Continue reading chapter one of Live From New York: An Oral History of Saturday Night Live, by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller.
Chapter One Continued:
BERNIE BRILLSTEIN: In the first six months, Lorne threatened not to come in to work a lot. He had no way of dealing with these network people. Because Lorne had a vision, and they didn't understand his vision. This was a new show at that time. He made them rebuild the goddamn studio, and they didn't understand that. And he made them get great sound in the studio because they were going to have rock acts, and they didn't understand that.
HOWARD SHORE: What we were going to be doing was really quite technically complicated, but the studio hadn't been kept up to the standards of broadcasting. It was stuck in the late fifties. They hadn't refitted the technology of it over the years. I remember going for that first tour of the studio, and they had game show sets in there and they were doing very low-tech productions in there because it didn't have any of the technology that was really needed to do a live broadcast. I remember feeling like you were still in Toscanini's studio. It's incredible to think that in the 1950s NBC, this great American broadcast network, hired an Italian conductor and gave him his own orchestra, the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and his own studio and his own elevator for the maestro to get up to the eighth floor. When I asked for a music stand to put my scores on, an old stagehand went back into props and brought out Toscanini's music stand - this huge, black, ornate, five-foot-high carved wooden monstrosity. It came up to about my chin. And they said, "You can put your scores on that." That was the only thing of Toscanini's I'd actually seen. It was wonderful. You felt the history of the place.
BERNIE BRILLSTEIN: When Lorne told NBC they had to spend like three hundred grand to rebuild that studio, they nearly had a breakdown.
CRAIG KELLEM, Associate Producer: He was in a constant battle with the network as it pertained to the economics, particularly about the set. Lorne wanted the set to be like almost this architectural prototype. The argument was, "Hey, you can't even see that on camera," and Lorne's attitude was, "Yes, but I want it. I want it anyway."
EUGENE LEE: They hired Dave Wilson to be the director. He'd done a lot of TV. Dave was a nice man, but he had very strong opinions about things and said them. And there was a lot of incredible feuding about the layout of the studio. All I remember is, we worked on it and worked on it. Dave and I fought tooth and nail about how it would be laid out. I laid it out my way?longways. There was a lot of muttering about how there wouldn't be enough space. I said, "The cameras are on wheels, let the cameras roll to the scenery and not the other way." One day just out of the blue, Lorne comes by and says, "Hey, we've got to go upstairs." And I went with him, and we took the model of the set up to whoever - I think it was Herb Schlosser. We laid it on the coffee table. And Lorne hadn't said much about any of this. But he explained it perfectly to Schlosser. He was like brilliant! I mean really, no kidding. I was knocked out. He said, "This thing goes here, and the camera moves here, and it all stretches around this great big environment." And after that, money didn't seem to be a problem.