Don Pardo, whose voice graced NBC's air for 70 years and one network institution, "Saturday Night Live," for nearly 40, died Monday at his home in Tucson. He was 96.
That voice -- a sturdy, redoubtable baritone that seemed to resonate to the rafters of "SNL's" longtime home, Studio 8H -- was among the most recognized in broadcasting history. New Yorkers heard it -- frequently -- on WNBC/4 for years on the "Live at Five" newscast. The rest of the nation became familiar with Pardo's distinct delivery from game shows ("The Price Is Right"), commercials, and even the rare movie ("Radio Days") or series ("The Simpsons") much later in his career, when Pardo effectively became synonymous with how most people assumed the classic TV presenter should sound.
Pardo's voice was magic: Slightly singsong, it was both in on the joke and part of the joke -- that old-time broadcaster's delivery in service to a new-time comedy/TV franchise that was designed in part to send up the conventions of the medium from which it sprang.
He most centrally occupied a cherished place in the history of one franchise in particular: "Saturday Night Live."
Pardo, who joined at the show's launch in 1975, was seldom seen -- a disembodied presence whose words floated out of the darkness and across the country every Saturday night. (His booth was located in the spot where Arturo Toscanni had once conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra.) He didn't actually say "Live from New York!" -- that was left, of course, to whoever closed the opening segment -- but his ritual was just as valuable: A rundown of cast members, repertory players, guest hosts, musical guests and other in-show announcements including "Weekend Update."
To have one's name announced by Pardo on "SNL" was to have been consecrated in some sort of cosmic comic firmament -- or as former cast member Amy Poehler said in a statement posted on The Wrap.com Tuesday, "My whole life changed once Don Pardo said my name."
By all accounts a modest, self-effacing man in an immodest business, Pardo survived nonetheless in grand style, literally phoning it in. During the last few years following his retirement, he would record the intros at his Arizona home. He had a rare lifetime contract, and continued working for NBC and "SNL" well past his official retirement in 2004.
Born Dominick George Pardo in 1918 in Westfield, Massachusetts, Pardo began his career at Providence radio station WJAR in 1942, and joined NBC in 1944. He never left. He read news dispatches on the radio from the front lines during World War II and after the war was announcer for the "The Arthur Murray Party," "Colgate Comedy Hour" and "Your Show of Shows."
In 1954, he was brought in to announce "Winner Takes All," beginning a long run in game shows -- "The Price is Right" (1956-63) and briefly the original "Jeopardy!" (1964-75), hosted by Art Fleming. He also announced the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to NBC listeners in 1963.
In 2010, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame.
Pardo, whose wife, Kay, died in 1995, is survived by five children.