Sunday, March 30, 2008

If You Live in Burbank...

What's your story? Tell it on Channel 6

City plans program of oral histories

By Carol Bidwell, Daily News Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 03/29/2008


If you live in Burbank and have an interesting local tale to tell, the city is looking for you.

City officials are preparing a program of oral histories titled "Burbank Voices: Then & Now" that will air on Channel 6, the city's public access TV channel, beginning at midnight Thursday.

The shows will be repeated several times daily, with new shows added as they are ready to air.

City Councilwoman Anja Reinke, elected in May, came up with the idea while campaigning and got the project rolling with $10,000 in city funds once she took her council seat.

"When I was campaigning, I was going door-to-door, talking to people.... They had the best and most interesting stories," she said. "I thought we should have a little TV show for people to see who their neighbors are."

The first show will be an interview with 97-year-old Otto Jensen, a retired professional photographer who has lived in Burbank since 1940 and photographed everything from celebrities and family portraits to scenery.

"He's led a very interesting life and his story should be a good one," said Michael McManus, a former KNBC (Channel 4) writer and producer who is now the city's public information officer. McManus will be doing many of the interviews.

"Next, we have a woman who lived here during World War II and worked on airplanes, a Rosie the Riveter-type of person," he said. "And then there's a man, Bob Burns, who worked in the movies and has a museum in his home of motion picture special effects and props."

Reinke is looking forward to doing some interviews, too, and has lined up a 97-year-old "who was a super athlete at USC and did training in the Navy in World War II."

"And there's a man who knew Walt Disney ... and the grandson of `Spanky' McFarland (a child actor in the `Our Gang' films of the 1920s and '30s.) And we have some Holocaust survivors, and we want to include at least one of those.

"Oh, and Mary Alice O'Connor - she's probably in her 90s; she was married to Frank O'Connor, who drew `Cinderella' for Walt Disney. She was the model for the fairy godmother."

Reinke, who works as an attorney and a real estate broker, said she's constantly running across people with tales to tell.

"I personally think anyone you talk to has an interesting story," she said with a laugh. "I'm really nosy and I'm interested in people. I'm talking to people in the grocery store line. If you talk to anybody more than a couple of minutes, people start telling you about themselves."

The oral history interviews are being recorded on videotape and, after being aired on TV, copies will be available in local libraries and at the local historical society.

It's hard to tell how many interviews this year's $10,000 budget will cover, with the cost of taping, cameras, lighting and sound, McManus said.

It'll be less costly if interviewees can come to City Hall, where the lighting and background can be controlled inexpensively.

"There's no telling how long each one will be," McManus said. "Say you've got a man who's 100 ... and he's lived a lot longer than someone who's 18 and served one term as Miss Burbank."

To nominate someone - or yourself - for the project, go to the city's Web site at, and click on We're Looking For "Burbank Voices: Then & Now."

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