"Online since 1999"

Paul Yacich Memories

Legendary WDSU-TV Director and

New Orleans Television Pioneer Shares His Memories


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In an earlier snippet, I mentioned an NAB production of a recording called "Blooper's Soap." The recording is a satire about a commercial recording session. It became a very popular NAB offering because, while highly amusing, it is not far from the truth about many recording sessions. The following is the approximate content of that recording...not a true transcript but as I remember hearing it at a meeting of several ad agencies and the WDSU-TV sales and production staffers:

The scene is the control room of a recording studio. Present are the clients, Mr. and Mrs. Blooper, their agency rep, an audio operator (we'll call him "Sam"). An announcer, selected by the agency rep to do the spot, enters the control room.

Rep: "Hi, Morey! Come here and meet my clients. Mr. And Mrs. Blooper, this is your announcer, Morey Siduals. 

Morey: "Hello there! I'm so pleased to meet you.

Rep: "Morey, this one ought to be a one take job. All we want is a simple, low key, throw-away line: "Blooper's Soap is real good." Now, you can handle that can't you, pal?"

Morey: "Piece of cake, mes amis!"

Rep: "OK, Morey, get in the studio and let's get at it. We ought to be out of here in 10 minutes."

Morey: "With a throw-away line like that, 5 minutes!"

Rep: "Sam, you can put this directly on my agency reel. We're not going to use a lot of tape today. Give me the studio talk-back mike. OK, you ready Morey?"

Morey: "Rarin' to go!"

Rep: "OK Sam...roll tape and record...stand by Morey...and remember, just a simple throw-away 5, 4, 3, 2," (Agency Rep points a finger at Morey to cue him to deliver the line.)

Morey: "Blooper's Soap is real good." (pause) "How's that for a throw-away, gang?"

Rep: "Sounds good to me, pal and," (Mr. Blooper taps Rep on the arm and whispers something in his ear.)

"Oh! OK, listen, Morey, Mr. Blooper feels kinda strong about name association and product identification and he thinks we need to hit "Blooper's" somewhat harder. Let's try again and stress "Blooper's" a little."

"Ready in 5, 4, 3, 2,." (again Rep points to Morey to cue.)

Morey: "BLOOPER'S Soap is real good." (Note: all caps indicate a louder, stressed delivery) (Pause) " How now, brown cow?"

Rep: "Yeah! What can I say? You're a pro and you got." (Again Mr. Blooper taps Rep and whispers,) "Er, Morey, there's just one little thing...the product is know it, I know it, the Bloopers know it and now, they want the world to know they'd like you to take another shot at it and, you know, hit "soap" a little harder. OK, Pal?"

Morey: "No problemo kiddo. I'm ready Freddie!"

Rep: "OK, Morey in 5, 4, 3, 2,. (Rep points and cues Morey)

Morey: "BLOOPER'S SOAP is real good." (Pause) "Is that anywhere near what you guys want?"

Rep: "Right on the nose, Morey I think we've got it and I..." (another tap from Mr. Blooper and another whisper,) "And I think we've got to do it again, Morey. Mrs. Blooper thinks the word "real" is super important in this spot. It indicates that the product is not just good it's better that just good. She thinks we need to play up the word a OK with that, Morey?"

Morey: "Aw, shhhertainly them that you can count backwards, Seymour!"

Rep: "Stand 5, 4, 3, 2" (Rep points and cues.)

Morey: "BLOOPER'S SOAP is REAL good." (Pause) " I'm so good sometimes I surprise myself."

Rep: "Well, I think that does it. We can..."

Mr. B: "We can do it one more time, gentlemen."

Rep: "What's wrong, now?"

Mr. B: " It's that word "good." It's my favorite word. I tried to copyright it. It's in all my advertising. We have got to make it heard."

Rep: "Heard that, Morey?" One more time ought to do it!"

Morey: "Yeah, sure."

Rep: "OK, Morey, in 5, 4, 3, 2," ( Rep does the cue trick)

Morey: "BLOOPER'S SOAP is REAL GOOD." (Pause) "Do I dare ask how was that?"

Rep: "Just fine, Morey, just..."

Mrs. B: "He swallowed "is."

Rep: "He did what?"

Mrs. B: "He Swallowed the word "is." I almost didn't hear it."

Rep: "Moray"

Moray: "Yeah, I heard..count down."

Rep: " In 5, 4, 3, 2, ." (Rep shoots the finger to Moray)


Mr. B: "GOOD!"

Mrs. B: "I like it!"

Rep: "That's it, Morey, just what we wanteda simple. low key, throw-away line!"

Once upon a time there was a company that manufactured a gas detector for oil drilling rigs. The chief honcho of that company contracted us to produce a video which was to show that the detectors in use on many of the oil rigs were liable to explode with disastrous results and that the detector his company manufactured was completely safe and explosion proof. To demonstrate the danger of the detectors in common usage, we were to videotape one of the detectors exploding. I asked if we could videotape the explosion in a studio. The answer was: "No, the explosion will be a little too big for an enclosed demonstration."

The owner of the company had some undeveloped property in Mississippi that was far enough from populated areas so that a small explosion would not cause any anxiety. We set up two cameras to videotape the explosion. The company technicians wired an "old fashioned" gas detector that was loaded with explosive material so that it could be detonated on cue. Since they said it would be a relatively small explosion, I was standing with my back to the gas detector so the cameramen, Derek Toten and Doug Foval, could see when I cued the techies to press the detonate button. I signaled them to stand by, roll tape and focus on the gas detector. Then I cued the techies.

There was no little explosion. Instead, there was a junior sized atomic bomb blast. After the blast there was dead birds, no crickets, no "nuthin" except the sound of my voice saying "Good Gawd A'mighty!"

Back at the studio, when we viewed the tapes of the explosion, we were shocked to see something headed toward Derek's camera. Played in slow motion, the tape showed a large chunk of metal spinning and speeding toward Derek! Fortunately, it passed him without causing any injury. I was kidding Derek about his camera work when he reminded me that, to get to him at his camera position, the spinning metal "comet" had to pass very low over and close to me! I still get the "heebie jeebies" when I think about that thing coming at Derek and me. It did, however, make the finished video presentation an exciting one that was directly responsible for the replacement of many of the old gas detectors on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Great McNutt called her "Norma Noodle." In the 1960's, she played the piano on Wayne Mack's kiddie show when an episode of the Three Stooges wasn't entertaining the kids. Her real name was Norma Jay Stratz Alborado nee Norma Hatfield.

Norma became a seasoned performer at an early age playing piano, singing and dancing with the All-American Girl Review, an American Legion presentation touring various military installations in the South during WWII. After the war, she attended Newcomb college majoring in music. After graduation she joined the Rene Louarpre Society Orchestra. The group performed for many Mardi Gras organizations at their annual balls.

WDSU-TV selected Norma to star in her own musical show, "The Music Room," in 1952. She also became the stations music director. She was a feature of the "Midday" program and also appeared as an accompanist on the "Tonight With Mel" TV show (one of the first talk shows in the country specifically designed to feature local celebs on a program following the NBC "Tonight" show). While handling all her musical chores at WDSU-TV, the delightful Norma also found time to perform as organist and director of adult and children's choirs at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Algiers. She also directed and was accompanist for musical variety shows presented by both Arden Cahill Academy and St. Mary's Dominican High School.

Norma Alborado was, indeed, one of the great ladies of WDSU-TV. All of us will miss her beautiful, smiling face. Miss "Norma Noodle" died at the age of 70 in June of 1999.

Every year, for many years now, a group of former WDSU-TV staffers, retired and otherwise, meet at the wonderful XDSU reunion party at the Kramer Ranch near Folsom, LA. Larry Kramer, a retired WDSU-TV studio cameraman, and his wife, Gail, graciously host the get-together of many old friends and colleagues. Edgar Stern, Jr. and his wife, Polly, who live now on an island off the coast of the state of Washington, attended one of the recent reunions.

While my "MR. Stern" hasn't owned the station since the early 70s, he is still "one of the guys" of WDSU-TV. I would like to add here that, for many years, I have told my friends that I was the only WDSU staffer called up for military (Navy) duty in the 50s for the Korean "thingy." I found out just recently that MR. Stern was also called up at the same time and served as a Lieutenant on active duty with the Army in Washington, D.C. My apologies mean MR. Stern.

WDSU-TV has always the station of great ladies, both on the air talent and off the air office personnel. One of those great ladies was Judy Mosgrove. For a while she was a telephone operator and receptionist at WDSU-TV and graced the lobby of the Broulatour Residence, and the offices of WDSU-TV. Judy's most pleasing personality was a definite station asset. She soon became Personnel Manager of WDSU-AM-FM-TV. This warm, wonderful, always smiling and gracious lady could make you feel like it was a balmy day in May while you were in the middle of a September hurricane.

She so impressed artist Enrique Alvarez that he insisted that she pose for his magnificent statue of the Lady Marine, called "Molly Marine", a tribute to the women of the U. S. Marine Corps. Judy died a few years ago and all of us of the XDSU gang sincerely miss her beautiful smile. Every time I see the "Molly Marine" statue I can almost hear her say: "Hi! Paul!" I was very happy to meet Judy's daughter at one of the XDSU reunions at the Kramer Ranch. She is Judy all over!

The continuity department of a radio or television station was responsible for writing promos in association with the promotion department of the station and other on air messages, including commercials for those accounts that do not write their own spots or do not employ the services of an advertising agency to write them. The phrase "was responsible" is used herein because today many radio and television stations do not maintain a continuity department. The first WDSU-TV continuity department was headed by Evelyn Kennedy, a graduate of the Columbia University Playwriter Group. Evelyn was listed as an outstanding authoress in The International Blue Book.

Working along with Evelyn was Connie Reynolds (now Connie Green), who came to the television side of WDSU AM-FM-TV as a diligent member of the continuity staff of WDSU-AM. At this writing, Connie is one of the few original staff members still around to brag about the wonderful people of WDSU AM-FM-TV. Connie is an accomplished ballet dancer and is reported to be equally adept with an arabesque as she is with an adjective.

David Snow was the kind of ad agency rep you just had to like. He was a yankee (that's half a word meaning he was from Maine). David was a published author. He had tasted our Mississippi River water and was immediately converted to a New Orleanian. He knew the agency business. He knew the radio and TV business. He made it a point to know and understand the problems of his account's business. 
I met him when he was a staffer of the Wm. B. Reily coffee and tea company and he asked me to help him make TV spots for the company. A later management shake-up of that corporation, after the passing of its founder and president, left David without a job. He became associated with a local New Orleans ad agency for a while. He called one day and said he was going to start his own agency but was short on startup funds. Now, David, had paid me thousands in talent fees for producing and directing Luzianne tea commercials. He also paid my wife as talent in some of the Luzianne product commercials. AND it was David who asked me to direct the wonderful Betty White in a series of Luzianne Tea commercials. He said it would take about 6 grand to start the agency so I gave him 6 grand.

David established the Tempo Advertising Agency. One of his first accounts was the bakers of Tasty Bread. For one of the bakery's commercials, David included the line: "Tasty Bread tastes good." A simple throw-away line, right? Wrong! In an audio recording session, the talent, a young lady, read the line as: "Tasty Bread tastes GOOD!" David said: Oh No! That's not what I wrote. It's "Tasty Bread TASTES good." The young lady replied: "Well, that's what I said, isn't it?" David told her: "No, but let's try it again." Again she said: "Tasty Bread tastes GOOD!" David: "Tasty Bread TASTES good." Girl: "Tasty Bread tastes GOOD." It went that way for about an hour. The young lady just never could hear the difference. I guess some people hear the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (Bass Clef: G G G E flat) as Bass Clef: E flat E flat E flat G! David wasn't about to accept her interpretation of his slogan, so she was "excused" and we brought someone else in someone who could hear the music of the symphony David wrote. David and I still chuckle when we compare that incident with the NAB's "Blooper's Soap" story.

David's Tempo advertising agency inherited the Pontchartrain Beach account and he and I began making TV spots for the beach. As an interesting "perk" while making the beach spots, we once took over the entire amusement park to shoot commercials. No one but our invited guests were allowed in the park. We had many friends, David's and mine (and my kid's), riding all of the rides all day FREE..and uncrowded as we shot the film. My wife, Rita, and my kids got to ride the Zephyr (roller coaster) 20 times. It was a once in a lifetime event for all of our friends. My cameraman and I were in the first seat riding backwards so we could film the reaction of the Zephyr riders as they sped along the humps and dips of the tracks. That's a trip most people would never get to experience.

A few years later, David called and said: " I'm going to sell the Tempo agency. What do you want for your half?" I told him: "Hey! The agency is yours...all yours. I don't own any part of Tempo Advertising!" He replied; "But you were kind enough to lend me 6 grand to open Tempo." I said: "No, I didn't lend you anything, I gave it to you." He said: "Well OK, we'll see what it brings." A few weeks later the abominable Snowman set me a check for the 6 grand and then some. That's the kind of man David is.

David later joined the staff of The Delta Queen Steamboat Company. Together we made several crew training video presentations, recruiting presentations and sales video presentations. These projects brought mucho dinero into the bank account of this Croatian kid form the lower "nint" ward. To make the video presentations, we were FORCED to make several (about ten) of the grand and glorious and expensive riverboat cruises aboard the legendary Delta Queen, the magnificent Mississippi Queen and the beautiful American Queen. It's dirty work, but somebody's gotta do it! So, if anybody needs someone to do that kind of dirty work, call me please!

The abominable Snowman, Mr. David Snow, is retired now, spending his time with his true love, his sailboat. Way to go, my wonderful friend!

TV viewers were treated to a spectacular Christmas TV program on Christmas Day 1965. "Christmas In New Orleans" featured possibly the largest cast of any studio show ever produced in New Orleans. Sponsored by George "Pontiac" Pattison, the program featured a large symphony orchestra under the direction of Milton "Whitey" Bush (my favorite trombone player...Milton and I were in the Warren Easton High School band together in 1939), opera singers Mary Tortorich and Norman Treigle, the New Orleans Opera Chorus, Lelia Haller's ballet company, and a dozen or more pre-teen performers. It was my pleasure to direct the show and these wonderful performers.

In one of the dance numbers, Miss Haller's girls were costumed as wooden soldiers and danced to "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers." At one point in the rehearsal, as they left their "guardhouse", they were to make a right turn as they exited. None of them made a military turn and the turns varied with each girl. Miss Haller asked for someone to demonstrate a military turn. So I went to the studio floor and proceeded to show the ladies how it was done. Now, how many kids from the lower "nint" ward do you know that have become ballet masters? For weeks after the show, the gang in the studio referred to me as "Lermontov" (remember Boris of "The Red Shoes"?).

Despite my debut as a ballet teacher, older viewers of this area still refer to the 1965 "Christmas In New Orleans" as the best single color TV program ever produced in New Orleans.

The first televised coverage of the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was presented to the people of New Orleans by the TV remote crew of WDSU-TV in 1948. For more than a half century, viewers in New Orleans and surrounding areas were able to witness the WDSU-TV presentation of celebration of the Midnight Mass by Archbishops Rummel, Hannan and Cody. Many of the members of the remote crew voluntarily gave up being with their families on Christmas Eve to be part of the technical staff of the annual Midnight Mass presentation. Some of the men were veterans of over 20 years of Midnight Mass telecasts.

For more than 20 years, as an engineer and later the director of the telecast, I was part of that group of people dedicated to the televising of the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass and bringing that celebration to many shut-ins and others not able to be at the venerable St. Louis Cathedral for the annual Mass. That, of course, meant that my wife, Rita, had to assemble the toys for our girls on Christmas Eve all alone. She can assemble a bicycle better than I can. I guess some of her Christmas Eve technical talent was inherited by our three girls, who are also better at things like that than their husbands are.

In the early years of TV in New Orleans the narration of the Midnight Mass from the venerable St. Louis Cathedral was both the honor and pleasure of TV announcer Jim Landry. For many years, the American Broadcasting Company radio network carried the Midnight Mass and Jim's narration. Jim's infectious smile made him a welcomed attraction on Channel 6.

For the record, I had to register my feelings of resentment when a local newspaper TV critic called our cameramen and their equipment "clunky technicians" and "clunky cameras." Most of the people in the church didn't notice the cameras and the cameramen or didn't find their presence objectionable. Their presence was enthusiastically accepted by church officials who recognized the value of the service the people of the WDSU-TV remote crew brought to New Orleans and the surrounding area.

think TV stations should have newspaper critics who can talk about the "clunky" Times Picayune and it's "clunky" columnists, reporters, and photographers, He could also point out mis-quotes, mis-registered color photos, misspelled words, stupid headlines and bylines, slanted political stories and other such everyday occurrences in the daily Pickleune.

John Muller was a former MGM Newsreel cameraman . He served as Bureau Chief of MGM's Chicago Office. Muller produced a 16mm film featuring the Federal Barge Line. The film was a feature of the Chicago World's Fair for two consecutive years. John became WDSU-TV's facilities manager. He also directed the first TV program ever seen in New Orleans, the WDSU-TV inaugural program from the Municipal Auditorium on the evening of December 18, 1948. The cameramen on that program were Irwin F. Poche, Jr., Watson Tebo, and Ken Muller, John Muller's brother.

Irwin and Ken later became the stations first employees designated specifically as TV directors and, as such, became members of AFTRA. The union assumed representation for TV directors at the request of the WDSU-TV management in an effort to limit the number of union contracts.

Poche' and Muller were both Tulane graduates. Ken was a Green Wave football team player. He began his directing career by handling all of the local sports programs aired by Channel 6. He also directed the Nash Roberts weather segments of local newscasts.

Poche' was a product of the Business School at Tulane. He was an avid amateur photographer. As a WDSU-TV director, he gravitated to news presentations and directed all of the stations major newscasts. His style in directing newscasts became a model for all directors of this area. The Channel 6 "Our House" and "Midday" shows also were directed by Poche' and bore his "brand."

In later years, the position of TV director at WDSU-TV was considered one of the better TV jobs nationwide. Several out-of-towners were brought in as directors including Herman Liveright, formerly with ABC-TV. Liveright became a target of the Eastland Congressional Committee investigating Communist influence in the broadcasting and feature movie fields. Les Goral, Hubie Weiss and Bill Weyse also filled the directors's chair for a short while. Still later, Channel 6's TV directors came from the ranks, "Mustangs" as those promoted from the ranks are called in the military, as did Poche' and Muller.

John Domec' was formerly a radio station engineer. A union squabble at the radio station at which John was employed prompted a move to the job of audio engineer at WDSU-TV. John won out in a series of try-outs for an open director's job. John became the director of the Channel 6 "Second Cup" show featuring "the new kids on the block" at WDSU-TV, Bob and Jan Carr. Domec' also shared directing major local newscasts with Poche'. His name will also be remembered as the director of the "Mr. Bingle" programs.

Bob Nelson, a WDSU radio jock who also hosted a local comedy feature on Channel 6, replaced Liveright, who was fired by WDSU-TV for refusing to answer questions at the Eastland hearings. In the early 60s, Nelson left WDSU-TV to search for greener pastures closer to his home town and that left an opening in the director's group that was filled by try-out again. This time the lucky winner was.that Croatian kid from the lower "nint" ward.

I was honored in being selected by Mel Leavitt to direct his "Byline" program as well as all of the special event programs Mel produced. I joined Poche', Muller, and Domec' in the stations "all local" director's department. Two news specials that were my privilege to direct won "Emmy" awards.

As I told the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters upon acceptance of their lifetime achievement award: "There was a big secret I had to hide from Edgar Stern and the management of WDSU-TV. While the station paid me well for my services, I love broadcasting so much that I would have done it all for nothing!" and "To receive this award for something I love to do is, indeed, a great honor." Another great honor came that same year, 1999, when I became the first TV director inducted into The Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Association's "Hall of Fame."

The fact that local TV directors received talent fees and residuals for directing commercials produced in the station's studios was one of the reasons many directors from all over the nation tried to become associated with WDSU-TV. At one time, during the late 60s and early 70s, the directors at Channel 6 were making well over 90% of the locally produced commercials. The waltz is over now, however, for local directors. Today's TV directors in New Orleans are not working on a talent fee structure. Even if they were, the out-of-town owners of all of the New Orleans commercial TV facilities would rather not do any local production other than news.

Now, before I begin a tirade against the present policies of the FCC regarding radio and TV facilities ownership, let's just move on.

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