Andy Moore turns out his Friday night lights
The Wisconsin Public Television veteran has produced Friday night news shows for 33 years. This week’s his last.
Andy Moore’s memory bag from more than three decades of producing award-winning Friday night news programs for PBS Wisconsin — most notably “WeekEnd” and “Here & Now” — includes moments that never made it on TV.
How Jesse Jackson, just seconds before airtime, circled the studio greeting the student camera operators with hugs; how the maverick Texas journalist Molly Ivins decamped to a Vilas Hall driveway for a smoke while bemoaning her addiction to tobacco; and how presidential candidate Jerry Brown arrived at the studio with an entourage that would have shamed the Rolling Stones.
Then there was the time baseball legend Henry Aaron was scheduled to appear on “WeekEnd,” which aired live on PBS Wisconsin Friday nights from 7-8 p.m. from 1991-2002. They had a satellite hook-up to an Atlanta studio, but at the scheduled time, no Aaron.
“That’s the chair Hank Aaron would be sitting in,” host Dave Iverson said, “if he was joining us tonight.”
They wound up expanding the political panel that ended each “WeekEnd” show — featuring sharp-witted observers like Bill Kraus, Bill Dixon and Ed Garvey — to a record 19 minutes.
Well, stuff happens. But later that night, while he was eating dinner, Moore’s home phone rang. “Andy, this is Hank Aaron.” His daughter had been in a car accident. She was OK, but he’d gone to the hospital and had to miss the interview. “I loved the fact,” Moore noted, “that he would call himself to say he was sorry.”
Over all the years of producing live television, Moore made a point of counting down a show’s final minute into his director’s ear. At the close of this week’s “Here & Now” program, which airs Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Moore will do it for the last time. He’s retiring, effective that evening.
“I purposely chose a Friday night to end it,” he said, when we shared a phone call last week.
It wasn’t broadcasting, but rather competitive swimming that first brought Moore, a Louisville, Kentucky native, to Madison. He was a champion high school swimmer — with one of the country’s best times in the 100-yard breaststroke — and came up on a recruiting visit.
“It was a hot May day,” Moore recalls. “We went from the airport to the Memorial Union. It was 18 to drink. We had beer and swam to Picnic Point.”
He was hooked.
“Nobody told me the lake froze,” he says.
Even though he’d committed verbally to Auburn, Moore became a Badger.
Out of the pool, he wrote for the Daily Cardinal — “I’ve always been a storyteller” — and set what he believes might be a record for the number of State Street restaurants from which he was fired. Moore was eventually hired by Wisconsin Public Radio, where he wrote copy and subbed on-air for Jean Feraca.
“I learned a lot about broadcast writing from her that carried over into television,” Moore says.
In 1987, he was hired by PBS Wisconsin (then Wisconsin Public Television) to produce a weekly Friday night news show called “Wisconsin Week” developed by Iverson, who would also anchor. It first aired in 1988.
“Iverson took a chance and hired me without any television experience,” Moore says. “It began a mentorship with Dave, which became quite a partnership.”
Three years on, Moore says, “We decided we wanted to do a live show. We gave birth to ‘WeekEnd’ together. It was glorious figuring out what we wanted that show to be.”
They worked hard and had fun. One night Dixon rode into the studio on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Once, early on, a fire alarm sounded and refused to be quelled. Finally Lynn Sprangers, Iverson’s cohost, said, “If this happens at home, get out!”
When Garvey announced a run for governor in 1998, Moore told him he could no longer be on the political panel. Garvey protested, to no avail. He sent Moore a glossy photograph of himself, signed, “To Andy — a friend who fired me.”
“WeekEnd” ended in fall 2002. In January 2003, Moore was back, producing “Here & Now,” a live half hour anchored by Frederica Freyberg — Moore knew her from “Wisconsin Week” — that has been going strong for nearly two decades.
Moore also found time to raise three children with his wife, Peggy — they celebrated their 35th anniversary earlier this month — a family life he documented in a popular column, “Close to Home,” that ran monthly in Isthmus for 26 years.
He also wrote about music, another passion, reflected too in his being an original member of the Cork ‘n Bottle String Band, as well as other bands over the years. Moore plays guitar and now banjo, having been gifted a banjo by his wife and kids on his 50th birthday in 2007. He wrote a column about it: “Five strings and one frazzled family.” Around that time, Moore launched yet another weekly WPT show, the “30 Minute Music Hour,” that aired Saturday nights. While inspired by “Austin City Limits,” his was more intimate and more musically varied than the Texas show.
In retirement, Moore and his wife will travel, visiting friends and family, and he’s thinking of pulling his “Close to Home” columns together in a book.
Meanwhile, he has one more Friday night.
“On Oct. 1,” he says, “I will be able to actually count down, out loud, the last 60 seconds of my career.”
Peggy Moore will be there, and their son, Tucker, as well as the public television colleagues with whom he’s shared so much for so long.
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