A friend sent me a video from Blank on Blank that she thought I would be interested in. If you're not aware of it, Blank on Blank is/was a PBS series with a promo line, "Famous Names, Lost Interviews," where they take obscure audio interviews with well-known people and then animate them. The reason she thought this particular segment would be of interest to me is because it dealt with the Ravinia Music Festival -- which I've often written about here, having worked there for several summers and attended countless concerts. It's the summer home of the Chicago Symphony and helped give the start to such conductors as Seiji Ozawa and James Levine, both of whom served as Music Directors for the festival early in their careers -- and also puts on pop, jazz, folk and rock concerts, as well as theater, ballet and opera.
The interview in question was one done with Louis Armstrong when he had appeared at Ravinia one year. My initial response to my friend was --
"No, I didn’t see that animated interview. While it’s possible (if not likely) that Louis Armstrong appeared at Ravinia several times in those years you mention, the year I myself saw him there when I was a little kiddling was 51 years ago (it was the summer his recording of 'Hello, Dolly!' was released, which was 1964) – so it seems probably (if not likely) that this interview was, in fact, done during that very same appearance."
Little did I know that the story would get even funnier and even more coincidental..
I went to the Blank to Blank website and tracked down the Louis Armstrong interview there. They give a little background about each interview and its history – and saw that it says it was “originally aired on WNTH, Winnetka, Illinois.”
That was my high school radio station! The NTH part stands for New Trier High School. But it wasn't just the station for my school -- I had several radio show on the station during my years there and did some sportscasting. In fact my first show on WNTH was done with my pal Jack Moline -- who I've written about several times on these pages. In fact, if you look under "About Elisberg Industries" in the toolbar above and check "Our Corporate Board" in the drop-down menu, you'll see Jack (who is now an accomplished rabbi in the Washington D.C. area) listed as Vice-President of Telecommunications.
But it goes even further.
In reading the history of the interview, it says that it was done on June 24, 1964 -- so, it was during Satchmo's appearance at Ravinia the year I saw him! (I even wrote about being there at the performance here.) I then looked at the name of the high school students who did it. The first was Michael Aisner, but I didn’t recognize his name. Oh, well...not terribly surprising though since I was still too young for high school and wasn't a student there yet. But then it went on said said, "and James R. Stein.” And him...I did know! I didn't know him much -- but he was a classmate of my brother, Jim Stein.
In fact, the story goes on -- years later, Jim Stein became a successful TV comedy writer, and when I was at UCLA, he was working on the “comeback” Smothers Brothers Show, and I contacted him and he invited me to come to CBS Television City for the day to watch the behind-the-scenes rehearsals. I recall that Linda Ronstadt was the guest that week. He won two Emmy Awards, and wrote for such programs as The Carol Burnett Show, Fernwood Tonight, Silver Spoons, One Day at a Time, Amen, and much more,
Go figure, indeed!
Here's the interview.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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