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Sitting in the chill darkness of a crowded van, Chet Forte stares at a field of television monitors. He has spent thousands of hours this way, the best hours of his life, looking at images on screens. Perhaps he was born to view the world like this, picking and choosing among the angles.
"O.K.," Forte says into his mike, "find me a cute kid.... Stand by, five."
One of the monitors is filled with the image of a smiling boy wearing a baseball cap with a beer logo.
"Take five," Forte says. "Yeah, great. Nice pop for Bud Light. You got to stroke the sponsors."
On another monitor, New York ex-mayor Ed Koch comes into focus.
"Is that Koch?" Forte says. "Give me a close-up of that——-.... Stand by, four."
The image of Koch fills the screen. He is wearing a white cable-knit Irish fisherman's sweater over a green turtleneck and looks as if he's still campaigning as he marches up Fifth Avenue in the St. Patrick's Day parade.
Inside the van, at 64th Street and Fifth Avenue, Forte is directing the live broadcast of the parade on WPIX-TV, trying mightily to give the passing of bagpipers and dignitaries some sense of drama. He did the same, in his heyday, for the Olympics, the NBA, the World Series, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500 and, most memorably, the NFL. Now he is doing it for a parade, and he's happy for the chance.
"Take four," Forte says. The camera lingers on Koch as he works the crowd.
"O.K.," says the program's producer, "it's about time for a commercial."