John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2011 December 28 initial 
 2016 December 30 current 

    Each Christmas Day, with a few exceptions, New Yorkers turn on 
their televisions to watch a continuing view of a fireplace with a 
flaming log. This strange show, with background Christmas music, runs 
for three hours or so, displacing precious airtime. 
    When my household turned it on this year, it occurred to me that 
there must be some fascinating story about this bizarre squandering of 
prime viewing hours. I just figured it was a public service show but 
really didn't give it much attention other than to enjoy it. 
    It is a pleasing backdrop in the house for other holiday activity, 
specially since most City homes have no real fireplace. Even when it 
was seen in black-&-white on older TV receivers, The effect was quite 
    My home had for way back a cardboard fireplace. We set it up each 
year, before there was the Yule -Log show. It had a fake fire, a roll 
of crinkled tinfoil reflecting light from a small bulb. The fold-out 
panels were printed with a brick pattern to look like the enclosure of 
a fireplace. 
    It eventually fell apart. We folded up the boards for storage.  
When the Yule-Log came along we forgot about this cardboard fireplace. 
We now had a 'real' fireplace playing on television. 
     One year we got the idea to place the leftover panels in front of 
the television, flanking the screen! This made the unit into a 
fireplace with the Yule-Log playing inside of it! 
    I started to look up material about the Yule-Log for a new NYSkies 
article and found several interesting items. For one, it was a loop of 
film that repeated for the many hours of the show. I until then just 
assumed there was a real fireplace some where with a TV camera set up 
in front of it. 
    The show was off-air for many years, altho I don't specificly 
recall seriously missing it. It, I learned, started some 40 years ago, 
which sounds correct because I do recall watching Yule-Log while still 
in school. 
    I didn't get far in my search before on Christmas Day of 2011 the 
New York Daily News published a major history of the Yule-Log. It told 
a lot more story than I could collect myself and probably has 
everything you really want to know about Yule-Log. Because of its 
importance in New York culture I reprint it, as published. it may 
bring back memories from prior years, many of them. 
 = = = = = 

 David Hinckley 
 Originally Published: Sunday, December 25 2011, 6:00 AM 
 Updated: Sunday, December 25 2011, 6:00 AM 

The Yule Log, a beloved New York television tradition, returns on 
Christmas morning 

There's 45 years of history behind the fireplace film and its 
accompanying Christmas music 

    Sitting around the television set on Christmas morning watching an 
image of a burning fireplace might sound, at first, like sitting 
around the television set on the Fourth of July watching a video of 
your grass growing. 
    And maybe to some of the world it does sound like that. 
    To New Yorkers, it sounds like the Yule Log. 
    And sure enough, the Yule Log returns Christmas morning, 9 a.m.-1 
p.m., marking its 45th anniversary on Ch. 11. 
    It's being carried in a number of other cities as well these days, 
but it's still New York's Log, and darn it, Christmas just wouldn't be 
Christmas in New York without it. 
    In those 45 years, moreover, it's built up a backstory that goes 
beyond easy-listening holiday music played over a video loop of a 
bright warm fire. 
    It's a story that involves a courageous television programmer, a 
tragically singed Oriental rug, a dozen years in the wilderness, a 
corporate epiphany triggered by Sept. 11, an onslaught of imitators, a 
discarded "Honeymooners" film canister and the mysterious absence of 
Bing Crosby. 
    What it all adds up to, though, is an artifact from a time 
capsule, a cultural institution essentially unchanged since it first 
crackled onto New York TV screens on Dec. 24, 1966. 
    To Lawrence F. (Chip) Arcuri, the Log's historian and biggest fan, 
that's why we love it. 
    "It brings back all our Christmas memories," says Arcuri. "We 
remember the Christmases when we watched it as children, and all the 
people we watched it with." 
    Nowadays, in a world that moves at warp speed, Arcuri suggests the 
Yule Log lets us slow down. 
    "Watching the Yule Log is a time to be patient and relax," he 
says. "Before Christmas, you're rushing around to get the presents, 
fix the food, get everything ready. 
    "This is the time when you can finally sit back and enjoy it, 
enjoy your family, enjoy Christmas." 
    For years the Yule Log ran on Christmas Eve, and Arcuri admits he 
personally thinks that was the ideal time. He still runs it on 
Christmas Eve at the Arcuri house, thanks to a video he made some 
years ago. 
    Speaking of videos, it's pretty easy these days to get your own 
DVD of a fireplace with Christmas music. Just don't think that any of 
those productions is the real Yule Log. 
    "The Yule Log has never been released on DVD and probably never 
will be," says Arcuri, primarily because the music licensing costs 
would be prohibitive. 
    So everything else out there "is an imitation," says Arcuri. "I 
know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but to be honest, 
none of them is nearly as good as the real thing." 
    The real thing today, however, is not the same as the real thing 
from 1966. 
    When WPIX general manager Fred Thrower okayed the idea that year - 
ignoring the people who thought he was crazy - the video footage was 
shot at Gracie Mansion. 
    A 17-second image of the fire there was repeatedly spliced 
together until it was three hours long. 
    Thrower then chose the music, primarily soothing renditions of 
holiday classics by artists like Percy Faith and Mantovani. 
    That original production ran for four years, by which time the 
16mm film was starting to wear out and WPIX decided it needed fresh 
    The plan for returning to Gracie Mansion was short-circuited, 
however, by then-Mayor John Lindsay's staff. During the original 1966 
shoot, it turns out, the camera crew removed the fireplace's 
protective screen and a burning ember jumped out and damaged an 
expensive Oriental rug. 
    WPIX launched a nationwide search to find a fireplace that looked 
like the one at Gracie Mansion, and finally found it, at a private 
home in Palo Alto, Calif. 
    "It's a gorgeous fireplace," says Arcuri. "Better than the one at 
Gracie Mansion. So the crew set it up and on a hot day in August 1970, 
they shot seven minutes of perfect film. 
   "They really shot a little more, but a log fell or something, so 
they just used the seven minutes - which became the loop that's still 
used today, and that most people know as the classic Yule Log." 
    By the 1980s, however, WPIX had cut the Log from three to two 
hours, and after the 1989 showing, the Log was canceled. 
    Fans, including Arcuri, pressed for its reinstatement over the 
next decade. 
    But it wasn't until 2001, in the wake of Sept. 11, that WPIX 
decided the city could use what Arcuri calls "some comfort television" 
and announced the Yule Log would return. 
   That involved some drama itself. "When the program was cut to two 
hours, they just threw the old footage away," Arcuri says. "The only 
footage that remained, in a vault in New Jersey, was a canister marked 
`The Honeymooners: A Dog's Life.' 
   "Betty Ellen Berlamino, who was the general manager of WPIX, called 
it `A Log's Life.' So that was what we had." 
    As it happens, Arcuri also collects Christmas music. So once the 
film was digitized and the Log restored to three hours, he had the 
music to accompany it. 
    In 2009 he programmed a fourth hour. 
    "I had been mentally putting together a fourth hour for years," he 
says. "I had more than a hundred songs that I finally whittled down to 
   That includes four from Percy Faith, whom he calls "The King of the 
Yule Log." 
    He also added a couple of classic Christmas artists Thrower had 
omitted, Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis. 
    The Crosby song, however, is not "White Christmas." "People hear 
that everywhere," Arcuri says. "So I picked `A Time to Be Jolly,' from 
Crosby's fourth and last Christmas album in 1971." 
    Getting the music exactly right, says Arcuri, is essential. 
    "To my mind," he says, "you could have a mediocre fireplace and 
with this music you'd still have a great program. If you had a great 
fireplace and mediocre music, you wouldn't." 
    Arcuri himself, who now runs the website, founded 
by his former partner Joe Malzone, first discovered the Yule Log in 
1972, when he moved to New York from Cleveland. 
    One of the things he liked about his new house was that it had his 
first fireplace. 
    Then he turned to WPIX on Christmas Eve and it was love at first 
    For years," he says, "my family would gather on Christmas Eve and 
we'd have the real fireplace at one end of the room and the Yule Log 
at the other. 
    "I think we watched the Yule Log more than the real fire." 
    That happens a lot in these parts. 
 = = = = = 
 = = = = = = = 

    The Daily News article seemed to be the complete and ultimate 
story of the Yule-Log broadcast. The original film was lost and the 
new edition is used for the annual show. 
    On Christmas Eve 2016 WPIX noted that the Yule-Log show will 
feature a short playing of the original 1966 film! It played for the 
first hour of the Yyle-Log broadcast on Christmas Day, The scene then 
flipped to the new film for the rest of the show. 
    A thoro account of of this film's recovery, plus additional 
details of the show's history, was issued by the web 
I give it here as an update of the Yule history. I added a coule 
clarifying words in bumpers. 
 = = = = = 

Original Yule Log returns for 50th anniversary 
 December 22, 2016 

 WPIX is again airing the Yule Log on Christmas Eve and Christmas. 

    "Watching Paint Dry." Now, there's an idea for a three-hour TV 
special. Not much crazier, though, than the idea Fred Thrower, general 
manager of WPIX-TV Channel 11, proposed in November 1966: three 
uninterrupted, televised hours of a log burning in a fireplace. 
    Who could have guessed that, 50 years later, The Yule Log would be 
a cherished New York-area Christmas tradition and, through its many 
imitators, a staple of holiday TV programming across the country? 
    "The fact that it's so counterintuitive, so much unlike anything 
else you see on television, makes it stand out as something worthy of 
attention," says Rolando Pujol, director of digital and social 
strategy for PIX11 (as the station now brands itself), and the 
corporation's de facto archivist. 
    You can thank Pujol, and a trove of old film reels recovered from 
Paramus, for a special treat that PIX11 will be bringing viewers on 
this golden anniversary year. 
   The original Yule Log, last seen on air in 1969 (it was replaced 
the following year by a new and improved model), will be back on TV or 
an hour at 11 p.m., Christmas Eve [2016], and again on Christmas 
morning at 7. From 8 a.m. to noon Christmas Day, as per usual, the 
1970 log will be burning merrily in its accustomed grate, accompanied 
by carols rendered by Percy Faith, Mantovani, Arthur Fiedler and the 
Boston Pops and Nat King Cole. 
    "This idea is still so fresh and so inviting, and still draws 
people together on one of the most emotional and special times of the 
year," Pujol says. "It gives us here at the station just such an 
immense sense of pride, that something that our predecessors created, 
and we nurtured and cared for, means so much to people." 
    The PIX11 Yule Log is derived from one of the oldest Christmas 
traditions, predating Santa, stockings and the Christmas tree. It was, 
in the old days, a log substantial enough to burn the entire 12 days 
of Christmas, Dec. 25 to Jan. 5, a symbol of the light that would 
return in the spring. There are references to yule logs in Europe 
dating back to 1184 C.E., but the tradition doubtless goes back much 
earlier, to pre-Christian times. 
    To have a yule log, though, you need a fireplace, and that's just 
what most city dwellers do not have. Which is what made Thrower, on 
Nov. 2,1966, propose a startling idea to his staff at WPIX: Why not 
bring a fireplace into the apartment of every New Yorker, via 
    "He sent a memo to his executive team: 'Here's my vision, I want a 
fireplace, I want it to be accompanied by beautiful Christmas music, 
you guys figure out how to do this,'" Pujol says. 
    It was a Coca-Cola commercial of the previous year, featuring 
Santa in front of a fireplace, that had sparked Thrower's imagination, 
Pujol says. 
    "He felt that New Yorkers during the holiday were deprived of the 
yuletide comfort of a roaring fireplace," Pujol says. "A fireplace is 
not what we normally have. We have steam heat." 
    The head of the team given this assignment was a Paramus [in New 
Jersey] resident: Bill Cooper, a director, producer and documentarian, 
and close associate of Thrower. He arranged to have 16 mm footage of a 
log fire shot at the most New York of all fireplaces: the one at 
Gracie Mansion, then occupied by Mayor John Lindsay. For that original 
broadcast, and for more than a decade after, the Yule Log was 
programmed on Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. 
    "It was such a novel idea and so unusual that it got a lot of 
press coverage even then," Pujol says. 
    The PIX11 Yule Log was, and remains, a loss leader: The station 
foregoes three hours of valuable advertising money each year. But the 
ratings, from the first, were high, Pujol says, and the viewer 
goodwill the show brought more than compensated for any lost revenue. 
    "It may not bring in money, but it's a gift that we're giving to 
our audience," Pujol says. "Sometimes you lose money on gifts. That's 
OK. It does have intangible benefit to it. It fosters goodwill. And we 
like to think it has a halo effect over everything we do at the 
    Four years later, PIX11 decided on an upgrade. TV sets were 
getting bigger and sharper by the late 1960s, and the original 16mm 
footage didn't cut it any more. "People were getting those big wood-
panel TV sets, with nice color," Pujol says. "They felt it was time to 
come up with a nicer looking fireplace." 
    The new fireplace, filmed in 35mm, was shot in California -- no 
one seems to remember where. That's the Yule Log footage that PIX11 
viewers have seen ever since. In 1978, for the first time, it was 
broadcast Christmas morning: becoming, for many families, an ideally 
soothing backdrop for the frenzy of wrapper-tearing and toy-assembling 
in the a.m. hours. Then in 1990, someone put the fire out. 
    "There was new management here, and I guess the feeling was, it 
was basically time to move on from this thing," Pujol says. 
     Many viewers were outraged. By the late 1990s, an online campaign 
began to bring the Yule Log back. That campaign was spearheaded by Joe 
Malzone, then a Totowa [in New Jersey] resident, who in 1998 launched 
the website Bring Back the Log (now 
    "Obviously, it must have made some kind of an impact, to stay with 
me for so long," says Malzone, who now lives in Monroe Township. He 
remembers, back when The Yule Log used to be broadcast on Christmas 
Eve, watching it at his aunt's house in Haledon [in New Jersey]. 
    Well, kind of watching it, the way you do with The Yule Log. 
"Christmas Eve, we would be having dinner at my aunt's house, and it 
would be on the TV," he says. "Rather than put the radio on, you'd put 
on the TV, and there would be Christmas music." 
    For the first few years of his save-the-log site, he remembers 
getting occasional email, which he would pass on to PIX11. But by 
2000, it had begun to build. Then, after Sept. 11,  2001, the campaign 
exploded."September to November, I was getting probably 400 to 500 
emails a week about this," he says. "And they were all asking me, 'Are 
you gonna put it back on?' I said, 'I don't own the station, I'm just 
passing it on.' " 
    Clearly, many New Yorkers, three months after 9/11, were feeling 
hopeless and bereft of Christmas spirit. To the staff at PIX11, the 
message was clear: It was time. 
    "If there was ever a good year to bring something back that was 
such a warm and loved tradition,this was the year," Pujol says. "So in 
2001, after being off the air for more than a decade, to everyone's 
surprise, The Yule Log was back." 
    But it wasn't, of course, the original Yule Log. The footage from 
1966 had seemingly vanished –much to the disappointment of broadcast 
    "There had always been a desire to find it," Pujol says. "If 
nothing else, out of curiosity to see what it looked like, what the 
flames looked like, to see how it all started. It was, in a way, a 
Holy Grail of PIX programming that had gone missing." 
    Then, two years [in 2014] ago, actress-entertainer Kay Arnold, the 
widow of Cooper, the WPIX executive who had shot the original footage 
died in Paramus [in New Jersey]. (Cooper had died in 1987.) 
    "Her family, her relatives, called me," Pujol says. "They said, 
'Hey, we have a lot of material in the house from WPIX, film, tape, 
memorabilia, all kinds of stuff, and we would love this to end up in 
the right hands.'" 
     WPIX staffers, including Pujol, went to the Paramus house, where 
they found a garage full of film reels and other station-related odds 
and ends. These were transported to the basement of the PIX11 studios 
on East 42nd Street [and 2nd Avenue, Manhattan] to be sifted through 
when time permitted.  This past summer [of 2016], Pujol happened to be 
going through them, looking for archival footage of then-presidential 
candidate Donald Trump, when he saw something scribbled on the side of 
a film canister: "Orig. PIX Fireplace." 
    "I was thrilled," he says. "Could this be The Yule Log we have 
wanted to find all these years, that's been missing? I opened it up, 
there were several reels of film there. One of the reels was a small 
reel, sealed with tape. It said 'Original WPIX Fireplace.' There it 
was, a tiny reel of 16mm film. That was at 12 midnight on July 29 [of 
2016]. I fired up the email, and I said, 'Guys, I'm not 100 percent 
sure of what this is, but this might well be the lost Yule Log.' " 
    And so it was a grand total of two minutes of color footage. For 
this year's anniversary presentation, that footage has been looped 
every seven seconds, to create an hour-long journey down Santa Claus 
Lane. "To me, it has tremendous value as a piece of TV history," Pujol 
says. "The Yule Log is high-concept TV which, in the face of it, 
sounds like a ratings disaster and a very bad decision. But it draws 
people in and compels them. And they keep it on as a sort of friend 
that you have over to your house every holiday. You turn it on and 
it's there."
 = = = = =