EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSINGS! Connections: #66

     It’s been a tough couple of months with the passing of two dear friends.    First, a while back, was Lew Weitzman who was my literary agent, on and off, for more years than I care to mention.  However, I will mention that Lew was one of the kindest, most mannered, honest, caring men I’ve ever known.  I attended his memorial at the Directors Guild Theatre in Hollywood, which was filled to capacity with family and friends.  He founded the Preferred Artists Agency, which is now being headed by his son Paul Weitzman.

     Just last Sunday Syd Field passed away.  We worked together back in the day at David L. Wolper Productions.   The show, which ran for 33 weeks, was Hollywood and the Stars on the NBC Television Network.  Syd then wrote a “how to” book  for screenwriters that sold over one million copies.  He went on to write several other best selling tutorials, and he is acknowledged by his peers as the most effective teacher of screenwriting — Ever!

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EXTRA! EXTRA! Cinerama Dome’s 50th Birthday: Connections #65

     November 7th, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, California.

     November 7th, 1963 I was a newreel cameraman for KHJ-TV in Los Angeles.  The occasion was the world première of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” in a theatre based on a geodesic dome developed by R. Buckmaster Fuller.  This premier marked the dawn of “single lens” Cinerama.

Photo of the Cinerama Dome on November 7, 1963

Photo of the Cinerama Dome on November 7, 1963

     Directed by Stanley Kramer, the cast was outstanding: Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, and a host of other stars including legendary Buster Keaton.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSINGS PBS Loses a Friend: Connections #63

     On July 10, James L. Loper, a founder and former president of  KCET Channel 28 who helped build the public broadcasting station into one of the nation’s leading noncommercial outlets, has died. He was 81.

     Loper, who went on to oversee the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, died Monday at his Pasadena home, his family said. No cause was announced.

     An Arizona transplant, Loper was a doctoral student at USC in the early 1960s when he joined a small group, the Committee for Educational Television, that was trying to establish a public broadcasting station in Los Angeles.

     When KCET went on the air in 1964, Loper was director of educational television. About two years later, he took charge of the station, first as vice president and general manager and then as president from 1971 to 1983.

     He “left an indelible mark on the history of KCET and public television,” Al Jerome, chief executive of KCETLink, as the former PBS outlet is now known, said in a statement. “Jim launched several national productions that aligned the Hollywood entertainment community with the newly emerging national program service PBS.”

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Clete Roberts, popular Los Angeles TV Reporter

Clete Roberts, popular Los Angeles TV Reporter

TV Reporter Clete Roberts was a close friend of James Loper and did many public affairs segments for KCET, and I was the 16mm newsreel cameraman.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS Location Expo: Connections #62

     Every year Los Angeles hosts the Location Expo. a market place where U.S. states and cities, foreign countries and cities try to woo filmmakers to shoot their movies at these particular locations all over the world.

     This year the Location Expo was held at the L.A. Convention Center, and I attended on Saturday.  I knew several people who worked for locations that had booths there, and I received useful intel. from a representative of the Big Island of Hawaii.  I also had conversations with representatives I did not know before and  everyone, of course, was very friendly because they are there to attract producers like myself to shoot their movies at the places they represent.

     Most locations now offer tax credits that are a major attraction for filmmakers, because it can reduce the total cost of the film by 10%-30%.  But “buyer beware,” it is not an easy route to go.  I will be happy to answer any questions about that, so feel free to contact me.

Vampires In Movies Are Loved

Vampires In The Movies Are Loved!

     No, I did not meet any Vampires, or at least I don’t think I did … but it was bloody hot in Los Angeles yesterday

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EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS Christmas in May in Chicago: Connections #61

     The flight on United Airlines from Los Angeles to Chicago was one of the bumpiest rides in my entire life.  About one hour away from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport the aircraft started its gymnastics.  I was seated in the last row at the rear so I was aware if there was turbulence it would be amplified.  But this was ridiculous!  Without any warning the plane started bumping and grinding like a stripper in a dark club.  The plane then dropped like a roller coaster plunging down a steep incline.  There was absolute silence in the cabin.  The turbulence continued for what seemed like hours but in reality was probably about 20 minutes.

     I endured this torture to be present at the recording of my friend Bob Christian’s taping in Skokie, Illinois., of “A Christmas Carol,”  which will be shown on PBS this Christmas season.

     There were 3 complete shows with 7 cameras, one of them always flying in the air, a 44 piece symphony orchestra, conductor, two coral groups, and wonderful talent playing the principal roles in this timeless story. One show was with an audience and some little girls were dressed in their Christmas finest.  At the end of this performance there was a well-deserved standing ovation for all of the performers.

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     The other two performances, one of them pictured above, were for backup to accommodate making the best possible choices of everyone’s performances.

     All in all, “A Christmas Carol” is a wonderful show, and I’ll be counting the days to Christmas.

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EXTRA! EXTRA! EXTRAS News and Nostalga: Connections #60

      Jonathan Winters recently passed away  in Montecito, CA, and it brought back memories of the ’60s when I worked as a newsreel cameraman in Los Angeles for Channel 9, KHJ-TV.  I had a special license plate on my car.  It was exactly like the one in this picture, but without the license plate holder and the words “SLO Skiers.”  This was during the days when gas station attendants filled up your tank with gas.  So many attendants would ask me what the “PP” meant.  These were the days of the 20th Century Fox TV hit “Payton Place.” Of course, I would always reply “Payton Place.”

PP License Plate

PP License Plate

     I covered hundreds, maybe thousands of news stories and one of them was the world premiere of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” which also happened to be the grand opening of the newly built Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

     Recently while I was supervising some video mastering of “Atlas Shrugged – The Strike” at FotoKem in Burbank, I saw this picture of the premiere of “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” on the wall in the lobby of the Conversions Department.  The place has lots of expensive video recorders, monitors, etc.  You don’t want to have to pay the monthly electrical bill to power this equipment, and dozens of skilled technicians inhabit this place, which is not cheap, either.

     Getting back to this picture,  I think I can recognize myself in the crowd of photographers and newsreel cameramen outside on the sidewalk. If you look very carefully, you can see the reflection of me taking this picture.  In show biz, this is a twofer.  Oh well, I’m not a comedian.

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World Premier at new Cinerama Dome in Hollywood