On Nov. 23, 1963, the day after President Kennedy was shot, NBC News producer and director Frederic Rheinstein was in a remote broadcast truck outside Dallas' city hall with his crew. Suddenly, a stranger poked his head through an open window.
"He caused me to look up because in putting his head through the window he put aside a curtain allowing light into the otherwise darkened truck," Rheinstein later said in testimony before the Warren Commission, which looked into the assassination. Rheinstein said he didn't know the man's name at the time, "but it was an irritant, so his face became fixed."
The next day, the whole world knew of the man — Jack Ruby.
Rheinstein's cameras were there when Ruby fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's assassin. Unlike rival CBS, Rheinstein caught this moment in 20th century history in real time. "We did have a camera live, and I was able to persuade our leaders in New York to cut to us," Rheinstein said in 2012 on a panel discussing coverage of the event. "They cut to us 30, 40 seconds before he was shot."
Rheinstein, 86, who went on to direct coverage of other major news events and later started a prominent TV and film post-production house, died Dec. 22 at his home in Los Angeles. The cause was cancer, said his wife, Suzanne Rheinstein.
He was born in New York on Nov. 5, 1927, and went from getting his undergraduate degree at Princeton University to a job at NBC. In 1952, after a stint in the Army, he moved to the West Coast to work in the network's news division. Rheinstein was the on-site director of coverage in Houston for numerous space missions, and he made 15 trips to the war zone in Vietnam.
In 1974 he founded the Post Group, where special effects were done for numerous shows, including "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Max Headroom." Much of what the company did in its early years is now done on computers, but back then he had to buy large, expensive pieces of equipment.
"You absolutely had to be a risk-taking entrepreneur," he said in 2007 when he got a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Post Alliance. "It was all about having the newest and best toys!"
Rheinstein sold the company in 2005. He was involved in several charities and was the anonymous backer of LA Opera 90012, which every year provided free opera tickets to dozens of high school students who entered an essay contest.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother, Robert Rheinstein; daughters Linda Rheinstein and Katherine Brodsky; son David Rheinstein; and two granddaughters.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun