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Man From Mars Productions

Jim Jeffrey
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WDRC's Walt Dibble

Walt Dibble

Q: What kind of guy was your morning news anchor, Walt Dibble?

A: Walt was a solid, small market newsman. He had an unusual habit of gulping air between sentences. Trying to push hard and fast I guess. He was a nice man…wished me luck when KDKA called.

Q: By the time you got to DRC Dick Robinson was only doing weekends; he was in sales full time.

A: Dick was in sales; he became Sales Manager while I was there. He purchased my 1961 Mercedes convertible. Wished I never sold that. He turned around and sold it - purchased a new one, which he still has, or at least did 10 or 15 years ago.

audio: October 12, 1968 Q: During 1968-69 staffing at DRC was fairly volatile…a lot of people came and went (John Rode, Brad Field, Kent Clark, Steve Kane, John Scott, Dick McDonough, Larry Justice, Joe Hager). How close a group were the Big D jocks off the air?

A: I spent social time with Brad Field and his new wife. He was a good kid, bright, charming when he wanted to be. We spent time with Dick and Sally. In fact, when we moved to Pittsburgh, we purchased a house I knew my wife would like, because it was exactly like the house the Robinson's had in Glastonbury, before moving to their mountain in Farmington.

 
 

Q: On the phone you recalled Wednesday night appearances in Newington. Tell us about those.

A: Newington Children's Hospital. Somewhere along the line you always knew radio, or show business, was a shallow way to live. So I began putting together a group to entertain the kids. A newspaper reporter gave our group a great write-up (the kind of thing I never saved) and said, "Jim knows every kid's name in the entire hospital," which was not exactly true. The next week every kid in the place would wheel their chairs up to me and ask, "do you know my name?" One young lady broke her back; she was a special favorite (my broken neck, remember) and I took oil painting lessons from her grandpa who was a wonderful local artist.

WDRC schedule - October 1, 1968
The Hartford Courant
October 1, 1968

 

 

Jim Jeffrey interviews an applicant at CSB
Jim Jeffrey interviews an applicant at CSB.

WDRC sign-on audio: January 1, 1969 Q: If I recall correctly, Al Gates replaced you in morning drive in June 1969, then you moved to FM middays for a while. You didn't actually return to the air until October 1970. Is this the time you went to work for Dick at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting?

A: Well, teaching was a joy for me. You always seem to come across a person or persons who really had talent. Watching them get comfortable enough to let the talent grow...and when Dick wanted to open a school down in Stratford it was a challenge to find a location, draw up the floor plan, line up teachers, etc.

Q: During all these years you were a privately licensed pilot. Tell us about commuting to DRC's morning show by air (and from where).

 
 

A: Flying down to Hartford, I did get to know the guys who worked the radar and towers. I can remember one morning the tower guy in Hartford saying, "you're lucky, we're open, the storm has passed," and I made a point of answering, "I knew you were open before I ever left the ground up in Sterling, Mass." Because I didn't want him to think I was some dumb young pilot. I never expected to grow old taking wild chances.

Q: Your CSB bio indicated you attended Ohio Wesleyan University, The Actor's Studio School, New York City, and Desilu Acting Studio, Hollywood. You told me you did some stand up comedy. Were you interested in acting full time?

 
 

A: I was interested in acting full time and had a contract to do a movie because in summer stock I worked with a lady who was married to an MGM director. An auto accident prevented that movie, but the money I received paid for my wedding trip, etc. I remember doing a standup gig at the Slate Brothers nightclub. Sinatra was there with "his people" to see if they wanted to sign me. Leo Durocher was along with the group. My partner never showed (he had a blonde on the beach for the night) so they were kind. They said, "call if the kid straightens out" and Leo said, acting the big shot, if I can ever help you, call me.

Desilu logo

 
 

Desilu - Lucille Ball was the one who ran things, had a small group of wannabees she let into taping, and showed us the ropes. She knew more than any other producer-or director, or the lighting Guru, and was always trying to track her husband down (girl problems) by the way. A nice older woman sat at the back door to the studios. Few knew she was married to the comptroller. Her kids were grown, and she wanted something to do. She was so good to me...was assistant music director at NBC for Matinee Theatre with Richard Conte (aired 3 to 4 back east Monday through Friday). It just meant I pulled the records (stabs of music for sound effects for each show). The music director, Eddy Truman, became a good friend. Years later when Donald O'Connor came through Rhode Island with a summer show in the round, I was at WPRO. Eddie was his director, and my wife and I got to have dinner with the two of them. By the way, back then (late 50s) the toughest ticket in town was Red Skelton's dress show. Red ad-libbed all the way - nightclub stuff - always breaking up his co-stars, and in the front row of the stands...Milton Berle and his wife, Jack Benny and his wife, etc.

 
  WDRC schedule - October 24, 1970
The Hartford Courant
October 24, 1970

Q: When you returned to WDRC in 1970 you did a fair amount of news work. Was that the first time in your career?

A: Yes, DRC was my first "news work." David Brinkley was always my favorite. He said he could take the normal local television news script, red line a third, and not change a thing. And he never used a word most 12 year olds wouldn't understand.

 
  I had done a number of features on a teachers strike in Hartford...with music etc...he was really responsible for explaining how to dress up a report. Reporting on the state capitol was easy, since a member at Manchester Golf Club was clerk of the house...I took donuts into his secretary every morning, and she and he told me where to go and who to talk with or interview. Dibble was impressed...he shouldn't have been.  
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