Some of my personal stories
The Young Generation were Stewart Morris’s dance group. They backed anybody who happened to be the featured artist for this months series (I wonder why?), and even had a series of their own. Nigel Lithgow and Lesley Judd were their best known products.
One Easter Stewart had them do a special of their own in TC1 called “Jesus” (a word often heard from Stewart, but not in this context). It was a pretentious religious musical piece, and required an enormous Chapman Hercules crane, normally used for such delights as Lawrence of Arabia. It came with it’s own driver, who was pretty used to steaming through the desert, but not pretending to be an overgrown Mole in TC1.
Brian White was the cameraman, and it had a team of swingers, including Bill Jenkin, I think. The cameraman had a chap with him to wind a handle to rotate his seat and the camera, which was me.
Stewart, in typical form, set up a fast track back down the studio, with a right-angle turn by the control room window. The driver, eager to please, zipped along, and performed the track and the turn perfectly. Unfortunately, the massive weight of the arm just picked up the swingers as the base turned the corner, and it continued in the direction it had been going.
“J***s, where the **** are you camera 1?”, quoth our director.
The answer was very close to “Right behind you, Stewart”, as Brian and I missed crashing through the gallery window by about half an inch!
Many years later, as a senior Pres producer with the run of the library, I booked out the original 2″ transmission tape of the show and watched it one Saturday afternoon – probably the first person to see it in 15 years. It looked as cheesy as ever, and it turned out to have been cut-edited – ie the tape had been physically cut. As the splices went through the heads there would be a great thump, and the picture would fall apart, because the joins had stretched over the years of storage.
An aside – the whine of a 2″ VT machine was a daily part of my life for 20 years. There’s only one (of dozens) left at Television Centre now – to hear that sound brings on waves of nostalgia! Not dissimilar to walking back into the Phoenix, the studio at Evesham, last year after 35 years – it still has the same smell!
The Young Generation were also involved in “Project X” – five secret days at the TV Theatre which turned out to be a sort of mini Royal Command Performance.
They set up a pair of thrones at the front of the circle for the Queen and Duke, and also completely re-furbished the ladies toilet. For three days we dared each other to go and look inside, and on the morning of transmission, we did.
Where, if it was anything like the gents, there had been peeling paint, etc, there was indirect lighting, pink mirrors, hairbrushes, towels and flowers, all neatly laid out.
We had to know if she would actually use it – so during the interval we kept watch.
She never went near it!
I was the late cameraman in Pres A one evening. In those daydays there was a weather caption at 9.25, and maybe a menu, then home.
On this particular evening, an Apollo was due to land on the moon – Apollo 15, I think. They had decided that it was no longer worth staffing TC7 all through the trip, and so James Burke was oov in Houston, with Patrick Moore and others oov in London, all controlled by producer Dick Francis in ICR, along the corridor from Pres A.
They were due to carry the landing live at 9.25 on BBC1 using NASA pictures, but at the last minute everything went pear-shaped when NASA decided they should do some more orbits of the moon. BBC1 was suddenly going to consist of just that picture of the Houston control room for the 45 minute slot.
At about 15 minutes past nine all hell broke loose in Pres A, as Pres Producer Pat Hubbard arrived from the bar and announced that we would cover, and went off to discuss with Mr Francis what we’d do. Left in the studio with seven minutes to go were five slightly bemused people.
The sound man went hunting for mics. Assistant producer Orwyn Evans and I rustled up chairs and a table stolen from Late Night Line Up, whilst the S.Tel.E and Harry the sparks did the lights. Then Patrick Moore and two others (we had expected one) turned up asking how they would hear James Burke in Houston. The sound man and I found some earpieces, but the only feed available was zero level talkback – starring the tired and emotional Pat Hubbard.
For the first, and, I think, only time in my life, I was in charge of the camera crew. Orwyn had left school wanting to be a cameraman, but not, it has to be said, live at 9.25 on BBC1 for his first show. Harry was dragooned into being floor manager.
I showed Orwyn the zoom and focus on one of the cameras and told to just do as he was told, then went to operate the other two.
As soon as we went on the air, Pat opened up the local Pres intercom to Network 1 and ICR, and shouted loudly and rudely at everyone. I tried to quietly use my camera intercom to explain to Pat that Patrick and co were hearing his talkback (as he was saying “Ok, tell Patrick to shut up”). Patrick soldiered on professionally (“We just don’t know!”) for the 45 minutes whilst wincing at the din in his ear. Next day, we made the Daily Mirror.