June 19, 2015 – Put together by Jim Scalem, former KQED Producer and Program Manager, and former PBS VP of Fundraising Programming.
Richard Moore, an influential public broadcasting pioneer in Northern California and Minnesota, died March 25 at his home in The Redwoods retirement community in Mill Valley, CA. He was 95. Although widely known as a veteran public broadcaster and respected filmmaker, Moore was also a poet. He died two days before publication of his final book of poetry, Particulars of Place.
Moore’s long and eclectic career in public broadcasting (he was a dancer, poet and lumber mill worker before that) began in 1949 when he cofounded KPFA-FM in Berkeley, CA with Eleanor McKinney and fellow pacifist Lewis Hill. KPFA was the first station in what became the non-commercial Pacifica Radio network – which also includes NYC ‘S WBAI.
In 1954, Moore was hired as one of the original employees of KQED in San Francisco, starting out as the Membership Director and backup announcer to Bill Triest, another former KPFA employee. Broadcasting on Channel 9, KQED was one of the very first non-commercial educational television stations to take to the air.
Moore joined KQED’s Founding Fathers: General Manager, Jim Day and Program and Production Director, Jonathan Rice to present a varying array of mostly live, locally produced programs ranging from The Home Handyman and Japanese Brush Painting to Profile Bay Area and The Scotch Gardener. They even brought in renowned Shakespeare scholar from USC, Dr. Frank C. Baxter to teach Shakespeare On TV to a national ETV audience and later host a BBC-produced series of Shakespeare plays including An Age Of Kings – one of the forerunners of today’s Sunday night staple, MASTERPIECE.
At KQED, Richard Moore went on to become an accomplished television producer, writer, and director. He eventually founded its documentary film unit, which was responsible for creating over 100 films funded and distributed by PBS’s predecessor, National Educational Television.
Some of these historic films were:
- Take This Hammer: An exploration of racism which followed author and activist James Baldwin on a visit to San Francisco in the early 1960’s.
- Love You Madly, A profile of Duke Ellington, soon followed by Ellington’s
- Concert of Sacred Music, recorded at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.
- The Messenger from Violet Drive: A portrait of the African-American religious leader Elijah Muhammad.
- Two Films on the work and legacy of photographer and photojournalist Dorothea Lange.
- Louisiana Diary: A chronicle of a 1963 summer African American voter registration drive conducted by CORE.
- Anatomy of a Hit, the story of how SF jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi composed and recorded the hit single “Cast Your Fate to the Winds.” Guaraldi was also well-known for composing and playing the music for Lee Mendelsohn’s locally produced PEANUTS television specials.
- USA: Poetry: a series of 10 films spotlighting the lives and work of some 17 American poets including Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Robert Duncan.
One of the first films Moore made at KQED was Photography the Incisive Art, with Ansel Adams. Phil Greene had been a student of Adams at the SF Art Institute and had recently joined the KQED Film Unit. He went on to team with Moore and editor-photographer Irving Saraf as the key members of Moore’s prolific and creative team. Greene became the Principal Cinematographer on most of the KQED-Moore films including some he also directed like The Long Walk Home on the Navajo Nation and The Place for No Story, a helicopter’s aerial views of California beautifully shot by Greene with Moore voicing an opening narrative taken from the poetry of Robinson Jeffers.
Greene, now 87, looks back fondly at those super-creative times when he and Moore teamed up. “We got along famously right from the start – about 1960 – he was an unusual guy, so sharp and insightful, so aware, yet quiet and unassuming with hugely meaningful values. At heart he was a poet and a delightful human being!”
Moore also produced an outdoor ballet in Ghirardelli Square, Assemblage, choreographed by Merce Cunningham and set to a soundtrack of “The Cackle of Taxi Radios,” arranged by John Cage.
During the 1960s, Richard Moore teamed with SF Chronicle jazz critic, Ralph J. Gleason, to produce the first jazz performance series in the history of American television. Thirty-one half-hour performance-interview programs were taped in the KQED studios and shown nationally on the PBS predecessor NET under the series title Jazz Casual, with Gleason as the host. Featured artists included John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Turk Murphy, The Mjq, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Earl Hines, Cannonball Adderly, Mel Torme and Carmen McRae.
Bob Zagone directed the programs featuring B. B. King (his first national TV Appearance), the Count Basie Quartet, and the 1963 Woody Herman Orchestra. Zagone started his KQED career as a volunteer working with Greene, Saraf, and Moore. “Dick was never a mere mortal to me,” says Zagone. “He was a mystical angel who hovered over all of us, graciously transporting those who could feel his presence into a pure world of creativity, allowing us to pursue thoughts and ideas. He was always giving, friendly, and caring towards me, sharing his unique sense of humor. He was a loving man to his family and friend to us all – Dick Moore was an accomplished and incredible man!”
In the late 1960s Moore became KQED’s second President. “He always seemed like the consummate artist and intellectual,” says Catherine Allen, senior executive producer at Twin Cities Public TV. “But obviously he was also someone with organizational and leadership skills, and more importantly, he could move easily from one world to the other.”
It was during Moore’s Presidency that KQED created a nightly local news program that was to change the face forever of how local news was presented, even on commercial television. Spawned by a San Francisco newspaper strike, the KQED NEWSROOM was anchored by former San Francisco Chronicle City Hall reporter Mel Wax. It featured a group of reporters who told their stories to Editor Wax and viewers. Those reporters included George Dusheck (science), Jim Benet (education), Bill Dorais (transportation), Joe Russin (politics) and Ed Radenzel (foreign news). NEWSROOM was to become the single most viewed local series in KQED’s now 61-year history. KQED NEWSROOM recently paid tribute to Moore with this video piece, written and produced by Rachel Berger.
Moore retired to northern California, where he continued to write and publish poetry. His work appeared in literary journals, several privately published chapbooks, and in his books Writing in the Silences (UC Press, 2010) and Particulars of Place (Omnidawn, 2015).
Moore was born in 1920 in Ohio. His mother died of tuberculosis in the early 1930s, and he was left in foster care in Los Angeles while his father looked for work during the Depression. He attended the University of California, Berkeley in 1939, but was expelled for his antiwar activities. He later completed his bachelor’s degree there.
He was a member, along with Kenneth Rexroth, of the original circle of avant-garde poets that came to be known as the San Francisco Renaissance. Moore was also a ballet dancer for several years.
Moore was preceded in death by his wives Eleanor and Ruth. He is survived by daughter Flinn Moore Rauck and her husband John Rauck; son David Moore and wife Kathryn Shanley; daughter Lisa Moore Nardini and husband Paulo Nardini; son Michael Moore and wife Janet Tumpich; son Anthony Moore and fiancée Mary Thorsen; son Aran Moore and wife Denise Lamott; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Here is Moore’s poem “Lately Removed” from his last book, Particulars of Place. He wrote in an introduction to his collection of “Blindness Sonnets” that he had been acutely aware of his failing vision over the years but was unprepared to face the emotional devastation of a letter he received in the summer of 2013 confirming that he was legally blind.
It is the furniture that’s odd — it floats
In heavy syrup-space and adds nothing
(although the world overflows with furniture)
To the history of furniture, nothing except
The counter attack things lately removed
From sight. There is recognition: a couch,
A table. This is, however, provisional until
Knocked into with the usual result:
A splash of tears, a reach into the past
For objects firmly anchored as, for example
Furniture of the ordinary not the floating kind.
I have lost touch with a familiar world
Become passing strange, increasingly remote
With the absurdity of furniture afloat.
Jim Scalem wants to express his special Thanks to Flinn Elizabeth Rauck, one of Richard Moore’s daughters; Dru Sefton of the Public Broadcasting Newspaper Current; Henry Kroll, former Director of Research for KQED’s NEWSROOM; and Megan Mariner for their invaluable help and support in putting together this tribute to Richard Moore.