MY FRIEND TED LOMAN by Jim Nichols
09/04/07 19:57 Permalink
[My Excellent UFOAZ Adventure]
"Mr. Loman, I'd be more than happy to let you use my UFO art for your TV program, but I assure you, I have absolutely no desire to sit in front of a television camera myself!" Was I getting through to this guy? The chap sitting across from me in my apartment living room was an affable, engaging and insistent character, all right. Wearing a black patch over his left eye like some kind of Hollywood movie pirate, his proposal was almost ludicrous. Yet here was a man left virtually blind by a recent metallurgical accident, determined to produce, of all things, a television show! I had to admire his grit, but his offer to include me as co-host was absolutely ludicrous. Do-it-yourself television?
Yes, indeed--Public Access Television! The Tucson city fathers in a rare fit of political acumen had set aside tax dollars to provide a production facility, where any ambitious 'Ted' off the street could come in and be trained to direct and shoot his very own television show. And that's exactly what Mr. Ted Loman planned to do--with my assistance. He had this grand idea to do a show all about UFOs. I could see, despite my protests, he was not going to take no for an answer. He threw his best schmooze into gear. (I later learned he was once a used-car salesman.) His practiced charm and persistence were wearing me down. "Look," he insisted, "we'll only do eight shows or so, and we won't even do them live. All you have to do is help me tape the ten-minute introductions. If you make mistakes or goof-ups we can just re-tape it." Finally, to humor this guy, I reluctantly agreed. This was the summer of 1991.
Little did I realize, but I was embarking with Ted upon a project that would involve us for the next six years with what would become an award-winning program to be aired on Public Access Television channels in American cities from coast to coast. Such was the inception of 'UFOAZ Talks' -the longest running 'live' UFO talk show in the country!
Well, yes. I did have some background expertise in UFO research-but only as an artist. I had about ten years experience doing UFO illustrations, thanks to my affiliation with Mr. Wendelle Stevens, a retired Lt. Col. from the U.S. Air force, who'd been researching the UFO phenomenon since World War II. Mr. Stevens also lived in Tucson and together we had been collaborating on investigation projects since 1980. Over the years, my illustrations had earned me something of a reputation, and thus, it was my UFO art that brought me to Mr. Loman's attention. But understand, I was an artist-content to pursue my craft in the blissful solitude of my studio. My paintings conveyed my message. I had not the slightest ambition or inclination to face the unblinking stare of a camera, under glaring hot spotlights in a TV studio! Just the thought of such a fate was terrifying! No indeed! You won't catch me doing any such foolishness! But irrepressible Ted had other plans. (To quote Shakespeare, "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, roughhew them how we will.) Ted figured my ten years of UFO research made me the perfect choice to help him co-host his crazy TV project. And so, believe it or not, much to my horror, I found myself in Studio-A at Tucson Community Cable Corporation, facing that relentless camera just struggling to make coherent sentences. Okay, Ted are you happy now? Let's just get this agony over with!
Well, as destiny would have it, a little incident transpired that tweaked my Irish and totally reversed my reluctance to pursue a television project with Ted. It happened that summer when the First World UFO Congress was held right here in Tucson. Researcher Wendelle Stevens had promoted an extravaganza unprecedented in its scope, assembling researchers from all over the world-the Soviet Union, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Brazil as well as the United States to share their findings in a vast, public forum, on potentially the most important issue in human history. If only one of the numerous cases under review at that conference were proven literal fact-it would prove the news story of the Millennium! Right?
And so to kick off the weeklong UFO event, a press conference was held first thing-open to all the local Tucson media, newspaper, TV and radio. The hotel hall was filled reporters from all the local affiliates of ABC, NBC and CBS-and to a man-the press sat in stony, icy silence. They had no questions for any of the visiting investigators-not even the Soviet Cosmonaut. Ted and I were there too, and totally astounded by this glaring display of callous indifference by the 'professional' media. Either the reporters on hand were embarrassingly ignorant about the UFO topic, or they had already made up their minds as to what was fit and newsworthy for the public. Obviously UFOs were not on that agenda. On the evening news and in the papers all that was shown of the conference were pictures of vendors hawking crystals, t-shirts, coffee mugs and other 'alien' collectibles. The whole event was dismissed as comic, 'woo-woo' nonsense. I was grossly offended-not only as a UFO investigator-but as a private citizen as well. Was this how we got our news? Was this how the press really worked? I thought the roll of a responsible press was to report the facts of a story and let the public make up its own mind. Surely the case studies revealed at this conference were 'newsworthy' to say the least! Well, once again, I'd been relieved of one of my cherished, idealistic notions-media trust!
Ah, but how many times in your life do you get the chance to tell the story the big networks-CBS, NBC and ABC-refuse to tell! Well, Ted and I had just such an opportunity plopped in our laps, and so we ran with it! Ted was given access to all the videotaped lectures of the entire conference and to fearlessly air them on Public Access TV became the inspired mission of UFOAZ. Public Access Television-the last bastion of free speech in America--has no commercials. You don't have Bristol-Meyers, General Motors, Exxon or Bank of America telling you what to say and how to say it-all the news that's print to fit!
Bringing the First World UFO Conference information to the public was our premiere crusade, to share the lectures via our television show and let the viewing audience make up its own mind-filling the responsible role the national media should have been performing all along! Now, exactly how much credibility Ted and I leant to the subject at hand in our bumbling introductions I leave to the judgment of posterity, especially with myself decked out in a Star Tours t-shirt, and Ted with his cheeks full of chewing tobacco--I fear we may have done our dedicated lecturers more harm than good. We were no threat to Tom Brokaw just yet! Thank God for videotape-yes, we made lots of goof-ups, and yes, we shot lots of re-takes, but somehow we managed to shoot some fairly useable introductions.
Thankfully I survived the ordeal-and once our task was completed--happy to think I was finally off the hook-but then to my dismay I discovered this little taste of 'show-biz' had only made Ted hungry for more! A Friday evening slot became available for an hour 'live' show-Ted couldn't resist. "Oh, no! I protested. "I've done my bit for God and country-you said we wouldn't do LIVE TV! I've done the taped introductions just like you asked, but NO WAY am I gonna do live television!" Of course, determined to keep me on board, Ted ignored my protests and just laid on the schmooze even thicker. Well, I must have agreed. Its said that under moments of extreme terror the mind slips into temporary amnesia, because I simply can't recall actually consenting to continue my co-host role, but despite my stage-fright, I actually found myself playing Ted's faithful side-kick every Friday night doing a live TV show about UFOs.
It wasn't long though, before Ted and I both realized we had blundered into a 'destiny' experience. From that point our show, UFOAZ Talks, seemed to take on a life of its own. The weekly production was ALL Ted's. He was the ring-master-the 'Ed Sullivan' of UFOs. With his limited-vision disability he had free time to devote to all the technical preparations, lighting, set design, audio and control room. He had a full production crew at his command, yet with no salaries to be paid-this was strictly a volunteer labor of love. I had my own full-time job, so my assistance was more limited. But together we would brainstorm show topics, and to help out we enlisted the assistance of another knowledgeable and able co-host-Roger Scherrer-to keep the ball rolling. And roll it did!
We abandoned our grubby t-shirts for sport jackets and ties to give the show at least a pretense of class, and to lend a shred of respectability to the subject at hand. It turned out that Ted was a natural born showman. He had a gift for television production and for tirelessly networking with people around the country who were involved with UFO research. We'd established vital contacts with many of these people starting with Wendelle's World Conference, and it grew from there.
In those days New York publisher Tim Beckley was holding annual UFO conferences in nearby Phoenix, so packing up cameras and microphones, the UFOAZ entourage would trek off to the Arizona capitol and tape as many interviews as we could manage. Conferences like his were perfect for our show's limited budget-they brought the international investigators to us.
At that point in time-summer of 1991-the UFO phenomenon had been getting meager attention in the national media. You were lucky to see one or two UFO documentaries a year, so with UFOAZ we were trying to take up the slack. Little did we realize what a tidal wave of UFO stories we we're about to ride for the next six years . . . A magic sychronicity seemed to kick-in the very day our show premiered-7-11-91.
In Mexico City, one of the world's largest metropolitan centers, much of the populace was outdoors to observe a rare full-solar eclipse, when a shiny bright object was seen hovering over the city. It was no star. Dozens of observers videotaping the eclipse caught this object as well. Taped footage that zoomed in on this sparkling light revealed a perfect little silver disc bobbing silently in the bright Mexican sky. This event was just a harbinger of on-going UFO activity to be witnessed throughout Mexico for the rest of the decade.
Another major UFO related story broke at that time, right in UFOAZ's hometown-Tucson. A job discrimination lawsuit against the Pima County Sheriff's Department made national headlines. Robert O. Dean was a retired Command Sergeant Major with the U.S. Army, who had given an additional fifteen years of service to the Sheriff's Department division of Emergency Management Services. Bob was denied a promotion to director of that division because of his background in UFO investigation. This civil rights violation precipitated a legal confrontation, which Mr. Dean won. At that point Bob made the decision-in violation of his national security oath--to publicly disclose classified information about UFOs to which he had access while on assignment to NATO.
During the mid-sixties, Bob Dean worked as an intelligence analyst for the NATO command headquarters in Paris, where he was shown a Top Secret report titled, 'An Assessment'-which revealed UFOs were serious business and that Earth was indeed being visited regularly by more than one group of extra-terrestrials. Up to that point Bob had been a no-nonsense combat veteran and dutiful career soldier, but reading the startling contents of this report, radically changed his life. From that point he became an avid UFO researcher, and in 1991 he decided the public had a right to know the truth behind the saucer enigma. UFOAZ Talks was pleased to provide Bob a live forum to share that 'truth'. Gracious, informative and articulate, Bob Dean became a welcome regular guest on our show and a dear friend. His support was a major contribution to our growing success.
And onward Ted and Jim's UFO show went--determined to plumb the unfathomed depths of the flying saucer enigma. At last I found a practical use for that semester of Journalism I took way back in high school! At various conventions we'd set up our portable video camera and tape interviews . . . "Go on. Ask 'em some questions." Ted would prod. "I'll run camera." "Are you sure you can see well enough?" I'd ask with dubious reluctance. "Yeah, I can see okay." "Well try to keep us in focus. All right?" "No problem." And off we'd go interrogating some hapless abductee or intrepid researcher for our show--sometimes in focus--sometimes not. But I must admit, the amazing parade of people before our cameras, from all walks of life, from all over the world-each with their own fantastic tale to tell, gave me an extraordinary personal opportunity for an in-depth study of the UFO phenomenon few people experience.
By 1994 co-host Roger Scherrer had moved on to a TV show of his own, and for a time he was replaced briefly by another dedicated young researcher named Rick Keefe. Our show continued award-winning success, but still something was lacking-something indefinable was missing. And then we discovered it! Our show was overloaded with testosterone-it needed a woman's touch! Peggy Kane had been a regular UFOAZ fan and a good family friend, who shared a serious interest in UFOs and related topics. In 1994 we invited this lovely lady and talented artist to join our show as a regular co-host. Her enthusiasm, grace and charm were just the sparkle the show needed. UFOs were not just a 'guy' thing. She added a feminine point of view. Having Peggy on board established a remarkable synergy with the three of us that came to define the vitality of UFOAZ Talks. It was truly great fun!
And over the course of the ensuing three years we found ourselves on investigative adventures leading to the desert wastes of New Mexico and the site of the famed 1947 Roswell UFO crash as well as the heavily guarded gates of the infamous Area-51 test site in Nevada.
Ultimately this adventure took me halfway around the world to stand in the midst of a mysterious crop-circle in England and then to display my UFO art on NBC's Today Show. Ted, in turn, was whisked into the national spotlight on Larry King Live and the Geraldo Rivera talk show! Yes, UFOAZ Talks had come a long way. And over the course of our show, here is just a brief list of some the notables I had the opportunity to interview: Travis Walton, Betty Andreasson, Kevin Randle, Col. Philip Corso, Norio Hayakawa, George Knapp, Jim Marrs, Peter Gersten, Dr. Arthur Horn, Bob Oechsler, Tony Dodd, Bill Hamilton, Jorge' Martin, Dr. Leo Sprinkle, Jim Dilettoso, David Froning, Randolph Winters, David Icke and, of course, Bob Dean and Wendelle Stevens. Oh, and who can possibly forget the incredible dog--'Galactic Rover'-but that's another story! My deepest personal thanks goes out to these and all the rest of the wonderful guests, dedicated production staff and loyal fans who helped make UFOAZ Talks the magic success that it was-we could not have done it without them!
UFOs . . . Unidentified Flying Objects, i.e. 'flying saucers'-strange craft in our skies, reported by people from all walks of life over the entire course of human history that cannot be accounted for by conventional 'reality'-their origin and purpose remain a total mystery. After seven years of weekly broadcasts UFOAZ Talks filed its last installment in December of 1997. And just what did Ted, Peggy and Jim conclude after all their years of dedicated research? The origin and purpose of UFOs remain a total mystery . . . UFOAZ Talks was truly an excellent adventure . . .! Party-on!
Used with permission of Ted Loman but we thank Jim Nichols too! Here is his blog site: www.jimnicholsufoart/blog/blog.html