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Walter C. Miller, RIP: Ken Ehrlich Celebrates the Irascible Director

In the award present/stay occasion style, there actually aren’t famous person director names like Spielberg, Tarantino, Coppola or others. It simply doesn’t work like that… with the exception of my good friend, Walter C. Miller, who handed at the age of 94 on Friday at residence along with his household round him. He was not solely considered one of a handful of administrators — Dwight Hemion and Marty Pasetta additionally come to thoughts — who wrote the e book about multi-camera protection of stay occasions, an artwork type and mathematical logistics nightmare all its personal. He additionally turned the first man in the chair to have unfold these skills throughout each nation and pop music, directing and finally producing each the CMA Awards and the Grammys in addition to the Tonys, the Emmys, Comedian Aid and dozens of different stay occasions whose diploma of problem left quite a few different administrators sitting in puddles beneath their chairs.

However to me — and I labored facet by facet with him on the Grammys for near 30 of my 40 years as producer/govt producer — his proficiency in the chair, as mystifying and daunting because it might be, was solely half of what I realized to like, respect and, most significantly, study from this New York-born, WWII (how he pronounced it) vet who might simply as simply minimize you to bits along with his mouth as he might with a rapier… which is how we referred to his wit, often. And what else did this man possess that was larger than his innate and instinctive potential to take a look at 15 or 20 cameras at the identical time and “name” the good shot, whether or not it was preplanned or not?

There have been really two issues that Walter did fairly a lot better than anybody else. The primary was his musician’s temperament (he performed the violin), which led him to chop cameras to comply with the music and disrespect the temptation by a lot of right now’s MTV administrators to consider that their “route” was extra vital than giving the viewers the feeling that they have been there. Now, that may sound elementary, however belief me, It’s way more of an artwork than stylized pictures, raked angles or frantic over-cutting designed to masks lack of preparation. Cameramen nearly at all times knew what Walter needed, and after they didn’t, they confirmed him issues that put a smile on his face — which was at all times preferable to the different, as anybody listening in on Walter’s legendary headset realized nearly instantly. We would have been doing a G-rated present, nevertheless it was an X-rated headset, as we have been all to find one 12 months when a extremely censored couple of minutes of Walter’s headset wound up on Rick Dees’ radio present and nearly introduced the Recording Academy and the community to its knees. Apologies and mea culpas adopted, however Walter was again in the chair the subsequent 12 months.

The second factor that separated Walter from his director contemporaries was additionally distinctive to his model of relating each to his employees, and equally importantly, to the artists we labored with. In 1980, Pierre Cossette put the two of us collectively on the Grammys — me to provide, and Walter to direct — after a number of years with a earlier producer/director. I feel Pierre’s darker intuition was that both he had caught lightning in a bottle or that solely considered one of us would come out alive. Walter was already a seasoned director with quite a few community credit and a mouth to match, and I used to be this hotshot producer, three years out of PBS music exhibits in Chicago, with an already creating strategy of coping with expertise, however who was dumbstruck watching Wally in motion. What I realized from that first 12 months we have been collectively might have crammed an encyclopedia. (That’s a multi-volume assortment of anecdotal data with photos, for these of you analogically disadvantaged.)

We each survived that first 12 months, and 33 extra. However from that second on, after I put my thoughts to it, I might hear Walter’s voice in the manner I handled expertise, respecting them, coping with them on the solely degree that I knew might elicit mutual respect, and at all times making an attempt to get to the level the place we have been making severe selections — and realizing that it needed to be enjoyable. And o at the present time, that’s how I strategy what I do — and when it’s good, I hear Walter.

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Walter C. Miller, Tony Bennett and Ken Ehrlich at work on the Grammy Awards
Courtesy Ken Ehrlich

And that dance, usually with me in the lead whereas he watched over me like I used to be the apprentice to the grasp (not that apprentice), was a part of some fairly intense moments with artists that ranged from Prince to Whitney Houston, from Billy Joel to Bruce Springsteen, from Beyoncé to Barbra Streisand. Discover I haven’t talked about any nation acts. I wasn’t silly sufficient to tread on that hallowed floor, first as a result of all of them liked Wally (or “Mr. Miller”), and secondly, as a result of he simply liked them again a lot it was fantastic to look at, from Garth to Taylor and particularly his favourite, Vince Gill.

I understand I haven’t given you a lot of a biographical sketch of my good friend Walter, however you could find that elsewhere on the Web. However if you happen to take away that Walter Miller was distinctive, was liked by nearly everybody he labored with (and hated by a couple of others), you get it: the image of an individual not usually discovered anymore on this or another enterprise. I usually mentioned — to his face, to my credit score — that beneath that gruff exterior was a fair rougher inside. However that’s the form of joke Wally liked. I can see him shaking with laughter now, and I at all times will.

I might be remiss, on the different hand, if I failed to incorporate at the very least one basic Millerism that I heard on many greater than a single event, one which, at its most vitriolic, was generally aimed proper at my coronary heart. Inevitably, in some unspecified time in the future throughout a present, after I noticed myself not solely failing to make some extent however seeing these eyes slender to cobra slits, a slight tremor making its manner from his ft to his head, growth, there it was, and there wasn’t any mistaking its intent. ”Simply what…,” he would start, and although I didn’t want a end to that phrase, there was no getting out of the manner. For impact, he waited till a crowd had gathered for max humiliation. ”Simply what don’t you perceive about go fuck your self?” It was a rhetorical query and required no reply. With Walter Miller, no reply was actually the solely reply.

I liked him and miss him very a lot. We gained’t see one other one like him. Ever.


Ken Ehrlich was the govt producer of the Grammy Awards from 1980 via 2020. Walter Miller labored on the present as a director, producer or consulting producer from 1980 up till 2009. For an outline of Miller’s TV profession going again to the Nineteen Sixties, learn right here.

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Mr. Josh is an experienced freelance journalist. He has worked as a journalist for a few online print-based magazines for around 3 years. He brings together substantial news bulletins from the field of Technology and US. He joined the team for taking the website to the heights.

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