This week's prompt reminds me of the past. But then, everything reminds me of the past. So here’s another episode in the series titled “Berowne’s Mediocre Adventures.”
Come back with me, if you will, to the early days of television. I was making a poor but meager living as a radio announcer, but I wanted to get on this New Thing – tv – because that was where the big money was.
People were making fifty to a hundred dollars a week, or so I heard.
However, there seemed to be some sort of conspiracy – I’d have called it a vicious cabal but I wasn’t sure what that was – to keep me from the visual medium. But the big day finally arrived.
Seems a new television station had recently opened in Philadelphia,WFIL-TV, and a sponsor sent me down there to do commercials.
The show I worked on was an example of how to produce tv programs when you don’t have money to produce tv programs.
They just invited in kids, high-school types, to come to the tv studio and dance, with an emcee playing music, while a camera panned around among the happy teeners.
The show was quite successful, at least to the standards of the day.
One day when I showed up the atmosphere at the studio was funereal; they had lost their emcee. He had been charged with doing something emcees weren’t supposed to do so he had to be let go. The new host was a bit strange, in my opinion, because he looked so young. It was as though the producers has just brought up one of the kids from among the dancers and put him in charge.
But no, young as he was he had a background as a professional announcer and soon took over the show, which was named “Bandstand,” and made it his. His name was Dick Clark, as some of you have already surmised, and Dick had been blessed with the DNA or genes or whatever it was that would permit him to look pretty much like a teenager for the rest of his life.
It was on that same station that I had my first great problem as a video announcer. A problem indeed; I was persona au gratin, told to leave and not come back. This came about because the station was very new; some things worked, some didn’t.
What I was guilty of was “laughing on the air.”
As an announcer you could laugh as an expression of joviality and good humor, but you couldn’t laugh at the tv station itself. Yet, because it was so new, things happened there that were funny.
One day I was doing a commercial for a deep-fat fryer. The device, filled with oil of some kind, rested on a table and I stood behind it extolling its virtues: “You’ll bless the day you brought it into your home and kitchen.”
I poured in a plateful of chopped-up potatoes and plugged it in. What happened next was weird. The sound system in the studio continued working, but the device had blown out all the lights. We, the whole building, were in total darkness.
The camera guy and the floor manager began to laugh. It became too much for them; they fled the studio and started to roll around in the dark outside corridor, laughing hysterically.
I decided to try to soldier on. I got to the bit where I was speaking about the fryer’s amazing low price and the easy-payment plan that was available, well aware of the surreal situation that the item I was so persuasively selling couldn’t be seen by anyone, not even me, so I soon couldn’t continue. The noise from outside started me laughing too. I went out and joined the studio staff in the corridor.
I may have been laughing on the outside but on the inside I was wondering just how this muddy situation was going to be for my future, how it would look on my resume: “Performed highly effectively as tv announcer, in one instance so effectively as to blast the whole station into total darkness.” Who would hire such an individual?
Well, as things turned out so many people laughed on the air at that new tv station it got me off the hook. I was liberated. It was decided that the incident had not been my fault and I was allowed to continue working there. I didn’t try to fry any more potatoes, however.