July 29, 2001

Former teen comedy artists reunite

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Throughout Friday afternoon, the same comments could be heard in the Indiana Room at the Marriott Hotel in downtown:

"Can you believe we got away with this?"

"You couldn't do that today."

"That's in my front yard!"

The speakers, watching compilation tapes of themselves, were alumni of the Junior Achievement-sponsored television program "Beyond Our Control," which held its first reunion this weekend.

Z Szaday of Texas greets advisor Joe Dudson at the "Beyond Our Control" reunion at the Marriott Hotel in South Bend.


The program, which ran on WNDU-TV from January 1968 to April 1986, involved 350 area high school students in every facet of television production as each year's company of 25 students produced 13 episodes of sketch comedy per season.

The "Beyond Our Control" Alumni Association, which formed in December 1999 and started then to plan for the reunion, has either located 230 former BOC'ers or been contacted by them through the alumni organization's Web siteat www.beyondourcontrol.org. One hundred twenty-three of them attended the reunion.

"Sitting in the hospitality room last night watching the tapes, it was just great to hear those guys laugh," Edward Luebben (1975 to '77) said.

"It's an opportunity to see people that probably influenced my life more than most other people I've met along the way," Kevin Zimmerman (1973 to '75) said. "Even meeting people I don't know, people from the '80s or before, I get the same feeling, that there was this creative energy."

Zimmerman made one of the most popular contributions to the reunion weekend: He sifted through 50 to 60 hours of videotape from all 18 seasons to compile 10 hours of featured material that played continuously throughout the day and long into the night Friday in the Marriott's hospitality rooms.

"I'm hanging out with people I watched on TV growing up, and that's great," Donald M. Corthier (1981 to '82) said.

"I don't know everybody's name, but there's a certain understanding," Chris Webb (1976 to '78) said. "I swear you can get two BOC'ers together from different eras and they would very quickly find a lot in common."

Some came from the East and West coasts, and others drove across town for the reunion.

"When I look back at my high school years, and again, it was only one year, it was one of the brighter moments," Roy Lindahl (1985) said of why he traveled from Sacramento, Calif., for the reunion.

"They wouldn't be here if it hadn't changed their lives," Janet Johnson (1971 and '72) said. "It changed my life."

The Mishawaka resident worked on the program's graphics during her two seasons and has taught graphic design at the Elkhart Career Center since 1978.

Sue Staszewski, of Niles, sprinkles glitter around the photo tree table center pieces at the "Beyond Our Control" reunion.

On Saturday afternoon, WNDU welcomed the BOC crew back with a picnic at its station headquarters on Indiana 933. BOC alumnus Tim Hanlon (1973 to 1975) performed magic and puppetry before a raffle was held to raise money for the alumni association.

A signed, life-size Blue from "Blue's Clues," the first draft of the script for "Heathers" and the Winona Ryder-penned suicide note from the movie, and signed shooting scripts for "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "Man on the Moon" were among the items donated to the raffle by alumni members, many of whom have gone on to careers in television, film and other media.

Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski ("Man on the Moon"), Daniel Waters ("Heathers") and Webb ("Toy Story 2"); "Blue's Clues" creator Traci Paige Johnson; and television producer David Simkins ("FreakyLinks"), among others, all participated in BOC as high school students.

"The biggest influence it had was the notion that you could do it," Webb said of his decision to pursue screenwriting as a career.

On Saturday night, the alumni association held a dinner that included several tape and slide presentations of BOC material.

After breakfast today, the alumni will meet to vote on new officers for the alumni association and decide what its next activities will be.

"I expect that everyone will be happy to keep paying dues to keep at least the rudiments of progress in place," Joe Dundon (1968 to '81) said.

Dundon was one of the three WNDU employees who acted as the primary advisers to the program during its 19 years. Series creator Dave Williams died in 1977, and Denny Laughlin (1969 to '70 and 1972 to '86) died in December 2000.

"I think the emphasis will remain on the electronic side," Dundon said of the alumni association's future.

Staff writer Andrew S. Hughes: ahughes@sbtinfo.com (219) 235-6377

News coverage from
the South Bend Tribune.

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