Spears Mallis, WTVJ Legend and Inventor of the Expando Unit in 1950, Dead at 98
The TV industry lost a true pioneer earlier this week with the passing of Spears Charles Mallis on Nov. 2, 2021, at the age of 98. In 1950 he became technical supervisor at WTVJ-TV, the leading CBS affiliate in Miami and eventually became remote supervisor and Engineer in Charge (EIC) of WTVJ’s remote video operations.
Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer and former NEP CTO George Hoover worked at WTVJ (his first paying job) and worked with Spears who he credits with building the first expand remote production trailer: the Florida Room in 1950. The Florida Room was a room that folded out of the trailer and became space for producers and network executives.
“Even though I was a production guy, a Graphic Designer for the weekend newscasts, I was fascinated by remotes,” says Hoover. “Spears would let me show up at all manner of remotes, on my days off of course, where I could watch and learn virtually every job and skill set that went into a remote telecast, from over/under to setting up registering and color balancing PC60 cameras. He was a great mentor and a very kind person.”
David Fruitman, TV technical manager, transmission manager for AEW wrestling, worked with Spears and says he was truly the last of the original TV pioneers in Miami.
During his career Spears was EIC for ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” horse racing at various Miami tracks, and “Superstars” in the Bahamas. And for CBS he worked on college football, and a special when the Great Wallenda walked the towers in Miami. He also worked professional boxing for ABC, ESPN, and Turner and many remotes for WTVJ-TV including symphony, jazz, and contemporary music specials. When Jackie Gleason moved his show to Miami, Spears became the EIC for that production from 1961-68 and followed Gleason when the show went to New Jersey as a consultant.
In 1988, Spears worked with NBC in Korea for the Olympic Games and won an Emmy for that work.
After WTVJ’s parent company, WOMETCO was sold, Spears formed Mallis Enterprises and continued to contract as an EIC for network productions until he retired in 2017. Spears is survived by his sons, Samuel and David, and his daughter Julie, and his brother Paul of California. Spears wife, Joyceline, passed in 1998.
“From college football, NFL, space shots, Miss USA, Miss Universe, Jackie Gleason and the political conventions, from black and white to color and HD, he did it all with grace,” adds Hoover.
Spears was 98 and was the son of Charles and Chrysanthe Mallis. Charles and his brother, Stellis, ran a combination restaurant and bowling alley at 116 West Main Street in Kingsport, Tennessee at the end of World War I. Spears entered the U.S. Air Force, rose to the rank of sergeant, and served in the Philippines working in radio communications. Upon learning of the new technology of television, Spears attended the American Television Institute in Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science in television engineering in 1949. After graduation, Spears was hired as a technician at Storer Broadcasting in Miami and soon after began his career at WTVJ.