Here’s a memory about NBC television, from our brilliant cartoonist, Randy Enos.
Over a span of 12 years (late 1960’s through the 1970’s), I worked heavily for NBC. I had left Pablo Ferro Films because his business went sour and rather than go to work at another film house, I decide to hit the streets and just freelance. Our secretary at Pablo’s had a husband who art directed at NBC so she sent me there where I met 9 art directors who gathered around and looked at my portfolio. One of them followed me out to the elevator as I left and said that he had 15 illustrations he needed right away. So, began my years with the Peacock. The art directors were a United Nations of nationalities. There was a Ukrainian, a Russian, Chinese, Arab, English, Irish, a couple of Jewish fellows and so forth. I ended up working for all of them. Some did the national advertising (New York Times, etc.) and others did affiliate station work which included even bumper sticker art while others did on air spot advertising, station breaker slides and film animation.
One memorable film animation job I did for them concerned their airing of the Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night.
NBC was fiercely proud of their status as THE color network. They were still fairly new at this color thing when I came into their pantheon, but they had developed the system to be compatible with all the black and white sets across the nation which CBS had failed to do at that time. They tried to do as many color shows as they could. When a Movie of the Week was aired it was always a color movie –until A Hard Day’s Night came along. Imagine their embarrassment at having to air a black and white movie. The intro to their color presentations was always “NBC is proud to present the following program in living color”. The color logo of the peacock would appear on the screen and some rippled, burbly music would accompany the unfolding of the logo’s red, orange, yellow, blue and purple feathers.
SO, they came to me and asked if I could figure a way out of this dilemma. They wanted me to design an opening for the movie. An opening that would be for just that one night. They wanted something that could soften the blow of this being a black and white movie on the COLOR network.
Using the off-beat, quirky mind that Pablo Ferro had implanted in my brain, I decided to think about replacing our famous peacock with the only black and white bird that came to my mind, a PENGUIN! I figured I could have some fun with him flapping his small penguin wings up and down as our announcer would intone, “NBC is proud to present the following program in living BLACK AND WHITE!” He actually ended up saying “lively black and white”.
I set about drawing the scene in just line art. The penguin waddles out on the screen, takes off his top hat, waves his little arms up and down to the peacock music while the announcer does his thing. Then he unzips his white “tuxedo” front, it rolls down and emits – THE BEATLES, caricatured by me, tumbling out onto the ground where they quickly compose themselves and start playing. Then girls voices are heard screaming off camera. The Beatles run off to the right and we dissolve right into the opening scene of the movie where a bunch of girls are chasing them down the street.
I told this story on a blog years ago and some guy wrote to me to tell me that it was on YouTube. And here it is:
It’s pretty crude and scratchy and primitive and old looking, ain’t it?
I did quite a few films for NBC in those days but mostly it was caricatures of everybody on the shows even the newsmen, soap actors, etc. along with Flip Wilson, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, all the Laugh-in people, Bill Cosby, Danny Thomas, etc. etc..
But one of the other films I did was also a one-nighter. Carson had been off sick for a while so to commemorate his return to The Tonight Show, I created an opening which started out with a bird’s eye view of New York with an ambulance running through the streets to the NBC building in Rockefeller Plaza where it drives in… into an elevator… elevator opens up on the studio floor and we cut to Ed McMahon saying his, “H-E-E-E-R-R-R-R-E-E-E-E-S-S-S-S, J-O-O-O-O-H-H-N-N-N-NY!”
We had some friends who used to hold an annual “Tin Cannes Film Festival.” They were all film buffs who used to make their own crude little films that they would show. All the attendees would also arrive in costume. One year, I decided that my wife, Leann and I should dress in film. In the editing rooms at NBC, I remembered seeing big wastebaskets full of giant reels of heavy, thick 35mm film. They were just throwing it out so I asked if I could just grab a bunch of it. I took some reels home and we made complete costumes out of it.
Here’s the weird part. ALL of the film I had brought home were films I had made for NBC.
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: