Studio D...

"Camelot to Sand Lot"

By Roger Lee Miller

Studio D went on line on October 12, 1967. A full page add in BACKSTAGE, February 23, 1968 announced: IN OUR NEW STUDIO D Dick Moss can show you how to do more tricks with a reel of color video tape than most anyone else in town! (More than we could ever tell about here.) But let Dick tell you about it himself. Call him at 644-8300 for a complete description of the equipment, effects, top directors and skilled technical craftsmen available for your commercials. All at competitive prices. We'll do black and white if you insist, but it costs no more to go color. WMAQ-TV VIDEO TAPE PRODUCTIONS.

The copy was set into a full page picture of Dick standing in front of the partially open studio doors. In the background you could see a man and a woman in a commercial set. Lights, a camera and a mike boom filled the scene. Superimposed over the top of Studio D doors, was a graphic resembling a stamp imprint "RESERVED FOR DICK MOSS."

The remodeling of Studio D from radio to television was primarily for videotape production! Expensive national commercials were shot on 35mm film and distributed to the networks. Local stations received 16mm copies. Commercials for local merchants were originally done live. With the introduction of the videotape recorder, in the late '50s, television stations started to tape the "live" commercials and entered the business of producing custom commercials.

This was good business for television stations. We had idle crews between live programs, dark studios and under-used technical facilities.

But Studio D never lived up to its commercial expectations for a number of reasons: Adverting agency producers were becoming more sophisticated and were looking for a "film" look on videotape. Clients became upset when they had to stop and share facilities with the noon news and other programs. Dick never received complete support from middle management and the technical crews. (Only the stagehands, who knew from years of working the theater, that if you don't work - you don't eat, and the directors who made generous fees from commercial production, championed the sessions). Finally, independent videotape production and editing houses, committed to satisfying clients, sprung up around the country.

The morning after the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated (1968), a very tired Jessie Jackson was interviewed from Studio D on the TODAY SHOW.

Network production returned to Studio D for three years, in 1979, with the arrival of Phil Donahue. The TODAY SHOW made a deal with Donahue to produce four eight-minute segments to be aired each week. Originally the segments were to be taped at WGN-TV after Phil's hour syndicated show. This was an obvious violation of the (NABET) National Association of Broadcast Employees & Technicians contract. NABET represented the engineers and had jurisdictional rights over all programs produced solely for NBC. Management said there was no problem. The shows could be produced at WGN-TV.

Well, there was a problem! Less than a week before the first show, the sets, designed for WGN-TV, were sent to Studio D. The stagehands and engineers worked feverishly to set up in time. Al Jerome, station manager, put me on standby to direct the show. It was not known whether Ron Weiner, director of DONAHUE, would join the Directors' Guild, another contractual prerequisite. At 10:00 a.m. on Monday, just three hours before show time, I was called to come in to direct. Phil's words of advice were, "Have fun with it."

On occasion, Marlo Thomas, Phil's wife, would pay a visit to the control room. Wendy Roth, producer of DONAHUE ON TODAY, would slip a note to me, "Marlo’s here." This would be my clue not to make any disparaging remarks about Donahue, as directors are known to do about on camera performers.

Channel Five began telecasting on January 7, 1949. On January 14, 1984, we observed the occasion with a special, CHANNEL FIVE AT 35. One day as Producers Bobbie Clark, Linda Mancuso and I were screening old kinescopes, I screamed at the top of my voice, "THAT'S IT!" Linda and Bobbie looked at me as if I had lost whatever little I had left. We were watching the opening of the DAVE GARROWAY SHOW. I explained my idea. We would duplicate Garroway's opening. The kinescope started with a high crane shot of the drum's cymbals, then dollied back and boomed down to reveal the entire band playing "Sentimental Journey."

CHANNEL FIVE AT 35 opened with that "kine" from the Garroway open. Then I cut to the studio with a high shot of the cymbals, boomed down and dollied back to include Stanley Paul's orchestra playing "Sentimental Journey." In the Garroway tradition, Ron Majors walked into the shot with a magnificent introduction.

I should point out that our crane dollies and mike booms had been discarded by a zealous manager who thought they took up too much storage room. We had to rent them.

The anniversary program featured film and tape clips from old shows. Most of these materials were donated by former and present employees. WMAQ-TV had scrapped scores of films and tapes because they were "useless" and took up too much room. Ron Majors interviewed pioneers Jules Herbuveaux, Dorsey Connors, Burr Tillstrom, Studs Terkel and newsman Jim Ruddle. The producers wanted to interview Floyd Kalber, but were denied this request as Floyd was working for the competition - WLS-TV, Channel 7.

Television and Radio stations are awarded the right to broadcast, "in the public interest," by the Federal Communications Commission. For many years this public interest commitment was served by educational, religious, and children's programming. The three major faith groups taped programs in Studio D. SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS was produced by the Chicago Board of Rabbis. The Archdiocese of Chicago presented GAMUT. EVERYMAN was an ambitious endeavor by the Church Federation of Greater Chicago.

We needed a title for a show featuring Warner Saunders. I must take credit for a brilliant suggestion; we called the show WARNER. This program, inaugurated in 1985, was designed to bring community spokespersons, with opposing views, into a forum of concerned citizens. Warner led the guests and acted as referee.

To create an intimate relationship between the audience and guests, I asked art director Jack Hakman to design a set "in the round." The guests sat on swivel chairs in the center of the audience. Warner worked the audience with a hand mike.

Also in the '80s, program director David Finney created PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL, a series of teleplays produced in concert with Chicago's theatrical community. Chicago writers contributed original scripts. These Emmy awarded programs were directed for television by Jack Ginay, Harold Whiteley and me. Many actors including Jim Belushi, Gary Cole, Joan Cusak, John Cusak, Moria Harris, Laurie Metcalf, Jeremy Pivan, Rondi Reed and Gary Sinise enhanced their talents on PLAYWRIGHTS.

Studio D had its own control room, but shared cameras with E or A. Following the pattern set in radio, control rooms and studios were interchangeable. Originally, the control rooms for E and D were client rooms. Here sponsors could observe network radio programs.

Next: Studio A-1

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Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
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