Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Godspeed Don Pardo

Don Pardo, the legendary announcer for NBC known for his work on  Jeopardy, Saturday Night Live, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, died yesterday at the age of 96.

Don Pardo was born Dominick George Pardo on 22 February 1918 in Westfield, Massachusetts. He grew up in Norwich, Connecticut. It was while he was attending the Norwich Free Academy (the primary high school there) that he became interested in both public speaking and drama. It was in 1938 that he received his first job in radio, working at radio station WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts in 1942.

It was in 1944 that Don Pardo and his friend Hal Simms (who would later serve as announcer on What's My Line and The Edge of Night) took a tour of NBC's studios in New York City. Don Pardo ended the tour with a meeting to thank Patrick J. Kelly, then in charge of NBC's announcers, for arranging everything. Patrick J. Kelly then offered Mr. Pardo a job. He started working for NBC on 15 June 1944. He would serve as announcer on such radio shows at NBC as Barrie Craig, Confidential Investigator; Front Page Farrell; Pepper Young's Family; X Minus One; and Dimension X. It was in 1946 that Don Pardo did his first work in television when he and another announcer announced three baseball games televised by NBC. Don Pardo's work on the three games was not well received. Mr. Pardo would later relate how one reviewer said of his work on the baseball games, "He doesn’t know the game, and he wouldn’t shut his mouth.”

Regardless, Don Pardo's future was in television. In the late Forties Mr. Pardo served as announcer for NBC Presents and Remember This Date. The Fifties would see some of his best known work. Don Pardo served as the announcer on the original version of the game show The Price is Right, hosted by Bill Cullen. He also served as an announcer on such variety shows as The Colgate Comedy Hour and All Star Revue. Don Pardo worked  as an announcer on such shows as Winner Take All, Judge for Yourself, Three Steps to Heaven, Choose Up Sides, Doodles, and Charge Account as well.

The Sixties would see Don Pardo in one of his most famous jobs, that of the announcer on the original version of the game show Jeopardy. Mr. Pardo would serve as its announcer for the entirety of its run, from 1964 to 1975. So identified was Don Pardo with the game show that he reprised his role as announcer in Weird Al Yankovic's 1984 song "I Lost on Jeopardy" (a parody of "Jeopardy" by The Greg Kihn Band"). In the Sixties he also served as a substitute announcer on Match Game as well as an announcer on Eye Guess. Mr. Pardo did a wide variety of announcing at NBC in the Sixties beyond games shows. In fact, it was Don Pardo who broke into WNBC programming in 1964 to announce that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.

It was in the Seventies that Don Pardo began what might be his longest job ever, that as announcer for Saturday Night Live. He announced the very first episode and would continue to announce every episode of the show except for the 1981-1982 season when then producer Dick Ebersol inexplicably went with someone else. In the Seventies Don Pardo also served as the announcer for the game shows Winning Streak and Jackpot.

In the Eighties Don Pardo continued to serve as the announcer for SNL, as well as doing a variety of other work. He served as an announcer on NBC's annual coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade until 1999. He also served as announcer for Wheel of Fortune for a week when it was at Radio City Music Hall, and as an announcer on the TV special Steve Martin's Best Show Ever. He provided his voice for the films The Sex O'Clock News (1985) and Radio Days (1987).

In the Nineties Don Pardo worked on the films Stay Tuned (1992), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), and The Godson (1998), as well as episodes of the show Dream On. He also announced commercials for Frosted Cheerios and MCI in the Nineties. In the Naughts and Teens he appeared on the shows Oz, 30 Rock, and The Simpsons. His final work for Saturday Night Live was this very year.

It should be little wonder that Don Pardo's career lasted nearly seventy years. His voice was entirely singular, a velvet baritone that could be loud and yet still remain pleasant. What is more, he had an elongated delivery that was entirely his own. The hosts and producers with whom he worked obviously appreciated him. On The Price is Right host Bill Cullen would occasionally mention him by name at a time when announcers were rarely if ever acknowledged. On Jeopardy host Art Fleming thanked him by name in each and every episode. While Don Pardo officially retired in 2004, he continued to announce SNL at producer Lorne Michaels's request. It is easy to understand why Mr. Michaels would not want Don Pardo to retire entirely. Mr. Pardo's voice was unlike any one else's. It was immediately recognisable. Quite simply, Don Pardo was one of a kind.

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