WDSU-TV ON AIR CELEBRITIES
Mel Leavitt - Mr. Television in New Orleans
Mel came to WDSU-TV at the invitation of General Manager,
Robert D Swezey. Swezey admired Leavitt's work as a sportscaster on the
Mutual radio network with which Swezey was formerly associated as
Vice-president and General Manager. A great on-air talent and a prolific
television documentary writer/producer, Leavitt soon became known as "Mr.
Television" in New Orleans. In the early days of WDSU-TV, Mel was a
sportscaster. sharing the spotlight on a program, sponsored by the Jackson
Brewing Company of New Orleans (Jax Beer), with a highly successful
professional weather forecaster, Nash Roberts. Their program, following
an evening newscast, was extremely popular.
Mel (his real name was Mahlon Leavitt) wooed and won the heart of one of
the first ladies to appear on WDSU-TV. He married Naomi "Nonie" Bryant who appeared on TV in her own WDSU-TV program "Seeing Stars."
"The Huey Long Story"
Mel Leavitt became the director of the WDSU-TV Special Events
Department. Teaming up with Director Paul Yacich, they produced many award
winning programs. Among them was "The Huey Long Story" a three part
(three hours) program. The program was awarded First Prize from The American
ssociation for State and Local History.
Broadcasting Magazine featured the "Huey Long Story". The above picture in
the magazine was taken from a television screen. It shows Huey Long's son,
Louisiana Senator Russell Long, talking with Mel in an interview that was
part of the program. The article also quoted kudos from the New Orleans
States-Item newspaper following the airing of the first part.
Another progarm written by Leavitt and directed by Yacich was "The School
That Would Not Die" which was awarded a Special Citation Award by the
National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences), "The Battle That
Missed The War" (Battle of New Orleans Sesquicentennial), reviewed
by Variety, the bible of the entertainment world, also won awards by history
"Target Moon" was produced in co-operation with Frank Borman and
the Apollo 8 Lunar Mission crew and garnered the special citation of the
Apollo 8 crew.
All of Southern Louisiana raved about the "Wonderful World Of Cajuns",
Mel and Bart Darby appeared together on "Do You Know Louisiana",
quizzing the audience about their knowledge of their home state. The
Louisiana state education officials requested the program to be run in
several Louisiana cities. The Security Industrial Insurance Co., under the
ownership of E. J. Ourso, sponsored the program in New Orleans, Baton
Rouge, and Lafayette. The program received wonderful acceptance by the
school teachers of the state as their students and the general public.
TV Guide May 23,1966
PRODUCED, DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY PAUL YACICH
Unfortunately, after the station was sold by the Royal Street Corporation,
ALL of those programs (on videotape) were accidentally erased...along with
the Emmy Award winning program, "KU KLUX KLAN", a monumental reason
establishing a physical Broadcast Arts Museum in New Orleans...a facility
that has yet to see the light of day!
Leavitt and Yacich also brought to New Orleans viewers one of the first
late night talk shows. Following NBC's "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.
"Tonight With Mel" presented Leavitt interviewing stars of the stage,
creen, and television as well as local VIPs and performers. Leavitt's
afternoon program, "Byline", also brought visiting celebrities to the TV
screens of the city. The pictures below show Leavitt and Yacich and some
of the "Byline" guests.
Jimmy Dodd (Disney Mouseketeer)
Mel Leavitt plays quizmaster on "Varsity Quiz Bowl"
John Domec directed and Mel quizzed youngsters from all New Orleans schools.
The program was sponsored by the Pipe Council of New Orleans, an association
of contracters and plumbers, who weren't selling anything but their genuiune
interest in the education of the city's youngsters.
One of the most popular presentations of the Leavitt/Yacich team was
their annual coverage of the Mardi Gras parades as they passed in front of
the WDSU-TV studios on Royal Street and on Canal Street in front of the
Boston Club. WDSU-TV began televising Mardi Gras activities on Jan. 21,
1949, just one month after Channel 6 signed on the air.
WDSU-TV presents the first Mardi Gras ball masque on television
Jan 21, 1949
The picture above shows cameraman Irwin Poche' and audio engineer J.
Lowell Otto of the WDSU-TV remote crew in New Orleans' Municipal
Auditorium at Beauregard Square as they help present the first Mardi Gras
ball masque on television.
From New Orleans Magazine - February 1967
Mel Leavitt and the WDSU-TV Mardi Gras "Task Force"
The annual meeting of the WDSU-TV Mardi Gras "Task Force" was featured by
New Orleans Magazine in the February 1967 issue. The "Task Force" members,
(L to R) in the above picture, are Jerry Romig, WDSU-TV Program Director and
Production Manager, Mel Leavitt, Lindsey Riddle, Chief Engineer, and Paul
During one Mardi Gras parade television coverage, for WGNO-TV Ch. 26, some
time after Leavitt and Yacich left WDSU-TV (after the station was sold by
Stern, Mel announced on the air that this parade would probably be the last
time he and his partner for over a quarter of a century, Paul Yacich, would
bring the Mardi Gras to the TV screens of New Orleans. Mel is no longer
with us. He died of lung cancer while writing a book about the early days
of television in New Orleans. We can only hope that someone will finish
Mel Leavitt was the first New Orleans television celebrity to gain the
respect and admiration of the viewers of this city. He was inducted into
the Greater New Orleans Broadcast Association "Hall of Fame." The television broadcast community of New Orleans
and the nation lost a fine gentleman and a wonderful talent. He will be
sincerely missed by all of the New Orleans TV viewers and his friends
and co-workers at WDSU-TV.
Bob Carr subs for Mel on "Byline"
The few times Mel Leavitt was unavailable to do his "Byline" program he
was replaced by Bob Carr. Bob and his wife, Jan, were members of the Ch.6
"Midday" cast and later starred in their own show "Second Cup", a morning
program originating from the area surrounding the pool on the roof of the
Royal Orleans Hotel. In the picture below, Bob shares a laugh with Irena
Demich, the only female in the feature movie "The Longest Day"
The Baroness von Trapp (the REAL Baroness)
One of the "Byline" programs hosted by Bob Carr featured the Baroness
von Trapp. Many will remember the movie story of her life in the Nazi
years of Germany. Unfortunately the Baroness chose the "Byline" program as
a platform to issue Communist propaganda. At that time, the word
"Communist" could have been added as an eigth word to George Carlin's
list of "Seven Dirty Words" Director Yacich submitted the videotape
recorded program to the station Program and Legal VIPs. It was decided
that it was not in the best interest of the station and the community
to air the program.
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