Photo by Jim Herrington
Last week, I met the legendary Joe Franklin–once the undisputed king of Late Night television in New York City, and possibly the inventor of the television talk show. I was very impressed.
I was introduced to him in his office near Times Square by Alex Shlaferman.
What a charming and interesting gentleman Joe is! He welcomed us in to an ongoing discussion with two or three friends of his who are morning regulars in the office coffee gathering.
Franklin’s office is neatly stacked floor to ceiling with papers and tapes and vhs videos and other memorabilia.
He is extraordinarily friendly and interested, and knows everything there is to know about silent films, Tin Pan Alley and early show business.
Out of the stacks of tapes he found with ease a segment of his show featuring Bill Cosby and Kamarr the magician and popped it in a VHS player.
Kamarr was his good friend, he said, and had been on his show numerous times. In this sequence, he makes a stage size dove cage with three doves vanish close up at Cosby’s seat while Joe looks on bemused. Franklin said that he was the one who got Kamarr on Letterman years later.
I found this video on YouTube with Kamarr in Joe’s office:
Joe Franklin (born Jose…ph Fortgang on March 9, 1926) is an American radio and television personality. From New York City, Franklin is sometimes credited with hosting the first television talk show. The show began in 1951 on WJZ-TV (later WABC-TV) and moved to WOR-TV (later WWOR-TV) from 1962 to 1993. After retiring from the television show, Franklin concentrated on an overnight radio show, playing old records on WOR-AM on Saturday evenings. He currently interviews celebrities on the Bloomberg Radio Network.
An author, Franklin has written 23 books, including Classics of the Silent Screen.
His 1995 autobiography Up Late with Joe Franklin chronicles his long career and includes claims that he had dalliances with Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and that Veronica Lake “threw herself at me, but I always refrained.”
He has appeared as himself in countless films, notably Ghostbusters and Broadway Danny Rose.
Frankin’s show was often parodied by Billy Crystal during the 1984–1985 season of Saturday Night Live. Franklin was also a pioneer in promoting products such as Hoffman Beverages on the air.
There is more information here: