Seeing Stars: Hollywood Museums..
  

(now named "The Paley Center for Media")
465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA.
.
(310) 786-1091 or (310) 786-1000

This Hollywood museum is experiencing an identity crisis, of sorts.

The Museum of Television and Radio had been open in New York City for almost 20 years before they finally opened this west coast branch in Beverly Hills in 1996.

That was back at a time when it was almost impossible for the general public to get their hands on old television programming.  The Internet was just starting to catch on.  Movies were available on video tape, and DVDs were just beeing born, but when it came to television, if you wasn't being broadcast somewhere, chances are you had no way to watch it.  And it was the same with most historic radio broadcasts.

So, if you felt like watching the final episode of "The Fugitive", or Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon, or the Beatles debut on the "Ed Sullivan Show", you were out of luck.  Likewise, if you wanted to hear Orson Welles' infamous "War of the Worlds" broadcast of 1938, listen to FDR's first fireside chat,  or if your kids prefered to see the very first episode of "Rocky & Bullwinkle", it just wasn't possible.  Most of those historic videos were locked away in studio vaults.

The Museum of Television steped in and filled that need.  It preserved these historic moments on television and radio, and gave the general access instant access to  them.

Visitors could sit down before one of fifty TV consoles and call up their favorite television programs from days gone by, or don earphones to listen to historic radio broadcasts at the push of a button.

Located in a sparkling, new three-level building within walking distance of Rodeo Drive, the Museum pays tribute to two media which helped shape our modern culture. This isn't just some private enclave for scholars. The Museum has collected over 90,000 television and radio programs, and it's all available to the general public. (Robert Redford did his research for "Quiz Show" at the museum).

Carol Burnett ("The Carol Burnett Show"), Alan Alda ("M*A*S*H"), Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown"), Lea Thompson ("Caroline in the City "), Sid Caesar ("Your Show of Shows"), Tori Spelling ("Beverly Hills 90210"), and John Lithgow ("Third Rock from the Sun") all turned out in person for the ribbon-cutting on opening day.

    

You may also notice that the various rooms have been named in honor of their celebrity sponsors: the Danny Thomas lobby, Aaron Spelling reception area, the Gary Marshall pool...

The museum's collection allowed you to select from among 160,000 television and radio programs and advertisements, which run the gamut from comedy to drama, from news to game shows, from children's programs to political conventions; the shows include concerts, sporting events, science fiction, even TV movies and miniseries.

However, in today's world, most of that same video is now instantly available over the internet, and or on disc or via Netflix streaming.  So, to at least some extent, the museum has outlived its original purpose.

That's a good thing, insofar as its mission (of giving the public & scholars access to the history of television) has now been fulfilled, but it poses a bit of a dillema for the museum's future.

In response to the changing times, in 2007, the Museum of Television and Radio changed their name to "The Paley Center for Media". Although its fabled collection is still intact and available, they now put more of an emphasis on seminars often featuring live appearances by the stars of the shows being discussed.

They've found particular success with their annual Television Festival, now known as PaleyFest, which hosts live panels made up of the entire casts and creative crews of popular TV shows, where not only are episodes screened, but the audience can ask questions and get answers from their favorite celebs.  It's a rare chance for the public to see TV stars in person, and for the stars to interact with their fans.  The festival is usually held at a larger venue, such as at the Dolby Theatre.

But they also host "PaleyLive" events at the museum, smaller seminars which also feature stars from the show being highlighted, in a more intimate setting.

(Contact the museum for details about future events, or call their hotline for recorded information about their schedule, at (310) 786-1091.)

The museum building itself (in Beverly Hills) is spectacular; a 23,000, two-level work of art in its own right, with crisp modern lines, glistening with white marble and glass, and featuring an open two-level lobby.

Inside the Museum you'll find:

  • the Stanley E. Hubbard Library: the heart of the Museum, where user-friendly Macintosh computers will help you make your selection of what television program you want to see; (You must make a reservation to use the Library at the lobby front desk when you arrive). Then just reserve your selection and go to...

  • the Console Center: where you go to watch your selections. At the consoles, which feature TV monitors and headphones, you have control over playback functions. You'll be allowed immediate access to about half of the museum's vast collection. (The other half, in the archives, takes about a week to retrieve.);
  • The Ahmanson Radio Listening Room: where you can use headphones to listen to special Museum radio series and broadcasts from five pre-programmed channels;

  • the John H. Mitchell Theatre: a 150-seat, state-of-the-art screening room (which will be used for special daily screenings and seminars - pick up a schedule at the Info desk when you first arrive);

  • the Ralph Guild Radio Studio: a small working radio station where the Museum can broadcast live and taped radio programs; the public is invited to watch most broadcasts, for a behind-the-scenes look at the way a radio stations works;
  • several galleries on both levels for rotating exhibits, the largest being the Bell Family Gallery;

  • an education room and theatre for students, and

  • a gift shop where visitors can choose from hundreds of books, videos and radio cassettes, posters, t-shirts, caps, and other memorabilia from current and classic TV programs.

The museum also offers general temporary exhibits, such as "Star Trek: The Tradition Continues" (with life-size mannequins modeling the original uniforms and props from the "Trek" shows) and a collection of Al Hirschfeld sketches of Hollywood celebritie.


(The Museum sponsors the annual Television Festival. a great chance to see the stars of your favorite TV shows in person. Click here for more info.)

Admission Price:

Free admission, but the suggested contribution is:

    $10.00 for adults
    $  8.00 for students and senior citizens
    $  5.00 for children under 13.

Hours:

    Wednesday through Sunday: 12 noon to 5 PM.
    Closed Monday and Tuesday (and major holidays).

Parking:

    Two hours of free parking in the Museums parking lot. After two hours, the charge for the lot is $1 per additional half hour.

 Getting there: the museum is located in a distinctive white building on the west side of Beverly Drive, at Santa Monica Blvd. / From Rodeo Drive, go north to Little Santa Monica Blvd., and turn right (northeast). Go one block to Beverly Drive and turn right. The Museum will be on your right side, at the southwest corner of Beverly and Little Santa Monica.


[For more information on this subject, you can access the Museum's official website at: http://www.paleycenter.org.]


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Copyright © 2015-Gary Wayne
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