Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Woody Robertson and LBJ

A Note From Woody Robertson





(Woody Robertson was a director at WTOP-TV during the 60's. He has directed numerous national network shows and is a founder of SEPTEMBER MOON INC....one of the leading production companies in Detroit.)

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Subject: Lee, I see that you mentioned a couple of stories..that [if I may] elaborate on in detail for you........



LBJ in Studio-12, announcing the end-of-a-railroad-strike.........I remember it well because it was personal.........



It happened to be during the time that the Civil Rights debates were in session on-the-"Hill" and Roger Mudd was the 24/7 correspondent for CBS. Roger was "on" every radio newscast as well as every TV show and News-breaks everyday. He was on-the-air so often, everyday, that he actually got a sun-tan.from the camera lights. His picture was on the cover of either TIME or Newsweek, with the caption......"Fred Friendly Turns Mudd to Gold".........because of all of the "fees" he was raking in from every News feed........



So, CBS had installed a count-down [or up] clock (a rube-goldberg looking contraption) that was crude,but a little ahead of it's time in those days. The numbers contained the hours,minutes, and days that Congress had been debating the Civil Rights issues, and each time Roger was on.....the clock numbers were supered on the screen as a running-tally of how long the debates had been continuing around the clock.



At that time,I had been appointed interim Production Manager following the departure of Arnie Collins [remember him?].....and Bill Small was the CBS Bureau chief. Bill called me and said that Lyndon was on his way to Broadcast House because he wanted to announce this long-awaited end of the strike......[a little unusual to come out to 40th & Brandywine]...but it was felt that we could set up the feed to all the other Networks more immediately.



I knew that this was going to be like a chinese fire-drill, so I hurried down to studio-12 where Bob Camfiord was directing the Washington feed to the Cronkite show [in NY]. The secret-service guy was already in the studio carrying the Presidential Seal [to be placed on the/a podium] and it was utter chaos. In the midst of this confusion, the "debate" clock was knocked over and pieces literally flew everywhere.......one of the floor-directors was trying to find a podium of the right height [LBJ was 6'4" as I recall] and each time the Secret Service guy said "it's too short, or it's too tall".......they finally put a Coca-Cola crate under-one and he said "that's perfect"........then it was necessary to hang the Seal on the front........after several attempts he said "it is still not straight"............I hear this conversation from the other side of the studio,so I decide to take care of it...just as I see LBJ walk in and go towards the podium. I was on my knees and straightening it up,when I heard someone say "it is still off center".......................so in the HEAT of the everything I then say [which I thought was under-my breath] "Well, IT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE OLD SON-OF-A-BITCH".......as you well know he was always using blue language [that is] until the red light was "ON" and then he would say "Good evening MY FELLOW MERCANS"...........



The next thing I heard as I was on my knees........"What'd you say Boy????".........I looked up and he was staring down at me with that familiar snarl-look. I then said "Oh! hello Mr. President" and quickly crawled away on my knees.....a little cautious that this may be the end of my career.



So, because of the unusual nature of this episode, Julian Barber describes the whole episode on Newsnight that evening as everyone was getting a big laugh several days.........





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