Four Days in November: 50 Years Revisited

The coffin of President John F. Kennedy lying in repose in the East Room of the White House. (Abbie Rowe, National Park Service, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Twenty-five years ago this week, being the perfectionist 12-year old kid that I was, I checked the VCR to make sure it was set to record at approximately 8:00 pm Central Standard Time. I knew what I was going to record was going to be a keepsake for archival matter.

Last night, I pulled out that videotape and watched it again. No damage and no wear and tear affected it. It was still in great condition. The program I taped still captivated me as it did on that week in 1988.

The title of the show was “Four Days in November: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy.” It was produced and aired on CBS and hosted by Dan Rather. It is posted below, in its entirety.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It’s an eerie feeling to say that because the assassination took place on a Friday, November 22, 1963.

Today is Friday, November 22, 2013. The same day…50 years later.

Four Days in November…permanently cemented into American history.

That weekend, Iowa was to host Notre Dame while ISU and Drake was slated to play each other. Thanksgiving was a week away. It was an ordinary day, that 22nd day of November, until 12:30 pm Central time.

What was to be another weekend to many became a blur, a nightmare, a roller coaster of disbelief, shock, sadness, and bewilderment.

David Brinkley said it best in his commentary: “It was too much, too ugly, and too fast.”

The evening headline in the Des Moines Tribune from November 22, 1963.
The evening headline in the Des Moines Tribune from November 22, 1963.

There have been three Presidents assassinated before JFK: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley. All three were within a 36-year span (1865-1901). Each one shocking, and terrifying, but this one, Kennedy, impacted this nation like no other. Why? Television and radio.

These days, we take television for granted. It’s available where ever we go. Social media gives us the news immediately, good or bad.  It wasn’t like that in 1963. Television showed its power on November 22, 1963. Three networks. That’s all it took.

CBS stayed on the air for 56 hours, with no commercials, which was unprecedented at that time. Walter Cronkite, Rather, Harry Reasoner, Mike Wallace, to name a few spearheaded the CBS coverage. NBC was led by Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Edwin Newman, Frank McGee, and Bill Ryan. Ed Silverman, Don Goddard, and Ron Cochron handled the ABC coverage..

There were no hyperbole, fluff, hype, or any of the things we see today when a breaking story is being reported. Legendary broadcasters like Brinkley, Huntley, and Cronkite reported the story, gave you the facts, and offer sane and intelligent perspective. It was simple and professional. There was a duty to inform the public of what was taking place.

We were seeing history.

If you permit me, I have several thoughts as I re-watched the CBS special:

  • As the news broke of the assassination, the reporters kept their composure despite their shock. Cronkite’s pause when he read the official announcement spoke volumes.
  • CBS was the first television network to break in with a news bulletin at 12:40pm CST. ABC and NBC followed minutes later. Chaos ensued in the newsrooms as everyone was scrambling to get on air. People were running in and out of the studios gathering as much information from Dallas as possible.
  • As David Brinkley pointed out in his commentary, everything was going too fast for everyone. Within five hours after the assassination, JFK’s body, Jackie Kennedy, LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson were all back in Washington. Lee Harvey Oswald was captured in a movie theater, arrested for the slaying of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit shortly after Kennedy was cut down. Before the night was over, Oswald would be charged with Kennedy’s death.

Then came Sunday. As Kennedy was lying in repose at the U.S. Capitol, Oswald himself is shot and killed by Jack Ruby. America was now in a state of bewilderment.  “This can’t be happening, is it?” 

  • The most powerful images, to me, was the public viewing at the Capitol and the funeral. A nation in mourning, as a riderless horse lead the flag-draped coffin of Kennedy, carried on a caisson solemnly heading towards Arlington National Cemetery. The band playing “Eternal Father Strong to Save” (Navy Hymn) and Chopin’s “Funeral March” in the background, as masses of people lined the streets, silent and somber, waiting to pay their final respects to a President, so vibrant and energetic.
  • Commentaries were devoid of political rhetoric and personal agendas. Yes, there were questions about why, what, and how did this happen, but the focus was to offer a freshly shocked nation words of understanding and reflection, like the one Edwin Newman provided. Those words, including those of Brinkley earlier and later on with Frank McGee were eloquent without contempt, poignant without malice.They are the words that can be applied to today’s world, just as they were echoed 50 years ago today.

We were witness to tragedy. We were witness to history.

Along with the CBS special, I strongly recommend another one, also titled “Four Days in November” done by accomplished producer David L. Wolper, of “Welcome Back Kotter” fame. Wolper did 3 films chronicling Kennedy which are top-notch and outstanding. This one is no different.

Dan Rather commented early on in the CBS special: “We make no comment on the past, we only bring it back.”  Rather and CBS felt the visual images were more powerful than words can describe.

He is right.

In closing, Frank McGee and Edwin Newman summed up this day 50 years ago. This dark grim chapter in our nation’s history. The “Four Days in November” America will always remember.


Sports and News Links – July 7, 2011

After 43 years and tape delay dissing by NBC, Wimbledon's new doubles partner will be ESPN.

It has been awhile since I done some scouring the web to find some stories that are interesting and worth checking out.  Then again, as busy as I have been over the past two weeks, I haven’t been able post regularly as I would like to.

Let’s get to the business.

The dominoes continue to fall for NBC.  As they keep patting themselves on the back for retaining the rights to the Olympics, Wimbledon dropped the bomb and announced that they have signed ESPN to a 12-year deal to broadcast all of the matches…live…from the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.  NBC’s penchant to continue tape-delaying sporting events may work well for the London Games next year, but it’s killing them in everything else.

Will Lyles is talking and Oregon may have some issues, unless his accusations doesn't hold water.

The Big Lead and Sports by Brooks thinks that Oregon could be the next college school to get tagged for violations.  Suspected street-agent Will Lyles is admitting that he was steering high-profile prep recruits to Oregon and that he was paid $25,000.  The fact that Oregon and Kelly has yet to come out to rebut Lyles’ story could loom large over the land of the Ducks.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that one of my favorite sports radio host, Ben Maller (@benmaller), have looked like he lost a few pounds every time I watched the online stream to his weekend show. I was right.  Big Ben writes to The Post Game about how he lost 200 pounds. It’s called making small lifestyle changes.  No magic pill, no special diet. 

This was the Ben Maller listeners know. Wait until you see the new Ben.

Has the NFL lockout taught current players how to manage (and save) their money?  Do they even care?  Will it finally get NBA players to do the same?  Black Sports Online delves into the issue of athletes who go broke after the playing days are done or a lockout leaves them without a steady paycheck.  Frankly, they should learn a lesson or two from unemployed Americans about saving money and being better managers of their finance. 

Forty years ago this month, Ed Sullivan hosted his final show on CBS.  For most Gen Xers and nearly all Millenials, they don’t know who Ed Sullivan is and how important he is to television history.  Sullivan is the original “American Idol” and Gerald Nachman writes a nostalgic commentary for the Los Angeles Times about Sullivan. 

I want to close with the two most indelible themes that was Wimbledon on NBC.  The first one is the 1991 Wimbledon opening.  This theme to me symbolizes England and tennis on Centre Court.  The second clip is the closing from the 2001 Wimbledon.  The title of this is “World Champion” by Keith Mansfield

That’s it for today.   

Daytime Memories Part I

Do you remember this character? How about the show she was on? Its time to jump in the time machine and take a look back at this show.

Earlier on Monday, I hammered out some thoughts about the pending end of daytime soap operas on television.  As you could probably tell (or not), I have a soft spot for these shows.  I spent a good part of my summers as a kid glued in front of the television.  I remember some of the story plot lines and characters, but the opening themes of each show is what got my attention every day. 

Who doesn’t forget the piano striking the eight most recognizable notes in television?  Or this 3 measure “tick-tock” one? 

I’m fascinated with television history and how it is a daily part of our lives.  We referenced it, talk about what we saw or heard, how it affects us, and our emotions towards it when it ends or changes. 

So, rather than write about it, we’re going to watch some stuff after the jump, starting with the first standard opening of “All My Children” from 1970. 

This was the original opening of AMC.  Notice that musical arrangement was different than the one that everyone remembers from the mid-70’s until around 1990. 

This is the version I grew up with.  Simple and clean. 

Around 1990, AMC changed the opening to show a photo shots of the characters, ending with Susan Lucci to close out the piece.  This was another favorite opening of mine.  There is an updated version, but I’ll let you look it up, as I have some more stuff to show you. 

“One Life to Live” was my favorite soap opera.  The story centered around the Buchanan and Lord families, namely Viki Lord Buchanan and Dorian Lord.  Here is a collage of the opening standards during the show’s long history. 

The second and third opening standards (the sun rising and the character montage) stood out in the viewers minds during between 1975 through 1991..  The vocals for the 3rd version (’84-’91) was done by Peabo Bryson, a best-selling R&B singer. 

OLTL lyrics sung by Peabo Bryson

We head over to NBC for this next one.  Search for Tomorrow originally began on CBS and then was picked up by NBC for it’s latter run until ending in 1986. 

This was the 2nd opening of SFT.  This theme was used from 1974 until 1981, when a more cool jazz-like version replaced it.

Another NBC staple was “Another World” that had a long run on the Peacock Network from 1964 to 1999.  The show mainly centered around exploits of Rachel Cory and her family. 

This opening ran from 1974 until 1981.  In late 1963, the creators of the show wanted to begin the series with a funeral.  So the creators had a meeting to discuss it.  The day that the meeting took place was November 22, 1963. 

The day that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.   

From 1981 to 1987, this was the third opening (and a favorite).  The last AW opening is the next one they used in 1987.  This one had lyrics sung.

I’m going to stop here for now.  There are a few more clips to gather and show later on this week hopefully. 

I hoped you enjoy traveling down memory lane. 

A Late Night Rivalry Renewed


The Late Night Rivalry renews tonight at Conan debuts on TBS.

Tonight, Conan O’Brien makes his return to late night television as he debuts his new show on TBS.  And this time, he will not be asked to move around to accommodate Jay Leno.

There’s not much to add to this story, because it was covered earlier this year when Conan left NBC after the Peacock brass decided to move Leno back to late night after his prime time show crashed and burned.

Let’s look back at how Conan got to this point today and a more detailed look at how NBC screwed the pooch, courtesy of great writer Bill Carter for Vanity Fair.

Since he’s on cable now, Conan can bring back some of his late-night schticks like Triumph, among a few edgy things that has endeared him to a nation of loyal followers.


Will Triumph the Insult Comic Dog make his return tonight?


Quite a game, eh, hoser?

Sunday night was an enjoyable night in Vancouver as the highly-anticipated preliminary round hockey game between USA and Canada took the ice.  For our neighbors to the north, they had circled this game as their measuring sticks for the Olympics.  To beat the Americans would be the momentum swing that Canada needed.


Team USA out-hustled and dominated Canada to win 5-3, and to take the top seed in the medal round, which begins tomorrow.

The trending talk on Twitter is that “hockey is back”, “this is what hockey needs”, and “why in the hell didn’t NBC put this on their channel and stuck this on MSNBC?”  Some have even compared Sunday night’s win since the “Miracle on Ice” game (USA vs. USSR), which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary on this day (2/22/80) at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

Lee Corso, the Digger Phelps of college football on ESPN.

As the irreverent ESPN college football analyst Lee Corso would say, “not so fast, my friend!” This game is not and can not be compared to the Miracle on Ice team.  The ’80 team was made up of college hockey players, not professional players from the NHL.  The climate of the nation is vastly different.  In 1980, the nation’s morale was in the pits, people were burning the U.S. flag.  Let’s face it, things back then was bad.  It’s not as bad today in 2010, but nevertheless, we do have our own problems to deal with.

To beat Canada for the first time since knocking them off to win the gold in 1960 is nothing short but stunning, given the long history of hockey here in North America.  But these are different times and different conditions.  Besides, this win won’t mean a damn thing unless USA runs the table in the medal round and win the whole thing.  Even if they meet Canada or Russia.

Initially, I felt that NBC could have showed this game live on their network, and not on MSNBC or another of it’s family of smaller networks.  As a realist, I understand why they did it.  For those who are non-hockey fans who tuned it last night, it’s no secret that hockey is a “niche” sport.  NASCAR, soccer, and other sports have bumped hockey off the budding perch of the most-watched sport in America.

To add, NBC’s prime time coverage is designed for viewers who are not hard-core sports fans (women, non-athletic men, to name a few).  That’s a large number of “casual fans” who will tune in for the human interest pieces, figure skating, snowboarding, sports that you only see every 4 years.  Hockey’s on every winter.  MSNBC’s ratings were up last night, which was a boon to them.  It scored a 4.3/8.2, which is second behind the Presidential debate on February 26, 2008.  That means, in Nielsen ratings talk, it garnered a 4.3 share, equaling to 8.22 million viewers who watched the hockey game.

NBC pays attention to the Nielsen ratings. It helps them determine who watches what and what to show.

If the game was put on NBC, where there would have been more viewers, the rating for the game would have decreased, because more people would have turned off the game, preferring figure skating over three hours of a hockey puck getting slapped around. Twenty-two million viewers watched ice dancing.  How many of them was going to watch a hockey game?

If last night’s game was any indicator if hockey is back, don’t expect it to be long term.  It helps in the short term, but the average hockey ratings have scored between a 2 share and a 5 share at best during the regular season.  It’s not a knock on the good ol’ hockey game.  It’s called making a business decision.  NBC, who has been broadcasting the Olympics for non-stop since 1992 has done research on what viewers will watch, will not watch, and how to craft their prime-time schedule to which they can get the most viewers to watch the Olympics.

Hockey is a niche sport in cities like Buffalo, Minneapolis, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, and Vancouver.  Of course, there are fans in Los Angeles who watch hockey, but it pales in comparison to the numbers who do in the cities I mentioned.  Once these Olympics are over, it will be interesting to see how many “new” or casual fans will continue to watch hockey once the NHL season resumes and heads to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.

Today, the Canadians may add another level of hate towards us for what happened last night, but there is something that they will always take claim to:  “Hockey Night in Canada.”  One of the longest running programs in Canadian history, HNIC is the Canadian version of the NFL here.  What made HNIC popular was the “Hockey Theme” by Delores Claman.  For a long time, it has been one of my favorite tunes to listen to.

Have a listen, you hoser.

Hate the Game, Don’t Hate the Playa

I'm with Coco, fo' sho'!
Johnny Carson would have approved on how Conan handled his farewell on Friday night.

An acquaintance of mine is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan.  It’s a birthright he’s proud to wear because he’s a L.A. native.  As Conan O’Brien’s final appearance on the Tonight Show came to a close Friday night, I sent a tweet (a short message on Twitter) to him that the last two weeks of the late night debacle between O’Brien, Jay Leno, and NBC reminded me of the near-potential messy situation that Lakers owner Jerry Buss had to deal with.  Buss had two superstars on his team:  veteran center Shaquille O’Neal and a young point guard named Kobe Bryant.

Buss was faced with making a decision on whether to re-sign Shaq or let Shaq opt for free agency and re-sign Bryant to a long-term contract.  Buss opted to let Shaq leave and kept Bryant due to Kobe’s age, and a chance for head coach Phil Jackson to build a team around a then-promising young superstar.  That decision has eventually helped the Lakers.  They have played in the last two NBA finals, winning the title last season.

Buss could have re-signed both of them, but their conflicting personalities and growing disdain for each other would have caused serious harm in the locker room and for the Lakers organization as a whole.

Ironically, my acquaintance had the same thought about how NBC couldn’t decide on Conan or Jay, so they decided to keep both and it backfired.  But, I’ll let him talk about it on his show on Des Moines Local Live this upcoming Thursday (5pm-6pm).

Answer: $45 million dollars. Question: How much money NBC will not have to blow at their next business retreat in Puerto Vallarta.

By now, everyone knows how all of this went down.  For the record, I respect Jay Leno.  I think he’s a decent comedian.  However, I was not hip to the “vanilla” comedy schtick he does.  Conan is more “intelligent” funny and edgy, which most viewers appeal to.

Jay does deserves some scorn for not keeping his word to “retire” after his run on The Tonight Show.  NBC, in fear of losing Leno, decides to keep him on and put him on prime time.  Five years before that in 2004, O’Brien was being courted by CBS and ABC, and NBC, in fear again, re-signed him and told him The Tonight Show was his, once Jay leaves in 2009.

There is a motto in sports that can applied to what is hands down the biggest story/soap opera so far in 2010.

Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

In 2004, NBC decided to re-sign the kid (Conan) and let the old man walk (Jay), in spite of the fact that Leno has owned David Letterman for nearly a decade.  When the transfer of power drew near,  NBC freaked out about losing Leno and his success at 10:30, and decided to carve out an hour variety show for Leno.  Leno didn’t help his cause by not “retiring” and walking away.  Leno leaving would have not hurt him.  He would have picked up work no matter where he went.

There are critics who will say that Conan wasn’t very good at 10:30.  That argument has a lot of holes.  First, most of the stuff Conan did at 11:30, like Triumph the Insulting Dog, he couldn’t bring over to 10:30.  Secondly, seven months on the job, after moving from NYC to L.A., wasn’t enough time to build on a new audience base besides his own loyal fans.  Lastly, Leno had to spend months building an audience base as well.  Remember when he struggled out of the gate?  Yeah, I don’t remember either, thanks to Hugh Grant.

Thanks to Hugh Grant, Jay Leno and Divine Brown became overnight sensations.

Anyway, NBC tried to have their cake and eat it, but they also wanted the ham, the mashed potatoes, the salad, and the keg of beer.

Jay took advantage of NBC’s indecision and was able to weasel a prime time show out of them.   Again, NBC, out of fear, tries to move Jay back to 10:35 and peg Conan to 11:35.  Why not tell Jay “thank you for your contributions to NBC, but this prime time show didn’t work.  You’re free to sign up with anyone else.”

NBC got greedy.  Plain and simple.  They didn’t want to part with their two “stars”, so by moving Leno back to late night, they would have prevented Conan from having a chance to affix his identity on The Tonight Show.

NBC is now left holding the bag, and deservedly so.  Conan got what he wanted, Jay got what he wanted, and NBC ended up with…

...yep, you guessed it...