Joe Franklin jpgFor over 28,000 TV shows from 1951 to 2015, he interviewed hundreds of thousands of people, some of them household names, others bordering on anonymous, and his was the last of the Mom & Pop television shows, making today


He invented the talk show, and rarely stopped talking long enough to reflect on his own contributions to broadcasting and American culture, since he was still at it at 88 years young when he died in January 2015.

Joe Franklin was always the “ultimate fan,” as he described himself, a Bronx kid with stars in his eyes who followed Al Jolson around and sold jokes to Eddy Cantor.

He began working in radio at age 16 as a record picker for a popular music show, soon graduating to a radio interview show of his own. Joe Franklin seems to have been born old and young at the same time, an old-fashioned fellow anchored in some bygone Golden Age or other, with an encyclopedic knowledge of celebrities dating back to the early 1900s, even taking the name “King of Nostalgia” and calling his show “Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane.”

At the same time, Joe never became Show-Biz slick or jaded, and remained every bit the wide-eyed neighborhood boy, whether he was interviewing a world famous entertainer, a semi-pro Roller Derby Queen, a world leader or the entertainment coordinator at a nursing home who was once a fan dancer in Vaudeville.

As well as being the acknowledged authority on show business during the first half of the 20th Century, Joe was the Master of Minor Celebrities, as genuinely fascinated with their experiences as he was with those of presidents or movie stars.

Joe himself was neither fascinating nor overburdened with talent, but unequalled in the liberal application of campy nostalgia, pure enthusiasm and generous ego massage. Joe Franklin (1926-2015) is finally nostalgia himself, the symbol of a bygone era, an irony that would be lost on that wide-eyed kid from the Bronx.

•Suggested Activities:  Interviewing Adolphe Menjou’s personal valet.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top