Sunday, January 25, 2015

Joe Franklin: 1926-2015

No one who grew up watching N.Y.C.-era television will ever forget talk-show host Joe Franklin, who passed away yesterday at age 88. His show - which ran on WOR Channel 9 for 43 (!) years - is almost impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't actually seen it.

Where to start? The old-time showbiz patter? The cluttered, crowded set? Celebrities at the beginning - or often end - of their careers? Joe's on-camera commercials for Hoffman Beverages, Streit's Matzos and Martin Paints ("It ain't just paint")? The way the single static camera focused on a singer's face while one of their records played over the studio sound system, leaving them to squirm uncomfortably under its pitiless eye?

A showbiz legend, Franklin wrote jokes for Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson when he was just a teenager, and worked on Kate Smith's radio program. His show aired twice a day on WOR, and I seldom missed it.

Here's just a partial list of his guests over the years (the show ran from 1950 to 1993): Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, the Ramones, Bing Crosby, John F. Kennedy, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Andy Warhol, Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Dario Argento, the J. Geils Band,Liza Minnelli, Dustin Hoffman and hundreds of others. We'll never see his like again.
The New York Times has an affectionate obit ("One of the most compellingly low-rent television programs in history.") here.

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