TV Talk pioneer dead at 86. Host created late-night talk show format for NBC.
Jack Paar, the early television luminary who pioneered the late-night talk show format as the host of NBC's "Tonight Show" from 1957 to 1962, has died. He was 86. Paar died at his Greenwich, Connecticut home as a result of a long illness, said Stephen Wells, Paar's son-in-law. His daughter and wife were by his side, Wells said.
Commentary from Jerry Pippin
Jack Paar in many ways was a parody of himself and an emotional basket case. He cried on the air several times and even walked off his show on the air over a dispute over a joke that would be tame by today's standards. He was not the funniest guy around or even the most intellectual; but he did manage to save the Tonight Show format in the early 60s when most TV experts were saying it was dead.
I never had a chance to meet Jack Paar, but he was a big influence on my professional life. Bigger in many ways than my two idols, Johnny Carson and Steve Allen. Paar developed a format for a talk show that involved regulars, little known people outside his sphere of influence who would become household names themselves. Over the years, I have found myself doing this same piece of business for my show. I have developed a staple of regulars that I call upon many times during a year; sometimes I will elect to go to a Bob French, Chrissie Blaze or Larry Dicken rather than present a better known entertainment star.
Why because the audience has become friends with these people as well as myself and hopefully we are welcomed into homes and offices as such.
So Jack Paar, may you rest in peace and thanks for the mentoring.
Visit the Official Jack Paar Web Site for more memories.
A Jack Paar Story
All this time, I was still doing the Parnell TV shows. The American Talk Show celebrity Jack Paar took over one entire Saturday Spectacular, bringing his musical director José Mellis, a Puerto Rican, to conduct the show.
We were unused to this style of commercial presentation, actually a preview of things to come on British television. The timing of the show was regulated by a large clock situated right in front of Jack Paar, which caused him to break off whatever he was saying every few minutes to give a commercial. He did this in the middle of an interview with the actor A. E. Matthews, causing that gentleman to splutter with indignation.
‘What! What.....what is this? What the devil are you doing?’ he shouted, the famous face turning almost black with rage.
During a dog food commercial a Great Dane turned his nose up at the contents of the dish, causing great merriment from the audience. This embarrassed Paar considerably at the time, but the idea was used later on in a very successful dog food advert.
José Mellis had written a little theme that we used to play in and out of the commercials. Just for fun I managed to add little embellishments to the part each time we played it on the rehearsals. José looked at me and tapped his nose each time I did that. He was quite a funny guy, with an accent like Dezi Arnez, Lucy Ball’s husband. One night I spotted him sitting with Jack Paar in the front stalls at the West Side Story. I had a bit of a screech-up during one very loud dance sequence and, instead of playing what was written, I inserted José’s bit of music, but up a couple of octaves. All of a sudden his face came thrusting through the orchestra curtains. It lit up when he saw me.
‘Ah! You!’ he beamed. ‘Si! You are everywhere! I tink you follow me!