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Keeping the game plan all in the family

Bob Banner may be the producer-director, but his wife, Alice,is the commander-in-chief. Banner, his staff and friends have notrouble acknowledging Alice’scontributions.

Long ago, Donley Feddersen, then-head of the theatre arts department at Northwestern University, wrote about the Banners’ relationship as being a team operation in something more than the nominal sense. Alice Banner agrees with the “team-operation” evaluation. She explains that both she and Bob were stage-struck, at an early age, and liked the same things.

When they were first married, she worked alongside Bob, wrote scripts, helped with comedysketches and wrote special material.

But she finished her last project as a writer with the birth of the second of their three sons.

Charles (Chuck), the youngest at 38, is the only one of the couple’s children currently working with his father. He’s VP of operations at BBA, joining the company nearly three years ago, after working as a documentarian in New Mexico.

Baird, the eldest son, runs a recording studio in New Mexico. Robert, or R.J. , the middle son, works at a drug-rehabilitation center in Long Beach.

Although she has bowed out as a professional writer, Alice Banner continues to read scripts and discuss projects with her husband.

“I’m very honest with criticism,” says Alice Banner. “Sometimes you really have to ask the hard questions. I’m willing to say what I think about something. I don’t get ugly about it, but I’m definite about what I like and don’t like.”

Bob and Alice Banner, who just celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary Jan. 14, met while working on a college variety show.

Given the academic salaries of the late 1940s, Alice Banner was thrilled when television came wooing her husband.

When Bob received an offer to go with Fred Waring to New York “it was, ‘my God, I can’t believe this,’ ” she recalls. “It was pretty amazing. It seemed very exciting. It was like an open door, and we went in without too many regrets.”

The moves to New York, and subsequently to California, were adventures. The Banners lived first in Manhattan on 84th and Riverside Drive.

“It was everything we thought about,” Alice remembers. “We were star-struck. wide-eyed.”

The Banners moved to the West Coast with the “Dinah Shore Show.” The sponsor, Chevrolet, had a convertible waiting for them.

Her husband always has maintained a high-energy level, Alice Banner attests. “He’s very detailed,” she says. “If something has to be done, I’ll do it tomorrow, but Bob will do it right then. He’s very disciplined, very focused.”

When her husband went back to part-time teaching six years ago, taking over a TV and film workshop at Southern Methodist University, Alice thought it was a prelude to retirement.

“I thought he was going to phase out,” she says. “Now I find him more involved than ever. I just hope that I can keep up with him.”

Asked how her husband has been able to survive 45 years in the TV business, Alice Banner figures it’s mostly because he honestly loves what he’s doing.

She points to his being “very forward-looking,” working with young people and generally keeping up with developments.

She particularly cites her husband’s decision to go into first-run syndication with “Solid Gold” when friends and associates were skeptical because it wasn’t for a network.

He “has really kept a step ahead of trends” and he’s not afraid to step into the future,” his wife says.

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