My brief TV career (6)

Our TV pilot was back in business. This was our last chance, so I tried to make sure that it would be reviewed well and that the sponsor would get the kind of attention sponsors want. I had friends at the Archdiocese of Chicago who were folk fans. I suggested to them that if they liked the show, they should write Sara Lee.
The priests came through with interest, and between the real excitement and the rigged excitement, Sara Lee was overwhelmed. The numbers were medium — not great, but good enough to feel enthusiastic about. Kaplan told us the company was getting all sorts of praise for being on the cutting edge.
Soon Sara Lee told us they were picking up their option for the network. ABC even ran a little teaser that the show was going to be on in May, as a pilot for a future series. Once again contracts were being drawn up.
Then, in a completely unrelated part of the television world, Jack Paar took a vacation from the Tonight Show. Sam Levinson, another big Weaver fan, was tagged to fill in. Levinson decided he wanted to put his old friends the Weavers on the Tonight Show.
Maybe it was hubris, or maybe Levinson was really telling the world it was time to put the blacklist to rest. Either way, the shit hit the fan. The Weavers never went on the show, and the dominoes began to fall. Suddenly, nobody from Sara Lee or the network would talk to us. Our show was never picked up. And that was the end of my television career.
A year or so later, ABC began to air a remarkably similar show called “Hootenanny.” By then the time was ripe, and it was a modest success, with a three-year run on the network.
Pete Seeger was the only singer the show’s backers would not contemplate. Pete decided that at this point getting people on the show would do more damage to the blacklist than a boycott would, and many artists deferred to his judgment and took the gig.
There was a big fight in the folk community over what to do about this. I had my doubts about the wisdom of Pete’s position, but I said nothing. I felt it was not for me to make that judgment. In the end, of course, he was right.

3 Comments

  1. Rosalinda says:

    You can blame it to the british invasion. The beatles and the rolling stones have rocked the united states at that time and made everybody crazy.

  2. Dear Mr. Fried:

    Regarding the TV special with the Chad Mitchell Trio, Second City troupe and the Weavers in the early 60s. It was aired in Los Angeles on KCOP TV which I did see. I read articles about in the Hollywood Reporter some years ago. Besides my record label, I am television archivist who has been searching for the video tape of that show for the past 30 years. You mentioned a Jim McGuinn (no relation to Roger McGuinn) at WGN. Any ideas or thoughts about all this?
    You can contact me at my record label website above, or mail “at” sierra-records.com. Hope to hear from you.

  3. Hello, Im Steve, Dick Gassen’s son. Dick worked with Frank at Triangle. I was young but I remember Frank. Most of my memories come from one summer Frank’s family and mine vacationed near each other in Michigan. I did some hanging out with Franks son in law, Bruno who I admired. He was a bit older than myself. He taught me how to cook hamburgers.
    Dick passed away a few years ago. He absolutely never talked about his experiences in the late 60′s, early 70′s and that has always bothered me. Iv’e recently found some newspaper clippings and photos from Dicks involvement in concert promotion from the period just after he left Triangle and started 22nd Century. I have posted some scans on my Facebook page, (check them out if you would like), soon to post the best of them. Some of my friends enjoy them but I have also posted them in a Facebook group called “Chicago rock concerts 1960′s and 1970′s”. There I have reached a larger crowd and have had many interesting responses. This led me to finding the “From Lenin to Lennon” blog. I have only just started reading it and I love it. Please tell Frank that Beth Gassen, (Dicks wife) and I say “Hello Frank!” I also wonder if Bruno remembers me. Any of you, please feel free to contact me on Facebook or e-mail. Im off to read now, take care, SG.

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