Saturday, April 9, 2011

Climbing Angel’s Landing On Live TV

In 1978, for the first time ever, ABC’s Wide World of Sports showed two people climbing Angel’s Landing on live TV. Here’s the story as told by one of the technical support crew. In those days, they had to rig coax cable up the entire route so they could use TV cameras. Because the live broadcast was ending soon and the climbers hadn’t reached the top yet, they started to hurry the climbing. Which resulted in a long leader fall.

“George Willig [the lead climber] was obviously aware of the programming time crunch and was charging hard to make the summit when he slipped and free fell about thirty-five feet.

Always the professional, Mike Hoover [the cameraman] had George dead center of his lens when he fell. Mike‘s camera followed him perfectly for the entire length of his dramatic plummet!

Steve’s belay held and George was OK.

The entire country, and who know many people all around the world, were watching these two men risking their lives thousands of feet from the ground and they had just witnessed their new hero fall through mid air!

When Jim McKay, the  renowned sports announcer announced to the world viewing audience, ‘ Stay tuned for ABC ‘s coverage of the NFL Football game,’ the phones lines  at ABC headquarters  were jammed with angry viewers  demanding that they continue the broadcast.

I remember the call coming in over our video monitors to Larry Cam, the executive producer of the show. It was the president of ABC Broadcasting saying, ‘Forget the sponsors Larry, and Keep those cameras rolling until George and Steve are safely on the summit! This is going to cost “Us” Millions, but, our ratings are through the roof!’

Everyone on our production team’s jaw dropped in utter disbelief!  This had never been done for any sporting event that Wide World Of Sports had covered, even the Olympics!

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