Our finished program, the final edit with final sound mix, the high-res-ed show with captions for the hearing-impaired, the complete 56-minute-and-46-second HD master tape has been at PBS for a month. We sent it to our trusty post-production house called Pillar To Post in Virginia on September 17 if I remember correctly. And yet I still dream about re-editing stories, adding and subtracting sound bites, changing everything and starting over. I swear the other night in my dreams (my nightmares?) I actually booked Bob and Glenn to go out with me and get another story. I worry about the program a lot, even when it makes no difference and nothing can be changed.
Back on September 20, there was the first public showing of A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY on the wall of an interesting restaurant and bar called the Road Toad out on Route 30 near Ligonier, very close to Idlewild Park. There was a Pennsylvania Lincoln Highway Road Rally that day, and after all the rally-ers ate dinner, we tried to have a surprise sneak preview (!) of the show, but the technology wasn’t cooperating, and it might have been a complete bust, but two good friends, Mindy and Rodney Crawford persevered, and they figured out a way to project my DVD from a laptop onto the makeshift screen on the bar wall, and it was OK. People who stayed around got the gist of it, and it seemed OK. Butko was there and wrote it up on his blog.
But still I dreamed of re-edits and new narrations, and maybe I should rearrange all of the Utah story.
Then this past Saturday night, October 18, there was a party out in Sewickley (one of Pittsburgh’s toniest suburbs, about 12 miles down the Ohio River from the Point) at the Sewickley Car Store, a Porsche Audio BMW dealership owned and run by a cool cat named Joe Scarfone, and we showed the program to a crowd of about 200 of our closest friends and neighbors. It was good. A nice relaxed atmosphere. Food and drinks. Lots of talk. Plenty of WQED folks mingling with car lovers, members of our Pittsburgh History Club, Sewickley celebrities like Michael Seate and Kim Love. There were reporters from the Tribune-Review and the McKeesport Daily News, and some really great friends of Joe.
There were rows of white folding chairs in the BMW showroom that was converted into a theatre for the evening.
My sister Nisey and her man Bill Scott drove over from Columbus, Ohio, to escort my mom, Peggy, to the party, and Carole Karn, one of my teachers from the eighth grade who has been a great friend ever since, came with them. Brian Butko was there too with his wife Sarah and some friends from West Mifflin. He was gathering pictures for his Lincoln Highway News blog.
Our cameraman Bob Lubomski and his wife MJ brought family, friends and their next door neighbor who remembered riding the Lincoln to and from school as a girl, long before there was a Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Editor Matt Conrad was there too with a young woman named Bridget Ferris who impressed us all. Jolene Holderny from our business office (looking quite nice and relaxed on her first night out after having a baby earlier this year) came with her husband. I wanted to invite her because she’s left several nice comments on this blog.
Joe Abeln and his wife Lex showed up too. Joe helped Bob on the road on the last shooting day of the project, when I stayed in the editing room, and he’s worked on many of my programs in various capacities over the last 21 years. I hadn’t seen Lex in years, and she looked great.
So did Merritt Holland Spier who was a producer back in the Golden Age of Local Programming at WQED in the late 80s and early 90s. She and her husband Dave had attended the big Lung Association event the night before that Merritt had helped organize, and I think they were relaxing tonight.
Our composer and amazing musician friend Buddy Nutt came with his girlfriend UkuLizzy who I met one Saturday several months ago at the Children’s Museum when I first met Buddy. I didn’t take a picture, but they were the best dressed couple at the event. “Casual Chic” was the attire specified on the invite.
I met lots of people like Marion Schmidt Hutchison and her husband Wes who had too many nice things to say even before we rolled the tape.
Then they blinked the lights and veryone sat down. Joe Scarfone made a few welcoming comments, then I tried to thank him for his excellent hospitality. And I wanted to thank Linda Wagner from our Underwriting Department who had the initial idea of trying to pair us up with the Sewickley Car Store. It was an ideal place to show a program about the Lincoln Highway. Only a Packard dealership might have been more appropriate, but there aren’t many of them around anymore. Big thanks to Linda and to all the folks at WQED who worked with her and the Car Store and its ad agency, Integra Marketing Group, to put this all together.
I didn’t want to ramble too long, but I also wanted to recognize certain people in the audience, like the Altizers who drove over from near Bedford, from their Lincoln Motor Court cottages, places featured in the show. I could have gone on for a while. There were too many people to thank and whenever you start listing people, it’s hard to stop. Who did I forget? I forgot to say that Brian Butko was there too, the man who first told me about the Lincoln Highway, back in1992 when we made a goofy travelogue called The Pennsylvania Road Show.
Anyway, I finally asked everyone to please hold any applause (if they were so inclined) until after the closing credits so we could be sure to hear Buddy sing “Goin’ All The Way” as the credits roll. [A special nod to Paula Zetter and Kevin Conrad and Matt Conrad who worked together to make these some of my favorite credits ever in one of our shows.]
Then there was a small glitch when the show first started, or the audio did. There was just a big blue screen, but the guys in charge of the AV machines and Paul Byers from WQED fixed things lickety split and we started over, with pictures this time. Thanks to Paul, head of our Engineering Department, we projected the program onto a screen with a high-definition projector, and the images were extraordinary (especially from my front row seat.)
It is so interesting to sit and watch a show with an audience after watching it for months in a quiet editing room. You don’t want people to talk too much but it was fun to hear giggles and gasps and oohs and wows as the stories unfolded. I heard a woman behind me whisper to her husband, “Oh, she’s gorgeous!” when Carissa Altizer came on screen at the end of the show.
I was surprised at how much the crowd seemed to love Richard Gradzinski’s dry delivery and cool comments at his beautiful little gas station in Grand Island, Nebraska. And I was glad to hear everyone react to the story of Esther Oyster and Bernie Queneau at the end of the show. It went all right. Everyone laughed when the cow runs from the flying DVD in the “To get a copy of this program” announcement, and then everyone listened to Buddy’s song while the credits rolled. TV producers don’t often get to hear such reassuring applause.
Then there were goody bags to hand out and more food and drink to take advantage of. I stayed longer than I ever expected to, schmoozing, checking out the totally cool, bright red and tiny 1957 BMW Isetta that Joe had parked in the front of the showroom. Joe’s wife was really kind too and asked me to sign the welcome poster that was on an easel right beside the Isetta. Who knows? Maybe we’ll figure out a way to do such a premiere party again sometime soon.
I had a blast. And I’m just hoping the event may settle my brain and I won’t dream of re-editing anymore.