Don Pardo 1918-2014
Photo: Al Levine / NBC © 1982.
What's most surprising about Don Pardo's passing on Monday is either half of this sentence taken with the other: He was 96 and still working as the primary voice of Saturday Night Live.
Robin Williams' death last week caught everyone off-guard because he was just 63. Lauren Bacall continued to be one of Hollywood's great dames for decades following her pairings with Bogie, but when she died the day after Williams, a month shy of her 90th birthday, we accepted more easily that her time had come. Pardo had capped an astounding sixty years on the job by retiring from NBC in 2004, yet he continued to freelance SNL's title sequence at the behest of ringleader Lorne Michaels; I had every expectation that Pardo would be on hand to open the show's 40th season come September.
Pardo was the original announcer for The Price Is Right from its 1956 inception through 1963, when it jumped to ABC, and then Jeopardy from 1964 through 1975 — the year that SNL launched. He was involved with more episodes of the comedy staple than even Michaels himself, absent only for 1981-82's Season 7 (the first of the Lorne-less Dick Ebersol years). Pardo did voiceovers for many, although not all, of the show's sketch segments in addition to the opening credits and Weekend Update intro. At first commuting to Rockefeller Center's Studio 8H from his home in Arizona after his formal retirement, Pardo began recording his contribution in Tucscon in 2010, the same year he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, when doing it live from New York became too much of a strain.
Brian Williams provided a nice overview of Pardo's career last night. One thing he didn't mention, which I was glad to see many other memorials did? Pardo's reprise of his gig as Jeopardy announcer for Weird Al Yankovic's 1984 track "I Lost on Jeopardy", a perennial favorite of mine from the moment I set needle to vinyl in eighth grade. The video almost undercuts the song's oomph, fun as it is to see Pardo, host Art Fleming, and the vintage-style set, but it's worth a listen.
Lorne Michaels told The New York Times that a tribute to Pardo would air on Saturday Night Live once the new season got underway. [Update: The video retrospective of Pardo's career shown at his private NBC retirement party, with kind words from many SNL alums, has been uploaded to YouTube.]
Kindred Posts: Harry Kalas 1936-2009 • Monday Muppets • Robin Williams 1951-2014