When I look at the tapestry of my life I am amazed at the complexity of the fabric God has..
created. For example, the Academy Awards show was born on May 16, 1929. I was born on May 16 but one year later. I did not know it then, but I was destined to work on that awards show over 30 times during my career at ABC television.
ABC got the Oscars away from NBC, because the NBC show ran short for 20 minutes and the producer decided to turn the matter of filling the time over to Master of Ceremonies Jerry Lewis who was supposed to ad lib to fill the time. Well, Jerry Lewis was not capable of ad-libbing 1 minute much less 20 eternal minutes all by himself. That 20 minutes seemed like 100 hours as the inept comedian took a 20 minute dump on the stage that left an odor that can still be smelled to this day.
Without going any deeper into that 1959 debacle; it came as no surprise that in 1960 the Oscars were turned over to ABC. ABC hired the great Director Dick Dunlap who asked for me to be his Stage Manager where I would supervise a large crew at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium where we would do the show.
The first day I was on the stage a little man with a determined look came over to me and asked, “What is that piece of equipment doing here?
I said, “That’s our main camera mounted on the 15 foot crane, sir. It will get all of our key shots in the show.”
“Well I don’t care what it is. I am Robert Metzger and I want you to remove it immediately.”
I said, “Well sir, you will have to talk to the Director about that, I don’t believe he will do the show without his most important piece of equipment."
Robert Metzger squared his shoulders and said to me, "I am the Business Manager for the Academy and I command you to remove that thing."
I looked at him casually and said, "Mr. Metzger, you don’t command me to do anything. In fact, I command you to get off of my stage before you hurt yourself.”
He left the stage in a huff and I assumed that was the end of the matter.
However, it wasn’t long before Sandy Cummings, ABC program Director, called me over to talk to him. He had a seat in the audience and was sprawled out executive style over a couple of seats. He got right to the point:
“Ron, I don’t know what you have done, but evidently you have insulted the President of the Academy and have been fired and will have to go home.”
“Sandy, the only person I have talked to is Robert Metzger and he is the Business Manager for the Academy. I’ve never met the President.”
Sandy was in over his head, but he told me to get my coat and go home. Inside, I was laughing. I knew everything would crash without me. Meanwhile, I was going to get a nice day off away from these idiots and their arrogant ways.
Well, I didn’t get far. Sandy came waddling down the street, at high speed waddle, sweat dripping off his brow. He was shouting. His voice was quavering. “Ron! Ron! Wait a minute! Wait a minute!” When he caught up with me, he said, rather sheepishly, “Umm, umm, you better come back, evidently we need you. Dick Dunlap (the director) says he can’t do the show without you and he is going to quit too!”
Sandy had a job deciding which shows would go on the air. But like most executives he had no idea how they got made.
When you walk on a stage, you had better know what you are doing.