Hugh Downs, Longtime ’20/20’ Anchor and and WWII Veteran, Dies at 99

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hugh downs seated in tv anchor chair while doing the nightly news in the 60's

Hugh Downs, anchorman for the ABC news program “20/20” and, before that, NBC’s “The Today Show,” died Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 99.

Downs’ career in broadcasting spanned more than half a century. And despite his assertion “I am not a talent, I am a personality,” Downs proved a first-rate interviewer and journalist time and again. His personality was ingratiating and low-key; well into his 70s, his pleasant demeanor made him a welcome guest in the nation’s living rooms. With Barbara Walters, his co-host on both “Today” and “20/20,” he formed one of the most complementary partnerships in television news programming.

Prior to “Today,” Downs made a name for himself as emcee of the quizshow “Concentration” and as sage in residence on the Jack Paar “Tonight Show.”

In 1960, when Paar walked off “The Tonight Show” in a dispute with network censors, Downs stepped in and saved the day, winning NBC’s admiration in the process. He was rewarded with the anchor spot of the “Today” show in 1962, replacing John Chancellor. He remained for nine years, reaching 12 million homes every morning for two hours.

During that period he also reported and narrated news documentaries and specials such as “The American Wilderness,” the Emmy-winning “The Everglades,” “The Ice People,” “The Great Barrier Reef,” “Survival on the Prairie” and “The First Americans.”

Downs left “Today” in 1971 to pursue other interests, consulting, teaching and writing work. In 1978 he joined ABC, hosting “20/20,” the network’s newsmagazine show. He also did a great deal of reporting, particularly in the early years, on medical breakthroughs and did adventure news segments.

Hugh Malcolm Downs was born in Akron, Ohio. He completed only one year of college at Bluffton in Ohio before his family’s Depression-strapped finances forced him to enter the job market. In 1939, after a long search, he landed a spot as an announcer on small Lima, Ohio, station WLOK — at $7.50 a week. Within a year he was program director and earning a princely $25 a week.

He soon moved on to WWJ in Detroit while studying at Wayne U. He would later attend Columbia U. and get a post-Master’s degree in gerontology from Hunter College.

During the war he was drafted into the Army and assigned to the 123rd Infantry. He was part of an experimental basic training program that condensed 13 weeks into four. Like many of his colleagues, he collapsed from exhaustion, was hospitalized and given a medical discharge.

In 1943 he joined NBC station WMAQ in Chicago as an announcer, interviewer and DJ. He broke into television as the announcer for Fran Allison and Burr Tillstrom’s “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” show out of Chicago.

Continue on to Variety to read the complete article.

Regis Philbin, iconic TV host and Navy veteran, dead at 88

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Regis Philbin sitting waving hand in air to audience smiling

Regis Philbin, the effervescent broadcast personality whose everyman shtick, pithy one-liners and ability to relate to a live studio audience on talk shows such as “Live! With Regis and Kelly” kept him face-to-face with America for seven decades, has died.

Philbin died Friday of natural causes, his family said in a statement provided to the Times. He was 88.

“His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him — for his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about,” Philbin’s family said. “We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss.”

Self-effacing and given to amusing and sometimes sarcastic banter about the mundane ups and downs of life — a visit from his mother-in-law, a night at the Mets game — Philbin became a familiar and comfortable guest in America’s living rooms while perfecting the format of television morning talk shows.

Known affectionately as “Reege” and “Outregis,” Philbin got his start in television as a page at NBC Studios in New York. He made a name for himself guest-hosting “The Tonight Show” and serving as comedian Joey Bishop’s sidekick and announcer on “The Joey Bishop Show” in the 1960s. “Late Show” host David Letterman regarded Philbin as “a master communicator” and had him on his show more than any other guest in the show’s history.
Television host Regis Philbin waves goodbye during his final show of on ABC’s “Live With Regis and Kelly” in New York, November 18, 2011. After nearly three decades hosting the show that became “Live With Regis and Kelly,” Regis Philbin stepped down with a few well wishes to his colleagues and fans.

In a 2000 Times interview, when asked what made him likable, Philbin seemed embarrassed by the question.

“I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to answer about yourself,” he said. “I guess it’s good genes. My parents brought me up well, to have pleasure when making people happy.”

Then, he seemed to pause and reconsider, exclaiming (as he was wont to do): “Oh, no! I can see the headlines now! ‘Regis Thinks He’s a Nice Guy! Who Does He Think He Is?!’”

But it was that avuncular charm that endeared him to legions of fans who tuned in for his unscripted tête-à-têtes each morning as the host of ABC’s “Live!” with co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and, later, Kelly Ripa. To preserve authenticity and ensure spontaneity during their conversations, Philbin refused to talk with his co-hosts before they went on the air.

The show’s executive producer said Philbin’s on-screen persona was not an act.

“People probably think Regis turns it on for TV,” Michael Gelman said in 2004. “They think they are seeing ‘TV Regis.’ Regis on TV is Regis off TV.”

At age 80, and after more than 56 years on TV in Los Angeles and New York, Philbin departed “Live!” during an emotional finale. Some said Philbin was finally tired of the daily grind and the early hours and wanted an easier life. He was replaced by the affable NFL player turned analyst Michael Strahan, who co-hosted with Ripa until he bowed out in 2016.

Continue on to Task and Purpose to read the complete article.

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

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Bill Withers playing guitar

Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.

His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.

Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’

But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.

Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.

Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”

While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.

After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.

“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.

Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….

“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”

The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.

I can’t write left handed

Would you please write a letter to my mother
Tell her to tell the family lawyer
Try to get a deferment for my younger brother

Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord
I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never
Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday
And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
But something that day overlooked to tell me
Bullet look better I must say
Rather when they comin’ at you.
But go without the other way

And please call up the Reverend Harris
And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me
Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I
Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.

Continue on to We Are The Mighty to read the complete article.

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