Sunday, May 4

A nostalgic trip

I just finished watching a wonderful television show, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, on the Turner Classic Movies channel. It was made in 1965, and still amazes me with its production values. I left broadcast television in 1961, and am pretty aware of what was possible back then. Color cameras were behemoths; at our station our RCA color camera with its wheeled pedestal weighed, according to the engineering staff, over 1,500 pounds, 680 kilograms! It took two people to operate—one, the camera operator aimed and focused, the other person (me) operated the big annular steel ring that steered and made the camera raise and lower. Chock full of screaming hot vacuum tubes, this beast could heat a two-story house. One of my main jobs was to keep the three garden-hose-sized cables that connected the camera to the control room from getting under the pedestal as the camera moved across the floor. Once, I missed. An enormous blue-white flash and acrid white smoke accompanied with a sound like a gunshot blew out from under the pedestal and burned a copper-and-carbon mark in the floor that would remain to this day if the studio hadn’t been torn down and replaced with a McDonald’s. It almost set fire to my argyle socks, and I now proudly owned a copper plated left shoe! Wish I still had that shoe.

On the Sinatra show the cameras swooped and soared up and down as if they were weightless. Amazing! But still he was tethered by a nice fat cord coming from the microphone; wireless mikes were still to come. A friend of mine from those days told me of being at one of Sinatra’s recording sessions in Hollywood. He said Frank came in and sang all the songs on the album in one take. Period. Then he went home. What a pro!

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