Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child, the Spider's Web & WGBH


When stored, the stage set for Julia Child's television cooking show was about 3 feet wide.

It was 1970. I was 18. I was clueless.

My adviser at Friends World College had connected me with Paula Apsell. Paula had started a children's radio show, The Spider's Web at WGBH-FM in Boston. During the day she scheduled programming for WGBH TV and on the side, in the evening, she produced this wonderful radio show for children.

For 3 months in Boston, I was there when actors read "Wind in the Willows" and "Pippi Longstockings", word for word (well, more or less). I was there when the same pair of wonderful actor read, screwed up, cursed colorfully and loudly, and calmly continued the reading.

I was the one to edit out the non-child-friendly words and leave the words, words, words of great literature, read by great voices for the radio.

 During my tenure as the radio tape editor for the Spiders Web, there was a TV show being taped at WGBH-TV. It was called, Jean Shepard's America. I grew up listening to Jean Shepard's  musings and ramblings on WOR in NYC. His were a grown-up, city guys memories of childhood. He mixed the memories with Robert Service poems and ...oh yeah...this-is-what-I'm-thinking-about-now stuff. Pre-Prairie Home Companion with a beat - as in beatnik - sensibility.

...this reads a bit like a Jean Shepard radio show on WOR. There is the opening line, and then a diversion, followed by another diversion, and then a return to the opening sentence - more or less.

One day, there appeared towers of pizza boxes. In each box was a pizza. The next day there was something called, head cheese. More and more food was shuttled the the WGBH lunchroom. Jean Shepard talked about food in America and Julia Child's cook prepared the food he mentioned. Us lunch eaters were served an american feast.

Well, this was food that had been cooked and preened to look good on television. It was room temperature and a few hours old. However. Julia Child and her cooks had prepared it.

In those 3 months in Boston I learned how to edit radio tapes. Like so many actual skills, the cutting and splicing of actual audio tapes is an extinct skill. It was acool thing to do - listening to all of those words, cutting out the ummms and errrs and coughs and curses and keeping the real, solid, words together. the slicing and the taping.

Working on the Spider's Web under Paula Apsell's guidance gave me a sense of the right in words and radio drama. I have been able to carry that first lesson with me into everything I do. Into art, performance, theater, costume, mascots. 

Three months in Boston set my course.