Stories Told

On the small screen

WSBT news set

I debuted on TV in 1976, back when stay-at-home moms were still called homemakers. There were enough of them then that locally produced homemaker shows aired in the morning on stations across the country. A woman named Betty somethingorother hosted South Bend’s homemaker show, The Betty Somethingorother Show, live each weekday on WSBT-TV. It was on right after Captain Kangaroo, and the cloying strains of its theme music made my brother and I lunge at the TV to change the channel. We found The Dorothy Frisk Show considerably less exciting than staring at the wall and seriously less pleasant than eating Mom’s liver and onions. Betty shared cooking tips, interviewed local notables, and invited musical guests in to entertain the women at home. My elementary school’s choir was asked to sing Christmas carols on her show one day that December, and another fellow and I were chosen to sing Good King Wenceslaus as a duet. I remember two things about the day. First, the news set was in the same studio. It seemed vast on TV, but in real life it was incredibly small. I wondered how the anchors kept from getting in each others’ way! Second, the lights were bright as my partner and I sang, but beyond the lights the studio was dark. We wore simple costumes and mine included a brown cap that slid off my head just after we started singing. I kept my cool on the outside, but inside I was almost panicking. But then I felt the cap brush my left hand on the way down. I grasped it, gently placed it back on my head, and kept singing as if this were part of the act. I watched my partner’s eyes grow wide when he saw it, but he kept singing, too. Even the choir director remarked about it in amazement afterward. My mom, who was along on the trip, was just proud of her son. I don’t know anyone who actually saw me on TV that day!

When I was General Manager of WMHD, my college’s radio station, a reporter at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute wanted to do a story about us. She said that it was her last week at the station, that she liked listening to us, and that she wanted to profile us before she lost her chance. She and her photographer came out one afternoon and spent most of their time shooting gripping scenes around the station, such as of records spinning on turntables and disk jockeys positioning the microphone. Then she interviewed me. I thought it was odd that she crouched on the floor, had me sit on the desk, and had the photographer shoot while he stood, but hey, she was the TV professional. I looked down at the reporter as we talked about the station’s eclectic music, from bluegrass to Christian rock to death metal, all selected by the station’s disc jockeys. I had been fairly serious during the interview but at the end I tried to lighten the mood by saying, jokingly, that we liked to “inflict our music on Terre Haute.” Everybody in the room thought it was funny.

WTHI Action 10 News

When the interview aired, the bad camera angle made it look like my eyes were closed. I also learned a very valuable lesson that day: Don’t say anything in front of a TV camera that you wouldn’t want taken out of context. The way they edited the interview made it sound like I was saying that we enjoyed making our station hard to listen to! When the story ended, anchors Gary Jackson and Marla Keller were both laughing about that line, and Gary wouldn’t let go of it, making several cracks as the closing theme ran and they faded to black. There used to be a huge billboard on the edge of campus with Gary and Marla on it, confidently smiling down on US 40. Whenever I drove under it, I thought about climbing up there and painting their eyes closed!

A few years later I was back at my alma mater for an event, and WTWO was there doing a story on it. I was talking with some people when I noticed their photographer point his lens at us. I hammed it up a little bit with a big smile and animated gestures as I spoke, wondering what it would take to get the very cute reporter to come over and talk with me. Five seconds of me hamming it up made it to air as part of the story. I didn’t get to talk to the reporter, though.

After I moved to Indianapolis, I worked for a computer-book publisher. Windows 95 was about to be released, and since our large catalog of Windows 95 books made a great local angle on that story, WISH-TV sent a reporter to cover the launch. I sat at a computer demonstrating Windows 95 to him and answering his questions for a good 20 minutes as the camera rolled. When he put together his story, he rewrote many of my words and said them himself. The only footage he used was four seconds of my right hand moving a mouse around on a mouse pad. I wish we had thought to use a mouse pad with a large company logo on it!

Have you had fleeting seconds of television fame? Tell me about them!

Last updated on 21 December 2019 by Jim Grey

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32 thoughts on “On the small screen

  1. I was interviewed by WTWO a few times for rifle team stories and once by WTHI (I think?) for Katrina relief efforts, which also resulted in getting my pic in the local rag, the Tribune-Star, accepting donated supplies at church.

  2. My 5 min of fleeting fame on TV?? More like about 3 seconds.
    Being in the Coast Guard for 17-1/2 years you are bound, eventually, to run afoul of the insidious media. By now you’ve figured I’m not particularly fond of the media, but we’ll let it go as to why.
    In this case we’d been out in a raging storm saving some dim bulbs, uh, sorry, folks who’d gotten caught in said storm. Fortunately we had rescued all 12 of them safely, but a couple of my boys had gotten hurt pretty badly in the process.
    As we were trying to get the people off the boat and to the ambulances, media people were shoving lights, cameras, microphones and God only knows what else into our faces.
    I’m afraid I was a tad impolite – if telling a report to go take, in better terms, an aeronautical intercourse on rolling piece of pastry. Needless to say 1) it did not make it on TV (thank you God!!) and 2) earned me a rocket from the base commander (who was rolling on the floor at the time.
    Such is life.

    Hudsonly,
    Alex Burr

  3. Michael, it sounds like your experience was at least neutral and maybe positive.

    Alex, I suppose impoliteness of that sort is one way to avoid having your mug on TV. If I had just rescued a dozen people who needed help through their own poor choices, watching two of my people get hurt in the process, I’d be in no mood to talk to a reporter, either.

  4. Hey Jim how have you been, in 2002 the girls basketball team I helped coach won the state championship in our class, so the game was played live for the whole state to see and we had 3 television interviews and they actually asked me some decent questions. It was a pretty positive experience for me. And the following year we went back to the state title game again, but lost on a last second shot, we made the television again and it tuned out pretty well. Talk to you later.

  5. Matt says:

    By “The Betty Somethingorother Show”, you must be talking about Dorothy Frisk. One of those Michiana TV personalities from the past, like Bill Darwin or Rod Johnson. I can imagine “Remnant Days at Robertson’s” being aired during commercial breaks from Dorothy’s show. Rod Johnson used Weather Report’s “Birdland” as his intro theme song. But my mom preferred Bill Darwin on “Good Morning Michiana”. Big snoozefest for a 10-year-old me, but it sure would be fun to see local TV from those days now.

    • Holy cow, yes, Dorothy Frisk! It all comes back to me now.

      Bill Darwin just retired after 40+ years on the air, I read recently. He was most recently at WTRC radio.

      “Save a fourth, save a third, save a half, in every department, on every floor!” I’d love to have some clips of vintage South Bend TV!

    • TK41c says:

      “The Betty Somethingorother Show” was actually “Homemakers Time with Ruth Anderson” and then sometime in the 60s it turned into “Homemakers Time with Lois Pence” and finally “Homemakers Time with Dorothy Frisk”. I am gled to hear that Dorothy is doing well, she was alot of fun to work with.

      • I was a boy during the Dorothy Frisk era. I dimly remember the show’s open being scenes of her purposefully walking the streets of South Bend. But like I said, this wasn’t my kind of show and I was reaching for the station selector as soon as it started!

      • TK41c says:

        I forgot one of the Homemakers Time Hostesses and this is why you remember it was Betty Somethingorother. Her name was Betty Strandburg and I believe she was after Ruth Anderson and before Lois Pence.

  6. Okay, I’ve got Michiana jingles on the brain now.

    Elkhart… Someplace special
    Elkhart… Someplace special
    Elkhart and WTRC
    They’re just right for each other
    They’re just right for each other

    I actually did save 1/2 (and better!) once at Robertson’s. Not on every floor, but in their records and tapes department. I think they were closing it out around 1980 or ’81, and I spent about $40 on cutout records. I remember coming away with LPs by Rupert Holmes [Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”] and Andrea True Connection [“More, More, More”]. I had no idea back then that Andrea True is a former adult film star.

    • I lived close to Scottsdale Mall growing up so I spent more time at LS Ayres! And as for radio stuff, I can still hear the Q102 sounders in my head, and reaching waaay back the 92.9 Hit Parade jingles.

      • Q102 was good! They were syndicated (Transtar, I think), which struck me as really odd in 1982. But they used to cut in locally every half hour with one song that was a little more progressive. Dave Beveridge had the morning show and played the more upbeat, progressive mix. Mary Simko is still there doing news with WSBT 960.

        WRBR was good in those days too (before they became “Magic 103.9”). Live, local DJs in 4-hour shifts, around the clock, and they usually sounded polished. During my teens, I really looked up to anyone who was on the radio.

  7. Anneke says:

    Dorothy Frisk is my Grandmother…as my Uncle Randy said, she truly is full of life and I love hearing her stories about hosting the show. Oh, and I’ve never had 15 minutes of fame…maybe just 1 minute by having my picture in the newspaper a few times…Grammie is my claim to fame ;)

    • Wow! However brief, it was cool to see it. It was equally cool to see the Channel 3 Clubhouse again – I used to watch that when I’d visit my grandmother in southwestern Michigan.

  8. Matt says:

    Fun times on NewsActive3! I used to annoy my mother by unhooking the cable and raising the rabbit ears on our black and white kitchen TV to try to pull in WKZO, or 2, 5 or 7 from Chicago. I’d happily endure a barely audible, 90% snowy newscast, just to experience something different from the 12 channels we got from Heritage Cablevision.

    • Our little black-and-white TV in the back bedroom would draw in channel 9 and sometimes channel 32, which was pretty cool. We had cable starting in 1972 – Valley Cablevision, it was called then. We dropped it in 1978.

  9. My fleeting seconds of television fame
    I was a Chaplain working part time at a retirement home with 300 residents and 300 staff when my second wife the Evangelist said to me, “Honey, you need to get a real job and I found one. I talked to the head Chaplain and he said, “How do you do that?” He had a woman to train in my place. I liked her.
    Well I said my good bye, dragged my face which on the floor behind me and put my face back on after I closed the door behind me. I thought, “Why did I have to work at this Fly-By-Night company. I like getting paid to be a Chaplain never mind that it was a low pay job. One day I stuffed myself with éclairs that just happened to be in the refrigerator. Hey, no one was looking! What did Fly-By-Night have to offer compared to éclairs? Well, I found out, donuts and coffee once a month. So what, I wanted to be Chaplain and I did not know what a Chaplain is. However I did see one on Mash. Father somethingorother. But that’s another story.
    Anyway, while we were having donuts and coffee at the monthly staff meeting they made a video recording of it. I thought Hmm. So I inquired about it. I thought wow, “That’s why I am here!” I became a TV producer of my own TV show. Well, that is what I thought. My wife became the host and said it was her TV show somebody meddling said.
    But I did have fleeting seconds of television fame. She let me interview a staff member of the Bible College I graduated from, Bay Cities Bible College in Oakland. You have to have a wife or a girlfriend to understand the natural order of things. She will train you with her superior intellect.

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