Joe Franklin, Television Talk Show Pioneer, Dead at 88

Joe Franklin Dead

Veteran television and radio personality Joe Franklin, who often is credited with pioneering the modern TV talk-show format with The Joe Franklin Show, died on Saturdayfollowing a battle with prostate cancer, the New York Times reports. He was 88.

Affectionately nicknamed “The Wizard of Was” and “The King of Nostalgia” for his encyclopedic knowledge of old-time show business, Franklin’s guests on his New York-based TV talker over the decades ran the gamut from Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, Vincent Price and Andy Warhol to Tiny Tim, Madonna, Woody Allen and Julia Roberts.

Franklin is credited with giving emerging talents (including Liza Minnelli and Dustin Hoffman) their first TV talk-show showcase, as well as booking elusive guests such as Frank Sinatra.

Having aired from 1950 to 1993 (across two outlets), The Joe Franklin Show earned its host the Guinness World Record for Longest Running Continuous On-Air TV Talk Show Host.

Franklin appeared as a guest on Conan O’Brien’s and David Letterman’s late-night shows, has received multiple nods on The Simpsons and appeared as himself in such films as Ghostbusters and Broadway Danny Rose. Billy Crystal spoofed Franklin in the mid-’80s on Saturday Night Live.

Having retired from TV, Franklin most recently could be heard on Bloomberg Radio and hosting WOR Radio’s Saturday-night oldies program.

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7 Comments
  1. Network says:

    What a life! Not only a beyond impressive career but to just see generations of entertainments biggest names is something very few have achieved. We should all be so lucky to live a rich and intriguing life.

  2. laurelnev says:

    I had the privilege of meeting Joe at an off-Broadway opening this fall, and we bonded quickly. What a warm and wonderful man! I am so devastated to hear this. May he rest in peace. I am so glad I got to meet him, and so dismayed I will not be able to have another wonderful conversation with Joe Franklin.

  3. Rose Ciaburri says:

    I was lucky to have known you. You were truly an unsung hero for millions of fans like me who grew up watching you on TV and hearing you on the radio. You would come to the many senior communities for me to entertain the crowds and they just ate I up. I am wondering what kind of show you will produce in heaven. Signing off. Rose

  4. Pete Zaslow says:

    Celebrity or not Joe always wanted to know more about you and he made you feel important that way, order you food, answer his phone calls… Your fans down here will miss you and a lot of your friends are waiting to for you up there, RIP!

  5. Richard McHugh says:

    Joe had the best show. We grew up with ” The Joe Franklin Show” Or sometimes called “Memory Lane ” 12TH ST Rag will live forever. Joe used to come up to Dutchess County, NY to promote his advertiser Martin Paints. My T Fine puddings were another key advertiser. I remember seeing his restaurant off Broadway on 8th Avenue but never went in. RIP Joe!! Will we see the Best Of Joe Franklin?

  6. I was totally shocked to see on tonight’s NBC TV News that my old friend and colleague Joe Franklin had passed away. We did our two shows in the same Times Square WOR-TV studio daily, along with William F. Buckloy and Bozo the Clown, etc. We bacame friends and he even had me as a guest on both his radio and TV shows a few times. I would also frequently hang out with him in his jumbled office down the street on 42nd street as he juggled multple phones to book people for the show. While I was briefly a stock broker on Wall Street…Joe kindly chose me to buy & sell stocks for him.

    A unique friend, a unique talent, and the originator of the TV sit-down interview talk show. My buddy Joe Franklin, is now a legend, not to be forgot.

  7. Especially Dedicated to Joe Franklin:
    “Tell The Wind I’m Calling”
    Love Always, Songwriting Shane

    I am beside myself in grief with this great loss. Joe was a close friend and true business confidante. Our times together in his office were memorable and amusingly remarkable; to say the least. His advice to me and last conversations were the same: “Shane, this is your year”, “Never give up… hang in there”, “You can’t please everyone”, “You’re a very talented, intelligent and good person”, “You’re special and too generous” … and … “Always keep your faith”. “You can’t take any of this with you when you’re gone. But you’ll always have you and everything you stood for.”
    That being said, I must say goodbye to you, for now. Thank you, Joe Franklin, for being a good friend and please stay with me in spirit and continue to guide me as I continue this journey in life.
    You are always in my heart.
    Love Always
    Songwriting Shane
    — with Joe Franklin.