REVOLUTIONARY PAT WEAVER DIES OF PNEUMONIA
It's sad that many young people think that Sylvester "Pat" Weaver's greatest achievement was fathering Signourney. But, during his career, most of it at NBC, he revolutionized the way TV shows are produced.
Lee de Forrest may have made the first broadcasts on radio in 1906 and Edwin Howard Armstrong may have brought us FM. But Pat Weaver brought us "Tonight," "Today," "Tomorrow" and "The Home Show" -- along with a concept that we forget someone had to invent.
Watch most of the early TV or radio shows and you'll soon notice that corporate sponsors had their names in the titles. Cigarette companies, car makers and soap companies bought half-hour and hour-long segments on the networks, produced the shows with their stars and owned the time -- lock, stock and barrel. It was "The U.S. Steel Hour," "The Jello Show (with Jack Benny)," "The Lux Radio Theater," "The Lucky Strike Hit Parade."
What Pat Weaver did was simply to get rid of total sponsorship of programs and start producing them on his own. His shows were then sold to several sponsors, some even had "local availabilities" that stations could sell to hometown sponsors during broadcasts. His idea that people WOULD stay up after 11:30 at night allowed him to take "Broadway Open House" with Kenny Lester, Wayne Howell and Dagmar and retool it into a national show with Steve Allen, and then Jack Parr, and eventually Johnny Carson and now Jay Leno.
"Tonight" is an American fixture. It was Pat Weaver's brainchild. We owe him quite a debt. Along the way, though, Weaver would tell several interviewers that the concept of network television that showed so much promise to teach and enlighten and enrich had become a channel "for the lowest common denominator."
Outspoken to the end, he died late Friday of pneumonia. Pat Weaver -- the man who changed television, taking it out of the control of a few wealthy companies, invented late-night TV, pushed for quality programming and quit NBC when it refused to agree with him ... the man who gave us Sigourney -- was 93.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: If anyone has an anecdote about Weaver and a bell tower, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and put WEAVER in the subject line. Thanks.
POPE MOURNS LOSS OF PRELATE
Speaking to a huge weekend crowd at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II has expressed his sorrow over the death of a South American prelate. Colombian Archbishop Isaias Duarte Cancino was gunned down recently by an unknown assailant.
Speaking in Spanish, the pope noted that the act was barbaric and that the death of the archbishop was "a high price to pay for his energetic defense of human life and his firm opposition to all kinds of violence and his dedication to social issues."
The archbishop was an outspoken champion of the people in Colombia. He openly called for official investigations into charges that many national candidates were funded by drug-running cartels.
Published reports indicate that the gunman is in his early 20s; a massive manhunt has been launched.
VOLATILE MISSISSIPPI CITY GETS BLACK CHIEF
For the first time in the history of the city of Meridian, Miss., the sprawling urban area has a black police chief. The Christian Science Monitor describes the new chief, Benny DeBose, as a quiet and shy kind of guy. In a touching "sermon" delivered at a mostly white Meridian church, DeBose set aside his prepared text and talked to the congregation off the cuff, addressing the city's sordid past and talking about his hopes for the future.
The Monitor says that the chief has a unique ability to "tell it like it is," even to those who still don't feel that a black officer should take action against whites.
DeBose's rise to the post of chief is proof that cities and people can change. Meridian was the scene of much violence during the civil rights movement of the '60s. Some of it inspired the movie "Mississippi Burning."
LET'S HEAR IT FOR LIZA AND HER MISTER
What a hoopla-laden weekend it was in the Big Apple. It seemed that half of North America's media and most of its cameras were there to see the events surrounding the wedding of revitalized, thinner, healthier, smiling Liza Minnelli to David Gest.
Minnelli wore a Bob Mackie gown, off the shoulders with beads. Cindy Adams, writing in the New York Post, quipped that the dress had a "train longer than some Vegas odds say the (marriage) will last."
So Liza has tied the knot. Judy Garland's little girl has returned from the dead. Hopefully she can revitalize her career. She's been away from the boards far too long.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A MADDENING MAGAZINE
It's difficult to think what composer Alfred Newman must have thought when MAD Magazine put a freckle-faced, slightly askew, gap-toothed wise-cracker named Alfred E. Newman on its covers, starting in 1956.
The Alfred Newman of musical fame was one of the nation's best-loved movie composers -- "The Robe," "How the West was Won," "Airport," "Song of Bernadette" and all. If the other Newman (Alfred E.) had a higher IQ, he would have to be watered twice a week.
Well, Mad is turning 50 this year. And Mr. "What, me worry?" is also becoming a middle-aged icon. If you've ever wondered why Mad looks like a comic book but calls itself a "magazine," it's simple. In the early 1950s, psychologists were sure that comic books were rotting kids' minds. That was in a time before MTV, Eminem and bump-and-grind female rockers. So the enterprising creators of Mad renamed the publication and, as they say, the rest is history.
USA Today says that MAD began as a 10-cent comic. It's not priced at a dime anymore. But its millions of faithful readers still can't get enough of the publication and Mr. Newman.
JOHNNY CASH AMONG MEDAL WINNERS
Friends of country mega-star Johnny Cash say that he recently got a surprise phone call from the White House. He was told that he had been chosen as one of President Bush's recipients for his first time at awarding the National Medal of Arts. The medals will be passed out in special ceremonies next month.
According to the White House's Web site, others who will be honored include Kirk Douglas and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Additionally, the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, writer Rudolfo Anaya, painter Helen Frankenthaler, choreographer Judith Jamison and producer-director-comedian Mike Nichols. The arts medal was established in 1984.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 291
With the loss of Pat Weaver, one of the real giants of TV is gone. It should be an interesting funeral, and I don't mean that in a flip sense. So, inspired by that, here's today's question: "What is the strangest funeral you've ever attended?" Put FUNERAL in the subject line and send to email@example.com via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 286 (BIRTHDAY)
Last week I mentioned that I had passed one of those birthday landmarks. And, for those who asked about my age and could not figure it out from my mention of a "discount at Wendy's," it's 55. I had asked your experiences in turning the calendar. Here are some of the replies: Pat says she once threw a pool party to celebrate her turning 40, but preceded it with a bash called "My Last Night As 39." Not a bad idea. Ali tells a sad story about a "bozo of a boyfriend" who had the bad habit of dumping her just before each birthday in high school and college! Sheli got an engagement ring from her now-husband when she turned 23. Peggy in Lansing got a surprise party on her 50th. Barbarascll says she was "waiting for that question to be asked." Glad to oblige. She says her best birthday was No. 18; it happened on the same day her first child was born. On year later, on No. 19, her family (parental rights over a minor) put the child up for adoption. Petrohd met someone nice from the Internet and spent time in Canada (for the first time) in 1997 on the big day. Deb remembers scattering her recently departed father's ashes on her 41st. Kelly had made zero plans for her 45th last fall. She wanted the day to pass quietly. It was 9/11. Additionally, Marlene wrote to say that's her b'day also. OOPS! TOMORROW: Some speeding ticket horror stories. GBA.