Although Bill didn’t realize it at the time, he was about to start down a path to unimaginable fame. This path presented itself to Bill – he didn’t seek it out. At the age when many people were preparing to retire, Bill was just beginning.
Television was reaching a high point in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Local television stations were popping up everywhere. A new public broadcasting network was forming.
Television brought a special kind of magic to Margarete and Bill. They had made the decision to leave Los Angeles and were in the Northwest trying to establish Bill’s business. He was still demonstrating at shopping centers. He continued holding one-day conferences in both Los Angeles and the Pacific Northwest. He was creating paintings on commission and to sell along the road. We already know about Bill’s attempt to create an art colony at Aldergrove.
Bill, though, was getting tired. He questioned his future direction. It was a hard, hard life on Margarete. They were still living like nomads and often had no idea from where their next dollar was coming. Bill had been working now for about fifteen years. Sometimes, it seemed his career hadn’t gotten much farther than when he lived in his little village in Prussia. He reflected on the people he had met in his life. He thought about the American soldier who had told him about the good life for painters in America. He thought about the young orderly in the post war ruins of Giessen and just trying to survive after the war. He thought about dear people who had helped him, like Audrey, Mr. Packer, and Martha. And all the wild and wonderful people he had met on his travels in the West. His friends had believed in him and here he was — almost sixty years old — and still living as a vagabond.
Bill thought back on how he had set out for America with a box of rusty nails and the desire to build a house and farm in the wilderness. What had he accomplished after all these years? It was thoughts like these that started Bill thinking about teaching on television.
Bill often wandered among the television sets in the department stores where he painted. There were rows of televisions with all kinds of shows playing at one time. It was during one of these breaks that he had an idea. He wondered how many people he could reach out and touch through television. He thought how marvelous it would be to bring painting to them. Later, in Los Angeles, the idea continued lurking around in the back of his head. Bill knew he was in the television capital of the world. “Go ahead,” he thought, “fire in, and give it a try!”
But then self doubt sprang up and Bill’s subconscious mind admonished him. “No, that’s a dumb idea! Nobody wants a painter on television.” So Bill returned to his canvas.
The idea wouldn’t leave him alone, though. After they started Aldergrove, he wanted to try television again. They needed money for Aldergrove, so he called his agent in Los Angeles. His agent was working hard trying to arrange all types of package deals for Bill. In 1973, his agent finally got some people interested at a local television station in Los Angeles.
Dialing for Dollars
Dialing for Dollars was sort of a game show. The television audience phoned in while various funny and unusual acts were televised. Bill created a complete painting during one of these programs. Every ten minutes or so, the camera would focus on him. The host bubbled with amazement as Bill painted on. There was a lot of excitement at the end of the show when everyone saw the finished painting. It didn’t seem like anything special to Bill because that’s the way he painted for years. But to the audience, it was just plain “Magic” — a whole painting in just thirty minutes! Bill loved it because because he got to show his techniques.
Unfortunately, that opportunity didn’t lead anywhere. In fact, nothing seemed to work for Bill. He auditioned for another show to raise money for a charity. The idea was to create some paintings which the station would later auction. When Bill arrived for his interview, there were a lot of artists in the waiting room. Bill wore his old tweed jacket, his lucky jacket from the Toronto days, and a nice pair of brown slacks. He brought along a small easel, some canvas board, and paints. Then he set them in a corner and sat down on the couch.
Many of the other artists wore stylish suits and had an air of confidence about them. Some of them were young guys who looked lean and mean, hugging their portfolios and bundled-up paintings.
Every now and then a guy in a gray suit came out of another room and said, “Who’s next?” Once, he looked over at Bill, shook his head, and looked away. He must have thought Bill didn’t look like much of an artist. Bill’s hands were big and rough from all the building at Aldergrove.
When it was his turn, Bill got up and the guy looked at him with hesitation. “Okay, Meathands,” he said to Bill. “You’re next. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
That statement aroused Bill’s ire. Instead of just displaying his paintings, Bill set up his easel and fired in! The guy in the gray suit and the other producers were amazed at how fast he worked. It didn’t matter, though, Bill didn’t get the job. The whole experience was pretty discouraging.
Late in the Fall of 1973, though, Bill’s agent phoned him again. He said there was a new public television station in Huntington Beach, California. They were looking for something different in educational programming. Bill’s agent thought they might want to see Bill’s painting demonstration. That station was KOCE and the “Magic of Oil Painting” was about to be born.
William berry says
i have been watching bill alexander art show on YouTube, i trully love the man he is such a great paint i try i learn from watch bill a little, when i learned that he had died i was so sad,thinkyou, William berry California,