Don Pardo, longtime voice of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ dies at 96
NEW YORK (AP) – Few would recognize his face, but most would know his voice: that booming baritone that for nearly four decades would introduce the lineups on “Saturday Night Live.”
Don Pardo, the durable television and radio announcer whose resonant voice-over style was widely imitated and became the standard in the field, died Monday in Arizona at the age of 96.
Pardo, with a strong chin and confident smile that were overshadowed by his majestic delivery, graced newscasts, game shows and TV programs for more than 60 years. During the original version of “Jeopardy!,” his answers to the statement, “Tell ’em what they’ve won, Don Pardo,” became a memorable part of the program.
And he was an integral part of “Saturday Night Live” for heralding the cast’s names to kick off each show, which led former cast member Jimmy Fallon to comment later, “Nothing is like the moment when Don Pardo says your name.” Pardo continued at “SNL” through the end of last season, performing the introductions on the finale in May.
His was no ordinary voice and he guarded it closely, with cough drops always at the ready.
“My voice is my Achilles’ heel,” Pardo said in a 1985 interview with The Associated Press. “When I get sick, it’s always my voice.”
Dominick George Pardo was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, on Feb. 22, 1918, and grew up in Norwich, Connecticut.
One of his first jobs was that of ticket-taker at a local movie theater; even then, his voice was commanding.
“I’d go out there with a cape and say: ‘Standing room only in the mezzanine. Immediate seating in the balcony.'”
His father, Dominick, owned a small bakery and had wanted his son to join the business. But Pardo followed his own dream. After graduating from Boston’s Emerson College in 1942, began his vocal career at radio station WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island.
Two years later, Pardo was hired by a supervisor at NBC immediately upon hearing his voice. He moved to NBC’s New York affiliate, and never left the network.
Pardo made his mark quickly, reading news dispatches on the radio filed from the front lines during World War II. After the war, he was the announcer for such shows as the “Arthur Murray Party,” ”Colgate Comedy Hour” and “Your Show of Shows.”
In 1954, he was brought in to announce “Winner Takes All,” beginning a long run in game shows. He was heard on the “The Price is Right” and the original “Jeopardy!” (1964-75), hosted by Art Fleming.
When NBC launched “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 with Pardo as its announcer, he was introduced to a new generation – although, on opening night, he botched one of the credits. Instead of saying “The Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” Pardo introduced the show’s new comedy troupe as “The Not for Ready Prime Time Players.”
Aside from Season 7, when he was displaced, Pardo remained the “SNL” announcer for decades.
Between working on shows, Pardo often spent several hours a day in an NBC sound studio and was one of the last network “booth announcers” working a regular daily shift.
And every weekday afternoon for several years in the 1980s, Pardo would quickly clad himself in a tie and blazer to step on camera long enough to announce the local New York station’s “Live at Five” newscast – although Pardo’s vocal alchemy rendered it as “Liiiiiiive at Fiiiiiive!”
He retired from NBC in 2004.
“But (executive producer) Lorne Michaels called me soon after and asked if I would continue for three more weeks, so I did,” Pardo told the AP in 2010. “Then he called and asked if I would do five more, and so on. I never really left.”
For several years, Pardo commuted from Tucson each week the show aired. He arrived to open the show in Rockefeller Center’s fabled Studio 8H and then caught a returning flight. At the end of the show on Feb. 23, 2008, he was brought on camera to blow out the candles of a birthday cake in celebration of his 90th birthday.
In later years, he recorded his introductions from home, where he died peacefully Monday afternoon, said his daughter Dona Pardo.
Pardo appeared in several movies, mostly as himself or an announcer like himself, including Woody Allen’s “Radio Days,” a celebration of the Golden Age of broadcasting. He also made a guest appearance on Frank Zappa’s 1978 album, “Zappa in New York,” and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1984 album, “In 3-D.”
In 2010, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame.
Pardo is survived by five children.
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