My Afternoon With Red

Red's son Tom



















Red enjoyed a close friendship with ABC chairman Leonard Goldenson, who ran ABC from its New York base of operations.  Red, who often ran the station as an independent unit rather than as part of the five ABC owned and operated stations often clashed with the rest of the New York suits.  One of many times was during the Kefauver hearings which Quinlan aired on WBKB pre-empting many of the ABC network programs emanating from New York without their knowledge.  When the network did find out they were furious but the hearings had garnered so much attention that they were unable to say anything.  

 As the television industry grew, not just in Chicago but around the world, Red found he was constantly nagged by a very important question- What is television?  Has it made us what we are?  Or have we made television what it is?  He finally came to the conclusion that the answer was both of the above.  Television is a mirror of who we are.  Like the printing press, movies, and radio before it, television reflects who we are as a society, a species, as a race.  In a 1999 interview, Red expanded on this over forty year old logic when he stated that the Internet would be the biggest mirror of all with its ability to interact.  

Armed with this new epiphany in the 1950s, Red sought provocative programming that more than once raised the eyebrows of ABC's corporate hierarchy.  One such example was Tom Duggan, whose outrageous and flamboyant personality was perfect for channel 7.  Duggan had been doing a five-minute sports show over at NBC when he attracted the attention of Quinlan and WBKB.  In six months, Duggan's evening program became number one.  Duggan talked about everything and anything.  Duggan was loud, abrasive, and at times unpredictable.  Perhaps best described as the Morton Downey Jr. of his day.  Duggan also had ties to the Chicago Mob, an association that made Quinlan nervous, especially when Duggan would "predict" a Mob hit on the air and two or three weeks later that hit would come to pass.  

But in spite of the anxiety the Mob's presence caused, Red, ever the creative idealist and businessman, decided to use Duggan's Mob connection to produce a new "point of view" program focused on the Mob itself.  Titled This Is Your Life- Tony Accardo, the special was, not surprisingly, not embraced with open arms by the Mob itself.   So Red sought the assistance of the local and state law agencies, even going public with The Chicago Crime Commission.  But it would be Accardo himself that would convince Quinlan that producing such a program would not be in the best interest of Red's health when the two men talked briefly in a chance meeting at Tradewinds, a local lounge long suspected of having Mob ties. 

But by the early sixties rising tensions between Quinlan and New York were coming to a head.  Seeing the writing on the wall, he soon found himself being courted by Marshall Field III, owner of Field Enterprises, publishers of The Chicago Sun-Times.  Field was interested in entering the television business and had his eye on a construction permit that had been changing hands since the early sixties.  The permit's current holders were Harry and Elmer Balaban who were doing business as H&E Balaban Inc.  The Balaban brothers were part of the eight brother Balaban family that also included Paramount Pictures' head Barney and WBKB founder John.    Field left Quinlan with an open invitation should he ever want to leave ABC and WBKB.

His biggest nemesis on the east coast was Ted Shaker, who ran ABC Spot Sales.  Shaker campaigned to take over all the ABC owned and operated stations.   Shaker and Quinlan did not get along;  with Quinlan constantly avoiding Shaker's calls and letters.  Things finally came to a head when ABC supported Shaker in an issue and Red went to New York and resigned, taking the chief engineer, the program director and the comptroller along with him. 


copyright 2002 Steve Jajkowski