A TV New Year’s Eve to remember

Guy Lombardo, 'Mr. New Year's Eve,' the Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest of his time. (Credit: CBS)

Guy Lombardo, ‘Mr. New Year’s Eve,’ the Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest of his time.
(Credit: CBS)

Early in my career, I was assigned as the production supervisor for CBS New Year’s Eve with Guy Lombardo (look it up, people under 40).

My assignment was not the fancy Waldorf Astoria where Guy and the band entertained high-paying New Year’s Eve revelers. I was the “guy” who was freezing his butt off across town in Times Square at our little CBS mobile unit on 45th Street and Broadway.

The Guy Lombardo New Year’s Eve special was the No. 1 New Year’s Eve entertainment special for more than a decade, simulcast on TV and radio well before Dick Clark came on the scene for ABC.

My job was to hold the fort in the middle of the chaos so our cameraman, stationed on top of our van, could get the best shots of the celebration, and our guy on the theater marquis could shoot the ball drop.

Like me, the director was a young guy who drew the short straw with this less than cushy assignment, and he had a plan to make the most of the night in the blistering cold away from his loved ones. He told me to get cardboard and a marker, write “Happy New Year Sue!” (his wife) on it, and offer some lucky kid outside the van the chance to be on national TV if he held up the sign in the middle of the crowd.

Not to be outdone, I inked a similar “Happy New Year Katie!” (my wife, watching at home) and ventured into the pre-midnight madness to find some likely suspects to do our bidding. Two guys from Jersey, already well into the celebration, happily handled the signs for us. With a few minutes until midnight, the shot from Times Square was a closeup of these two signs, pulling back to reveal the happy scene of midnight mayhem. What a business!

Coincidental to this New Year’s Eve of my early career, the same Katie for whom I made the sign has posted some very interesting stories about the history and tradition of the New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball drop on her site.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, safe, and healthy 2012, and as always, stay tuned!

The birth of instant replay

(Credit: Army-Navy Football)

(Credit: Army-Navy Football)

Could you imagine watching football and not being able to see crucial moments played back again?

Well, thanks to CBS Sports, none of us ever has to miss a play. Forty-eight years ago on December 7, 1963, CBS made sports tech history as it introduced the first-ever instant replay during the Army-Navy football game. Before that, all viewers at home could see was the real-time action, as captured by one camera. There were no highlights, no zoom in, and no slow motion. It was a long, drawn-out viewing experience.

Looking for a way to change that and to help viewers at home get the full context of what was happening on the field, CBS Sports director Tony Verna came up with a way to play back video during the live broadcast. The innovation was first used on a routine 1-yard touchdown run by Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh at the end of the game.

CBS immediately re-aired the play, prompting announcer Lindsey Nelson to clarify for home viewers, “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!” People were confused and many called CBS to complain. But within a few years instant replay had become a pivotal part of football coverage and a primary factor in the rise of televised football. That was a very good call.

Think of it as you watch the Army-Navy game Saturday, December 10 at 2:30 p.m. EST on CBS.

Read more:
This day in tech
First use of instant replay
Instant replay: The day that changed sports forever