Mr. Staff Announcer…and more…silenced

Don Pardo was born in New England, lived at one point in Norwich, CT.  But in nearby Providence, RI was where the man born Dominick George Pardo’s career began.  It was at the city’s WJAR Radio (now WHJJ). Two years later, he met a supervisor at NBC who hired the young Pardo immediately upon hearing his voice. He moved to WNBC radio and later TV in New York and never left the network even despite a move to Arizona.  He has now signed off for good at the age of 96.

Pardo made his mark as soon as he got to NYC, reading news dispatches on the radio filed from the front lines during World War II. After the war, he announced shows as the “Arthur Murray Party,” ”Colgate Comedy Hour” and “Your Show of Shows.”

In 1954, he was brought in to announce “Winner Takes All,” beginning a long run in game shows. That show would be the first hosted by the man without whom game shows wouldn’t exist, Bill Cullen. The two of them would team up a few years later when Bob Stewart created a little show that would be more known for its current run of over 40 years on CBS…The Price is Right

You see, the game of bidding buying and bargaining before becoming the 60-minute “Come on Down” rave scene it is today was a civilized half-hour affair of fast paced bids and bonuses combined with some of the most amazing prizes and the wit and humor of Bill Cullen.  But sometimes Don got in front of the camera as you see above.

When the show left NBC in 1962, Don didn’t move with it as he had an iron clad contract ala Bob Hope with the peacock network.  The show’s last years were on ABC with a bright an up and coming announcer and host, Johnny Gilbert, best known these days as the voice of Jeopardy! While at NBC, Pardo was a staff announcer and that included announcing on one fateful November day.

A few months after that Pardo would team up with Art Fleming for the original run of the game of trivia with a twist. Including a short-lived and forgotten syndicated run in 1975 it would go 11 years.

And once again in ’75 Pardo would be seen on camera as he would announce the end of Jeopardy’s original run.

Later that year, NBC, a joke of a network in the ratings came up with what was then an original concept, a sketch comedy show with music and guest hosts.  The only constant would be Pardo.  That show, a show as far as I am concerned years beyond its relevancy, was Saturday Night Live.  Pardo would announce the “Not Ready for Primetime Players” including Hollywood stars of the future from Dan Akroyd and John Beulshi to Jane Curtin and Gilda Radner.  For most of his run with SNL, Pardo read the names live.  But as he got older, he would record the intros from his home in Arizona thanks to Mp3 technology.

As a staff announcer with NBC, it also comes with the territory to do things for the network’s flagship TV station WNBC-TV.  Take for example, this bit of an aircheck from 1980 where Pardo is reading the sign-off edition of the then News Center 4 (now News 4 New York).  You see kids, before this 24/7 world of infomercials, stations used to sign-off the air.  Back in the days, the sequence would include news, a prayer, the sign-off itself, the National Anthem and then the station is put to rest.  Pity though in this tape another late NBC staff announcer Arthur Gary did the sign-off

He also was the voice (and face) behind NBC 4’s Live at Five known in the 80’s for their relaxed news presentation and celebrity interviews…and the occasional laugh with Sue Simmons.

In 1988, the game show world called again.  This time it would ironically be Jeopardy’s sister show Wheel of Fortune.  At that time the show was doing two weeks of shows from Radio City Music Hall, marking the first time the big wheel spun in someplace other than Hollywood.  And producers,  perhaps Merv Griffin himself asked Don to step to the microphone.  You see Wheel was still on NBC daytime in addition to their syndicated nighttime show (here in the NYC area on WCBS-TV 2, about to go into its 25th season on WABC-TV channel 7)

No matter the situation, Don Pardo’s booming voice was heard everywhere.  It has now been silenced.  Don, you and Art can now do those games of Jeopardy!  With no due respects to NBC as it is right now, and TV overall for that matter, Don Pardo was to NBC “The Voice!”


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