THEY SAY WHEN one door closes, another one opens. They also say that it's not, "Good-bye," it's just, "See you later." Some might even venture to say that the end of one book is just the beginning of a long series of books, like Harry Potter. And even when we thought J.K. Rowling was done, she released a new installment of our favorite wizarding world. The end is never as certain as it may seem.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: our September 2015 Cohort has finished up their third and final rotation, making way for the new August 2016 Cohort to start their first assignment. While this transition may be bittersweet, we are all excited to see our Septembers move on to wherever their careers may take them and for our Auggies to start their pageship. In this issue we will introduce you to all things new: the new Connector tunnel, new events and happenings, and a sneak peak at a special edition newsletter!
The Connector: Connecting Our World
When The Connector opened this Tuesday, September 20, no one could truly experience its efficiency due to the traffic from the grand opening celebration. After enjoying some miniature grilled cheese sandwiches and trendy coconut waters, dancing to the DJ’s funky remix of “Don’t Stop Believin',” and entering a competitive raffle for free swag, employees cleared out, giving us the chance to test how fast The Connector really is.
We put your options to the test and here's what we discovered:
Taking the Connector= Winner!
Taking Lankershirm= 2 minutes slower!
Unless you have golf cart access!
The Connector: THE VERDICT
After testing multiple paths, your fastest daily travel route from Building 1440 to the Commissary is... THE CONNECTOR! There are so many things you can do with the 2 whole minutes you will save: polish your name tag, respond to an email, stop by the page office for some high fives, watch a promo for THIS IS US or even reenact your panel presentation. The possibilities are endless!
The Connector Grand Opening // #WolfgangP #GrilledCheese #CoconutWater
Memoirs of a Page
James "Jim" Overman, Page Staff 1966-1967
By Rob Zappulla
HIS OFFICE IS a time capsule of an era too soon forgotten. The walls are plastered with maps of NBC’s original wire network across the United States and vintage posters of classic NBC programs. He sits proudly at the helm of his desk, a certificate commemorating fifty years of service to NBC hangs behind him. I fidget in his SCRUBS director’s chair and flip to an empty page in my notebook.
“Let me take you back to the beginning. How much time do you have?” he asks. Already, I know I’m going to need some more paper. And maybe a couple backup pens.
His name is Jim Overman and he is the Director of Network Operations. Before landing this role – once upon a time – Jim was an NBC Page.
The year was 1966. Doe-eyed and audaciously confident, Jim arrived on the Burbank studio lot for his first day as an NBC Page. Joining the staff as a referral from a friend, Jim embarked on his career with NBC, not knowing that he would be with this very company for the next fifty years of his life. As the company evolved, so did Jim.
During his first of two years on the staff, Jim and the other Pages were outfitting in bellhop-like uniforms adorned with shoulder patches. They wore no nametags or logos. Upon a visit from Radio Corporation of America (RCA) President David Sarnoff, deservedly nicknamed “The General,” the Page staff, which was at the time comprised only of men, stood at attention as he inspected their uniforms. He immediately demanded that the patches be removed and that the NBC “Snake” logo be added instead. With the crack of the whip, Jim and the other Pages raced back to their locker room to cut the patches off with a loose razor blade. Nobody wanted to cross the General.
“The 60s and 70s really were the Golden Age,” Jim recounts. “We’re talking real high end movie stars. The stars! Real stars!”
On the lot, Jim worked quiz shows like Let’s Make a Deal, sitcoms like Sanford & Son, and variety programs with stars like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, and the one-and-only Bob Hope. The Pages offered guest relation support during these shows, often tasked with entertaining crowds waiting for the next show.
“The audience members could be ferocious,” he remembers. He laughs about the times he would upgrade unruly guests to the front row, a seemingly nice gesture until they make it to their obstructed-view seats.
Jim laughs ahead of one of his stories. He was working a taping of Let’s Make a Deal, in which audience members dress in obscene costumes and offer up their own possessions for a butcher ticket for a chance to be on the show. One man claimed that he’d give his right leg to be on the show. Sure enough, he popped off his prosthetic leg as collateral for the coveted ticket.
Other than being a show usher, Jim would be tasked with escorting talent to and from the airport. The bellhop-like Page uniform would help him score a few bucks as he passed the time in the terminal pretending to be an attendant working for tips.
During his second year on staff, there were two big change ups: new uniforms and the addition of women. The new uniforms abandoned the bellhop inspiration and traded it for the more traditional suit that we recognize today’s Pages to wear. The addition of women brought an end to “the boys' club.”
“They were called guidettes,” he says, remembering the rather scandalous outfits they were required to wear. “They helped give the studio tours on the lot, but had to wear step counters,” noting that California labor laws capped the number of steps women were allowed to take.
That year, Jim was promoted to Page supervisor, where he launched NBC’s first paid public tours – previously they’d been free. This ingenious idea helped the Page Program flourish financially for years to come.
“One of the fun perks about being a tour guide was that people would believe anything you said,” he says with a smirk. “On the side of our news studio there was this cactus garden that wasn’t well-maintained and was full of trash and debris. We used to tell folks that it was designed by a famous Japanese artist!” As the tourists took pictures posing with the garden, the Pages couldn’t help but snicker.
Jim is rapid firing story after story. The one when Dean Martin slid down his fireman’s pole right through the floor of the soundstage. The one when Jonathan Winters performed a one-man-show with a trash can for Jim and his Page buddy just moments before going live. The one when the power went out during Hollywood Squares causing the entire audience to leave and the Pages to strip out of their uniforms to act as seat fillers when the power finally came back on. The one where Jim’s buddy went into the green room and ate a leftover steak, only to be scolded by an unnamed actress who was saving the scraps for her dog.
“The Page Program was the most profound and interesting job I could have asked for. I really loved it,” he says. Jim still meets up with his fellow Pages from time to time. “We love to laugh about the silly things and remember some good people we met along the way.”
After the Page Program, Jim knew he wanted to stay with the company. He landed a job in Network Operations and later moved on to KNBC Operations where he worked with film and eventually remote trucks.
During one of his first shifts in the Broadcast Operations Control Room, his boss had dinner plans and left Jim in charge. Not soon after, the entire staff began having shortness of breath and violently vomiting. Being a reserve officer, Jim knew from his training that this smell was a chlorine gas – but who would do such a thing? To a KNBC newsroom? Turns out that the night janitor’s cart had tipped over, causing his glass ammonia and glass chlorine bottles to shatter, allowing the liquids to combine, creating a dangerous gas. The gas made its way out of the bathroom by means of the suction fan, which fed directly into the air conditioning for the control room. Luckily, nobody died, but it was definitely a close call – and a riveting first day on the job for Jim!
In 1990, Jim was activated for Operation: Desert Storm, where he served as the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. To date, one of his fondest moments was Robin Williams hosting a special broadcast entitled “Good Morning, Saudi Arabia,” an homage to his 1988 film Good Morning, Vietnam.
After Desert Storm, Jim returned to NBC and has been here ever since. He has fifty years of experience, fifty years of memories, and fifty years of wisdom to share with anybody willing to learn. He is a well-respected professor at California State University, Northridge, where he, along with other NBC professionals, teaches students practical skills like reading ratings, understanding TV ad sales, and station operations. He loves to give back to his students by helping them land internships and jobs within the industry – but only for those who show they deserve it.
On my way out, I thank Jim for his time and for paving the way for Pages fifty years ago. In return, he lends me a copy of his The Mickey Rooney Show DVD.
“It’s a riot,” he says. “They don’t make TV like this anymore.”
With all he’s just told me, I sure do believe Jim.
Upcoming NBCU Happenings
9/23-11/5 Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Hollywood
10/7 The Girl on the Train Releases
10/14 Kevin Hart: What Now? Releases
9/26 Leadership Spotlight (9:00am)
9/26-30 Free Flu Shots on the Lot
10/1 YPN Volunteer for Homeless Youth (RSVP by 9/28)
10/3 June and September Pages Graduation Event
10/8 The Girl On The Train Employee Screening
10/11 The Girl On The Train Employee Screening
Upcoming Page Program Birthdays
10/1- Juan He shares birthday with Julia Andrews (DreamWorks' Shrek) 10/12- Alex Cottle shares birthday with Hugh Jackman (Universal's Les Miserables) 10/19- Lauren Arnold shares birthday with LaWanda Page (NBC's Sanford and Son) 10/20- Drew Alemania shares birthday with John Krasinski (UTV's The Office)
10/22- Ally Pipis shares birthday with Christopher Lloyd (Universal's Back to the Future)
Sneak Preview at the Next Newsletter
Be on the lookout for the special edition newsletter saying goodbye to the June/September 2015 cohort and welcoming the August 2016 Cohort!