Friday, June 3, 2016

Making The Jump From Radio To Television

I'd never been fired in radio before, I was fired twice in New York. At WAPP and WNEW. Needless to say there are better cities to be unemployed in than New York.

After NEW there had been a big story in The Daily News about what to do next. I thought maybe I'd go cross town to do afternoon drive to Howard Stern's mornings.

Along came CBS.

The Executive Producer of their soon to be morning show saw the story in the paper and said, "I think I found my weatherman." That's how I found myself in a studio, in Manhattan, and about to do something I'd never done before--the weather.

The story behind that story was that one of their Senior Producers had called NEW. The station gave me his number and I was reluctant to call him because WCBS-FM (radio) was an oldies station and I didn't want to do that format.  On the good side I also thought that most morning shows are lucky to have one producer much less a number of them. Throw in I didn't have a job and there you go.

So I called.

His name was Peter Bonventre and he was very sharp and very nice. We talked and the whole time I'm thinking radio and then he drops the bomb, "And we're going up against the Today show and Good Morning America."

"Excuse me, this is television?"

"Yes. Interested?"

"Yeah. Yeah I am."

They had me come to Black Rock, CBS's corporate headquarters.

Most rock and roll deejays have, maybe, one suit.  I put mine on and headed cross town. I had just done a thing for HBO (on camera) for when they used to unscramble their signal for a weekend to get potential customers to sample their wares and hopefully sign on. I was one of their anchors pointing out what was up next, I did interviews and did my best to help guide you to different shows, different movies. My father said to bring that tape, just in case, you never know, and I did.

I was brought into the office of the new Executive Producer, Bob Shanks.

The lights on his phone. each one signaling a waiting caller, blinked incessantly. He paid no attention. We sat and started to chat and he began...where are you many brothers and sisters did I have....favorite sports team in town...stuff like that. He asked me if I had ever been on camera before. I mentioned the HBO tape that I'd left at the assistant's desk. After sending me to go get it (thanks Dad) we watched it in silence.

"This is the first time you were on camera?"

"Yes it was," I answered.

He nodded and kept watching. After it was over he asked me The Question. "How do feel about doing the weather?"

I wasn't prepared for that one but I didn't want him to know. I thought this would be more about me anchoring. "Sure, I could do the weather," I said. "You'd be great," he added. "We'll get you a meteorologist and he'll put together the forecasts, you'll deliver them." As I was leaving Bob told me not to tell anyone about our get together.

I told everyone.

That meeting led to the audition in a studio somewhere in Manhattan.

It was a rainy, yucky day. As I came in I saw Bob Saget an old friend from a show I had done, Comedy Tonight. He whispered, "I think you got this."

I walked into a studio that had Bob Shanks, a camera, and a bunch of people from CBS in it. Bob told me he would stand next to the camera and ask me questions. He told me to answer to him and indirectly to the camera. He also said could he ask me something that would lead to my comedy.

I said, "Ask me where I went on vacation."

It got quiet and off we went. He asked me all kinds of stuff and then here it came..."Where did you go recently on vacation?"

"Jamaica," I answered. "Everyone there has an accent. Where you going, mon? What's your name, mon? Even the dogs," I continued, "Bark Bark, mon."

Everyone laughed.

I did a few more things and went outside and sitting there was the co-host. She thrust out her hand and said, "I'm Mariette Hartley."

I thought, "I think I got this job."

One day a deejay.

The next day a weatherman.

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