Stories and insight in the world of showbiz and beyond.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

HOW WE DID IT

Several fans have written asking about The Lloyd Thaxton Show production schedule. They wanted to know how long it took to put each live show together with all the lip-syncs, finger people numbers, booking guest stars, and the kids who danced and performed on the show? The answer to that question is simple: It took one full day for each show. But, that answer might just be … too simple.

I had lunch recently with Duke Anderson. Duke was one of the audio technicians who sat up in the sound booth and spun the records. Without Duke, it would have been chaos instead of the precision it took to make the show successful. Duke always spun those records live right on cue without EVER missing a beat. EVER!!! And he added some amazingly clever stuff all on his own that helped give the show that “different” feeling.

One of the things Duke and I kept asking ourselves at lunch was, “How did we do it? Five one-hour shows a week, 52 weeks a year for over eight years. That’s over 2000 hours of live non-stop programming. No vacations, no hiatus, no re-runs.” Most television series tape or film only 22 episodes a year.

Well, here is how we did it?

We started each day with a blank piece of paper.

We checked the daily music charts, listened to new record releases, chose those we wanted to use for lip-sync and dance contests. We picked the records that I would lip-sync, do as a finger people number, a piano finger-sync, or cover lipping.

“Cover lipping?” This might seem strange if you’ve never seen the show, but cover lipping was cutting out the lips on an album cover, putting my lips in the hole and mouthing the words.

Silly?

Absolutely NOT!

After our musical bits were penciled in, we wrote in the guest star (we seldom had more than one guest star) and locked in the show. Then everyone went to his or her respective offices and started typing out and timing the script. Actually, we didn’t have a script, per say. It was more of a list of what we were going to do. All programmed so the show would flow smoothly and end on time.

I rehearsed my numbers and at 3:45 PM we all got back together. After going over our production check list, we headed for the studio.

It sounds like we had a rather large staff to do this, right? Wrong! Not counting the studio production crew, i.e., camera people, stage managers, etc., the entire show office staff consisted of myself and three other fantastic, talented hard working people. Sam Ashe handled booking the kids for the show, plus he sorted out all the music for me to hear and booked all the guest stars. Then there was my amazing assistant Renee Maltz. She did everything else. She typed and distributed the script, timed everything out and cleared all the music.

In 1964 I added David Barnhizer as my co-producer and idea mavin. David had been my roommate at Northwestern University who became a successful TV director in Chicago before heading for LA. He was my comic alter ego and contributed some really memorable funny bits.

At college, David and I were always in charge of our fraternity party entertainment. Take out all the Animal House antics and you were left with the beginnings of the Lloyd Thaxton Show.

That was it - including me - FOUR PEOPLE, TOTAL! And they stayed with the show for the entire run. If you check the credits on most TV shows today, you’ll find five times that many staff people. And that’s just the producers.

OK, we now have our show on paper and at 4:00 PM we head for the TV studio office down the street. We have a production meeting with the show's director. There were several different station staff directors who took turns each day according to their schedules. They were the best directors I have ever worked with. Then or since.

At 4:30 sharp we walked into the television studio where Sam Ashe had already seated our teen-age dancers in the bleachers. After a short “Thaxton” lecture on how to “look your best” when over a million people are watching every move you make and how "you now represent all of America’s teen-agers,” we played the records we would use in our lip-sync contests. Everyone sang along and from this exercise we picked our contestants. It was somewhat like an open audition. Everyone had a great time doing this warm-up and it set up an excitement that slid right into the opening and continued throughout the show.

At exactly 5:00 PM, the show went on the air. And, at exactly 5:57:30 PM, the show closed.

The next morning (for more than 2000 mornings) the paper was once again blank.

8 Comments:

Blogger THE ROCK RELIC said...

MAN, that is the BEST walkthrough I've EVER hoid! Today, when you figure writers, production staff,gofers and grips, set costs, "names", pre-and-posts, soundchecks, videos, and more (not including personal assistants, engineers, etc.), you're talking a mint.
Or MTV.
But did YOU guys go for that?? Noooooo! You made it work because (and EVERYBODY could learn from this!) you had the right attitude, the best four-man crew, fertile-as-a-turtle minds, organization, saw the coulda-been-impossible as possible ... no, DOABLE ... and,
most of all,
put the KIDS FIRST!
THAT'S why the LT Show was so successful!
And, to the Rock Relic, it was the one program that helped our music AND our generation make an indelible mark on history! (Can I get an "AMEN"?)
One more note: The day LT Show shocked me: Waitin' for the TV to warm up at the drivetime hour ... it was into the show, I know, because, when the screen came on, there was the Sir Douglas Quintet doing "I'm A Tracker" ... with Sahm looking through a BIIIG magnifying glass. Camera close-up. Not exactly the first image I expected on the tube, especially after getting up from a nap ... BUT ... the show, as always, was excellent.

1:09 AM

 
Blogger Gary said...

That totally amazes me how few people were needed for the show and nowadays you need somebody just to wipe somebody's ....nose.
Even with Dick Clark's American Bandstand there were lots more people needed for his shows, but Lloyd just proved you don't need lots of people or big budgets to put on a great show! Too bad studio heads now can't get it in their heads that stuff like that still can be done that way.
And to the rock relic, I seem to remember that clip of Sir Doug, too, but can't remember if it's from Lloyd's show or if I saw it on Shindig, but I definitely remember Mr. Sahm with the huge magnifying glass!
One more note to Lloyd.....DON'T STOP NOW! FEED US WITH MORE INFO! WE ARE HUNGRY FOR MORE!
Gary

10:13 AM

 
Blogger duke said...

Hi Lloyd,

Was away from the computer yesterday, so didn't see your note until now.
What a nice blog! You explained pretty well the hard work and time that was
put into the show by a few dedicated people, but you didn't explain very
well the enormous impact and importance your presence was to the show. I've
worked with a lot of talented people for many years, and I can say that
there is no one else who could have made the Lloyd Thaxton Show work as well
and successfully as it did. Your imprint was on every aspect of the show.
I don't think it's too much of a stretch to compare some of your creativity
in early Television to Ernie Kovaks. And importantly, you always brought a
sense of joy to the show, too. You were so happy and eager, that it brushed
off everybody around you. You made us all want to excel, as we wanted to
please you as you pleased us. Thanks for a great show, Lloyd, and thanks
for letting me be a part of it.

g'bye

duke

1:59 PM

 
Blogger Gaylel said...

I agree with Rock Relic...

I mean today's televison is done w/big budgets and everyone from so many writers to lawyers( because nowadays, liablity has to come into play) and millions of dollars and so many folks have to come to play for a big televison production.

LT's show's budget showed us that you did not have to have so many folks to do a high-quality television program. Lloyd was the creative genius behind this program and that what made the program worked in its tenure.

The kids who danced on that show had some pride in their apperance, the schools they attended and they were just there to have fun outhere.

I just wish there was a show exactly like it for today's teens--other than the MTV produced unimaginative stuff which cost millions of dollars to make these days..

Keep the posts coming, they are bringing back a lot of memories..

3:46 PM

 
Blogger Lloyd Thaxton said...

I hope everyone realizes that "Duke" is the same Lloyd Thaxton sound-tech Duke Anderson, who I wrote about in my blog. He was the greatest and I had to pay him a lot of money to get him to write what he did. KIDDING!

Getting compliments from The Rock Relic is fantastic.

I was worried that stuff like this might be boring. I guess not. More on the way.

Hang in there Gary and Gaylel. I love you too.

Lloyd

6:31 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the people that enjoyed the Lloyd Thaxton show from a far, as I did, we can now realize the amount of effort that was made by the small production staff and crew of the little TV station known as channel 13 in Los Angeles, and how much work went into a daily one hour show. (with no reruns) It was easier for us to sit and watch from a far. Just a flip of a switch and there it was. I must admit that I switched back and forth between the two shows. (AB and LTS)

It would not be until many years later when I myself managed to obtain a job in the wonderful world of television. After working in so many small TV stations around the country, I managed to work my way into NBC-TV in Beautiful Downtown Burbank. Of all the shows I was lucky enough to work on, in some small part as a cable kicker, audio assist, up to becoming a video tape editor, one of the first regular shows I worked on as a video tape editor, was a local show seen on KNBC in Los Angeles called California Buyline. Which later became the consumer advocate show called Fight Back. While David was out front reading all the information about the latest fight against being ripped off by somebody's repair shop, to poorly made products designed to fall apart as soon as you got them home. It was the producer behind the scenes who was the real master of what that show was all about. Lloyd was that man.

That's when I got to meet the fellow I had watched for so many years during my youth. We spent many a day in the editing room cutting the shows down to time. Usually there was so much material that the show ran a little long. So things had to be trimmed to make it fit into the time allowed for air. Leaving room for the all important commercials. Mr. Thaxton was just a constant gentleman, who treated me with respect. I loved working for him. When the show moved from KNBC over to KNXT. I was not a happy camper for the longest time. Other producers I had to work with after Lloyd's departure, never met the bar that Lloyd had set.

One of the shows I worked on as a studio recording engineer was Dick Clark's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. While the only part that was actually recorded at the NBC studios were the wrap around's. Where Dick and Ed would intro the video tapes segments. The studio audience never got to see any of it. They kind of got short shifted there. But there were numerous times when if things were not going right on the stage that Mr. Clark would let it be known that he was not happy. In some very explicit terms. However in the several years I worked on Fight Back I never heard Lloyd do anything in that nature. Nor did I ever hear of anyone else having that type of problem with Lloyd.

I consider myself very lucky person to have had Mr. Thaxton cross my path. I came away a better man for it. As he treated me, that's how I treat everyone I work with here. Like I said he set the bar. I keep trying to reach it.

Later,
Robert V

3:28 PM

 
Blogger Gary said...

Very nice, Robert. I've never met Lloyd and probably never will, but just to see him on the small silver screen, and by reading his writings, I can tell he is a man like no other. CLASS is the first word that comes to my mind when I think of Lloyd. You're very lucky to have known and worked close with him. I'm jealous but I also feel very lucky to have been able to see his work and know what little I DO know about him, through his blog, that he is everything I expected. We need more people like Lloyd.
Gary

4:59 PM

 
Anonymous Sybil Adelman Sage said...

The only assistant was Renee Maltz?!! I don't think so. Though I was fired, I did work in the office along with Renee and another secretary, first Luann Rollins, who was followed by Estelle Kapland. I'm not counting the bird in Lloyd's office, whom I always suspected was given seeds in return for ratting on us if we left early.

I had a number of interesting responsibilities, such as doing music clearance and trying to decode Ike and Tina Turner's lyrics, which was one of the more challenging things I'd ever been asked to do in my career. Renee, who seemed to have a different new outfit daily, got miffed when I asked to wait until the next day when, hopefully, the storm would have stopped, to go buy a prop needed for the following day's show.

Renee went into Lloyd's ofice and filed a litany of complaints about me, which I became aware of only because someone came in claiming to have an appointment with our boss so I opened the leather binder on Lloyd's desk to see if it was not an appointment schedule but a pad called Lloyd's List. There were perhaps 10-12 complaints about me lodged by Renee, the final one being, If she were to leave, I wasn't promotable. I was, therefore, not surprised when Lloyd called me in and fired me. Lloyd seemed somewhat squirmy and apologetic, but I assured him I was okay and that the difference between my net weekly pay and unemployment insurance was only about $7, what I was spending on pantyhose.

Being labeled not promotable didn't stick. I was appreciated at my next jobs, first working for Jerry Lewis and later for Carl Reiner, whom I left only because I wrote a tv script and was immediately in demand as an comedy writer, which was to become my careeer.

Being fired by Lloyd came to mind when a friend, Annabelle Gurwich, allowed me to contribute to her book, Fired, about to be released as a film. And this is what prompted me to think of Renee Maltz and google her to see if she, in fact, was promotable. So I, too, am curious about what happened to Renee Maltz as I'd like to thank her for propelling me to other things.

7:31 AM

 

Post a Comment

<< Home