On this date: Taken from Hollywood from the crow’s nest: The scoop on Jack Black

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from a Press Club of Southwest Florida Newsletter from March 2008 written by Suzanne Haworth. For us to move forward we must remember where we have been. On This Date is a fun way for NPC members to find out about the Press Club of Southwest Florida’s past.

CalendarJack Black sat across the table in a local Perkins. A man of wiry energy and sense of fun, he gave me a generous 2 ½ hours, speaking about his life in Hollywood as an audio/visual engineer for ABC.

Jack covered more than 15 Academy Award ceremonies, some 20 music awards, Emmy ceremonies, news, game shows, variety. It’s no exaggeration to say Jack knew just about every name in Hollywood. He worked with Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Howard Cosell, Charlie Gibson, Bob Hope, Julie Andrews, Johnny Carson to name a few.

“I watched a show on PBS the other night, ‘The Pioneers of Television,’ and what scared me was, I worked on all those shows: Allen Ludden, Dream Girls, Wink Martindale. So many I had forgotten. ‘The Dating Game,’ ‘The Newlyweds Game,’ omiGod, all those terrible game shows.

“Monty Hall, ‘Let’s Make a Deal’: that was a great show to work. Bob Barker… he was still part of that generation. Bob grew up as a star. Don’t get that kind of people now, the ones who really care about the business.”

Scoop: How did you get into television?

JB: I was born in Vancouver. I became a disc jockey and emcee in high school. A local radio station heard me and hired me in the summers. I’d planned to be a lawyer. Even started out to do that at the University of British Columbia.

Then the radio station called me up, suggested I come back as a full-time disc jockey. So I did. I dropped out of the law. Then the local station, CTV (Canadian television) heard me and offered me a job.

I became stage manager, really enjoyed it. Got a little cocky. (Jack gets a faraway look in his eyes and laughs.) After three years, I got angry at the whole business. So I became manager of a restaurant in a hotel in the interior of British Columbia. Big mistake. I’m washing dishes. CBC called. That’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The shows on CBC were marvelous, black and white old masterpieces, out of Toronto, live everything, coast to coast. I went on tour with the Beatles when they first came to the U.S. (Jack shakes his head and grins.) We lost all the sound for that trip.

Scoop: When did you make the move to ABC?

JB: Mid-60s. I got a phone call. ABC had signed a contract to do college football. So California needed a beaucoup cameraman. I moved down to L.A.

My first assignment was the Watts riots. Every day was different. Never knew what to expect. I was in the hotel when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

I remember Michael Eisner as a page boy showing people their seats. Eisner later ends up heading Disney. I heard this kid who worked for Chuck Barris as a gofer calling baseball games in his mind while he walked down the halls. Didn’t pay much attention. Next thing we know, he’s on “Monday Night Football.” That was Al Michaels.

I did a lot with Peter Jennings. I was the sound man for “Lawrence Welk Show” until the ‘80s. It was a live show.
Ron Reagan Jr. was the best guy; I knew him when he was a correspondent with “Good Morning America.” We’re going to lunch one day and he says, “Let’s drop in on Mom and Dad.” So I dropped in on the President.

Scoop: What did you do to win an Emmy?
JB: I won for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. That was for camera. My wife Lisa also won an Emmy for that. My son took Lisa’s statue to school. It got broken in show-and-tell.

Scoop: How did you end up in Naples?
JB: I burned out, so I took a buyout in ’91. I was working for “Good Morning America.” Usually, I worked west of the Mississippi. That’s the divider. David Hartman was host; he looked after us really well. But I had to get up at 1 a.m. to set up for the live satellite feed to New York and be ready to go by 4 a.m.

We moved to Bellingham, Washington. My wife doesn’t like cold. In 2002 we came to visit my aunt and uncle in Naples. We’ve been here a little more than five years now.

Scoop: And now you’re at the Playa.
JB: Kari, No. 1 daughter, started working there as a conference service manager. She told me they need audio/visual people. I got hired part-time. Now I’m regional director. (Jack also has a daughter Nicole, 20, at UCF and a son Robbie, 16, at Barron Collier.)

Scoop: How was it working the Academy Awards?
JB: Barbra Streisand got me in trouble once. She was performing “Evergreen.” I’m doing sound in a box hanging from chains in the ceiling over the stage. I’m wearing headsets.

The director says, “OK, Barbra, that was great.” She says, “No! Hang on a minute.” She says “Jack, what do you think, shall we do it another time?”

It didn’t feel right to me. “Barbra, I say, ‘Let’s do it again.’” Rehearsal time is primo, big bucks. “She says, ‘Jack wants to do it again.’” The director screams, “Who the —- is Jack?” He forgot I was up there in the crow’s nest.

So we do it again. Barbra Streisand stops the world so Jack can get the song right. Strong, strong woman. Believe me. She won an Academy Award for that song, that night.

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