"Online since 1999"

Paul Yacich Memories

Legendary WDSU-TV Director and

New Orleans Television Pioneer Shares His Memories


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In the production of a commercial for the Bryan Chevrolet dealership, agency rep Wally Dorion and I decided we needed more room than one side of the folded door divided studio offered. We opened the large electrically controlled doors, set our camera for the required wide shot. The prop guys, working in the "B" studio, had just finished assembling the set for a little 5 minute feature program called "Dialing For Dollars". The set wasn't in our way and our production would not cause any problems for that show so we began our production. We had to stop 30 minutes later to allow "Dialing For Dollars" to go on the air.

Gay Batson, the announcer's announcer with the booming, melodious voice, was in position. Gay must have known when he was born that he was destined to be a radio/TV announcer. He apparently never ever used a four letter, vulgar swear word. The worst I ever heard from him in the many years we were good friends was: "Oh! Foot!" When I mentioned that I had never heard him cuss he said: " If you don't use those words in every day conversation, you won't make a mistake and use them on the air."

The "old clock on the wall" (anybody ever hear that phrase on the radio?) said it was time for "Dialing For Dollars". The director ( I think it was Johnny Domec) cued Gay. As Gay began to speak, the whole set came crashing down around him. Without a wince, the supremely professional Gaines C. Batson continued the program. Fortunately none of the set pieces hit him. The people in the studio, cameramen, floor director, and the talent working on our Bryan Chevrolet spot were "rolling on the floor" trying to keep from laughing out loud. Even that did not deter Gay from his appointed rounds. After the show was over, the stoic Mr. Batson was heard to softly mutter: "OH! FOOT!"

Gay Batson was proud of his announcer's announcer voice. It was the deepest of the voices ever hired by WDSU or WDSU-TV or any other broadcasting facility in New Orleans. His greatest thrill in life, other than his marriage to the beautiful Amalee, was the day WDSU-TV joined the NBC TV network via Telco coaxial cable from New York to New Orleans. WDSU-TV originated a program that was fed back up the cable to New York and to the entire network. The program featured major Louisiana politicos and, surprise of surprises, JAZZ! At the end of the program Gay got to announce: "This is Gay Batson speaking for NBC-TV." Remember, Gay was from the old school of announcers who were NOT allowed to mention their name on the air. Announcements like: "This is GB for MB" were not uncommon in radio of yesteryear. Then, one day, Gay thought his whole life was going to be shattered and his career was at an end! That was the day Gay came into the studio and found the ABC deep voiced big gun, Del Sharbutt, cutting TV our studio! Sharbutt was also quite proud of his deep tones. I was directing the spots that were for out-of-town airing. After I explained that to Gay, his life and career came back together again. I introduced the two basso profundo voices to each other resulting in what sounded like a battle of sousaphones trying to determine who could hit the lowest note.

Gay's narration of the Mardi Gras night "Meeting of the Courts" (Rex and Comus) was an annual tradition of Mardi Gras and WDSU-TV under the Stern ownership of the station. The annual event was directed for many years by Ken Muller, who was the second WDSU-TV cameraman to become a director. The script was supplied by the Mardi Gras organization and, except for the names of Rex and the two court Queens, did not change from year to year. Batson's narration became so familiar to the viewing public that some could recite portions of the script along with Gay. They got big kick out of phrases like: "The captain of Rex escorts the Queen of Comus to the right side of the King of Carnival."

Gaines C. Batson died some years ago. There are a lot of people, including this Croatian kid form the lower "nint" ward who will miss Gay Batson and his description of the "Meeting of the Courts."

Many old-timers in new Orleans remember the buzz phrase: "Take it away PK," but most probably don't know where it originated. Here's the scoop...and remember, you heard it here first! Stanley Holiday, a favorite of WDSU radio listeners, was the station's PD. He also did many special event remote programs, Another popular announcer in pre-TV days at WDSU radio was P. K. Ewing. I have no idea what the "P" or the "K" stood for and I assume no one in the radio audience knew either. Or cared! At the close of his remote program, Stanley Holiday would notify the main studio and P.K. that the remote feed was over with "Take it away, P. K!" Stanley Holiday became facilities manager of WDSU-TV, a position he held until he died. I don't know much about P. fact, as Corporal Schultz exclaimed on "Hogan's Heroes": "I know nothing!"

One of WWL-TV's first news cameramen, Dell Hall, was asked by CBS TV to join the network news gathering staff. He accepted and left for New York. I haven't seen him since he left. Imagine my surprise when, while Charlie Matkin and I were auditioning people for a radio program re-creation by the New Orleans Radio Theatre, a lovely young lady announced her name: "Dell Hall!" I told Charlie: "I know the medics in Denmark are pretty good but I never dreamed they were THAT good!" The young lady assured me that she had always been.a young lady. She also assured me that she had never heard of Channel 4's Dell Hall. We later found out that Dell Hall, the cameraman, had never heard of her either. Since then Dell Hall, the lovely young lady, has performed in many of the New Orleans Radio Theatre productions.

In the days before the I-10 link between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the route of choice to the home of the LSU Tigers was Highway 61, Airline Highway. A group of WDSU-TV football fans were returning from "Death Valley" ( a name by which the LSU stadium had become known) and were attracted to a sign that read: "JAX BEER"...or maybe it was "DIXIE BEER"...or who cares? When you've spent 4 quarters in a sunlight bathed white concrete stadium, wot th' is beer!

A sharp right turn and a quick trip up a short driveway and they were in a motel parking lot. The guys, Wayne Mack, Bill Slatter, Ed Planer. et al, noticed that there were no other cars but there were several large trucks in the parking area. Once inside the bar and restaurant part of the motel, they also noticed that while there a few ladies at the bar apparently in the company of a few men, there were an inordinate number of unescorted ladies lolling about. Since the guys were sophisticated TV people, men of the world, they soon came to the conclusion that this was certainly not where the Rotary Club held their meetings. They were in a "motel of ill repute!" Beer is still beer, however, so they ensconced themselves at a table.

As they sat down they heard one of the ladies at the bar arguing with John ( All men who frequent this place seem to be called John!).She yelled at him: " No, it ain't. I'll ask HIM!" She came over to the guys at their table and, looking right at Wayne, asked: "Hey, you da Great McNutt?" That was the name he used as host of his kiddie show on Ch. 6, a show that featured "The Three Stooges" films. Now, Wayne loved WDSU-TV. He loved doing sports programs on Channel 6. He loved kids, but he didn't really care for adults calling him "The Great McNutt" Reluctantly he answered: "Yeah, I'm him." Without a "Thank You," "Good-bye," or even a "Go to hell," the lady (?) went back to the bar and her John and said, loudly: "Yeah, that's him. You win, ya gotta free trick comin'!"

It should be noted that the lady's comment has been , shall we say, cleaned up somewhat here. I'm sure you get the idea, though.

On the next trip to BR and back, it was decided, unanimously, not to stop for beer.

In the publications of the Federal Communication Commission there are graphical displays that allow engineers to predict the coverage area of a television broadcasting facility. These charts and graphs had to be modified as more stations came on the air. More stations meant more interference possibilities. The charts were also not accurate for areas in the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas because of the extremely flat terrain. VHF TV signals travel longer distances over flat land and even travel farther over water.

I was asked by a group representing the maximum power television broadcast stations to assist David Steele, an engineer with the firm contracted by WDSU-TV as consulting engineers, in making measurements of TV signals in the southern Louisiana area. These measurements would be used in modifying the TV predicted coverage contour charts. To make the measurements, we employed a specially outfitted van on which had been mounted a telescoping antenna mast. A TV receiving antenna on the mast could be raised over forty feet. A continuously recording field intensity meter was hooked up to the TV antenna.

We drove along several radial routes extending outward from the WDSU-TV transmitting antenna location atop the dome of the Hibernia Bank building dome. It wasn't easy driving with the telescoping antenna mast extended to full height. We particularly had to keep an eye out for electric power lines crossing the highways. Upon approaching a power line, we lowered the mast and then drove under the power line. Once past the power line, the mast was again raised to full height. We succeeded in negotiating a number of radials in several days of making measurements. The last radial was to be the easiest, up toward Baton Rouge on the Airline Highway (U. S. 61).

In the area around Prairieville, we came to a sudden stop. The antenna mast had contacted a high tension line! We didn't see the power line because it was hidden by trees on both sides of the highway. While we were inside the van, we were not in danger of electrocution. If, however, we tried to step out of the van and allowed one foot to touch the ground while the other was sill in contact with the van, we would have been history...fried history!

There was an even greater danger, however, not to us, but to people who saw our predicament and were coming to the van to help us. We had to yell at them to stay away. If any of them had touched the van, they would have suffered immediate electrocution.

While a group of onlookers circled around our van, David and I decided to jump out of the van. As long as we didn't contact the van and the ground we would be safe. We both got out safely. David asked an onlooker to take him to a telephone so the power officials could be notified. I stayed behind with several of the onlookers to keep people away from the van.

A power company truck soon arrived, along with a couple of law enforcement vehicles. The electricians were able to disconnect a large bar from a pole a few hundred feet from our location. They also helped us to untangle the TV antenna from the power line. We lowered the mast and were about to leave the site, when someone in the small crowd said they were going to SUE us because they ALMOST had a heart attack when they saw sparks fly from the power line. Dave said: "Have fun!" and we left knowing the threat wasn't going to get much attention from anybody. We would have to return another day to complete "running the radial" and making field intensity measurements because our TV antenna now looked like a large aluminum pretzel.

Arthur Jones was and adventurer. His business was importing wild animals into this country for zoos across the nation. He was featured on a WDSU-TV produced program called "Wild Cargo". Mel Leavitt was the host of the program. Once a week, Arthur would bring some kind of wild beast into the studio. For some reason the animals showed a dislike for Mel. Maybe that was because Mel was not too comfortable around wild creatures, and they knew it!

While we were preparing to go on the air with the live show, Arthur had managed to get a full grown lioness to lie down in the studio. I was amazed at how tame she appeared. The cameras and mike boom moving about didn't seem to frighten her. Then Mel came into the studio. He walked pass her to get to the set where Arthur was already seated. As Mel passed the lioness, she got up and with a super quick motion swatted Mel in the back of his knees sending him reeling to the studio floor. He wasn't hurt and even joined in the laughter of the studio crew. I can't say for sure, but it looked to me like the lioness was also enjoying the laughter.

The Arthur Jones program "Wild Cargo" was on the air some time before Mutual of Omaha presented "Wild Kingdom." The Jones show was reportedly a model for the Mutual program. Arthur left Louisiana and settled on a large ranch in Florida. He had become rich in his animal importing business. He got much richer when he invented the "Nautilus" exercise machine and became part owner of every Nautilus exercise studio in the country. He built the largest TV studio facility in the country in Lake Helen, Florida, where he specialized in producing Medical TV presentations. His ranch features the world's largest private airport. He owns a fleet of large jet aircraft (DC 7s, I think). He brought elephants from Africa to his ranch in an effort to keep the breed existant.

He proved to a convention of physicians, through the use of x-ray motion pictures and infrared photography that jogging was not good for the body and that swimming was the perfect exercise. His office is a glass building within a building. The space between the walls is filled with water inhabited by monster crocodiles, swimming behind him and his desk.

Arthur picked me up at Moisant Field in one of his jets. He asked me to help him buy TV equipment at an NAB convention in Las Vegas. In Las Vegas he was mistaken for Howard Hughes. They looked somewhat alike and Arthur did nothing to convince people that he wasn't Howard Hughes. He spent millions at the convention. He was also host on that trip to Raymond Strother, one of the "King Makers" of Washington, D.C. Raymond and Arthur were both pilots and were proud of it. Strother and I have worked together for many years producing political commercials in many states across the country. Both Strother and I found Arthur Jones one of the most entertaining men we had ever met.

In the early days of the Vieux Carre' studios of WDSU-TV, we had the pleasue of listening to the piano stylings a very pretty, little dark-haired young lady named Diddie Trellis. She had her own 15 minute program on the station. Our pleasure was short-lived, however, because we were all saddened by a report from our own newsroom that Diddie was murdered in her home. This was a crime during the times when one or two murders a year made headlines. The Picayune, for months, had a section every day with a title like "It's been 122 days since Diddie Trellis was murdered." The details of this tragedy would fill a book and are too much for this web site. Several people are still investigating the crime. You can find the details in the files of the Times Picayune.

Two stand-up comedians, working the bistros of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, got together and opened their own club in the Vieux Carre'. It was called "Chez When." One of the partners, Frankie Ray, was the co-star, so to speak, of a locally produced WDSU-TV program called "Maggie and Me Snake." Frankie supplied the voice and manipulated the snake puppet. Maggie Maggie Brooks, a delightful entertainer who sang to Me Snake. Soon Frankie Ray and his partner, Shecky Green, found themselves in Hollywood. Still partners, they became co-stars with Vic Morrow in the ABC-TV series "Combat." You can still see the guys today in the "Combat" series running on one of the nostalgia channels of cable and satellite TV.

When a friend and I were in Las Vegas on business (yes, there is a video recording studio in Las Vegas), Shecky was appearing at one of the large show rooms. He invited us to come to his show and had us seated at a table with some of his friends, Lucille Ball, Peter Frampton and Mike Douglas. You may have heard of them. Shecky did a 40 minute show consisting mainly of jokes that I thought only people from New Orleans would fully understand. I guess I was wrong because the audience roared with laughter along with Lucille Ball and Shecky's other guests. Miss Ball laughed even more when Shecky asked the band behind him: "Who the hell is the good looking red-head down there at that table with my friends?"

One afternoon, when I was "in between" shows, my wife Rita and my daughters stopped by the studio. Rita had to take Karen to a doctor's appointment and asked if she could leave Deirdre with me for a while. That was OK with me. I knew the Mr. Bingle show would be in rehearsal in a little while and I was sure my four year old Deirdre would love to see Mr. Bingle in person.

I sat her on the stage used by the puppeteers in the Bingle show. Oscar Eisentraut, Bingle's voice and manipulator was getting in position on a scaffold behind the stage set. He saw my daughter on the stage set and lowered Mr. Bingle to the stage behind Deirdre. Then he said: " Hello! What's your name?" Deirdre turned and showing no surprise at all, answered: "Deirdre. You're Mr. Bingle. I saw you on TV!" Oscar kept a running conversation going with Deirdre for about 10 or 12 minutes. Other Bingle cast members gathered around the set to watch Bingle and Dierdre talking to each other. I don't really know if Deirdre really knew Bingle was a puppet, but she talked to him like an "old" friend. I finally had to get her out of the studio so the Bingle gang could rehearse. Oscar later told me that it was as much of a thrill talking to Deirdre "through" Mr. Bingle as it must have been for Deirdre to meet Bingle in "person." It was a scene I would never forget.

Since I have mentioned Deirdre, there is one other story about her in the studio. This time she was about 6 or 7 years old. I don't remember why she was in the studio, but she was with me while we were getting ready to air an educational feature. It was a daily morning show and this episode was to feature a large snake, a Boa Constrictor. The live snake was draped over a ladder while his handler and I were reviewing the script at a desk on the set. The handler glanced over to Deirdre who was petting the snake which was slowly coiling around her. He and I jumped up and grabbed the snake and extricated Deirdre from the coils. The handler said he didn't believe the snake would have hurt Deirdre, but you never know for sure when you're dealing with animals from the wild. Deirdre wanted to know why she couldn't play with the snake. She and her two sisters Karen and Kristi love animals. They are just like their mother. Animals love Rita and animals love the kids. If it was up to them, our house would have been another "Ark."

Picture this. It's the night Hurricane Betsy came to New Orleans. The wind has blown off a piece of the WDSU-TV studio roof. The news set has been set up all day for use at a moments notice to keep the public informed of any important storm information. Now, the rain comes. It is raining in the studio and it's time for the news. The anchorman is the veteran newscaster of Channel 6, Alec Gifford. Do we move the newscast to a neutral background? No, indeed! Gifford shows up on the set in a yellow Sou'wester raincoat and hat, looking like your typical tuna fisherman. The newscast hits the air and Alec does the whole show in the rain. That has to be a TV "first" and maybe an "only" in TV history.

Alec is a big part of TV history. He started with WDSU-TV in the infancy of TV in New Orleans. He left Ch. 6 to become associated with CBS -TV news. Alec returned to New Orleans and became an anchorman in the WVUE, Channel 8, news department. WDSU-TV enticed the popular newsman to rejoin the Ch. 6 news team. His "Midday" newscasts were among the highest rated newscasts in the city.

There's not a lot of things that "rattle" this senior newscaster, but he was the target of an April fool prank that somewhat upset his usual intense delivery. The prank involved pre-recording the news set, on videotape, without Alec in place. Anchor people, when they are on the air, watch a studio monitor which displays the recorded news stories of the newscast's various reporters. They also get a glimpse of themselves on the monitor as they deliver the news. In Alec's newscast on that first day of April, the pre-recorded, empty, news set was fed to his monitor. When Alec glanced at the monitor during his newscast, he saw the news set, but he wasn't in it! Now, he knew he was in the news set because he was on the air, but he couldn't see himself in the monitor picture. He did an on-the-air double take and stuttered and stumbled the next few words but quickly regained his composure and managed to finish the newscast in his usual extremely professional manner. There are many things one could say about Alec Gifford and they all add up to PROFESSIONAL!

One of the bigger stories reported on all stations was the "Howard Johnson Sniper." The sniper's bullets were reportedly reaching as far as the Cleveland Avenue studios of WVUE where Alec Gifford reported the events for the WVUE news department. Outside of the obvious connection with television through the various newscasts, the sniper was connected to TV in an even more tragic way. One of the people the sniper killed was detective Louis Sirgo. Sirgo was shot in the back and killed as he tried to reach the sniper's position in an effort to end his reign of terror. Of course, the sniper didn't know that Sirgo was the co-star of a nationally syndicated TV program produced in New Orleans by the Crescent City company MPA (Motion Picture Advertisers). Their office was on Howard Avenue near Lee Circle and very near to the present studios of WDSU-TV. The program was "N. O. P. D." (New Orleans Police Department). Starring with Louis Sirgo was a very busy actor, Stacey Harris, who later made many appearances on "Dragnet" the hit TV program, starring Jack Webb. Many people believe "Dragnet" was patterned after MPA's "N.O.P.D.".

From 1948 through 1971, every Mardi Gras Day found me, either as an engineer or director, in the WDSU-TV remote television van parked on the Canal Street neutral ground across from the Boston Club. There was a wooden platform constructed adjacent to the truck's position on which our TV celebs were stationed. The space under the platform provided a safe place for the children of the WDSU-TV working the Mardi Gras coverage program. The Mardi Gras festivities were aired from 10 AM until 2 PM. For all those years, my view of the Rex parade, Zulu and Pete Fountain's Half Fast Marching Club was on a 12" monitor inside the van. I found that it was impossible to catch doubloons from inside the van, but the sound of the beads and doubloons crashing against the side of the van was downright deafening.

One Mardi Gras Day, a news story developed on the neutral ground side of the WDSU-TV van. A mentally ill young man was threatening Canal Street maskers with a gun. Screams from women maskers brought several police officers to the area. It was the first Mardi Gras duty for these new police academy graduates. They placed themselves around the gunman, between him and the maskers. They were talking to the guy trying to get him to put his gun down. They had no success. Then a veteran police officer, Major Lucien Cutrera, arrived on the scene. He walked past the new officers and up to the gunman and took the gun out of his hands and told the new men in blue to take the confused young man to the First District Station.

Major Cutrera was the Officer in charge of the First District Station. As he did every Mardi Gras that I can remember, Major Cutrera helped me move the WDSU-TV remote unit through the multitude of maskers on Canal Street to its next location at the Municipal Auditorium for the "Meeting of the Courts." He was a good friend and also my cousin's husband. He was one of three members of our family who chose to protect and to serve as police officers. My cousin, Donald Curole, and his father, Louis Curole, also chose to wear the Star and Crescent badge of the N. O. P. D.

When the Mardi Gras parades wormed their way through the Vieux Carre', WDSU-TV cameras were set up on the balcony at 520 Royal St., above the Porte Cochere (a covered alley or passageway that allowed vehicles to enter the courtyard) entrance to WDSU-AM-FM-TV. As the floats passed, parts of them were within four feet of the cameras' lenses and we were treated to an intimate view of the parade that has not been seen since the 60s.

The first Krewe of Bacchus parade featured Danny Kaye as Bacchus. The float passed so close to Mel Leavitt, called Mr. Mardi Gras because of his many years of narrating the Ch. 6 Mardi Gras parade coverage, that he could reach out and hand Danny a microphone. It was a very cold night and the Bacchus costume was a very light toga. Mel asked Danny: "How does it feel to be riding up so high and seeing thousands and thousands of your waving admirers? Danny folded his arms and shivered as he answered: "My ass is freezing!" Fortunately, the program was being videotaped for playback after the 10 PM news. We were able to bleep out what was not acceptable language for TV at that time in the history of that broadcast medium.

When Bob Hope rode as Bacchus (not through the Vieux Carre'), we also had to bleep out his question to Mel: "Where does a king go to take a "l _ _ _", referring to an urgent call of nature. I think that was the last time Mel let a Mardi Gras celebrity share his microphone.

In the mid 80s, Mel and I did a Bacchus parade together for another New Orleans TV channel. My friend and colleague announced that he and I had been broadcasting partners for over a quarter of a century. It was the last parade we would ever do together. We would never again hear him yell: "Throw me something, Mister!"

When Mel Leavitt died, television lost one of the REAL legends of TV broadcasting. He was a TV innovator, a prolific writer, a great sportscaster and a true TV pioneer in every sense of the word. Working with him on the many award winning specials we produced together were some of the happiest days of my life. We produced programs like "The Battle That Missed The War" (the Battle of New Orleans) which won awards from several history associations and garnered a wonderful review from Variety, the showbiz bible. Others were: "Huey Long", a three hour program later cut down to one hour and featured on NBC-TV, and "The Wonderful World of Cajuns." Because I had helped him write some of the specials and because I was the only one he would allow to edit his copy, Mel asked me to join him in writing a book about the early days of TV in New Orleans. We just never got around to doing it.

New Orleans viewers enjoyed Mel's "Byline" program. Mel interviewed some of the most important people of our time on the show. He also interviewed visiting stars of the entertainment world and, for a change in pace, he talked to some of the well known "strangest" people in the country. It seems that our wonderful city had a little more than its fair share of that category.

Mel only missed one week of "Byline" in all the years the program aired when a bout with the flu laid him low. Mel's chair on the "Byline" set was filled by Bob Carr, of the "Midday" and "Second Cup" team of Bob and Jan. On one of the shows, hosted by Carr and pre-recorded because of time constraints of the guest, the real Baroness Von Trapp was to be introduced to New Orleans TV viewers. The lady, however, persisted in proclaiming the virtues of Communism, resulting in the decision of the management of WDSU-TV not to air the It was a time when the broadcasting and movie industry were being investigated by Congressional committees. It was a time when the word "Communism" could be added as the eighth word to George Carlin's seven dirty words. It was not the time for the airing of the Von Trapp political viewpoints.

One tiny problem arose in our every day production of Mel's "Byline" program. It seems that as professional as he was, Mel still could not end his program on time. We constantly "ran over" which meant the news programs following us were allocated a little less time. That did not make the news people extremely happy. One day, A. Louis Read, the station's general manager, asked: "Can't you get Mel off on time?" I answered: "Certainly, there's a button on the switcher labeled "black" and I can hit that any time you say." Read said: "No! No! We never want to cut Mel short. Just keep trying to get him to take your time cues." When I told Mel about that conversation, he promised to do better at taking cues. We still "ran over." I can imagine St. Peter, at the Golden Gate, looking at his Golden Watch after he asked Mel for his name.

One of the first women to grace television screens in the New Orleans area was a young lady who sang her way into the new medium. Her name was Naomi Bryant. She managed to get one of the first regularly scheduled TV programs on WDSU-TV. It was called "Seeing Stars." Noni, as she was known to her friends, talked about Hollywood's stars and sang accompanied by Pete Laudeman. One of her shows featured a song and dance trio composed of Noni, Woody Leafer (TV announcer) and (Horror of Horrors!) TV engineer, Paul Yacich! The trio sang (well, Noni sang. Woody and I tried!) and danced ("cavorted" would be a better term) to "The Rich Maharajah of Magador". Despite Woody and me, television managed to become the most popular form of entertainment the world has yet seen.

Later, Naomi hosted a little contest feature called "Pieface." Starting with a small pie shaped slice of a picture of a popular movie star, a new randomly selected slice was added each day until someone called correctly identifying the pictured star.

Still later, Noni embarked on the most important part of her life. She became Mrs. Mel Leavitt. She left the TV studio to become a wife and mother and, as happens to most young ladies who are good mothers, she eventually became a grandmother. I'll bet she never told her children that she once appeared on TV with Woody Leafer and Paul Yacich!

The phone rang in Stanley Holliday's office. Stan, formerly an announcer and program director of WDSU radio when the station's office and studio were in the Monteleone Hotel, was the TV facilities manager in the 50s. The call was from someone from the YWCA. The people at the YWCA wanted to teach swimming and water safety. Did WDSU-TV have a facility to allow them to teach swimming via TV? No! Of course not! Not that day. But the next day, construction began, in the garage portion of the WDSU-TV studio, adjacent to the "B" side of the studio, on a twenty thousand gallon metal sided swimming pool. A section of the front of the pool featured a large glass panel through which TV cameras could focus on underwater swimmers. Two young ladies, the Massicot twins, were repeat performers seen "through the looking glass" of the big pool.

The pool saw use by other organizations as well as the YWCA. One TV advertiser wanted to show a couple of Cajuns wrestling with alligators underwater. During the rehearsal for the commercial (remember the spot were "live" at that time) while the cameras were focused on the swimmers and the alligators in the pool, the wire keeping one of the 'gator's mouth shut broke. These were no baby alligators, They were BIG and they were fierce! What the camera saw was two Cajuns shoot out of the pool as if they had been launched by NASA. Fortunately, there was enough time to snare the 'gator with a wire noose and refit it with a wire muzzle before the spot was to be aired.

Many people who saw the underwater pictures from the studio pool couldn't believe they originated in a TV studio. The pool was part of the magic WDSU-TV was to bring to the TV audience in New Orleans in years to come.

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