By Dan Wooding, Special to ASSIST News Service
LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS – February 6, 2017) — Back in the 1970’s, when I was still living in London, England, BBC TV launched a new program hosted by popular personality, Cliff Michelmore, where viewers could write in with a question that they would like to pose to a British religious leader.
With my peculiar sense of humor, I wrote my question for John Carmel Heenan, the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. It read, “Have you ever had a girlfriend?”
I didn’t think I had a hope of even getting an answer, but then a BBC producer called me and asked me to appear on the program and ask my rather silly question, which I did, and the Archbishop didn’t seem amused, but said he once did have one before he went into the priesthood.
I was inundated with comments, both rude and nice, from friends suggesting I should try TV as a new career. However, I didn’t think they were really serious.
Up until then, I had stuck to doing print stories for my then paper, the Sunday People, a British tabloid, and also conducting some interviews for BBC Radio 2’s “Gospel Road,” and appearing on a weekly religious show on LBC, London’s commercial news and speech radio station, along with Cindy Kent, Nick Page and others. (I would slip out from the Sunday People newsroom for a couple of hours each Friday afternoon, to do my part in the LBC program.)
But then came another chance of appearing on TV. It occurred when, not long after that, I wrote up for the Sunday People, the story of English comedian, Eric Morecambe who, together with Ernie Wise had formed the award-winning double act of Morecambe and Wise.
Eric had just suffered a heart attack and I was dispatched to his home to interview him. At first, it turned out to be a rather challenging task. I got off to a bad start when I asked him, “Eric, how did you feel when you had your heart attack?”
Clearly irritated with my question, Eric looked sharply at me and replied, “It was great. I loved every minute of it!”
Fortunately for me, things did get better from then on and he even confessed to being “scared of death” and revealed that many British Christians had sent him messages saying they were praying for him.
The paper was so pleased with the story, that they summoned a camera crew into the newsroom and gave me a script to read for a commercial they were planning to run before the paper came out on that Sunday.
All I had to say, with a teleprompter in front of me, was, “I’m Dan Wooding, and I’ve never seen a star speak so frankly.”
My first take was a disaster. “I’ve never seen a frank speak so starly…”
Eventually, after ten excruciating takes, I finally got it right and it was broadcast across the United Kingdom on that Saturday night, and fortunately the viewers didn’t know how difficult it had been for me to read just those few lines.
Still, I really didn’t think I had much hope in the wild and wacky world of television, but then in 1994, I was given another opportunity in, of all places, Pyongyang, North Korea. It was just after the death and funeral of Kim Il-sung, the country’s despotic leader.
To my great surprise, I had been given a visa in Beijing to join a small delegation of Christians led by Dr. David Cho, and was on assignment for UPI (United Press International), to spend a week in this mysterious land reporting for their radio network based in Washington, DC.
When the three of us arrived at Pyongyang Airport in a rather ancient Russian plane, we were surrounded by North Korean TV cameras and reporters. I had one camera thrust in front of me and the reporter asked me in broken English, “Why have you come to North Korea?”
I realized, as a Christian journalist, that this was the chance of a lifetime so I replied, “I have come to your country to share about the love of Jesus Christ.”
The North Korean reporter looked bemused, so I continued, “I am a Christian and would like to see if there are many Christians in your country.”
After arriving in our hotel room in Pyongyang, the capital, I turned on my TV and was shocked to see myself on the screen giving my interview, so I quickly snapped a picture off the TV, as I thought no one would believe me that I’d just been on North Korean Television.
Later, we were taken to a North Korean church in the capital city and joined in their Sunday morning service. Again, we were surrounded by cameras and afterwards, we all wondered if this was a “real” church, or if those taking part were actors. By the way, if they were actors, they did a good job.
After moving to Southern California in 1982, I got more involved in television and began co-hosting a weekly live one-hour TV show called “The Hollywood Connection” with Puerto Rican-born Raimundo Jimenez. It was always a strange experience, as when I would arrive each Friday morning, I would see outside the studios on Santa Monica Blvd., a group of “illegals” looking for work. It was the two sides of Tinseltown!
I also appeared each month as a guest on the “Joy” program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) to talk about the persecuted church with the affable host, Jim McClellan.
When, my wife Norma and I launched ASSIST, CBN asked me to come to Virginia Beach to make the announcement on the “700-Club” with Sheila Walsh, who was then a host on the show.
It was then that I began to realize that TV really has tremendous power in getting out the Christian message and, for a few years I hosted “His Channel Live” on www.hischannel.com, which goes out to some 192 countries. If you have never done live TV, I can tell you it is quite an experience as there is no time for mistakes. One guest was Robert A. Schuller, the son of the late Dr. Robert H. Schuller, and not realizing the show was live, he turned up ten minutes late, so I had to keep talking with His Channel founder, Dennis Swick, until the Rev. Schuller, finally arrived.
Now I’ve got two weekly TV shows on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv/), which are: “Windows on the World” (with Dr. Garry Ansdell), during which we discuss stories mainly about the persecution of Christians, which you can check out at: http://hsbn.tv/[on-demand]%20windows-on-the-world.html. The second is called “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding” (http://hsbn.tv/[on-demand]%20inside-hollywood.html) in which I feature stories about Christians working in Hollywood.
Each Tuesday morning, I get up early (for me) to do a live Skype interview with host Perry Atkinson of award-winning Dove TV (www.thedove.us) in Medford, Oregon, during which I bring two of the top stories from ANS.
Now, with the help of my younger son, Peter, we are also doing lots of video interviews for the ASSIST News Service (ANS), many of which you can see at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Dan+Wooding. Check them out as I think you will enjoy them.
Talking about Peter, who now lives back in Great Britain and is married with three daughters, he is following in his rather elderly Dad’s footsteps, with his many reports from the UK for the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and for many other Christian ministries. Peter will be joining me again at the end of this month in Orlando, Florida, where we will be working together to produce many more interviews at the NRB Convention.
And to think that it all began with a rather ridiculous question to a British Archbishop on BBC TV in London. Who would have guessed it?
Photo captions: 1) Dan with comedian Eric Morecambe after the interview. 2) Dan Wooding being interviewed on North Korean Television (Picture taken off the TV screen in his hotel room in Pyongyang. 3) Dan, right, on the set of The Hollywood Connection with two colleagues. 4) Dan Wooding and Dr. Garry Ansdell on the set of their “Windows on the World” TV show. 5) Dan Wooding on Dove TV with Perry Atkinson. 6) Dan with Dolly Parton at last year’s Movieguide® Awards. 7) Dan pictured with best-selling author, Jerry B. Jenkins, with two of their novels. (Dan has interviewed Jerry for his “Inside Hollywood” show.
Note: We are an all-volunteer news service and so, if you would like to help support, please go to www.assistnews.net and click on the DONATE button to make you tax-deductible gift (in the US), which will help us continue to bring you these many unique stories. If you prefer to send a check, please make it out to ASSIST and mail it to: PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel about the life of Jesus through the eyes of his beloved mother and called “Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary”. For more information, please go to http://marythebook.com, where you can find details of how to order the book.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please tell your friends and colleagues that they can receive a complimentary subscription to our news service by going to the above ANS website and signing up there.