It’s Down the Road’s fifth blogiversary!
All month I’m reposting favorite stories from the blog’s early days.

WSBT Eyewitness News

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 TV stations across the country. My hometown of South Bend was no exception, and WSBT-TV aired its homemaker show, The Dorothy Frisk Show, live each weekday right after Captain Kangaroo. 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. Dorothy shared cooking tips, interviewed local notables, showed pictures of the new babies in town, and invited musical guests in to entertain the women at home.

My elementary school’s choir was asked to sing Christmas carols on Dorothy’s show one day that December, and another fellow and I were chosen to sing Good King Wenceslaus as a duetI remember that the news set was in the same studio as Dorothy’s show. 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!

We assembled on our risers, the bright lights upon us. My buddy and I stepped forward for our duet. 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!

Gary Jackson on Action 10 News

I didn’t get to use any more of my 15 minutes of television fame until I was in college. I was General Manager of WMHD, the campus radio station. A reporter at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute liked listening to us and wanted to showcase us. 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.

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 we looked down on our college town and enjoyed making our station hard to listen to! The story came last in the newscast, and when it ended, anchors Gary Jackson and Marla Keller were both laughing about it. 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 by it, I thought about climbing up there and painting their eyes closed!

Originally posted 7/27/2007. Read the original here.

I used to do the morning show on that college radio station.
I had a ball. Read about it and hear me on the air.


15 responses to “On the small screen”

  1. faithofmustard Avatar

    Not cool that those anchors made a joke out of the interview when it was their editing and camera angle that portrayed you falsely. Then again, maybe that was their intention? I have a personal distast for most forms of media because of this kind of stuff.

    Anyway…Happy Blogiversary!! I just passed my one year mark and I still feel like a total newbie. I give you credit for keeping at it and developing such a well written and insightful blog. I hope you continue for at least another five years. For my own selfish reasons ;)

    1. Jim Avatar

      You have to wonder if WTHI intended to make us look like idiots — everything they did sure made it end up that way.

      I’m glad you enjoy my blog!

  2. vanilla Avatar

    I would gladly watch 30 Dorothy Frisk shows rather than eat anyone’s liver and onions.
    You thought it, but you did not paint any billboards, good lad that you were. But you did learn something valuable.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Mom made liver and onions once a month whether we needed it or not. But I could get through a plate of that in ten minutes, and Dorothy’s show lasted an hour!

  3. ryoko861 Avatar

    What fond memories!

    I love liver and onions. But no one else does, so I don’t serve it.

    We didn’t have local shows like that. Being so close to NYC, we had the big giants-NBC, ABC, CBS, PIX and then PBS which was out of Newark. I guess anything “local” was on PBS but I never knew anyone that was on it. I do recall our High School choir was featured on WPIX one CHristmas Eve. I wasn’t in the choir though. But it was pretty cool.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Local TV away from the top markets was really simple and low-tech in the 70s. It was the best the stations could do!

      Those of us who grew up out here in flyover country remember when network audio was delivered over telephone lines and was compressed. All y’all living near New York heard full uncompressed audio, but out here you could absolutely tell what shows were local and which were on the network because of the compressed audio.

      1. ryoko861 Avatar

        Telephone lines? You didn’t have antenna’s? We had an antenna on the roof to pull in the signals.

        1. Jim Avatar

          No no – the audio arrived at the local station via telephone lines and was broadcast from there. They were high-quality lines with better sound than what you get on a regular phone, but it wasn’t CD-quality audio.

          1. ryoko861 Avatar

            Oh, I see! I guess that’s how it was done all over. We just watched tv, never gave a thought as how it got into the box.

  4. gaycarboys Avatar

    I liked it when Mums were called homemakers. To me that has always said it all. As for the interview, print media has the same habit misquoting and taking things out of context.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I’ve had good luck so far when I’ve been interviewed for print!

  5. Ted Kappes Avatar

    Sounds like that TV station had in mind the story the wanted to do before they even talked to you. It’s kind of sad that they would set out to make fun of some young people starting out in the same sort of business.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Maybe so, or maybe that’s the angle they took after reviewing the footage and interviews. Whatever, it wasn’t the best experience.

  6. Tori Nelson Avatar

    Jim, please take comfort that if I wasn’t still a decade short of conception in 1976, I’d totally have helped you graffiti that billboard. What jerks!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Nice to know you would have had my back, Tori!

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