Bob Saget Remembers Lew Klein: "He Saw a Sparkle in People"

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Lew Klein (left) and Bob Saget

The actor-comedian pays tribute to the NATPE founder, who helped launch his career (and Dick Clark's), following his death June 12 at age 91.

I enrolled in Lew Klein’s class at Temple University and the description said something like, “Would you like a career in show business?” Everybody on Earth checked yes — except for really smart people.

My meetings with Lew were not in a classroom situation; it was always one-on-one, kind of like an introduction to therapy, just an hour of sitting there and him asking questions like, “What do you want to do with your life?” Then he would say, “I know this guy who might be a good person for you to meet.” He saw a sparkle in people, and that’s why people were drawn to him. At heart, he was a great producer — a matchmaker. To do that for young people is very rare. He looked at them as no different than him.

When I was 17 years old, I had been a stand-up and won a radio contest. I was teed up for something, which could’ve just been a career doing amateur nights. But then Lew thought I was a special kid, like he did with so many people. He also saw my student film [the Student Academy Award-winning Through Adam’s Eyes] and believed in me. He made a lot of magical things happen for a lot of people.

By the time I’d met him in 1974, NATPE was flying and doing amazing. He knew people at every single network. He could’ve gone and moved to Los Angeles and brought his wife Janet and the kids. He could’ve made movies and been very successful in Hollywood, but he really, truly loved Philly a lot.

Lew was a completely positive person. His attitude was, “I’m going to start you here and you’re going to have a great career and you can do this.” He was a perfect example of a great teacher and mentor. He saw the fruits of his labor in people like Dick Clark, who went on to become TV history. Lew started his career like a lot of other people who haven’t been mentioned, people like producers and executives, filmmakers and documentarians, all people who live on through his legacy.

John Stamos taught me to hang out with older guys because they have the answers — there’s something so valuable with that kind of wisdom. And there’s a coolness with someone who lives to be 91 like Lew did. I’ve learned so much from my friendships with Don Rickles, my Uncle Bill and Norman Lear.

Lew's loss makes me incredibly sad, but what makes me happy is to see him so recognized after his death. This is a man who lived in Philadelphia but became such a force in the TV industry. I did not expect to see so much respect from him in the media for the impact that he had. It gives me such a warm feeling to see him recognized so greatly. He deserves it.

A version of this story appears in the June 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.