This is an online encyclopedia of personalities of Old Time Radio. It is designed for educational and entertainment purposes.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Jack Paar (1918-2004)

Jack Harold Paar was born May 1, 1918, in Canton, Ohio. When he was a child, his family moved to Jackson, Michigan. He quit high school in 1935 to work as a disc jockey at radio station WIBM in Jackson. He proved to be one of the funniest DJs in the business. After he turned 18, he began working for some of the prominent radio stations at the time, including WJR in Detroit, WIRE in Indianapolis, WGAR in Cleveland, and WBEN in Buffalo. It was while he was working at WGAR that Orson Welles broadcast his "realistic" version of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. He was the station announcer for that evening. During the station break at 9:30, Jack gave a friendly announcement: "The world is not coming to an end. Trust me. Have I ever lied to you?" (For those who don't know this story, I will put it up in a future posting.)

Jack Paar continued working as a utility announcer and sometimes disc jockey until he was drafted into the Navy in World War II. His job in the Navy was entertainer. He was stationed in the South Pacific. Although he had never worked as a professional comedian in civilian life, most of the men who saw him perform said he was better than most of the guys who came on USO tours to entertain for the troops.

Upon his discharge from the Navy, Jack Benny selected him to host his summer replacement series in 1947. The show only lasted through the summer. Later, he worked under contract at RKO Radio Pictures. Most of the films were not that memorable. He usually played a master of ceremonies.

After this came television... Jack did a number of game shows and talk shows. Eventually, it became known that Jack had a real gift for interviewing people. During the 1950s, he was the substitute host for Steve Allen on the Tonight Show (which was simply called Tonight back then). After Steve Allen left the show, Jack became the new permanent host. He remained there until 1962, when Johnny Carson took over.

As an interviewer, Jack Paar was very unpredictable. He often became passionate and bitter. He never hid his feelings about anything. This often got him into trouble. He continued to work in television until the early 1970s, when ABC television tried to have him host a late night talk show. It lasted one month.

Jack Paar was married three times. He was married twice to the same woman. His third marriage (to Miriam Wagner) took place in 1943. They were married for 58 years and had one child. In poor health for over five years, he died on January 27, 2004, at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 85.

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