A TV New Year's Eve to remember

CBS CMO George Schweitzer discusses an early career broadcast of the CBS New Year's Eve show with Guy Lombardo.

Guy Lombardo, 'Mr. New Year's Eve,' the Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest of his time. CBS

Early in my career, I was assigned as the production supervisor for CBS New Year's Eve with Guy Lombardo (look it up, people under 40).

My assignment was not the fancy Waldorf Astoria where Guy and the band entertained high-paying New Year's Eve revelers. I was the "guy" who was freezing his butt off across town in Times Square at our little CBS mobile unit on 45th Street and Broadway.

The Guy Lombardo New Year's Eve special was the No. 1 New Year's Eve entertainment special for more than a decade, simulcast on TV and radio well before Dick Clark came on the scene for ABC.

My job was to hold the fort in the middle of the chaos so our cameraman, stationed on top of our van, could get the best shots of the celebration, and our guy on the theater marquis could shoot the ball drop.

Like me, the director was a young guy who drew the short straw with this less than cushy assignment, and he had a plan to make the most of the night in the blistering cold away from his loved ones. He told me to get cardboard and a marker, write "Happy New Year Sue!" (his wife) on it, and offer some lucky kid outside the van the chance to be on national TV if he held up the sign in the middle of the crowd.

Not to be outdone, I inked a similar "Happy New Year Katie!" (my wife, watching at home) and ventured into the pre-midnight madness to find some likely suspects to do our bidding. Two guys from Jersey, already well into the celebration, happily handled the signs for us. With a few minutes until midnight, the shot from Times Square was a closeup of these two signs, pulling back to reveal the happy scene of midnight mayhem. What a business!

Coincidental to this New Year's Eve of my early career, the same Katie for whom I made the sign has posted some very interesting stories about the history and tradition of the New Year's Eve Times Square Ball drop on her site.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, safe, and healthy 2012, and as always, stay tuned!

About the author

    George Schweitzer's position as chief marketing officer at CBS gives him a unique opportunity not only to observe but also to help shape the ways technology is altering the television industry. A communications major at Boston University who joined CBS after graduation some 30 years ago, George is also an unabashed technology geek who specializes in the latest home automation and entertainment gear.

     

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