They never show what happens after the ball's fall. The millions at home get instant replays and kissing from the Waldorf. Then the late movie.
But live at Times Square, the vast roaring lemming-mass quickly dissipates, leaving a carpet of broken bottle-glass and small knots of cops - their walkie-talkies quacking about roving youth bands perpetrating robberies as they bad-eye homeward-bound stragglers, clean cut teen-aged drunks, aspiring felons, conmen, denimed innocents, whores, loonies of all descriptions and at least one bakery worker from Buffalo, N.Y.
By 12:40, the IRT station at 42d Street is jammed with worn out revelers waiting for the first subway ride of 1978. A skinny white kid is wearing a false nose and two black girls point at him and giggle. A young loner stands forlornly with a champagne bottle in one hand, a champagne glass in the other. A strutting crazy plunges through the crowd calling out his personal message to all beautiful women on the platform:
"Happy New Year."
As far back as anyone can remember, the new year has always reached Times Square on time. Since nature neglected to provide a visual symbol of the yearset, New York filled in with its electric Sun pun and got to be New York capital of the United States.
TV did the rest, plopping the ritual into every wired living room. Now parties everywhere must pull over to the screenside for network's "live remote" from New York Central, as though Times Square's party were more official than anyone else's.
Happy New York.
Guy Lombardo had become a high priest of this secular electronic holiday, a benign and soothing presence beamed from the Waldorf's grand ballroom to balance the mob's frenzie. He died in November at 75, but his Royal Canadians kept the faith Saturday night and if you didn't know that the tired man up front was brother Victor, you might have been fooled. They both took after their father.
Time's passing. Two Lombardo brothers are left out of four. Victor, who's 66, said his stomach was bothering him all week. It's an odd feeling to be up there fronting, he says, after watching Guy do it all these years. He had split off with a small band of his own, but this brother Lebert asked him back after Guy's death. Lebert stood back there in the second row blowing first trumpet as always, as unobtrusively in charge as Carmen Lombardo was.
Carmen died five years ago. He played sax and he was the brains of the outfit, according to Victor. Lebert's 70 and he's not changing a thing. "I'm doing it the way Guy wanted it done," he said during rehearsals this week.
After 48 consecutive New Year's Eves, you pretty much know what works. "Well, 'Boo Hoo,' for instance, that's a must," said Lebert. "We've been playing it for, oh my gosh, 30 or 40 years. The people would have our scalps if we don't play it."
Of course they played "Old Lang Syne," the only New York's carol there is. It was tough on the brothers, that line about old aquaintances.
"Right now it's pretty sad," said Lebert. And the middle-age blacktie Waldorfers partying at $100-150 per blew their horns, popped their ballons, and all over America, people heard them shouting:
"Happy New Year."
And when the Coca-Cola sign on Times Square read 12:02 (it was fast) and 25 degrees, four guy on the 24th-story roof of that building - the New Year Building played out their ropes, letting the floodlight-studded, six-foot ball start the flagpole slide to 1978. Somehow the crowd turned up its volume.
And in the mass below, Florian Mendel and his wife, Dorothy, held up an 8-by-8 foot sign of greeting to Florian's brother Brian and sister Wende back in Buffalo, hoping to catch the lens of the freezing CBS cameraman perched on the marquee of the movie house at 43d and 7th Avenue so that all their drinking buddies sitting in JN's Grill on the snowy east side of Buffalo with their faces glued to the TV screen could fall off their chairs in recognition ecstasy.
A video pilgrimmage! The Mendels set out at 4:04 Saturday morning, drove into New Year's City 8 hours later and roamed the midtown afternoon streets amid hawkers of fire-crackers and plastic horns, two for a dollar.
"I've watched it on TV all these years," said Floridian, "and I said one of thest day I'm gonna come here ... This is the only time in my life I'll do it." And as proof of their journey they carried their own 8-by-8 foot station identification on two poles. Its message to the folks at home was:
"Happy New Year."
Ben Graner, another New Year's icon, also died in 1977. He'd been TV's man on the roof as long as anyone could remember. Then his announcer, Lee Jordon, was asked to step up, and a new timekeeper was born. Jordon, a voiceover veteran, silver haired and elegant in evening derss, exuberant, studied his typed ad libs in the second-floor theater lobby as Clint Eastwood freaks filed to the popcorn stand ignoring the roaring outside.
The Jordon stepped out of a window onto the marquee and looked down and there was nothing out there but people. They weaved and waved in the TV lights and climbed on each other's shoulders. They set off fireworks of distinction. There were red flares floating down on tiny parachutes.
Jordon is a pro. He blasted his preresearched lore of new year's past into his headset mike and if you were standing more than five feet from him you couldn't hear a word of it. "And what a year 1977 was, " he shouted to the living rooms beyond the crowds.
He did the job. He brought the New Year in on schedule. The crowd loved it. The CBS crew packed it in and went inside to warm up.Jordon headed for a pay phone and made a call. "My wife is perfect," he reported. He had a quick coffee and cognac in styrofoam and then he left for a party full of people who, a short time earlier, had gathered before a TV screen and so, like everyone else, had already heard Lee Jordon wish them:
"Happy New Year."