Sunday, July 29, 2007
WJW History Part 3-The 1960's
Most well-known WJW-TV Logo-from the 1960's
Part 3 of the WJW-TV History-The 1960's:
Joel Daly: This sort of personality[Happy-Talk News-Ed.] also became the standard for the way news is done now, and it all started at Channel 8. We didn't do it every night...and we still took the news seriously.
Doug Adair: People recognized that we were human and as a result they had confidence in us as newscasters. At the time, most anchors just read what they were given.
Bob Soinski: We had a real feeling of family. For example, we'd have a station picnic at Chippewa Lake every year.
Chuck Schodowski: Helen Celke had a place there and she hosted these picnics.
Doug Adair: When she first started having these parties, we all wanted to go but we had a newscast to do. So the staff said, "Oh, come on...what would happen if we pre-taped the news advance? Nobody would notice!" And then we could all go to the picnic. Well, I didn't like this idea one bit. I was scared the tape would break or some big breaking news would happen. It didn't. We taped a newscast and we all went to the picnic, but we were so preoccupied worrying about that newscast, we never did it again.
Joel Daly: WLS in Chicago saw what we were doing and tried to hire Doug and me. I went, and we started with the people who made the "Eyewitness News" so successful around the country.
Doug Adair: They wanted to hire me, too, but I couldn't get free from my contract to leave. And actually, I didn't really want to.
Dick Goddard: I went to Philadelphia when KYW moved there, but one weekend after we'd come back to Cleveland to visit friends, I asked my wife, "What are we doing? This is where we belong!" All three stations offered me jobs, but I went with Channel 8 because they had the Browns and I'm a huge Browns fan. I've done spotting for Browns radio for years.
Bob Soinski: We were going to do this live show on Friday nights and Howard Hoffman was being considered to host it. Glen Bowers came up from Miami to start it. The station had bought a lot of spooky pictures, and the idea at the start was to do something serious...a ghoul.
Chuck Schodowski: Tim Conway, Ernie Anderson and I were actually the beginning team here.
Tim Conway [Director/Host]: Ernie and I quit [Channel 3] the same day [to do a weekday show on Channel 8 called "Ernie's Place."] Whenever we needed a prop, we'd run down to the magic shop together. It was that kind of arrangement...You were completely on your own. If you needed a chair, you went and got a chair. You didn't tell somebody else to get it, because there was nobody else to go.
Chuck Schodowski: When Ernie Anderson started as Ghoulardi here I didn't want anything to do with being on camera, but I'd go out of my way to help him. I liked blues, so I'd always try to find musical stuff he could use. I was switching programs [a technical job] at the time and I was a big fan of Ernie Kovacs, an early TV performer who was very limited in what he could do as far as technical things go, but was very inventive. He did some great special effects. And me being in the technical end, I admired him, so we tried some things on Ghoulardi that seem primitive now.
Jackie Golnick: Oh yes, I remember Ernie driving his motorcycle down the hallway. He was quite a character.
Bob Soinski: I came up with the idea of interrupting the film with drop-ins. I was the one who found "Papa oo mow mow" — I said, "Man, we gotta use this" and sure enough it was a hit right from the start. I remember bags and bags of mail coming in.
Doug Adair: Big Chuck was an absolute genius. I always admired that guy for the magnificent work he did working with Ernie and later with Houlihan. I came to realize how funny Tim was when he and Ernie did commercials during the news for a coffee company. Ernie played the dad and Tim was the son. They'd be sitting in this row of coffee plants. Tim would say, "Dad, how come you're choosing these coffee beans?" And Ernie would say, "Dumb kid, don't you realize..." Well, they'd do these commercials and everybody would remember the coffee company. It got to be very hard to come back and do news we were laughing so hard.
Chuck Schodowski: Back then, before a newscast, we had to have the graphics department type out everyone's name who was going to appear on the newscast on black cards...white type on black. We'd put all these names on a big board in the studio...and then the camera actually had to shoot each name and I had to superimpose it over the story. So one time, I was thinking...I told Ernie, I said..."You know, if you wear all light stuff, I'll bet I could put you in the movie!" That's where his white smock came from and his white fright wig. And he was really good at it.
Bob Soinski: Ernie was a wild man. He came up with the idea of a half-time show. We'd compete against local schools with our little six-piece band wearing bowling shirts. People turned out by the thousands to see us. We'd come up with routines, like we'd form a pencil, or if we had more people marching, maybe a golf club and golf ball.
Chuck Schodowski: One time we took our show to Detroit, to Channel 2 WJBK. We tried it for like 15 weeks there. We got so many complaints about this and that. Oh, man! They can't laugh at themselves in Detroit, let me tell you, like Clevelanders can.
Doug Adair: I'd get Dick Goddard sometimes. Years ago, there were boards he had to pull by hand while he was on the air doing his forecasts. Each board had a map or charts showing the local temperatures or the national conditions. Well, when I would finish the news and Dick got on the air, I would get up and go behind his boards...and when he pulled one board, I would pull another. He would talk to me behind the board and say, "Adair, stop doing that!" We usually resorted to these sorts of hijinks on a Friday night before "Ghoulardi."
Larry Giele [Business Office]: The way Polish jokes started goes back to (Big) Chuck. He was the director of the Ghoulardi show and bought a house in Parma. Well, the night he bought the house, Ernie, who was this big practical joker, starts making fun of Parma as a way to kid Chuck. You know the chrome balls, the white socks and the pink flamingos. Then it became "that certain ethnic group."
Chuck Schodowski: Tim and Ernie asked me to dub off some stuff for them. They sent it off through Rose Marie to Steve Allen. Steve Allen sees the stuff and says, "Those guys are funny! Send me the little bald, fat guy [Conway]; I can do the other guy's job." So Tim did the "Steve Allen Show" and later went on to "McHale's Navy."
Tim Conway: I was having that good a time in Cleveland, with Ernie. I wasn't sure [about leaving Channel 8], so I told the station manager, who said, "Maybe this will help you. You're fired. If you don't go out [to Hollywood]. You're nuts. So you're fired."
Chuck Schodowski: Tim was out there in Hollywood always pulling for Ernie to come on out, so eventually Tim got Ernie a good agent and Ernie eventually became the voice of ABC. He was the highest paid, most famous announcer in the history of the world.
Doug Adair: Tim and Ernie and I owned a racehorse together. We didn't have much money, so we pooled what we had and paid $1,500 for this horse. Well, he couldn't win for anybody. We wound up giving the horse away. Today out in California, Tim has a stable of horses.
Chuck Schodowski: When Ernie left, he asked the station management to carry on with our show. He told 'em that I had talent...but I really didn't want to do anything on the air. Houlihan was the weatherman and he auditioned for Ernie's spot, and he asked me to help him with the audition. I thought this would be great. I can get a little TV here, which is really all I wanted. But the station liked it so much they made us partners. I didn't think we'd last 13 weeks...and here it is 38 years. Houlihan left in 1978 for Florida. He had a position as a station manager of a religious station, which didn't work out. L'il John had been in many skits with Houlie and I, and when Houlie left, we had so much tape with John in the can...you know, skits and stuff...I thought he would be the logical replacement because we had done so much material together. So that was 20 years ago. L'il John came out of Ohio State with a business degree and worked for Cowle and Hubbard as a jeweler and about nine years after that, he got his own jewelry store, which he still has. Rinaldi Jewelry on East 9th and Euclid in Cleveland. He's quite a character...a bundle of energy. When I'm tired, like right now (laughs)...John, in five minutes, gets you up. He transmits this energy so if you're down or mad or sad...if you're with him for any length of time...he just brings you out of it. He's in his 50s and acts like a teenager.
Jim Doney: In the '60s, I was community affairs director. There was a lot of racial tension at that time; there was definitely a feeling that TV stations had not responded to the black community. I did a lot to try to solve some of the problems. If somebody got upset about a stereotypical cartoon, for example, my job was to get it off the air. There was a lot of stuff everywhere in those days that was not only politically incorrect, it was also politically corrupt.
Howard Hoffmann: I was the last live booth announcer in the country. I'd give station IDs and do commercials.
Kevin Salyer [Programming]: In essence, Storer had been a family company, one of the last bastions of family television stations in the industry. Everybody knew Peter Storer.
Virgil Dominic [News Director]: I was an NBC news correspondent in the '60s and as part of the job, I did the 5pm NBC radio newscast from Cleveland. I got plenty of freedom and got to get on the phone and gather many of my own actualities, so it was nice from a personal standpoint. I'm from Oklahoma originally, and my dad hated to see me move so far away to Cleveland. But this way he was able to hear me every day on the radio. I was the main substitute anchor on the "Today Show" during the days when Frank Blair was the anchorman on the show. But I reached this point where I had to decide whether to try to make it really big, which meant inflicting the New York lifestyle on my family. Sometimes, you know, the good Lord just takes over; I got a call to become the news director at a TV station in Atlanta. I spent a great five years down there and wound up taking the station to #1. Storer owned a station in Atlanta that I competed against and they also owned Channel 8 in Cleveland. So I got a call from the General Manager at WAGA TV in Atlanta asking if I would like to come back to Cleveland and be the News Director at Channel 8. Well, I'd spent a wonderful seven years here, so I said sure, I'd like to talk. I flew into town during a big snowstorm, interviewed with Bill Flynn who had been a mentor to me, and he hired me — for a big pay cut because I wasn't going to be anchoring the news anymore!
Doug Adair: TV is so different today. In those days we had a monopoly. Our news staff consisted of one photographer, the news director, and me. You think of the 60, 70, 80 people in a newsroom today, and you see how far the business has come. But our ratings were better in those days because there were only three stations. If people didn't want to watch the news at 6:00, they had no choice. Their only choices were the three local stations and all of them were showing news.
Virgil Dominic: We started Newscenter 8 in 1977. Tim Taylor had been doing the weekend newscast on Channel 5 and we decided we needed to make him a part of our team, because we were making some big changes. I had known Tim for years — he was on the radio in Cleveland during my first time here — and we would run into each other now and again. When I came back to Cleveland, I was staying with friends because we hadn't even bought a house yet, and on the first Saturday night I was back in town, I watched Tim finish the 6:00 news on Channel 5. As soon as he signed off, I called him. We'd been chatting for a few minutes when he said, "Hang on, I've got another call"...and it was the General Manager at Channel 5 who had heard the rumors that we were going to try to hire Tim. He was trying to get Tim to stay. I said, "Hey, you don't want to stay there!" And he agreed to come with us. We brought Judd Hambrick back, too. Bill Flynn and I flew out and met him at the Denver Airport and Judd flew in from San Francisco, where he had been anchoring. We built Newscenter 8 into the #1 newscast in Cleveland. The city really responded to us
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