Tony Saletan’s What’s New Specials (1960s)

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From Al Hinderstein — 2000

The Tony Saletan shows were called “What’s New Specials.”

I stage managed the one at Old Sturbridge Village. I remember Greg Harney coming on set to show the old “miller” where to look when he delievered his speech about “The miller’s share.”

When Don rolled tape and I cued him, the “miller” walked right up to the camera lens [imagining somehow that it worked like a microphone] and said his line. All we got was a mouth full of gums. He didn’t have any teeth!

The in-studio segments were shot at WHDH after the fire. They were done for the [earlier] “What’s New Series.” Don wanted a low camera angle, so we developed the “El Paso Fearless Panoram Dolly,” made out of a shipping dolly with a high-hat mount and a wooden handle on the back. Fixed Front wheels helped keep it on course.

From Tony Saletan

Al’s reference to Old Sturbridge Village reminds me …

I was singing and hosting the program there. At that site we were tensely working against time to finish the shoot while the sun was out, to avoid the impossible expense of arranging for another day. Since the scene was outdoors, we were dependent not only on the sun being up, but also the cloud cover giving us some consistency.

The tension was palpable as we watched the sky to predict a long enough period of steady light — either pure sunlight, or a large enough cloud to cover the sun for the estimated length of the shoot. Finally the heavens favored us, and we prepared to shoot that necessary scene.

Just then the generator providing our on-location power blew. There was silence as everyone’s tension seemed to be at maximum, when cameraman John Henning broke us up with, “White man who sell us generator speak with forked tongue.”

Among the “Field Trip Specials” also used on “What’s New?” was New York State’s Fort Ticonderoga. And thereby hangs a tale.

Fort Ti was the farthest location, and therefore the most expensive trip. Involved were overnight accommodations for producer, director, camera person (we did this one on film), sound person, and me. So time was of the essence.

Somehow, after we all got back and the film was developed, the camera person (mercifully anonymous here) discovered that one reel was unaccountably blank. Lens cap? Camera glitch? Gremlin? We didn’t know, but we had to go back (another long trip) to Fort Ticonderoga to redo that material.

Good news: we were able to agree on a date. So some days later, all of us rose inhumanly early (to use the sun, and to avoid paying more motel fees) and travelled in one vehicle with equipment, back to Fort Ti.

Bad news: Imagine the embarrassment, chagrin, and frustration when it transpired that the unnamed camera person had forgotten to bring the battery pack! There we were…what to do?

Good news: Frantic long-distance phone calls (I know not whether to the manufacturer/distributor of the camera, or to an organization of camera buffs, or both) revealed that a possessor of the exact same model, who would have a battery pack, was resident in the county we were near.

Bad news: A call to his house revealed that he had very recently died.

Good news: His widow understood our plight, and said she would locate the battery pack and call us to come and pick it up. The tension built as hours passed with no call. Finally, we called her again.

Bad news: She was understandably emotionally unable to go through her late husband’s stuff, and we gave up and went home with no images.

Never revealed until now: That program, nationally distributed, includes some “Fort Ticonderoga” scenes which we actually shot some weeks later at the fort on Castle Island, Boston.

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