Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Act II - Episode 1 - The KYW TV Crew Comes to Town

ACT II – The Long Cool Summer of '65 Revisited

Episode 1 – The KYW TV Crew Comes to Town
Image result for KYW TV News Van

With the AM radio blaring and the warm summer wind rushing in the windows the white KYW-TV Chevy van crossed the Walt Whitman suspension bridge to New Jersey and headed southeast to the Jersey Shore with producer-director David Brenner driving and his secretary-Girl Friday sitting next to him.

Rookie reporter Tom Snyder, just out of college and on one of his first assignments as a TV reporter, sat in the rear seat next to the window while the cameraman-technician Gary Shenfeld fiddled around with equipment in the back.

“Shall we take the Expressway or the Pike?” Brenner asked retorically, as he often threw out options to the crew making it seem democratic, then make a rash decision on his own - “We'll take the Pike,” he said swerving into another lane when they got to the fork in the road. “The Expressway's a toll road and that will cut into our beer money.”

Image result for David Brenner 1965 Behind the wheelImage result for David Brenner 1965
David Brenner

“Director's prerogative,” Brenner smirked, as the secretary singed quietly, “I shall take the road less traveled, and that will make all the difference.”

“Hey Tech,” Brenner called out to Shenfeld, the cameraman-technician in the back. “You should get a load of the streetscapes of the Black Horse Pike, since it won't be here for long since the Expressway is going to put all these businesses out of business,” he said, using a hand to point to some old roadside stands, diners and service stations.

The cameraman had cut a hole in the roof of the fan that he could open and standing on a box could extend his head, torso and a camera out and film without getting out of the van. It was good for situations you had to get out of quickly, the kind that investigative reporters often found themselves in.

Gary Shenfeld the cameraman took his baseball hat off and stuck his head out and looked around as the van moved along at a good 70 mile per hour clip, and caught a glimpse of some of the ice cream stands, Stewart's Root Beer, used car lots and an Esso Flying Horse gas station.

“Okay, okay,” he said disappearing into the van and then emerging with his camera up to his eye and began filming the disappearing streetscape.

With the cameraman filming as they cruised down the Pike Brenner laid out the scheme.

“Here's the battle plan,” he said. “We're going to go into Ocean City filming, get the downtown and main street and then we're going to get the boardwalk and beach and film the scenes as they are just to have it in the can so we can concentrate on finding the real story and having a good time doing it. This is our first assignment where we can actually enjoy ourselves and get paid too.”

Brenner then started into his James Cagney impersonations as the cameraman came down from the hatch and as he put his camera down said, “You missed your calling Brenner, you should be a comedian,” and they all laughed as Brenner leaned over and changed the dial on the fading AM radio to get a local station with better reception.

“It's the Budweiser Beachcomber Show,” the announcer said in a dull, dry voice.

“Schmaltz” the secretary said. “Rock and roll, next station down the dial.

“But first this special report from our news desk.”

“This is Michael Schurman reporting to you from the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, where record crowds are jamming the beaches and boardwalks all along the Jersey Shore from Manesquan to Cape May. The retail merchants, bars and restaurants are all doing a boom town business but the overflow crowds are causing shortages of gas, bread, milk and toilet paper in some areas, though more supplies they say, are on the way.”

“Beer!,” Brenner said loudly, “beer they got. No milk or toilet paper but by God they got plenty of beer.”

“And now back to the Budweiser Beach comer show,” as strands of Frank Sinatra singing “Summer Wind” crackled over the radio.

“What's schmaltz?” Tom Snyder asked from the back seat.

“Fucking Schmaltz!” Brenner said as he turned the dial on the radio. “Let's rock and roll!”

Brenner stopped the dial on the Animals version of “House of the Rising Sun.”

“Schmaltz,” the secretary said, turning to Snyder in the back seat, “is Doris Day, Dean Martin “That's Amore,” Sammy Davis “The Candy Man,” - “That's schmaltz, get it?”

Brenner yells, “Let's rock and roll!” slaps his hands off the wheel, “Hot Dog! - Ocean City here we come!”

Coming into Somers Point from Route Nine they pass Sullivan's Bar on the left, a local neighborhood taproom and turn left onto MacArthur Boulevard, as the cameraman sticks his head out the roof and Shenfeld begins filming, as the secretary, familiar with the area, starts pointing out landmarks – Mediterranean Diner on the left, with its backroom bar, the open all night bowling alley, DiOrio’s Circle Cafe and the Point Diner on right and the Jolly Roger and the historic Somers Mansion on the left as they turn right around the circle, coming in at six if the circle was a clock, past Your Father's Mustache, the Crab Trap and Circle Liquor and at what would be twelve on the clock - the causeway to Ocean City on the right, where there is usually some hitch hikers trying to catch a ride to the beach. Continuing past the Texaco gas station, making a hard right at 9 o'clock, and then another hard right down Goll Avenue, you pass the Under 21 Club on the right, where Orsatti's Casino was, and you have Steel's and Tony Marts on the left and Bay Shores across the street directly on the bay.

As Shenfeld the cameraman is taking all this in as he pans his camera a full 360 degrees, Brenner makes a left onto Bay Avenue, past the open front doors of Steel's and Tony Marts and past the Marotta residence on the left, a Frank Loyd Wright style, squared off split level. The van slows down and comes to a complete stop in the middle of the street so they can get a good, zoomed in shot of this huge paper m ache purple dragon head on the roof above the door of the Purple Dragon coffee house, the hippies headquarters at the Point.

Panning around, as the secretary described what he was filming, she noted that there was Dolphin Dock, where Rob was writing the morning's fishing report with chalk on a blackboard out front:

“Fluke in the bay by Rainbow Channel, softshell crabs on the bridge pilings, mid-sized strippers off the jettys and the inlet, schools of blues running offshore, Tuna at the Thirty Mile Wreck – Go Phillies! Don't tank again,” he wrote still hurting from the Phillies crash in the last two weeks of the 1964 seasons going from eight games up losing ten straight and missing the playoffs to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Then there's the Clam Bar at Smith's Pier – Mrs. Smith, God Bless here, still lives upstairs, and there's the breakfast joint out back that only operates from six in the morning until noon, when the open air Clam Bar kicks in.

Across the street there's four identical two story cottages, one of which was inhabited by one of the Tony Marts Go-Go girls and her hippie mother, a single mom who tie died T-shirts and made jewelry, and let two of the Hawks - Rick Danko and Richard Manuel move in the spare room for the summer.

Further on down Bay Avenue was Mayer's Marina on the right, Johnny Mayers' boat yard, and a little pizza shack across the street. Then there's the historic, world famous Anchorage Tavern on the north corner of Delaware Avenue and the Point Pub in the old, clapboard marina just down the street next to the municipal beach. The beach is now named after William Morrow, who was on the Somers Point Police Department that summer of 1963.

Going up to Shore Road, they turned back towards the circle and passed Charlie's, Gregory's and Mac's on the left, while Daniels was a few blocks up Shore Road the other way. Then it was back to the circle and over the causeway to Ocean City.

The cameraman stopped filming as they road across the flat, bay waters teeming with all kinds of boats – motorboats, fishing boats and different size sailboats colored the horizon,

After driving slowly down Ninth Street while they continued filming both sides of the street lined with college kids in bathing suits, Brenner approached the Boardwalk and noticed that one walk was wide enough to drive up and pulling off the road and onto the sidewalk, softly brushing some frightened pedestrians aside, he ignored Tom Snyder’s plea, “What the hell are you doing, driving up on the boardwalk? Don't you need a permit to do this?”

“Better not ask and say you're sorry than to ask and be turned down,”:said Brenner as Shenfeld continued filming the 9th Street boardwalk scene from his perch on the van roof – the Strand theater, Shrivers Candy, Monroe's book store, Shriver's Pavilion – the hippies playing guitars and singing – and then the beach – packed wall to wall with college kids, blankets, towels, beach chairs and umbrellas – the cameraman taking it all in panning and zooming in on some particularly good looking girl in a bikini or hippie girl dancing with a tambourine like a gypsy.

Inhaling though his nose, Brenner said, “I wish we could copy this salt air, candy and pizza smell and can it.”

Turning right Brenner slowly made his way up the boardwalk hugging the fence by the beach past Mack & Manco Pizza – 25 cents a slice - $2 for a whole Trenton Tomato Pie, Joe Dels' grill –”great cheesesteaks” the secretary picked up her narration – Irene's gift shop, Preps's Pizza, the arcades, t-shit joints, Kohr Brothers custard stands, the Flanders pools and the hotel, where Mister Kirkman lives in the two story Penthouse.

On the other corner is Copper Kettle Fudge, now, since Harry Anglemeyer's murder, is being run by his family. Upstairs above the fudge shop was Harry's apartment, and across the boardwalk is the 11th Street Pavilion where the old folks retreated after the hippies took over Shriver's Pavilion at 9th Street.

The only other landmark worth mentioning is the Old Salt Shop, where Iron Mike the heavy metal deep sea diving suit was sitting in the back of the shop that was filled with nautical art, whale bones, scrimshaw jewelry and knives and similar unique and unusual gifts. Sam McDowell, the Old Salt, was a former lifeguard rowing champion, who still took a surf boat out past the breakers every morning before the lifeguards checked in.

Looking ahead, “Utt ohhhh,” Brenner said as he slowly drive down the boardwalk – a police car was parked on the boardwalk ahead of them, apparently waiting for them to get to 14th street, where the College Grill, Bob's Grill and the fishing pier were located, which was also the surfing beach at the time.

The lone cop that got out of the car was none too friendly. A short, Italian guy with a temper, he ordered the cameraman to stop filming and Brenner to turn the car off and get out.

Turning Brenner around onto the hood of his cruiser, the cop pulled his hands behind his back and locked on some handcuffs, and put Brenner in the back of his patrol car, telling Tom Snyder to drive the van and follow him to the police station on the first floor of the old red brick school house behind the Greek joint at 9th and Central, Grand Central in Ocean City that summer.

The cop through Brenner in a jail cell and locked it before summoning the mayor, and telling him a KYW TV truck was riding down the boardwalk and its driver was under arrest. The mayor came right over from his travel agency office around the corner on 8th street, and ordered D. Allen Stretch, the public safety commissioner, to release the KYW guy immediately.

When he emerged from the jail cell Brenner saw his secretary on a pay phone against the wall, calling her father, a friend and neighbor of the mayor, while the cameraman began filming Brenner walking out of the jail as the mayor came in.

“What the hell is going on here?” he wanted to know. “You can't just come into my town and run slipshod over everybody! We have rules and regulations and laws that must be obeyed. If you would have asked I would have arranged for you to have a permit to safely drive on the boardwalk with a police escort, you didn't have to just barge your way in.”

“I'm sorry Mr. Mayor,” Brenner spoke up. “We're here to do a story, just doing our jobs, and don't want to cause any trouble for you.”

“Well you already caused trouble, and if you're going to do a good, honest story about America's Greatest Family Resort and how we combine Christian values with a fine time, then that's okay, but if you're just here to exaggerate the beach blanket bingo bull, the Sin Cities and the hippie stuff, well you might as well just go back to Philly because we don't need any more of that negative publicity.”

“I understand,” Brenner said, handing the mayor a business card, “and my boss doesn't want that story either. There's his number, give him a call and he will tell you that. And we'll conduct ourselves like professionals from now on.”

The secretary's father then walked in and shaking the mayor's hand, said, “this here's my daughter and she works for Mr. Brenner and KYWTV, and they're here to do a good story about Ocean City, or I won't let them stay at my house.”

“Well then,” the mayor said, “as long as they behave themselves and don't break any more laws they can have the run of the island.”

Shenfeld, who had his camera unobtrusively running perched on a table, turned it off, having gotten on celluloid the truce deal between the mayor and the KYW TV crew, a truce that would be tested more than once in the days ahead.

Next: Act II – Episode 2 -

Tom Snyder as KYW TV Reporter 1965 

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