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Joe Franklin (born Joseph Fortgang on March 9, 1926, Bronx, New Yorkmarker) is an Americanmarker radio and television personality. From New York Citymarker, Franklin hosted the first television talk show. The show began in 1951 on WJZ-TV (later WABC-TVmarker) and moved to WOR-TV (later WWOR-TVmarker) from 1962 to 1993.

Known as "the king of nostalgia" (he claims having invented the term), Franklin's highly-rated television and radio shows, especially a cult favorite to cable television viewers (WOR/WWOR was a superstation during the latter part of his tenure) and his long-running "Memory Lane" radio programs, focused on old-time show-business personalities. Franklin has an encyclopedic knowledge of the music, musicians and singers, the Broadway stage shows, the films and entertainment stars of the first half of the 20th Century: he began his entertainment career at 16 as a record picker for Martin Block's popular "Make Believe Ballroom" radio program; he is an acknowledged authority on silent film; he has the largest private sheet music collection in the world; and he has counted among his friends many show business legends, from Tony Curtis (with whom he grew up) to old vaudevillians (on his television show, Franklin has described how as a very young boy playing in Central Park he even met George M. Cohan).

Among Franklin's own idols, as he frequently told viewers, were Al Jolson, whom he literally "followed around" as a teenager in New York, and Eddie Cantor, who eventually began buying jokes from the young Franklin and whose Carnegie Hall show Franklin later produced.

Franklin would delight his audience with trivia about the most obscure entertainers from past generations and equally unknown up-and-comers from the present. He interviewed over 10,000 guests during his 43-year TV run. His guests ranged from novelty performers like Tiny Tim, Morris Katz and Mark Birnbaum to popular entertainers like Bill Cosby and Captain Lou Albano to legends like Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, John Lennon, but also frequently included (sometimes on the same panel) unknown local New York punk bands, self-published authors, "tribute" impersonator lounge singers, and the like, giving the show a surreal atmosphere that was part of its appeal.

Franklin often boasted of his "discoveries," pointing out that a great many of today's well known talents such as Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand and Julia Roberts in fact got their first television exposure on The Joe Franklin Show. Others, notoriously shy of live interviews, made frequent appearances on Franklin's programs: Frank Sinatra, for instance, appeared four times. Anything could, and often did, happen, such as the time Franklin began his interview with guest Ernest Borgnine. Unfamiliar with the Oscar-winning actor, Joe pronounced his guest's name "Borg-ninny." Borgnine smiled, stood up, and walked off.

After retiring from the television show, Franklin concentrated on an overnight radio show, playing old records on WOR-AMmarker on Saturday evenings. He currently interviews celebrities on the Bloomberg Radio Networkmarker and audio podcasts of his 2008 interviews are available at .

An author, Franklin has written 23 books, including Classics of the Silent Screen. His 1995 autobiography Up Late with Joe Franklin chronicles his long career and includes the astounding claims that he had dalliances with Marilyn Monroe,Jayne Mansfield, and that Veronica Lake "threw herself at me, but I always refrained." He has appeared as himself in countless films, notably Ghostbusters and Broadway Danny Rose.

Often seen as a good omen for new talk shows due to the length of his show's run, Franklin appeared on the first broadcasts of Late Night with Conan O'Brien and This American Life.

Frankin's show was often parodied by Billy Crystal during the 1984–1985 season of Saturday Night Live. Franklin was also a pioneer in promoting products such as Hoffman Beverages on the air.

On October 21, 2008 at the Players Clubmarker in New York City, The Theatre Museum awarded Joe Franklin with a Life time Achievement Award. The award was presented by comedian Pat Cooper.


  1. Joe Franklin's podcast interviews are available at

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