In 1941, Paramount Pictures sent Klaus Landsberg to Los Angeles to build an experimental television station: W6XYZ. By 1947, the station’s name was changed to KTLA, (Channel 5), and the German immigrant and legendary TV pioneer was at its helm. Its first commercial broadcast went on the air Jan. 22, 1947 from a garage on the Paramount lot. Comedian Bob Hope was host.
Landsberg would not live to see much of the future of television, (he died from cancer at the age of 40). His first wife, Evelyn De Wolfe, a spry 94-year-old, paints an intimate portrayal of the engineering genius, called part Edison, part P.T. Barnum, in her new book, “Line of Sight – Klaus Landsberg, His Life and Vision.”
The book’s co-author George Lewis was a longtime NBC News correspondent and winner of three Emmys, the Peabody and Edward R. Murrow awards.
De Wolfe was a writer with the “Los Angeles Times” for four decades. This is the fifth book since turning 85 for the Brazilian-born De Wolfe.
She also sold antiques and vintage dolls at an antique store on Larchmont Blvd., and is a longtime friend of many locals, including the late Edward Carroll of Hollywood Realty on N. Larchmont.
The author was back on the boulevard last month with her co-author at Chevalier’s signing the book, winner of the Irwin Award for “Best Historical Portrayal for 2016” by the Book Publicists of Southern California.
It tells of Landsberg’s work on early TV broadcasts at the Berlin Olympics in 1936; next, at 23, he was working with NBC on the introduction of television at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
In 1941, he was creating the experimental television operation from scratch for Paramount, for what would later be celebrated as the first television station operating west of the Mississippi.
Landsberg and KTLA won the lion’s share of the first Emmys awarded by the new Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1949.
When the U.S. government gave permission for the press to cover an early atom bomb test in the Nevada desert, Landsberg ignored the naysayers and hauled bulky electronic equipment to mountaintops and set up a chain of relay stations. When the bomb went off, viewers across the country saw it, live.
The couple, Evelyn and Klaus, had a son Cleve, who is a TV and movie producer.
“Line of Sight” is available through Amazon and at Chevalier’s Books, 126 N. Larchmont Blvd.