We Gave Joan Rivers a Tape-Lift

Joan Rivers

At the risk of sounding ghoulish and terribly morbid...

Like any good news organization, when we heard Joan Rivers went into the ICU at Mt. Sinai, we tried to prepare for the worst. The Archives Department got into gear and started looking for all the material we had with the funny woman. Lo and behold a ten-inch reel of back-coated polyester tape from 1999 shows up in the catalog. And, perhaps Rivers would have appreciated it, the 15-year-old tape of her needed a face lift.

It was, like a lot of our tape collection, suffering from binder breakdown and/or hydrolysis, a.k.a sticky-shed syndrome. In short, the goo that holds the oxide particles to the tape itself becomes a bit undone, which makes playing the tape next to impossible without squeaking and squealing and gummy residue left on the tape machine heads. It leaves a mess and a muddy sound.

A quick remedy? Baking. The tape goes into a laboratory convection oven for four hours at 53 centigrade (130 Fahrenheit). Then, out on a shelf like a fresh apple pie to cool. More often than not, the tape plays back through the tape machine transport without a hitch allowing us to create a digital master from the original analog tape.

So, here she is on July 18, 1999, with Leonard Lopate in the old WNYC studios having a grand time making jokes and puns about getting old and dying.