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The Bowels of UCLA

This is a random photo of tapes stored at UCLA of the CBS music library, which was donated to the Special Collections dept. and, thankfully, preserved.

Unfortunately, the online finding aid was never completed—or at least, it wasn’t as of 2011, when I wanted to produce a few CDs from the CBS library.

When the collection was first donated to UCLA—I forget that particular story—it was sitting on pallets, totally uninventoried. Jon Burlingame went over there and, via a personal connection, was allowed to set aside things that he recommended we investigate. (Only Jon would know of cool, virtually known pilots with significant composers, like “Nightwatch” by John(ny) Williams, an unsold Robert Altman crime-thriller pilot.) We were even allowed to get a few DAT transfers of the tapes to audition, which was super cool.

That was in the late 1990s, and CBS couldn’t or wouldn’t sort out the clearances. The executive at the time was Cindy Badell-Slaughter, who I later worked with when she was doing clearances for La-La Land Records. She was a lovely woman and died from cancer fairly recently—so very tragic.

By 2009–2010, CBS had become amenable to licensing a few titles via their Consumer Products division in New York. The executive there was a super cool woman named Liz Kalodner, who—I forget how this came up in conversation, but it was fortuitous—had my late grandfather as her pediatrician in suburban Philadelphia circa 1960. Really!

Liz was awesome, but I inevitably pushed my luck in asking for titles and she’d respond, “’re killing me.” They also had an attorney in Studio City at this time named Nicki Jaeger whose catchphrase was, “Lukas...I hate soundtrack albums.” Kidding aside, both of them were great to deal with and I always felt like I could call them and explain something reasonably, and they’d do their best to help.

CBS always wanted a lot of money up front, because the license fees were small potatoes compared to what they wanted to be doing (licensing Star Trek toothpaste or whatever). I started with the Ron Jones Star Trek: The Next Generation box set, which at least had a decent advance, and figured that would open the door.

So I got permission to release a few titles—Hunters Are for Killing by Jerry Fielding was a personal favorite, an obscure 1970 TV movie starring Burt Reynolds—but perversely, the tapes that Jon Burlingame had flagged for us circa 1998 had been set back in a small portion of the tape library that had never been inventoried...meaning those tapes did NOT end up in the online finding aid. So it was as if the tapes simply didn’t exist!

I persuaded the librarian at UCLA at the time (I’ll omit the names, to protect the innocent, or the guilty, whatever the case may be) to go on an adventure through the warehouse. I said, literally, let’s pop the box tops off of all the unsorted assets, and take pictures of the tape spines.

So, we did! It took a whole morning, and I think both the librarian and her assistant, who were troopers, were thoroughly annoyed with me. The above pic is from that journey. And of course, we found everything we were looking for—the stuff Jon had set aside, and much more.

The CBS collection is, unfortunately, very difficult to utilize. Most of the tapes have logs with only numbers, not even reel and part numbers. You would need to go into the accompanying yearly log book to find out that “log 657” is actually M32 from a specific episode of Gunsmoke. And those log books weren’t always accessible. It was really frustrating...and I’m getting agitated just thinking about it.

Still, these photos became essential when Jon Burlingame was later producing the Wild Wild West collection for La-La Land Records, and also when I was helping Intrada find tapes for their 1980s Twilight Zone collection. (I kept seeing “T2” on the spines which made no sense. Finally I realized that 2 should be a Z—TZ, as in Twilight Zone.)

There remains a lot of cool stuff that could be released from the CBS vaults, but in recent years the Consumer Products and Music departments—both of which have to do a lot of work to get anything cleared and approved—have been tied up doing many other things which bigger priorities to the company (like producing television and licensing huge Star Trek projects). And some of their biggest titles, like the classic Hawaii Five-0 and original Twilight Zone, have been not available for licensing, for reasons that could range from remakes being made that involve other corporate decisions that I don’t fully understand, and are certainly not shared with the labels.

I’m pretty much done producing titles for myself, but if anything I ever learned or acquired in my travels can be of use to other labels (like the UCLA box photos), of course I am happy to share them.

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