Monday, April 30, 2012

Elvis, JFK and It Happened At The World's Fair

Celebrating the Seattle World's Fair's 50th Anniversary / Part II 


Albert Fisher has had many eyebrow-raising adventures during a long career as a film and television producer, director, creator and writer.   It may seem unusual, then, to discover that some of his most vivid, most memorable experiences occurred 50 years ago, during a spring-summer temp job.

Of course, the job was at the Seattle World's Fair, at a time when anything seemed possible — because it often was.

In March of 1962, Fisher, who was working at a TV station in his hometown of New Orleans, received a call from a friend who was working for the upcoming fair.   A coordinator was needed for for TV and movie productions.  Was Fisher interested?

"I hung up the phone, quit my job and got on the first flight available, because I knew this would be an opportunity that would change my life... and it did," recalled Fisher from his Los Angeles home last week.

Albert Fisher was just 20 years old when he packed his bags for the Jet City.  No, that's not a typo.  Twenty.  As he was packing, the future film executive took a moment — just a moment — to contemplate his leap. 

"Here I am, on the spur of the moment, I'm going to move to Seattle," Fisher recalled pondering.  "I thought, 'Well, if Seattle isn't the end of the earth, you'll probably be able to see it from there.'"  He had never seen mountains, snow or the Pacific Ocean before.

Fisher said that he was immediately dazzled by the Northwest's scenic beauty, but didn't have a whole lot of time to take in the sights.   There was work to be done, amid the frantic charge to complete work on the grounds (now called the Seattle Center) and on the Space Needle.

"The place was abuzz with construction workers, cranes and mud," he remembered.  "It didn't look like there was a chance of opening on time.  And then, literally overnight — between April 20 and April 21st — hundreds of workers came in with truckloads of grass, flowers, paving stones, whatever.  By that morning, the World's Fair had been transformed into a wonderland."

Fisher was front and center on the expo's opening day, with tasks that someone with 20 years' more experience would find unnerving.  First up, coordinating from a stage a phone call between the fair and the White House; President John F. Kennedy was going to officially launch the six-month-long event.

In a less benevolent parallel universe, what transpired next could have ended a career, instead of starting one. 

"I'm there on the VIP platform, a 20-year-old kid next to Danny Kaye and John Raitt, talking on the telephone with someone from the White House," Fisher said, chuckling. "We're waiting for the President's speech, talking about what the fair is like, what sort of crowd there is, and so on.  Finally, I realized it was about a minute before the President got on the phone.  I said, 'It's a minute to go, is the President standing by?'  And the person I've been talking to for five minutes says, 'This is the President.'  I froze.  After what seemed like forever, he said,'"Isn't it about time I start?'  And I stammered out, 'Yes, Mr. President.'"

Shaken and stirred, Fisher recuperated that evening by attending the fair's opening night concert.  He had four tickets, but no date.  When he asked Raitt and his wife if they'd like to attend, the Broadway star asked if their 12-year-old daughter could come along.

Years later, when Fisher met Bonnie Raitt again, the singer surprisingly had no recollection of their "date."

Then again, classical concerts aren't usually a 12-year-old's cup of tea, even if the concert proved to be one of the more remarkable events of the genre's post-war era.  Pianist Van Cliburn was the opener (!), warming up the audience before Igor Stravinsky conducted the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.  Stravinsky was 80 at the time. 

Fisher had great seats, and soaked up everything.

"They had to construct a metal railing around the podium for Stravinsky to lean on, he was so frail," he said.  "I remember that somebody had to help him onto the podium; he was walking so slow, bent over - he looked like he could keel over at any moment."

Fisher continued the play-by-play as one would recall a World Series' seventh game.  "This legendary composer makes his way to the podium, to great applause," he said, "and he picks up his baton as if it weighed 30 pounds.   He raises his hand into the air to begin... and with the downstroke of the baton, Stravinsky's hands and body became that of a 30-year-old.  He swept with energy and enthusiasm through his 'Firebird Suite' — and after the last note, Stravinsky became an old man again.  He put the baton down, and had to be helped off of the stage.

"It was one of the most electrifying moments that I've ever witnessed," Fisher concluded.

The young liaison was soon caught up in an precedented whirlwind of excitement.  Television had evolved quite a bit since it had been introduced at America's previous exposition, the 1939 New York World's Fair, and a plethora of stars wanted to broadcast from — and be seen at — this grand vision of tomorrow on display in remote Seattle.

In July, Fisher turned 21 as an advance team and B-roll crews arrived in preparation of filming It Happened At The World's Fair.  The movie's star came to town the next month, and Fisher and The King became acquainted during the shoot.

They got along so well, the two went on a couple of double dates; curiously, Fisher had no problem finding accompaniment nearer his own age for those evenings.

"On one of our double dates, Elvis said, 'Let's go out to the movies tonight,'" Fisher said.   "We got into a black station wagon and went to a theater... his entourage arranged for the last rows to be empty.  Obviously, we had to wait for the movie to start, or there would be bedlam — and we had to leave before the movie ended.  The weird thing was, we went to an Elvis Presley movie — Kid Galahad.  Elvis seldom watched any of his own movies.

"It was so surreal," he emphasized.  "Apart from it being a boxing movie, I can't tell you what the film was about, because all I was thinking was, 'Holy cow, here I am sitting in a movie theater, watching an Elvis Presley movie — and sitting next to me is Elvis Presley.'"

                                                                            Albert Fisher with Elvis at the fair.

The King cut Fisher's temp job short, providing a stepping stone to the next stage of the young man's career. 

Fisher recalled, "Elvis said at one point, 'You should come down to Hollywood when we complete shooting here, you should be the technical adviser."  There was a lot of stuff that was shot on sound stages in Hollywood that were replicas of elements of the fairgrounds.  Particularly the Space Needle; the whole sequence in the movie where Elvis and Joan O'Brien were dining at the Space Needle, that was shot on a stage in Hollywood.  Elvis never went up to the top of the Needle."

Seizing another unbelievable opportunity, Fisher left Seattle for Southern California before the expo ended in October.  It Happened At The World's Fair premiered in April, 1963.

With such remarkable on-the-job training on his resume, Fisher acquired an identical position at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and later served as a consultant to the Montreal Expo.  In between, he kept up the career momentum in Los Angeles that began with his work on the Elvis movie.  Dozens and dozens of projects followed; today, he's the CEO of Fisher Television Productions.

As it turned out, Elvis wasn't the only fateful business contact he made at the base of the Space Needle. 

"I met three people at the fair whom I wound up working for," Fisher said.  "First, Ted Mack, who had The Original Amateur Hour; my company now owns that show.  I met Allen Funt, who hired me for work on Candid Camera.  And I met Merv Griffin, whom I worked five or six years for; we were good friends for life."

Not surprisingly, Fisher's noteworthy hobby is world's fair history and memorabilia collecting; though he also has a great fascination for the majestic 1939 fair, the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle is naturally closest to his heart.

Albert Fisher has loaned over 100 pieces from his vast collection of Seattle World's Fair memorabilia to the event's 50th anniversary celebration.  They are on display at several locations in the Seattle Center, and at the Space Needle.  Additionally, some of Fisher's incredible experiences at the fair are chronicled in the beautiful new book by Paula Becker, Alan J. Stein & Historylink, The Future Remembered: The 1962 World's Fair And Its Legacy ( / The Seattle Center Foundation). 

Friday at Intermittent Signals
: A celebration of the fair concludes as a woman who thrived during the "Mad Men era" remembers the event that helped shape the rest of her life.

Yesterday at Intermittent Signals : 50 Years of Wonder... and Counting

Friday, April 27, 2012

50 Years of Wonder... And Counting

Celebrating the 1962 Seattle World's Fair / Pt. I

As much as the Space Needle and the attractions that lay at its feet were unfathomably cool to a little boy from Minnesota in the mid-1970s, I sensed that something even more fantastic had once "happened" at the Seattle Center. 

It was an odd feeling; hard to explain, but I remember having it like it was yesterday.  The buildings, with their awe-inspiring architecture, were hardly abandoned relics; they just seemed as if they were designed for something... bigger.  Even though half of the Jet City's population seemed to have already left in the "Turn Off The Lights" exodus of that era, there were still plenty of people to be found at the Center, especially on a summer day.  Having never been to Disneyland, I imagined the grounds to be as expansive as Walt's paradise — but I don't recall any long lines for the amusement rides, the Bubbleator, the new exhibits at the Science Center (save for the King Tut extravaganza that came to town in '78), the Monorail, or even for the Needle.

Of course, as I soon learned, all that space to walk around in was indeed the result of something grand once took place — the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, which opened its doors on April 21 and ran for six glorious months.  Months that changed a rather provincial, remote (by east coast standards) port city forever.

Launched at the peak of the "Mad Men" era, the Seattle World's Fair (aka The Century 21 Exposition) was — and still is — a dazzling reflection of America's pre-Vietnam, pre-assassination optimism.  With a heavy focus on space-age science education (a lure for federal funding and corporate involvement), it was truly a forecaster of future possibilities and probabilities; in fact, the future was occurring during the fair.   Seattle took part in a first-ever satellite transmission to Europe via the newly launched Telstar, and John Glenn — with his trusty Friendship 7, fresh from orbit — visited the fair.  Hi-tech cars and appliances, video phones, atomic energy... the list of exhibited marvels that were just beyond our horizon went on and on.

Technology wasn't the only theme of the fair, however.  An unprecedented explosion of culture occurred just north of downtown, with the world's best art, music, dance, theater, fashion and cuisine flowing through the fair for six solid months.  The Duke of Edinburgh, a phone call from JFK, Elvis and his movie shoot... though it had hosted the elegant 1909 Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Seattle had seen nothing like this.  Heck, the fair even offered a risque escape for weary-footed tourists and visiting dignitaries: a Vegas-style burlesque theater that included a bizarre, nude marionette act produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. 

For all the marvels that the Seattle World's Fair presented, the behind-the-scenes tales of how it came to be — and how the fair impacted and inspired countless individuals — are just as fascinating.  Altogether, a multi-faceted achievement that couldn't be duplicated in the Emerald City of today. 

This weekend, Intermittent Signals will feature the stories of two impossibly young professionals who seized incredible opportunities of a lifetime, when they were barely old enough to vote.  People who not only were there, but who helped make The Century 21 Expo a legendary success. 

- Steve Stav

Tomorrow: JFK, The King, and It Happened At The World's Fair

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Loverboy Joins Journey and Pat Benatar For Summer/Fall Tour; Dates Announced

30 years goes by in a blink of an eye... especially when three of the most popular bands of 1982 are still rockin'.  It was announced yesterday that Loverboy will be joining Journey and Pat Benatar in a summer/fall tour of arenas and amphitheaters - including a show at the mind-blowing Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA.  Personally, I'm more than ready to be a teenager again, for one night.  As long as there's Advil and Icy Hot ready in the morning.

From my friends at Wolfson Entertainment, who manage Vancouver's favorite sons:

"....founding Loverboy member Paul Dean commented: "It's great coming full circle 30 years later. We first toured with Journey in 1982 on the success of our Get Lucky album. It was an amazing package then and it's an amazing package today."

With trademark red leather pants and bandanas to match their huge rock sound and high-energy live shows, Loverboy has sold more than 10 million albums and earned multi-platinum plaques for albums such as their self-titled debut LP, Get Lucky, Keep It Up and Lovin’ Every Minute of It. The string of hits includes the band’s smash anthem Working for the Weekend, and the hits “Hot Girls in Love,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Lovin’ Every Minute of It.”

The band recently reunited with Bob Rock, who engineered their very first album back in 1980 which was produced by Bruce Fairbairn, for a new song, “Heartbreaker.” In addition, lead singer Mike Reno penned “Flying High,” the anthem for the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup playoff run last spring. Last June, Loverboy performed “Working for the Weekend” live on Fox News Channel’s top-rated Fox and Friends.  A performance of the new single, “Heartbreaker,” was made available as an exclusive on as part of the program’s “All American Summer Concert Series.”

Loverboy’s  pop culture credibility was cemented by last season’s 30 Rock episode in which Scott Adsit’s amateur musician Pete Hornberger revealed he was actually Loverboy’s original bassist, showing him inserted into vintage ‘80s footage of the band wailing away on “Working for the Weekend,” which you can see at The same song was also featured on a recent episode of Comedy Network’s popular Regular Show, now posted on YouTube It was also part of a memorable Saturday Night Live skit featuring the late Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze as a pair of Chippendale dancers here.

Loverboy still includes original members Mike Reno on vocals, Paul Dean on guitar, Doug Johnson on keyboards and Matt Frenette on drums, with Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve (a former member of Dean and Frenette’s pre-Loverboy band Streetheart), who replaced the late Scott Smith on bass.

For more information, go to
Scheduled 2012 Tour Dates (more dates will be added):

Sat 21-Jul San Bernardino, CA San Manuel Amphitheatre
Sun 22-Jul Stateline, CA Harvey's Outdoor Arena
Tue 24-Jul Paso Robles, CA Main Grandstand, California Mid-State Fair
Thu 26-Jul Cheyenne, WY Cheyenne Frontier Nights
Sat 28-Jul George, WA Gorge Amphiteatre
Sun 29-Jul Spokane, WA Northern Quest Casino Amphitheater
Fri 3-Aug Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre
Mon 6-Aug Sturgis, SD Buffalo Chip Campground Amphitheatre*
Fri 10-Aug Wantagh, NY Nikon @ Jones Beach Theatre
Sat 11-Aug Atlantic City, NJ Ovation Hall, Revel Atlantic City**
Tue 14-Aug Watertown, NY Watertown Fairgrounds Arena
Wed 15-Aug Canandaigua, NY Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
Fri 17-Aug Louisville, KY Freedom Hall
Sat 18-Aug Des Moines, IA Grandstand, Iowa State Fair
Fri 24-Aug Woodlands, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Sat 25-Aug Dallas, TX Gexa Energy Pavilion
Fri 31-Aug Kansas City, KS Livestrong Sporting Park
Sat 1-Sep St Paul, MN Grandstand, MN State Fair
Fri 21-Sep Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center
Sat 22-Sep Cuyahoga Falls, OH Blossom Music Center
Fri 28-Sep Bangor, ME Waterfront Park
Sat 6-Oct Atlanta, GA Aaron's Lakewood Amphitheatre
Fri 12-Oct Tampa, FL 1-800-ask-Gary Amphitheatre
Sat 13-Oct W. Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre