Friday, April 30, 2021

Eagle Scout: The Story of Henry Nichols (1993)

 by G. Jack Urso


During my time at WAMC 90.3 FM Northeast Public Radio, one of my assignments was to serve as the arts editor. This meant sorting through piles of announcements of events for art, music, dance, opera, theater, etc. I got to interview some of the Baby Boomer-era celebrities passing through the area, like actors James Whitmore and Kim Hunter (both from Planet of the Apes), Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck, Tales of the City), Juliet Mills (Nanny and the Professor), and musician Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul, and Mary), among many others.

I also produced short pieces featuring the local angle in the arts, and here I am interviewing Michael Ryan, producer of the film, Eagle Scout: The Story of Henry Nichols, an award-winning documentary produced by HBO in 1993, before it makes its debut at a local theater. I also had a chance to interview Henry himself as he talks about the struggles young AIDS victims faced in the 1980s and 1990s.

Nichols hailed from Cooperstown, NY. I found him to be articulate, intelligent, and easy-to-talk to. As I had been a Boy Scout as well (achieving the Star Scout rank), we had something in common. After the film, Nichols continued his work as an activist, slowing down only as his medical condition took its toll. Unfortunately, he died in an automobile accident in 2000. Henry had a natural sense of leadership and decency that is missed.

Technical Notes: In the era before computer audio editing software, this report was produced using the old fashioned way: crayons, razor blades, and editing tape. After recording the interviews on reel-to-reel tape, I would play back the tape and mark off the crayon on the tape the beginning and end of sound bites to use for the report. Then, after recording my own narration, I would splice one piece of tape to another over a splicing block — a small metal block with slots to lay and cut the tape over it. I had about ten splices for this piece. Once the report was completed, I would record it over onto a cart, an 8-Track tape-like device, for later playback on air.

The above segment from March 3, 1995, aired during the afternoon and evening drive time news shows. 


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