Posts Tagged ‘Joe Franklin’

‘That’s that Jackie Gleason thing, huh?’ (Joe Franklin, 1926-2015)

January 25, 2015
A stupendous! Colossal! Life. Big! Big big big!

A Stupendous! Colossal! Life. Big! Big big big!

Last night (Saturday, Jan. 24), when I shared the New York Times and New York Daily News obituaries of the great Joe Franklin on the Book of Faces, some of the comments I got included the standard “I didn’t know he was still alive!” variety. Well, the man was a month and a half shy of 89, and, let’s face it, he was born old. And he gave up The Joe Franklin Show, his record-length talk show of 42 years, two decades ago already. Yes, that long ago. So excuse those who didn’t realize he’d been whistling past the graveyard all these years. And now he’s another great New York institution that’s disappeared.

If you didn’t grow up in the Tri-State Area, or see Billy Crystal’s impersonations during his lone year on Saturday Night Live, Joe was the King of Television, the King of the Talk Show, the King of Late-Night and King of Nostalgia. He pretty much gave us the talk-show format as we know it when he started on the tube in 1951 — sitting behind a desk and chatting with a couch full of guests. He also gave us the concept of nostalgia as we came to know it — regaling viewers and guests with stories of performers such as Sophie Tucker and Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson on his many travels down Memory Lane.

And along the way, he interviewed an estimated 300,000 people. A handful were bona fide legends, such as Debbie Reynolds, Tony Curtis, Joe Louis and his idol, Bing Crosby; some others were up-and-comers who caught a huge break early on from Joe and his show, such as Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby and Bette Midler; some were regular guests who could be called upon in a pinch, such as Joe’s longtime producer and trivia quizmaster, Richie Orenstein, or Morris Katz, the world’s fastest painter, who created works in a minute or less using a palette knife and toilet paper. As a rock and pop music fan, there were other great names along the way, such as Tiny Tim (another quasi-regular), The J. Geils Band (who made a paint-splashed mess of his studio one Friday night my senior year of college) and The Ramones.

But most of his guests were everyday people who would fall into the categories of never-weres, never-gonna-bes and wannabes. And from time to time, they shared the couch with the greats. Thus, the show sometimes ran toward the mundane, or even the surreal. But the democracy of the panel of guests was one of the most endearing qualities of Joe’s show. For even a few minutes, anyone could be a star. And Joe was perhaps the most accessible TV host of all time — his number was in the Manhattan White Pages.

And that leads to my personal experience with Joe Franklin, and how he could launch something Big! Big! Big! with the exposure from his show.

Let’s just say that without Joe, fans of The Honeymooners would never have seen the “Lost Episodes.” read on …

(more…)

Five Songs, Part 100

November 24, 2012

Joe Franklin — the man, the myth, the legend. But not a singer. He left that to Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker.

Well, nothing stupendous or colossal or big! big! big! or any of those other stellar adjectives that Joe Franklin, the self-styled “King of Nostalgia,” used to use on his show as I put together this mini-milestone 100th installment of Five Songs.

(And if you didn’t grow up in the New York area and/or are of a younger generation: The imitable-yet-inimitabe Joe was the king of late-night television, having hosted a talk show in New York (and Jersey, when Channel 9 relocated across the river to Secaucus) for 43 years (1950-93). While he interviewed hundreds of thousands of nobodies, there were a few somebodies as well: Jerry Lewis, boyhood pal Tony Curtis, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, Buster Keaton, The Ramones, “Weird Al,” They Might Be Giants, occasional visitor Tiny Tim. First time I really tuned in, in college, The J.Geils Band was on, Freeze-Frame era, splattering the studio with paint and having a couple of beauties present Joe with a six-foot-tall trophy for being the “King of Television.” One day, I’ll tell you about how I helped start an international Honeymooners fan club with his help. And the first link above is to a wonderful documentary called 50,000,000 Joe Franklin Fans Can’t Be Wrong.)

That’s because, well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and I’m wondering if anyone would even be looking at what I have to read, since everyone’s wrapped up in the post-holiday. (Hell, I wonder if anyone even reads it in the best of times …)

So, I digressed. Anyway, I wasn’t gonna hit the Christmas tunes yet, but since I butchered this song and smeared the reputation of Ms. Veronica Bennett Spector Greenfield at the tail end of the annual Thanksgiving-night Vomitorium at Cafe Nine in New Haven, I had to somehow make amends. So one Christmas song and the rest totally random. Enjoy the remainder of the holiday:

Frosty the Snowman — The Ronettes

Couldn’t I Just Tell You — Todd Rundgren

Omaha — Moby Grape

Rhythm — Major Lance

On Easy Street — Freda Payne