Mainland grad rubbed elbows with TV news stars
Daniel B. Morgan wrote 'Last Stage Manager Standing' about experiences
Daniel B. Morgan learned to love television by hanging out with his grandmother, Lilian Richards, after school.
Richards loved her soap operas, “Guiding Light,” “Search for Tomorrow,” “As The World Turns” and “The Edge of Night.” Morgan, who graduated in 1965 from Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, was no die-hard soap opera fan, but he grew to love the medium of television and decided to make a career in it.
Morgan spent nearly 50 years working as stage manager for ABC, CBS and NBC and PBS. He has written a book about his experiences, “Last Stage Manager Standing.” The book, with an introduction by journalist Connie Chung and released by Page Publishing of New York City.
“I’m a people person,” said Morgan, 69. That came in handy performing the various duties of a stage manager.
“We represent the director and the producer when they are not there,” he said. “We organize the confusion.”
Morgan was born in Northfield and grew up in Pleasantville, Ventnor, Atlantic City and Northfield. Most of his time in television was spent at CBS from 1978 to 1984 and ABC from 1986 to 2008. He worked on newscasts and with news departments.
Morgan worked as a freelancer and was never on staff at any of the networks. His book is both a memoir and a group of connected barroom stories.
A stage manager wears several hats, Morgan said, from shrink and cheerleader. He might do something as mundane as getting a soda for the on-air talent or be the one to tell composer and bandleader Duke Ellington when to start playing the piano.
In 1968, Morgan started his career at ABC News. He was working when American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Ellington had been commissioned by ABC-TV to compose and perform a 10-minute song titled “Moon Maiden,” which marked his debut as a vocalist.
Morgan knew Ellington’s drummer, Rufus “Speedy” Jones, because he had seen him play with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson on Steel Pier in Atlantic City in the 1960s.
Morgan worked with the top news anchors of the time. He won a Peabody Award for his work with the late Peter Jennings during ABC’s coverage of 9/11.
“Peter was incredible,” said Morgan. Jennings not only read the news, but would write the two stories of each broadcast. “Peter was particular. He wanted the studio at 48 degrees.”
Morgan also listed Ted Koppel and the late Charles Kuralt as outstanding journalists.
“Mike Wallace (of ‘60 Minutes’) was fair, but he would tell you if he was out to get you,” Morgan said.
Morgan worked with many people who became famous, including Bill O’Reilly, Brian Wiliams, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Meredith Vieira and Barbara Walters.
He said he does have one regret from his decades working with talented, ambitious people, usually under the deadline pressure of producing nightly newcasts.
“I learned I probably could have been more diplomatic or more tactful,” said Morgan.
Morgan misses the days when more television shows were live, and he found the people who used to work in television to be more genuine than today’s practitioners.
“The Monica Lewinsky scandal changed everything,” he said.
The rush to cover the story of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, who had a sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton, caused news organizations to move away from some standards, including needing two sources to put a story on the air.
Morgan left the television business in 2013. He said he may write another book or move into radio.