Dean Opperman

Written by Dean Opperman:
Posted on March 19th, 2012 at 11:29 am
Go Back to Remembrances

Back in 1978, it was my dream to see KCPR become KCPR TV. Frank was about the only other person on campus who wanted the same thing; in spite of the fact we were fought by “the powers that be,” who thought KCPR-FM was headache enough!

One day, Frank and I hopped in Frank’s truck and drove to Hollywood where he had a line on a whole pile of used video gear. As it turned out, it was a whole lot of vintage color TV equipment, including three first generation RCA TK-41 Color Video Cameras that were once part of Red Skelton’s inventory and later owned by KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles. Naturally, there was a ton of support equipment as well- mixing consoles, monitors, etc. It took us all day and all night to pick the stuff up, and then haul it back to Cal Poly were we unloaded it in one of the rooms used by Ed Zuchelli to teach his broadcast classes.

Needless to say, Zuke was less than happy about it.

Now that we had all this gear there was little standing in the way of putting together some sort of working TV studio. It soon became obvious that Zuke was not going to back our little scheme. In fact, he was convinced it would take several thousand dollars just to get the gear in some kind of working order…. something that Dr. Kennedy, the board, the regents, the docents and God knows who else was unlikely to fund. That didn’t stop Frank. Somehow, within a week, he’d found a way to get permission to televise an upcoming Cal Poly football game (to an audience of two or three engineers in a makeshift video truck).

I helped carry those RCA cameras up to the top of the bleachers; they must have weighed 300 lbs. each. I still remember trying to pan those monsters to cover the action on the field while at the same time striving not to stand too close because I was convinced the unwieldy behemoth would collapse on the spindly wooded tripod Frank had procured from somewhere deep in the AV department. Well, it was a whole lot of fun, and Frank did get the cameras working somehow though, of course, that was the beginning and end of KCPR-TV.

I got my wish to be a part of the short-lived dream with this one-time experiment. I went on to KVEC that year, Frank went to KSBY and Zuke, rest his soul, was able to once again relax. As I recall, the cameras ended up at UCLA. I think of Frank often. He was a real inspiration with a big heart, a gentle soul, a taste for innovation and a marvelous sense of humor. He touched my life in a meaningful way.

Incidentally, several years back and completely out of the blue Frank sent me a detailed email congratulating me on my long career in broadcasting. I was moved by the fact he took time out of his day to compose a heartfelt letter to me so long after we had last spoken. It was the kind of thing that speaks volumes about the kind of man Frank Calabrese was. I’ll never forget him.

For more on the cameras in question, see: