MILWAUKEE, September 21 – Tater Beutler, the new maverick firebrand executive producer of Milwaukee Talk, has terminated an employee that was one of the nostalgic remainders of The Chat Pack’s glory days on the program.
Les Tremaine, 67, was a lifetime WLKE-TV3 employee working his way up from the mailroom. He became a floor manager on the show at a time when Vic Shell was co-hosting with his then-wife April Mae June.
During that era, Tremaine, Allen Kew and Vic Shell were “12 O-fun” drinking buddies, a spirited renaming of the “11:01” post-show meeting that would end the Milwaukee Talk crew’s working day.
On-air the next morning, even hung over, Shell never missed a cue and always credited Tremaine as being “the best floor manager in the business”. Shell always pointed to the fact that Tremaine had an extra finger on his countdown hand that gave the bleary-eyed Shell a crucial extra second to prepare himself for his live-to-camera deliveries.
Tragically that came to an end one morning during a wood-working segment as Shell accidentally cut off five fingers on Tremaine’s digit-prosperous right hand.
“And your hand…that beautiful…firm…but guiding hand…,” a choked-up Shell said to Tremaine during the next morning’s broadcast. “When that demonic band saw reduced your wise hand to an E.T.-like nub and you starting jetting out all that blood and jazz all over the place…I bled too.”
The guilt of the misfortune made Shell determined to make Tremaine’s one-second countdowns work and he did a good job at it for two years until early one morning, when Shell allegedly, accidentally drove over Tremaine’s legs. Despite gallant efforts by the doctors, his legs had to be amputated and Les Tremaine’s days walking the Milwaukee Talk studio floor were over.
Kew and Shell worked feverishly to keep Tremaine employed. They convinced station owner Honus Knox III that letting Les go would be bad publicity. Tremaine was kept aboard and became the show’s production switcher.
It was around this time Shell started attending AA meetings with Kew, with Tremaine eventually becoming one of the other sponsors. Shell also started picking up Tremaine every morning in his company-supplied limousine and brought him to work. Even though the heyday era of The Chat Pack was ending, the show continued to stay ranked number one until co-star Mary Margaret left for maternity leave.
“Most people would have been angry at having to restart their career in their late 50’s,” current Milwaukee Talk co-host Mary Margaret observed, “but not Les. He picked the job up in days. Vic Shell often confided to me that if he took up drinking again full-time he would bring along Les for the ride. Vic said he knew it sounded like a bad idea but he rationalized that if he ever accidentally severed Les’ arms off or anything he could always have Les plopped in his chair and let him do his job. That speaks to the type of person Vic was too. He and Les really were one of a kind.”
WLKE-TV3 station owner Honus Knox III was not available for comment although a spokesman confirmed that Tremaine was terminated and that “WLKE and Mr. Knox stand behind the decision made by Ms. Beutler. Management will not get involved in the day-to-day business decisions she must make to have Milwaukee Talk recapture its stake as the number one watched current affairs program in the Wisconsin and northern Iowa viewing areas”.
Les Tremaine was not available for comment. The American Log did reach Vic Shell by phone. “I am disheartened to hear that Tater Beutler has removed Les’ jewels from the WLKE crown. That’s the TV business for you; they take everything you have and then throw you on the heap when they think you’re done. And more than anyone else, Les literally gave everything he had for that show, even one of his hands. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet though.”
Les Tremaine was yet another casualty in the brutal Tater Beutler reign. Today we’ll relive more moments of the tragic Tremaine decapitation. Here’s how Vic Shell called it the next morning on Milwaukee Talk with his on-air apology….