Television talk show pioneer Joe Franklin dies aged 88

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Joe Franklin Dead, TV Host Established Talk Shows.

Franklin, 88, took ill a few days ago and was treated briefly at Lenox Hill Hospital before he was discharged to a hospice, said Richie Ornstein, his longtime agent.Joe Franklin, an institution of New York City broadcasting and self-crowned “king of nostalgia” who bantered on radio and television with celebrity A-listers and D-listers alike, has died.Joe Franklin, who became a New York institution by presiding over one of the most compellingly low-rent television programs in history, one that even he acknowledged was an oddly long-running parade of has-beens and yet-to-bes interrupted from time to time by surprisingly famous guests, died on Saturday in a hospice in Manhattan. Franklin, born Joseph Fortgang in The Bronx, knew every musician from Al Jolson to Frank Sinatra to Weird Al Yankovic, and every comedian from Jack Benny to Billy Crystal.

He was the spirit of the New York streets, the hard-working hustler who made it to the big time because it never occurred to him that he wouldn’t or couldn’t. He was 88. (AP Photo/Kevin Larkin) NEW YORK (AP) — Pioneering radio and TV host Joe Franklin, who gave breaks to the likes of Al Pacino and Bill Cosby on his variety show long before they became famous and who boasted he never missed a broadcast in decades, has died at age 88. Franklin often is credited with developing the standard TV talk show format, sitting behind a desk while interviewing wanna-be celebrities, minor celebrities and the occasional bona fide celebrity. So did Bette Midler, Barry Manilow and Barbra Streisand. “The Joe Franklin Show” was a late-night TV staple on WWOR/Channel 9, beloved by night owls for its quirky, New York-centric amalgam of random guests, most seated on a sofa to Franklin’s right. “Monti Rock the Third is back in town, and we’ve got him,” Franklin said at the opening of a typical 1976 show immortalized on YouTube. Cobb once,” Franklin went on. “He never got over the fact they chose Frederick March to do the part [of Willy Loman] in the movie of ‘Death of a Salesman.’” Another show featured pro wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano with pianist Mark Birnbaum and an inventor named Jesse Colodner who displayed a car fire extinguisher that included a knife so drivers or passengers could use to cut off their seat belts.

In an on-air career that began in the heyday of radio and continued into podcasting, Franklin took credit for discovering or giving early exposure to Al Pacino, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Woody Allen. He took his place behind his desk and in front of the camera day after day in the 1950s and night after night in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Garrin recalled how Franklin, who was parodied by Billy Crystal on “Saturday Night Live,” hired a young Bette Midler as his studio singer and gave a chance on his show to every up-and-comer trying to make it big: Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman among them.

Garrin said he remembered how Pacino, after he became a Hollywood movie star, told Franklin in a private meeting: “Joe, why don’t you interview me now that I’m somebody? Buckley and Abbie Hoffman, Jack LaLanne and Muhammad Ali, Fred Astaire and John Wayne, plus, as he put it, “plate twirlers, muscle men, politicians, rock-and-rollers, scribes, rocket scientists” and “stars, wives of stars, sons of stars, daughters of stars and mothers-in-law of stars.” That “eclectic mix” of guests was his show’s unique appeal, Franklin said in a 2011 interview with Bloomberg Radio: “I had Ronald Reagan on with the Dancing Dentists.

I never had a talent coordinator — I could feel it in my mind, the chemistry.” Actor Billy Crystal watched Franklin’s talk show as a kid and impersonated him on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s, sporting a comb-over, a loudly patterned sport jacket and his best imitation of Franklin’s machine-gun delivery and I’ve-seen-this-all-before tone. WJZ-TV, as the station was known then, had not been signing on until late afternoon before the premiere of “Joe Franklin — Disk Jockey” on Jan. 8, 1951. Almost swallowed by books, records, tapes and mountains of paper, Franklin would calmly assure a visitor that if something was important, he could find it. Tuesday was the first scheduled broadcast Franklin had missed in more than 60 years, said Garrin, who worked with him for 20 of those years, booking all his interviews and recording the shows in his studios in Times Square between 1991 and 2010. He booked Woody Allen, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and Liza Minnelli as guests when they were just starting out, and hired two other young performers, Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, as his in-house singer and accompanist. “My show was often like a zoo,” he said in 2002. “I’d mix Margaret Mead with the man who whistled through his nose, or Richard Nixon with the tap-dancing dentist.” Mr.

One of his favorite topics was Marilyn Monroe, about whom he said, “She is absolutely impervious to the winds and whims of public taste.” “One night we were working late on the manuscript. He played himself in the movies, including Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” — which was perfect, since Joe and Broadway Danny shared more than an affinity for Manhattan’s longest diagonal street. Bob Diamond, his director for the last 18 years of his television career, said that there were a few times in the days of live broadcasts when the show had to start without Mr.

He celebrated his 40th anniversary on television by interviewing himself, using a split-screen arrangement. “I got a few questions I’m planning to surprise myself with,” he said before he began. He got his first real job on the Kate Smith radio show and graduated to helping picking records for Martin Block’s groundbreaking radio show “Make Believe Ballroom.” “I had a good ear,” Franklin would say years later. “I knew that music.

With the tall blonde who became his wife — the former Lois Meriden, a onetime performer with Sally Rand’s burlesque-style “fan dancers” — he had a son, Brad. It’s timeless, it’s ageless.” Franklin’s encyclopedic knowledge of an era that seemed much less distant 50 years ago formed a cornerstone of his shows. The following year he introduced “Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane,” a Sunday-night show offering clips of classic movies to a viewership that included Crystal, the future comic actor who was born in 1948 and grew up on Long Island. Robinson — “all my childhood heroes” — when the radio personality Martin Block hired him to choose the records played on Block’s “Make-Believe Ballroom” on WNEW. His last show, on Aug. 6, 1993, was the 21,425th of his career; according to a Times story marking the occasion, he said he planned to spend time selling the show-business memorabilia he had accumulated, including Rudy Vallee’s megaphone, W.C.

A few years earlier, he had tried without success to profit from his brand of nostalgia through Joe Franklin Productions Inc., which started trading over the counter in 1987. “People still walk in from the street unannounced, unrehearsed, carrying their 8 x 10s, their press material, their reviews, looking for the big breaks,” he wrote in his memoir. “They know I’ll always lend them an ear. Franklin settled in at WOR in the mid-60s with his “Memory Lane” program — “that big late-night stroll for nostalgiacs and memorabiliacs,” as he described it.

He owned a shoe of Greta Garbo’s, a violin of Jack Benny’s and a ukulele of Arthur Godfrey’s — not to mention 12,500 pieces of sheet music and 10,000 silent movies. F. seen ’round town with model Lois Meriden?’ ” Soon, too, she was accompanying him to the studio for his 6:30 a.m. broadcast. “Lois made faces at me through the control room window, wiggling her ears and her nose,” Mr. His survivors include his son, Bradley Franklin; two grandchildren, Billy and Sara; a younger sister, Margaret Kestenbaum; and his longtime companion, Jodi Fritz.

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