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Mailbag: When flashcubes were high-tech

My story about the perils of live TV back in the early days prompted a reader to write:

When I was just starting out in the advertising business at J. Walter Thompson in New York as the lowliest of lowly paid writers, one of my jobs was to get up every morning at 5 a.m. and go down to the Today show studios at 30 Rock.  Eastman Kodak, the account I worked on, was a sponsor of the show and back then many of the commercials were done live by the hosts.  So I had to make sure that the latest scripts were transferred to cue cards and coordinate with the producers about who was doing what each morning.

Kodak was introducing its latest innovation: the flash cube. 

GaragiolaJoe Garagiola, the baseball player turned sports commentator, was doing that morning's spot.  The action was for him to deliver his lines about how easy it was just to pop on a flash cube, point and shoot the picture.  The trick was that, because the set's main camera was very light-sensitive, he had to point the Instamatic camera away when he demonstrated the flash. 

Of course, live, he popped on the flash cube showing how easy it was, and shot the flash right at the camera.   

For the remaining 25 minutes of the show every main shot of the set had a big, purple, pulsating blob in the middle of the picture.  All the flash cube commercials after that had to be written without any actual demonstration of the flash. 

This was 1972.

Bob Bishopric


Thanks for sharing that, Bob, and for giving me a chance to utilize once again one of the hardest-won skills of my childhood, the ability to spell Garagiola. That's him on the right in the photo, trading jokes with former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda at a game last month.


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