By Mike LaBella
---- — Members of the Team Haverhill civic group were beaming when native son Tom Bergeron was a guest on the popular television talk show “The View.’’
It came as a surprise to everyone from the group involved in the creation of the Essex Street Gateway Mural when Bergeron talked about the project. The mural features images of Bergeron and other well-known people from Haverhill’s past and present — authors, sports figures, merchants and educators. Team Haverhill had the mural painted at one of the entrances to downtown to highlight the city’s celebrities and history.
Joy Behar, co-host of “The View,’’ asked Bergeron if he’d seen the mural in his home town of “Haver-ville, Massachusetts,” to which Bergeron jokingly replied, “not Haver-ville, Haver-hill.”
Suddenly, an image of the 3,000-square-foot-mural on the exterior wall of a historic downtown Haverhill building appeared on a screen behind Bergeron and the show’s hosts.
“If you look really, really hard, I’m in the television screen... there I am, right in there,” Bergeron said as a television camera zoomed in on a section of the mural featuring his image. “That’s me. I’ve been immortalized in wall paint.”
Leota Sarette, a member of Team Haverhill who co-chaired the mural committee along with Team Haverhill member Tom Jordan, said she was at work Friday and happened to be walking into the break room, where a television was showing “The View.’’ It was at the precise time Bergeron was talking about the mural.
Sarette said the mural was seen by “The View’s’’ national audience because of Bergeron, who played an important role in this community art project.
“He not only allowed the use of his image, but he provided Team Haverhill with tickets to ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ which were auctioned off to raise money for the mural,” Sarette said. “He continues to support the project by showing it on ‘The View.’”
Bergeron, a Haverhill native, is an award-winning TV host, most recently grabbing national attention for his work hosting “Dancing with the Stars.’’
After Bergeron appeared on “The View,’’ Sarette started getting phone calls, Facebook messages, email, texts and even tweets about it.
“For Tom Bergeron to place that on ‘The View’ and for them to allow it, I consider that significant as he could have talked about a million other things,” Sarette said. “‘The View’ Is a very popular show and because Tom Bergeron was on it, I think a lot of people watched it.”
In June of last year, Team Haverhill unveiled the Essex Street Gateway Community Mural, the largest scale public art project ever in the city.
The mural, named “Hues of the Heart’’ after the John Greenleaf Whittier poem, was created on the wall of a historic building at 25 Essex St., close to where movie mogul Louis B. Mayer launched his career by opening his first movie theater, the Orpheum, in 1907. Mayer’s theater served as inspiration for the design, which paints a picture of Haverhill from its founding in 1649 through its days of shoe manufacturing, when it was known as “Queen Slipper City.” The mural was designed by the Meg Saligman Studios of Philadelphia and consists of 50 3-by-4-foot panels, about 15 of which were painted by community volunteers using a paint-by-numbers system.
At the center of the mural is a movie theater with an audience of characters from the city’s past and present, including Bob Montana, creator of Archie comics; professional baseball player Mike Ryan from the Red Sox 1967 Impossible Dream team; musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie; Hamel Leather company founder Louis Hamel; and authors Andre Dubus II and Andre Dubus III, a father and his son known for their fiction writing.
There’s Dr. Frank Lahey, who went on to found the Lahey Clinic; noted international shoe designer Stuart Weitzman, who learned to design shoes in the 1960s when he worked at Seymour Shoes, a factory at 151 Essex St. that his father owned; and many others who earned a place in Haverhill’s history. Framing Mayer’s theater scene are characters from the city’s past and present, including: Cora Chase, a famous opera singer; Barney Gallagher, long-time reporter and photographer for The Eagle-Tribune and The Haverhill Gazette, as the projectionist; TV celebrity Bergeron and others.
Team Haverhill President Alice Mann said she was not completely surprised about the mural gaining this level of attention.
“The work of Saligman studios has a national reputation and their work is included in many books about public art,” Mann said. “But I was surprised to see it on national television. I was touched that Tom Bergeron was pleased to be in the mural and was excited enough to bring it to the attention of ‘The View.’’’
You can see the Feb. 1 episode of “The View’’ on ABC.com or on YouTube by searching for “Tom Bergeron The View.”