Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Excellent TV in America? David Carr

Dear INYT Keeper: I've been reading the daily Times since I was a 17 year old sailor at the Pensacola,FL Naval Air Station in 1946. But the story about America's astonishing TV maturity is the greatest kick yet. I have been in Weimar, Germany since 1999 researching and writing a book on the Bauhaus (I was a bluecollar kid in Depression Detroit and read about Walter Gropius's new kind of art school to bring good design to the workrers ingraduate school. I vowed to check it out some day. That day came in 1999 when Weimar was the Cultural Capital of Europe. I expected the booh to take two years, but guilt-ridden post Nazi's were so threatened by the truth that they invented myths to lessen the pain. I finished the book on my 87th birthday, February 8, 2014! But I come not to berate those rattled Germans but rather to summarize my career as a TV meliorist in America.

It began with my Jesuit training at the University of Detroit as a philosophy major,1949. That year I won the annual Jesuit Mid-western Universities essay contest wioth a rant,"Needed: More "Red-blooded" American Catholics,i.e. like American Commies, the only white group then fighting for Negro liberation. My date and I doubled with the only black UD couple to integrate the Senior Prom at Eastwood Gardens.The UD library had two weeklies I read front page to back, "America" (the Jesuit mag) and "Commonweal"(by "lay" Catholics. There I read every piece that Marshall McLuhan, immigrant Canadian radical Dorothy Day Catholic, wrote. Those essays appeared in 1951 as "The Folklore of Industrial Man." I entered Western Reserve in Cleveland where my favorite uncle, Rev. Aloysius Mark Fitzpatrick was the editor of the weekly diocesan "Catholic Universe Bulletin". I told the dissertation committee that I wanted to write my dissertation on "Marshall". "Who?" they dumbed, in typical ignorant Humanist arrogance. I gave them my middle finger and moved to Michigan State where a unique English chair was turning a Cow College into a great research university.

Married at 23 in 1950 to the best looking blonde (and highest IQ!) in Detroit, we went off to grad school together, she as Elizabethan Renaissance, me as an American Lit media freak. Immediately fertile as American Catholics then were (Michael, now a great photographer,filmmaker and poet, now my conscience in Minneapolis,appeared in 1952.)n I doubled as the E.Lansing State Bank janitor. A janitor hears everything, including the dismissal of a 12th grade teacher for incompetence. I asked that eminent English Chair if it would jeopardize my doctoral status if I taught a few years in the local High School. "Are you kidding? How the hell did most of us get through the Depression?"

I was now also the 10th and 12th grade teacher. Because State had such a populist image, it was the very first U in America to get a TV channel, WKAR-TV! Yum. I devised my first McLoonie medium, a weekly Saturday morning palaver on teenage leisure, dubbed "Everyman Is a Critic". It bloomed, eventually leading to a Ford grant in New York City. My wife Mary and I had already started a monthly department in the NCTE'S "The English Journal" called "The Public Arts." When Scholastic Teacher magazine heard of my grant they made me the radio-TV editor, with weekly access to every high school classroom in America! I quit it sadly in 1961 when an appointment in Honolulu made access to timely info impossible

Early in my 1965 grant, I went uninvited to a educational media conference in the D.C. Hilton. When I opened the Aud door, I saw Dr. Ralph Bunche in deep converse with an unknown. (Bunche had just been a "Time" cover!) I boldly interrupted, " I'm Pat Hazard from E.Lansing High and I'm in New York to improve American TV." A stunned silence ensued, as the two cornered celebs figured out how to dump me quietly. Finally, the unknown inQuired, "well how's it going, Mr. Hazard?" "Lousy!" I replied sadly remember the multiple times the secretary  NBC-TV's innovative president Sylvester "Pat" Weaver had tuned me down for an interview. The unknown identified himself: "I'm Roy Larsen, the publisher of "Time": I'm on the foundation who gave you your grant, and I like your palaver. How would you like an office at "Time" to expedite your mission. Usually silent, I took his card and agreed to meet him Monday at the Time-Life Building". Suddenly I had my own office on the 34th floor, overlooking Sixth Avenue and NBC a five-minute walk away. I generously forgave the cunt hund secretary and called Weaver. She repeated the usual blah about Weaver's busy start of the TV season. I countered with how eager I was to start my grant, and gave her the magical "Time" number Judson 6-2424. Ten minutes later, the P.A. system blared "Is there a Patrick D. Hazard here today? If so, please call NBC!"

Not fifteen minutes but four hours as he called all the NBC brass with a simple message,"HELP PAT HAZARD" The year was full of wonders, such as watching, with son of the founder of Germany's DER SPIEGEL how an issue of LIFE was created. I gave a speech in May to the NCTE Freshman English teachers, "Liberace and the Future of Cultural Criticism". Three professors from Trenton State Teacher's College offered me an assistant professor ship on the spot. It was a great year, with first generation college kids highly motivated. And I finished my dissertation, "John Fiske:The Testing of an American Scholar! I was Ph.Deified in late 1957, after which Penn gave me a two year Carnegie Postdoctoral Grant to create the first McLuhan program in America.  In 1959, Philly billionaire and TV Guide publisher gave Penn two million dollars to form a Graduate School of Communication. Faute de mieux, I was appointed Gofer. (Go for this. Go for that.:) What I first for getting was my first mentor, Gilbert Seldes, to be  Dean. His book, "The Seven Lively Arts" (1924) was the first I'd seen on Pop Cult and it turned me on.  I taught media history at Annenberg until 1961 when Harvard sociologist David Riemand appointed me  the first director of the Institute of American Studies at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii. It was a State Dept. financed program to bring Asians to Honolulu to learn American technology and Americans to learn Asian culture.

It was the best I've had, yet! Mary and I had an AM.radio stint, "Two Cents Worth: A Penny for My Thoughts and a Penny for Yours". I also had a Sunday A.M. commercial TV hour called "Coffee Break". A typical program was my friend the art critic of the San Francisco Chronicle had just written a book on Christian churches in pagan Hawaii. We filmed them and discussed. I also had a weekly FM channel on the WQXR of Honolulu on travelers passing through, e.g., the Communist editor of Goa's capital. As I drove him to the airport he came me an astonishing anecdote on how Thomas Jefferson was almost executed for stealing an Italian seed in his hollowed cane. As a Jefferson specialist, I was stunned to be totally ignorant of this crisis. As he opened the door, he smiled affably and said, "That's because you're not in the Third World, Doctor Hazard."

The saddest side of my year in Honolulu was my learning that my number 2, a man named Seymour Lutzky, had been in the CIA ever since getting his "doctorate" at Iowa, where you could get one such by milking 5 cows. I was outraged at the deceit and immediately flew to Philly, where very soon I was a fuul professor chair of English at what became Arcadia University.

The rest you must read in the still being written An Auto-Biography: The Dumb Irish Luck of a Serendipitous Adventure." Bits and pieces are in this blog.

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