Throwback: Joel E. Rubin on Lighting
November 25, 2019
As our 60th anniversary draws closer and closer, we have been exploring the vault and discovering gems from the past. This interview took place in May of 2001. Below you'll read the transcript of the interview given by Marshall Spiller while he talks all things lighting with USITT founder Joel E. Rubin.
*Please note: Some dialogue has been cut for flow and length.
Marshall Spiller: Will you start off by telling us how you got interested in the theatre?
Joel Rubin: I was doing a shadow play in Elementary School, and I had to go over to the Junior High School, whence was my brother, who was on the stage crew, and so I got a conducted tour of the Junior High School stage, because in the Elementary School, we only had a platform at one end of the, of the Gymnasium, I believe. With chairs that had to be brought out for events, all that kind of stuff, we all know those. And I, somehow, took to the stage thereafter. And lighting in particular, because the effects of the shadow play, on this projection screen, were quite amazing to my young 5th Grade eyes. That’s how I got started.
Well I know that you ended up at Yale. What came between the 5th Grade and Yale?
Besides puberty, you mean? Well, let’s see what was happening. So, then I went in to Junior High School, and I was on the stage crew for three years. At that point, I decided that I wanted to pull the curtain more than to be an “ac-tor,”...
Where, where was this, by the way?
Cleveland Heights, Ohio. And, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was a rather famous open-air theatre, called Cane Park Theatre, famous, particularly among people who worked in the educational theatre, because its leader had been Dr. Dinah Rees-Evans, who was one of the first women, probably the first woman Doctor of the Theatre, from the State University of Iowa, under George Maybee(?), under Edward Maybee(?). And Diana ran this 3000 seat, open-air theatre, doing ten musicals and straight plays every summer, over a 10-week course, on a proscenium that was 80’ wide, and with full audiences, and she brought in all of the possible talent that she could possibly bring in, now, the people she knew were people of the educational theatre: Lee Mitchell, of Northwestern University, Lee Adee(?), this one, that one. There were, almost everyone who became—Bill Halstead(?)—anyone who became a Department Head, in an educational theatre, almost anywhere in the United States, sooner or later, came through the Cane Park Theatre. It was a great introduction, for me, because it was during World War II, all the men had disappeared, they were very happy to have us boys around, building scenery by the mile, and doing whatever chores had to be done. So I really apprenticed there, starting about the age 13, 14. So, that was a kind of continuum. Then came the end of World War II, I was ready to enter college, I went to Case, what was then called “Case School of Applied Science,” I got an Engineering Degree, it was obvious that Illuminating Engineering was going to be my passion, so that was what the degree was—we had a wonderful guy there, by the name of Russ Putnam, was a great mentor, and he carried me on to further educational activity, so, it was inevitable, you know, life moved from one question to another with my barely doing a thing, sopping up knowledge and having these wonderful mentors—Dinah Rees-Evans, Case Inst—Case School of Applied Science. And, at some point, at Case, I realized that I knew nothing about Theatre History and Theatre Drama, and went to, applied to Yale, as an engineer, and George Isenour was absolutely anxious to have me there, Ed Call was absolutely anxious to have me there, Stanley McCandless was anxious to have me there, so entrance into Yale was just very easy, and that’s where I met Lee Watson. Tharon Musser was also in our class, along with a bunch of other people.
Chuck Levy, oh, thank you, yes, Chuck Levy, of course. And Lee and I both did two years of the three-year course at Yale, because we opted out basically of all of the first year, except for History of the Theatre (garbled), which everybody had to take, because we took all of the exams for the other courses (laughs)—it was clear it would have been a waste of everyone’s time to make us go through all of that. So, two years later, we were out on the street. I went to Stanford, because Russ Putnam at Case said, “There’s a great guy out there in Stanford, Leland Brown, who’s a great Illuminating Engineer, if you want to really continue to study in this field, you ought to.” So I wrote to Leland Brown, and he said,” Oh, it’s no problem, I’ll be happy to see if we can’t get you admitted to Stanford, in Graduate School,” And Dinah, Rees-Evans, had a friend Don Linbigler(?), who had come through Iowa with her, who was the Registrar, so Dinah wrote a letter. I mean, for people who have to sweat getting into colleges, I must tell you I don’t have that experience. So, Dinah wrote a letter,
All it took was money.
It wasn’t even very much money. I mean, Yale was—Yale and Case and Stanford together, were, I think, less than I payed for any of my kids subsequently,so, in a year, so…So, in any case, that was, by the time I graduated from Stanford, I finished my PhD and University Orals, and then came the writing of the dissertation. And the writing of the dissertation, I picked for my subject: The Development of Stage Lighting Technology in the United States, and, I think the years were 1900-1950, and I needed to do research, and where better that the great city of New York? How better, because you’re broke, you need to work. Now, guess who the great—if you knew Stanley McCandless, and Stanley McCandless was one of your mentors, and Stanley McCandless was at Century Lighting, where would you go first knock on the door? Century Lighting. Stanley was very cordial, he took my wife and myself out to dinner, and he said, “Tomorrow, ten o’clock, Ed Kook, Edward F. Kook will be waiting for you.” And at ten o’clock, Edward F. Kook ushered me into his office. What was his secretary’s name? She was with him for years—I can’t tell you, lovely lady, ah, she was so wonderful, and she greeted me, and I said, “Oh boy, really great, “and we sat down, we started to talk, and I don’t think I’ve told this to anyone, ever: Edward F. Kook said to me, “You know, Joel, Stanley McCandless is getting old, and he’s less useful than in earlier years, and I need to replace him. I look upon you as his replacement.” And I said to myself, “Now, this is very strange. Here the man knows that Stanley is my mentor, I’m here because of Stanley, he’s either testing me, or he’s really mad.” I said, “Mr. Kook, I count Professor McCandless as one of my great benefactors and great friends, and if you are serious about what you just said, I don’t think I want to work for you.” And I walked out the door.
Next day, I get a call from George Isenour, who says, “You walked out on Kook, “and I said to George, “Now, look, George, I know you and Stanley were not the best of friends, but I’m going to tell you why I did it.” And George said, “Well, I understand that.” Next day, I walked over to Kliegl Lighting, and Herb Kliegl—I had been corresponding with Ed Kook, I had been corresponding with Herb Kliegl, I was a great collector of catalogues, you know, all that stuff, so they all knew me. And George Gill(?), has that name come up, George Gill had just left Kliegl, as head of the Television Department, and Burt Moore(?) was taking over. But, Burt Moore had been doing some of the Theatre Lighting sales, so there was a place, and a desk, so Herb Kliegl said, “Well, yes, we’d like very much, we’re glad you walked in the door.” So, if George Gill had not walked out, the previous week…
It was the right time.
I think, probably, I never would have worked for Kliegl, and I would have had to go back to Ed Kook, and say, “I’m sure you didn’t mean what you said, sir, “(laughs). But at the point that I entered Kliegl this would be, oh, October, 1954. I think this book had just been published, a book called “Theatrical Lighting Practice, “which I wrote with Lee Watson. And we did that when we were both at Yale, because we were bored.
I was going to ask you what was the purpose, was there a purpose behind it?
Well, you see, as young lighting students, we were anxious to see us have a bloody future out there, so we said, “ Well, we’ll do some research, “so, in the course of doing the research, you know, we had enough research done to write a book. Now, I knew a lot about Opera lighting, I knew a lot about Ballet lighting, Lee knew quite a lot about dramatic Theatre lighting. I had been working in the open-airs and in the arena, Lee had not, at that point, so the information that’s in that book, really came out of the combined knowledge, neither of us could have written it alone at that point. But, in any case, the real reason it got written was because we had nothing better to do.
You were friends, and you were both in New Haven at the time, and then, later on, you were separated by distance?
Well, because, well, I was as Stanford, so we were actually finishing the book, I was at Stanford, Lee was in New York, starting his profession, and his professional start was due to Edward F. Kook, who, basically got him his first major job. And, which, I think, was
You mean a show?
Yes. Which I think was—got him one of his early jobs, was Diary of Ann Frank, it was the one that got Lee any professional attention. And that was Lee’s interest, he wanted to light on Broadway. I never had that particular desire. OK, so, in any case, there I was in New York, trying to earn enough money, on what I thought was a temporary job, to write, do my research on my doctoral dissertation. Well, I got really interested in this job of lighting equipment. To be there at the source, was kind of wonderful. Kliegl, in 1954, Kliegl Brothers Universal Electric Stage Lighting Co., Inc, was, in 1954, was about 58 years old. It, of its pedigree, it had the longest of any of the companies then in business. It was started by John and Anton Kliegl—you probably have some of this from other people who have been at Kliegl—and who came over in the great blizzard of 1894, bought a company called “Universal Electric Stage Lighting,” took it over, changed the name to “Kliegl Bros. Universal Electric Stage Lighting,” in about 1900. I think the first catalogue with the Kliegl name on it is 1900 or 1902. And the old gentleman, John H. Kliegl, the first, was still alive, he was in his mid-80’s, in 1954. I think he died about 1959. He had every bit of his wit and wisdom, at, in those 80’s. If you went to him,and you’d say, “Mr. Kliegl, I have a client that wants a so-and-so, perhaps it’s a lamp that would have a flame torch, that was not in the catalogue any more, “ he’d say,” Ja, Rubin, I look it up for you, “and he would come back, and he had a whole series of pattern books, on his desk, a rolltop desk, in about five minutes, he’d point to something the Kliegls had made, in 1923, 1928, didn’t make any difference, he’d found it, he had a way of finding the stuff, he’d say, “Ja, all $3.90, that price is not any good, I give you new price, $23.80,” you know, (laughs), he could do that, day after day. Had all these special effects. They were still painting disks, by hand, up on the 3rd Floor, when I arrived at Kliegl. There was a fabulous guy, who headed the shop for instruments, who headed the testing of the hop for instruments, called Adolph Kirchner(?), he was the successor to Rudy Kuntner, Rudy Kuntner was the Chief Electrician of the Metropolitan Opera, straight out of Kliegl to the Met, been, I don’t know, mid-40’s, I think. Adolph Kirchner taught me more about lighting instruments and how to align ellipsoidal reflectors, and what real quality was, than anyone I ever met before or since. He absolutely knew his subject, just backwards and forwards.
What sort of work did the Kliegls do in Europe before they came to the United States?
They were tinsmiths in Bad Kissinga(?), which, I think, is Austria, actually. It may be southern Germany. But they, they, subsequently, as they gained money, endowed a High School, built a central Plaza, called, I suppose to this day, “Kliegl Plaza—Klieglplatz.” Anton died in 1928, and by the time John’s family, John and his family bought out Anton’s interest, and John had two or three kids, one of whom was Herbert Kliegl, who was an Operating President when I joined the firm in 1954. Another mentor, an absolutely marvelous man, a real human being,a gentleman, no bigotry, no prejudice. If you were an Austrian, or a German with a background, very Catholic, and to have, you’ll pardon my saying this, probably the first Jew, I may have been the only Jew ever on staff—but I never, never, never during 30 years, pardon me, 20 years that he was there, ever felt the slightest prejudice, or handicap, in any way. That—I started to tell you, John Kliegl I, always had this marvelous sense of humor, and I came up the back hallone day, and he was doing pushups—he was probably 85 or 86, I said, “Mr. Kliegl,” wagging my finger at him, “at your age?” And he got up, and he said, and he wagged his finger back, he said, “Wouldn’t do you any harm either, young man.”
And I always thought that was so right. Any case, the Kliegls had, they has a building that had been self-built for them in 1928, and, to the left of it, and to the right of it, on 50th St., opposite Madison Square Garden, what was then Madison Square Garden, they had a Brownstone on either side that they also owned. And those Brownstones were not production areas, they were storage areas. Now, imagine this: You’re writing your doctoral dissertation on The History of Stage Lighting Technology From 1900-1950, and you start going through those Brownstones, and what’s in there? Well, there are the silk color screens that David Belasco used in the 1902 production of Madame Butterfly. There are carbon arc sources, there are 1902 and 1904 Edison lamp sources, there’s this whole history that John H. Kliegl I had saved, and savored, and maintained—Wirt(?) dimmers and sand-filled dimmers, early Ward-Leonard dimmers, early Cutler-Hammer(?) dimmers, it was all there! Absolutely, totally amazing. But it was kind of scattered through the Brownstones.
So, what finally happened to all that stuff?
Well, and this is the sad—here’s the sad thing: when the company moved, in 1962, out to Long Island City, the next President, he wasn’t President then, John H. Kliegl II, decided that this was all garbage—and sent it off to the dump. Now, if I had never collected it, probably some of it would have arrived out in Long Island City and could have been salvaged. And I’ve always kicked myself that I had managed to pull all this stuff together and started to identify it and photograph it, and all that stuff, because, if I had never done any of it, it would still be around somewhere. I did a lighting demonstration in front of The American Society of Theatre Historians, using a bunch of this stuff, in fact, reproducing, probably for the first time in 60 years, the David Belasco coloring effects for the end of Act II and the beginning of Act III of Madame Butterfly. I mean, if you can imagine being ably to reproduce that with the original equipment—
But you couldn’t do it now.
I’d have no way to do it now. It’s all gone—if you said “silk color screen” to someone, they’d have no idea what you’re talking about. So, so much for, so I think that’s one thing that, if John H. Kliegl II ever arrives in Heaven, that the Good Lord is going to say, “How could you have possibly been so stupid? That you are stupid is one thing, but that you could possibly have been so stupid to throw out history, is quite amazing, Mr.Kliegl. I don’t think you have a place here.”
Well, Ed Kook did that also.
Well, we’d just consigned John H. Kliegl II to some good end, someday, after throwing away a lot of, among other things,
Well, that’s all right, that happened at Century Lighting also,
A lot of stuff…
That’s sad, really sad. Well, but no, a lot of the Century stuff went to Pennsylvania State, whereas, when I tried to send stuff, from Kliegl, to the same place, with, what is is, Bill Allison was out there
Well, I tried to do that, everyone kept saying, “Oh, no, no, no—we have an anniversary, you know, we’ll be 100 years old in ten years, let’s save it, and we’ll have a big exhibit, it’ll be a whole 100-year history of Kliegl, “but, in fact, I was the only one who had any real interest. So, let’s see, what happened? So, at Kliegl, we got through John H. Kliegl I, wonderful gentleman, just wonderful gentleman—he had a lunch table at the restaurant that was probably two doors down from Kliegl, called “Mullen’s(?)” or “Muller’s,” Muller’s, I guess, and that lunch table was his, whether he showed up or not, but he did show up, normally. And, about once every two weeks, one of us would get invited to join him for lunch. And that was just—it was a wonderful experience, because he was this guy who made a family out of his employees. And he really did. So it was a wonderful, wonderful atmosphere to, when you’re relatively young, to feel this kind of kinship that the Kliegls really brought to, I guess maybe employees, I don’t know if everyone got there, but I know every couple of weeks, I was at lunch.
What sort of work were you doing at Kliegl, particularly, when you first came there?
So, let’s see what was happening. Basically I was—remember that Kliegl was kind of a hand shop, as probably Century was in those days. We had a line, it was published in the catalogue, that people always wanted specials. Kliegl’s forte was the Ellipsoidal Reflector Spotlight, which, to this day, I insist they were first presenters of to the world, and—in spite of what other people may tell you or may have already put on record—fresnel-lens spotlights, and we had patch panels and roto-lecters(?), all of which you can read about in my excellent dissertation, called “The Technical Development of Stage Lighting Apparatus in the United States From 1900-1950”—Stanford University microfilms, and I guess they’re still at Ann Arbor, at some price per copy, or you can touch one of the originals at one of the Stanford University libraries. In any case, five years, six years went on, 1960 was the cutoff date for getting this dissertation completed. So, about six weeks short of the deadline, I took off about six weeks, and did my bit, and dashed out this dissertation. Well, I’d been doing research on and off, but it seriously got collated and worked on and bibliographies formed and all that. And I’ll just tell you one little anecdote, and that is in those days, 1960, you must remember, there was no such thing as word processors or computers that would have been available on the level of a graduate student seeking a degree, so the dissertation was hand-typed, and we had a gal who was in the Illuminating Engineering Society, she was the Secretary to Cash Crouch, the Technical Director, and her name was Janet Anthony, and, for $165.00, Janet Anthony typed and did drafts of my various dissertation drafts and typed the final draft, and I sent it out to Stanford, where my lead Professor, Leland Brown, read it, and he said,” Joel, marvelous job.” And Hubert Heifner, who was head of the Department of Drama read it, and said, “Joel, it’s a marvelous job.” And Paul Landry, who was the young Technical Director, he’s now a theatre consultant, still is, read it, he had his Masters Degree, I don’t think he ever got his Doctorate, he read it, and he said, “It needs pictures, and you have to change a few of these texts(?), because I don’t agree with some of your interpretations.” Well, he did it so early in the damned book I don’t think he ever got past page six, (laughs), everything had to be retyped. So, he cost me $165.00 again for retyping, which I certainly did not have, and which I resent to this day. But I never tried to collect it from him. And I did not end up with pictures, because I just couldn’t afford it.
But pictures would have been nice.
Pictures, aw, pictures, in retrospect, they would have been.
I wish you could get back to that now.
Yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some spare time? So, in any case, life at Kliegl went rolling merrily on—the highlights, what are the highlights—in 1960, Bob Langer, who became part of Langer, Hamill , Engleton, no, Langer, Hamill, and something, during the second World’s Fair, in NY in the mid-Sixties, was the lead designer and developer of Kliegl apparatus, and Bob Langer rode the train from Stamford, CT, and he happened to ride, next to him was a guy from GE, who held up this little device, called a “silcon controlled rectifier,” and he said,” Bob, there’s a great future in this, this stuff can control current, it’s really wonderful, it’s easy to do.” So Bob Langer brought a bunch of these into Kliegl, and they proceeded to design a dimmer, and this first dimmer had no choke, and we packaged it in a kind of cube, and did a wonderful, beautiful brochure that said, “4 Kw in the palm of your hand, “with a hand holding up this thing, you know. In 1960, there was a trade show called, I think, “The International Lighting Exposition,” at the New York Coliseum, and Kliegl took a booth, and Century Lighting took a booth, and Ward Leonard took a booth, and what was the company—do you know the name Charles Shevlin—Metropolitan Electric—Charles Shevlin with Metropolitan took a booth, and all for of us had SCR dimmers. All bloody prototypes, no one had ever really run a light on one of these things, except for the first time, at this exposition. And so we were constantly, and this was happening to everybody, except for Shevlin, and I’ll tell you why in a minute, everyone was running into problems because you turn the thing on in the wrong part of the cycle and the rectifier would blow. (Laughs.) So, at one point, I know that Dave Stafford, who was one of our engineers, would take the module out of the dimmer bank, and he’d run into the bathroom and go change the rectifiers, and he looks under the stall one day, and there’s the equivalent guy from Century doing exactly the same thing (laughs). So, they compared notes, (laughs), and a good time was had by all. That was a high point, and the introduction of tungsten halogen lamps was another great highpoint. Then came the Metropolitan Opera, the building of Lincoln Center, the Los Angeles Music Center, and here we were at Kliegl—basically, Century dominated the Broadway market, and those parts of the other market that felt they were drawing juices from Broadway, but I didn’t know anything about Broadway, really. Ed Kook certainly had it sewn up, but I looked around, and I said to Herb Kliegl, “I know a lot about the educational theatre, and I have a lot of friends there, because of the way Diana Rees-Evans brought all these people through Cane Park, so I went around to probably every educational theatre in the United States, and Kliegl—I think within 3,4,5 years, in 1960, we dominated that market. So that we were doing almost every plant, every educational theatre plant where the guys at the plant, where the people on the site had any call upon what got bought and purchased, and that became an enormous market for Kliegl.
What else was going on?
Well, it’s hard to remember because it’s many years ago by now, isn’t it?
What else, you were going to mention about why Charles Shevlin didn’t
Ah, right, Charlie, yes when—Charles Shevlin never had this problem that all the rest of us were having, we didn’t understand why, so one night after the show closed, we opened up a little box, and that bloody SOB had a motor operating an auotransformer inside his box with a very quick motor on it, so it appeared to react quickly, so, so much for Charles Shevlin. I think he should go down in history as doing that kind of thing throughout his life.
Now, why, when these tinsmiths came to the United States, did they go into theatre lighting?
I think it was a business they could buy. I think it had nothing to do with any knowledge or aptitude. But remember the state of the industry—there was no lighting industry short of a few guys who bent sheet metal, some carbon arcs and follow spots,
So where could they sell all this?
Oh, what were the companies that existed, the ones with the pre-electric names, like the New York Calcium Light Company, and others, there were the Murray Bros., all of this stuff, they were all stagehands, basically, who looked around for—“I need a spotlight, I need a floodlight, where am I going to buy a floodlight? Oh, here’s one, here, I can make this, I don’t need a—it was, I think a lot of these companies started because stagehands needed light. Now there must have been, and there are, and I’m sure if I could remember my dissertation, I could tell you the names of a lot of these pre-electric places. But these guys were, I think, making and inventing, as needed, for a specific show. There’s a mono of David Belasco, remember an early director, producer, writer, and all that stuff, where he has his workshop and claims to have invented a lot of things, including making of spotlights, this that and the other. He claims the first baby spotlight, and all that stuff. John Kliegl told me, John Kliegl the First told me that, in fact, he was, he was listed in programs as the electrician for Belasco. He said, you know, that David was capable of writing about this stuff as though he had invented it himself, and we did have a workshop. But, in fact, you know David should have given a little credit, and he got more and more adamant as the years went on, about who had, who had done what, and these early David Belasco shows. The fact that he had the silk screens from Madame Butterfly was proof enough for me. In any case, John H. Kliegl became the Chief Electrician of the Metropolitan Opera in 1900, along with running half of Kliegl, along with his brother Anton, running Kliegl Brothers. And, I think he probably stayed Chief Electrician through 1906 or 1908, someone else would know that better, and during that time, the Met had had a fire, so they had to rebuild, and came the first of these interlocking resistance boards, and all of that that actually were one step up in grade from anything that had existed before. And all that stuff—there are still pictures—of that early switchboard that went into the Met, and of the striplights that were built, it was the first all-electric, no gas, in the 1902 renovation.
All right, tell us something about Kliegl and the development of electronic control consoles.
Let’s see, what year would that put us in, Marshall, that would put us in Fifties, Sixties, I suppose. Sixties, Sixties. It’s an interesting skip in time to—I’m trying to think of the first Kliegl, Kliegl, remember the first George Isenour had invented the 5-scene preset, yes, the 2-, 5-, and 10-scene presets, and they were well-publicized, Century picked them up, and it was clear they were running away with electronics, new, modern, kind of lighting control systems. And Kliegl had nothing of that kind. But they had a contact with Strand Electric in London, and Strand had invented a system, a guy the name of Woods, or “Woody,” as he was affectionately known, which was a 3-tube Thyratron system, basically putting DC back into the line. So we had a huge, whopping transformer, ahead of this thing that would try to cure the DC that was finely revolving around through the building. We could set off any clock system, we could set off any clock system that Simplex could invent. (Laughs) Just by pulsing the dimmers at the right time. So that Kliegtronic—we called it “Kliegtronic,” and it basically never got beyond 2-and 5-, and some 10-scene presets, it was clear that Century dominated that market. And then came—and that stuff started to get bells and whistles, Kliegl decided that we could never produce—well, George Isenour had invented this 5- and 10-scene preset stick, which was very cheap to produce. And Kliegl was still using individual potentiometers for these things, which were very expensive, so we decided we’d never be able to beat that, so we came up with what we called “grouping control,” which was, instead of having these dials in front of you, that no one electrician could possibly preset, because the second you used it, you had to go back and set the one before it again, so that you were constantly revolving and you got very sore fingers off these little red knobs, I remember. We invented grouping control where things got put on submasters, so basically, while we could have a couple of hundred dimmers, let’s say, in a very big installation, we would only have maybe 24 controls, we would group them onto these submasters, and you’d place submasters, let’s say, warm sidelights against cool sidelights, one side of the stage against another, front lights against backlights, whatever, whatever the pattern was, so that was our sales gimmick. And those submaster systems got installed at the Guthrie Theatre, and actually at the Juilliard, in its first incarnation, when Lincoln Center was created. So what I started to say, in 1960, all of a sudden, there was all this building that’s going to go on, it’s clear, the Los Angeles Music Center, Lincoln Center, were the first two, the big performing arts centers, built post-War in the United States, and, frankly, I was scared to death, we had no experience with the people who were working on them. But, as it turns out, they became Master Installations of Kliegl, as it turns out, because, at the New York State Theatre, Donald Oenslager wrote the specifications, they were written solidly for Century Lighting, T.F. Jackson was the contractor—came Christmas, T.F. Jackson was ready to buy the material, someone from Century, called Century, he said, “You guys are specified, I want someone over here so we can talk about price.” Century said, “We’re basically closed until after the first of the year.” Called Kliegl, [we] said, “Sure, we’ll be right over.” (Laughs) So it was a totally gratuitous order that we had no right to get, that just came our way,
No, it was The New York State Theatre. Now, what we found was we couldn’t fit what was specified into the tiny control room so, in fact, the New York State Theatre had a lot of grouping control as well before it was done. The Metropolitan Opera—we were specified on the stage lighting. Rudy Kuntner had taken a great liking to Steve Skirpan and what he was doing at Ward Leonard, I guess Ward Leonard, and so the dimming was destined to be Ward Leonard, we thought we were absolutely locked in place for the fixtures, but Ed Kook took Harry Fishback, who was the Electrical Contractor, around the block, I think he probably paid him some money, but that’s neither here nor there, here, privately, Harry Fishback, he said that Harry Fishback, “Are you going to—“, according to Ed Kook he told me this later, he said to Harry Fishback,” Are you gonna let these guys at Kliegl jostle you, are you going to accept their price, whatever price they give you I’ll go $25,000 less.”
So Harry Fishback ended up buying Century lighting fixtures, to my great dismay. New York Philharmonic, Richard Kelly, I don’t think Richard Kelly liked Century, or Ed Kook, really, and Richard Kelly did his best to make sure that Kliegl got the order for all the architectural lighting, and all the theatre lighting, such as it was, at the Philharmonic, except for the controls, which did go Century. Juilliard came around years later—the architect was Helga Westerman—who I was very friendly with, and I was actually doing the specifications for that job, that Jean Rosenthal was a consultant on, that job went to Kliegl. So, Los Angeles Music Center, John Knight was the architect, Walton Beck and we had become very friendly with John, Jean was the consultant. I should say something about Jean Rosenthal –a marvelous, marvelous, marvelous lady, a little, petite, doll of a woman, I think she stood 5’1”, maybe, her tallest, proudest day. We were so fond of Jean, the first sign of Spring, we’d find daffodils, we’d call Jean, whose office was on 46th St., and say, “Jean, we’d like to take you to lunch.” This was a big deal in those days. We’d find some daffodils and take them over—she loved daffodils. Jean and Ed Kook did not get along. On their best day they did not get along. Jean and Herb Kliegl were the best of friends. And jean would call up and say, “You know, Herb, that last ellipsoidal, the one with the 8” lens, I forget what that was, it was about 8”, I think, it was 8 by something, you know, when I put it on the Balcony Front, it was 12’ at the stage, you remember that show we did where the beam was 12’ on the stage, I need something that’s about 8’ now, can you do something like that?” I mean, that was as far as Jean got in terms of specification, so Jean would call Herbert, and Herbert would say, “Yeah, we need a new lens, “and Herbert would go up and he would start to draft a lens and he’d call a friend at Corning and say, “Listen, this is about where I’m at, what do you think about this?” And the guy would encourage him or discourage him. And we’d get a cheap mold made to try it. And then, if it worked, we’d get a very expensive mold. And this relationship between Herb Kliegl and Jean Rosenthal was really wonderful to watch, because Jean was in no way capable of describing what she wanted technically, but she could sit and talk and he would know immediately what she wanted. It was totally amazing. I mean, I used to say to Herb Kliegl, “We’re putting $100,000 worth of equipment into the Guthrie Theatre for Jean and she’s never seen it? She’s never approved it? What happens if that’s not what she wants?” (Laughs) He says, “Take my word for it, it’s going to be fine.” (Laughs) Someone, someone ought to plumb those who still can remember Jean Rosenthal, as those who can still remember Peggy Clark and Abe Feder, because these three people, of course, I think, are probably most definitely responsible for the creation of the title “Lighting Designer.”
Will you talk somewhat about Peggy Clark and Abe Feder? How did you know them?
Abe Feder was, again, Abe Feder and Ed Kook, again, simply did not get along. Now, people have said this is a very personal business. And I’ll tell you, I think to this day, it is. And I think that’s why, at some point, when the people who are involved in it, become one more generation, and you’re dealing with a, you place your order by computer, you never talk to a person, you never see anyone, the business will fold, and it’ll start again with resistance dimmers. (Laughs).
But, this very personal business, at least it was in those days, Feder and Ed Kook really, really did not get along. And that left Abe Feder a wonderful source of people who were delighted to work with him. Abe Feder was probably totally mad. Abe Feder was like Lee Watson and like Tom DeGaetani, all of them had this vivid imagination, that if they just thought about it hard enough, it would happen. Abe Feder could say, “I need a new light source. This light source must be tinier and more pinpoint than the last one that GE or Westinghouse, or whoever made for me, it must be twice as bright, it must have at least the same lamp life, if not double,” and he would sit out there and talk about it so much that someone at GE would say, “God, to get rid of this guy, let’s make the damned thing.” Abe Feder had an inability to reuse anything he had ever done before, which was, I think, to his undying credit. He just constantly drove the field. Probably technically more than Jean or Peggy. Jean or Peggy woould have been happy to have used anything that existed until they needed something a little different, but they were not pressing for equipment design. Abe always was pressing it. Abe was not, however, the nicest person in the world, you can well imagine. And I can remember, at one point, that he kind of passed to me, after Herbert Kliegl died, as a, as I was kind of the contact, and we were still doing our best to accommodate him, and at one point he called up at 5:30, 6 o’clock, 6:30 at night, “Rubin." “Yes, Mr. Feder.” “Goddamnit, you people are ...” and then would follow a litany of our sins. And I finally said, “Mr. Feder, I worked very hard all day long, I was in here at 8:30, it’s now 6:30, I have another 2 hours of work to do, is there something I can do for you at this point? Or you just want to get out whatever is bothering you?” And he said something I didn’t like. I said, “Mr. Feder, I’m not accustomed to being talked to that way. When you can be a decent human being, why don’t you call back?” And I hung up the phone. (Laughs) I think it must have taken several sets of apologies—not on my part, because I wouldn’t—and we were kind of cool for the rest of his life. I don’t think he ever forgave me for that, probably the only person who ever did that to him.
Why did he call you?
Well, he would call because he still needed Kliegl.
Now, what about Peggy Clark, you haven’t spoken about her.
Oh, Peggy, Peggy Clark. Probably had the best sense of color of any designer who’s ever done Broadway musicals, including Tharon Musser, who was brilliant, including all the people, Peter Kazerooski (sic), whatever his name is, who’s lighting today, and all the Brits, David Hersey, and all of them combined, and Peggy was a total delight to work with, because she was totally pragmatic. She was married to Lloyd Kelly, an electrician, so she knew what they could do and what they couldn’t do, and Lloyd was brilliant, and Peggy was very demanding, but Peggy was very sane. Just a lovely, lovely lady.
So what was your involvement with these people, who mostly worked in the theatre, as you said that most of the theatre work went to Century?
They all had their consulting businesses
Even Peggy Clark?
Even Peggy Clark had a little consulting business. Peggy Clark was, well, let’s see, she was a Smith College graduate, so she was the overall, on the selection committee, for architecture, and consulting, and the general design of the Smith College Performing Arts Center. She was very instrumental in how that went together. Peggy, probably less than the others, although Peggy did a lot of work on color—color rendition—I think, for Sylvania, or a predecessor company of Sylvania. Almost, for sure I have stuff that she wrote on color, on architectural lighting for color. Jean had a very active consulting business that probably preoccupied her in the last 8 or 10 years of her life, including The University of Texas at Austin, and a job in Salina, Kansas, and probably the first one she worked on, a light and sound installation at Boscobel, the Juilliard, a bunch of jobs, that she, we later associated, I later associated her, another great mistake, with an engineer by the name of Clyde Nordheimer, because I just couldn’t, I just couldn’t keep up with doing Jean’s engineering for her, and I figured she needed a real professional engineer. But, unfortunately, Clyde used to call Kliegl to get his engineering information, so a lot of it—I shouldn’t demean him too much—and so we ended up still working just about as much on Jean’s jobs as we had in the past. Abe was consum-, remember Abe was the consummate architectural lighting professional, Abe and Richard Kelly were the two really big names for that whole decades of the Fifties and Sixties, maybe even into the Seventies.
Do you think that these people concentrated more on the consulting business because they could make more money as lighting consultants than as lighting designers in the theatre? Is that the motivation?
Well, well, or I think it became a natural outcome of their work, because they were well-known. People looked around, architects looked around for people who could help them. The theatre consulting profession didn’t exist, in the 1950’s. I can remember being, always going to architects’ offices and laying out their lighting, trying to move their damned walls around, because they always had them in the wrong place, and there was no real profession, so the vendors were doing the work for the architects and the engineers. And I think Jean saw, Abe certainly saw, an opportunity, to extend their professional work. And properly—but I think one could write an interesting research on the rise of the theatrical planning consultant, because it is within our encompassable lifetime, yours and mine.
Yeah. Now, getting back to Kliegl, and control systems: What was the reason for your connection with Thorn, and with Gordon Perlman, later?
Oh, those are two very different stories, aren’t they? So now we get, we’re about 1970. Herbert Kliegl and I had been up to Canada, on what would turn out to be a failed mission, which was to sell Wally Russell, who was the consultant for the, what the hell was it called?— the Ottawa project, whatever the name of the big theatre ...
Performing Arts Center?
Performing Arts Center in Ottawa, yeah, which had three big rooms—a big opera house, big concert hall, another theatre. And Wally Russell was a dedicated Ed Kook devotee, slash, read Century Lighting was going to get specified and bought, but Herb Kliegl ended up trying to sell Wally Russell on Kliegl. And it started to snow like all Hell, we got stuck at the airport, in Toronto. So, in one of those things that should never have happened, we sat down and we mused about the world’s most perfect, ideal, most ideal, lighting control system. And I had been to Germany, and I had seen this thing that Sieman’s was making, in which you would set a potentiometer to a level, and then it would move to the next level, upon a certain speed, all highly sophisticated, highly motor operated, with all of the old discrete circuit technology that one could muster up in those days. And Sieman’s was selling those, and doing a very good job with them, and they were THE thing to specify in the German theatre. And I sort of described it, and the more I described it, Herb got more and more enthusiastic. He said, “Well, we can do that better, man, we can, aw, we can do that—“ So, that was the invention of what was called “System 70,” and System 70 had, first of all, we had to invent a magnetic recording media that, because there was nothing we could find that had enough storage, so we had this huge platen that moved up and down, like a piece of metal that had to be polished flat, that could be magnetized in various rows, it was probably 24” by 36”, if you can imagine this. Needless to say, once we had invented this, the magnetic drum came around, so this thing was totally useless, thank God. So we started there, then we had a system of, basically, cells and controls—you moved the pot it would register where it was supposed to go the next time, you’d remember that in this memory system. And then it would move to exactly the place it was supposed to move. And we actually made that system—I think 144 channels—2-scene preset, so that you could be setting one or telling it to move to the next position, take this time to move to the next position, while the first one was still playing, it would overlap, or fade it, whatever you would want. And we actually sold one to Juilliard, and we sold one to the San Francisco Opera, and the San Francisco Opera director came to New York, where we were making this thing, and he said,” I would love to see it work. “ And we said, “No problem, “and we took him out—it was being built about 20 miles from Kliegl, in an electronics shop. We took him out, we did this wonderful demonstration, it was perfect, it was beautiful. And he said, “Oh, that’s magnificent! This is wonderful.” His name was Adler, Maestro Adler. He said, “ May I just press this button and see that happen again?” Which he did. And one of the pillow blocks got loose, one of the long shafts that all these potentiometers were revolving around, it kind of fell out of the pillow block, the shaft fell out of the pillow block, and we watched, literally, as this machine wound itself to death. (Laughs) You know, coming out of the lighting industry, this kind of mishap occurs constantly in demonstrations. Something—if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. This was the beautiful “go-wrong.” We started back from Long Island, 20 miles of heavy traffic, coming back into New York City, no one had a word to say to each other on this long, long 20-mile trek. And we ended up putting a different system in to the San Francisco Opera. But years later, I would go out and see Maestro Adler out in San Francisco, he would take a baton out of his drawer, and he would conduct. He’d say, “Rubin, I think I will conduct the demise of the Kliegl System 70.” (Laughs) He got me roaring constantly, he was so funny. Given the fact that we had an order at the San Francisco Opera that needed to be filled, and we had been approached by the Thorn Lighting Company where Tony Isaacson had invented something called “Q-File.” So I did a quick run to England and negotiated a contract with Thorn and we brought over the first Thorn Q-File, and in order to get it started, we kind of, we just went on a tour of the United States. We probably hit 40 cities. Starting with an AETA Conference over Christmas, in some year, it probably was ‘70 or ’71, in New Orleans. And then we just took it on tour, we borrowed a guy from Penn State University, Willy Crocken, to do that tour for us, to lead it, and conduct it, as it were, and to narrate and moderate it. And, by the end of the year, we had sold about 30 of those Q-Files, so we were kind of back in business, thank God, for electronic systems. So that gets us into about 1978, 1980, maybe. The equivalent Century systems were what, Marshall, they were the…
The early memory systems?
Yeah, the memory systems, the George Van Buren prototypes and after, followups ...
Yeah, all those, exactly. So the Q-File was. ..
Q-File started as very discrete components—we had racks and racks of this electronics in every job—and it gradually resolved into integrated circuit stuff. So it got sensible and reasonable in price. It started out enormously expensive. But it was a very good system. I think probably some of them are still going—there’s a guy around town name of Horst Emhert, who still makes his living repairing Q-Files and old Kliegl SCR dimmer boards and that. What else? So how did we get on to Gordon Perlman?
Gordon Perlman, yes.
I had seen a demonstration that Gordon Perlman did, at an American Educational Theatre Conference, in—wasn’t in Chapel Hill—somewhere in the South—and, in order to—he was demonstrating a lighting control that could be operated remotely. And he did it by telephone connection from what must have been a primitive computer, to whatever home base was, or whatever existed at home base, at Chapel Hill, NC, whence he was on Faculty. And I thought, “Boy, this is remarkable, this is some bloody new, brand new, wonderful, exciting technology.” And I can’t tell you what, whether we hired Gordon at the point that he was still on the faculty at North Carolina, or whether he was once-removed, doing something else—I don’t, I simply don’t remember. But, we asked Gordon to design a lighting control system that would be more modern than the Thorn Q-File, because by then we were the largest single supplier of Thorn Q-Files in the world. And they were not abiding by what we wanted to sell in the United States—they wanted to make what they wanted to sell in England.
And you know that story.
I know very well.
That a guy who was—Thorn was really a manufacturing organization, not a sales organization, and we so dominated the Sales market, you know, they were losing touch with what the clients needed. So, we needed our own system and we hired Gordon, and Gordon had a colleague called Steve Carlson, and the two of them came up with a system called “ Performance, “which was an integrated circuit version of lighting control, it had all kinds of tricks and bells. That got followed by Performer, which was the first little packaged, carry it around with you, lighting control console. And that got followed by God knows what, Command Performance, I think, which had all the latest bells and whistles and was designed to compete with Light Board. And then I think Gordon, at some point, decided that he was much more capable of working on his own that working for Kliegl, and took off for the hinterlands of Portland, Oregon, whence he has thrived, to this day. So much for lighting control memory. In summary, I guess I believe, because I really haven’t been interested much since the mid-Eighties, is that it’s a lot of bells and whistles, that do a lot of useless things, that, occasionally, some lighting designer will remember it is capable of doing. But I watch Broadway shows, and I’m not convinced that what I’m seeing is vastly different or new than what I used to see Jean Rosenthal and Abe Feder and Peggy Clark and Tharon Musser do, but there’s more of it. There’s more instrumentation, for sure, there’s probably a lot more control, it’s a lot more integrated, and I certainly don’t know, you know, there must be a lot more going on than I think I’m seeing on stage. But, I don’t see it.
Having now destroyed the mythology of lighting control systems and their inventiveness and use (laughs)—here we take all this stuff that people are spending millions of dollars a year still in development and say, “well, I don’t see anything different than what I saw before.” What is different though are the number of lights, my God. I remember once, I don’t remember when it was, that first same lighting exposition that I talked about in 1960, I was on a panel with Peggy Clark, and—on lighting—“What is good lighting?”—and I said something about, “Peggy, my God, look at your shows, you’re using 300, 400 lights now, it’s an amazing number, a year ago it was 200, ten years ago, it was 100, what is happening?” And she explained the inevitability of piling up footcandles and color and this, that, and the other. And a guy in the audience stood up, by the name of Kook, in the question and answer period, and he said,” You know, if Joel Rubin doesn’t understand how these shows need more and more lighting, I hope it doesn’t take an Edward F. Kook to explain it to him.” And that got a great roar from the audience, and I said, “Oh, Mr. Kook, this is so embarrassing because I remember an article you wrote in 1928, called ‘What is good and sufficient lighing?’, and the total number of spotlights that you identified as needed to light any show was 24.” (Laughs.) So Mr. Downing, Robert Downing, he was a producer, said,” Go get ‘em, Rubin!” (Laughs) In any case, I should say more about Ed Kook because, after he sold Century Lighting, and after I was no longer associated with Kliegl Lighting, so, after 1985, and really until the time of his death, we were very, very good friends. And by then he had calmed down—he no longer felt the competitive necessity to sell every—to fill every lighting socket in the world, with a Century lighting instrument, and I certainly couldn’t have cared less whether Kliegl sold the next instrument or not, and we became very good friends and we enjoyed a lot of, lot of good company together. And Kook became a very fine human being at that point. But, man, he was, as a competitor, he was tough. He was very tough. About 1980, a guy came into the field, who was basically trained in the Hardware Business, by the name of Marvin Altman, and joined Century Lighting. And his predecessor was Wally Russell. Wally Russell had been working on condensing all of these very difficult dimmers that we were making into really standard modules. And piling a bunch of them up into a single dimmer bank, making them smaller and more useful and still with the same criteria, and Wally had pretty well, I think, come to a design point on that, which Marvin benefitted from. And the first thing we knew, that all of a sudden Century Lighting was selling 96-dimmer modules in a rack, for about the same price that Kliegl was selling 18. Very difficult position to be in. And very obviously Kliegl had to react and do about the same thing. So, I’m sure that probably that corrected itself within about a year. Now, there’s enough time between the selling of a job and the delivery of the equipment that probably it was OK in those days, to be a little behind the curve. But it was clear that Marvin was escalating the field of development to a place that Kliegl was going to have enormous difficulty, as a family-owned corporation, in keeping up with the money that was necessary to put it into the business. And John Kliegl the Second used to think of things in quantity, and Kliegl was a hand shop, “Oh, let’s make a batch of 50 Fresnels.” You know we’d go through the paperwork, and all the ordering of parts, the bending of metal, and all the stamping, and the welding and the crap for 50. You could have just as well been making 500, or 5000. And that was just not in his head, that you could do that, or that you could sell them if you did it. So he was always, “ Let’s make 50, let’s make a hundred, let’s make 150, “on big ellipsoidals, you know 6” ellipsoidals, like 200 was a big batch, 500 was an enormous batch.
Here’s what I think was going on: I think Kliegl, the Kliegl Company made very substantial profits in the Fifties and the Sixties and the Seventies, and probably the early part of the Eighties, maybe, maybe in the Eighties it was more difficult. And I think what was happening was the stock, all of the voting stock, the majority of the voting stock, rested with John Kliegl II. The ownership was, in fact, split between John’s family, his sister’s family, and his next sister’s family. So, and two aunts, so I think the stock was so split that, starting in about the Seventies, everyone was putting pressure on John to hire all the out of work nephews. And they were, I think, a huge burden, because, almost one for one, they were, I would say, relatively incompetent. And the reason they were at Kliegl was they couldn’t find work anywhere else. So we ran through all these people who were not offering direction, who were sopping resources out of the company. I think that John Kliegl II found that he could not find a way to make the business work well. And, unfortunately, he was also 50, and I think his psychiatrist told him, “Now, John, if you ever want to run this company, if you’re 50, you know, it’s time you took hold and ran it.” And I think that was probably good advice. So, at that point, anyone who was offering executive leadership to Kliegl was kind of in the way, and that certainly included me. And John did run the company, and I guess I say, with some degree of pride, he did run it, and he ran it into the ground. In three years. So it got sold to a group of people that really had not much knowledge how to really run a company and get it going and it became more and more peripheral. And then Kliegl died a natural death, when, in 1994, 1995 or something. It was very close to being a hundred years old. So, John Kliegl II really probably should habe been bright enough to have never assumed that he could run it, because he really liked sports—he should have been doing work in the sports field. He should have been lighting arenas or something, but he, you know, he was stuck with this, this theatre-oriented company. Theatre and television-oriented company, that he really had no great interest in the venue. He didn’t like theatre, he didn’t go to the Opera, he didn’t go to the Ballet, didn’t go to live theatre, he was a television and sports addict. That’s the fields he should have been in. So, having no interest, and having no real expertise, I think it died a natural death, of its own accord. And I can’t say that I—I felt saddened because I had put thirty-odd years in it, but, on the other hand, I was saddened that I hadn’t had the brains to get out of there ten years earlier. So be it. So that was leaving Kliegl. And, what, oh—now we have these two—here’s one of the good things about Kliegl: Both John I and Herbert, and not so much John II, but I was doing it by then, didn’t have too much to say about it—John I and Herbert said, “You know, Joel you’re very active in a lot of these organizations, the American Educational Theatre Association, the Illuminating Engineering Society, you’re working with donating pro bono services to the Service Department of the American National Theatre Academy, we’re going to encourage you to do that, and take whatever time you need, out of your work here at Kliegl, to do that, because we think it’s very useful. It’s useful for you, it’s useful for the Company, it’s useful for those organizations.” So they were encouraging that. And, when 1958 came around, and David Hayes introduced me to Tom DeGaetani, and Tom DeGaetani and Joel had very similar ideas about, “Don’t we really need a national not-for-profit organization that would…?” I spent an enormous amount of time in the late Fifties and the early Sixties on USITT. And even five years later when we were trying to forge an international organization, I was still being backed and sent to Europe by Kliegl, to help form OISTAT, the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Theatre Technicians. So, to that extent, and to their great credit, they, Kliegl encouraged my participation. I can’t say that—I just don’t know whether John Kliegl either didn’t know I was doing it or knew I was doing it and was willing to pay for it, or suffered a lot, I just don’t know. But, I did it, and he let it go on. So he must have felt it was useful, I guess. So, I think it, looking back, I think that USITT was a very bold step to go out and form a new organization that would kind of pick up all the pieces of the other existing organizations, and there were and are many of them, were not doing, were not performing. And it’s had a place. OISTAT, particularly during the Cold War, was very important, because it offered access for us to Eastern Europe and it offered Eastern Europe access to the United States. So, I think OISTAT was equally important. And I think those were probably, you know, important, important achievements, that, someday, someone will write a doctoral dissertation about.
In the few minutes that are left, do you want to say something about women in lighting design—there seemed to be a lot of women in Kliegl. Was that accidental?
I think it was totally accidental. I think, my idea, because, at some point, early on, I don’t know, after—I started at Kliegl in 1954, and along about ’58 Herb Kliegl said to me, “I think you ought to be manager of the Theatrical Lighting Division, “which was two or three people, and, along about ’61 or ’62 he said, “I think you ought to be President of the Theatrical Lighting Division.” Along about ’64, he said, “I think you ought to be Vice-President of Kliegl, “and, so, at some point, I became in the chain of hiring, probably in the early Sixties, and I was trying to hire the best people I could find, the people who, like myself, had the greatest interest in lighting. And a lot of them, Ann Ballantine, Josie Marquez, have ended up very strong players in the industry, of which I’m actually very proud if they consider me a mentor. But it was totally accidental—I was just out looking for good people who loved lighting and who wanted to work in the industry. And we had a place for them, so…And they turned their talent as would be—some of them were very good at sales, some were good at design, some were very good at demonstrating equipment. It was no desire to hire female or male, we were color-blind, sex-blind, as it were.
So, what do you think of women as lighting designers? Do you think that came, that foreshadowed liberation of women today to do…
Isn’t that a fascinating question? That really is, isn’t it? Here you have Peggy and Jean
And Tharon, yeah, but Tharon’s almost like a later generation, because Peggy and Jean really broke ground. And, now who is that—Lowey, Lowey Fuller, remember back in 1900, or something, early in the 1900’s…
She was a dancer
She was a dancer, but who was very articulate about lighting, as Belasco was. Lowey Fuller—it’s fascinating, isn’t it—I think without Peggy and without Jean the road would have been a lot harder. Because they existed and they existed so early in the profession, they, along with Abe, were kind of considered fathers and mothers in the United States. I think it was a lot easier for Tharon, and the generation that followed Tharon.
So, what do you think, what seems most important, are you most proud of, and where do you think that the lighting industry should go in the future? If there are any easy answers to those questions.
One, I think it should continue to exist. Two, I think it should remain very client-oriented, because theatre is a very particular, very private, very intimate business. Very collaborative business. And I don’t think you can carry on a lot without continuing that contact with the people who are actually doing theatre. What was the, what was the highlights? I think we identified most of the highlights as we went along. I mean it’s involved, Marshall, if you stop to think of it, if you spend 30 years in the Industry, it’s a lifetime, the fact that I’m doing another lifetime doing something else more fun…
Well, I thank you very much for doing this and
Remember if you want more good gossip—oh, remember I was going to tell you a story about Imero Fiorentino, which is just, will only take a second. We used to have retreats at Kliegl, where we would bring in all the agents from all over the country, and I decided we should have working lighting designers come in to talk to them, to get them enthused about lighting, as we at Kliegl were. And one of them that we used was Imero Fiorentino. And we set up a whole demonstration system in a large room we’d rented, and, according to his specifications. And Immie did one of the most fantastic, most fascinating, lighting demonstrations. He literally taught that crowd of people who, you know, never looked at lighting before, they were so brilliant, but they never looked at it. He imbued them all with a kind of passion, in one single hour, hour and a half, I don’t know, it was a beautiful, beautiful performance. And Immie did that, Tom Skelton did that, Gil Helmsley did that for us. They were all just remarkable at being able to convey their passion, and then to demonstrate what they were capable of producing with that setup. And one more story, and this is only so if his name hasn’t been mentioned, someone will dig up something on him. There was a guy who worked for Century—who you knew—called Rollo Gillespie Williams, who was a wonderful, wonderful British character. I first ran into Rollo at Cohasset Music Theatre, where we had what was called a “Rollo Color.” And if anyone wants to go back and look at Rollo Color, it should be reinvented, because it was one of the most marvelous systems for getting any color or hue of color that you wanted on stage.
You would dial up the color.
You would dial up the color. It was perfection, in the early Fifties, let me tell you. It wasn’t very bright, but it was wonderful for getting color. Rollo was a great character, and a very fine—I’ve always treasured him as a friend, because he was funny, he was charming, and he was really bright.
Yes, he was a Vice-President at…
Vice-President at Century.