memorable and notorious happenings in live broadcasts

We’ve all seen them - the live broadcasts. Often big fancy television shows broadcast nationwide or internationally. Of course, when it’s live, anything can happen and the audience will know.

What screw ups do you remember? What are the most famous mistakes on air?

Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood presenting the Brit Awards:

Funniest, and most cringe-making, thing I’ve ever seen.

The ones I know about are probably all apocryphal in that I wasn’t there to see/hear them for myself. But, to get the ball rolling I’ll mention a few so others can go for the real stuff.

  1. Kiddies’ TV show with “Captain Bob” or whoever interviewing the little monsters after school before they watch some cartoons and a western. Comes to one little guy and asks, “What’s the worst thing you have done in school?” The kid replies, “I farted.”

  2. Same setup, different kid. Kid says, “I want to say ‘Hi’ to Mommy and Daddy. And Herbie this is for you.” At which point he shoots a bird right at the camera.

  3. Yet another kid at the same show some time later. Kid says, “Captain Bob, I need to Teetee.” Captain Bob looks panicked and points toward a door in the studio and says, “Go right back there.” Kid replies, “I need to Teetee NOW.” And does, on camera.

  4. A local sports announcer doing play-by-play on a football game. Tie game, last minutes of the game. Studly intercepts the ball at the 2 yard line and starts down the field. Announcer: “He’s on the 5, the 10, the 15, the 20, the 25, the 30, look at that son-of-a-bitch run!”

Okay, enough for folklore and fantasy…

Here’s one that I hope somebody can corroborate for me. It’s not monumental by any stretch, but I’m sure I saw this happen, and I’ve never read about it since. It was probably on the Grammy Awards for 1976. Lou Rawls was announced, and he came down a set of stairs, singing “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.” Except that not far into the song, something happened. He stopped singing, the band kept playing. Lou just kinda stood there, looking mortified, but he didn’t start singing again, and the song was brought to an unplanned halt, then they went on to the next thing. Did anybody else see this, or know what happened?

The early 1970s Oscar broadcast at which a guy streaked, prompting the ever-cool David Niven to comment that some people just have to display their “shortcomings”.

The earthquake that hit San Francisco where Al Michaels and the sports broadcast crew were among the very few reporters able to get the news out. I think he was with ABC at the time, but forget the year.

Don’t recall the details, but there’s been at least one live suicide. An elected official in I want to say Pennsylvania called a press conference and shot himself in the head.

I think this was live but my memories of it are kind of vague. I recall Howard Cosell getting into some hot water during the call of a football game because he excitedly said of a black player making an incredible run “look at that mnkey run!” I remember especially my mother getting very upset about what she considered the kneejerk backlash against Cosell because he’d always been very supportive of minority athletes.

And of course there was Ronald Reagan’s notorious open-mike gaffe: “My fellow Americans, I am here to announce that I have just signed legislation making Russia illegal. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

Ruby shooting Oswald.

It was referenced recently in another thread (the one about the ‘cigarette-smokingest shows ever’). Johnny Carson used to keep a cigarette box on his desk, and one night after Don Rickles filled in for him, Johnny came back to find it broken. He grabbed a camera guy with a hand-held camera, and walked over to the CPO Sharkey set and proceeded to rip Rickles a new one. Carson was actually angry, but by the end they were all laughing about it.

I recall the “Miss America” pageant that brought back Bert Parks… who was going on senility, couldn’t read the cards, and was a rambling, embarrassing mess. They finally had one of the stagehands come and lead a confused Bert off the stage. It was truly sad.

I saw that the night it happened. Carson made Rickles look like a rank amateur.

Was this the one where he had backup singers? If so, then I saw that as well. He had a coughing fit of some sort, and the camera cut away from him to the singers, and they moved upstage as he moved back. Actually, I thought that they handled it pretty well; it was obvious that something was wrong, but after they cut away you couldn’t really tell what had happened.

There was one in 1989 during a World Series game between the A’s and the Giants. Whether it was on a Monday night and there was a Niners game going on too, I’m not quite sure…

Nobody’s mentioned the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime show?

Robert “Bud” Dwyer . I was attending a PA high school at the time, so that was big news.

Al Michaels, difficult as this may be to believe, hasn’t always done Monday Night Football. He was doing PBP for the World Series that year, and ended up winning an Emmy for his news reports from Candlestick.

This came to mind when I posted it, and he has made baseball references on football games before. Well, I was three at the time and couldn’t give half an arse about baseball, California or earthquakes, but there you go.

I remember back when Walter Cronkite still did the CBS Evening News, a guy managed to get on set and into camera range, shouting something unintelligible. I think he also had some kind of small placard, which you could read. It all happened so fast, the guy was dragged away instantly, probably less than a fifteen second interruption. Cronkite turned to look, in a surprised fashion, then came back to the camera and kept on reading the news.

And that’s the way it was.

In the same vein, remember when “Soy Bomb” crashed Bob Dylan’s performance at the Grammys?

And then there was that time when one of the guys from Rage Against the Machine stormed the stage at the VMAs and started climbing the set pieces.

December 11, 1973. Mark Allan Segal. The sign said “Gays Protest CBS Prejudice.”

We’ve done this one before. It was captured on film, but wasn’t live.