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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 980

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This is the grave of Don Pardo.

Born in 1918 in Westfield, Massachusetts, Dominick Pardo grew up in an immigrant household. His parents had migrated from Poland and ran a bakery. They moved around a bit, from Westfield to Norwich, Connecticut, and then to Providence, where Pardo finished his adolescent years. A smart kid, he managed to go to Emerson College and graduated from there in 1942. Even before he went to college, his unique voice was perfect for the radio and he got radio spots in Providence as an announcer, which beat his job at Brown & Sharpe, the large Providence tool manufacturer whose remnant factory buildings make up too pricey lofts in downtown Providence today.

After graduation, Pardo, naturally enough, worked as a radio newsman for NBC covering World War II. He joined NBC as a full-time announcer in 1944 and never worked for anyone else. He was the kind of guy you brought in for anything that required a fun, iconic announcer. That included everything from narrating early demonstrates of color television to serving as a game show announcer. He was the announcer for The Price is Right from 1956 to 1963, when it moved to ABC. There were lots of other game shows too, including the initial version of Jeopardy in 1964. He announced all but one episode of that show until 1975. While he was based out of San Francisco for awhile early in his career, he became a New York guy through and through and mostly only announced shows based out of his adopted home city. That included the Macy’s Day Parade, which he continued doing until 1999. He also was who broke into NBC coverage to announce the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963, a significantly less fun moment than most of Pardo’s career. He also did a little live baseball for the New York teams on NBC in 1946 but was terrible at it because he wouldn’t shut up. He admitted he was bad at it. That’s OK, he had other talents.

What we really know Pardo for though is his work as the Saturday Night Live announcer. He worked it from the very beginning in 1975. The reason Lorne Michaels hired him was not only that he had a great voice but that it felt like a voice from another time. After all, bringing back the live revue onto television was a blast from the vaudeville past, as well as a new era in television. Might as well bring in the best possible old timey announcer for the job. Other than the 1981-82 season (also the year Michaels was not involved in the show), he remained the show’s announcer for 38 seasons, other than a few shows missed later in his life due to his health. Toward the end, he was living in Arizona like lots of older people (far better choice than Florida) and would fly back to do his segments. On his 90th birthday, in 2008, he showed up on camera to blow out the candles on his birthday cake. In 2013, he did miss a few episodes after he broke his hip, but at 95, he was back on the job just a few weeks later.

Pardo also had good humor about himself. He participated in a few Frank Zappa recordings as an announcer for the song “I’m the Slime” on the Live from New York album (Zappa is effectively unlistenable today, but if you are going to do so, the live recordings are usually the way to go). He showed up on a Weird Al Yankovic album too. He also appeared in Woody Allen’s forgettable Radio Days film in 1987.

in 2010, Pardo was elected into the Television Hall of Fame.

Pardo remained pretty active until the end of his life. He died in his sleep at his home in Tucson in 2014, at the age of 96. Not bad Don.

Don Pardo is buried is Rockland Cemetery, Sparkill, New York.

If you would like this series to visit other members of the Television Hall of Fame, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Larry Gelbart, inducted in 2008, is in Culver City, California and Merv Griffin, also inducted in 2008, is in Los Angeles. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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