STATIONBREAK.CA

Stationbreak Magazine

Compiled by Ken Gibson on November 5th, 2017,
(with technical assistance from Bill Morris.)

Contents - Click on the Title below:

The Irish Rovers & Their Little Friends The Leprechauns  by Ray Waines
Dr. Bundolo History Lesson One by Jeff Groberman
Reminisces of Bundolo Producer Don Kowalchuk
The Television Gossip Files of November/December 1997
Remembrance Day TV Special 1976 photos with Irish Rovers & Vera Lynn


THE IRISH ROVERS & THEIR LITTLE FRIENDS THE LEPRECHAUNS
by Ray Waines

A long time ago when the Irish Rovers first performed in our small television Studio 41 on Georgia Street. The first thing that I really enjoyed was their foot stomping Irish music! It made everyone feel good, whether you were in the studio or watching at home across the country on a Sunday evening.

Their songs were mostly from Ireland and, as boys, they learned to sing them all, growing up in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Many of these songs were new to us and I loved the up-tempo toe-tapping music. For a cameraman like myself, it did not take long to feel the camera moves to their music and of course director Ken Gibson would have already had all his shots ready to complement those great songs by the Irish Rovers, right from the first rehearsal!

Remember the Unicorn?  Did your kids learn all the words too? While we only had 7 shows at the start, following the sudden departure of the Mike Neun Show, we all knew that the Network and TV audiences would want more of these popular shows for Canadians to enjoy coast to coast. Everyone looked forward to watching the Leprechauns: Bun Worrier (Jimmy Ferguson), the Twerp (George Millar) and Willie (Will Millar), and it was not just the kids, the grown-ups loved them too. On occasions, the other two Rovers, Joe Millar and Wilcil McDowell, appeared in costume and makeup in the fractured Fairy Tales of Tales to Warm Your Mind.

I am sure that you all can remember Bun Worrior falling back into a mug of beer. Here is the sequence and teamwork that made it look like it really happened. First, Props filled the small mug with beer (probably Guinness), Staging set up a 4ft high blue box for Bun Worrior to sit on, these stunts were always tried first by Staging, which placed soft pillows and a mattress for Jimmy Ferguson to land on. Then switcher Ali Behesti would chromakey my shot of the Stagehand sitting on the edge of the mug. Then the shot was cleared and VTR editor Cliff Gilfillan would roll tape while Props dropped an alka-seltzer pill into the beer to get a foaming splash. Cliff would go back and edit out the pill dropping. Now Bun Warrior would sit on the blue box and with Cliff rolling back that video tape, chroma keyed in behind, studio director Roger Packer would cue Jimmy to fall just before the beer splashed. It looked great when the timing was perfect.

   

  

I lost track of how many times Jimmy did this for other segments, but I am afraid that he might have paid the price for doing these stunts as a few years later Jimmy ended up in a hospital in a lot of pain. They had to fuse together several vertebrae in his neck. But it wasn't long before Jimmy was back touring with the Irish Rovers.

Taping those chromakey segments with the Leprechauns was a learning curve for us as pioneers. To make them look so small especially in a studio that only had a height of 10 feet, I had to mask the studio in my wide shots with a large blue card, 3 ft by 4 ft in size, with a small opening to show the Leprechauns in front of a blue syc and if Ken Gibson wanted them to fly, two Stagehands would move the blue card around in front of my camera to always keep the Leprechauns framed inside that small opening while I panned or zoomed to make them fly in a wide shot.

We were blessed to have Rudi Nicoletti as our Set Designer and he loved to make little magical sets for the Leprechauns. He also designed a pop-up book that opened and closed the segment titled Tales to Warm Your Mind. There were so many wonderful stories and songs for the Leprechauns to have fun with. Most of these ideas came from Will Millar and Ken Gibson . To make them work took a lot of teamwork and many hours but it always felt good to see those ideas come to life, thanks largely to Rudi being such a creative artist.

While I can't show you the Leprechauns flying in this story, any story about the Irish Rovers should always include the Leprechauns, so I will include a short segment that was one of my favourites . . .

                            

Bun Warrior kept bugging Baby Lambchop (Shari Lewis' handpuppet), "Are you a boy or a girl?" Baby Lambchop finally opens the diaper and takes a peek and lets loose a loud "Wow!" and quickly closed the diaper. "Well", demands Bun Warrior," are you a boy or a girl"?   Baby Lampchop thinks for a while and then replies shyly, "I don't know!!"

Let's hope that we can see the Irish Rovers and Leprechaun show clips back on YouTube soon.

I know that there are many grandparents and parents with young children who would love to see them again.

Ray Waines       
My career as a Television Cameraman started with CBC Vancouver back in 1960 and my first Grey Cup was in 1960 at Vancouver's Empire Stadium. I worked the play camera on the Canucks' first NHL game in 1970 and I enjoyed working on the 1976 Summer Olympics, the 1988 Winter Olympics were an even bigger challenge. Back at our Vancouver studios, there were many dramas and musicals to work on in between these sporting events. After I left CBC in 1991, I continued to cover the BC Lions (1960 to 2000) and the Canucks as a Freelance Cameraman. I finally retired in 2010 ending a great career in Television.

For "The Irish Rovers and Crew in the UK" Photo Scrapbook by Ray Waines from Monday, November 13, click on:
http://www.stationbreak.ca/photo_gallery/index.php?PHOTO-SCRAPBOOK-Ray-s-Pt-1-Rovers-England-52


              DR. BUNDOLO HISTORY LESSON ONE 
www.grobetrotting.com

I have a problem with authority figures so High School was a good preparation for my tenure as a producer at CBC. I was sent to the office so many times in my senior year the secretaries presented me a coffee mug with my name on it so getting sent to the program director's office was no big deal – especially when I discovered he didn't have a strap in his top drawer. I'd been already been intimidated by the best.

Not that he didn't try. My first introduction to Alex Frame was when I received a phone call from Don Kowalchuk asking if I was interested in producing the TV version of Dr. Bundolo. I was one of the original writers of the Dr. Bundolo radio show (along with the late Colin Yardley) and had been with the show since its inception (as Kreega Bundolo Express) in 1971.

Don had just been accepted to the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles and was going to be leaving Vancouver that fall for Los Angeles. The Bundolos insisted, in his absence, I be coaxed to quit my job at CKVU and return to CBC to produce the show. Unfortunately Alex Frame, the newly arrived program director, had different ideas. He had just arrived from Toronto with his harem and needed to find jobs for them.

"Why don't you take the job of Associate Producer?" he asked. "It would be almost the same as being the actual producer," he suggested. "You'd do all the work, make all the decisions. You just won't be paid like a producer... or have the title."

I told him that was bullshit and had been told I was offered the job of producer – not "associate producer" and walked out of his office. Faced with a rebellion from an award winning show cast who insisted on having a producer they knew and trusted, he was forced to call me back and offer me the producer job. Unfortunately that set the tone for my relationship with him for the remainder of my stay at CBC.

My battles with the Program director continued and the amount of reprimands in my file continued to increase.

Alex had two furniture configurations in his office: the first was a corner area that featured a two seater couch and a big comfy chair separated by a coffee table. If you were in his good books when you entered, you found him sitting on the big comfy chair pointing over to sofa where you would park yourself for a "pleasant" little chat.

The other configuration wasn't so friendly. He had a large desk raised several inches on a dais so he could glare down at the poor schmuk perched in front of him on a hard wooden chair. If you entered the office and found him in his high chair behind his desk you knew you were in trouble. My solution was to simply walk over to corner and sit on the comfy couch.

"Why are you sitting way over there?" he'd shout from across the room.

"Sitting," I'd reply.

"Come over here," he ordered pointing to the hard chair.

"No," I'd reply, "YOU come over here. It's more comfortable."

And it would be a standoff. I wouldn't move and neither would he. The good thing was that it threw him off stride. His carefully planned dressing down didn't seem as effective as he would have to swivel and shout out to the other side of the room.

I'd leave with yet another reprimand in my file. I didn't care. I was there to produce a TV show – when that was done I'd be gone. I had no intention of being a staff producer.

The great thing about producing Dr. Bundolo was no one at CBC seemed to care what we did – as long as we stayed in budget – and adhered to the little red book. I managed one out of two.

We were only a regional show – not a network show but we had hopes that within a year or two we might be picked up by the network. We were available to the rest of the country on Regional Exchange.

The rest of the country's CBC stations and affiliates could, if they desired, pick up the shows to show for their regions. We were delighted that every region in Canada picked us up.

If the network didn't care about the show, the other good news was Alex Frame didn't bother to watch the show. After all, he had assigned it a great timeslot – Midnight Sundays.

Every Monday morning he would ask for a cassette of the previous week's show. I would have the production secretary send it down to him and a few days later it would be returned. I had the distinct impression he never viewed it. To confirm my suspicions I had the secretary send down the same show the following week – but with an updated label." It was returned a few days again later – again with no comment. So for the next 35 weeks (we had a 39 week season) I sent the same show down to him every week.

The bad news was, being a regional show we had an embarrassing small budget which led to me being "imaginative" when it came to finding ways to produce the show. Often it meant "borrowing" studios and resources that weren't technically mine – one of which included the Late Night news set.

I had a beef with the weekend late news. We had no actual time on Sunday nights. We were told since we were the absolute last thing on air, we would go on whenever the news finished – which depended on whether they were covering the Port Moody tiddlywinks tournament that weekend. We could be on at 12:15 or 12:25 or even 12:30. Our viewers had no idea when to tune in. I finally had enough. Normally there would be station identification between the end of the news and the beginning of our show. I bribed the late night Master Control Operator NOT to run that station ID, but to butt end the beginning of our show tight against the end of late night news.

The news ran late that Sunday as usual. But when the late news crew was about to depart the control and head back to their offices they looked at the "on air" monitor and saw their empty set appeared to be still live! They couldn't believe it! They began frantically pushing faders and buttons – but nothing worked. They were still live on air! ... until a crawl ran along the bottom reading: "Are they gone? Is it FINALLY over? Thank God because it's time for....." and then went into the Bundolo show opening.

The program director might not be watching the show, but a call from a furious news producer Monday morning got his attention. I was summoned to his office and reprimanded (again) and told not to use the news set for comedic purposes.

I got a condescending smile from the news producer as I left Alex's office. I smiled back. What he didn't know was we had slightly altered his set. We had moved the small "i" in the word "Final" closer to the "F." If you looked carefully you now saw the title of the show was "Night ANal." They didn't notice it for three weeks which shows how many viewers THEY had.

If management had a problem with the show the production and technical staff didn't. They went way out of their way to help in any way they could. . My attitude was it wasn't MY show – it was THEIRS and if a good idea came from a lighting grip or someone in design we generally ran with it and gave them all the credit.

We managed, for the most part, to stay below radar and do our own thing until the infamous "Bill Reiter incident." Bill was one of the most beloved cast members of the show. Part of Bill's "charm" was he was totally unpredictable. He thought nothing of bolting from the stage and chasing an audience member around the studio.

About ten shows in we had a "spooky" show opening. The setting was a psychiatrist's office where a patient was recounting the frightening reoccurring dream. As he described the dream, we started to hear the things he was describing: chains rattling, screams, moans and more frightening – footsteps getting closer and closer.... Finally the door bursts open and the patient screams "My God... He's here!!"

At this point Bill was supposed to saunter in and say. "Sorry. He couldn't make it!" Then we'd be into our opening theme.

Now all this happened with one Bill innovation... He did it stark naked!

I remember the moment with crystal clarity. I was standing on the back audience risers in studio 40 when Bill made his dramatic entrance. It was one of those moments you hear about when time actually seems to stand still. I had time to see the audience frozen then turn around and look through the glass to see what was going on in the control room. They were frozen as well. Then pandemonium reigned for about five minutes before we could continue.

The next morning when I walked into the building I was told to report immediately to the Regional Director. Not the Program Director, not the Director of TV, but the head of the whole shebang. Bill's escapade was the talk of the building that morning and he wasn't amused. I was ordered to bring Bill into line – or else.

Later that day, along with Colin Yardley, I called Bill into the office. Bill was still basking in the glory of his stunt.

"Bill," I began. "I was called into the Regional Director's office this morning. He heard about your stunt last night."

"I guess he thought it was pretty funny," Bill replied.

"Not really," I replied. "There were complaints."

"Who complained?" Bill asked.

"There were nuns in the audience!" Colin invented, trying to be helpful.

"I didn't see any nuns in the audience," Bill countered.

"They weren't in uniform," Colin replied. "They were undercover."

"How many complaints?" Bill asked.

"Twenty-five so far."

"So let me get this straight," Bill replied. "There are 450 seats in the studio and only 25 nuns complained. So that means that 95% of the audience loved it."

What could I say?

An edited version went on air. It was the highlight (or lowlight) of the season. People still talk about it today nearly 40 years later. The show won the Regional ACTRA Award that year; but the writing was on the wall. From that moment on we were under the microscope and our days were numbered.
by Jeff Groberman www.grobetrotting.com

                                         REMINISCES  OF DON KOWALCHUK (1937-1997).

From radio engineer, Chris Cutress:
Bill Reiter was an expert in what he could get away with on stage in front of a live Dr Bundolo audience, and, like the rest of the Bundolo cast, was always trying to "get Kowalchuk." During applause, Bill would sneak close to the mic and mouth the words "F----you Kowalchuk!" in a voice that was inaudible to the audience.  But when it came time to mix and edit the show, Don would turn the monitors up and hear those words and spend hours trying to find matching applause to edit into the offending tape segments. Needless to say when years later digital editing came to the fore, he loved it. 

From actor and weather personality Norm Grohman:
"Setting: Dr Bondolo remote in Whitehorse, during Klondike days. It is -25 degrees (F) outside. Bill Reiter and Norm Grohman are sharing a motel room. ... I run into the hotel room because it is so cold outside and I really gotta go to the toilet.  it is not until I'm sitting down that I realize there is all this brown stuff on the toilet seat. I yell "Bill!!!!" and he says, "What?" I say "What the hell is going on in here?"  It is not till Bill and Colin Yardley come into the bathroom that I realize they have smeared peanut butter all over the toilet seat. Then we wait for Don."

...... Item continued from actor Colin Yardley:
"Don came in and he was a little bit on the frantic side. Being the responsible CBC producer that he was, he was trying to set up things at the school. Don said, "I just can't get a hold of anybody, the entire town is drunk. Klondike days, everybody is celebrating." So we listen to his tale about how he wanted to get things so meticulously. Bill says, "Norm, Norm, you are the most discgusting human being I have ever had the misfortune of knowing. I'm never spending another 5 minutes in a motel room with you ever. Oh, you just gross me out." And Don is going, "What, what?" Bill says, "Don, Don, come here. Look at this" and he takes Don into the bathroom. He shows him this toilet seat and Don says, "Oh my goodness." Then Bill says "Not only that, it tastes terrible!" Don's mouth just dropped open. They all cracked up. This is only one of a couple of times that his crew got him."

                         THE CBC VANCOUVER TELEVISION GOSSIP FILES of NOV/DEC 1997

According to CBC Vice President Jim Byrd. in order to impliment the final budget cut of $24 million from the total $414 million three year budget reduction, 230 positions or contracts, mostly within English television, had to be eliminated. For Vancouver the cuts are particularly brutal. 49 positions are lost (of which 5 are vacant), 3 from Unit 1 (the Media Guild), a massive 33 from Unit 2 (Technical/Design), 8 from Unit 3 (Clerical), and 5 from APS and Management. It is an incredibly difficult and sad time for Vancouver Television, particularly with lay-off notices coming just before the Christmas festivities, and the bumping and redeployment will start. We'll be saying goodbye to 18 of our colleagues on December 31st:  Al Berado, James Blake, Lois Cartwright, Daan Cramer, Judi Grindlay, Rhea Hudson, Ron Ireland, Bryan Klein, Gundar Lipsberg, Peter Lyew, Dieter Nachtigall, Bob Paley, James Reid, Ron Sarava, Simone Savoy, Peter Schell, Greg Schofield and Stan Szczepanczyk. On March 31 we lose an even larger group. CBC Communications is organizing a Farewell Party in Studio 41 on Friday March 27 from 2:00 - 4:00 pm when food and wine will be available. We are sure from time to time we'll see at least some of you back in our corridors - just look at Bill Reimer and Ray Gall! They've outlasted series! Incidentally, Greg Schofield's job is being shared by Derek Gardner, Florence Morrison and Mike Moss.  To those who received layoff notices, remember that a layoff is not a sign of personal failure. It's a result of ecomonics. Someone who is laid off is not a victim.  Certainly it's not easy to have your comfortable life uprooted, but it's not the end of the world. You have the ability and experience behind you to look for and find other jobs in other places, as so many of our colleagues have done in recent months ... and to find renewed success as they have done. 

In TV News, reporter Adrienne Arsenault has left Vancouver to join The National. That's the one vacancy as mentioned above in the Unit 1 cuts and she will not be replaced.  Sara Darling has been loaned to Newsmagazine for the winter.

With all the CBC's studios being rented out these days, you may wonder if we are producing any shows for ourselves. As a reminder, here's a list of programs we are producing for the 1997/98 season.
Broadcast One and The Late Edition is seen Mondays - Fridays at 6pm. the Late Edition Mondays - Fridays at 11.25 pm. Host: Gloria Macarenko.
Canadian Gardener. There are 39 original shows which started in March and 13 repeats. The program can be seen on Newsworld at 10 am Saturdays and on the network Sundays at 8.30 am. Host: David Tarrant.
Alive!  13 shows starting January 11, 1998 on the network. The debut is on colds and flu - very timely!  Host: Joyce Resin.
50/UP.  22 shows which started September 28th. Telecast on network Sundays at noon.  Host: J.J. McColl.
Spilled Milk. 13 shows which debuted October 4th. Seen on network Saturdays at 10am.  Hosts: Ramona Mar and Dave Cameron.
CBC Sportsline. Current series debuted October 11th and runs till April. Seen locally Saturdays at 10.30 pm. Host: Darcy Rota.
Booked on Saturday Night. The series of 22 shows debuted on September 6th and can be seen locally Saturdays at 11 pm. Host: Bill Richardson.
Then there are the Newsworld contributions including Ian Hanomansing's Pacific Rim Report.  And that's what we call these days a full schedule. 

How many candles?  Alive's Paddy Moore hosted a surprise party for co-producer Joyce Resin to celebrate her 50th birthday. Among the familiar faces from her past and present were Jane Akizuki, Bill Dobson, Neil Trainer, Marc Gage, Rene Genereaux, Peggy Oldfield, Sarah MacDonald, John & Penny Kennedy, Carey Murphy, Joe Battista, Kimberley Wakefield, Vera Moss and Cindy Richards.

..... And that's a wrap for this month. Stay warm and keep in touch.

And for you Brits:
Remember Remember the 5th of November. (it's also Bryan Adams' 58th birthday)
The gunpowder treason and plot
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason should be forgot!
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, 'twas his intent
To blow up the King and the Parliament
Three score barrels of powder below
Poor old England to overthrow
By God's providence he was catched
With a dark lantern and burning match!

Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure.


REMEMBRANCE DAY NOVEMBER 11th.

FOR THE FALLEN by Robert Laurence Binyon
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Scenes from the Remembrance Day Special in 1976 "We Will Remember" with the Irish Rovers and special guest Vera Lynn. In the photos below left to right are the Rovers Jimmy Ferguson, Joe Millar, Wilcil McDowell, Will Millar, George Millar and temporary Rover Bob O'Donovan. Also Vera lynn, seen with Will in the second photo. Below: pouring rain in TV studio 40 for the WW1 trench scene (with a tank unfortunately not shown here), superbly designed by Lawrence Collette (the flooding caused st. 40 to be wet for years!), with a 2nd tighter shot of the trenches before "the mustard gas attack" sequence.  "The Forces' Sweetheart" Dame Vera was born in 1917 which makes her 100 last March 20th. She released the album Vera Lynn 100 in 2017 to commemorate her centennial year. It was a # 3 hit in the UK, making her the oldest recording artist in the world and first centenarian performer to have an album in the charts!
From The Rovers' half hour series, check out Vera singing "Yours" and "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart," the latter being the first recording by a British artist to top the US Billboard charts. It was #1 for 9 weeks from July 12 1952, and it would be 8 years before the next UK artist Laurie London topped the chart with "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." The record 9 weeks at #1 stood for 16 years till the Beatles matched it in 1968 with "Hey Jude." Click on:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhSKJUYzn1s





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