Thursday, October 2, 2014

On Call, Vol. 3, No. 1 - From the Hospital Security Camera Department: The Photography of St. Elsewhere "The Amazing Gunters"

From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, volume 3, number 1, June, 1999.

Marvin, Rick - 1983
Go back and watch re-runs of most TV shows produced prior to 1982 and you'll notice something missing...camera movement. It was the great irony of television, a medium designed to replace radio with "moving images", became reliant on and complacent with generally static images edited together, or scenes switched live using a series of static cameras. To a large extent, St. Elsewhere helped to change all of that, and pave the way for the now expected, continuous handheld shot sequences, such as we see on ER. The story of how this change evolved is due in no small part to one particular family.

* * * * *

Rick Gunter served as the camera operator on St. Elsewhere from the very beginning, and continued in one capacity or another throughout the entire run of the series. At first he worked under Director of Photography, John McPherson. McPherson brought years of experience to the set, and worked well with the young Rick.

On Call, Vol. 3, No. 1 - News of Cast and Crew

From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, volume 3, number 1, June, 1999.

ED BEGLEY just completed a run of two new David Mamet plays in L.A., and several appearances on the WB's Seventh Heaven.

BILL & BONNIE DANIELS' characters tied the know on the season finale of Boy Meets World, and will return to the ABC show this Fall.

Fontana, ON CALL publisher Longworth 
TOM FONTANA along with partner Barry Levinson is bringing two new series to television: Hardwood, a basketball drama for Showtime, and The Beat, for the UPN. Tom also participated in a seminar at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York in May. Joining him on the panel were Dick Wolf, Steven Bochco, David Kelley, Marshall Herskovitz, and Edward Zwick. ON CALL publisher Jim Longworth was also on hand to do research for his new book which will include chapters on the six participants. Many thanks to MTR president Robert Batscha and David Bushman for an historic two days.

STEPHEN FURST is performing voice-overs for Disney including for The Little Mermaid, Part 2. He is also set to direct a sci-fi film Yogsuth. Stephen's son Nathan just completed scoring the film Baby Huey.

SAGAN LEWIS ... ends her Arizona sabbatical where she has been raising her son, and is returning to L.A. to be available for acting work. Welcome back!

ELLEN BRY MASIUS, a supermom herself, just participated in the 600 mile California Aids Ride which last year raised $10 million. FYI - John Tinker's wife Lori Mezullo also participated in the charity event. Ellen is also ready to dedicate some of her time to more acting duties.

JOHN MASIUS's new hit NBC show Providence is a shoe-in for an Emmy nomination.

DAVID MORSE will appear with Tom Hanks in Stephen King's thriller The Green Mile, slated for release this Fall.

CHRISTINA PICKLES has landed a spot on Fox's new family drama Get Real, in which she plays her favorite role - a Mom! The new series is getting great notices from early previews.

JOHN TINKER and his staff participated in an historic event. Earlier this year, Chicago Hope became the first CBS drama to shoot an episode in HDTV.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Howie Mandel recalls St. Elsewhere on David Letterman

Video of Howie Mandel, a.k.a. Dr. Wayne Fiscus, discussing St. Elsewhere on a recent episode of The Late Show with David Letterman.

Check it out--on Howie Mandel's recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman (I didn't see it, but from the date of the video, it was probably Monday night), Dave brings up how Howie broke through as a television actor. After guessing "Hill House Blues", Howie reminds him that the show was St. Elsewhere, and that he played a doctor, not a cop. He mentions how Denzel Washington got his start on the program, and then launches into an impressive recollection of the E.R. treatment for a gunshot wound to the chest:


Thursday, August 7, 2014

On Call, Vol. 3, No. 1 - Personnel Profile: Howie Mandel - "Prankster and Pathfinder"


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, volume 3, number 1, June, 1999.

"YUCK, YUCK, CANUCK"

Canadian Ham Mandel
In baseball jargon, a "triple threat" is someone who can run, throw, and hit. In the entertainment world that would be anyone who excels on stage, in films, and on television (hats off to Rita Moreno). But there's no catchphrase to describe Howie Mandel. He's a stand-up comic, a comedic film actor, a dramatic television actor, a producer, a voice-over talent, a writer, and, he's been a talk show host. In fact, the only show biz gig he hasn't done is Opera, and if asked, he could probably do that too. Yet with all of this talent, don't look for one, defining moment in his early life at which point he knew what path to take. Mandel's is a life full of quirky twists and turns - each of them leading him down a multi-faceted career path and us to discover why he is truly one of the most gifted performers of his generation.

Howie Mandel was born in Toronto, Canada to Albert and Evy Mandel. His father, now deceased, was a lighting salesman and his mom a real estate agent. He has a brother Steve who is three years his junior.

HOWIE MANDEL ... "I had a great upbringing, a normal, middle-class, Canadian suburban upbringing. Once a year we would drive down to Florida and I would sit for three days of driving, and my parents would sit things between me and my brother so we wouldn't smack each other. And that was the extent of our family outings."

Unfortunately, Howie's parents couldn't monitor his actions 24 hours a day, and, as a result, his career as a student turned prankster was legendary, with his having attended (and subsequently been asked to leave) a myriad of schools, including Don Mills Collegiate, North View Heights, and York Mills Collegiate where he once hired a contractor over the phone to build an addition onto the school library. The contractor showed up and commenced work until halted by an irate Principal.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

St. Elsewhere featured in PBS's Pioneers of TV: Doctors and Nurses

St. Elsewhere gets a nod in a PBS retrospective on medical dramas airing Tuesday, April 22.

Richard Chamberlain on the set of Dr. Kildare.
Fans of classic TV medical dramas are in for a treat this week. PBS.org's page on the upcoming program Doctors and Nurses includes a few paragraphs on St. Elsewhere. Check it out!

There's a video preview there as well, but I have to assume that it is only viewable in the United States (where I do not live). If it contains any bits on St. Elsewhere, feel free to remark upon it in the comments thread.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Call, Vol. 3, No. 1 - From the Hospital Review Board: Romance, Nepotism and Fraternization at St. Elsewhere


From On Call: The Official Newsletter of the St. Elsewhere Appreciation Club, volume 3, number 1, June, 1999.

From the early days of soap operas, hospitals have provided the perfect venue for the art of love, with doctors and nurses proving that they really could "operate" while on duty. In the 1960's, Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey prescribed raging hormones for prime time, and they were followed by '70s hunks Chad Everett (Medical Center) and James Brolin (Marcus Welby). Today, love in the TV hospital is commonplace, as romantic relationships offer us a more rounded view of characters in shows like Chicago Hope and ER.

But it was St. Elsewhere in the 1980s that elevated medical drama libidos to a new high. Nearly every member of the St. Elsewhere ensemble became romantically involved, and many did so several times. The irony is that St. Elsewhere was and still is the model for how television dramas deal with serious, topical issues, and the model for how those issues are advanced primarily inside the four walls of a hospital. Christina Pickles used to hear from fans that St. Elsewhere was "only good when the characters stayed in the hospital." Yet, Tom Fontana, John Masius and the gang managed to fill each season with sex (either direct or implied) that helped to better define the characters and give them deeper meaning to the motivations behind their actions. Speaking with ON CALL publisher Jim Longworth for his upcoming book, Above the Line: Conversations with TV's Top Producers, Tom Fontana explained his approach to character development.

TOM FONTANA ... "Every character that I create, I create three parts to him or her. One is the mind, one is the heart, and one is (for lack of a better word) the genitalia. In other words, what do they think about? What makes them weep and laugh, and what makes them want to make love? That is universal whether they're doctors, cops, criminals, or my Aunt Tilly."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

YouTube Playlist - The Ski Mask Rapist

Watch the saga of Peter White on YouTube with this convenient playlist.

Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) shows us how not to behave
towards our colleagues.
I've been quite busy lately in my personal life, and unfortunately, this has meant that I haven't had time to devote to publishing new posts here on The St. Elsewhere Experience. This business has also halted the flow of new YouTube clips for the time being.

So if you haven't stumbled across this already, here is a link to a YouTube playlist with all the videos thus far posted in my latest video series, The Ski Mask Rapist:

St. Elsewhere - The Ski Mask Rapist YouTube Playlist

I was expecting a lot more negative comments on these videos, like there were when the whole season two episodes were up on YouTube. I think when you string it all together, White actually comes across somewhat sympathetic--to a point. Anyway, your opinions are welcome in the comments threads!





Monday, February 3, 2014

The Ski Mask Rapist, Parts 1 & 2

St. Elsewhere got nice and dark with this season two storyline--a serial rapist stalks St. Eligius.

Dr. Peter White (Terence Knox) lends an unwanted hand to
Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry).
In my previous video post, Peter White's Downfall, the disgraced doctor (Terence Knox) had been censured--stripped of his license to prescribe drugs after being bamboozled by an undercover police officer in the E.R. His testimony protected Nurse Shirley Daniels (Ellen Bry) from punishment, but the price he paid was stiff: he's been transferred to pathology, his career prospects have been curtailed, and his permanent record is forever marred.

The season two episode "Drama Center" (aired February 15, 1984) opens in the St. Eligius parking lot. A woman is having trouble starting her car in the cold weather when a man in a ski mask appears at her window, offering to help. She declines, but he reappears at the other window and smashes it.

The woman, Roxanne Reid (Allyn Ann McLerie), enters the E.R. reporting a broken wrist. When Dr. Wayne Fiscus (Howie Mandel) tries to take her for x-rays, she confides that she was raped as well, and Dr. Annie Cavanero (Cynthia Sikes) examines her. As she recovers and is visited by a social worker (Jenny O'Hara), she seems to be handling the ordeal remarkably well, despite her husband's discomfort. But at night, she is plagued by nightmares of the assault. Ms. Reid benefits from a therapy session where she works through her trauma.

Elsewhere, Dr. Peter White visits the emergency room and snaps into action when an unconscious man is carried in. While Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) and Nurse Daniels treat the patient, Peter, the former E.R. physician, pitches in to help, even though he's not allowed to. When they remind him of his restricted status, he grabs Shirley's arm, angry over being stuck in the morgue, and reminds her of the favor he did for her. Later, Peter's friend, Dr. Jack Morrison (David Morse), visits him in his new digs. Peter is bitter, and not appreciative of the support. And he has resumed his addiction to painkillers.

  • This episode was included in the VHS collection The Very Best of St. Elsewhere.
  • For me, I will always identify Allyn Ann McLerie with her role as Carmen Carlson, wife of General Manager Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati. I've been a fan of Jenny O'Hara since her role on Beverly Hills 90210 as the grieving mother of accidental suicide victim Scott Scanlan.
  • Jack asks Peter for the Spelling autopsy.
In the next episode, "Attack" (aired February 22, 1984), Peter is performing an autopsy in the morgue with his more experienced colleague in pathology, the flaky vixen Dr. Cathy Martin (Barbara Whinnery), ignoring her spiel about the benefits of Tibetan ginseng. Peter's skills are in need of work, and when his drug-fuelled clumsiness results in the destruction of her IPG stains, Cathy gets upset with him for ruining six weeks of work. But the compassionate Dr. Martin can't help but notice that something is off with Dr. White, who fidgets nervously and says he's fine.

Dr. Victor Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) returns from his honeymoon and is shocked to learn from Nurse Lucy Papandrao (Jennifer Savidge) that a woman was raped in the parking lot and another was grabbed on the way to the elevated train, but got away. Later, a young candy-striper (Amy Resnick) nervously approaches Nurse Helen Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) and breaks into tears as she describes how a man lured her into a supply closet--the ski-mask rapist has struck again.

The ski mask rapist picks his moment.
Director of Medicine Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders) orders the hospital locked down and hires extra security to interrogate visitors like City official Joan Halloran (Nancy Stafford), who wants to hire undercover cops to pose as orderlies. In the cafeteria, Rosenthal, Dr. Jackie Wade (Sagan Lewis), and Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori) debate whether they should fight back if attacked. Wade has seen too many women beaten up for resisting, while Armstrong wants to fight back, as she has read that women who fight back are less likely to be depressed afterwards. Rosenthal doesn't want to rearrange her life and give away her power.

The female staff are treated to a rape prevention meeting from the security consultant, who advises the women not to "get hysterical". They are not assured by his statistics about the unlikeliness of being murdered or the airhorns he hands out to them for protection. Cathy Martin, on the other hand, feels that her aura will protect her--rapists seek out victims, and she doesn't project a "victim aura".

Dr. Wayne Fiscus tries to help out by organizing an escort service for the women at the hospital, but Dr. Annie Cavanero points out the flaw in the plan--"how do you know you haven't signed up the rapist?"

Nurse Shirley Daniels has obtained a license to carry a can of mace for self-protection. When she enters a secure prescription drug storage room, she hears noises and springs into action when a man rushes at her from the shadows. The attacker, however, turns out to be merely a thief who picked the wrong drug closet on the wrong day, and he is charged only with criminal trespassing, to Shirley's dismay.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter White  is not having a good night. We join him as he fails to perform with a prostitute at a seedy motel, and he explains that it was the night of his wedding anniversary, and he and Myra were all set to go out and have a good time when their kids started acting up, triggering the same fight they always have--Myra feels Peter is too lenient on the children and he feels she's too hard on them. He expresses his frustration with family life and leaves.

Back at St. Eligius, Dr. Cathy Martin is at work in the morgue when a ski-masked face appears at the window. The assailant enters, and despite Cathy's aura, he advances on her. In the struggle, she pulls off the ski mask and reveals the identity of the rapist--Dr. Peter White. The clip cuts off the ending, but after she pulls off the mask, he threatens, "If you tell anyone, I'll kill you." Roll credits.


  • To keep the clips shorter, I decided not to include the "red herring" storyline. In "Drama Center", Dr. Annie Cavanero is dating Dr. Christopher Rant (Michael Goodwin), the moonlighting physician who dumped an indigent patient on St. Eligius in "A Pig Too Far". At Annie's place, Chris won't take no for an answer, and Annie has to fight him off with a face slap. In "Attack", we see Annie enter the rape prevention seminar--she has just had one last fight with Chris, who was getting grabby again, and left with a "to hell with you." Goodwin has a similar build and height to Terence Knox, and both characters kept grabbing women forcefully, so the guy in the ski mask looked like it could have been either of them.
  • "That's why lions sleep in trees." I always enjoyed the show's dark humor. I hope rape prevention lectures are delivered with a bit more sensitivity nowadays.
  • Wendy intends to fight back because she's heard that victims are less depressed afterwards if they resist. This is some pretty brutal foreshadowing, as we shall see.
  • Some even more brutal and amazing foreshadowing--Wayne says to Jack about the panic that has gripped the women at St. Eligius, "I guess we'll never know what the women are going through." In season four, Jack gets raped while doing community outreach work at a prison, and is then stalked by the assailant after he is released in season five.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Classic 1980s TV: Cynthia Sikes vs. Heather Locklear on Battle of the Network Stars

Video of Cynthia Sikes, who played St. Elsewhere's Dr. Annie Cavanero, taking on Heather Locklear on Battle of the Network Stars in 1983.

Cynthia Sikes, Heather Locklear, and Howard Cosell
Here's some quintessential 1970s-80s nostalgia--remember Battle of the Network Stars? Television stars from CBS, ABC and NBC would compete for network television supremacy in physical challenges. Someone has graciously preserved several clips of these contests on YouTube.

St. Elsewhere is represented in the following video clip by Cynthia Sikes, who played Dr. Annie Cavanero in the show's first three seasons. She takes on a young Heather Locklear in the obstacle course, with a play-by-play and post-contest interview conducted by legendary ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell:


Sikes falls behind after the monkey bars, but Locklear, then 22 and starring on T.J. Hooker, stumbles after clearing the wall and loses her lead. Sikes pulls away after this misstep, and Locklear can't compete with Sikes's long, graceful stride. Victory to NBC!

And as a bonus, here are two clips of Mark Harmon, Dr. Bobby Caldwell himself, representing his pre-St. Elsewhere series, the prime-time soap Flamingo Road (which also featured Sikes in a recurring role). In both clips, Harmon, the former starter on UCLA's football team, demonstrates his prowess on the obstacle course. In December 1981, he dominates against Falcon Crest's Lorenzo Lamas, and in the second, from May 1982, he sets an event record against Dynasty's John James. Cosell is in fine form, especially in describing the agony of Lamas, who injures himself.