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Joe Franklin, who hosted a bargain-basement TV talk show in New York for four decades, died Saturday night of prostate cancer in a hospice in Manhattan, his friend and producer Steve Garrin told The New York Times. He was 88.
Franklin, who often is credited with developing the standard TV talk show format, started out with the afternoon show Joe Franklin — Disk Jockey on the ABC local station in 1951 and did his last show, then airing on WOR after midnight, in 1993. He claimed that he had hosted 300,000 guests during his career and never missed a show.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Garrin recalled how Franklin, who was parodied by Billy Crystal in the 1980s on Saturday Night Live, hired a young Bette Midler as his studio singer and gave a chance on his show to every up-and-comer trying to make it big: Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen and Dustin Hoffman among them.
“He was a wonderful guy,” Garrin said. “He gave everybody an opportunity.”
From a tiny basement studio on West 67th Street in Manhattan, Franklin also booked Barbra Streisand, Bill Cosby and Liza Minnelli as guests when they were just starting out. But he also had guests on after they had “made it,” including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and John F. Kennedy.
A native of the Bronx, Franklin started out in radio, working as a writer for singer Kate Smith’s 1940s variety program and then hosting a radio show called Vaudeville Isn’t Dead. In the mid-1960s, he landed at WOR with a late-night show, Memory Lane, en route to become a New York institution.
Franklin, who appeared as himself in such films as Ghostbusters (1984), Broadway Danny Rose (1984) and the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats, most recently was heard on Bloomberg Radio and hosted a Saturday night oldies program on WOR Radio. He was working until this past week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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