COLUMN: A Senior Moment with Barry ZeVan: Don Pardo; Lauren Bacall's Son; State Fair Senior Days

Created: 08/19/2014 11:10 AM
By: Barry ZeVan


Anyone who has heard him up until what would be his final SNL announcing assignment this past May could hear he was as vibrant, strong and vital as ever.

Announcing Saturday Night Live for 38 seasons (except the 1981-82 season), he preceded those career years as a perpetual "announcer's announcer", beginning in 1948 on New York City's NBC flagship station, WEAF (the call letters re-designated to WNBC in later years).

Subsequently, prior to SNL, he announced for such national shows such as Jeopardy, The Price Is Right, Jackpot and others, including, for a time, NBC Nightly News.

Except for iconic L.A.-based sports announcer, Vin Scully, still thankfully going strong at a very advanced age, Don (born to Polish immigrant parents in Westfield, Massachusetts) could legitimately be called the last of the great announcers and voices who were "special", so lacking, in my opinion, with much of today's announcing talent.

He was one of those to whom one really "listened", because he made everything he uttered sound "important".

He was the personification of what my former boss in Canada at the CBC affiliate, then CJLH-TV in Lethbridge, Alberta, stressed to those of us who were booth announcing and on-camera talent, circa 1959-1960, i.e., the importance of not "throwing away" what one was announcing.

My boss's name was Sam Pitt. He had been Lorne Greene's understudy as Chief Announcer for the entire CBC network in the late 1940s and early 1950s (prior to Lorne becoming a full-time actor), and had a voice that made the great James Earl Jones sound like a boy soprano.

Sam was a perfectionist, and thank goodness for it. He said no matter what the content of a program, the announcers were the ones who set the stage for making what followed have meaning.

He told us we were "the final product". Sam later went on to head Montreal's CFCF-TV and concluded his life teaching aspiring broadcasters at Windsor, Ontario's, St. Clair College.

Sam passed away several years ago in his late 80s. Don Pardo passed away yesterday, as we're aware, but his professional legacy will never, and should never, pass, especially to any who aspire to being top-flight broadcast talent. (Regarding who might succeed...not replace...Don Pardo as SNL's announcer, the shoes will truly be less filled.)


In the early 1980s, I worked for six months at the Satellite News Channels (SNC), based on Shippan Point near Stamford, Connecticut. SNC was then ABC's answer to CNN. I was doing the weekend weather there, commuting weekly from Detroit.

I had two producer "bosses". One was Stephen Bogart, son of the now late Lauren Bacall, and the other was Tom Capra, son of legendary Hollywood director/producer Frank Capra. Stephen didn't talk much about his famous parents, but was very serious about his work. It was the same for Tom Capra, whom I'd known when he was an executive with the ABC-TV Bureau in D.C. during my D.C. TV weathercasting days on ABC's Channel 7 there, 1974 through 1977. I thought it was ironic that, at SNC, sons of two gargantuan Hollywood families would both be news producers and our bosses at the very same time. Indeed, truth is stranger than fiction. Deepest sympathy to Stephen, who was justifiably proud of his late mother, and, of course, his long-since-deceased father. 


Next Monday, August 25 and next Thursday, August 28, are Senior Days at The Minnesota State Fair. I'm happy to state I'll be hosting same from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. those days at the Labor Pavilion Building and hope to see you there, too.

As has been previously lamented at least once or twice in this space, those of advanced age in this country aren't, for the most part, given credit for still being vital, knowledgeable, useful and "with it" at a certain age, and in my opinion, and the opinion of many, it's a travesty, but hopefully, eventually reversible to a significant degree. The United Negro College Fund's slogan, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" certainly applies. If you agree, or even if you don't, I hope you'll stop by to say hello next week. 

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these thoughts and opinions.

Barry ZeVan is a columnist for

Minneapolis/St. Paul

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