WASHINGTON – Don Pardo, the often heard, rarely seen announcer of the NBC television network for six decades, whose baritone voice was part of long-running shows such as “The Price is Right,” “Jeopardy!” and “Saturday Night Live,” has died. He was 96.
Pardo died yesterday in Tucson, Ariz., The New York Times reported, citing Dona Pardo, his daughter.
A bridge between the eras of radio and television, Pardo joined the National Broadcasting Co. in 1944 to introduce shows and voice commercials on radio. Gradually, reluctantly, he moved to early television, which, he said, often consisted of introducing B movies.
“I really despised doing those things because I still wanted radio - that’s where the money was,” Pardo said in a 2006 interview with the Archive of American Television.
His television work increased as screens proliferated in the early 1950s, his assignments including “The Colgate Comedy Hour” and the game show “Winner Take All,” hosted by Bill Cullen.
Pardo teamed with Cullen again on “The Price is Right,” which ran on NBC from 1956 to 1963. He chose to stay at NBC as “The Price is Right” moved to ABC. CBS reintroduced the show in 1972, with Bob Barker as host, and it went on to become the longest-running game show in U.S. television history.
From 1964 to 1975, Pardo handled announcing duties for the original production of “Jeopardy!” The show was created by Merv Griffin and hosted by Art Fleming, who cited Pardo by name - “Thank you, Don Pardo” - after his introduction.
Pardo announced the cast and guests of “Saturday Night Live” from its first episode in 1975, missing only the seventh season, when the show tried another announcer, Mel Brandt. Even after his retirement from NBC in 2004, Pardo traveled to New York City to voice the introduction - “Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” More recently, he recorded it from his home in Arizona.
“I won’t let him quit,” the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels, told the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 2010, when it inducted Pardo into its Hall of Fame. “He’s long past retirement, but I won’t acknowledge it. I can’t imagine the show without him - and as long as he’s there, I stay young.”
Dominick George Pardo was born in 1918 on Feb. 22 - George Washington’s birthday, the inspiration for his middle name - in Westfield, Mass. He was the middle child of three to parents Dominick Pardo, a baker, and the former Walerya Romaniak.
Growing up in Norwich, Conn., he acted in high-school productions and won an award for public speaking. His first radio job was at WJAR-AM in Providence. He said he chose to be “Dom” rather than “Dominick,” and eventually gave in to how most people heard it, “Don.”
On a visit to NBC’s studios in New York, he was offered a try-out that won him a job, starting in June 1944.
His early announcing assignments for TV included Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hours.”
In November 1963, he was on duty when an NBC news editor handed him a bulletin, freshly torn from the news wire, that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Pardo read the alert over the air:
“In downtown Dallas, President Kennedy was shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas. Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy. She cried, ‘Oh no.’ The motorcade sped on. A photographer said he saw blood on the president’s head. It was believed two shots were fired. Keep tuned to your NBC station for the later news.”
In the 1980s, Pardo announced for the afternoon newscast, “Live at Five,” of NBC’s New York City affiliate.
Pardo was married to the former Catherine “Kay” Lyons, who died in 1995. He is survived by his three daughters, Paula, Dona and Katherine, as well as his two sons, David and Michael, The New York Times reported.