Backstage: Stories from My Life in Public Television

Backstage: Stories from My Life in Public Television

Backstage: Stories from My Life in Public Television

Backstage: Stories from My Life in Public Television


Born in 1930 in "Diddlin' Dora's" establishment on the banks of Rapid Creek and carried by the Madam herself to a social worker at the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City, Ron Hull was destined from the outset to live an interesting life. And interesting it has indeed been, at the very least. A well-known and much-loved figure after six decades in television, Hull sets out in Backstage to tell his story- from playing a bellhop in a junior class play in South Dakota (and meeting his "real" mother backstage) to initiating the American Experience series for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Before he even owned a television set, Hull produced a military TV show at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. But it wasn't until he got a job in public broadcasting in Lincoln, Nebraska, that he truly found his medium. Hull has a lifetime of fascinating anecdotes to tell: working as a producer and director, encountering celebrities like John Wayne and William Shatner, befriending famous Nebraskans like writers Mari Sandoz and John Neihardt and actress Sandy Dennis, moving to Saigon in 1966 to bring television to embattled Vietnam, and working in Washington as director of the program fund for the CPB. Through it all, though, Hull's story is a tribute to his adopted Nebraska, a celebration of the people- stars and unsung heroes- he's known, and a moving memoir of the dramas of life, large and small.


The plane, shakily lurching through the sky, was obviously landing. But where? the forbidding snow-covered mountains and frozen ground could only mean a crash landing in this unknown place. Riveted with fear, I clutched my mother’s arm as I edged closer to her seat in the State Theatre of Rapid City, South Dakota, and witnessed the power of movie storytelling.

I was seven years old, and this, the first movie I can remember, was the 1937 Columbia Pictures film Lost Horizon, starring Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt. This motion picture magically opened the door to my imagination. Though some of the scenes reputedly were filmed in an ice-making plant in Los Angeles, I believed every detail of that story about the Valley of the Blue Moon somewhere in the mountains of Tibet, and I’ve been searching for Shangri-la ever since.

I was close in May 2006 when I boarded the Trans-Mongolian Railway in Beijing, China, and headed northwest past miles of the Great Wall, topping the mountains like the spikes on a dragon’s back, on north through the Gobi desert to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the first stop on the way to Moscow, Russia.

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