This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning show in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! I’ve come across some scenes from the show I had locked away decades ago in the Raymond J Brune vault. Most of these clips are being seen here for the first time since they originally aired nearly 3 decades ago! Here’s to the Morning News and everyone “who held the show hostage!” Continue reading 29 YEARS LATER
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the (original) KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning program in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! A few years ago, I wrote a book about my phenomenal experiences starting up the KTLA Morning News – Personality Driven – The Secret Sauce For Selling News. On the off-chance that you haven’t read it, I’m posting the first chapter here – all about the little show that became a monster hit – completely by accident! Continue reading THE KTLA MORNING NEWS JULY 8, 1991
Back in the ’90’s, I “passed” on booking Aussie superstar Tina Arena on my show in L.A. cuz I’d never heard of her. Then fate intervened at the Virgin Record Store on Sunset (how I miss that place!) Now I’m in deep – a huge fan! All these years later, Tina has forgiven me on Instagram! Continue reading IN TINA’S ARENA
Bonnie Franklin was a very good friends of ours at The KTLA Morning News. Every on-stage event we had, there she was joining in! I recently came across one of her earliest acting roles – as Sally in You’re The Judge from 1965. It’s an ephemeral film from that era produced by Crisco. Two girls are trying to “trap” two boys and the only way they figure they can do it is through their stomachs with some chicken and some cheating! It’s a wonderful lesson for the children of tomorrow! Enjoy. Continue reading A SHORT ABOUT SHORTENING
THE CENTERPIECE OF YOUR SHOW
On The Golden Girls, where did Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia spend most of their time? At The Kitchen Table. At your house, where does the family end up together more often than not? Correct! The Kitchen Table! It’s where you have your everyday meals, it’s where the kids do their homework, it’s where dad does his crossword puzzle and where mom reads her magazine. When a friend stops over, he joins the family at The Kitchen Table. The centerpiece of your home is The Kitchen Table – it’s the “home base” of your family.
The Kitchen Table is also the home base of your morning show. It’s where your family of anchors, sports and weather casters, reporters, and contributors hang out. When Chris Pine drops by, he joins everybody at The Kitchen Table. When the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders arrive, they join the gang at The Kitchen Table. When the mayor visits to discuss the teachers strike, he does so at The Kitchen Table. You don’t take guests and move them to a more formal location (like a living room set). You all hang out around The Kitchen Table where everyone joins in on the interview, the food and the small talk. Continue reading THE KITCHEN TABLE!
-THE RECIPE FOR RATINGS-
Do you know the “secret sauce” to morning show success? It’s a simple recipe. And it’s right there on the screen. It’s the one thing all these clips have in common.
AN ILLUMINATING OVERSIGHT
If you’ve ever met her, you know Marie Osmond is pretty in person. Stunning even. And she is just as beautiful on TV. Marie, a TV veteran of her own prime-time variety series and a daytime talk show, knows how crucial lighting is on a TV set. Good lighting can make a talent “glow” on screen. Bad lighting is the kiss of death. Many years ago, Marie was a guest on The KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, we shot our show on the very same stage she and her brother had shot all 78-episodes of Donnie & Marie on ABC twenty years earlier. I remember very clearly, when she arrived, before going to makeup, Marie asked me if she could go out on set for a moment during a commercial break. I led the way. Once there, she looked at where she would be sitting for the interview and then examined the lighting grid above her, determining whether or not she had a key light, a fill light, and a rim light (a back light). She was happy when our three-point lighting met her standards.
WAZE 2 UTILIZE UR NEWS CHOPPER
One of my greatest resources while producing The KTLA Morning News was Skycam 5 – our news helicopter, and the people inside – traffic reporter Jennifer York, a photographer (often Martin Clancey) and their pilot (usually one of the Tamburro brothers). With L.A. traffic being a commuter’s worst nightmare, the chopper was in the air four hours daily with scenes from traffic tie-ups in every direction. The chopper was also one of our greatest tools in covering breaking news. In fact, early on, we found a huge audience from an exclusive story KTLA broke thanks to our chopper – the massive flooding in Ventura County where torrents of water literally washed away a mobile home park. You can check out a quick recap of that exclusive footage here before I go on to address the “elephant in the air”… Continue reading THE ELEPHANT IN THE AIR
OPEN TEASES MUST SET THE TONE
How do you open your morning newscast? Let me guess. Video of that overnight fire, wiping to that avalanche caught on tape, wiping to the footage of a dolphin giving birth. Music is urgent, your talent is breathless and graphics are flashing all over the screen. Yep. You’re producing that pre-open tease exactly as Walk Away Joe tells you to do it. If you’re producing a personality-driven newscast, Joe, aka your news consultant, is dead wrong. Here’s why. Continue reading ESTABLISH YOUR ATTITUDE
“THIS GUY’S A REAL PLAYER!”
This is a huge reason The KTLA Morning News was beloved by viewers… Sam Rubin, our entertainment guy, who livvvvvvves to share the latest gossip about anyone or anything, would bring viewers “inside scoop” like he does below – even if that scoop is currently airing on a competing channel!! Check it out! A brilliant moment that had people changing channels all over town trying to identify who Sam was talking about! Continue reading A SCOOP CAUSES CHANNEL-CHANGING CHAOS IN LA!
Here’s a great promo clip the WB did about KTLA Morning News traffic reporter Jennifer York. It’s a interstitial the network ran during its children’s programming highlighting the crazy careers some people choose. Cute little theme song. Check it out. Continue reading JENNIFER BELONGS TO THE SKY!
Doing press junkets can be very tricky for reporters. On one hand, you’ve got a celebrity who has been answering the same questions, over and over again, for every local TV station from Los Angeles to Schenectady. (S)he’s bored and (s)he’s cranky and (s)he’s often judgmental in his/her crankiness. Next there’s the overprotective publicists. They want to ensure you ask questions only about the movie and not about the star’s personal life. They hover right over you, just off camera, during your carefully timed five-minute-and-not-one-second-longer interview. Any deviation from the plan and the publicist shuts down the shoot. And finally, there’s you… waiting your turn for over an hour, jet lagged from the red eye arrival and the early morning screening of the film. You’re just hoping you look decent for your cutaways, praying you ask questions that make some semblance of sense, and hoping they’re fresh and different from all the bigger-name TV news royalty waiting ahead of you in the green room. Thus are the trappings of a blockbuster hundred-million dollar movie studio junket. Continue reading HYSTERICAL PRESS JUNKET HIJINKS!
—CODE 1000’S CAN BE CREATIVE!—
We call it a “Code 1000”. It’s a mention upper management wants you to include in your newscast. It might be a charity event the station is sponsoring that they want you to shoot and mention in a :30 voice-over at 11pm. Or maybe they want you to promote a free flu shot giveaway the station’s part of at the Walgreens down the street. Or it could be something as obvious as promoting a Cheers marathon happening this weekend now that the station has bought the syndication rights to the sitcom. Continue reading A “MUST COVER” IN YOUR NEWSCAST!
This one time… I was in the men’s room during a commercial break on The KTLA Morning News. At the time, this bathroom was undergoing a facelift so there were rolls of wallpaper and tiles and tools scattered around. As I was washing my hands, in walks our guest star for that day’s show – Little Richard! THE Little Richard. I fumbled with a paper towel, said “hello” and shook his hand. He was as gracious as ever. I asked if I could grab a quick autograph. “Sure” was his reply, but darn, I had nothing for him to sign. Oh. Wait. Little Richard had an idea. He grabbed a bathroom tile! End of story!
OTHER KTLA MORNING NEWS POSTS
One of the greatest complements of my career came from Hollywood’s most prolific prime-time producer, Aaron Spelling. Aaron visited The KTLA Morning News in 1996 to promote his book, A Prime-Time Life. As a child of the ’70’s, much of my life was television – and much of what was on television was produced by Aaron Spelling. Favorites of mine include Charlie’s Angeles, Family, Hart To Hart, Melrose Place, and of course, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Continue reading S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G SUCCESS!
“There’s no need to fear – Underdog is here”.
That’s the catchphrase of the 1960′s cartoon superhero Underdog! He was, sort of, the canine version of superman for the Labrador set. His heroics were often done to impress his love interest, Sweet Polly Purebred, who could never commit. Everyone loves the underdog, which is why the series ran for more than a decade. But an underdog is just as essential and relevant in the realm of morning news. And I learned this first hand.
When The KTLA Morning News first went on the air, we were indeed the underdog. In Los Angeles from 7-9AM, it was us verses the Goliaths of Good Morning America, Today and CBS This Morning. The LA Times called us “the little show that could”. Because we did. We faced off with the three major networks for a slice of the LA morning viewing audience. And on a daily basis, we felt the pressure. We couldn’t book the A-lists guests that the networks did. We didn’t have the million dollar network set, the expensive designer clothes that they wore. And early on, we didn’t have the ratings and we certainly didn’t have the mentality of a “winner”. That title went to Katie Couric and Matt Lauer who ruled morning news for a long time before we arrived on the scene. We were, clearly, the underdog. And we felt it every morning when we hit the air. Continue reading THE “UNDERDOG” CARD
If you work in a newsroom, it’s essential that you understand the psychology that often goes unnoticed between you and higher level managers. That old Left-Brain/Right Brain disconnect is killing creativity in newsrooms and – trust me – it shows on air! Below is a chapter from my recent book, “…Like No One’s Watching: Transform Your Local Newscast into a Hit TV Show!” It spells out the problem and shows how to overcome the obstacles.
It’s time to settle an old score. I’m not sure this is the forum to do so, but I have no choice. The pain and feelings of abandonment have kept me quiet for 17 years. No more. Here goes. Continue reading THUMP (FOR MY LOVE)
I’d just like to let it be known that I played a small but significant role in rescuing a classic #1 hit from musical obscurity. When Olivia Newton-John guested on KTLA the first time (1991), she was all decked out in leather, sporting the final days of her sensual Soul Kiss look. Continue reading A MISTY, MELLOW MOMENT
Booking guests for a right-brain morning show is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice, because between KTLA and E! News Live, GMA Sunday and World News Now, I’ve pretty much had every notable name in Hollywood & New York in studio, on-set for interviews. And let me go on record as saying – best celebrity guest – appearance after appearance – hands down, Richard Simmons. I would book Richard Simmons over, say, Nicole Kidman, every time – hand to god. Let me explain. Continue reading RICHARD SIMMONS COMES OUT…
This one time…. I left the control to walk into the studio to make sure everything was set up for a kids segment we were doing on The KTLA Morning News. It was some kind of promotion to get kids to read books. All the kids were in place on set and all the proud parents were hanging out up against the wall. As I turned from the set to return to the control room, bam! I ran right into Carrie White. Well, that’s who I saw. It was actually Cissy Spacek there to cheer on her kid. Scared the living crap out of me for a second there!
OTHER KTLA MORNING NEWS POSTS
Here’s a clear cut example of two competing morning shows – one that “got it” and one that did not. It’s from my KTLA Morning News days. The KTLA lot is located at Sunset Blvd and Van Ness. At that time, the location of KTTV, the Fox affiliate was literally across the street from us, but its entrance was buried in a bizarre location that caused many people to become lost because it intersected with the 101 freeway and there were overpasses and dead-end streets and all kinds of confusion. KTTV had just begun airing Good Day L.A., a light morning show that was modeled somewhat after what we were doing. I think they even had SkyFox up in the helicopter around this time. Continue reading I WOKE UP ON 5 THIS MORNING!
This one time…. the famous singer, dancer, choreographer, Tommy Tune guested on The KTLA Morning News. After the show, I pulled him aside to autograph a photo for me. He did so gladly. He then turned around, walked out the door and tripped over a step. Broke his leg. No shit.
In 1994, the KTLA Morning News celebrated its two-and-a-half year anniversary with a prime time TV special. We kinda missed the two year anniversary, so we improvised. We rented out the Chevy Chase Theater on Sunset Blvd for the event. It was called the Chevy Chase because he had just hosted his failed late night talk show there. You may know it as the Earl Carrol Theater, The Aquarius Theater when Hair played there, the Hullabaloo Club and at one time, the world famous Moulin Rouge nightclub. Queen For A Day and Star Search were even shot here. Every performer in Hollywood played there. It was dripping with Tinseltown history. But for the evening of February 11th, 1994, it was the KTLA Morning News Theater. Continue reading MY MAYORAL MISHAP!