"I have said this to
many others, many times, but the absolute fact is that had it not
been for Tom Read and his organization and Dick McConnell and his
organization, Expo '74 would not, without any doubt, NOT have been
the resounding success that it was."
That is a direct quote from Jim
Key who is the one that got me involved with the World's Fair in
Spokane. I was still very young and certainly had no
experience with a World's Fair. However, I did express some
ideas to Jim Key at a dinner we had at the Spokane Club.
I simply shared what I thought the fair should do with respect to
the electronic media, radio and TV.
Little did I know that Jim was taking
note of everything I was saying and the next day shared my ideas
with the head of the PR department, John Musgrave. But
this is getting a little ahead of the story.
Everyone in Spokane knew of the
efforts by a group of downtown business leaders to find a way to
clean up the downtown area and get rid of the train tracks that went
through the city. Since Seattle had hosted a world's fair
about ten years earlier, and it left a much improved Seattle; it was
a reasonable question, "why not a fair for Spokane?".
Jumping ahead in the story of Expo,
the voters turned down a temporary B & O Tax to help finance the
Fair. However, after the Fair opened and it was obviously a
success, you could not find anyone who would admit they voted
against the tax.
Originally, Expo tried to do the job
with local people. It became apparent that things were not
going well and the Board of Directors had to find professionals who were in
the business of producing expositions.
Petr Spurney was such a person
and was hired as General Manager. Petr realized it would be
difficult to hire some top people in their field for a one year job.
So he recommended that Expo contract with outside independent
contractors, as they are known. One such was Tommy Walker
who's company was given the responsibility to produce the opening
day ceremony and head the Entertainment Department. Tommy had
produced the grand opening ceremonies of Disneyland for Walt
John Musgrave was brought in from
Boeing, not Boeing in Seattle but from Omaha. He was a true
expert in the print media, especially magazines and newspapers.
However, he openly admitted that he knew little or nothing about the
electronic media and therefore knew he needed someone who understood
film production and television. That man was Jim Key.
Jim had been at KNX, CBS
in Hollywood for five years, had worked in TV production and was
looking for a better place to bring up his young daughter. He
heard Expo was looking for a producer with his experience so he flew
up to Spokane to talk with John Musgrave and was hired on the spot.
I don't remember who told Jim about
me but I got a call from him and was obviously curious what was
really going on down at Expo and willingly accepted an invitation to
meet and have dinner with him.
As I mentioned, Jim either took notes
of our conversation at dinner or had a great memory, because when he
told John Musgrave the next morning what I thought Expo
should be doing in the radio and TV area, John asked Jim to
set up an appointment with me right away.
We met the following day in John's
office at Expo and he said he was very interested in my ideas for
Expo and wanted me to elaborate on each. I told him that radio
and TV stations were basically lazy and if you wanted to get exposure you
should do their work for them and hand things on a silver platter to
I suggested that Expo build one or
two radio studios from which stations locally, and from around the
state, could originate their programs live. Since the research
firm Expo hired reported that the perception of the opening day
ceremonies would mean the success or failure of the exposition, I
said we should broadcast the opening day ceremony on every radio and
TV station in Spokane and on some in other key markets outside of
My third major recommendation was to produce
and distribute to radio stations in the three or four surrounding
state area, a five minute daily radio program that would include
interviews with the celebrities that would be performing at Expo and
information of what was going on each day to build up excitement and
a "we just have to go to Expo" attitude. I
also said that we should feed all of the press conferences John told
me he was planning, live, to all of the key local radio stations in
Spokane and that we needed to have installed equalized broadcast
lines, by the phone company, from the studios I suggested that be
built on site, to each of the stations.
I think John was a little overwhelmed
by everything I was suggesting and finally asked if I could put it
all down on paper. Then, as Jim and I were about to leave, he
added that I should also indicate the costs involved to implementing
As Jim and I walked down the hall
away from John's office, Jim smiled and noted that John was very
impressed with me and how soon could I get everything I had talked
about on paper. Like the next day, he hoped.
I worked on the project that night at
home and was ready to meet again with John the following day.
John looked over my written suggestions, complete with cost
estimates, and then shocked me by asking how soon could I come on
board and implement everything. My reaction was that I was not
looking for a job or a new client, I was just wanting to be helpful
as I knew Expo was going to be an important event for the future of
Spokane. In short, I was just being a good citizen.
John said they were looking at
contracting with outside firms and that he wanted to arrange to have
my company, American International Productions, set up and oversee the suggestions
I had made, including producing, hosting, and distributing the daily
5 minute radio show and the radio broadcast of the opening day
event. I was trying to wind up things in Spokane
since the sale of KUDY and get back to school if I was to be the
next Perry Mason or accept a job in Seattle or try my hand at the
big time and head back to LA where I had gone to engineering school.
All of this was flashing through my mind as I could see
that John was expecting an answer now, not later.
The most important consideration
going through my mind at that moment was if I said YES, I would be
committing to staying in Spokane for at least another year with
little time to get away to get back to Tacoma. I knew if
I said YES, it would be a 24/7 responsibility for the next year
Editor's Note: The information
on this web site is basically taken from a forthcoming ebook by Tom
Read on his broadcasting career. This web site is a work in
progress and will be added to with pictures and sound on a regular
basis, so you will want to visit this site often.
Page - The Voice Of Expo