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Sabotage at WPIX

I got my first real job in television in 1967, at WPIX New York. I was hired as a summer relief engineer along with a handful of other guys. “PIX” went on the air in 1949 on Channel 11 and it was definitely old school. Most of the engineers had come out of the signal corps in WWII and had gone right into this new thing, television. It was a closed union job, there was a serious hierarchy, they smoked cigarettes.

I was a temp, a kid, a wet back, I should have been in maintenance or at best, a cable puller, but I was given a chance to do third camera (called the weak camera) on some little show because I had some prior experience shooting the training film of Coach Maher’s football games and with the Darien school’s closed-circuit TV system. Apparently putting a wetback on camera did not sit well with someone.

We rehearsed all morning and the old pros on cameras one & two were winging it, but I nervously took focus marks on camera three. One bad shot and I would be back in the Maintenance Dept. There was a union mandated coffee break at 10:00am, (us summer relief guys were not welcome, we had to wait in a corner by ourselves) after the break, we rushed back to the studio and almost immediately went to tape. At the last moment, I saw that my focus marks had been changed. I quickly fixed them just before they cut to my camera. It dawned on me that somebody had tried to sabotage me on my first show. An early lesson in New York television. I got my union card that summer from IBEW Local 1212.

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