TV pioneer Dick Colbert dies

Guided 'Joker's Wild,' 'Tic Tac Dough' to primetime

Dick Colbert, a television industry pioneer, died Aug. 21 at his home in Boulder Creek, Calif., after a brief illness. He was 85.

Born Richard Goldberg in San Francisco, Colbert was the son of Eastern European immigrant parents. His father, a World War I veteran and a printer, moved his family to Boulder Creek during the Depression. Colbert returned to the small lumber town in the Santa Cruz Mountains and considered it home during his later years.

In 1942, he joined Universal Pictures as a poster clerk at the company's San Francisco office. Colbert's career was interrupted by Army service during World War II, after which branch manager Art Greenfield promoted him to booker. From there, Colbert had branch positions in Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle.

Colbert migrated from film to television during the early '60s, joining the pioneering syndication enterprise ZIV International. He then worked briefly for Screen Gems before joining Four Star Television, founded by Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, Ida Lupino and David Niven. As president of distribution at Four Star, Colbert began a 40-plus-year association with Arthur Gardner, producer of such legacy series as "The Rifleman" and "The Big Valley."

During the mid-1970s, Colbert partnered with game show impresarios Jack Barry and Dan Enright to form Colbert Television Sales, which helped transform important prime-access time periods on traditional network affiliates and primetime on major independent stations with stalwarts "The Joker's Wild" and "Tic Tac Dough."

CTS boasted one of the industry's most effective sales forces, comprised of Bob King, Roger King, Michael King and Colbert's son Ritch. Of the collaboration, Dick Colbert wrote: "The King brothers still talk about the old days and our first Colbert Syndication sales meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in New York, where I talked extemporaneously from early Saturday until late Sunday without repeating myself. They credit me with teaching and mentoring them, but I contend that my main contribution was preventing Roger and Bob from killing each other."

Colbert maintained his association with Barry & Enright until he facilitated the sale of that company's library to Sony during the early 1990s.