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Sterling "Red" Quinlan talks about his book "Inside ABC: the American Broadcasting Company's rise to power"

BROADCAST: Oct. 18, 1979 | DURATION: 00:38:39

Synopsis

Sterling "Red" Quinlan discusses his book "Inside ABC: the American Broadcasting Company's rise to power" published in 1979. Sterling "Red" Quinlan was a pioneering Chicago TV executive that worked for ABC (which later became WLS-Ch. 7), WFLD-TV, WTTW (Chicago's public television station) and founding member of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

Transcript

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Studs Terkel I mean, one thing is clear, I think, to those who watch television, listen to radio, too, but certainly watching television--the lack of independent thinking on the part of those who produce those programs on the bottom network can offer. Once in a while, there's a, something happens, we get excited, that rare event: An independent thought of documentary or program of the--it's a rarity, it's the banality mostly that weighs down upon us. And one of the people I know most aware of what's going on, has been for years, is Red Quinlan. Sterling "Red" Quinlan for years was the program director/station manager here in Chicago, and he fought the big boys through the years. His credo was independent telecasting, and also programs that represent the community, the region, the city, in this case Chicago, where he's lived, and he was in at the very beginning of mergers. In fact, one of his early novels is called "Merger", and Red, in a sense, was telling us in advance, was prescient about the nature of mergers in television and advertising and agencies. His most recent book is called "Inside ABC", and Red was there at the inside. How well I know and remember. And it's "American Broadcasting Company's Rise to Power", it's published by Hastings House. And in connection with that, an article he wrote in the October issue of "Chicago" magazine, "What's Happening to TV Commercials". Commercials are the prime source of income of actors, announcers, and singers, and many local writers, and down the tubes, and Red, well, he'll discuss very hot subjects, indeed, and no one better versed on this than my guest, Red Quinlan, so, the program in a moment after this message. Well, Red Quinlan, we begin what? I sound like Howard Cosell. Red Quinlan, now Mary, Dr. Rex Morgan, Red Quinlan, "Inside ABC". And we open with, immediately, the last chapter, "Dilemma of the Tube".

Sterling "Red" Quinlan That's the dilemma of our, of maybe the dilemma of the century: what TV is doing to all the Terkels and Quinlans in the world, all the people in the United States, in terms of our social fabric and our social mores. It's a very, very powerful medium, as you know, Studs, and there have been many expositions written about it in the last decade. I would stack this up with any of the expositions written in the last ten years on what effect this thing is having on our lives.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking about the emphasis, you know, immediately there's the matter of markets. The one thing in the minds of people, of course, you had to be involved in this, too, being station manager, but the emphasis is definitely on the market. Who is the market and what to sell, it doesn't matter what means they used.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, the market, as Gary Deeb, one of the more, perhaps the most acerbic writer on the medium currently in vogue today, right across the street at the "Tribune", points out, the market, Studs, is the gut-bucket, rock-n-roll kids that were kids 10 years ago and now they represent that marvelous demographic of 18 to 24, or 18 to 34, if you want to stretch it. They control the tastes of America and because they outnumber the other demographic sectors, they cause us to have, what I call, probably the most mindlessly banal, the lowest common denominator program fare the medium has ever had.

Studs Terkel You say they control it, yet the fact is, they're conditioned, their tastes are conditioned by the very same medium that says they control it.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan I agree with that. It's true. Very true.

Studs Terkel You point out here, advertisers in the book, Red Quinlan's book, the "Inside ABC", the last chapter, "advertisers pay $13 per thousand homes to reach this group, and only $6 per 1000 for those over 50, although the latter group, those who are over 50, watch TV more than the young do." That's interesting. I hadn't--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel [Been aware?] of that.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes. It all boils down to these crazy numbers. And as this generational switch occurs and the demographics become a little older, I think that the quality of programming will become a little better. I hope so. I would hate to think that those who control the tube now and are causing us to have the kind of junk we have on would be succeeded by another generation who would want even worse LCD programming than we have now.

Studs Terkel How can it become a better program if they get older, if the very conditioning, the medium itself and the advertisers and the networks who look for that rating--we'll ask you about that matter of rating--if they're conditioned to banality--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right.

Studs Terkel Why would they be unconditioned just because of age? They'll be by this

Sterling "Red" Quinlan time-- Maybe you're right.

Studs Terkel I think there has to be something else here.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Maybe there--you hit a good point, Studs, and maybe there is no solution, except new alternates, [all? or?] options, more choices.

Studs Terkel Now what are these alternates you talk about?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, I use a prime example of radio today. When you and I were kids, or even when we were young men, radio was a rather singular medium in that it didn't have as many options, as you know, and Chicago may have had 10 or 12 AM stations and two or three FM. Now today we have a proliferation in, at least in the big cities, of 50, 60 television stations split between AM and FM is no unusuality. And to be sure, there is duplication in many of these formats and stations but never have we had such a wide choice of radio. And I look to FM particularly and look at this station, unique in the whole world for its indigenous quality to art and a very high-class approach to program fare which does not attempt to reach a super-large audience. Not its bag. And there are many other radio stations who reach other small, I can think of a little Polish ethnic station, it does its job. Well, we are going into that era in the next decade, believe me. This decade of the '80s will be the decade of what I call proliferation of signal delivery.

Studs Terkel Multiple choice.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Multiple choice so that we can let the networks have their lowest common denominator approach. They will still be probably the biggest game in town, at least to the end of the century, but they won't be the only game in town, and that is what concerns--

Studs Terkel That's it. See, but now what, these alternatives you're talking about, since we're talking television at the moment, you know, radio apparently is having, I think you're right--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Radio's [dominant?].

Studs Terkel More and more, quite [obviously?], in the [case of?] FM.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right.

Studs Terkel And AM.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And is the most undervaluated, under-rated medium of all today. My conviction is.

Studs Terkel Yeah, one way or another, of course, you find kids with the forests of transistors in the streets and the subways--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Sure, but we have so much other to choose from we can ignore that.

Studs Terkel But coming back to the alternatives on TV, so the word "cable," I suppose, figures in this.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Oh, gee, that's one of the major choices.

Studs Terkel Why don't you tell us about cable and how things look as far

Sterling "Red" Quinlan as? Cable is coming to Chicago very rapidly. Do you know the story of cable in this town?

Studs Terkel No.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, right now, here's a bulletin for you. Twenty-one Northwest Side communities, out towards the airport, O'Hare Airport, very high demographic and reasonably high economic communities: Arlington Park and Mount Prospect and places like that, have formed a consortium where they've asked the major cable companies in the United States, some 14 of them, to file an application because they want to grant cable franchises. There are about 10 other communities in the suburban, west to east and north and south of Chicago, in the act of choosing a cable supplier and granting a franchise. So in the next two years, I think you will see in the 21 Northwest Side community conference, which have band together just to sort of simplify the whole process, is 212,000 homes and I would say there could be three to 400,000 cable homes hooked up in the areas surrounding Chicago.

Studs Terkel Now, what does that mean as far as listening, I'll ask you about control of cable and what, but what does that mean as far as listeners' choice in programming? Cable, then, would allow--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan You can have--

Studs Terkel All sorts of--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Some 40 signals into your home. You will have good music. you will have a lot of audio information, and you will have an all-news channel, just like you have an all-news radio channel now. You will have an all-sports channel. You will have channels dedicated to local community groups, so that this town hall can have its own meeting, a channel for local creative groups, there will actually be more channels than there will be practically usable.

Studs Terkel Let's say there's a meeting in a ward, and a town hall meeting called by some people and they're protesting something like the highway going through, or a condominium setup, or a high-rise or whatever it is, or not enough protection, and they're having a meeting. Now, that could be one of the--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Could be one of the--

Studs Terkel One of the things and--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Of the

Studs Terkel 40-- The big shot community sitting at home not attending the meeting could be seeing-- Right. That's what you're talking about.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right.

Studs Terkel

Sterling "Red" Quinlan

Studs Terkel Right. Part, seeing that meeting. Right. That's what you're talking about.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It'd be totally of no interest to anybody else but in that community.

Studs Terkel But it could be others, too, if they want to get it, right?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right. Certainly.

Studs Terkel In that area.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It would be just a town hall meeting brought into their homes. Coming down the pike soon will be a proliferation of the cube experiment in Columbus, Ohio where there's two-way communication where people can vote. You've read about that in--

Studs Terkel No, tell me about that.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It is a, Warner--I guess it's Warner Brothers, have installed a ultra-sophisticated system in Columbus, Ohio called Cube, in which the cable owner gets all the regular additional cable services plus a cleaned-up and perfect electronic signal from the networks, but the owner also gets contests where he can vote yes or no. He gets offers on the air where you can buy a dress, yes or no, or she can. They vote on political issues. You have a little panel in your home, and they say in the next 15 seconds you can vote yes or no, or answer yes or no, on a multitude of issues.

Studs Terkel Who would own these cable outlets? How would that work? I mean, is there a big battle going on right now?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Oh, there's a great competition between some 14, 15 companies who install cable, and usually the community gets four to five percent of the gross so that they come out well, and the community also gets the additional signal strength and additional services that they want to improve education, there's all--I forgot to say there's an educational channel. There are religious channels. The Jews can have a channel, the Christians can have one, the Catholics can have one, and the atheists can have one. There's just an amazing array of potential. A community can almost tailor its own needs because there is so much capacity on the cable to deliver signals.

Studs Terkel You know, what I'm thinking about, you're talking about possibilities. And I think we should hear more about Red Quinlan himself, my guest, since your book has--We'll come to the article in "Chicago" magazine, a moment not unrelated. "Inside ABC", this new book of yours, "American Broadcasting Company's Rise to Power". You were there. You were the station manager of an ABC outlet in Chicago.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel And, so, you describe--this is a bloody battle, isn't it? Wasn't it? Is it?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes, it was, you know that I had some bloody battles because, in my younger days, I was probably the most outspoken maverick of a network that was known as the maverick network.

Studs Terkel ABC was once known as the maverick network.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right.

Studs Terkel And in contrast to CBS and NBC.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan In fact, there's a very interesting metaphor in the opening, in the prologue of the book, which I'll quote briefly, 'cause I think it'd give you a laugh, and a friend of mine gave it to me, and he said, "I'll tell you what the three networks are in metaphor." He said, "CBS is like a girl from the finest finishing school, yet, in your heart, you know she's a whore." I said, "What!" He says, "Yes." He says, "I'll prove it to you later." I said, "What's NBC?" He says, "That's like looking into a mirror and getting back no reflection." I said, "I don't understand that, either." He says, "Well, I'll get back to that business. I'll tell you what ABC is. ABC is two guys going to the nearest bar at the end of a day. They go in there, take off their coat, roll up their sleeves and order nothing fancy except beer. One says to the other, I got a, you know, I've got a problem. The other says, solve it by the 7:10 train because I got to fight with my wife when I get home. And they toss to the bartender for drinks and lose, and they go to work on the problem. But 11:00 at night, four or five hours later, they're still loaded to the gills, but they're still solving the problem, except the bartender is solving it for them." I said, "Well, I understand the ABC metaphor perfectly. It's a shirtsleeve, informal, unpretentious group of mavericks that get the job done." He says, "Yes," and I said, "But, let's go back to CBS. The finest girl from the fine finishing school, but you know in your heart she's a whore." He says, "Well, here's what I mean." He said, "They had Frank Stanton, who looked prettier than God."

Studs Terkel He was the head of, he was at least the [puppet?] of William Paley at--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan President under

Studs Terkel Paley-- Columbia Broadcasting System.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And he was a handsome man, and a brilliant man, and he spoke for the industry. He was the spokesman for not only CBS, but the entire industry. Congress had a problem, he'd go make a speech. They had William Paley, a brilliant entrepreneur, a good program--excellent program man. Some called him a program genius. He's lost his touch, but that's what they did. I'm talking about the old days. And then they had the great Ed Murrow, Edward R. Murrow, who had the finest news operation of any network until Stanton and Paley started to--

Studs Terkel Interfere.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Mess it up. So he says, "That's what I mean. They had all this marvelous facade, finest finishing school facade, while at the same time, speaking of lowest common denominator, they were capable of having a Jim Aubrey, who was putting on great fantastic shows like 'Beverly Hillbillies.'" I says, "I dig. I understand what you mean." I said, "Now, give me the NBC metaphor." He said, "Well, looking in a mirror and getting back no reflection." He said, "NBC is like the post office. Nobody will ever change it." I said, "Why?" "Because they're son of RCA. They're a small satellite of mighty RCA, which doesn't understand the broadcast business. And, so, NBC management has to go into multi-tiered memo-writing committee style of management, which creates its own defensive apparatus, its own mechanism, and therefore, you know, nobody can do anything at NBC unless they have a meeting, and a committee has to decide." So I said, "I dig," so--but ABC was, I don't think they've written a memo in their life. I don't think--and they still have some mavericks, they're getting smooth around the edges. But Roone Arledge I would call a maverick. Julie Barnuth is certainly a maverick.

Studs Terkel These are powerhouses in ABC, but the fact is, it's become the number one as that--I'll ask you about ratings and the meaning of that in a minute. Appealing to the most banal, ABC has, so now it's the most powerful of the three, isn't it, or had been?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Oh, it still is.

Studs Terkel It's still come to that lowest common denominator.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan That's the only ballgame they can play, which is a shame.

Studs Terkel Basically it's contempt for people's intelligence, isn't it? When it comes right down to it? There's an idea of contempt for the intelligence of

Sterling "Red" Quinlan an audience. You can phrase it that way, yes. It's an admission. I wish they'd just come out and be more frank and say, "Look. We're locked into a capitalistic system. We're not going to try to change. Tune in on public broadcasting more. Tune us out more. Don't be expecting more from us than we can deliver," but they play games, and this--

Studs Terkel This is what "Inside ABC" is about, yet, you speak of the battle for power and the battle between them. Before I ask you, and I want to introduce the subject of you and a certain role you played at a certain moment, I think, in Chicago's television history. Before that, ratings. Now we come to this--if an audience, if a network runs number two rather than one or three, even though there may be 25 million people listening to it, that's a disaster, isn't it?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It's made to be more of a disaster than should be. Yes, of course. Yes. A rating point translates into, I don't know, 15 or 20 million dollars a rating point.

Studs Terkel Now I'm thinking about the madness of it.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It's a fantastic figure.

Studs Terkel More people will have heard, say, Shakespeare than ever in the history of--25 million, but it, because it ran third to Charlie's Angels, let's say.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It's a bum.

Studs Terkel Or Starsky and Hutch. Therefore, the heads will roll.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan That's right.

Studs Terkel This, of course, this the madness, isn't it?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It is, it's insane.

Studs Terkel You speak here of, you quote Erik Barnouw, a very enlightened critic of radio and TV, "The chronicler"--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel Of broadcasting, and Red Quinlan quotes him toward the end of Red's book, "The Inside AB"--There's a grave danger television will eventually take over most everything: Education, business, entertainment, and even politics. Now if that happens, people will lose their ability to cope with real life. A child's education will come from the television screen. Adults will conduct business face-to-face from their homes. The business office as we know it would be obsolete. And he's speaking almost a surreal condition, isn't he?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes. Yes.

Studs Terkel It has that possibility, doesn't it?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes, indeed. It isn't blue sky anymore. It could do that.

Studs Terkel So I'm thinking, yet, there are--since humans run it, and sometimes you wonder, I think that the imaginative guys and the women involved here would have a say now, what happened. I think we should--you don't mind if I say what happened to you, Red, because I'll speak very personally now to the audience. A number of years ago, Red Quinlan, my guest, was the general manager of a new radio--a new television station in Chicago, the Marshall Fields Station. But before that, you were the head of the ABC outlet here, Channel 7, and through me you met Denis Mitchell, I want to bring up a subject. A brilliant television documentary writer who wanted to do a film on Chicago. He won the Prix Italia and you liked the film you saw, and you put up the American money for it. It will be for American rights to be shown over the BBC World rights. And it was a beautiful film, a powerful film, a study of Chicago, this great American city. And then something happened. You were in the hospital at the time with hepatitis, which is a factor here. Now why don't you recount what happened. And, so, I'll discover from you what actually happened.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, I was impressed with the film, of course, as you know, by his techniques and his sheer talent, this man was a virtuoso in talent and still is, Denis Mitchell. And as a matter of fact, I learned of the film through you, Studs, I remember I dropped everything and because the chap was in only for a day, and he was going to do three films about, a film about three American cities, and I saw this and I got this wonderful idea.

Studs Terkel You saw this film about a small English town.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel Manchester.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Manchester, yes that's right. But he was commissioned to come over here and do three cities and he was thinking of San Francisco, I think was one, and a cowboy town, I think Dallas was another and he was uncommitted on the third, and after I saw that work of art which had won awards, I said, "You must do Chicago." And I said, we must--I got this, you know, my mind jumped months and years ahead I thought, what a great exciting adventure it is to see ourselves as others see it. And I said to myself, we'll have Denis Mitchell do Chicago and I'll send a Chicago crew. And I was thinking of you to do the tie-in, the anchor work, and the host work and go over and do London. And, so, we'd see each other--

Studs Terkel Right.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Through each other's eyes. It's a marvelous adventure, and it's a classic concept, but we never got that far. But anyhow, we did get on with the--I called the BBC that afternoon, got a hold of the boss there, we made a deal on which I think we committed later to a simple letter between us in which we did all the funding here, they were doing the musical scoring in London with the London Symphony, and when it was finished, the BBC would run it, and Channel 7 in Chicago would run it. And if our network ABC wanted it or I syndicated it, that would be up to me. They would have rights for Canada and England and Europe and I had the all American rights. Well. So we went to work. And the results were, I thought, moving along, although I did not see rushes, I just heard from people about some marvelous footage he was getting and all of a sudden I get sick, have hepatitis, I'm in Weiss Memorial and I read in the paper that Denis Mitchell has finished it, the London Symphony has scored it, and the BBC was so excited about it they didn't even send me a telegram. They put it on the air the next night. There was no rule about who got it first. Well, and obviously I figured they'd run it first because it was finished in London, the final editing was being done in London. Well, the uproar was caused by some Chicago newspaper writers assigned to bureaus in London sending back stories that this was a derogatory, vicious, vitriolic attack on our wonderful, innocent, little city of Chicago. And I said, "That can't be," and I haven't seen it yet, so, and I'm too sick to even run the station, some other bookkeeper was handling the decisions, and New York started immediately to get in the act. And I insisted, sick as I was, to have the film brought over and reflected against the white wall of the Weiss Memorial room I was in. And, man, I was never so mad in my life, because there was nothing, it was an honest--

Studs Terkel It was a--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan

Studs Terkel Portrayal. Brilliant film. I remember later we'll come to the aftermath later.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Sensitive and poetic and just beautiful.

Studs Terkel Ten years later, by the way, Red, on the other station of which you are now head, the Marshall Field station, UHF channel, it was shown--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Three times.

Studs Terkel I just looked at it and said, "That's pretty--That's a good film."

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Nothing to--

Studs Terkel And there was no uproar, but at that time--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It ran all over Europe, it ran all over the world.

Studs Terkel At that time, you were then, of course, Mayor Daley heard about it, and he said, he wanted to punch Dennis Mitchell in the nose. He didn't see the film.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Everybody was mad without even seeing or knowing

Studs Terkel what they're mad about. And the guys who were not your superiors, but the money guys of ABC killed it here. It was not shown, and all Chicagoans knew of it was that a terrible film about Chicago was being suppressed.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Tells you what slander can do, innuendo.

Studs Terkel It turned out to be a marvelous movie. But you, if you weren't in the hospital, now I want to ask you a personal question. I haven't asked you this, ever. If you weren't in the hospital with hepatitis at the time, and you were there. And I know there was tremendous pressure on you, Red, and I have no doubt your head was on the block, too. What would you have done? Try to recall.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan After that big furor created by the press because of the initial reading?

Studs Terkel Yeah, would you have shown the film?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan I'd have slammed it on the air that very night, 'cause I would have anticipated the pressure getting worse and worse, and I would not have been able to, so I simply would have, if I had been healthy, and I saw those headlines in the "Tribune", in "The Sun-Times" and the wire services all over the nation, "Chicago Ruined by Disastrous British Depiction of Chicago", et cetera, I would have said to myself, "This is going to get worse, not better. My only escape is to put that son of a gun on the air immediately" that night, and I would have preempted a network show to do it, which would have really probably gotten me fired.

Studs Terkel So you'd've--it probably would have got you fired. And yet, Red, you were running a risk that you were doing it. You were--you would have gambled on your faith in the intelligence and honesty--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, I saw the

Studs Terkel work. Of the audience watching it.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And I, yes, I would've, yes.

Studs Terkel And that might have been your ally.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan That's right. I then would have said to the audience, "You judge."

Studs Terkel Well, in a way, aren't we talking about power and attitudes toward public taste, in your book, "Inside ABC", and we'll come to the article in "Chicago", isn't this what it's about, really?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes. Yes. Power used in an unwieldy fashion and in an unfair fashion and public taste in a terrible situation.

Studs Terkel So I'm thinking you, Red Sterling, Red Quinlan, my guest, who was here at the very beginning, by the way, of Chicago radio when John Crosby the critic, the most distinguished of all TV critics, wrote about Chicago style. "Garroway at Large", the program "Studs' Place", and, of course, that genius, Burr Tilstrom and "Kukla, Fran and Ollie". You were this derring-do, independent sort of guy, I think, Red, if you--they had to get you, didn't they, really, if it's to be what it is today?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan I was probably, I was known as the most independent of the managers of the 15-network golden operators [stage?], you know, each network owns and operates five, that's all you can own. And we had probably the most individualist managers of the five, but I was by far and away the most of all because I was preempting network at times, I was plugging educational television, running their shows on our station--

Studs Terkel But even though you were coming through, by the way, you weren't losing dough for them, were you?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Our bottom line was excellent. That's why I got away with it for so long.

Studs Terkel But still, even though you weren't losing dough or making it--they had to get you, Red, 'cause you were that independent guy.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, I believe that television is a local option thing, and I ran it as though I owned it, as though it were my station. And if I had owned it, I would have run it the same way. And I felt that autonomy was good for ABC, and for many years ABC agreed with me. They thought local autonomy--remember, they owned those Paramount theaters all around the country and they found that they were better run on an autonomous basis, but then they changed after it got too big.

Studs Terkel And the change now, it had to follow a certain set formula.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Now it's computerized, there's a policy book. Every time you go to the bathroom, there's a book to tell you how to get there, it's that absurd. And I could tell you some examples that would make your hair stand on end.

Studs Terkel We're talking to Red Quinlan, his most recent work, and all his books deal with the world he knows, that world of television and the cowardice, the skullduggery, and certain dreamers who were around and about now, such as Red himself, and it's subtitled "American Broadcasting Company's Rise to Power", Hastings House the publishers, and after a pause and a message return and ask Red about this article, that piece he wrote for "Chicago" magazine, October issue, about Chicago actors, Chicago performers, I should say, singers and announcers, too, and their market and what's happening to it and those responsible. In a moment, after this message. Resuming the conversation with Red Quinlan. Now, here's the article in the October issue of "Chicago" magazine, "Chicago TV Commercials Down the Tubes?" is the question. And you cite chapter and verse. Well, we got to start, I suppose, saying the source of income. Ninety-nine percent of actors' incomes today in cities including Chicago--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Is from spot television commercials, yes. And we had a very respectable industry here. It wasn't ever, nor should it ever be expected to be as big as New York or Hollywood, but it was quite respectable 10 years ago, Studs. We had a gross in this town of about 20 million dollars being spent in about 14 companies making television spot. Now it's shrunken down to about 10 or 10 1/2 million, and these are inflation dollars, so you can cut that down to five million. The companies have cut down to about four or five or six or seven. And I say in the piece I spent six months researching this situation, and I think 1980 is the do-or-die year where the industry will either go down the tube entirely or the 34 companies that I cite in this article, all Chicago-based national companies, not--

Studs Terkel These are industries you're talking about now,

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Big companies, and I can run down on here these companies are the ones that are use a lot of television because of the nature of their goods or services. Airlines, candy companies, cookie companies, baking companies, service companies, Alberto-Culver, Beatrice Foods, Consolidated Foods, Esmark, IC Industries, Kraft, Mars, McDonald's, Montgomery Ward, Quaker Oats, SC Johnson, that's in Racine, actually, but it's in a--

Studs Terkel But these are primarily Chicago-based?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right. And they do very little of their advertising with Chicago film industry spot producers.

Studs Terkel You're talking about the local producers--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan

Studs Terkel National! Who make these commercials.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And that's why they're doing them all out in California.

Studs Terkel Well, if that's the case, then Chicago actors--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Are going down the tube with it.

Studs Terkel When we speak of singers, we mean singers, of course, and announcers--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Musicians.

Studs Terkel Are factors--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Writers, jingle writers--

Studs Terkel And musicians, too.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Talent of any kind.

Studs Terkel Is this, for better or for worse, has become the prime source of income for a great many.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And as this industry goes, it is synergistic with the others: The labs, the industrial filmmakers, the audio only, the multi-video program spectacle producers, the post-production. All these different eight segments in the industry, Studs, we are our brother's keeper. In this case we are our brother's keeper. And if the spot television film producers go down the tube in Chicago, your SAG, and AFTRA and DGA and all your unions, crafts, and guilds will be affected. And your producers of technical services will be affected. People like Dick Marks and other great music writers in this town will be affected, so it is a synergism here that I say has to be addressed because attention must be paid. It's like that famous line in "Death of a Salesman": "Attention must be paid to this man." Well, I say, attention must be paid to this industry.

Studs Terkel And, so, it's rather interesting, this is hardly talked about enough through the years when a new administration comes in, or always the question of keeping jobs in Chicago, industry encouraging industry and job, this is always discussed. Here is something little-known: There is this industry, which is what it is, of course, the making of these commercials.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And you have--

Studs Terkel I have my own thoughts about the commercial, but that isn't the point, we're talking about jobs.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan It's jobs, it's jobs.

Studs Terkel We're talking about jobs for the--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan I'm not putting up a battle for the quality of commercials, some of them are terrible--

Studs Terkel We're talking about job--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan But they are a part of the economy.

Studs Terkel But not all products that are made outside the world of TV, that great either. We're talking about jobs, aren't we?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Right.

Studs Terkel And a community.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel And, so, you point this out. What's the way out? How would you rebut this?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, we've got to take our case to the 34 companies and say, "Please review your policies. You don't want this industry to go down the drain." If it goes down the drain it will have almost as significant an effect as if we lost the printing industry, Studs, to Milwaukee in 10 years. Now, we're not nearly as large as the printing industry, but in terms of prestige and the creative tradition of this city, it will be very, very important because we'll be getting to be known as a technical city only. Now that's fine. I love to be a technical city, but I don't want to be, have people say, "Well, there are no talent in Chicago. They all gone to Hollywood." It means that the economic development council, which is supported by all the pillars of our community, the big banks and savings and loans and utilities, who say that they exist only to keep business in Chicago must stop the hypocrisy that they are sometimes exercising by producing local commercials. Here I'm not talking about Kraft commercials, I'm talking about local commercials in California or with California producers, that kind of hypocrisy must be addressed. We simply must place our case in the hands of the local's clients and members of the economic development council and say, "Look, we have an excellent product," and we do. Chicago's creative tradition is still very, very much alive and it's going to take a lot of doing. The article simply has said to the entire city, and hopefully to the chairmen and CEOs of these companies, "Please read this. Please review your plans and policies. And we're not looking for a handout, we're looking for you to pay attention to our product and we're asking you to have some heart-to-heart talk with your advertising agencies."

Studs Terkel You know, one thing there's a common denominator in the good sense, to Red's work. The article in "Chicago" magazine, and his book "Inside ABC", he is, indeed, a much overused word, "maverick," Red really is, and Hastings House are the publisher of ABC, but we still have some moments and I thought all your work, Red, has been calling the shot and seeing it as it is even though it's gotten you, I know I've gotten you in trouble. Your using me at certain moments--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Any trouble you got

Studs Terkel

Sterling "Red" Quinlan me-- I made trouble for you-- In was good trouble, Studs, I never minded it.

Studs Terkel I'm quite aware of that. I am deeply moved by it.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan I will take care of myself.

Studs Terkel A stand you took at the time. Anyway, I'll come to something else here. There was a man you worked for, quite a remarkable guy named Mitchell.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel That John Mitchell.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan John Mitchell.

Studs Terkel And in your novel, prior to this book, "Merger", is, in a way, there's a tragedy of Mitchell. Here was a guy--you were re--calling the shot on what was going to happen, weren't you, with networks and conglomerates?

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel And what happens to an early pioneer who was devoured.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan How they get chewed up, yes. And John Mitchell was a sanguine, cheerful, lovely Hoosier from Indiana, was really too nice for the business. He went to New York and got in that melting pot there and got all chewed up and became ill and then, well, he died a very early man. A victim of the system that--he was a theater man, but he was a generous, decent person--

Studs Terkel He couldn't, when it came to in-fighting, this is [unintelligible], aren't you? When it came to infighting, and he wasn't there.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan No. You got to be awfully tough to go into that rat race and come out without your--

Studs Terkel You're talking to--

Sterling "Red" Quinlan In your pocket.

Studs Terkel And, perhaps, before we adjourn, you and I adjourn for lunch. You must tell a story that--I mentioned me, here. At a certain moment Joe McCarthy days, and I had a little problem, and you were featuring at the time the hottest guy on Chicago television, Tom Duggan.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Oh, yes. Marvelous story about Duggan and you. You remember Tom, of course, and he had ups and downs politically, he was all over. One year he was very conservative, the next year he was very liberal. Tom was, you know, one of the most mixed-up guys, and, yet, a lovely guy in other ways. He gave hand-outs to talent when we were on the beach, but he would go on these benders, Studs, every few months, about three to four times a year, almost as regular as the seasons. I could count on Duggan just disappearing, and I'd never be able to find him myself, but there would always be an emissary, and Vince Garrity was more often than not the emissary. And he'd come--

Studs Terkel We should, perhaps, describe Vince, one, I'm--this is going to be, here I might digress, I want to, in fact I use this, you're in my memoir, "Talking to Myself", Red and Vince Garrity, I mean, Red conceived the idea. You don't mind if I say this, you're the hero of this story. He conceived the idea, the most unlikely idea of me and Vince Garrity, who hung around City Hall, was Mayor Kelly's office boy, was part of the Machine. Vince was everywhere, and Vince and I were a team covering the city at night.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yes.

Studs Terkel And Red, I must say, that that program, two guys, Vince and me, thanks to you overseeing us, you know, looking--we--every night we did things that NBC on a monitor using a thousand people once a week would do, and we'd do more. Anyway, so that was Vince. You know, we were at a robbery about 10 seconds after it happened, and I still think, "How did Vince know about that robbery beforehand?" And anyway, we were at a fire, we were anywhere--anyway, Red, you were telling about Tom Duggan.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Well, Vince would be the messenger boy, and he'd say, "Well, Duggan's out in a motel on the South--Northwest Side, he's got three women in the room, the bathtub's filled with gin and orange juice, and he's playing--This famous song, a blues song that he played over 18 times a day, he played, and I'd say, "Well, get him back." And Duggan would never come back. And then I finally devised, I remember I put Jack Eigan on it, because I heard he disliked Jack Eigan, I figured, who could I put on that he disliked the most? Well, I put Eigan on, and he still stayed away, 10 days. But when Eigan did come back, Duggan stands in front of the camera, in the chair before he sits down, he pulls out a foot gun and sprays the seat, to let people know he didn't wanted to have that seat fumigated. Well, that didn't work. So, next bender he went on, oh, but he has 10 days and his sponsors want rebates, and I had problems financially. I said, "Who can I get?" And I thought of you, because he was in a conservative mood then, and I figured I can--

Studs Terkel You're putting it mildly.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan I'll get a real good liberal, the strongest liberal I can think of, that can handle a show like that. I said, "Oh, Studs Terkel!" So I called you, remember, 10 o'clock at night? I says, "Come down, quick!"

Studs Terkel Now he had, you must remember, he had a certain audience now by this time.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan He was very, oh, yes, tremendous audience.

Studs Terkel He was their god, you know.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan Yeah.

Studs Terkel And I come on.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And no matter how drunk Duggan was on that seven or eight-day bender, he would be sober enough to watch the show to see who was on to replacing him, see. Well, by God, when he saw Studs Terkel sitting in his chair, spouting some liberal points of view, he showed up the next night. Two nights, I think, he--

Studs Terkel Of course, Red, the mail you got, I won't even ask you about the mail you got, I saw a couple, I thought the place would catch on fire.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan But, you see, I used you as a device to sober him up.

Studs Terkel Oh, I'm aware of that. I'm aware.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan And he didn't go out on a bender for six months, 'cause I said, "If you leave again, I'll put Terkel back on."

Studs Terkel We're talking about Red Quinlan, of who is, as you can gather, unique and independent and imaginative, to put it mildly. And his, he's the observer of the scene now, Red is not with these networks today, because he would definitely be trouble for the mechanical men, the faceless men. And "Inside ABC", his book, "American Broadcasting Company's Rise to Power", that's Red's book, Hasting House, and if you subscribe to "Chicago" magazine, pick up that October issue [again and?] read Red's piece on Chicago in commercials and Red, it's a delight, of course, having you again, and I still look for the day when you will be the manager of a new channel one day. Thank you very much.

Sterling "Red" Quinlan We'll start a private one, Studs.

Studs Terkel Thank you very much, indeed.