Doors That Swing Wide Open … and Are Not Entered.
Doors open and close for us all through life. I was reminded of that tonight while having a bite to eat with my old friend, Doug Carlson, here in Sacramento.
My first real job — and still the one I enjoyed the most — was at WKNB-TV, the NBC television affiliate in New Britain, Connecticut. It was before enrolling at Boston University in 1957.
I was hired as a floor manager at the TV station, which means you’re the director’s hands on the studio floor during live television shows … pulling cables for the cameraman, cueing the talent when going “live”, counting down for whoever was on camera at the end of each live segment, putting props in place, running the boom mike, whatever was needed. I absolutely loved every minute of it.
About halfway through that stint at WKNB, I was given the opportunity to direct some of the live TV shows. And this was in the late 1950s before videotape, so virtually everything that originated from that station was live … even many of the commercials. You stayed sharp or you screwed up and thousands of TV viewers saw it.
I spent about a year working there and continued to do so on weekends even after I had enrolled at Boston University.
After I graduated from B.U., I went to New York looking for a job in television. My Aunt Jane, who lived in posh Darien, Connecticut, and was in the country club set there, somehow managed to arrange an interview for me with Robert Kintner. He was — ahem! — the president of NBC Television! Imagine that!
I showed up in his office at Rockefeller Center on the appointed day and time and Mr. Kintner most generously read my resume and asked about my background and career, such as it was, at WKNB.
Then, after probably 15 minutes, he offered me a job as a page at NBC Television. Understand that in those days, everyone started as a page. And I mean everyone … among many others, Steve Allen, Regis Philbin and Ted Koppel.
But not me. After all, I had already been a TV director! I said I’d think it over and several days later, I sent Robert Kintner a letter declining his offer. I had been offered a job at NBC by the !#!@&!! president of the whole damn network … and I turned it down.
To this day, I wonder: what if? And I always cringe just thinking about it.
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I’ll be aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr for the next two days, leaving here tomorrow around 11:00 a.m. Next report will most likely be from the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago’s Union Station while I’m waiting to board the Lake Shore Limited.