come over Lawrence Welk's face.
Anyway, the number concluded, and at that very instant,
Immediately, as scheduled in his program, Lawrence did his commercial lead-in and "sent it back to the studio" -- right in front of God -- and everyone else watching the show!
Of course, we didn't switch back to the studio. Our cameras were focused on Lawrence and the musicians, who were doing absolutely nothing, except maybe scratching their noses or other parts.
As we had about 3 minutes to look forward of observing absolutely nothing, I decided to pan the cameras on the huge audience that surrounded the bandstand.
When Lawrence saw this, he looked very grim. He knew then that he was positively between a rock and hard place.
After about a minute, which seemed like an hour to
me, he directed
Anyway, after about an hour of this, the show finally struggled to a conclusion, and Lawrence managed to do his normal ending.
Needless to say, Lawrence, Roberta and I did not have our usual post show meeting that particular night. After the show, and a brief word with the production crew, I got into my car and headed back to the studio in Hollywood. There was no way I was going to post- mortem the show this particular night, and I was positive that Lawrence felt exactly the same way.
As a postscript to this episode, I would like to say that after that night, Lawrence Welk was a good sport about the experience, and became very cooperative in adapting to the 10-minute interval between commercials from that point on.
Lawrence and I never looked backwards after this episode. Each week after the show, which continued to be rated “number one” for some time, Lawrence, Roberta and I continued to meet in the Aragon Ballroom Lounge to have our post-mortem meeting after each show.
He never mentioned the incident of the preceding week,
nor did I,
ENGINEERING SETUP FOR THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW
For engineers who might be interested in how we did
it back in the
At this time KTLA had two home-made mobile units equipped
Today, everything is digital- based. Back then, everything
was of analog-design, including cameras, monitors, camera control units,
Sylva and Landsberg in home-brew-remote truck
The mobile units were moderately-sized compared to
For the Welk Show, the cameras were RCA TK-30’s having
We were about 25 miles from our KTLA Channel 5 studios
So that we would be in sync with the studio for smooth
As a note of interest, back in the late 40’s and up
to 1950, we built
When our received signal was not acceptably noise-free
I was able
This many times would double or triple the signal power.
Also, during this period our microwave transmitting
In each case, the parabolic reflector surface was accomplished
However, by the time we started doing the Lawrence Welk Show, we had switched to commercially-built, 2 watt, 2-GHz microwave equipment that had then become available. We also were using commercially-built, all-metal, 4-foot transmitter and 6-foot receiver, parabolic microwave dishes with waveguide antenna feeds.
This commercial microwave equipment really helped to
EARLY AND VERY EARLY
Editor’s Note: For more about KTLA and the early days
of TV, stay
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