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WSNS Channel 44 - Al Lerner Sports - "So Long..." (Part 1, 1971)

Here's Part 1 of the final episode of Al Lerner Sports on WSNS Channel 44. Lerner was the station's first sportscaster, and would go on to a long career with such stations as WLS Channel 7, WMAQ Channel 5, WGN Radio 720 and WSCR-AM, as well as being a wrestling announcer. Also featuring a young (and at this point, moustacheless) Tim Weigel, then a sportswriter for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, who himself would become a familiar face on Chicago television, working for all three network-owned stations at one time or another. Includes:

An introduction of Tim Weigel, with the offscreen announcer (Al Lerner himself) mentioning his prediction that Northwestern would win the Big 10 title, and advising he is "isolated in a super-secret soundproof booth"; the voiceover then announces this program as coming "from the penny-pinching capital of the world, Chicago"

Al Lerner Sports title bumper and theme music - "Chicago's most complete and comprehensive coverage of the day's sporting events" (typeface used for title is Americana Bold) (voiceover by ??)

Al Lerner (wearing a green-colored jersey sporting number 84 on the front) introduces Tim (as the "First Bum of the Week") and announces that this is the last program (to groans from the crew), as well as the last big football day; at one point Don (?) passes through. A brief display of small pickets reading "We Love You Al" and "Unfair!!" is shown, and Al advises that the pickets will be outside the WSNS studios after 6:30 (with a "Right On, #84!!" picket showing briefly). Al then gives the phone number for viewers to call. Afterward, Al goes on to the first of the college football scores:

- Army defeats Navy at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, 24-23 (with Al wearing the headgear of each branch, finally settling on an Army helmet; Al has trouble getting to the score at one point because he is sprayed with pink confetti); the winning score was by Kingsley Fink; one of the Navy touchdowns was by Fred Stuvek. After Al mentions that "it wasn't a pillow fight," one of the crew members throws a pillow at him.

Throughout this segment, various sound effects are heard, more or less signifying what Al and Tim are discussing at a given moment.

Al Lerner Sports title bumper

Commercial: Discipline hair spray - for long hair - Available at Osco Drug

Commercial: George Kirby for Cool-Brella umbrellas (ending voiceover by ?? - "Don't let it rain on your parade")

TECHNICAL NOTE: The in-studio picture quality is attributable to a British-made camera, the EMI 2001, which was prevalent on many British TV shows of the late 1960's to the '80's and even into the early 1990's (ranging from Doctor Who to Dave Allen at Large to Monty Python's Flying Circus to The Benny Hill Show to Upstairs, Downstairs to the early years of EastEnders). This camera was marketed in the U.S. by International Video Corporation (IVC) in two variations, four-tube (IVC/EMI 2001-B) and three-tube (IVC/EMI 2001-C); WSNS was probably the only U.S. station to have bought and used this camera - making it unique among the Chicago TV stations - or for that matter, other U.S. stations (WBBM Channel 2 and WFLD Channel 32 used Marconi Mark VII's during this period; WMAQ and WGN Channel 9, the RCA TK-44A/B; and WLS, the General Electric PE-250, for example).

This aired on local Chicago TV on Saturday, November 27th 1971 during the 5:30 to 6pm timeframe.

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This clip aired on Saturday, November 27th 1971, and is included in the following categories:

Viewer Comments

Once again...EPIC!
Comment posted by ArmitageNLowell on Tuesday, February 7th 2012 at 1:29pm.

Based on the television listings, WSNS cancelled the show before the end of its scheduled run. Can't imagine why. Al Lerner and Tim Weigel moved on to Sports Sportlight for Channel 44 until Weigel got hired by WMAQ.
Comment posted by Phantom on Tuesday, February 7th 2012 at 8:56pm.

Never saw this show although I've heard about it often!
Nice to see it for the first time! OUTSTANDING Rick!!! :)

Comment posted by Matt on Wednesday, February 8th 2012 at 11:15am.

Glad you guys like it. It came from a VHS dub of a studio recorded tape (not sure if it was on 2" or what) - unfortunately the original has long since been discarded, so all we have is this VHS dub. Still, for something this old the quality is not too bad. :-)
Comment posted by FuzzyMemories on Wednesday, February 8th 2012 at 11:32am.

I never expected to see anything from this era! I *think* I was actually in studio for this one. Those might have even been my hands (I often floor directed "Al Lerner Sports"), insisting that we go to break.

I *think* the v-o announcer was Harvey Radis. The crew member in question, who passed through as Al was introducing young Tim, was Dom Bonavolonta. (Howdy, Dominic!)

I do believe that the obnoxious "Flyaways" hairspray commercial had been the very first filmed spot that ever ran on 44. (All spots before its first run, were from slides with a taped accompaniment.) For a few weeks, that damned spot came up every 10 or 15 minutes. I was ready to blow up the film.

I remember the George Kirby spot very well, too. I'm glad it's out there in the cloud now!

That Zenith ChromaColor commercial sure had crappy color, didn't it? I always thought it was pretty funny that you could watch a spot for a great new TV set, on a horrendous old TV set.

I don't know who voiced the Paneling Unlimited spot in segment 3 ... but it wasn't Mal.

Joe Oher was the director, according to the only closing credit.

Comment posted by Geno57 on Thursday, February 9th 2012 at 2:25am.

I did notice that the way filmed ads were shown on 44 seemed below par compared to the "major" stations (2, 5, 7, 9 and 11 - even 32, though it wasn't until later that WFLD's ratings were on par). I'm curious - what film chain would WSNS have used in those days - RCA TK-27? Or an old TK-26 that was somehow donated by WGN or WMAQ?
Comment posted by W.B. on Thursday, February 9th 2012 at 7:24am.

Awesome stuff! I was surprised to see Silly String on display here, thinking it was a newer invention. And looking at Wikipedia, it says Silly String was patented in 1972. Any kids from the 60s or 70s know what this pink proto-Silly String was?

Comment posted by APM on Friday, February 10th 2012 at 2:36pm.

It's too bad you don't see shows like this anymore.
The only thing that I can remember that was close was the Sunday night sports show (I can't remember what it was called) on WMAQ in the early 90's with Mark Giangreco and #76 Steve "Mongo" "Ming" McMichael.
That was wild!

Comment posted by ArmitageNLowell on Friday, February 10th 2012 at 4:02pm.

Yeah, I was surprised by the silly string too. In one of the clips he doesn't call it that either, but something else.
Comment posted by FuzzyMemories on Friday, February 10th 2012 at 4:17pm.

Kinda reminds me of a TV Production class the day the teacher wasn't around. Too funny !

Comment posted by TeleFrank on Monday, February 13th 2012 at 5:19am.

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This clip has been viewed 2136 times.
This clip debuted on FuzzyMemories.TV on Tuesday, February 7th 2012.
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WFLD Flashback - 1975

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OOOPS! It seems that somebody got Jane Jetson's & Judy Jetson's hair colors mixed up LOL.


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This aired the day I was born!


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by HUdson 3-2700 on Saturday, October 18th, 2014 at 8:52pm CT

GalagaFleetCommander - Johnny Unitas used to wear his hair in a crewcut until about 1970, when he decided to let it grow out to where he could part it. A real square...


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by GalagaFleetCommander on Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 9:23pm CT

Johnny Unitas did WHAT? I can't believe that! He's got that perfect haircut you can set a watch to like Abe Simpsons said! I wonder if he made anyone any significant amount of money.


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by ER3017 on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 7:37am CT

About 2 years ago, my brother and I was on our way to the park and I saw boxes and boxes of videos, and my brother and I agreed to get almost all of them. Unfortunately, due to my strength, I didn't carry a lot, so I grabbed like 2 boxes and some videos are quite interesting I tell you. I'am still waiting to deliver these to you because if I wait, not only they'll rot but worried that these will be in the dumpster like my mom did but retrieved by me thank god.


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by FuzzyMemories on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 12:48pm CT

davismv - Thanks Mark! Well, we do have some late-breaking developments - once again provided by our researcher extraordinaire, Mr. Chris Tufts (Phantom). He found this interesting article on the development of Teletext in the U.S. as well as it's use on Nite-Owl. It's from New Scientist magazine and dates to July 22nd 1982. After reading this one has to wonder - what happened? Everything seemed so rosy. They had lots of viewers, and were making some advertising money apparently. So why did Nite-Owl quit just about a month later at the end of August 1982? Were they just tired of "giving it away for free"?

In any case, Chris found another interesting article, this time from Broadcasting Magazine dated September 7th 1981. In it, we finally learn that the true start date of Nite-Owl was early Friday, September 4th at 12 Midnight! Therefore, we can say with certainty that the clip you see here is the opening of Nite-Owl's Second Episode! We'll have to adjust the airdates of a few other clips to reflect this new information.

(T.K. - the answer to your question regarding Nite-Owl's music is also in this article - although who knows, perhaps they changed music providers at some point during the run of the show)

One other thing - the article mentions that WFLD was actually including teletext pages over its regular broadcasts since April of 1981. I had never heard this before. This information just leaves me wanting more. Did they transmit the teletext pages over every program that aired on WFLD since April 1981? Secondly, if you have a recording of a WFLD broadcast from that time period and you are able to fashion some kind of decoder, can you see the original teletext pages that aired during the broadcast? According to this article, there were at least 100 decoders floating around the Chicagoland area. Did anyone save one?

davismv - Regarding your questions: this was recorded by someone who was a "serial taper" but who also apparently had a short attention span. His tapes are filled up with 4-6 hours of material per tape, and rarely are there complete programs, but instead have little "snippets" (no pun intended) of news, sports, commercials, and whatever else struck his fancy I guess. There are a lot of good "bits" but unfortunately almost each one makes you wish he stuck with the recording at least a little longer. (but then again, if he recorded longer segments we wouldn't have the variety that he captured, so it's a six-of-one situation)

Regarding finding tapes: more and more I believe that the best way to find tapes is by asking neighbors, friends, or acquaintances. Why? Because unfortunately these home recorded tapes are seen by most people as virtually worthless most of the time, and if something is viewed as worthless it has way less of a chance of even making it to a thrift store or garage sale. People would just throw them out (which is sad, I know).

Also, some thrift stores now have policies of not letting "home-recorded" tapes make it to the shelf at all - they will just toss or recycle them if donated. The reason I've heard for this is that either someone complained before about something they found on one of the tapes ("adult" content perhaps), or the thrift store people are just being proactive and trying to avoid any issues like this from happening in the first place. In any case, it does stink. One idea I had that you might want to do is call all of your local thrift stores in your area and ask them if they ever get any home-recorded tapes and what they do with them. (first hurdle is making sure they understand what you're talking about - I usually use the term home-recorded tapes and then make sure it's clear by saying I'm not talking about "store-bought" movie type tapes - but tapes that people recorded themselves at home off of TV) If they say that their policy is to just throw them away or recycle them, tell them to save them for you. Give them your name and number and tell them you will pay for them too if they are what you're looking for. Make sure you're talking to a manager or someone at the store that actually has the power to make this change. Also remind the manager to inform his workers so that they are aware of what to do with the tapes too. And lastly, it couldn't hurt to call the stores again every couple months or so, and talk to the same manager if possible, to double check they are still saving tapes for you and that they haven't lost your contact info. :-)

One last tip - when buying tapes I don't buy them based on what is on the labels. The stuff written on the labels can be a red herring. I go by the age of the tapes. If you've been doing this long enough you can identify a pre-1985 videotape just by the box style as well as certain markings on the videotape itself. The stuff written on the labels can be a nice clue, but again I don't hold much stock in it. There could be a Sony K-60 Betamax tape that could potentially date to 1975 and the person could have recorded over most of it and wrote "Jurassic Park 2" on the label - doesn't matter - because you may still find an untouched 10-20 minutes at the end of the tape of a 1978 airing of Baretta with original commercial breaks for all you know. Anyway, happy hunting and of course please let me know if you find anything good. :-)


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by Phantom on Monday, October 13th, 2014 at 6:41pm CT

An article in Broadcasting Magazine in February 1982 says Nite-Owl had as many as 110,000 viewers on some nights.


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by T.K. on Sunday, October 12th, 2014 at 10:04pm CT

It struck me how much Keyfax resembles the graphics of the Prodigy online service several years later. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because they both used the NAPLPS graphics language, which was originally developed for videotex and teletext use.

Now I'm curious how Nite-Owl's music feed originated. Usually the all-night news tickers run by stations in other cities simply carried audio from a sister radio station or the local National Weather Service broadcast. It sounds like Nite-Owl had a dedicated playlist. Did WFLD have a full-blown radio automation system with multiple carts and reels run off a clock, like something by Harris or IGM? Or did someone just dub everything together onto a new reel for each night's playback? Or did the overnight master-control operator sit there and play each song back from its own cart?


Comment posted in WFLD Channel 32 - Keyfax Nite-Owl Service - "Episode Two!" (Opening, 1981) by Detroit4Chicago on Thursday, October 9th, 2014 at 12:09pm CT

Kinda neat to see an early computer-based newsfax system up and running for a UHF Station in a big market about this time. I'm thinking WFLD was trying this out to see if it became successful, it would have been used within years at the other Field stations across the country. Another possibility was to compete locally against WGN, WBBM and possibly WSNS (with of course, ON-TV) in the wee hours of the morning.

But what's neater-than-neat? Watching the Empire State Building take off like a Saturn V rocket in Commodore 65 form!


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