STATIONBREAK.CA

Stationbreak Magazine

Compiled & Posted by Ken Gibson on September 9th, 2018
(with technical assistance from Bill Morris.)


Contents - Click on the Title below:

MEMORIES of the PAUL ANKA SHOW 1981 by Jeff Groberman
VANCOUVER SUN  1971  TV Column by Eileen Johnson

INTRODUCING NEW CBC RADIO VICTORIA 1998!
PROJECT eX by Colin Preston, CBC Media Librarian
AULD ACQUAINTANCES by Peggy Oldfield Sept 1998
COMEDY CORNER: PRE-TEEN KIDS' SURVEY ON LOVE


                                                          MEMORIES OF THE PAUL ANKA SHOW 1981
                                                                                by Jeff Groberman.

In 1980 I left CKVU to produce Dr. Bundolo at CBC Vancouver.  Gordon Craig, the director of television at that time, was spearheading the show’s move from radio to TV.  The idea was to give the show two years on regional television, then make the jump to the network.

Despite a Sunday midnight timeslot (and this was before PVRs) the show quickly picked up a devoted audience and won a regional ACTRA award as the best TV show in its first season.  It took only a few weeks for the show to be picked up by all the other provinces on the regional exchange program.  The show was wildly popular – with everyone except the Toronto CBC honchos who still believed if a show was good – it should be coming out of Toronto. 

Toronto CBC was backing the Royal Canadian Airfarce, and despite several failed attempts at producing a network show, the network was still determined there was going to be only ONE network comedy show - and that was going to be the Airfarce – period! 

That, coupled with the fact that Gordy Craig left CBC Vancouver for the CBC Network in Toronto and was replaced with two Toronto parachute executives indicated the show’s days were numbered.

I had left CKVU to produce Dr. Bundolo and now that it was coming to an end it left me in a quandary. I could head back to CKVU and resume producing the Vancouver Show or find a new role at CBC.  I decided to be pro-active and pitched a show to Jack MacAndrew, the head of television Variety.   Jack listened patiently to my pitch then told me he’d rather I produce a new series he was planning:  The Paul Anka Show.

At the time CBC was producing a lot of variety shows:  The ever-popular Irish Rovers, the David Steinberg Special and Burton Cummings were just a few but, without a doubt, the Paul Anka show was going to be the plum. 

Paul was an international star and the show would be a co-production with American partners.  It would be a big budget high profile show – I couldn’t say no.  Instead of being constantly pushed aside as the little regional show by the network, I would be the guy doing the pushing.  Of course, it turned out the guy I would be pushing would be me - as Dr. Bundolo was still in production. 

 I had to keep switching hats and fighting with myself for resources - but I made it work.  Paul Anka would be coming out studio 40, the big studio, and Dr. Bundolo would come out of studio 41, the smaller studio.  During one week both shows were recording simultaneously!   I was running from one control room to the other.  It was the best week of my life.

My title on the Anka Show was Line Producer.  I was in charge of all the day to day running of the show.  The executive producers were responsible for financing and providing the main talent.  I would be in charge of the rest: hiring writers, back-up singers, arranging productions schedules and post production.  Today the title would be Show Runner.

The American executive producers were Burt Rosen, an Emmy winner who had worked with Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, Bobby Darin and the Smothers Brothers.  His partner, Clancy Grass, had a less glamorous resume:  his IMDB credits included Five Angry Women, Night Call Nurses and The Student Nurses. 

The Director was Bill Davis, originally a CBC director, who had made it big time in the U.S. directing shows for Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Julie Andrews and Dick Clark to name just a few.  He was a pleasure to work with.  He had infinite patience with the cast and the crew would walk across hot coals for him. 

Paul, on the other hand, was another story.  In the 26 shows I produced I probably didn’t have more than three discussions with him.  Handling Paul was the sole responsibility of the Executive Producers. 

Paul had also isolated himself with his own entourage.   First and foremost were Jose and Mary – his gatekeepers.  “Nobody gets in to see Paul.  Not nobody no how!” was Mary’s mantra.    Jose and Mary communicated with each other with walkie talkies – even if they were standing next to each other.  Paul also had his personal hair dresser (even though he had hardly any hair at the time) and a personal secretary who had three-inch nails and wore six-inch heels – enough said.

The designer, Danny Chan, had designed a gorgeous set with a stage that had multi-coloured lighting under a plexiglass floor.  The floor would light up with all sorts of designs – it was way ahead of its time – and very prone to scratching.  Any of us who got too close to the floor were chased off by Alex Pappas, our floor director.

A couple of days before production, Paul arrived unannounced in the studio.  He was wearing a large cowboy hat and cowboy boots - and the first place he headed for in those cowboy boots was the stage.  He had clomped around the stage for about 30 seconds before Alex spotted him. 

“Hey you,” Alex shouted across the studio at Paul. “Yeah, you, the idiot on the stage, get the hell off it - now!”

Paul stood there stunned.  The whole studio suddenly went very quiet - waiting for the inevitable explosion.  At this point I should point out Alex had never actually met Paul and had no idea what he looked like.  All he knew was some idiot was scratching up his stage.

I took control of the situation:  I rushed over to Alex and grabbed him by the elbow and walked him over to Paul.

“Alex, I’d like to introduce you to Paul Anka, the star of the show. Paul, I’d like to introduce you Alex, he used to work here.”

Paul paused a moment then laughed and apologized to Alex.  From that moment on, Alex and Paul had a special relationship.  Paul might not listen to us, but he would listen to Alex.

Paul’s contract called for him to have his own dressing room.  The CBC provided the studio green room and had it re-carpeted and rented fancy furniture for him.  All of us, including the director, were forbidden to enter the inner sanctum – except for Burt, Clancy – and one of the drivers - whose nickname at the time was “The Prince of Snow.”  The lack of access to Paul led to some hilarious incidents. 

Since we weren’t permitted to enter Paul’s dressing room to choose his outfits Paul become the sole arbitrator of what he would wear for the show.   For one set, he chose a black velour suit.   Unfortunately, the set director had chosen a black curtain as a backdrop and a black piano for Paul to perform on.  When Paul walked onto the set it was like watching a pale pumpkin float across the set.  There was a bit of a Mexican standoff to see who would back down first:  we changed the set.

We would shoot five shows a week - take two weeks off - then shoot another five shows.   The day would begin at ten in the morning with the orchestra rehearsal.  Paul would arrive around four o’clock to rehearse his numbers and run his lines. 

At seven we’d tape the show.  The moment we finished taping Paul would rush to the airport, jump on his chartered jet and head down to Las Vegas where he’d do a midnight show.  At three in the morning he’d head back to Vancouver and catch a few hours sleep before showing up in the studio for the next day’s show.  Eventually burning the candle at both ends caught up with him.

We had just begun taping a show when Paul got the hic-coughs.  He’d sing a line then there’d be a loud hiccough.  The audience thought it was hilarious – and so did Paul – for a while.  The audience shouted out their favourite cures and Paul tried them all – drinking out of the top of the glass of water, breathing in a paper bag, holding his breath – nothing worked.  Eventually we had to record the show complete with hic-coughs.  The director stayed mostly wide and said we’d lip-sync the show later in the week.

A few days later, I was summoned to the Director of Television’s office.  He wasn’t happy with me.  He was never happy with me.  He held up a can of video tape.

“Do you know what this is?” he demanded.

“I’ll take a wild guess – video tape?”

“Don’t be a smartass.  It’s an Anka tape.  And do you know where I got it?”

“The tape library?” I offered.

“No. I got it in shipping where it was about to be sent to Dick Clark’s Blooper show.  This is CBC property and I want to know who authorized this … and when I find out,” giving me a knowing look, “that person’s fired.  Now get out and get me that name.”

I should point out our director, Bill Davis, was also the director of Dick Clark’s Bloopers show and felt the hiccough episode would provide excellent promotion for the upcoming series.  I agreed and said I would take care of it - hence my summons to the principal’s office.

I waited about five minutes then returned to his office carrying a clipboard.

“Do you have the name?”  he demanded.

“Right here,” I said pointing to the clipboard.

“Let me see that, “he shouted, yanking the clipboard out of my hand.

He stared at it a moment in disbelief.

“That’s my name!”

“Yes, you signed the request two days ago.”

“I didn’t realize what I was signing,” he stammered.

“Does that mean you’re fired?” I asked

“Get out!” he shouted.

Paul wasn’t the only one burning the candle at both ends.  I was not only responsible for running the show, but also responsible for the post production.  Because of the tight schedule, a previous show was often being edited the same day another show was being recorded.  On those occasions my day would begin at 9:00am in the studio, and when the taping was over, I would head to the editing booth for another 8 hours of editing.  On those days I didn’t go home; I just caught a few hours sleep in one of the dressing rooms.   

On one of those nights I got a call in the editing booth at 1:30am from Don Costa, the musical director of the show.  Don only worked for two performers: Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra. 

“What are you guys doing?” asked Don in his gravelly voice.

“We’re editing the show, Don.  What’s up?” I asked.

“I’ve cooked a huge pot of pasta and the guys didn’t show up.  You guys hungry?”

I conceded we were hungry, so the editor and I grabbed a cab and headed down to Don’s suite at the hotel.   We arrived around 3:00am. 

Don was sitting at the kitchen table, a glass of scotch in front of him, a huge joint in the ashtray, and a pen in his hand.  His attention was divided between a porn movie on the TV, a steaming pot of pasta on the stove, and scoring the parts for that day’s show.   The orchestra had 30 pieces and Don was scoring each of their parts by hand.

While Don was busy with all this the phone rang.  I wondered who the hell calls at 3:00am?

“Can you get that, Jeff?” shouted Don from the stove. “I’m sort of busy here.”

“Hello?” I asked.

“Put Costa on,” a voice ordered.

“Who’s calling?” I asked.

“Frank.”

“Frank who?” I asked.

I was greeted with an icy silence.  By then Costa had waddled over and took the phone.  I suddenly realized which Frank it was.  I’d heard he called at all hours of the night.  

Don put the phone on speaker so he could continue his multitasking.

“What are you doing up there?” demanded Frank.

“I’m working with Paulie,” replied Don.

“You working for the midget?   (Frank’s nickname for Paul). How’s it going?”

“F**king Paul,” sighed Don. “He can’t sing Happy Birthday without six sets of cue cards.”

The exec producers, Burt and Clancy, liked pasta too, but not Don’s. They only frequented Vancouver’s finest Italian restaurants.

One of their favourites was Umberto’s.  They would have lunch or dinner at least two or three times a week.  One of Burt’s favourite dishes was special meatballs that he claimed Umberto made just for him.  It was rumoured when Umberto heard Burt was coming he got the can opener out.

One day the Director of Television dropped by the production office to wait for Burt and Clancy who were taking him to Umberto’s for lunch.  He was very impressed the American co-producers were taking him to an expensive restaurant for lunch.  I recommended he order Burt’s special meat balls.  

About three hours later, he dropped by again to comment what classy guys Burt and Clancy were.  We could all learn a lot from them. 

“Yes, including how to expense everything,” I replied, holding up the receipt Clancy had just dropped off. “Congratulations! You just bought yourself lunch.”

There was a plethora of “big name” guests booked on the show: Andy Williams, Dionne Warwick, Anne Murray, Tony Orlando (without Dawn), Andy Gibb …  Some stars were bigger than others – in more than one way.   I remember the night we had Peggy Lee on.  She was in the twilight of her career- but could still belt out “Fever,” her signature song.  They had flooded the stage with fog and as she entered through the fog one of the cameramen whispered into his headset, “I thought there was a law against something that big moving through fog without running lights.”  Not nice, but still funny.

One star the exec producers signed was not a musical star but a Canadian sports idol, Wayne Gretzky.  Wayne couldn’t sing to save his life; but he’d just signed a contract the night before for 20 million dollars - making him the highest paid hockey player in the NHL.  It was the sports story of the month and I had him in my studio – along with every sports reporter in the city demanding interviews.  In addition, the studio was filling up with adoring fans thrusting hockey jerseys, sticks, gloves at him to sign.   There was such bedlam we couldn’t run a rehearsal.  I finally got on the P.A. and announced that it was a closed set – Everyone out!  I didn’t care who they were.   A few moments later I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“Does that include me?” asked Len Lauk, the Regional Director, clutching a recently purchased Gretzy jersey.

“Rank has its privileges,” I conceded. 

All good things must come to an end, and so did the Anka series the following spring.  After 26 episodes the show wrapped and Burt and Clancy threw a gigantic wrap party. It was held in a Gastown restaurant and the food and booze flowed.  There were speeches and tears.   The crew had chipped in and bought Paul an expensive Cowichan Sweater.

The next morning Paul was gone.  For the first time we could enter his dressing room.  We found the Cowichan sweater balled up and tossed in a corner.                                      

FLASHBACK TO 1971
From the Vancouver Sun - Television with Eileen Johnson 1971
If television is heading in any discernable direction this fall, that direction is Home. In Canada, CBC leans towards more regional production, less of that Toronto-is-the-centre-of-the-world syndrome. At CBC Vancouver they are busier than ever before.

Producer Phil Keatley will begin shooting a new drama series at Gibson's. The show called "The Beachcombers" stars Bruno Gerussi and is based on a west coast log salvage operation. It won't be on the air till the fall of 1972.
Another drama series made this year will run this season. It is called The Overlanders, set in the 1800s, and Don Eccleston is working on it now. It is a historical drama, based on the treks through Alberta, the Rockies and into the Cariboo.
A locally made Special for Tuesday night is based on the Cariboo, too. Neil Sutherland is doing the Gold Rush program, using Barkerville as a setting and using flashbacks to show the history of the area. Sutherland is doing two other specials, one called Journey to New Orleans using Lance Harrison visiting New Orleans, and the other will show the CBC Chamber Orchestra touring Northern and Interior B.C.
Dick Bocking will do two Tuesday night specials from here, one on energy, one on Canada and science with David Suzuki. Dr. Suzuki's current series will continue into the new season and producer Keith Christie is making a pilot as host for a late night Science talk show.
The Irish Rovers are off to Ireland with producer Ken Gibson to make a variety special for broadcast next St. Patrick's Day. The Rovers will carry on this fall, doing 16 shows themselves, and 10 Music Hall-type shows with Irish performer Jimmy Kennedy and guests like Stanley Holloway and Tessie O'Shea.
Juliette has done a pilot for a new series produced by Ken Gibson with Juliette as hostess. Guest is puppeteer Shari Lewis.
Mike Poole and Mike Halloran are working on a one hour special for Tuesday night on the Fraser River.
Bob Switzer will be back on the air this fall each weekday at noon.
Hourglass is back, Sport Scene is back, and so are Klahanie and Reach for the Top.


INTRODUCING CBC RADIO VICTORIA.

Listeners on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands will wake up to a new station and new program on Monday September 28th. Along with the new station, located at 1025 Pandora Avenue in Victoria, there is a new FM frequency to tune into. From Duncan south, listeners will find the CBC Radio One programming on 99.5FM, a new transmitter on the Malahat Ridge. A re-broadcaster on the 99.5FM covers the Sooke /Metchosin area. The two new transmitters should eliminate past reception problems when listeners had to tune into the CBC Radio on 690 AM from Vancouver. Appointed in June, Ted Blades, Program Manager for the new station, announced that 38 year old journalist Lisa Cordasco will anchor the three hour morning program, which will reflect the lives and concerns of Vancouvrer Islanders and provide comprehensive coverage of Victoria and Vancouver Island events, events, issues and personalities. "The hour is just one part of our team. We'll have a crew of seven gathering stories, getting out in the community and keeping on top of the news." The station will also provide weather and new breaks on the half hour till 6pm.  From Susan Engelbert, Director of Radio. "It has been a wonderful experience putting the whole team together, not only the key position of host. I think we've got a nice combination of people from away and from here."


PROJECT eX from Colin Preston
, Media Librarian, CBC Vancouver.
When the Broadcast Centre opened 20+ years ago, the northeast corner of C floor was a beehive of film activity. There were film unit suites, a film library and a small viewing theatre. Those days are long gone but another buzz is going on there these days. Project eX (for Excavation) is a national project commissioned by the CBC Board of Directors with two aims - to PRESERVE the visual materials we've produced over the years (45 in the case of CBUT) and provide ACCESS to the collection. Formerly a solo act, TV News Librarian Colin Preston is now working with a staff of three professional librarians, namely Heather Home, Janet Howey and Marnie Rogstad, to sift through the years of paper files and records left by generations of Film Librarians and P.A.s. Old sprockerhead/tapehead Colin Preston tries to keep up with his cohorts and deals with all those folks calling in to request stock footage or a copy of something they saw on Broadcast One. We're the space with all the old film equipment and walls lined with B&W production taken in the '50s and '60s. Kind of amazing to think we had a full-time Production Stills Photographer - Alvin Armstrong - then!


AULD ACQUAINTANCES by Peggy Oldfield.  September 1998.

Tom and Jacquie Robinson hosted the annual 20 Years Association Garden Party at their home on July 26th. It was one of the hottest days of the summer but there was plenty of shade under the canopy of trees in their exquisite garden for everyone to relax and enjoy a terrific afternoon and evening. A sumptious barbeque dinner complimented the lovely setting. A great turnout - Tom and Jacquie Robinson, John and Peggy Kennedy, Don and Pat Waterston, Judi and Sandy Grindlay, Otto and Barbara Lowy, Alan and Phyllis McMillan, Mary Sziegty, Katie Drysdale, Fran Morrison Jordan, Irene and Kathy Coutts, Kaye Maxwell, Bob and Betty McDonald, Thor and Norma Arngrim, Ted Greenhalgh, Pat Hartley, Jackie Bewley, Pauline Boylan, Marika Jorgenen, Maurice Moses, Juliette Cavazzi, Gordon and Fran Inglis, Rose Chung, David and Barbara Major, Les and Glady Jackson, Katie Bentley, David Hinks, Ron and Diane Mahy, Mike and Peggy Oldfield  -  made it a memorable event. It was great to see Les Jackson back in the thong, wild and witty as ever and with the some keen new scars to show everyone.   
John Kennedy and wife Penny spent part of the month sightseeing around the Queen Charlotte Islands, and then headed back to Ontario for birthday celebrations with John's dad. John Rogers is on the move again, this time visiting England to attend a family wedding, Having left master control, Ray Lee is now mastering the intricasies of every golf course and tennis court in the Vancouver area, and loving every minute orf it. Donna Logan, recently appointed Director and Professor of the Sing Tao School of Journalism this Fall, is in the Vancouver Courier issue of August 30th. Former newsie Sue Stern has returned from her Caribbean tropical paradise on the island of Bequia (pronounced Beek Wee) after three years, and is currently working out at UBC. Although earning a living in the Caribbean was a tough grind, the islands still pull on Sue's heartstrings and she is heading back there for a Christmas holiday. Bill Dobson flew off to the shores of Waikiki where he is basking in the sun for two weeks. Bob Wilson and wife Carol spent part of July meandering around the Kootenays and the Okanagan. Greg Schofield is now working for IBM. developing data base for the Provincial Government. Rogers Community TV Producer Mike Keeping was honoured in June with Rogers Award in the Cultural Ethnic Diversity category for his production "Generations."  Peter Grainger is reporting news for VTV where Helen Slinger has taken up the post of News Director. and Carl Pedersen is doing video on "Double Exposure." Kevin Evans is now hosting a show on family values for North Shore Cable TV. It's called "Family Matters." Belated congratulations to Janice Talbot, now Production Manager at Global, Vancouver, on her marriage in Victoria to Ron Melniss, master control BCTV.  A revised edition of "Hiking on the Edge" by Ian Gill, subtitled "West Coast Trail, Juan de Fuca Trail." has recently been published, and Mike Poole has a new book on the market about the perils and pitfalls of growing marijuana ... and no, he didn't inhale.  
Ta ta for now and I'll be talking to you in the next issue.    
Peggy.

COMEDY CORNER:

PRE-TEEN KIDS' SURVEY ON LOVE.

WHAT IS THE PROPER AGE TO GET MARRIED?
Eighty four!  Because at that age you don't have to work anymore and you can spend all your time loving each other in the bedroom. (Judy, age 8)
Once I've done with kindergarten, I'm gonna find me a wife. (Tom age 5)

WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
On the first date they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. (Mike age 10)

WHY DO LOVERS OFTEN HOLD HANDS?
They want to make sure their rings don't fall off because they paid good money for them. (Dave age 8)

WHEN IS IT OK TO KISS SOMEONE?
You should never kiss a girl unless you have enough bucks to buy her a ring and her own VCR, cause she'll want to have videos of the wedding. (Jim age 10)
Never kiss in front of other people. It's a big embarrasing thing if anybody sees you. But if nobody see you, I might be willing to try it with a handsome boy, but just for a few hours (Kelly age 9)

WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ABOUT LOVE?
I'm in favour of love as long as it doesn't happen when "The Simpsons" is on. (Anita age 6)
Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I've been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me. (Billy age 8)

IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need somebody to clean up after them. (Lynette age 9)
It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I'm just a kid. I don't need that kind of trouble. (Kenny age 7)

               

      NEXT EDITION OF MAGAZINE WILL BE AVAILABLE ON NOVEMBER 1st 2018.