It wasn't Monday night football, it was Tuesday night culture.
While Pete Seeger, playing Wolf Trap, was singing yet again about this land being your land and this land being my land, urgent pros in headsets - the crew inside "Ted Turner's Truck" - interfaced Pete Seeger's hoot with the Dallas Cowboy-Bob Hope ever-ever-land of live network TV.
It is not really Ted Turner's truck, but it comes from Atlanta where Turner owns two ball teams, both of which have used it. It is also called Ted Turner's Truck because the men at the controls think it is as sweet, as efficiently designed, as an America's Cup yacht.
WETA has never done a live series as cumbersome as this one. "D.C. except for news, is not a big TV town," says Jackson Frost, the production manager. "You can do a presidential "See LIVE, B8, Col. 1> news conference using just three cameras, four max. Here we're using eight. We're out here in the country where thunderstorms can kill us."
"Live From Wolf Trap," producer Hal Hutkoff says, "is more like a national political convention, or maybe the Olympics, than like most TV we do."
But TV has a way of making differences the same. Out on the convention floor politicians of all sorts become talking heads, much as pole vaulters and divers soon start to look like similar Olympians. Something of the sort is being done at Wolf Trap to the performing arts.
The truck they call Ted Turner's takes a crew of 15 and can handle eight live cameras. No TV station here owns a remote truck as extravagant. For this hectic week of broadcasting five nights of "Live From Wolf Trap." WETA is chartering Ted Turner's Truck at $5,000 a day.
Which is not a lot of money when you consider that the shows, which opened with Sarah Vaughan and will close with Leonard Bernstein, will end up costing more than $700,000. This is live TV. You'd think one guy with a camera could televise Pete Seeger who is, after all, just one guy with a banjo, but instead it takes 100.
"The show is unrehearsed," says Hutkoff. "We have no ideas what they will do next. That's the nicest thing about it. In a way we're flying blind. When broadcasting in real time the clue is not to lose your cool."
Some members of the staff are at the office, others are at the tape decks, some are on the stage, there are others in the audience, and 12 of them are crammed now into the control room of Ted Turner's Truck.
Watching them, you'd think Bob Wynn is in charge.
Bob Wynn is a director, a freelance from L.A. He did Bob Hope's White House birthday show, and he has just come from Texas where he taped the Dallas Cowgirls posing among Rembrandts at a local art museum.
Seeger is on stage and so is Ario Guthrie, and this has not been rehearsed, but by the time they reach your living room their old, familiar acts look as sleek as Wynn's.
Part hired gun, part artist, Wynn appears competent and smooth. When Seeger ends a song, the images speed up - the crowd, the bow, the banjo, the audience again - as if the program is applauding. While Wynn scans the monitors, he waves his fingers at their screens, swaying to the music, as if he is conducting. When Seeger asks his listeners, "Where have all the gravecards gone?" Wynn adds to Pete Seeger's face a soft shot of the crowd that makes the audience appear to be so many ghosts.
Wynn does not work along. To his right is David Duetach who is speaking to the camera crew preparing shots to follow those now on the air, and to his left is Mike Mayes who, listening to Wynn, pushes buttons and yards gone?" Wynn adds to Pete pulls switches. Hutkoff is seated just behind them. The team is in its capsule, the performers on the Wolf Trap stage might be a thousand miles away.
Seeing it at home is not like being there. You don't choose what to look at, Bob Wynn does that for you. You cannot hear the music, the low-fi broadcast cans it.
Arlo Guthrie and his band are singing with Pete Seeger, and the audience sings along, but 50 feet behind them in the office by the stage door the ushers stare in silence at their black and white TV.
"Give me audience" Wynn it begging in the truck. "Show me somebody singing; sing, somebody, sing." The cameras, responding, pan the faces in the crowd. There, on camera three, a teenager is singing. you cannot hear her voice but you can see her mouth is moving. "Tighter three," says Wynn. "Ready three. Take three." The director is in luck. The teenager is singing still as she goes out on TV.
Cut to the announcer. "Folk music," says Joel Grey, "is the message of the people. Its inspiration comes from the experience of life itself . . . " The transition has been smooth, "Great," says Hutkoff. "Great."