Joe Franklin (1926 - 2015)



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Joe Franklin (1926 – 2015)
Born Although he was born as Joseph Fortgang March 9, 1926 in The Bronx, New York, U.S. 100 Million people knew him as Joe Franklin.
His son's name is Bradley Franklin.
Died January 24, 2015 (aged 88) Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Columbia University
Occupation Television and radio personality
Joe Franklin (March 9, 1926 – January 24, 2015), born Joseph Fortgang, was an American radio and television host personality, author and actor from New York City. His television series debuted in January 1951 on WJZ-TV (later WABC-TV), moving to WOR-TV (later WWOR-TV) in 1962, remaining there until 1993, one of the longest running uninterrupted careers in broadcasting history.
Franklin was born Joseph Fortgang on March 9, 1926, in The Bronx, New York, the elder of two children, to Austrian Jewish parents, Anna (Heller) and Martin Fortgang. He acknowledged in his memoirs, Up Late With Joe Franklin, (which was written with R. J. Marx), that his press materials had long said, purposely, that he had been born in 1928, but he planned to come clean about his real birth date. As a teenager, Franklin "followed around" Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, the latter of whom eventually began buying jokes from the young Franklin and whose Carnegie Hall show he later produced.
At 14, Franklin began writing skits for The Kate Smith Hour; and at 16, Franklin officially began his entertainment career as a record picker on radio sensation Martin Block's Make Believe Ballroom where he became known as "The Young Wreck with the Old Records." By the time he was 21, he embarked on a radio career. He was also considered to be an authority on popular culture of the first half of the 20th century, including silent films. He was called "The King of Nostalgia" and "The Wizard of Was" for focusing on old-time show-business personalities. Franklin was also a pioneer in promoting products such as Hoffman Beverages and Canada Dry ginger ale on the air. A&E's documentary It's Only Talk, The Real Story Of America's Talk Shows credits Franklin as the creator of the television talk show. Franklin was listed in the Guinness World Records as the longest running continuous on-air TV talk show host, more than a decade longer than Johnny Carson's run.
In 1999, Franklin partnered with Producer Steve Garrin and Restaurant Mogul Dennis Riese to open Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane Restaurant at 45th Street and Eighth Avenue in New York City. The restaurant converted to become Joe Franklin’s Comedy Club. The club ceased operations after losing its lease in 2003.
After retiring from his television show, Franklin concentrated on his overnight radio show, playing old records on WOR-AM on Saturday evenings and mentoring thousands of aspiring entertainers who for decades sought an audience with him at his notoriously cluttered Times Square office. Franklin's celebrity interviews, known as "Nostalgia Moments", appeared daily on the Bloomberg Radio Network until mid-January 2015, shortly before his death.
Famous guests
Franklin's guests included an odd mix of actual celebrities and low level performers, sometimes on the same panel. He claimed to have had Charlie Chaplin on his program, a dubious statement since Chaplin left the United States in 1952, shortly after Franklin's TV debut. Other guest claims include John Wayne, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe (with whom Franklin co-authored "The Marilyn Monroe Story" in 1953), Jayne Mansfield, The Beastie Boys, Cary Grant, Andy Warhol, Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, Salvador Dali, Rudy Vallee, Jimmy Durante, Madonna, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis, The Belmonts, Elvis Presley, The Ramones, Lou Albano and five US presidents (including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon). As with the Chaplin claim, some of these appearances were unable to be independently confirmed based on a lack of evidence, since still pictures taken on the set do not exist for several of the people listed, and little video from before the 1970s survives. Bette Midler was the show's in-house singer for a time, and Elizabeth Joyce was his in-house psychic/astrologer. Franklin never employed a co-host, but his producer, Richie Ornstein, was a standard feature on the Joe Franklin Show who interacted with guests and discussed trivia.
Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Julia Roberts, Bruce Springsteen, Robin Williams, John Belushi and Richard Pryor got their first television exposure on The Joe Franklin Show. Frank Sinatra reportedly appeared four times. In December 2000, Franklin partnered with producer Steve Garrin and restaurant mogul Dennis Riese to open "Joe Franklin's Memory Lane Restaurant" on West 45th Street in Broadway's theater district,[6] where Franklin appeared frequently and conducted live, in-person interviews with entertainers such as Carol Channing, Anita O'Day and Billy Crystal, who impersonated Franklin on Saturday Night Live. After the restaurant closed in 2004 it reopened the following year as "Joe Franklin's Comedy Club" on West 50th Street. Many name comedians came to the club and performed on stage to break in their new material, and many aspiring comics got their first stage time there. That venue closed in 2005.
In media
Franklin's show was first parodied by Billy Crystal during the 1984–1985 season of Saturday Night Live.
On the locally produced program The Uncle Floyd Show, host Floyd Vivino parodied Franklin as "Joe Frankfurter".
In 1997, Franklin was profiled in the documentary film 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can't Be Wrong (1997), directed by Joshua Brown.
Also in 1997, Franklin was satirized by Drew Friedman in * Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental (with Josh Alan Friedman) (Fantagraphics Books, 1997)

Joe Franklin Biography & Family History

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Joe Franklin was also known as:

Joseph Fortgang


in Bronx County, New York United States


on in New York, New York United States
Cause of death: Prostate cancer

Cause of death

Prostate cancer

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Last Known Residence

New York County, New York United States

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Franklin appeared as himself in such New York-based films as Ghostbusters, Broadway Danny Rose, and 29th Street. Franklin appeared on the first episode of This American Life giving host Ira Glass advice on how to have a successful show. He was also a guest on an early episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. He also made appearances in various works by New York low-budget film company Troma Entertainment, making a cameo as himself in their 1999 meta-fictional slasher film Terror Firmer, as well as the 1993 infomercial The Troma System as the result of the commercial's host transforming into "the ultimate talk show host". Franklin appeared as himself in comedian Tracey Ullman’s 1993 HBO comedy special Tracey Ullman Takes on New York, interviewing character Linda Granger on his talk show.


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Military Service

Military serial#: 42137029
Enlisted: June 12, 1944 in Cp Upton Yaphank New York
Military branch: No Branch Assignment
Rank: Private, Selectees (enlisted Men)
Terms of enlistment: Enlistment For The Duration Of The War Or Other Emergency, Plus Six Months, Subject To The Discretion Of The President Or Otherwise According To Law

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White, Citizen


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1926 - In the year that Joe Franklin was born, on October 31st, Harry Houdini died in Michigan. Houdini was the most famed magician of his time and perhaps of all time, especially for his acts involving escapes - from handcuffs, straitjackets, chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, and more. He was president of the Society of American Magicians and stringently upheld professional ethics. He died of complications from a ruptured appendix. Although he had received a blow to the area a couple of days previously, the connection between the blow and his appendicitis is disputed.

1937 - He was just 11 years old when on May 6th, the German zeppelin the Hindenburg caught fire and blew up. The Hindenburg was a passenger ship traveling to Frankfurt Germany. It tried to dock in New Jersey, one of the stops, and something went wrong - it blew up. Thirty-six people were killed out of the 97 on board - 13 passengers, 22 crewmen, and one ground worker. The reasons for the explosion are still disputed.

1950 - He was 24 years old when on June 25th, the Korean War began when North Korean Communist forces crossed the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea and the U.N., primarily the United States backed South Korea.

1991 - By the time he was 65 years old, on January 16th, Allied forces began the first phase of Operation Desert Storm. Saddam Hussein's forces had previously invaded the sovereign state of Kuwait and the focus of the operation was to remove his Iraqi troops from Kuwait. On February 24th, the ground war began. Within 100 hours, American ground troops declared Kuwait liberated.

1999 - By the time he was 73 years old, the fear that Y2K (year 2000) would cause the failure of computers worldwide when clocks didn't properly update to January 1st, 2000 became near panic. While some computer systems and software did have problems, the panic was unfounded and computer life went on.

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This obit of Joe Franklin is updated by the community. Edit this biography to contribute to his obituary. Include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

By James Barron
Jan. 24, 2015

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. He was 88.
Steve Garrin, Mr. Franklin’s producer and longtime friend, said the cause was prostate cancer.
A short, pudgy performer with a sandpapery voice that bespoke old-fashioned show business razzle-dazzle, Mr. Franklin, the star of “The Joe Franklin Show,” was one of local television’s most enduring personalities. 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.
In 1993, he said that he had hosted more than 300,000 guests in his more than 40 years on the air. Another way to have interviewed that many people would have been to go to Riverside, Calif., or Corpus Christi, Tex., and talk to everyone in town. He may have been exaggerating, but whatever the number was, it was impressive.
And although he never made the move from local television in New York to the slicker, bigger realms of the networks, he was recognizable enough to have been parodied by Billy Crystal on “Saturday Night Live” and mentioned on “The Simpsons.”
What came to be considered campy began as pioneering programming: the first regular program that Channel 7 had ever broadcast at noon. 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.
Soon celebrities like Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby and John F. Kennedy were making their way to the dingy basement studio on West 67th Street — a room with hot lights that was “twice the size of a cab,” Mr. Franklin recalled in 2002. 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. Franklin claimed a perfect attendance record: He said he never missed a show. 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. Franklin. But Mr. Franklin always got there eventually.
And he always seemed to have a gimmick. 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.
Mr. Franklin in 2002 with a trombone given to him by a member of the Tommy Dorsey Band.
Had he asked himself, he could have told viewers that he was born Joe Fortgang in the Bronx. He explained in his memoir, “Up Late With Joe Franklin,” written with R. J. Marx, that his press materials had long said that he had been born in 1928, “but I’m going to come clean and admit that my real birth date was March 9, 1926.” He was the son of Martin and Anna Fortgang; his father was a paper-and-twine dealer who had gone to Public School 158 with James Cagney.
By the time he was 21, he had a new name, a radio career, a publicist and a too-good-to-be-true biography invented, he wrote in “Up Late,” by a publicist. In that book, he denied an anecdote that appeared in many newspaper articles about him: He had met George M. Cohan in Central Park when he was a teenager. That led to a dinner invitation from Mr. Cohan, who let him pick a recording from his collection and take it home — or so the story went. It never happened, Mr. Franklin wrote in “Up Late.”
But a real invitation to pick records was his big break. He had been the writer for the singer Kate Smith’s 1940s variety program, which featured guests like Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Edward G. 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. Block arranged for Mr. Franklin to go on the air with a program called “Vaudeville Isn’t Dead.” After stops at several other stations in the 1950s, Mr. Franklin settled in at WOR in the mid-1960s with his “Memory Lane” program — “that big late-night stroll for nostalgiacs and memorabiliacs,” as he described it.
He was both. 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. His office was several rooms of uncataloged clutter, first in Times Square, later at Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street. “You know, I was a slob,” he said in 2002.
Mr. Franklin met his wife when she applied for a job as his secretary. Soon they were being mentioned in gossip columns. “Dorothy Kilgallen wrote that we were ‘waxing amorous,’ ” he wrote in “Up Late.” “Walter Winchell queried in his column, ‘What radio voice with initial J. F. seen ’round town with model Lois Meriden?’ ” Soon, she was attending his 6:30 a.m. broadcasts. “Lois made faces at me through the control room window, wiggling her ears and her nose,” Mr. Franklin wrote in “Up Late.”
They were married on a television show called “Bride and Groom.” Off camera, he wrote in 1995, “things weren’t going right — it’s been like that for 40 years.” He added, “Lois is happy, I’m happy, I live in New York, she lives in Florida.”
After his television show was canceled in 1993, Mr. Franklin repeatedly tried to cash in on his fame and his collection of memorabilia. In 2000, he lent his name to a 160-seat restaurant on Eighth Avenue at 45th Street. Eventually it became a chain restaurant with Joe Franklin’s Comedy Club in the back; later the restaurant and the comedy club closed. And in 2002, he sold some of his memorabilia at auction.
He continued to do a late-night radio show, on the Bloomberg Radio Network, almost to the end. Mr. Garrin said Mr. Franklin’s Tuesday show was the first scheduled broadcast he had missed in more than 60 years.
His survivors include his son, Bradley Franklin; a sister, Madeline Kestenbaum; two grandchildren; and his longtime companion, Jodi Fritz.
, Mr. Franklin did not like to rehearse, and he never used cue cards or prompters. The opening monologue and the questions were all in his head.

“I was the only guy who never had a pre-production meeting,” he said in 2002. “You don’t rehearse your dinner conversation. I’m not saying I was right, but I lasted 43 years.”

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