One of the first moon rocks, from Apollo 11, was brought to TC7 during the Apollo 12 mission, to be seen on British tv for the first time. It arrived with great ceremony guarded by 2 security men, and locked in a heavy briefcase.
When the case was opened, the rock was revealed to be sealed in a perspex dome and mounted on a metal stand, irremovable and untouchable. It was explained that it was far too precious to be taken out. The crew were very disappointed that they couldn’t touch the rock, until one of the British scientists being interviewed said “That’s all right, you can touch mine”. He produced a small plastic box which he opened and tipped out another rock which he handed round for everyone to play with.
(So I was one of the first people ever to touch a moon rock)
Could be apocryphal – I heard this in a tea bar….
Peter Hills (trademark: – “Hello, squire!”), well known senior cameraman on crew 17, was doing an attachment as a TM2 (the man who runs the VTs at the end of the desk in the gallery, for the younger members).
It was in the days of 405, black and white, tense “as live” studio drama – and huge 10ft by 6ft mirrors used for back projection behind cars etc..
A seriously dramatic bit of acting was going on at one end of the studio, whilst at the other, the Mole had to do a quick reposition. As the Mole turned, the arm somehow got away from its operator, and the inevitable happened. There was the most almighty crash as the mirror fell into thousands of expensive pieces, followed by a deadly hush – broken by a little voice from the loudspeaker talkback in the roof – “You’ve fucked it now, squire!”
“Listen to the music, cloth ears” – Stewart Morris to a senior cameraman who hadn’t worked with him before.
When The Crazy World of Arthur Brown came in to TOTP to play “Fire”, it was done as a post recording, because Arthur wore a real fire crown. Someone had decided also that the studio would have smoke in the air (very unusual then), so they got a special effects fellow called Bertram in, who had probably been at Lime Grove in the Gaumont- Kalee days. He brought a large machine on fat wheels which was, in fact, labelled Gaumont-Kalee. It had a delivery tube a foot in diameter. Bertram tended this machine all day, to the amusement of the floor manager, who kept asking if he’d be ready. When the kids had all been chucked out, the moment came – the floor manager shouted “Now, Bertram” – and the tube belched an enormous amount of smoke, so much so that the Heron driver, me, couldn’t see the ground to see his marks, and neither could anyone else. Arthur’s crown was extinguished, and we all waited 20 minutes till we could see again. The clip that is still shown is take two, with much less smoke and a chastised Bertram
Still on TOTP – one day during the live show, the Heron I was tracking, with Al Kerridge on the front, ground to a halt with 28 bars to get to the other end of the studio. I leapt off, and the crowd pushers helped me get the machine down the studio in time. Then we realised that the cable guard had jammed into the floor and taken a long gouge out of the lino. It stayed there for several weeks, and had a lead part in The Man in the Iron Mask, a Sunday afternoon serial. Eventually they re-laid the flooring, but not very well, and it bulged around the edges, making for some bumpy tracks. One night after the kids had gone, The Stones came in to play Jumping Jack Flash. During the recording the crew’s top Heron driver (me again!) spun the machine round, and completely ripped out the squares of badly laid lino. After that they had to take the studio out of service to do the job properly.
There were lots of trainees in the late ’60′s, including me, and we all made screw-ups – I broke an antique pram on Adam Adamant – but I think the most accident prone and ineffectual was a chap I’ll call James (because that wasn’t his name).
James first came to notice on an arts show in Studio D. On one side of the studio a modern jazz group played against a chromakey blue background, whilst on the other side were the things to be keyed in. James was tracking the Heron on the group, but kept losing interest and looking the other way – not surprising, as one of the keyed-in objects was a naked girl having gearwheels painted on her breasts. At lunch, the senior cameraman said “Look, you must concentrate – haven’t you seen a naked woman before?” James replied “Yes, I have – now”
At the Golders Green Hippodrome, James managed to step backwards off the stage whilst cable-bashing. The stage was much higher than at TVT, but luckily for him, his belt caught on the Mole cable bollard and he hung there as the crew fell about laughing, and the floor manager rushed to help whilst looking daggers at the crew.
James’s crowning glory was during a schools programme – finally allowed to operate a camera, he managed to zoom in on an object on a table – and miss. He left tech ops soon after, and persued a long career in another part of the BBC – he may still be there…
From Roger Bunce
During the Work to Rule, a junior Cameraman, such as myself, was only allowed to perform one operation at a time – as specified by our job description.
My crew was working on “The World of Wooster” at the time, with Ian Carmichael as Bertie Wooster and Dennis Price as Jeeves. One of my shots required me to track in to a close-up of Ian Carmichael. The rules allowed me to track and maintain focus, but I was not allowed to tilt, crane or in any other way reframe the shot as I tracked. The result would have been a track into Bertie Wooster’s tie knot, rather than his face.
Fortunately, the Cast and Production team all supported our action and were prepared to conspire to make the shot work. We arranged that, as I tracked in, Ian Carmichael would bend at the knees, in order to keep his face in the frame. True professional that he is, he maintained perfect headroom throughout the shot!
From Bill Jenkin
Roger Fenna during a crew discussion on the importance of getting the rig done properly:
“No director has ever come up to me and said ‘Bloody good rig Rog!’”
Sometime in the 1980s a T.M. who shall remain nameless was setting up a circuit for Breakfast Time with a russian woman in Dundee who was taking action to put pressure on the various authorities in order to get her husband out from behind the iron curtain.
T.M.: ” would your like to say a few words for level please”
Woman: “what would you like me to say?”
T.M.: “just say what you had for breakfast this morning”
Woman (very annoyed): “I have had nothing – I am on hunger strike!”.
Which was what the item was all about in the first place.
Another Breakfast Time in the 80′s
Selina Scott turns to the big B.P. screen and asks a question of a man in Belfast.
The man in Belfast only gives a blank stare.
Selina Scott: “Mr xxxx can you hear me?”
Man in Belfast “No I’m afraid I can’t”
Scotty: “OK then we had better go on to something else and come back later”
M. in B.: “Yes I think that would be a good idea”.
Scotty turns back and carries on with the show.
From Howard Michaels
In 1974 I was a junior cameraman on Squire Hill`s crew 17.It was the height of the three day week with power cuts etc and we were making a money programme in Lime Grove studio D.
The Director,who shall remain anonymous, was very young and inexperienced, and during the course of rehearsals was heard to say such things as ” I want you to zoom in through the tunnel to a wide shot”.
We spent the afternoon recording some of the show, but the live bit of the programme was badly under-rehearsed.
When transmission came he had artists in the wrong chairs at the wrong end of the studio, cameras were in the wrong positions etc.
The programme ran live for 45minutes, however when it was repeated it only ran for 30 minutes – I wonder why?
Also in the rota power cuts, I worked on Falstaff in TC1. Bob Wright, the lighting man was trying out a new soft light which consisted of a cyc on one wall with a quarter on a megawatt shining on it. It made a brilliant sunrise, the like of which hadn’t been seen in BBC studio before. When we opened the big doors onto Wood Lane, the whole of the rest of Shepherd’s Bush was in absolute darkness.
Joan Marsden, known to all as Mother, was always floor manager on Panorama. In the mid-sixties, she presided over the first trans-Atlantic satellite tv interview, with the incoming feed up on a huge back projection Eidophor screen. When the circuits were up and sawtooth and tone removed, the Americans plugged Studio G’s feed back to itself. Mother and all in the studio marvelled as she talked and waved at her 50,000 miles delayed self.
From Bill Jenkin
As a very green recruit, literally only a few weeks back from Wood Norton, I was attached to Crew 10 (Geoff Feld was acting Senior Cameraman.) and we were doing one of those “Sunday” serials – an adaptation of Charles Kingsley’s “Hereward the Wake” directed by Peter Hammond. We were in studio G surrounded by Normans and Saxons (Alfred Lynch as Hereward). I was cable bashing and all the other spare effort had been given an ‘early’. There was a camera tower in the middle of the studio and as we broke for dinner there was a loud AAARRGH! and bump as the cameraman John (Spider) Whatton descended from the tower rather faster than he had anticipated. John was despatched to Hammersmith Hospital. Fortunately he was not seriously injured – only shaken up with a few bruises – but he was not going to reappear for the recording.
As all the more experienced crew reliefs/trainees had gone home there was only one thing for it – I was going to have to do the camera without any rehearsal. Shaking with nerves, I was taken through all the shots by the director Peter Hammond and Geoff before the recording.
I can’t remember what it was, but at some point I must have thrown my inexperience into relief by asking some extremely naive question about one of the shots. There was a short silence as Geoff and Peter looked at one another. Finally Peter turned to me and said
“I’ll leave that to your professional judgement”…..gulp!