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KTBC Open House, Part 1 - Studio Tour, December 1960

Gordon Wilkison

Sound | 1960

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TAMI Tags
  •  Richard "Cactus" Pryor 
  •  Radio 59 
  •  Paul Bolton, News Editor 
  •  Jay Hodgson 
  •  Radio 59 Control Room 
  •  Jim Morris, Radio Program Director 
  •  Euna Faye Johnson 
  •  Jim Uzzell 
  •  Gordon Wilkison 
  •  Mayor Pro Tem, Lester Palmer 
  •  TV Control Room 
  •  Wally Pryor 
 
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  • About the video
  • Cactus Pryor Cactus Pryor
  • Gordon Wilkison Gordon Wilkison
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Housed at the corner of 10th and Brazos, KTBC radio and television served the Austin community by providing news and entertainment to those tuning in to the station. In this film one of KTBC's earliest stars – Cactus Pryor – takes the city of Austin on a guided tour throughout the studio. From the reception desk to the board room, from the studio control room to the accounting department, all are visited by Pryor who converses with the KTBC personnel using the wit and humor for which he was known. Though Pryor stops to chat with many members of the KTBC staff he finds an extra moment to speak with an important guest who happened to be waiting in the Green Room: Austin Mayor Lester Palmer. In addition to paying homage to the many hard working individuals behind the cameras and switch boards this film also provides an interesting glimpse into studios when reel to reel and massive video tape recorders were considered state of the art.

Richard S. "Cactus" Pryor was a comedic television and broadcast personality from Austin, Texas. Cactus, an Austin native, was born in 1923, straight into the entertainment business. His father owned the Cactus Theater on Congress Avenue (hence the nickname), and starting at just 3 years old, Cactus made stage appearances before the shows began. Cactus attended the University of Texas and served in the US Army Air Corp. When he returned to Austin from his service in 1944, Cactus joined the broadcasting team at Lady Bird Johnson's KLBJ radio station, where he worked until 2008. He joined the world of broadcast television at KTBC in 1951 where he was program manager and hosted a variety of television programs, including a football program with Darrell K Royal and many celebrity interviews. Cactus appeared in two films with his friend John Wayne, Hellfighters and The Green Berets. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, he became a sought-after speaker and event host, famous for his roasts of entertainers and politicians, most of whom he counted as close friends. Cactus was also known for his disguises. He would appear at functions in character, often pulling a fast one on the crowd as he charmed them first in disguise, then again as he revealed himself and used his earlier conversations to entertain the crowd. As an active member of the Headliners Club of Austin, Pryor starred in many humorous television news satires alongside Texas politicians, some of which can be seen in his film collection, as well as the Gordon Wilkison Collection and the Wallace and Euna Pryor Collection. He was nationally-known, but kept Austin his home, helping put the city on the map in the 60s and 70s. Cactus Pryor announced to his KLBJ listeners in 2007 that he had Alzheimer's disease, and Austin's "original funnyman" died in 2011.

Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
 
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
 
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.