STATIONBREAK.CA

Memories

WHEN YOUR GOLDEN HANDSHAKE TURNS TO FOOLS GOLD by Ray Waines
60th ANNIVERSARY OF CBUT '53 (Parts 1 and 2)
Photos: CBC Studios THEN AND NOW
THE LATE GREAT CBC DESIGN DEPARTMENT by Chris Paton
MEMORIES OF THE PAUL ANKA SHOW 1981 by Jeff Groberman
ONLY SOMETIMES A PIECE OF CAKE (PARTS 1 & 2) by Al Vitols


MEMORIES.

When your Golden Handshake Turns to Fools Gold by Ray Waines

  Let's go back 35 years to that fateful day in Canada when Brian Mulroney
  was elected Prime Minister in 1984.  There were two things that Mulroney
  was obsessed with, the first being that he had to stop any Gold Digger
  from marrying one of his government employees, for their pension.  His
  Finance Minister Michael Wilson made sure of that with new Acts in
  Parliament. One of those Acts changed our CBC Pension overnight so that
  it stopped surviving spouses from getting any pension from CBC pensioners
  who married them after retirement.   Fortunately our CBC Pensioners
  Association is part of a Fairness Coalition, (thanks to Rick Inglis), with many
  other Government Pension plans who are demanding pensions and fairness
  for these spouses.  There are a total of over 5 million Canadians in this
  Coalition!

  The second issue was that those large golden handshakes really bothered
  Mulroney and he again asked Wilson to come up with an idea, which he did. 
  He introduced the Minimum Tax through Revenue Canada to claw back a
  lot of money from golden handshakes!  Unfortunately it was not just from the
  well-to-do business men and other well paid Managers retiring.  This
  Minimum Tax also clawed back money and RRSPs from every average paid Canadian across Canada!  Both men and women thought at first that they were getting a Golden Handshake at last after 30 or 40 years of dedication to their employers.  They quickly learned that their last handshake was only for fools gold.  But Mulroney didn't care; it was an easy cash grab and he went on to be one of the most hated Prime Ministers of Canada.

Many of you, along with myself, who retired from CBC were given a package (short for Golden Handshake) and were shocked at how much the Minimum Tax had clawed back. Money that should have been ours for RRSPs was gone and this was compounded with  stacking our package so that we had a much higher tax bracket on our first year of retirement!  Let me give you an example of my so called golden handshake after 31 years with CBC.  I had to pay 50% income tax on my first 9 months of CBC pension!  And to rub salt into my clawed back wounds, CBC refused to spread this large first year sum over two years like CPR did (another Crown Corporation) to help their employees with retiring financially secure.

The cutbacks were just starting at the Corp and to help a colleague keep his job, I had decided to accept a retirement package. I do remember that it was a very stressful time for me.   I managed to get some anxiety pills from my doctor to help me get me through it all. Then when I found out how much my so called golden handshake was costing me in the first year, I decided to go to court, right here in Kelowna.

At first this old mumbling judge said "Everything is done by the Tax Act, I can see no reason to hear this case!"  I was shocked as I stood up and started to show him the figures on a large sheet of cardboard. Well, I got half way through before he stopped me and looked over to the Federal Rep. who came up from Victoria and said "I guess the Minimum Tax kicked in" and slammed his gavel down with a bang.  Looking back, I was lucky to not say to the Federal Rep. as I passed him, "You knew that this was going to be a kangaroo court right from the start, didn't you!!"  If the Judge had heard me, he could have fined me for contempt.  One thing that I did learn from this venture, was that some Judges are like puppets with their strings attached and are controlled by the Tax Act!  Fairness is not a word in their vocabulary.

It's now been over 30 years since Mulroney's Minimum Tax law bilked millions of dollars from average Canadians and since other governments have taken over, not one has had the courtesy to help average Canadians restore their Golden Handshake. It's far too easy to take the easy money, which is sad.  I would give anything to know if the Minimum Tax reduced Mulroney's Golden Handshake when his government was replaced, I doubt it.

We can only hope that a very large powerful group can challenge our government to stop the unfair greed and clawbacks, and win!  My wife and I now have children who are in their 50's and 60's just like many of you have.  Wouldn't it be great if they could be looking forward to real Golden Handshakes, as it should be here in Canada.

Ray Waines

REMEMBERING DON S. WILLIAMS (1936 - 2018)

The news of the October 28 death of Don S. Williams brought feelings of sadness and loss to all whose lives and careers he influenced over the years. One of the last of a dwindling group of gifted veteran broadcasters, Don was a television and radio producer, director, writer, actor and teacher - skills honed over a lifetime of work in radio and television stations, on movie sets, and theatre stages all across Canada.

My friendship with Don began when we met in the CBC Vancouver cafeteria in the 1980s and found out that we'd both been born in Edmonton, and in our search for careers in broadcasting, we'd both moved to the prairie town of Lloydminster. The shared history was a kind of bond. After that first encounter when we'd meet up we'd often exchange stories about a business that at the time, was as young and new as we were.

Don was 19 when he got a job at Lloydminster's CKSA radio. Three years later in 1961 the station owner expanded the operation and opened CHSA Television which at that time was a CBC affiliate. These were the days when CBC was very much the Mecca of Canadian radio and television. For aspiring young people imagining a career in the business, the best advice came from sages who recommended leaving larger Canadian centers and going after jobs in small town radio and TV. The late 50s and early 60s were such lucrative years in the industry, radio and TV operations were popping up from one end of the country to the other - all of them desperate to hire staff, any staff, including rookies willing to work for experience and precious little pay. Once a person scored a job in a small station, there were no limits set on learning new skills. It was the early version of multi-tasking and an advantage for station managers to have employees capable of handling multiple jobs. From technical operations, to design arts and crafts, announcing, writing and directing, small stations were a smorgasbord of everything that radio and television had to offer. Whatever grabbed a person's interest or imagination was there to sample, test drive and pursue as a professional.

Don had long wanted to develop a skillset that would allow him to write, produce and direct in the area of the performing arts. He was already a talented performer which made him a natural for on-air work. My dream in those days was to become a writer - but a writer of what, I wasn't sure. Writing advertising spots and promotional copy seemed like a great way to both earn a regular paycheck and sharpen my writing skills. At age 18 I got a job as the advertising and promotional copy writer at Lloydminster's newly opened TV station. I was hired about two years after Don had left the place to work in the larger market of Regina. But it came to pass that two decades later, long after we'd served our respective time in Lloydminster, we would finally meet and have that first coffee together in Vancouver. As Don commented, we were like Vets meeting up after having once shared a war zone.

The town of Lloydminster is located where it is because of a turn-of-the century screw up by the Dominion of Canada land survey. It's on record that the mistake shifted the town a few hundred meters from where it was intended to be built. Now at first glance, this wouldn't appear to be a big problem. But it put the meridian, the official north south boundary that divides Saskatchewan and Alberta, directly in the middle of Lloydminster's main street. So to this day, on one side of the street residents shop in Alberta, while simply crossing the street takes them into Saskatchewan. In truth the split didn't make all that much difference in people's lives. But it did offer up one advantage that benefited some station employees. According to the Alberta Liquor Board of that day, vodka sales were outlawed in Alberta. But just across main street at the Saskatchewan liquor store they happily sold some of what was reputed to be the world's best vodka. If desired, a person over 21 could buy an entire case of the stuff. To supplement incomes it was rumored that some folks did exactly that. With cases and bottles of vodka hidden away in car trunks and back seats, the culprits ran the booze into Alberta where it sold for handsome profits.

The war zone Don referred to was the two story building on the Alberta side, just a block off the main street. It had first housed the radio station and later, accommodated the studios and staffs of both radio and television. The radio station had a long standing "All Country Music All the Time" format. The station owner, an avid CW music fan, was fanatical that sound speakers located throughout the entire building, be constantly turned up and tuned into the CKSA radio signal. That included the speaker in an office I shared with Marlene, the writer responsible for radio copy. I was told that the case had been made to the owner that having the constant talk and country music pumped through the speakers made composing and writing copy near impossible. His reply was a firm "it's great poetry. Use it as inspiration."

Don told me that during his time at the radio station, on air DJs were told by the program director to use the name of the town as often as possible, and to develop something he called "snappy on air repartee." Those instructions accounted for some of the most eye-crossingly awful prattle ever heard on the air. Big Ray the D.J. for instance, made a habit of starting the day with variations on banter such as this, "Good Morning Lloydminster!! It's mighty Pretty in the Meridian City at 5 minutes after the hour. Wake up ladies and get your boots on 'cause we're all about to Walk the Line with the great Johnny Cash."

The upshot of all of this was that my "welcome to the office" gift from my long-suffering co-worker Marlene was a set of earplugs - the same kind she'd started using when the noise became unbearable. But the plugs only added to the aggravation and a short time later, I found just getting out of bed every morning and facing another work day became agony. One night just after quitting time, Marlene located a step ladder and when the staff cleared out, she locked our office door and between the two of us we managed to yank out the wiring that attached the speaker to the wall. Free at last, free at last....

Located directly across from our office was what was laughably called the "newsroom." It was a walk-in closet sized space that housed two News Service teletype machines that constantly clacked away like stereo castanets while spouting out streams of paper detailing the day's most important news stories. During his time at the radio station, Don recalled that the music only stopped long enough for the announcer to read a commercial, introduce a tune, or deliver a five minute top or bottom of the clock newscast. In radio, just as it was during my time at the TV station, news gathering, and the order in which the stories were read, were all the responsibility of the announcer. As such the term "rip and read" was coined. Rip and read described what happened dozens of times a day when the news announcer, usually the DJ, would drop a needle on the recording of the longest tune he could find, run like a lunatic down the hall to the teletype room and rip the stories off the machines. All this done at breakneck speed so as to make it back to the control room before the tune ended.

During one of those dashes Don told the story of sprinting down the hall, coming to a grinding halt at the newsroom door, flinging it open and confronting an enormous leopard. At that moment the cat was licking one of its big paws while leisurely stretched out over a shredded heap of teletype paper once meant to have been Don's top o' the clock newscast. Don backed away, shut the door and pressed his full weight up against it. He stood there wanting desperately to yell for help, but hesitating, not sure he'd really seen what he thought he had. After what felt like a lifetime, a tall, broad shouldered stranger came out of the washroom. Don asked him to go for help, but the man just smiled, said "no problem" and opened the door. Once inside he bent over the big cat and vigorously rubbed its head. Don said the room filled with the sound of purring so loud it drowned out the clacking machines. It turned out the man was Al Oeming, the owner of the Alberta Game Farm, the cat was named Tawana, not a leopard as Don thought, but Al's pet cheetah. The two of them were passing through Lloydminster on a publicity tour for one of Al's many books about the Game Farm. See Tawana HERE.

There's no doubt in my mind that many of his friends and colleagues could speak to Don's character, write stories about fine times spent in his company and address the enormous, varied and impressive catalogue of work he produced over the years of his life. But those things are not what I knew best about Don. So in the spirit of our friendship and fun times shared, I wanted to remember our beginnings and the kind of small town starts so many of us lived through on the way to careers in Canadian radio and television.

Chris Paton's original goal was to be a writer and to make that ambition a reality she began her career as a junior copywriter with an advertising agency. Envisioning a "real" writing career in theatre or television, Chris says it "was a dream come true" when she heard there was a job opening at CBXT Edmonton for a Script Assistant. She got the job and although writing was not part of it, it launched her broadcasting career. She and her family moved to Vancouver and Chris joined CBUT staff as a summer replacement Script Assistant and was assigned to the supper hour newscasts. Chris applied for and became the first female Floor Director (Production Assistant) at the station. As a Script and then Floor Director, Chris was assigned to The 7 O'Clock Show, Cuisine, On the Scene and Let's Go. As a Producer, Director and then Executive Producer she worked on Hourglass, The Nice Show, Vancouver Secrets, The Canadians and Expo '86 New Lang Syne. Between 1989 and 2001, Chris was with the CBC Network working in Toronto on shows including Kids in the Hall, Street Legal, 19th Annual Genie Awards, The Aboriginal Achievement Awards, Leap of Faith, That's Skating and The Blues Masters. Over the years, Chris worked on these and innumerable other productions and held management jobs within the Corporation as well which she freely admits never provided the level of satisfaction she found on the creative side of the business.. Chris returned home to Vancouver in 2001and in the ensuing years has studied computer illustration and animation editing, and worked as a writer and media consultant.

60th ANNIVERSARY OF CBUT part 1 and part 2
1200 W Georgia St - December 16, 1953

Part 1 click on: http://vanalogue.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/60th-anniversary-of-cbut-part-one/
Part 2: http://vanalogue.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/60th-anniversary-of-cbut-part-2-all-that-jazz/

Photos: CBC Studios THEN AND NOW

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THE LATE GREAT CBC DESIGN DEPARTMENT by Chris Paton


Over the years in CBC TV production I came to see the design department as the heart of the television business - a place where artists and craftspeople made real the ideas of writers, producers and directors.

Except for Canadian towns close to the U.S. border, there was no television service in Canada before the CBC went on air in 1952. Artists, craftspeople and designers ventured into this new TV world to find themselves in partnership with lighting, audio and video technicians, a group crucial in defining what would work on electronic screens, and what wouldn't. Every aspect of the 1950's business of design for television was new. Artists being artists, treated the business of sketches and illustrations as work for the ages. A great deal of it, such as set and costumes sketches, graphic department illustrations and promotional pieces were stunning pieces of art. Unfortunately, unlike the BBC archival treasure-trove, there has never been a CBC mandated design archive to keep safe the departments' artist sketches, drawings, graphic department illustrations or photographs - all of which would by now have comprised a 66 Year History of Canadian Television Design.

In my time at the CBC Vancouver plant there was seldom, if ever, a dull day. During the early years in the old studio at Georgia and Bute, and continuing right into the Hamilton Street facility, the plant rocked with music productions, drama series and one-off specials, along with continuing nightly news and current affairs shows. Studios, and all the design components that came along with them, were in constant demand and the work that came with that demand was never cookie cutter easy. Producers and directors came to the design department looking for original visual ideas that reflected the feel and look of the times. The work usually began with a set designers' illustrations and sketches, always solid working calibre drawings, but often beautiful highly detailed one of kind pieces of art. For historical productions, or productions outside the scope of off-the-rack procured clothing, costume designers researched and made detailed drawings of gowns, uniforms and all manner of authentic period apparel. Those drawings and sketches would be the guide from which cutters and seamstresses created the wardrobe.

With a production green light go ahead, set designers sketches were converted to blueprints that went to the carp shop, to wood frame construction, to canvas, to paint, and finally to the studio where staging crews put the pieces together, and set decorators and properties artists added the perfect finishing touches. When the machinery of design was operating at full throttle a walk through the carpentry shop was an amazing adventure. The shop was an enormous space that upon entering hit the senses like a forest of fresh cut wood and turpentine. Painters atop ladders broad-brushed and rolled color onto the surfaces of wood flats and canvas, their overalls so dotted and splattered with paint, the workplace garb alone deserved to be framed and celebrated on gallery walls. In fact I remember once asking one of the painters if I could have the old paint covered overalls if I replaced them with a new pair. The reply was, "no way. These are my history."

Even before any formal production meetings, individuals from various TV departments could be spotted checking out designer sketches and blueprints laid out on carpentry benches. The shop was a place where everyone - directors - producers - writers - camera - lighting and audio crew would make a point of dropping by. In a business that exists on the thin air of ideas it was a practical first place to spot and fix potential problems, to collaborate, contribute and just add your two cents worth in the effort to create the best possible work. It was a joy to be part of it all, and a heartbreaking loss when it ended with the termination of design departments all across Canada. CBC design attracted and employed some of the finest artists and craftspeople I've ever known. I considered working with them a major job perk. These days when I so often hear high praise from movie and TV directors for the excellence of BC design crews, I'm both saddened and proud knowing that the praise is meant for so many former CBC design colleagues who now work their magic on large independent projects - work that's gone such a long way in enriching the reputation of the industry in BC.

For the sake of illustrating this column there was an effort to locate as much vintage visual material as could be found. But with no dedicated archive, it became clear that most of the material had long ago walked out of the building with the artists who created it. What hadn't was lost in the rush to downsize. But efforts to find the stuff didn't go totally unrewarded. It was enlightening and a heck of a lot of fun to talk with former design staffers. I loved the anecdotes and the memories about the people, the times, the productions and the wonderful way it was in those years. It dawned on me that colleagues in the 20 Year Association would enjoy those stories as much as I did. I wanted to incorporate some of the anecdotes in this article, but they are memories that belong to, and would best be told by, the design artists and craftspeople who lived them. As much as it was fun in person, it would be a pleasure to read the stories here on the 20 Year Website. And who knows? Like an archeological dig, burrowing through home file cabinets and cupboards to find the visuals to illustrate your stories might just uncover some of those magical long lost works of art.

With affection and thanks to David Croal and Bill Waterloot for their research help, and to John Rogers, Marti Wright and Beverley Takeuchi for their contribution of pictures of people and memories spanning the last 50 years of CBC Vancouver Design History. TO SEE ALL 40 OF THOSE WONDERFUL PICTURES CLICK HERE

                                          

MEMORIES OF THE PAUL ANKA SHOW 1981
by Jeff Groberman.

In 1980 I left CKVU to produce Dr. Bundolo at CBC Vancouver. Gordon Craig, the director of television at that time, was spearheading the show's move from radio to TV. The idea was to give the show two years on regional television, then make the jump to the network.

Despite a Sunday midnight timeslot (and this was before PVRs) the show quickly picked up a devoted audience and won a regional ACTRA award as the best TV show in its first season. It took only a few weeks for the show to be picked up by all the other provinces on the regional exchange program. The show was wildly popular – with everyone except the Toronto CBC honchos who still believed if a show was good – it should be coming out of Toronto.

Toronto CBC was backing the Royal Canadian Airfarce, and despite several failed attempts at producing a network show, the network was still determined there was going to be only ONE network comedy show - and that was going to be the Airfarce – period!

That, coupled with the fact that Gordy Craig left CBC Vancouver for the CBC Network in Toronto and was replaced with two Toronto parachute executives indicated the show's days were numbered.

I had left CKVU to produce Dr. Bundolo and now that it was coming to an end it left me in a quandary. I could head back to CKVU and resume producing the Vancouver Show or find a new role at CBC. I decided to be pro-active and pitched a show to Jack MacAndrew, the head of television Variety. Jack listened patiently to my pitch then told me he'd rather I produce a new series he was planning: The Paul Anka Show.

At the time CBC was producing a lot of variety shows: The ever-popular Irish Rovers, the David Steinberg Special and Burton Cummings were just a few but, without a doubt, the Paul Anka show was going to be the plum.

Paul was an international star and the show would be a co-production with American partners. It would be a big budget high profile show – I couldn't say no. Instead of being constantly pushed aside as the little regional show by the network, I would be the guy doing the pushing. Of course, it turned out the guy I would be pushing would be me - as Dr. Bundolo was still in production.

I had to keep switching hats and fighting with myself for resources - but I made it work. Paul Anka would be coming out studio 40, the big studio, and Dr. Bundolo would come out of studio 41, the smaller studio. During one week both shows were recording simultaneously! I was running from one control room to the other. It was the best week of my life.

My title on the Anka Show was Line Producer. I was in charge of all the day to day running of the show. The executive producers were responsible for financing and providing the main talent. I would be in charge of the rest: hiring writers, back-up singers, arranging productions schedules and post production. Today the title would be Show Runner.

The American executive producers were Burt Rosen, an Emmy winner who had worked with Ann-Margret, Raquel Welch, Bobby Darin and the Smothers Brothers. His partner, Clancy Grass, had a less glamorous resume: his IMDB credits included Five Angry Women, Night Call Nurses and The Student Nurses.

The Director was Bill Davis, originally a CBC director, who had made it big time in the U.S. directing shows for Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Julie Andrews and Dick Clark to name just a few. He was a pleasure to work with. He had infinite patience with the cast and the crew would walk across hot coals for him.

Paul, on the other hand, was another story. In the 26 shows I produced I probably didn't have more than three discussions with him. Handling Paul was the sole responsibility of the Executive Producers.

Paul had also isolated himself with his own entourage. First and foremost were Jose and Mary – his gatekeepers. "Nobody gets in to see Paul. Not nobody no how!" was Mary's mantra. Jose and Mary communicated with each other with walkie talkies – even if they were standing next to each other. Paul also had his personal hair dresser (even though he had hardly any hair at the time) and a personal secretary who had three-inch nails and wore six-inch heels – enough said.

The designer, Danny Chan, had designed a gorgeous set with a stage that had multi-coloured lighting under a plexiglass floor. The floor would light up with all sorts of designs – it was way ahead of its time – and very prone to scratching. Any of us who got too close to the floor were chased off by Alex Pappas, our floor director.

A couple of days before production, Paul arrived unannounced in the studio. He was wearing a large cowboy hat and cowboy boots - and the first place he headed for in those cowboy boots was the stage. He had clomped around the stage for about 30 seconds before Alex spotted him.

"Hey you," Alex shouted across the studio at Paul. "Yeah, you, the idiot on the stage, get the hell off it - now!"

Paul stood there stunned. The whole studio suddenly went very quiet - waiting for the inevitable explosion. At this point I should point out Alex had never actually met Paul and had no idea what he looked like. All he knew was some idiot was scratching up his stage.

I took control of the situation: I rushed over to Alex and grabbed him by the elbow and walked him over to Paul.

"Alex, I'd like to introduce you to Paul Anka, the star of the show. Paul, I'd like to introduce you Alex, he used to work here."

Paul paused a moment then laughed and apologized to Alex. From that moment on, Alex and Paul had a special relationship. Paul might not listen to us, but he would listen to Alex.

Paul's contract called for him to have his own dressing room. The CBC provided the studio green room and had it re-carpeted and rented fancy furniture for him. All of us, including the director, were forbidden to enter the inner sanctum – except for Burt, Clancy – and one of the drivers - whose nickname at the time was "The Prince of Snow." The lack of access to Paul led to some hilarious incidents.

Since we weren't permitted to enter Paul's dressing room to choose his outfits Paul become the sole arbitrator of what he would wear for the show. For one set, he chose a black velour suit. Unfortunately, the set director had chosen a black curtain as a backdrop and a black piano for Paul to perform on. When Paul walked onto the set it was like watching a pale pumpkin float across the set. There was a bit of a Mexican standoff to see who would back down first: we changed the set.

We would shoot five shows a week - take two weeks off - then shoot another five shows. The day would begin at ten in the morning with the orchestra rehearsal. Paul would arrive around four o'clock to rehearse his numbers and run his lines.

At seven we'd tape the show. The moment we finished taping Paul would rush to the airport, jump on his chartered jet and head down to Las Vegas where he'd do a midnight show. At three in the morning he'd head back to Vancouver and catch a few hours sleep before showing up in the studio for the next day's show. Eventually burning the candle at both ends caught up with him.

We had just begun taping a show when Paul got the hic-coughs. He'd sing a line then there'd be a loud hiccough. The audience thought it was hilarious – and so did Paul – for a while. The audience shouted out their favourite cures and Paul tried them all – drinking out of the top of the glass of water, breathing in a paper bag, holding his breath – nothing worked. Eventually we had to record the show complete with hic-coughs. The director stayed mostly wide and said we'd lip-sync the show later in the week.

A few days later, I was summoned to the Director of Television's office. He wasn't happy with me. He was never happy with me. He held up a can of video tape.

"Do you know what this is?" he demanded.

"I'll take a wild guess – video tape?"

"Don't be a smartass. It's an Anka tape. And do you know where I got it?"

"The tape library?" I offered.

"No. I got it in shipping where it was about to be sent to Dick Clark's Blooper show. This is CBC property and I want to know who authorized this ... and when I find out," giving me a knowing look, "that person's fired. Now get out and get me that name."

I should point out our director, Bill Davis, was also the director of Dick Clark's Bloopers show and felt the hiccough episode would provide excellent promotion for the upcoming series. I agreed and said I would take care of it - hence my summons to the principal's office.

I waited about five minutes then returned to his office carrying a clipboard.

"Do you have the name?" he demanded.

"Right here," I said pointing to the clipboard.

"Let me see that, "he shouted, yanking the clipboard out of my hand.

He stared at it a moment in disbelief.

"That's my name!"

"Yes, you signed the request two days ago."

"I didn't realize what I was signing," he stammered.

"Does that mean you're fired?" I asked

"Get out!" he shouted.

Paul wasn't the only one burning the candle at both ends. I was not only responsible for running the show, but also responsible for the post production. Because of the tight schedule, a previous show was often being edited the same day another show was being recorded. On those occasions my day would begin at 9:00am in the studio, and when the taping was over, I would head to the editing booth for another 8 hours of editing. On those days I didn't go home; I just caught a few hours sleep in one of the dressing rooms.

On one of those nights I got a call in the editing booth at 1:30am from Don Costa, the musical director of the show. Don only worked for two performers: Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra.

"What are you guys doing?" asked Don in his gravelly voice.

"We're editing the show, Don. What's up?" I asked.

"I've cooked a huge pot of pasta and the guys didn't show up. You guys hungry?"

I conceded we were hungry, so the editor and I grabbed a cab and headed down to Don's suite at the hotel. We arrived around 3:00am.

Don was sitting at the kitchen table, a glass of scotch in front of him, a huge joint in the ashtray, and a pen in his hand. His attention was divided between a porn movie on the TV, a steaming pot of pasta on the stove, and scoring the parts for that day's show. The orchestra had 30 pieces and Don was scoring each of their parts by hand.

While Don was busy with all this the phone rang. I wondered who the hell calls at 3:00am?

"Can you get that, Jeff?" shouted Don from the stove. "I'm sort of busy here."

"Hello?" I asked.

"Put Costa on," a voice ordered.

"Who's calling?" I asked.

"Frank."

"Frank who?" I asked.

I was greeted with an icy silence. By then Costa had waddled over and took the phone. I suddenly realized which Frank it was. I'd heard he called at all hours of the night.

Don put the phone on speaker so he could continue his multitasking.

"What are you doing up there?" demanded Frank.

"I'm working with Paulie," replied Don.

"You working for the midget? (Frank's nickname for Paul). How's it going?"

"F**king Paul," sighed Don. "He can't sing Happy Birthday without six sets of cue cards."

The exec producers, Burt and Clancy, liked pasta too, but not Don's. They only frequented Vancouver's finest Italian restaurants.

One of their favourites was Umberto's. They would have lunch or dinner at least two or three times a week. One of Burt's favourite dishes was special meatballs that he claimed Umberto made just for him. It was rumoured when Umberto heard Burt was coming he got the can opener out.

One day the Director of Television dropped by the production office to wait for Burt and Clancy who were taking him to Umberto's for lunch. He was very impressed the American co-producers were taking him to an expensive restaurant for lunch. I recommended he order Burt's special meat balls.

About three hours later, he dropped by again to comment what classy guys Burt and Clancy were. We could all learn a lot from them.

"Yes, including how to expense everything," I replied, holding up the receipt Clancy had just dropped off. "Congratulations! You just bought yourself lunch."

There was a plethora of "big name" guests booked on the show: Andy Williams, Dionne Warwick, Anne Murray, Tony Orlando (without Dawn), Andy Gibb ... Some stars were bigger than others – in more than one way. I remember the night we had Peggy Lee on. She was in the twilight of her career- but could still belt out "Fever," her signature song. They had flooded the stage with fog and as she entered through the fog one of the cameramen whispered into his headset, "I thought there was a law against something that big moving through fog without running lights." Not nice, but still funny.

One star the exec producers signed was not a musical star but a Canadian sports idol, Wayne Gretzky. Wayne couldn't sing to save his life; but he'd just signed a contract the night before for 20 million dollars - making him the highest paid hockey player in the NHL. It was the sports story of the month and I had him in my studio – along with every sports reporter in the city demanding interviews. In addition, the studio was filling up with adoring fans thrusting hockey jerseys, sticks, gloves at him to sign. There was such bedlam we couldn't run a rehearsal. I finally got on the P.A. and announced that it was a closed set – Everyone out! I didn't care who they were. A few moments later I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Does that include me?" asked Len Lauk, the Regional Director, clutching a recently purchased Gretzy jersey.

"Rank has its privileges," I conceded.

All good things must come to an end, and so did the Anka series the following spring. After 26 episodes the show wrapped and Burt and Clancy threw a gigantic wrap party. It was held in a Gastown restaurant and the food and booze flowed. There were speeches and tears. The crew had chipped in and bought Paul an expensive Cowichan Sweater.

The next morning Paul was gone. For the first time we could enter his dressing room. We found the Cowichan sweater balled up and tossed in a corner.

ONLY SOMETIMES A PIECE OF CAKE.
by Al Vitols

Al Vitols joined CBC Vancouver staff as a TV Technician in 1958 and soon thereafter became a TV Production Assistant working mostly with Ain Soodor on "Let's Go", Vancouver's contribution to "Music Hop". A couple of years later Al became a Producer/Director, having the "B.C. Open Golf Tournament" as his first assignment to be followed by "The Canadian Open Tennis Championships", "The Canadian Kayak Championships" as well as "The Macdonald Brier" from Kelowna. For the next few years along with Ted Reynolds, Al was responsible for all CBC Vancouver sports productions which included football, hockey, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, sports fishing, track and field, kayaking, rugby and series such as "Ski Scene" and "Time Out For Football". Variety series included "Let's Go" (1964), "A Second Look" (1969), "Miss Patricia's Songs and Things" with Pat Hervey (1970), "Pifffle & Co" (1971),"Reach for the Top", "Big Band Jazz" (may not be the accurate title) and the "The Carroll Baker Jamboree." A Dixieland jazz series with Lance Harrison from the Horseshoe Bay pub in 1983. He produced "B.C. Parks" and "On the Scene" and profiled some of the better known BC artists, such as Toni Onley, Benita Sanders, Haida artists Robert Davidson and Bill Reid, John Horton, Wayne Ngan and Robert Bateman. "The Inventors" which Al produced in 1979 was a series highlighting amateur inventors. For a number of years he was Executive Producer of the nightly News/Current Affairs' program "Hourglass" as well as other Current Affairs programs. Later Al created the highly rated "Pacific Report" with Carole Taylor as host. After leaving CBC, Al and wife Barbara moved to Vancouver Island where they are happily settled and Al says that he "is suffering retirement".

CBC Vancouver cameraman Roy Luckow was sent by the then-current-affairs'-supervisor Len Chapple out to the West Coast of Vancouver Island to get some extremely low angle, water-level footage of waves for a mostly old photograph program he was assembling to do with the sinking of Lusitania.

Roy, taking his trusty Arriflex camera and heavy-duty battery belt with him, paddled a small plastic inflatable a short distance off Wickaninnish Beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He was all enthusiastic about the footage he was getting and was leaning over the side more and more to get even lower angle shots of the swell. Then his centre of gravity wound up more outboard than in, and into the saltchuck he went. As he was trying to kick to the surface he wondered why he continued downward. Ah, the heavy battery belt cinched around his waist. He undid the buckle and away it dropped. What Roy had forgotten was that the Ariflex was cabled to the battery and the weight of it ripped the camera out of Roy's grasp and it became just another piece of sea-bottom rubbish. Roy managed to scramble back into the dinghy and paddle ashore all the while bemoaning the loss of the footage.

Bob Reid was the most senior and also oldest of the CBC Vancouver film cameramen and liked a wee dram (not so wee, actually, but only after work) and thus knew the location of the government liquor outlet in every town in BC. He would always stop for a 'mickey' en route to a location. Just the half bottle, never a big one. Actually none ofthe cameramen, save John Seale, would turn down a dram or two. Perhaps a good thing as Seale drove his Mercedes like a terror and none of the production people would travel with him. Camera assistants were forced to ride with him, but all tried various and devious means to avoid that fate. Alcohol would not have improved his driving.

A few years later Bob floated off the same beach in an inner tube, such as fly-fishers use, wearing a wet suit and fins in order to also film some sea level stuff. He was out there for a while and by the time he was done he had drifted some distance from land. Kicking his fins he saw himself not getting any closer to the shore. In fact, quite the opposite. Regardless of how hard he tried, he was being carried by the ebbing tide toward Tokyo or, perhaps, Amchitka.

Eventually he tired and had to stop. Then he recalled that tides reverse and all he had to do is wait for a tide change and it would bring him back toward the shore. As it turned out, he had to paddle very little as the flood tide carried him very close to his starting place. Only harm done was a slight case of hypothermia as he was in the cold Pacific for quite a few hours and a wet suit can't protect one indefinitely.

Robert Asgeirsson, a freelance cameraman, was working with Mike Halleran, our occasional "green" reporter. He was doing a story to do with river pollution from a mining operation near Keremeos, B.C.; pollution that crossed the border into the USA. They found the location and Robert started to film but he was not happy with the footage as too much engine vibration got transferred to the lens. As he was looking through the viewfinder he kept yelling at the pilot to do something to smooth out the flight. Then, indeed, it got very smooth and Robert was shouting praises instead of complaints. A quick glance forward, however, and over the pilot's shoulder, Robert could see the propeller blade not turning which was the reason for the smooth flight. The plane had become a glider.

Attempts to restart the engine were futile and they kept losing altitude all the while realizing that in the Cathedral Mountains there's no place to land a glider. They did get the engine started eventually. Why did the engine stop? The pilot had forgotten to turn on the carburetor heaters and when they reached altitude the carbs iced up. The engine started when the pilot realized his error and turned on the heaters. A close call.

Robert had another close one while filming an inflatable boat commercial in Howe Sound. It was a sunny and gusty day with whitecaps just beginning to form - perfect for an Avon commercial. However, on such a day the Howe Sound winds produced unpredictable conditions. During one tracking run the chopper experienced what we civilians call an air pocket – a sudden drop. This particular drop took the aircraft from hundreds of feet to just a few feet from the saltchuck. Bob thought so at the time, and the pilot confessed later, that he also thought that brining was about to take place. At the last moment the pilot did regain control and they landed safely on the nearest beach. The pilot thumbed a ride back to base. No more flying that day and a different pilot had to bring the chopper to home base.

Asgeirsson, as most cameramen do, preferred to fly in choppers with the door removed and with his seat belt either off or very loose. A properly cinched belt restricts freedom of movement. This used to unnerve me until I bought a safety harness such as used by ocean racing sailors. It had a 6-foot tether and by means of a carabiner could be clipped to anything sturdy inside the aircraft. In choppers usually around the rotor column. One of the pilots, seeing this device, remarked to Robert that if he fell out he should fall within the skids as if he were to dangle outside them it would be "a bitch" to land.

Eventually I used the harness in many dangerous spots, such as at the edge of a Mt. Robson glacier 'moulin', a hole into which meltwater disappears and from which rescue is impossible. With borrowed crampons, wearing the harness and belayed by two of our expert mountain guides, Robert could lean over and shoot straight down into the eddying waterfall. The guides were laughing that if one fell in, considering that the glacier was moving at an, er, glacial pace, the body would not get found at the calving edge of the glacier until the year 2247. I, too, got harnessed in for a quick look, but it was a very uncomfortable, though exciting, experience.

I was 'following' a couple of climbers who were aiming for the top of Mount Robson. We were getting fairly good wide and medium shots, but there was a dearth of dynamic close-ups. To fulfill this gap I set the climbers on a ridge high up on the west side. There was a ledge nearby from which Robert could get not only spectacular wider shots, but also extreme close-ups. The rocky spur from which he would be filming was so narrow that the pilot could not actually land but was hovering at full power while Robert eased out with his hear. "Don't fall off!" was the pilot's admonition before we took off to wait for Robert to finish the sequence.

Once that was done, it only remained to see the climbers on top of Mt. Robson's snow-blanketed peak at 3,954 m (12,973 feet), the highest in the Canadian Rockies. The Jet Ranger theoretically has an operational ceiling of 20,000 feet, but ours couldn't even make to the top of Robson. We stripped the aircraft of every extra ounce, such as doors and other heavy bits such as the extra battery and the assorted junk stored in the tail. Thus emptied, the pilot was able to get just me alone up over the top for a 'look-see'. It was eerie looking out to mountain peaks without any kind of barrier to peaks, all lower than us. Later the pilot admitted that he, too, wasn't entirely comfortable during that short flight.

Unfortunately, choppers being just mechanized balloons where an ounce makes a difference, with Robert and his equipment the Bell couldn't get up high enough. In fact I had to order a CH-21 Shawnee, one of those 'flying bananas' in from Calgary for the next day's shoot.

The plan was to drop Asgeirsson and the climbers on top of Robson. They'd drop out of sight and on cue Robert would shoot them arriving at the top. A few 'over the shoulder' shots and then we'd pick up Robert and redo the sequence from the air and eventually get everyone off the mountain.

Great stuff, except that Mt. Robson was in charge of its own weather. We could see a small puffy white cloud form above and around the peak just before we got there and this prevented us from either landing or shooting.

Just before I called for a return to Valemont, our base, the puff moved aside and we could see the top. The pilot still considered it too dangerous to land so we did a quick fly-past and Robert captured some boot prints – two tracks in fact – in the otherwise pristine snow. It had to do, and it did, and my thanks to the two climbers who had left them there.

For reasons I no longer recall I needed to include in the BC Parks series some tiny alpine plants. We found the perfect scree slope in Manning Park with the best selection of high alpines. Unfortunately, as I mentioned to my pilot Freddie, there was no place to land nearby. Freddie maintained that there was a ledge only feet from where I wanted to be. But anyone could see that the ledge wasn't wide enough to land a chopper. Freddie insisted that it was while I maintained that it was too narrow. We bet a coffee, cream and sugar, and Freddy proceeded to land us on the ledge. I was calculating that the ledge wasn't wide enough for the blades. Freddy saw that the scree sloped back rapidly enough so that at the rotor height there was about 5 feet to spare.

There is a mesa near Vaseux Lake just south of Penticton which is famous for rattlesnakes. In order to film a snake on location without searching for one I had hired a "snake wrangler", a man who provided the creepy-crawlies to the film industry. We set ourselves up in a picture-perfect location and had the wrangler release the splendid, recently shed and thus looking its best, rattler in the proper place. The mesa was oven-like with the ambient temperature well into the high 30's. The snake after only a moment's hesitation made a beeline (can a snake make a beeline?) for Robert who, looking through the lens, didn't realize how close it was getting to his tripod and thus himself. The wrangler moved the snake back to where I wanted it to be, but the same thing happened.

Thinking that Robert was somehow standing in the snake's favored place, we moved elsewhere and wound up with exactly the same results. "Resetting" the critter many times I got what I wanted and we could escape the oven. Over litres of iced tea at the snake wrangler's house we figured that the reptile, being extremely sensitive to variations in heat and wanting to get to a relatively cooler place, simply made for the closest bit of shade – Robert's shadow. We concluded this because the final time instead of slithering towards Robert's shadow it slipped into shade provided by a nearby flat rock.

We were also able to manage a 'snake's point of view' sequence. Robert had acquired a 'minimum envelope' camera made by Arriflex which was about the size of a fist, held 25 feet of 16mm film and had a very wide-angle lens. With this camera gaffer-taped at the end of a broomstick Robert was able to keep it just behind the rattler's head as it snaked its way over the hot terrain.

Peter Allies, a freelance cameraman, did a lot of work for the CBC. One time we flew a noisy float plane filming aerials back and forth over Desolation Sound, a popular boating area north of Vancouver filled mostly with Washington and Oregon boaters. No longer 'desolate' was the gist of our story and indeed it was only too obvious from the air.

Back in Vancouver when the film came back from the lab, Peter tried to make light of it, but that day's shoot had produced not a single foot of usable material. Why? Due to the noise of the aircraft and the brilliant sunshine Peter had failed to make sure that his 'push on – push off' switch was actually on when he thought it to be on. We had hundreds of feet of film of the aircraft interior and of lining up getting shots ready, but the at the moment when everything was just right – nothing. The camera was shut down until we pulled out of the filming run and once more everything between takes was perfectly recorded.

Peter almost redeemed himself while we were on the way to the 1974 Spokane Expo in a chartered Cessna. The pilot was about to land us in an US Air Force restricted base, thinking it was Spokane International. I think the base was about to do something drastic when our aircraft failed to respond to their repeated challenges. Apparently our pilot thought they were talking to someone else. Peter was sitting in the co-pilot seat of the tiny aircraft and had been following our progress on an air-route map the pilot had clipped to the dashboard. He had been a bit concerned ever since our pilot had identified Omak Lake as the body of water behind the Grand Coulee Dam. Peter realized what was happening and told the pilot to gain some altitude and get out of there immediately as well as to respond to the radio calls.

This all took place when the CBC found out that the next day was "Canada Day" at the Spokane Expo and Vancouver hadn't planned anything to cover that event. I was cajoled if not actually coerced to produce a half hour film from Spokane to do with Canada Day. To get me enough travel money every department's petty cash float got emptied of their stash of cash. I wound up with a couple of thousand dollars in fives, tens and twenties.

Was Canada Day a big deal? We rushed off at the crack of dawn in order to film the Canada Day parade scheduled for mid-morning. We got there in time to capture the Canada part, which consisted of most of the RCMP Musical Ride members riding their black horses and a pipe band making a lot of noise marching after the riders and watching where they stepped. That and the Winnipeg Massed Pipe Band performance in the agricultural arena that evening was all that was "Canadian" although the hundreds of pipers marching into the arena playing Amazing Grace was a hackle-raiser.

I drove a rented car all night to get back to Vancouver the next day early enough to start editing and get the show ready for telecast that evening. A fortunate decision as it turned out as I had to get it done by mid-afternoon because suddenly the network also wanted it for telecast that day. I think we had to reverse the microwave (no leasable satellites back in '74) to get it to Toronto in time. Actually the whole post-production episode is a bit of a blur in my memory aside from the fact that I could use as much of the bagpipes as I wanted because the AF of M doesn't consider them to be a musical instrument. Jack Wasserman wrote a very good script and Greg Barnes, best voice at the CBC anywhere, read it while I mixed A and B reels "live" in Studio 50 as the show was microwaved to Toronto.

Doug McKay was/is a fantastic photographer, be it film or stills. I was told that he was consulting with some Hollywood director and they were spending some of their 'consult' time in the Ritz bar. The Hollywood dude asked Doug how he would light the place to keep the dimly-lit atmosphere. Doug responded that it was already lit. What the movie director didn't know was that McKay was a low-light genius and there was more than ample light in the bar for Doug's needs.

Doug loved his original VW bus; loved it to the extent that he bought three more for when parts would become scarce. He tried one of the later Westfalia models but went back to the old ones. I'm told he also loved swamp 'critters' and spent hours in a wet suit wallowing among the reeds peering at miniature creepy-crawlies at Crescent Beach.

Mike Halleran wanted to do a film about the West Coast Trail and figured that he needed Doug McKay and his spring-wound Bolex-16 for the job. Arriflex battery belts were heavy and there was nowhere to charge them over the seven or more days on the trail. Doug agreed providing Mike hired an "ape" to carry all of Doug's gear, both personal and film requirements.

Mike found a UBC student more than enthusiastic to do the lug-for-a-fee. The pictures were terrific, the final product so-so. As a producer/director Halleran wasn't a picture person, more of an interviewer of dull officials. Also, he had learned film editing from Mike Poole, a television producer friend and colleague, who scissored transcripts of his interviews and then Scotch taped the strips of paper in the order he wanted and then had the film edited to the new order. Most, but not all, of the jump cuts were covered by the B-roll, but that didn't help changes in inflection in mid-sentence or the overall cadence of a paragraph.

When I had Asgeirsson shoot the Cody Caves for the B.C. Parks series I too hired a couple of loggers, who were on strike at the time, at $200 each. They had to hump 10 car batteries, boxed in pairs, into the caves over slippery rocks, mud and makeshift ladders in order for Robert to light the deep caverns properly with 110 Volt lights. It was a long way in and down, and the muscular dudes groaned and sweated. They worked so hard that after it was all over I tripled their fee.

The couple of spelunkers who were guiding us were astonished when Asgeirsson finally turned on the lights. They'd never seen caves lit by anything other than their helmet lamps and flashlights. Robert lit up the cathedral-sized main chamber to almost daylight.

It was a tight shoot as the batteries had a very restricted life. Robert would line up everything by lanterns and headlamps, I would rehearse and then when I was ready he'd first turn on the camera, then the lights and then indicate that I could call for "action". I can't remember exactly, but it seems that in total we only had about ten minutes of usable battery life, so the 12 volts, converted to 110 they produced was the most precious commodity.

I have claustrophobia so crawling under overhangs and through ice-cold running water was not my favorite pastime. As a matter of fact, Robert reminded me years later that my first words at the cave entrance were: "I'm not going to enjoy this."

The spelunkers went under a low overhang spanning an underground creek in spider fashion on their fingers and toes and their bodies never touched the water. Robert and I had to slide on our bellies through the ice-cold water. But it turned out it was well worth it as the difficult access kept most everyone out of that area. I even managed to find a side tunnel away from where Robert was shooting Sungun-lit close-ups of various limestone sculptures and kept going until all light and sound was left far behind. The pitch black seemed to get even blacker with time and I could hear the sound of my blood coursing through my arteries. Furthermore, there were no other footprints than mine in the soft muddy sand which meant that I was the first to set foot there in millennia – actually, ever. Don't know what I would have done if my light had ceased working when I needed it for the return trip. Probably yelled for help as Wayne Stetsky, the B.C. Parks rep, had to do when he couldn't find the right route from a large central cavern with many tunnels leading from it. I avoided a similar fate by leaving a yellow 2B pencil on a rock near the proper tunnel.

The following didn't involve an actual film shoot, but was something my heli pilot told me when we were filming up north.

He had been freighting plywood panels from Iskut to a construction site across the Stikine Canyon. At the bottom of this sometimes 900 ft. deep chasm flows the wild and unnavigable Stikine River, which varies in width from hundreds of feet to as little as 80 feet and for the most part there is no way out because there is no way up.

The method of transporting plywood is simple. A sheet of plywood is put into a cargo net along with a large stump to add weight and stabilize the sling in order to stop it from flopping into the tail rotor. The whole thing is hung from the cargo hook. Easy-peasy.

Someone at Iskut didn't load the stump properly and just before crossing the Stikine it fell out with predictable consequences to the tail rotor. The pilot managed to autorotate onto a gravel bar in the canyon. He got out of the aircraft happy that he had survived only to realize that it might have been better to have died instantly in a crash rather than starve to death in the canyon, as there was no possible way out.

This thought had barely established in his mind when he heard the unmistakable sound of heli rotors and moments later one appeared from around a bend. It was one of his buddies on a tourist flight and, as they were paying close attention to the canyon, had no trouble seeing the Jet Ranger and the downed pilot waving his arms standing next to it. In less than five minutes after crashing and certain death he was safe and on the way back to the base in Iskut.

ONLY SOMETIMES A PIECE OF CAKE - Part 2.
by Al Vitols

My favorite pilot, Freddy Fandrich (he's the one who was once kidnapped and forced at gunpoint to extract some criminals from the exercise yard of a B.C. penitentiary), who used to own Highland Helicopters based in Agassiz, told me of a close call. He had been "trucking" assorted supplies to some work camp up the Fraser River all day and was pretty well exhausted when on his way back to home base he heard a request for all aircraft in the area to execute a search for a lost prospector.

Freddy could pretend his radio was off and not join the search, but tired as he was he took part. As he put it, with his bad luck he was the one who found the man on some high ridge near Hope. There was a tiny clearing nearby and Freddie was able to land and rescue the man. However, because he was so very, very tired he got a bit careless on takeoff and clipped a small tree with his tail rotor. That did enough damage so that normal flight was no longer possible - he had to auto-rotate down to the valley.

He was taught the procedure at flying school all those eons ago, but never had to do it for real. Auto-rotation is tricky. Basically the main blades are angled for a very rapid descent. At a precise moment the blade angle is changed so that using their inertia they provide lift and stop the descent. The tricky part is when to change the pitch of the blades. A bit too soon and the aircraft comes to a halt too high off the ground and crashes. Too late and it, well, crashes.

Freddie did it right and they landed safely. On the ground the prospector kept hugging Freddie and thanking him for saving his life. Freddie did not tell him that he had almost killed them both.

We were filming a rafting sequence on the Thompson River and Robert Asgeirsson had to reload a couple of film magazines so we had to set the heli down somewhere. Freddy opted for the tip of a sandbar near a picnic site. The place was being used by a large Italian gathering who were dining at tables set with checkered tablecloths. There were many open dishes of assorted salads and other Italian goodies. Our landing kicked up much dirt and debris and most of it landed among the picnickers. I thought we'd be maimed, if not killed, as surely we must have committed a capital offense. It turned out to be the greatest thing for the family to have this machine so close to their tables. When Freddy invited the kids to climb aboard and touch some controls, the smiles said it all. So, what's a little grit in the potato salad when the children get to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience.

Another time I thought I was in deep trouble was up at Bowron Lakes. En route from Mt. Robson to Barkerville we overflew one of the lakes and saw a family strike camp on a sandy beach. A couple of their canoes were already in the water. We did a few low passes and got some good idyllic canoe-camping footage. I thought we might get a nice little sequence if we could film on the ground as well and add that to what we had from the air.

Recalling the problem of the dust storm we caused in the Thompson Canyon, I had the chopper land some distance from the campsite. I got out to go and ask the campers if they'd be amenable to us filming them packing up. At this point what looked like a shorts-wearing hairless sasquatch detached himself from the group and came toward me. I could see that he was purple-in-the-face livid with steam coming out of his ears and he was at least four inches taller than I.

Nevertheless I pressed on and introduced myself as being from the CBC at which point his manner totally changed and he became all smiles, friendly and polite.

So, why the obvious extreme anger when we first landed? He was a Hughes Corp. Vice President from Texas in charge of satellite sales and worked 24/7 for all but three weeks a year. The three weeks were his holiday time and he spent them with his family and his privacy was not to be violated by anything work related, regardless of how important. They usually spent their family holiday in some secret location. So when he saw the heli flying about and eventually landing near him, he thought that the Hughes Corp. had found him and needed him to fix some disaster that had taken place in the Lone Star State. He was livid right up to the point where I introduced myself as being from the CBC and not from Hughes.

As it turned out, they were more than willing to participate and everyone did as asked, including undoing and then repacking some bags, setting up and striking a tent and re-launching canoes over and over to get an assortment of angles. I must have held them up for an hour or more, but they could not have been more cooperative.

For some reason I no longer recall, I had a paper bag full of oranges, a dozen or so, which I offered as a small 'thank-you' for their cooperation. The teenagers, being from California where children are weaned on oranges, had been on the Bowron Lakes some nine days by then and had not seen an orange in all that time. They were ecstatic – manna from heaven. Well, manna from a helicopter...

As part of the B.C. Parks film series I devoted a couple of shows to winter ski-hiking and backpacking. The easiest and best place to shoot was Manning Park where spectacular winter outdoors was close by and BC Parks provided accommodation in one of their exclusive park lodges.

Freddie and I flew around the Three Brothers area of the park and we found a good site for winter camping and some spectacular scenery for cross-country skiing.

We as usual shot the "postcards," the B-reel, first and then Freddie ferried our outdoors couple to the camping sequence and a cross-country skiing location, both in impossibly spectacular settings. We had to hustle with that as there was a storm approaching and it would take two trips to get us all off the mountain and to safety. I asked Freddie to keep an eye on the sky and when he thought the time had come we'd quit and fly out.

And so it happened. Freddie called a halt and the first load departed with Freddie promising to get back as soon as possible to fetch the rest of us, the rest being Asgeirsson, myself and the BC Parks' representative, Wayne Stetsky.

We waited and it got darker under an immense black weather front. We waited. We waited some more. While waiting I was also looking for a suitable snow cave under a tree. Some trees provide an excellent place under their branches for spending a night with not much work to construct a reasonable shelter. Warm enough to be comfortable tucked into a sleeping bag. Such basic creature comforts were packed into our "purse" - a small bagful of life saving items I insisted was never to leave one's side in case of need. It looked like the need would be upon us.

At the last possible moment with some snow swirling about already, Freddie found us, and within a couple of minutes we were in the air on the way to Manning Park and creature comforts.

When I told Freddie that we were just about to get ready to spend the night, he said that he would never have left us on the mountain. How could he not? How could he land in the swirling snow? He said that he'd pick a tall tree near us at the edge of a clear spot and then have it as a vertical guide for landing and takeoff.

St. Mary's Alpine is a spectacular area high up and far away from anywhere. Cranbrook is as close as one can get.

We flew in to do a film piece on this unique high alpine part of our province. I had as a guide a well-known local woman backpacker. Unfortunately she had broken her leg on a trek a month previously and was not quick on her feet for this trip. No problem, as I could record all she had to say while she was perched on a boulder by a beautiful, ice 'doily' edged lake.

As always, we did the scenic pictures for the B roll first. After we'd shot the required visuals the pilot asked how long it would take to do all the on-the-ground stuff. I guessed three or four hours. In that case, instead of just hanging around and waiting, could he go away and do a bunch of work and return in a few hours, say about two o'clock? Sure.

As it turned out we actually got done much sooner and had time to sit around, eat our sandwiches and chat. "How long to hike out?", I asked our guide. From where we were, about two days to get to a very seldom used logging road and from there it was at least 25 miles to the highway. Not something to contemplate, particularly with a leg in a cast.

Two o'clock, no helicopter. Three o'clock, no helicopter. Four, four-thirty, five o'clock, still no aircraft and I'm now a bit concerned. I assured everyone that the worst-case scenario would be that we'd have to spend a night on the mountain. Not a huge problem as it was the middle of summer and we all had our "purses" with us containing large-scale topographical maps of St. Mary's Alpine, space blankets, food and primitive tin can stoves. There was a lake full of pristine cold water and plenty of soft moss.

None of that became necessary as just around 6 o'clock our pilot returned. Apparently there had been a multi-car smashup on highway 95 and all aircraft in the region were commandeered for medi-vac needs as people were shipped as far as Calgary. He came as soon as he was released.

I asked him about possible abandonment. He always lets the home base know where we're located. What if he had a "mechanical" before he could tell anyone? He'd call before losing radio altitude.

When flying in the co-pilot seat and beyond airport control, i.e., not having to wear a headset, there's time for talk. Usually about flying or helicopters.

I asked about the dead engine glide path of the Jet Ranger. "Pretty good", admitted the pilot. "Thankfully", he said, "we don't have to use Hughes 500 which has the glide path of a brick". Hmmm.

When on a shoot in the Queen Charlottes we bunked near the airport on Moresby Island, the southern one. However most of our work was on Graham Island across the Skidegate Inlet. The first few days the pilot made a beeline across the bay from Skidegate to Sandspit. While flying across I saw a rarity – a totally circular double rainbow. Eventually I needed to extend the shoot for a couple of days and wound up flying with a different company and a different pilot. Instead of flying across the inlet as we had done previously he followed the shore. Thinking that his route was adding hours to the daily total I asked him why he took the circuitous route as opposed to directly across. DOT regulations demand that a helicopter without inflated pontoons must never exceed auto-rotating distance from shore. But the other pilot used to fly straight across. Illegal.

Same new pilot, different problem. The cameraman had a number of silver cases of film gear, one of which holds a 300 mm lens. Very useful if one can't get close. Original pilot loaded all the gear, cameraman and myself and we flew without incident. This pilot refused to take the 300 mm lens box, claiming that it would put him over the load limit. I argued that the other pilot had no qualms about the total weight including the long lens and we seldom exceeded 100% torque at takeoff.

Illegal and unsafe to operate with more than 80% torque was the new pilot's response. (My favorite pilot, Freddie Fandrich, used to "pull" 115 percent regularly) We also got a lecture about clients thinking of the aircraft as a truck where realistically it is a balloon. It can lift so much, and not a gram more. Actually the real problem was that the first pilot was gaunt and the second somewhat obese. Too much weight was his blubber, not the 300 mil lens.

The 'good' pilot was flying us to a west coast cove, the field headquarters for a pair of professional beachcombers who had built a spectacular cabin, more like a mansion, out of lumber found on their beach. The entire west cost of the Charlottes has lumber stacked in deep piles. Some dimensions are rare or no longer available. I saw some 18" by 18" clear (knot-free) fir beams 30 feet long. All of it in excellent shape except for slightly rounded edges.

The cove was inaccessible except by boat and then not always. When we landed the pilot asked if he could have an hour on his own. Apparently he had seen something not quite right on one of the mountain ledges we passed and he wanted to go back and see what it was all about.

"Sure. We'll be busy for a couple of hours."

When he returned he told us about a prospector who was not to be picked up for ten more days, but had been "robbed" by some local wildlife and was out of food and was waving his arms trying to attract our pilot's attention. He succeeded and was getting sated at a convenient logging camp.

In the meantime we were beachcombing the nearby yet remote boulder-threwn beach looking for Japanese glass driftnet floats - West Coast treasures. Would they not get broken on the rocks, I asked the professionals. Yes. That's why one should go far into the coastal salal brush and look for concentrations of Styrofoam cups, plastic bottles and other such trash. Look for the glass balls there. Apparently storms toss such flotsam far enough into the thick salal bush so that the glass survives.

I searched where directed and now have a very nice large specimen floating in my Koi pond. Mine is somewhat unusual in that it has about 50 cc of water inside. Nobody is sure how the water gets in, as the balls start out their life dry. Some guess that somehow they get dragged to extreme depths and at such pressure water "seeps" through the glass "pores". There's been some suggestion that the floats have been dragged down to those immense depths by whales who had been entangled in bits of ball-bearing fish nets. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

By the way, virtually all of the trash found on the West Coast beaches is Japanese. Nobody knows if that trash is tossed overboard from Japanese ships or has drifted over from Japan. This was before the Fukushima disaster and just common jetsam.

Some years before that, before I knew about glass floats, Robert Fortune and I were on an island just off Tofino in order to do a story about a nearby island, part of a reservation, being clearcut of old growth trees. While waiting for the cameraman to get ready the discussion with our interviewee turned to beach treasures. They talked about blue glass beads and other goods used for trading with the early locals. There was also some concern about the dearth of glass fish-floats. None seen for years on Tofino beaches. "Oh, what do they look like?" I was told that the balls came in different sizes, some as small as three inches across, some much bigger. "You mean they look like that?" said I pointing to one at our feet. I pocketed it along with some of the blue glass trading beads.

I filmed a couple of shows in the Spatsizi Wilderness Park, Canada's Serengeti. Our first heli pilot up there was unbelievable. Fortunately we only had him for a day after I registered an official complaint. While in the air he was telling us that he desperately wanted a flameout so that he could put his schooling to good use and auto-rotate. He also wanted some problem with transporting cargo; a drum full of J-fuel would be good, so he could jettison it as he was taking off. That would have dumped the drum on the roof of the ATCO Hilton, Iskut's finest motel. He refused to fly below 500 feet and generally treated the aircraft as fixed-wing. I had to threaten him with financial harm before he would fly low enough so that we could film a grizzly galloping up a grassy slope. The fur on the bear's back looked like a wheat field on a windy day.

It seems that I may have annoyed one of the muses, the one responsible for film.

I wanted to record an interview with Tommy Walker, Mr. Spatsizi, somewhere on the plateau. I chose a ridge that would provide me with a spectacular background. The sky was partly filled with puffy white clouds - postcard stuff - yet my chosen location was in full sunshine. We landed, shut down the heli and the cameraman got unpacked and set up, and we were just about to roll when a small cloud obscured the sun. A small holdup - we'll wait. And we waited. And waited. The small cloud, if anything, got bigger. Finally it was obvious that the cloud was there to stay and I started to look for another location, a different ridge. There was one about a mile up the valley and it was in full sunlight. We packed up, loaded everything onto the heli and moved ridges. This new location was, if anything, even better. Of course, just as we were about to record, the sun hid behind a small cloud. And stayed hidden. How was the ridge we had abandoned? In full sunlight with no suggestion of another cloud.

Eventually we did what we set out to do and filmed in a bright haze. In fact, the diffused light was better on Tommy while the Plateau and mountains behind him were in bright sunshine.

Coldfish Lake, the Spatsizi Plateau focal point and BC Parks base, was about 45 minutes from Iskut. The Bell 206 carries about three hours of fuel, so without being able to refuel nearby we'd only have a half hour or so of flying time on location. Having learned of this too late to have fuel flown in by fixed wing aircraft I had no choice but to 'truck' in a couple of drums by heli, a much more costly delivery.

Eventually when we got to Coldfish Lake I saw some other drums sitting near the heli-pad. Why didn't we use that fuel and replace it when a fixed-wing craft was available? No. Those belong to Greenpeace. Why can't we borrow their fuel? Because Greenpeace has been fighting the local trophy hunt outfitters and one could not be sure that the hunting guides hadn't "improved" the contents of the drums. Although the Bell 206 filters remove everything that has a mass down to a few microns, they cannot remove things that have been dissolved such as salt or sugar. Thus we flew in our own drums and used our own fuel.

The first year filming on Mt. Edziza, a long dormant volcano, again more than a half hour from Iskut, we ran out of "weather" and had to postpone filming until the following year. I left a drum of "CBC's" jet fuel on a mountain ridge and carefully marked the location on my large scale Mt. Edziza map.

Next year, flying with a different pilot, after the short "working" time he said that he had to go back to Iskut for fuel. I told him he did not. He insisted that he did as he had barely enough to get back. I told him again he did not as I had a full drum stashed nearby. He was skeptical to say the least, but I showed him my map with the 'X' marking the spot. We found "my" cache without difficulty. The drum was still upright, the universal sign that it contained fuel as opposed to lying on its side when empty. We filled the tanks and were able to fly long enough to get the job done before having to hurry home.

Another time flying on a Pacific Report shoot back to Prince George from what was to become Tumbler Ridge, we refuelled from a supply in the middle of nowhere. We just filled up and carried on. Whose fuel? Oh, a common cache. Everyone uses it and they keep track as to who owes what back at some fuel distributor office. The pilot just lets his own office know how much he slurped. Apparently the cache can be restocked by truck.

I wanted to do a survey to see if the Cape Scott lighthouse and its keepers would make a good story for television. The Canadian Coast Guard agreed to take me along the next time they had to fly there.

That time came sooner than expected. Apparently the main generator at Cape Scott had broken down. So had the back-up. They could not use parts from one to fix the other as they both suffered more or less the same fate. Cape Scott wound up being lit by a tiny portable Honda generator and when and if that gave out the lighthouse would become a blacked out tower.

The weather was such that neither boats nor helicopters could get close to the problem. It was a daily and hourly weather-wait and it was suggested I bunk close to the CCG air crew in Port Hardy.

The next morning I found their engineer, one of the crew of three, up on a stepladder inspecting the blades using a large magnifying glass. Why? Apparently some Bell 212 rotors of that vintage show hairline cracks along the leading edge and are a sign of imminent rotor problems, to the extent that the aircraft is grounded until new blades can be installed. Any cracks? No, we were good to go. And so we went. Capt. Service, brother of Vancouver TV master control supervisor, gathered up the mechanics and his co-pilot and through a short "weather hole" we descended on Cape Scott. The opening in the sky was expected to last about three hours and the mechanics had to fix everything within that time or remain at the Cape until flying weather returned.

Lighthouse keepers are a peculiar lot. Although there were two families sharing the work, they weren't close friends and didn't talk much among themselves about things not related to their work.

Our acceptance of the invitation for coffee laced with evaporated milk by the wife of the on-duty keeper was followed by her unceasing talk. After a polite interval the pilot and co-pilot made some excuse about having to look at something and we flew off to a nearby but very remote and difficult to get to beach. It was unlikely that anyone had stepped foot on it for centuries, if ever. One would think that it would produce a plethora of flotsam, but not so. It was an open sandy beach and the winds swirling about the Cape constantly swept it clean. It did have a huge tractor tire – just the tire, no rim - partially buried in the sand. Huge! At least six feet from tread to tread. How did that get there, as obviously it couldn't float?

The mechanics managed to fix both generators and we departed well within the available time. We flew over water along Vancouver Island's inside coastline and according to Capt. Service, we were flying 50-50-150.

What does that mean? Fifty feet above water, fifty feet from the shore at one hundred and fifty knots. To me it seemed that if the captain hiccupped we'd be in either the forest or the saltchuck.

They were being very kind and were going to deliver me to Vancouver and save me from having to take the ferry back. However flying between Texada and Lasqueti Islands we ran into a white wall of fog and had to make a quick U-turn to get out of trouble. So back to Pat Bay we flew. Feeling sorry for me in that he couldn't land me at their now closed Kitsilano base, Capt. Service gave me his CCG air crew hat. A souvenir I still treasure.

I used to do a weekly half hour ski show and feature a different ski area every week. Location filming took forever because none of our cameramen could ski and a lot of time was wasted getting them around the mountain on a Ski-doo or sometimes on a first aid toboggan pulled by the local ski patrol. Then I discovered Ski-bob, something like a bicycle on skis. It needed no special footwear and took about ten to fifteen minutes to learn how to use it. Eventually all our cameramen loved filming the ski show. Hey, why not? Ski sitting down! I equipped one Ski-bob with a lidded handlebar basked for carrying the camera and a couple of saddle bags over the rear ski for film and other cameraman needs. Bob Reid, our senior cameraman, first got introduced to the Ski-bob on Granite Mountain, a resort known for the steepness of its runs. In about fifteen minutes Bob was all set to go. As usual with the Ski-bobs, we completed filming in record time and were back again on top of the mountain doing more "postcards" when the ski-patrol found us and told us that the mountain would soon be closing for the day and "what was that contraption" I told them that the Ski-bob had won speed competitions in Europe and they were welcome to try mine. Ha, ha. Then I told them that Bob, who had first sat on one that morning, would race them to the bottom of the hill and if he came second I'd buy the patrol a drink. Even without knowing the terrain Bob got down first by a couple of minutes. He just took the most direct route, regardless of how steep, to the lodge. I still bought the ski patrol drinks just so that we could gloat. There were a couple of terrible Ski-bob racing accidents in Europe and eventually every ski resort in B.C. banned them. In fact, they're the safest possible means of getting around on a mountain and infinitely safer than snowboards. Writing as one who knows and has himself been mowed down twice, along with my then 10 yr. old niece, by board jockeys without apologies of any kind or even pausing to see if anyone got hurt.

Because we were filming, we continued to use 'Bobs' as long as I was doing the show. If any resort objected I just told them they would not be covered by the show and they changed their minds post-haste. Quite often we'd be finished by early afternoon and had a few hours to just have fun in the snow.

That is not to say that one cannot get hurt. I suffered some pain when faced with a very short but steep slope I chickened out of and instead of going straight down I chose a diagonal traverse. The uphill handlebar dug into the slope – yes, that steep! – and I tumbled down with the 'Bob' attacking from above. One of its skis banged into my nose.

Oddly, a similar mishap took place once on Lake Muskoka when I fell waterskiing and having bobbed back up above the surface I came back down and hit my nose on the edge of the ski.

Cameramen and sound men are, as a rule, a tough breed. However, on an early Pacific Report shoot we were some miles out off the west coast doing a fisheries story. A story which didn't get done that day. The cameraman got terribly seasick and I was totally unfamiliar with his type of camera and so unable to cover.

On the other hand, Doug Sjoquist was sicker than a dog for a couple of days while we were shooting in New Zealand. He'd shiver in our car until I was ready, do the shots and get back to his 'hospital bed' in the back of our minivan.Back in early March of 1977 I was doing a film with Jack Wasserman hosting. While in Montréal he got quite ill. The hotel doctor didn't think it was too serious and prescribed bed rest and some meds. This was on a Sunday. In all of Montréal there were only two drugstores open on a Sunday, one of which was in the basement of the Ritz hotel. We finished the shoot in Caughnawaga (Kahnnawake now) the next day. Back home in Vancouver Jack had a complete physical by his own doctor who found him in good health. Jack died of a massive heart attack on April 6, 1977 a week after his 55th birthday. Was Montréal a forerunner? Who knows.

I will conclude this look-back with my very first film. It was shot by Jack Long, edited by Fred Engel and was all about the then newly formed Canadian Ski Team, for the first time training as a team and housed in the Notre Dame University facilities in Nelson. All men except Nancy Greene who would spend the brief rest intervals between organized exercises doing some of her own invention. She also carried one of the men piggyback on the daily run up the mountain adjoining Nelson.

All this exercise resulted in great appetites. The NDU treated the team as if they were just more students and were stingy with portions. The team was forever hungry. As a thank you I provided the wherewithal, including a $100.00 standing rib and all the fixin's for a memorable meal which a local team supporter had offered to have at their house. Don't recall anything ever being as appreciated as that meal. Looked good on film also. Had to include that in the show in order for the CBC to pay, else it would have come out of my own very shallow pockets.

Jack Long didn't ski, nor had I thought of bringing snowshoes. We hiked/plowed through chest-high powder snow to the various camera positions I thought necessary. Took forever. To capture "real" sound of ski edges at work on the slalom course I had the coach (name forgotten) ski with Jack's Nagra over his shoulder while holding the mike close to the skis. Had him do it two or three times just to make sure. Later, during editing, tearing strips of tissue paper sounded much more "authentic."

Bill Terry, the sfx technician back then, always claimed that if it sounded right – it was! Something I've always remembered. Mike Oldfield, his replacement, as far as I can recall, carried on in a similar tradition. There was a time when a Bic pen drawn across an audio console cooling vents represented anchor chain running out. A Deere tractor sound played at a different speed was perfect for an old idling chopper and a finger-popped cheek always sounded better than a real champagne cork popping. And a ruler slammed on a table is a better gun shot sound than actual recording at a range.

I think Bill added the ultimate glass breaking sounds to our sfx library. All studio lights get replaced at a predetermined time, usually long before they're expected to fail. These hundreds of huge bulbs would normally get broken inside metal garbage cans. Bill used the re-lamping occasions to find different ways to break the bulbs, some of which were quite funny.

I think the real Bill Terry legacy (not the blue poppy books he's been writing lately) was teaching us how to flip knots in the ends of audio patch cords. Some of us even learned how to undo the knot by flipping. These were the short cords. Back at the BBC whence Bill came, they apparently used to flip knots in very long cords while dangling them in a stairwell.

Eventually Bill accepted a position as a manager in Winnipeg and became a "suit" until he retired and could write about blue poppies

And so it went. Still does.

Al Vitols joined CBC Vancouver staff as a TV Technician in 1958 and soon thereafter became a TV Production Assistant working mostly with Ain Soodor on "Let's Go", Vancouver's contribution to "Music Hop". A couple of years later Al became a Producer/Director, having the "B.C. Open Golf Tournament" as his first assignment to be followed by "The Canadian Open Tennis Championships", "The Canadian Kayak Championships" as well as "The Macdonald Brier" from Kelowna. For the next few years along with Ted Reynolds, Al was responsible for all CBC Vancouver sports productions which included football, hockey, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, sports fishing, track and field, kayaking, rugby and series such as "Ski Scene" and "Time Out For Football". Variety series included "Let's Go" (1964-66), "A Second Look" (1969), "Miss Patricia's Phantasmagorical Collection of Songs and Things" with Pat Hervey (1970) "Pifffle & Co" (1971), "Reach for the Top", "Big Band Jazz" (may not be the accurate title) and the "Carroll Baker Jamboree" A Dixieland jazz series with Lance Harrison from the Horseshoe Bay pub in 198). He produced "B.C. Parks" and "On the Scene" and profiled some of the better known BC artists, such as Toni Onley, Benita Sanders, Haida artists Robert Davidson and Bill Reid, John Horton, Wayne Ngan and Robert Bateman. "The Inventors" which Al produced in 1979 was a series highlighting amateur inventors. For a number of years he was Executive Producer of the nightly News/Current Affairs' program "Hourglass" as well as other Current Affairs programs. Later Al created the highly rated "Pacific Report" with Carole Taylor as host. After leaving CBC, Al and wife Barbara moved to Vancouver Island where they are happily settled and Al says that he "is suffering retirement".