My Afternoon With Red



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red with the Kennedy cousins.  Taken three months before JFK Jr.'s fatal flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of Red's ideas was the "female announcer."  Accepting the role would be Lee Phillip (who later as Lee Phillip Bell created daytime soaps like The Young And The Restless with husband Bill).  Red put Lee on The Luckey North Show.  He saw the pixyish Phillip had a certain appeal to the television audience.  Phillip soon graduated to a fifteen-minute talk show.  The two parted ways in 1953 when Phillip remained at channel 4's successor WBBM-TV and Quinlan moved on to ABC and channel 7.   It was decisions like these that made WBKB a success story and Red Quinlan the man to watch.   

By the late forties Chicago television choices had tripled with Col. Robert McCormick's Tribune Co. owned  WGN-TV channel 9 and soon to be a dedicated affiliate of The DuMont Television Network,  Ed Noble's ABC-TV and WENR-TV channel 7, and as 1949 rolled in WNBQ, owned and operated by David Sarnoff's Radio Corporation of America and the NBC Network, on channel 5.  Television had shifted into high gear and by the start of the 1950s, Chicago was the place to be.  WBKB,  backed with Paramount money and network programming from CBS was turning a profit.  Newcomers WGN-TV and WNBQ would be quickly on their way to making names for themselves.   Only WENR-TV struggled, owned by the small and financially strapped American Broadcasting Company that at the time could boast no more than fourteen affiliates across the country.   A 1953 merger of United Paramount Theaters and ABC would mark a turning point for the network and a major leap in Redís career.

FCC regulations that were extant at the time required the new American Broadcasting-Paramount Theaters Inc.  to divest itself of one of its Chicago stations.  The natural choice would seem to be WENR-TV.  However,  in one of his final stipulations of the merger, ABC-TV's founder and owner Edward Noble announced it would be the more profitable WBKB that would be sold to William Paley's CBS so all of ABC-TV's owned stations would remain on channel 7, much to the chagrin of Leonard Goldenson and his team at Paramount.  After the dust settled, the calls WBKB replaced WENR-TV on channel 7.   John Mitchell, who had replaced Bill Eddy a few years before the merger, promoted Red to general manager of the new station.  Only management would make the move to channel 7.  Talent and crew remained at the new CBS owned WBBM-TV on channel 4, soon to move to channel 2. Red knew that experimentation in programming was the proven way to commercial success.  With this in mind, he supported the "point of view" concept of documentary storytelling. 

The first effort was a piece by future film director Bill Friedkin and friend of Quinlan's.  Friedkin was convinced that convicted murderer and death row inmate Paul Crump was innocent.  However Friedkin's storytelling was not inline with the antiseptic style of the day.  Quinlan supported this revolutionary idea as long as it was clear that it was the producer's opinion and not the network.  But as well done and convincing as the story was, it would not be until years later on WFLD channel 32 that the program would first air on Chicago television.  It did however convince then Illinois governor Otto Kerner to commute Crump's death sentence to life, a move he threatened to reverse if the show was broadcast by WBKB.  For moral reasons, Red shelved the project.  Friedkin, of course, went on to Hollywood and fame directing films like The French Connection.  Ten years later, Crump himself would be pardoned and released.   Quinlan also brought to the air You Can Go Home Again, which he managed to persuade former Chicagoan Steve Allen to return to his old stomping grounds as well as other celebrities that once called the windy city their home.  It is unfortunate that this show has remained unavailable.  

CONTINUE