30 years ago and recent N.Y. photo

Val Ginter's Story

Golly, M.D., that's like opening the floodgates! We were the first Mary Tyler Moore Show. I tell WAAY-TV stories almost every day of the year...not to mention whenever somebody asks about the clown hanging on my bedroom wall from the Name the Clown Contest (it had been thrown into the GI can after the show and either Ernie Iler or Bobby Gord presented it to me as a souvenir).

One of the funniest, or unfunniest, was when Jerry Robinson used to hand Terrell Whitaker (Tiger Terrell) the football scores during the Community Bulletin Board show (sponsored by the local lumberyard). He'd hand Terrell a tearsheet from the machine and Terrell would yell: "Roll Tide! Hey, Alabama's creaming Purdue!" And then he'd hand him another one and Terrell would yell: "On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin! Smother those guys at Illinois!"

And then Jerry handed him another tearsheet and he yelled: "Hey, Jayne Mansfield! Va, Va, Voom! Va, Va, Voom! Hey, let's see what this says. Jayne Mansfield's son has just been killed in an automobile accident. Oh, my gosh. Oh, that's not very funny. Oh, that's awful. Oh, I'm sorry everybody. Golly, gee. Let's take a break." And then he looked at us in the studio during the commercial and said: "You guys are a bunch of bastards." And we were all doubled up. But we were in our twenties at the time. This would have been in the spring of 1966 or around then.

Val ********************************
Now you got me started, M.D.

When Sonny was Tony the Tiger on 31 Funtime, he used to come up into the control room during the theme song of Dark Shadows. You remember that eerie theme song (OooOooOooOooOoooooo). And Sonny would come up into the control room in his tiger suit and stare out the window to see the studio. I mean, he didn't want to go into the studio yet, because he wanted to make a grand entrance for all the kids in the gallery and the mothers sitting on the side. And he would be really nervous and laughing and giggling because he'd be going on in maybe sixty seconds. And he used to double up and laugh and say: "Boy do I love that theme song. Listen, listen, here's my favorite part." And there was just that eerie music, but at the end of the theme, the music would fade down, and the announcer would say very quietly: "Dark Shadows is a Dan Curtis production."

And every afternoon Sonny would come up into the control room and laugh and giggle and say: "OK, now let's be real quiet now. We want to hear the best part. Listen, listen, Dark Shadows is a Dan Curtis production. Isn't that funny? Ha, ha, ha!" And we'd go: "Yeah, yeah, yeah." And he'd do this every day, and we'd pay him no mind after a while. Then one day, he comes up into the control room and does the whole routine: "Listen, listen, I love this part. Hey, be quiet, you have to listen to this. This is funny!" And the music plays and then fades down, and the announcer says in almost a whisper: "Dark Shadows is a Val Ginter production." And we all cracked up. He had taken the promo music and recorded his own theme, then he had the engineer roll the cart and go local immediately after the final ABC commercial position. The practical jokes that can be played in broadcasting...!

(It was one of those discarded Fidelipacks that we wouldn't put any commercial material on, and I took it with me to New York years later. Unfortunately, it was in such bad condition, it simply fell apart in moving. I think I still have it stored away in a trunk, but the springs and pads are all out of wack. I tried to play it at CBS, but it just wouldn't work.)

Val *******************************
Thanks for the great picture of Johnny Evans! And also, last week's pix of Sully(Bob Sullivan). He looked mighty healthy in the picture. I left in 1968, so he lasted up into his forties I guess. We used to bet that he'd never see thirty with all his smoking and drinking. But he was a strong guy. And he had a lot of good attitudes.

More from Val Ginter

I enjoyed reading the Word attachment that you wrote on purchasing Channel 31. That Bolex interested me. There is a nice shot that Jerry took of me with the Bolex as I shot that political--Jim Martin or Dick Martin--I forgot his name but he was running against Lurlene Wallace I think. Anyhow, there is this shot of me in the studio on that big GPL Camera One and another of me shooting Martin's whistle stop at the Athens railroad station with the Bolex.

I shot the silent footage, and Jerry Robinson used the Auricon for SOF footage (the day before Thanksgiving, 1966--it snowed like hell). There's another shot somewhere of Jerry on that Auricon. He plugged it into one of the light sockets above the Athens railroad station platform, and was standing in a foot of snow wearing earphones, holding the panning handle with one hand, and holding the microphone with the other. He wasn't wearing any boots, and he had continuous electrical current running through him. But, you remember Jerry--it made him giggle.

Val sends some more goodies - May 22, 2003

Here's another great black and white story. In 1967, Jack's Hamburgers sponsored a Name the Clown Contest. We had this little clown doll hanging on the wall of the 31 Funtime set, and somebody out there in tv-land had perhaps two months to come up with a name for the clown. The winner would receive one-thousand Jack's Hamburgers.

Well, of course, it wasn't really one-thousand hamburgers; it was one-thousand hamburger coupons. This way you could give them away when you got tired of eating hamburgers.

But for the studio, there was this display on one of those big folding tables that featured one-thousand Jack's Hamburgers stacked pyramid-style on top of the table. It was kept behind the curtain against the wall, and when it was time, the studio crew simply pulled the table out from behind the curtain.

Again, I must correct myself. The table didn't contain one-thousand hamburgers. It contained one-thousand empty stale buns wrapped in Jack's logo parchment paper. But it looked great on Camera #3 (which was a studio vidicon and made anything look good).

For two months, we did the Name the Clown Contest immediately coming out of the Three Stooges cartoon. Five days a week it was: "And now it's time for the Name the Clown Contest." And, originally, I'd go: "Three in tight on the hamburgers. One zoom in on the clown. Ready three. Take three. One on the clown and ready to zoom back to Johnny." I did this so many times that the cameramen began giving the cues in their mouthpieces, and I didn't have to say a word anymore.

Finally, after two months, some kid won the contest. The guy from Jack's came in and gave the kid his one-thousand coupons, and somebody from the studio crew ripped the clown off the wall and threw it into the GI can in the corner of the studio.

The best part of the story is when we took a final look at that hamburger bun display. Now those buns must have been stale to begin with; otherwise, they wouldn't have gone into that display. But talk about penicillin or microbiology or just, simply, mold: every hamburger bun was a different color. I became educated in science the moment I looked closely at those buns. Each and every one of those thousand buns was a different color: one was red; another was purple, another was green; another was blue; another was black; another was orange; another was yellow. We could have donated that table to the Smithsonian (or, maybe, Johns Hopkins).

Somebody--I don't remember who--suggested that if Bob Sullivan had extracted all the penicillin on that table, he would have been set up for life.

I think it was Ernie Iler who retrieved the clown doll from the garbage can right before the sanitation truck arrived and presented it to me as a sort of trophy. I've had that clown hanging on my bedroom wall for the past thirty-five years.


More from Val:

After the WAAY-TV reception room was remodeled and redecorated in 1966, the men's room received two doors, one from the reception room, and one from the studio, so that during off hours, the reception room could be closed to traffic and still afford use of the men's room.

Needless to say, throughout the working day, the men's room was used as a passageway by the male gender to get from one side of the building to the other without having to go outside into the elements. It was not a problem that you had to step over whomever was sitting on the toilet. It's all part of family living (and if you'd ever been in the army...) I guess.

Dan Akens, Bobby Hammers, and Dave Walker always saw to it I could get the Early News script by 5:00 p.m., so I could block it out. So, between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, I would block out the script while sitting on the toilet. It took care of my constitutional needs, as well as providing me a quiet place to write in my camera cues, audio positions, and rear-screen pictures.

On this particular day, it was raining cats and dogs outside. And a few of the guys climbed over me as I sat on the commode. Then the door opened and Dan Akens walked passed me, and said "Hi Val;" then this dude, around fifty years old in an extremely expensive suit (a client, I figured) steps over me and looks at me rather strangely; he is followed by a very well-coiffured and suited woman of around forty years old, who looks at me even more strangely; and she is followed by a teen-age girl with long blond hair, dressed in a preppy outfit like the wealthy kids wear who go to school in England, who looks at me with an expression of extreme shock on her face. The last person in this parade was our salesman, Marvin Blitz, who walks past me, lets the other people out of the bathroom, and then turns around at me and exclaims: "Val Ginter! Have you no sense of decency?!"

I stayed away from the front-office area for the remainder of the day.

(Editor's (M.D.S.) Note:) Val, thanks for some very good stories and memories. I had forgotten that at one time the men's room (which now has a hallway from "old" lobby to glass door entrance to building) had that door right in front of the toilet and that people used it as a passageway. Later, we built a wall and you enter the men's room between the toilet and sink, but you do hit your knees on the wall when you sit down on the toilet. There was not a lot of space left after we made the hallway.


After a few years of doing the prime-time routine, I was pretty well attuned to the habits of network positions during ABCs schedule. The mid-station break came after the third position of an hour-long show, and ran anywhere between twenty minutes after and twenty minutes before. There had never been an exception.

Big Valley was probably the only program I didn't watch when I was on the board. It simply didn't appeal to me--all that nineteenth-century costume drama stuff. So I loaded up four slide carousels, three film projectors, and our trustworthy Ampex VR-1000 for the next two or three breaks, and at around 9:08 p.m., I headed for the bathroom, which was up at the front of the building.

There was a 'bitch box" standing alongside the bathroom door, so we would never have any problem making our cues. I was sitting on the toilet, concentrating, and doing whatever else one does at a time like that, when Big Valley ran a commercial position. I looked at my wristwatch (which was always set to the network clock beep) and saw that it was 9:16 p.m. So I continued to do what I did best, sitting on the commode. At 9:17, the announcer comes on and, it seemed like at the top of his voice, says: "Big Valley will return after station identification." And then, there was the customary five-second bumper cue (in those days, everything was cued out five seconds): "See the Milton Berle Show, nine p.m. eastern, eight p.m. central, tomorrow night on A-B-C!" And then there was complete silence.

What could I possibly do? I took care of my needs as fast as humanly possible, and grabbed my pants and ran across the studio with my pants still somewhere between my ankles and my knees. The studio separated the bathroom from master control, and we're talking a good one-hundred feet. As I passed the monitor in the studio, I see a big sign on the screen: ATTENTION AFFILIATES. And this guy with an Irish falsetto voice and a Brooklyn accent begins to scream: "Attention affiliates, attention affiliates! This is ABC control, Noo Yawk! This is ABC control, Noo Yawk! There will be a one-minute-and-thirty-second news story on President Lyndon Johnson's trip beginning at 11:05 eastern, 10:05 central, and preceded by a one-minute, thirty-second, fifteen-second, and five-second video countdown Thank you! This is ABC control Noo Yawk!"

And at that point, I was behind the board. Well, about all I could do was go local and roll the break. I believe it was a twenty-second Preparation-H with a twelve-second promo-id (the latter of which I cut). I never went to the bathroom again during prime time. (You'll find this somewhere in the discrepancy reports from 1966.)

{after the New York major power outage of 8-14-03, I asked Val what it was like for him living there and here is what he said about the blackout}

Hi MD:

It was a tremendous inconvenience. But there were others who had bigger problems. I had just bought two pints of ice cream when the lights went off. I drank them both down at 2 a.m. I spent most of the evening in the park. But I finally came home and went to bed. I didn't sleep very well because of the heat. The electricity came back on at 6:20 a.m. Everything is back to normal here except that the boiler is all screwed up. So I haven't been able to take a shower today, yet. Hopefully, they'll get it fixed today.

I was lucky. There were people trapped in the tunnels under the East River in hot, crowded subway trains; there were people trapped in the dark in building elevators. There were billions of dollars of food that spoiled in that entire area from Kalamazoo to Toronto. I just saw this guy on tv remarking that he's selling this grilled chicken to everybody. I hope the grilling kills all the bacteria; unless he had it stored in dry ice.

I bought some chicken this morning. I'm going to stew it for two hours. That oughtta kill any of those critters crawling around on those drumsticks! But it'll take months before they can replace all that frozen food in the stores.

I'm on deadline right now; I lost fourteen hours. Hopefully, I'll be able to recoup it.


© 2003 Smith Broadcasting, Inc. [update 8-15-2003]