Alex Pirie

1963-5: Cable puller, Asst. Lighting Director, Floor Manager, Mobil Unit Driver and Crew Chief (the mobile unit handled most of the larger productions before 125 was completed): MIT Science Reporter, French Chef, Tanglewood, College Sport of the Week, etcetera, etcetera.

Moonlighted wiring the camera connections in Master Control at the 125 Western Avenue, built out and almost electrocuted Jack Kane, ran the lighting cables above the grid in Studio A (still picking fiberglass bits out of my back!).

Producer Trainee. Co-wrote and produced the in-house inaugural Xmas party TV Spectacular with Mark Stevens (most famously, the Julia edits video tape segment).

1965: Producer Ideologies and World Affairs, Computer Science Fortran 1 (both Harvard Extension/Polaris University series), and studio odds and ends (Colette Schulman/Soviet Press of the Week). Managed the operations and good will for the major NET consolidation conference in Boston (1965, I think).

1966: Executive Producer 21” Classroom. Got into a major row with Dave Davis – there were numerous problems (I went out and sat in classrooms – ah, youth and taking things seriously) and I wrote a memo to the state board of hoo-hahs detailing the problems and providing solutions. Dave yanked me into the office and said don’t make waves; bottom line: this contract is to fund the daytime operation of the transmitter. I quit and went back into general production, briefly.

Later in 1966: Produced A Woman’s Place (NEU women’s therapy group series), Fortran 2, Collette again, yadda, yadda.

Quit altogether and went to the MFA museum school for a year until the money ran out.

1967-8: Wrote proposal for a series on computers with Harvard folk, not funded. Wrote up initial plans for an in-house animation set up.

1968-71: Head Carpenter in the scenic shop under the beloved and greatly missed Fran Mahard.

Accidentally wound up having the male role in the first interracial bed scene ever broadcast nationally on NET (not by the southern stations!) in Stan Vanderbeek/Fred Barzyk’s Violence Sonata. I had built a rotating bed for the set and when the white male actor backed out, Stan convinced me to do it. I wore cameraman Greg MacDonald’s underwear which was so voluminous we had to resort to the universal solution for all things that need to be stuck – duct tape.

Was part of the staff supporting Say Brother when new General Manager Stan Calderwood and Mike Rice tried to take it off the air – huge embarrassing meeting at Elma Lewis’s place in Roxbury. Then worked with Say Brother staff and others to get a union going. We lost the first vote (made the mistake of including producers and directors in the bargaining unit) and I knew I would get the sack once the NLRB protections dissolved and so made my final farewell.

A million stories:

Being chased by the Everett police up the on-ramp to the Mystic River Bridge because the back of the bus had caught fire (the axle froze) and none of us noticed it until they managed to flag us down!

Pat Cain surreptitiously emptying a tonic bottle of pee out of the side door of the bus during a taping of the one of the Myopia Hunt Club’s polo extravaganzas.

Jack Kane fixing the bent casing of a TK-60 with the bus jack and a brick on a remote at Corning Glass in Binghamton, NY.

Al Potter nearly fainting while doing the video engineering during a spinal tap sequence at Tufts Medical.

Getting through security at the Watertown Arsenal reactor site with two Canadians, an Israeli, a Dutchman, a Cuban ex-film producer and assorted hippy radical crew members staffing the mobile operation.

Richard Burton making a sweeping exit from an Eliot Norton Reviews appearance and mistakenly winding up in Dan Beach’s film editing closet. (He and Dan handled it well.)

Walking Eartha Kitt’s dogs along Commonwealth Ave. as a way of getting her to the studio on time for a taping (“Here, baby, you walk my babies and I’ll go get my make up.”).

And that’s just for openers…

Still have the picture of me handing Julia a fish from inside a refrigerator on my office wall!

BTW: new book on Say Brother and three other shows from the day, from Duke University Press, Black Power TV – Pictures of Ray Richardson, Tony Lark, Jewelle Gomez (still going strong in San Francisco) and others. Say Brother gets its own chapter.

Peace (as we used to say!),



  1. Alex Pirie on December 24, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    Martin Bloch: An odd memory of a GBH’er on occasion, Martin Bloch (sp?) just popped up and he deserves a place here. Martin was a master scene painter, trained before the war (the #2 war) in Germany. Fran Mahard brought Martin in for all of the complex and demanding jobs. Martin was a master of trompe d’oeil and could do exquisite, fanatically regular poster lettering. His work ranged from elaborate shrubbery, teasers for some kind of show at or about the Crane Estate in Ipswich, to, somewhat anachronistically, all of the psuedo blackboard lettering for two Polaris/Harvard Extension series teaching the Fortran language.
    Martin had quite a backstory. He had been drafted into the Wehrmacht and assigned to a Panzer division that was part of the Russian invasion. He was crew on a self-propelled artillery piece. During his service it had been discovered that he had Jewish ancestry and he and some other unfortunates were chained into disabled motorized units and left to hold back Russian advances during the retreat from Stalingrad. Somehow he, and his brother, similarly punished for their shared heritage, managed to escape and headed west. Their objective was to keep going until they could surrender to either the British or Americans knowing that the Russians took no prisoners. They made it. He still had his panzer lapel insignia.
    Martin always wore an intricately folded newspaper cap when he worked. He made several attempts to teach me, but it never stuck. Somewhere, stashed away, I still have one that he generously passed along.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.