Jerry Carr's love of television has led him into some dangerous predicaments. The president of the public television station based in Boynton Beach, WXEL, Carr started his career in the 1960s in Rochester, New York, and yesterday that city's Democrat and Chronicle told of how Carr became a local celebrity, hosting several television shows including one called Chiller Theater. Which is how he found himself waiting in a coffin that had been nailed shut while the staff adjusted the lighting.
"I got very uptight and nervous, and I started to rock," Carr recalls. "The coffin tipped over, landed on its left side, and I broke my elbow."
Next thing Carr knows, he's at a hospital, confronted by an emergency room nurse wanting to know what happened.
"I said I fell out of a coffin. That got quite a bit of attention at 2 in the morning."
A few days later, Carr tried to do the weather report while astride a live elephant. He fell off, broke the same elbow, and had to explain it to the same nurse.
But these days, Carr's most harrowing adventures are with the Boynton station's balance sheet, which took a hit after Madoff swindled some its Palm Beach County donors.
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For example, one local foundation that used to contribute $50,000 a year to help underwrite the Newshour With Jim Lehrer just cut its contribution to $14,000.
That has meant, in effect, mothballing two big production studios that WXEL owns and used to keep in continuous operation. Now they operate on a standby basis only.
Some shows have had to be cut.
But Carr is optimistic. Membership remains strong. During the latest pledge drive, WXEL surpassed its $200,000 goal by $10,000. Congress appears ready to pass some stimulus funding for public broadcasting. And Carr is also excited about a golf classic that will benefit WXEL in early November. It will be held at an exclusive Donald Trump course that is normally accessible only to people who can afford a $175,000 membership fee.
"I don't expect this [economic downturn] to last forever," Carr adds. "From all I've seen and read, it's bottoming out and starting to turn around," Carr adds.