One of the mainstays of the Jefferson Airplane (which he co-founded) and the Jefferson Starship, singer/songwriter Marty Balin was also a solo artist and played with a variety of other groups. He and the original members of the Airplane were inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. When producing the rock opera "Rock Justice" with Bob Heyman, Marty intersected with some Videowest team members. Occasionally, Balin would help out at Videowest in a production capacity where he became friends with cameraman/producer Joe Vertino. Joe eventually became his manager and record producer. More.
Jane Dornacker 1947-1986
A singer/songwriter, actress, comedian and KSAN radio personality, Jane also led the band Leila and the Snakes. Jane co-hosted the first Videowest show on Channel 26 with Scoop Nisker and appeared in a variety of skits playing Einstein’s wife in the Energy show, a goddess from outer space, the host of the Stranger than Friction TV show spoof, and further titillated the audience with her Deca Dance. She moved to NY where she accepted a job as a TV weather reporter that required her to fly over the city in a helicopter which terrified her, a premonition perhaps. She went down twice. A strong swimmer, she swam to safety the first time, but fell to her death the second. More.
Graphics / Post Production
Harvey was a gentle soul with a tough New Yorker persona who worked for a graphics company and produced all VW’s graphics after hours in the early years, with aspirations of becoming an editor. Worried about being attacked by strangers, he ironically died with his wife Debbie and their baby Sean at the hands of mass murderers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. Although their bodies have never been found, it is believed that Lake/Ng responded to Harvey’s ad to sell video gear, and that he and his family were abducted and taken to a cabin in Calaveras County where they were tortured and killed.
Talent / Video Guru
Bill was co-inventor of the Rutt-Etra video synthesizer for which he won many awards. In the early days of Videowest, he was an invaluable guide to what could be done with video technology. He also played the mad scientist in Beach Blanket Armagedon that defined his persona on many Videowest shows. In later years, in NY, he liked to show off his family of pet ferrets. When he first came to Videowest, he was married to Louise Etra, now Ledeen, an active participant in his video explorations, who later helped VW with its acquisition of video equipment and supplies through her position at GESI/Diaquest. More.
Writer / Producer
Mike Feeney was a prolific reporter of the expanding new wave scene and a dear friend of many at Videowest. He had a gentle jokester personality and was known for his dead-on live and video impressions of his fellow Videowesters. It was at Videowest that he met (and later married) his biggest fan, Juanita Diana, and together they split off and formed Video Caroline before migrating to Los Angeles. There he became a movie trailer editor and continued to write screenplays. Mike was also a dedicated researcher and conspiracy theorist. He loved physics, ska music and aliens. See Mike on Videowest.
Writer / Producer / Director
Sasha was a talented writer/producer/director of memorable segments at Videowest, like the scandalous Bob music video. She met her future husband, editor Stephen Goldsmith, at Videowest and they later moved to LA. She worked at the Disney Channel in acquisition and production and later at Warner Bros. She also worked as an executive in the foreign dubbing departments of both studios. As she was struggling with the breast cancer that would take her life, Ferrer wrote and co-produced the 1989 NBC primetime special Destined to Live, about the recovery of 100 breast cancer patients, which won an Emmy nomination and a Humanitas Award. She also wrote In Defense of a Married Man for ABC TV. Stephen scattered her ashes in Paris, her favorite city, at the many places they enjoyed together. See Sasha on Videowest.
Gaffer / Camera / Talent
Art was one of the first volunteers at Videowest where he was affectionately known as “Okey Dokey” because that was how he responded to any job that needed doing or any problem that needed solving. He once flagged down a crane operator at a shoot for Killer Bs and convinced him to let them borrow the crane for an aerial shot. He tried his hand at camera operator and editor, but he excelled as a lighting technician. Art went on to found a successful lighting company with multiple trucks. A kind-hearted spirit, he was always helping others. His memorial service was packed with people from a wide variety of political action groups who all claimed him as their biggest supporter, and were amazed that he was simultaneously playing the same role with many other groups. See Art on Videowest.
Larry distinguished himself as a superlative journalist at radio stations KSAN and KPFA in the ‘70's. He was an advisor at Videowest, helping with editorial and management. He was a television commentator at KQED, then joined the award-winning investigative team at KRON. Larry wrote several books, including biographies of Jack Kerouac and William Saroyan. The first openly gay media personality in San Francisco, he died of AIDS in 1990. In his obituary, he was touted as “a media superstar who fused passion and intellect” and praised for his “brilliance for political insight." Obituary.
Talent / Voiceovers
Bob was a well regarded DJ at KMPX and KSAN radio stations, and a veteran of the golden age of underground radio. A friend of Videowest, he did voice overs and was an occasional actor on comedy skits like the infamous Spaghetti Western, Hang Em Low, where he played a thug cowboy. After his media days, he carved out a living dealing in antiques and estates, and put in some radio time on The Big Band Blend in San Rafael. Bob suffered from several ailments including diabetes and in April 1999, he decided he was tired of all the needles, dialysis machines and medications and quit using them. He died peacefully at home on May 9, officially of complications from diabetes. Obituary.
Producer / Talent / Voiceovers
Tawn hosted some of Videowest’s stringer reports for MTV when the channel first launched. She formed LIPS (Ladies In Production Services) where she produced music videos for Greg Kihn and Romeo Void. She became a well-regarded heavy-metal disc jockey in Los Angeles in the late 1980s at KNAC when the radio station was the official outlet for the then-thriving metal scene. She worked at stations in LA, San Jose, Portland, and in Minneapolis, her hometown. Tawn was the midday DJ on Hair Nation (part of the Sirius radio lineup), heard nationally on Westwood One Entertainment’s Absolutely Live High Voltage, and was the featured host for the Metal Head Video Magazine TV series. She made a cameo appearance as herself in The Blues Brothers movie. Tawn died in 2007 in Minneapolis from the effects of hepatitis C, a disease she contracted as a child. More.
KSAN alumni and Videowest advisor, Milan Melvin was a globetrotting adventurer whose home base was a houseboat in Sausalito for many years. He wound up in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where he started a fun, productive community, living there until he passed away in 2001. In keeping with his ebullient personality, Milan wrote a letter to his friends before checking out, which ended, "In closing, let me ask that you think of me as having a First Class seat on the nonstop Bullet Train to the greatest Mystery and the grandest Adventure of all. YEE-HA! YEE-HA! And love, Milan.” He had been writing a book called Highlights of a Lowlife which was published posthumously in a limited edition. IMDB
Sir Joe Ohliger III 1951-2008
Writer / Producer / Director / Talent
Joe O, as he was affectionately known, was one of the most prolific contributors at Videowest, writing and directing over a dozen comedy sketches and music videos, while also turning in stellar performances as an actor in his own productions and in others. He was proudest of the dozens of interviews he produced of his heroes including John Cale, Jerry Jeff Walker and Captain Sensible. Joe hated hippies and loved punks, was an emphatic fan of the Kinks, organized regular expeditions to Lena’s Diner for red beans and ham hocks, and slept in a vault at the VW offices that had been turned into a voice-over recording studio, claiming he was "cheaper than a watchdog." In his spare time Joe produced and hosted the Joe O Show on KUSF and volunteered as a cameraman for the Catholic Church. He died of cancer in 2008. Some of Joe’s productions and performances include Casting Couch, Church of the Holy Microchip, Ulmers Glue, Mr. Wine, Dial-a-Date, Beautiful Children, and Slumberg Wine; and music videos Calling Dr. Howard and Guns of Revolution by Red Rockers. Watch this video interview of Joe, recorded a few months before his death.
Willie Boy Walker 1945-2019
Willie Boy Walker, the self-proclaimed “first video disc jockey,” was a comic genius who broke new ground with irreverent comedy performances such as Life With Video, an early work. His unique sense of humor impressed TVTV producer Michael Shamberg, as well as Bill Murray, Don Novello, Harold Ramis and John Belushi, long before Saturday Night Live. It was Lily Tomlin who gave him his nickname, calling out, "Hi Willie Boy" whenever she saw him at parties in New York. He was very modest about these connections. For many years, he was the chef and live emcee for digital storytelling pioneer Dana Atchley’s traveling show Network TV. At Videowest, he performed in many comedy productions including Zippy Stories, Park-O-Matic, Disco Fool, Food Fighters, Space Fantasy, PlayOn & NewSScrew One. He passed away in 2019 of cancer. More.
The best of Videowest’s shows were greater than the sum of their parts. The same was true of the staff. Andy Yakas was definitely one of those unsung VW heroes. In his own modest way, Andy brought a wide familiarity with art, music, literature and movies to his skills as a video editor. Ironically, he didn’t watch a lot of TV which may be why he could offer a fresh perspective to every project he was involved with. At Videowest, Andy was more than an editor - he was also a producer, a teacher, and a good friend. His influence was subtle; his manner was gentle. He also had a strangely skewed sense of humor which served him (and all of us) well. He was - in the words of the Firesign Theatre - a cultural landslide. He went on to work as a video editor n the news department of the CBS affiliate in San Francisco (KPIX), the regional office of CNN, and served as the post-production supervisor of the CW station in Boston. He was also a husband and doting father. But those of us who worked with him at Videowest will always remember him for making us all better at what we did. Andy’s long-time friend, Rich Weiss, said it best: “RIP Andy. Let ‘er RIP!” Obituary
Do you have any info about these deceased alumni?
If so, please email us with any biographical details and photos we could use for their profiles.