By Mike Kinosian
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief
Tucson — While many in the industry continue to agonize over the peculiar details following the death of Casey Kasem and the tragic suicide of Robin Williams, news late last night produced yet more chills, as we learned that Don Pardo’s golden voice has been silenced.
Countless professionals in the industry have strived to emulate the cadence, delivery, and unmistakable sound of the longtime NBC announcer. It is next to preposterous to believe another talent will do the opening cast credits to “Saturday Night Live” or that anyone else could have introduced Art Fleming (“Don Pardo – tell him what he’s won”) on the original daytime version of “Jeopardy.” In fact, he did a memorable cameo on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1984 parody song “I Lost on Jeopardy.”
Remarkably Fit and Sounded Fantastic
As unfathomable as it is, owing to the fact he always looked remarkably fit and sounded fantastic, the gracefully elegant Pardo passed away at the age of 96 at his home in Tucson, Arizona. His daughter confirmed his death to CBS Radio News.
Virtually everyone familiar with Pardo identifies him with NBC-TV, but with a voice like his, he naturally had radio credentials. Pardo was NBC’s staff announcer for more than 60 years and other than Bob Hope, he was the only person who had a “lifetime contract” with the network. He indeed began his announcing career at NBC Radio as a reporter during World War II and remained at the network his entire life. Pardo was a constant contributor to NBC Radio during the early days of his career and worked radio sci-fi programs “X Minus One” and “Dimension X.”
It will certainly surprise some that he called baseball games in New York and was the man who informed NBC-TV viewers in 1963 about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Owing to a broken hip last year, Pardo — a 2010 inductee in the Television Academy Hall of Fame and off-camera voice on a myriad of game shows including “Jackpot” — missed a few episodes of “SNL.”
Here is a very brief sampling of the reaction we found on Facebook, beginning with renowned voiceover talent Joe Cipriano, who, “tried very hard to get Don Pardo to record a few lines for my audio-book in the chapter where I wrote about his influence on me. We were so very close to getting him, but the scheduling just did not work out. So sad that I missed that wonderful opportunity. He is a legend in voiceover and announcing.” Huffington Post columnist Vicki Abelson jests that, “On ‘SNL,’ cast members have shifted more times than Joan Rivers’ face, but there has been one constant – Don Pardo — irreplaceable.” Comedian Dane Cook reflects about always wanting to host “SNL” and explains, “It was a lifelong mission. When I got it and got to NYC, I had one must: Get a photo with the great Don Pardo. His voice set the tone of the show and hearing him usher in each host with his booming ‘hijinxy’ role call was in my dreams, but [hearing him] say my name finally [was] my dream came true. Thank you sir for spending time chatting and introducing me to America on that special Saturday night.” Classic rock WZBA, Baltimore afternoon drive talent Jay Philpott observes what a vast number of “SNL” viewers have thought, “I wish he could have been a guest host just once.”
SNL Tribute Planned
Pardo actually retired from NBC in 2004, but continued with “SNL” and held that role for 38 seasons of the show; he was not part of “SNL” in 1981-1982. Lorne Michaels tells The New York Times that “SNL” will have a tribute ready for Pardo this season, the show’s 40th. “Every year, the new cast couldn’t wait to hear their name said by him,” remarks Michaels, who hired Pardo in 1975.
To the Westfield, Massachusetts native, we fondly, humbly remark, “Thank You, Don Pardo.”
RadioInfo managing editor/West Coast bureau chief Mike Kinosian can be emailed at Kinosian@Talkers.com.