Dan Beach

From Dan Beach — 2000

The early days of ‘GBH let me play with wonderful toys! I started as a volunteer in 1960: studio assistant, cameraman, floor manager. A few months later, after we’d had our first child, the economics were not working out and I told Greg Harney that I’d have to leave. He replied “Just today, we’re prepared to offer you $1.25 an hour for 20 hours if you’ll volunteer the other time,” a theme which pervaded ‘GBH in those lean years.

Some flashes:

  • The studio days (the second floor at 84 Mass Ave, mind you) with full Opera like Greg’s production of “Dido & Aeneas” — John Henning’s incredible sense of humor.
  • Those old theatre chairs that Eliot Norton used on his show, forever!
  • Bob Moscone’s ‘tight ship’ and properly coiled camera cables and swept studio floors.
  • Father Norman O’Connor’s Jazz program (the show with Buddy Sarkesian’s Mid-East Orchestra we all doubled over as the director called “OK, Don, dolly in to the left oud“) .
  • Seemingly hundreds of teaching programs with Fred Barzyk, including “Parlons Francais” with the wonderful Mme. Anne Slack.
  • Gingerly and very nervously rigging a lavelier mike on the venerated and wonderful, but steamy, Cardinal Cushing.
  • Reading the news live at 10 p.m. on camera, one of the earliest televised news in Boston (the weather forecast was shown by little white magnetic numbers and letters on the black background of the set, which inevitably started heading south as the evening wore on).
  • Trying to replace the credit crawl just before air time and finding that it had been taped badly and performed like a broken piano roll.
  • The early ZOOMar lenses with the push rod (if you didn’t apply just the right amount of nose grease they were guaranteed to stick just when you were making a tight change).
  • Sifting thru the rubble of our noble station after the fire.
  • Moving to Central Square, then to the Museum of Science where, upon the birth of our second child, I went to Greg Harney and indicated I’d have to leave, at which he replied “Just today we are prepared to offer you a position in our Producer Training program, though we can’t pay you”
  • Within months (I think it was after the debacle of the NET show about the Alliance for Progress with John F Kennedy which I ostensibly produced), I used a ‘new’ technique of a live studio host interrogating people who had been filmed. The film was to run continuously and the host was to insert his questions at the appropriate places. The audio person decided he couldn’t cleanly cut audio from the film, so we had to literally cover the optical sound track with very thin black tape on 2400′ of film, to mask out the passages between the interviews. Of course this led to a serious buildup about the inner circumference of the reel which ultimately caused so may stops and starts that it took 19 straight hours to put on tape!
  • To continue, within months I had decided tv producing was not for me so I went to ….Greg who said “Just today, Norman Feather has left and we’d like you to run the film department – at $1.75 an hour”. Of course I jumped at it.
  • My office was a kitchen off the temporary studio at the Museum of Science, where we covered over the sink as a rewind bench.
  • I often volunteered to drive Eliot Norton’s guests back to the hotel — who wouldn’t want to drive Lynn Redgrave, Tammy Grimes, Harry Belafonte, Joshua Logan? — and recall having to decline a rather unusual invitation proffered by John Gielgud.
  • I began acquiring other duties as the station moved to 125 Western Avenue: getting all of Henry Morgenthau’s film to and from Africa, setting up editing rooms, keeping track of the archives (no computers, then), and handling the station mail, and program sourcing, most importantly being sure the “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” film had arrived.
  • The wonderful Helen Fox and, God Bless Her, Rose Buresh, whose tact and silence saved many a relationship.

I left (around 1967), only to come back in the guise of a Production Coordinator for ever-challenging Fred Barzyk and Creative Television Associates a few years later, continuing an albeit tentative association with ‘GBH for another 15 years or so.

I’m now combining my love of music, of media, of computers and, especially, of working at home, in my website design company — which specializes in sites for musicians — especially old folkies.

Thanks to everybody who’s working to put this reunion [2000] together, especially Don Hallock for his enthusiasm and creativity. I’ll be there.

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