This week, Ira Sternberg spoke with Steve Binder.
Steve Binder, producer-director of the 1968 Elvis Presley Comeback Special, has written, along with Mary Beth Leidman, “Fade Up: 26 The Movers and Shakers of Variety Television,” a history of variety television as told by the voices of the men and women who were and are responsible for bringing these shows and stars into our homes for the past 65 years.
His work as an Emmy and ACE award winning director, producer, writer, educator and speaker, Golden Globes nominee and recipient of the 2008 Caucus award for directing, are just a few of Binder’s list of accomplishments.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Binder attended USC as a pre-med student, served in the US Army as an announcer for the American Forces Network (AFN) in Austria & Germany and was recently inducted into the “Legends of AFN” at a military honor guard ceremony in Lake Tahoe, California.
Beginning his professional entertainment career at KABC in Los Angeles at the age of 22, he landed his first job working in the mailroom. Less than a few months later, Binder became a full-time director for KABC directing the popular pie throwing “Soupy Sales Show” airing five days a week on the local KABC station and primetime on the ABC Network on Monday nights.
As television’s youngest network director, Binder chose to go free-lance and spent the next two years directing for Steve Allen. His first job was to direct twenty-six half hours of “Jazz Scene, U.S.A.,” hosted by Oscar Brown Jr. and distributed worldwide by Desilu Studios. Allen financed the production and served as the series executive producer. The series featured half hour mini-specials with 26 jazz giants including Stan Kenton, Shorty Rogers, Cannonball Adderley, The Jazz Messengers and Lou Rawls.
Before the series was completed, Binder doubled his duties by directing the popular late night syndicated show for Westinghouse Broadcasting, “THE Steve Allen Show” across the street from the Hollywood landmark, The Hollywood Ranch Market on La Mirada and Vine Street. It aired for 90 minutes, five nights a week for over two years. This prompted television critic, Cecil Smith, of the L.A. TIMES to devote his entire column about the young Binder, and the doors to a long career in Hollywood opened up.
While directing the Allen show, Steve directed his first feature film, “THE T.A.M.I. SHOW” (Teen-Age Awards Music International) hosted by Jan & Dean and starring James Brown and the Flames, The Rolling Stones, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore, Chuck Berry, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Barbarians. “Arguably, the T.A.M.I. SHOW is the greatest of all Rock films” … LA Times Magazine.
The list of Binder’s accomplishments as executive producer/producer/director/writer include: “Hullabaloo,” “The Danny Kaye Show,” “The Big Show,” “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert,” “Smokey Robinson’s Motown Revue,” four “Prime-Time Emmy Awards,” “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” Hallmark’s “Zoobilee Zoo,” multiple “Soul Train Music Awards,” “Desk Awards,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “It’s About Time,” “Shields & Yarnell,” “The Mac Davis Show,” (series and specials), “Norman Corwin Theater,” “Divas 2000,” “Super Bowl XXX” with Diana Ross and another feature film, James Whitmore’s brilliant Academy Award nominated performance in “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”