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Parks in 1956.
December 30, 1914
|Died||February 2, 1992 (aged 77)|
Bert Parks (born Bertram Jacobson; December 30, 1914 – February 2, 1992) was an American actor, singer, and radio and television announcer, best known for hosting the annual Miss America telecast from 1955 to 1979.
Parks was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to Aaron Jacobson, a Jewish merchant who had immigrated to the United States in 1900 from Latvia (then part of the Russian Empire), and his wife Hattie (Spiegel) Jacobson, the daughter of immigrants from Austria-Hungary. He had one older brother, Allen Jacobson.
Parks' had his first experience in amateur theatre when he was four years old. He graduated from Marist College, a Catholic preparatory school in Atlanta Georgia.
Parks entered radio broadcasting at age 16, for Atlanta's WGST. Three years later, he moved to New York City and was hired as a singer and straight man on The Eddie Cantor Show, then becoming a CBS Radio staff announcer. Parks was the host of Break the Bank, which premiered on radio in 1945 and was telecast from 1948 to 1957, as well as Stop the Music on radio in 1948 and television from 1949 to 1952. The success of Stop the Music took a toll on the ratings of the popular radio show hosted by satirist Fred Allen, who began spoofing Parks's program with skits mocking the premise of the show, one called Cease The Melody.
With other celebrities, he hosted NBC radio's Monitor during the 1960s.
Parks' first game show was Party Line on NBC (broadcast from New York City NBC flagship station WNBT), which involved viewers calling in to answer questions and win $5 prizes; Party Line ran from June 8 to August 31, 1947, making its one surviving episode the oldest known game show and one of the oldest surviving television shows to have been recorded. Commercial kinescopes did not come out until fall 1947 (co-sponsored by NBC, DuMont, and Kodak), and the only kinescopes known to predate Party Line are a few episodes of Kraft Television Theater from February and June 1947.
Other games that Parks hosted in early television include Stop the Music (1949-52/1954-56), Double or Nothing (1952–54), Balance Your Budget (1952–53), Two in Love (1954), Giant Step (1956–57), Hold That Note (1957), Bid 'n' Buy (1958), County Fair (1958–59), Masquerade Party (1958–60), The Big Payoff (1959), Yours for a Song (1961–63), and the pilot for Hollywood Squares (April 21, 1965). His last game show hosting job was in 1968, on the pilot for a revival of Heatter-Quigley's The Celebrity Game; the show did not sell.
He also helmed a daytime variety show in 1950, simply called The Bert Parks Show. In addition, he also starred in a syndicated series called Circus! (featuring various circus acts from around the world) in the early 1970s. Parks also appeared in a 1976 episode of The Bionic Woman as the nefarious host of the "Miss United States" beauty pageant, involved in a plot to sell national security technology.
However, Parks is most famous for hosting the Miss America telecast from 1955–79, after which he was unceremoniously fired by the organization (he heard a newscast while on vacation) in an attempt to attract a more youthful audience. The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson led an on-air campaign to get Parks rehired, but was unsuccessful. In 1990, for the 70th anniversary of the Miss America pageant (during which Miss America 1991 was crowned), Parks was brought on by host Gary Collins to sing "There She Is" to the new Miss America, Marjorie Judith Vincent. It was the last time Parks performed the song live.
Parks' last known television appearance, a Pepsi commercial, first aired in June 1991.
A recording of "There She Is, Miss America" as sung by Parks was used each year in the Miss America scholarship pageant until 2012 as the new reigning titleholder takes her walk down the runway in her newly earned crown. On September 13, 2015, the recording was reused for the 95th Anniversary of the Miss America pageant.
Parks did a take-off of his hosting role in The Freshman (1990), starring Marlon Brando, Matthew Broderick and Bruno Kirby. He played the emcee of a Gourmet Club dinner where guests supposedly eat a Komodo dragon, singing a spoof of "There She Is" in a salute to the soon-to-be-deceased dragon. Some of his other film appearances were in That's the Way of the World (1975) and The Great Balloon Race (1977).
Parks appeared on WKRP in Cincinnati in the 1980 episode "Herb's Dad", playing Herb Tarlek Sr. (father of series' regular Herb Tarlek Jr.). In 1988, Parks appeared on an episode of 227 as himself, and in 1991, Parks appeared on an episode of Night Court as himself.
Parks died of lung cancer at La Jolla, California on February 2, 1992 at the age of 77. He was survived by his wife of 49 years, Annette (Liebman) Parks (June 28, 1921 – December 19, 2013), and their three children.
Combining the slightly unctuous charm and snappy patter of a snake oil salesman with a boundless supply of enthusiasm, Bert Parks was the quintessential TV quiz show host - which is how the genial Atlanta native made his name before becoming an American institution with his yearly singing of "There She Is" on the Miss America pageant... Mr. Parks, who died of lung cancer at 77 Sunday in a La Jolla, Calif., hospital, parlayed a booming voice, a modest singing talent
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