As a staff announcer at NBC for 60 years, Don Pardo was a robust, velvety virtuoso of enunciation, whose baritone resonated like the aftertaste of a full-bodied fine wine.
His trademark gig was performing the introductions at the beginning of each episode of Saturday Night Live, which he did for all but one season between the show’s debut in October 1975 and its most recent season finale in May.
Pardo, who died on Aug. 18 at age 96 in Tucson, Ariz., was such an iconic part of SNL that Lorne Michael, the show’s creator, told the New York Times: “Each year, the new cast couldn’t wait to hear their name said by him.” But doing the venerable comedy series was just one of the many lines on a résumé that stretched back to the late 1930s.
Here are some highlights of Pardo’s life and career.
- He was born Dominick George Pardo in Westfield, Mass., in 1918, the son of a Polish immigrant bakery owner and his wife.
- Pardo began dabbling in acting as a high school student, and after moving to Providence, R.I, as a young man, he began performing in local theater productions at night while working days at a defense plant. A radio station manager who saw one of his performances was so struck by his voice that he offered him a job as an announcer for $30 a week. Pardo took it, even though the change of careers meant a pay cut.
- In 1944, Pardo went with a friend to tour NBC radio studios in New York City, so that he could watch some of the announcers he admired. The supervisor who arranged the tour was so impressed with Pardo’s voice that he left with a job offer.
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- In the 1950s, Pardo split his time between doing radio and the still-young medium of television, working as an announcer on shows such as The Kate Smith Evening Hour. From 1956 to 1963, he was the announcer for The Price Is Right, a popular game show hosted by Bill Cullen. The show’s long, lingering camera shots of the prize merchandise compelled Pardo to stretch out his delivery and make it more flamboyant, a quality that eventually became his trademark. In these clips, Cullen gives the announcer a shout-out for his contribution to the show.
- In 1963, while working as a staff announcer at NBC, it fell to Pardo to inform viewers of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Here’s the audio, recorded by a viewer with a tape recorder.
- From 1964 to 1975, Pardo was the announcer for the original run of another popular game show, Jeopardy!
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- In 1975, Pardo was tapped to be the announcer for a new, experimental late-night comedy and music show. In this interview, he explains how he flubbed the intro for the very first SNL episode.
- Pardo did every season of SNL except for the seventh, when producer Lorne Michaels briefly stepped away from the program.
- Even after formally retiring in 2004, Pardo continued to do his bits for SNL, either flying to New York or recording them from his new home in Tuscon. Here he is, celebrating his 90th birthday on the show in 2008.
- Pardo appeared in the 1987 Woody Allen film Radio Days and was a guest star in a 2009 episode of the comedy series 30 Rock.
Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images
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