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We will miss you, Joe!
(Photo) Joe Franklin with Stephanie Stapp on the cover of LIKE® Magazine (summer 1967).
Joe Franklin (born Joseph Fortgang; March 9, 1926 – January 24, 2015) was an American radio and television host personality from New York City. His show began in 1950 on WJZ-TV (later WABC-TV) and moved to WOR-TV (later WWOR-TV) from 1962 to 1993.
He was born as Joseph Fortgang on March 9, 1926. Both parents were Jewish. 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. As a child, his closest friend was an older boy named Bernard Schwartz, later known as Tony Curtis, with whom Franklin shared a passion for motion pictures. 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". He was 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, (Actuality Productions) 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.
After retiring from his television show, Franklin concentrated on his overnight radio show, playing old records on WOR-AM on Saturday evenings. Till mid-January 2015, his celebrity interviews called "Nostalgia Moments" appeared daily on the Bloomberg Radio Network.
Franklin died of prostate cancer at a Manhattan hospice on January 24, 2015 at the age of 88.
Franklin's guests included (sometimes on the same panel) Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe (with whom Franklin co-authored "The Marilyn Monroe Story" in 1953), Jayne Mansfield, Cary Grant, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Rudy Vallee, Jimmy Durante, Madonna, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Bing Crosby, The Ramones, Captain Lou Albano, and five U.S. Presidents juxtaposed with countless unknown local performers, fringe bands, balloon-folders, self-published authors, celebrity impersonators and lounge singers, all of whom gave the show a surreal atmosphere.
Franklin never employed a co-host, but his producer, Richie Ornstein, was a standard feature on the Joe Franklin Show, interacting with guests and discussing trivia.
Woody Allen, Andy Kaufman, Liza Minelli, 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 appeared four times.
In 1999, Joe Franklin joined Riese Restaurants to open "Joe Franklin's Memory Lane Restaurant" in Manhattan's Theater District, where he appeared frequently and conducted live, in-person interviews with entertainers such as Billy Crystal, who impersonated Franklin on Saturday Night Live.
Franklin appeared as himself in countless films, notably Ghostbusters and Broadway Danny Rose. Franklin would appear on the very 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.
Franklin was mentioned several times on The Simpsons and appeared regularly with Conan O'Brien. He was also seen on The David Letterman Show and Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.
Franklin made several 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's show was first parodied by Billy Crystal during the 1984–1985 season of Saturday Night Live.
In 1997, Franklin starred in the documentary film "50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can't Be Wrong", directed by Joshua Brown.
In the 2005 film The Aristocrats, comedian Sarah Silverman tells a facetious story about Franklin raping her as a child. Franklin, who also appears in the film, filed a defamation lawsuit against Silverman in California which was settled out of court.
In 2014, Franklin starred in Owen Kline and Andrew Lampert's short film Jazzy for Joe, which featured Franklin raising an abandoned baby discovered on his doorstep.
• 1953 The Marilyn Monroe Story, R. Field Company; Greenberg,
• 1959 Classics of the Silent Screen: A Pictorial Treasury, The Citadel press (reprinted in 2013 by Literary Licensing, LLC),
• 1974 Joe Franklin's Memory Lane Cookbook, Lion Books, ISBN 9780874602425
• 1980 Joe Franklin's Awfully Corny Joke Book, Chelsea House Publishers, ISBN 9780877541424
• 1981 Seventy Years of Great Film Comedians: A Joe Franklin Memory Lane Scrapbook, Global Communications, ISBN 9780938294061
• 1985 Joe Franklin's Encyclopedia of comedians, Bell Pub. Co., ISBN 9780517467657
• 1992 Joe Franklin's movie trivia, Hastings House, ISBN 9780803893481
• 1995 Up Late With Joe Franklin, Scribner, ISBN 9780025407756
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