We’ll get to the “blood” part later. But first…
Incense is one of the things that makes Midnight Mass such a spectacle and there was plenty of it in the air on Christmas Eve in 1995 at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Cathedral Square in downtown Milwaukee.
We were producing a live broadcast of the mass AND creating a national version for replay Christmas morning. We had brought in a team of people to light the huge space and set numerous cameras in positions throughout the church. Instead of using a remote truck, we created a control room in the sacristy. (For those of you who have ever heard the language used in most control rooms, you know this was a complete sacrilege.)
The production came off flawlessly as we heard the singing congregation and saw sweeping shots of the packed cathedral some slightly fogged by the lingering incense.
Mass ended and the crew began removing cables, including the ones that ran below the church floor. When grip, Jay Cederholm, stood up in that low-ceilinged space, he opened a gash in his head, which began to bleed profusely. Christmas Eve was rapidly transitioning to Christmas Day when he and I entered St. Mary’s Hospital Emergency Room and found the staff not quite willing to believe that this guy with blood covering his face had really just come from Midnight Mass. In spite of their doubts, they stitched him up, had him rest for a while and then we both headed home to our holiday celebrations leaving both the blood and incense behind.
Here’s the sacristy “control room” with Joe and George in the foreground.