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Arnaz, Desi (02 March 1917–02 December 1986), bandleader, actor, and television producer, was born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y Acha III in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, the son of Desiderio Arnaz II, a landowner and politician, and heiress Dolores “Lolita” de Acha. His early youth was privileged, but the revolution of 1932 broke up his secure home. His father was jailed briefly, and the family ended up in Miami with very little money....

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Berg, Gertrude (03 October 1899–14 September 1966), actress, writer, and producer of radio and television programs, was born Gertrude Edelstein in the Harlem district of New York City, the daughter of Jacob Edelstein, a Catskills resort hotel owner, and Diana Netta Goldstein, a bookkeeper and hotel kitchen manager. She was educated in public schools and showed interest in acting as a child, performing comic skits at her father’s hotel. As a teenager, she took several extension courses in playwriting at Columbia University. In 1918 she married Lewis Berg, a mechanical engineer, whose work took the couple to a sugar refinery in Reserve, Louisiana. In 1921 they returned to New York, where they would live for the rest of their lives. The couple had two children....

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Bowes, Major (14 June 1874–13 June 1946), radio producer and talent show host, was born Edward J. Bowes in San Francisco, California, the son of John M. Bowes, a customs agent, and Caroline Amelia Ford. Bowes’s father died when he was only six, forcing him to abandon his schooling after he graduated from grammar school. Bowes became a remarkably educated individual nevertheless and entered the real estate business in San Francisco, becoming prosperous if not wealthy. In 1909 he married ...

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Brown, Eddy (15 July 1895–14 June 1974), violinist and radio pioneer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Jacob Brown, a tailor and amateur violinist from Austria, and Rachel “Ray” Brown (maiden name unknown) from Russia. His mother, who had a keen interest in Christian Science, named him after Mary Baker Eddy. The Brown family moved to Indianapolis when Eddy was four. He took his first violin lessons from his father and then studied with Hugh McGibney at the Metropolitan School of Music (later Butler University's Jordan College), giving his first public recital at the age of six. In 1904 he traveled to Europe and entered the Royal Conservatory of Music in Budapest to study violin with Jenö Hubay. His teachers there included ...

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Eddy Brown. Around the time of his London debut. Courtesy of John Maltese.

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Flyer for an Eddy Brown concert Courtesy of John Maltese.

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Cowan, Louis George (?16 Dec. 1909–18 November 1976), radio and television producer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Jacob Cohen, a salesman, and Hetty Smitz. Graduating in 1931 from the University of Chicago, where he studied with Harold Lasswell, he soon started his own public relations firm, plugging such clients as ...

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Funt, Allen (16 September 1914–05 September 1999), radio and television producer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian immigrants Isadore Funt, a diamond importer and dealer, and Paula Saferstein Funt. A serious student, he graduated from New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn at the age of fifteen, spent a year at the Pratt Art Institute in Brooklyn, and went on to receive a B.A. in fine arts at Cornell University in 1934. Hoping to become an artist, he spent another year at Pratt, and in 1935 he began his working career in the art department of an advertising agency in New York. There he served first as a copywriter but within a year moved to the agency's radio department. In 1940–1941 he wrote the continuity for ...

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Gardner, Ed (29 August 1901–17 August 1963), radio comic and producer, was born Edward Poggenberg, the son of Edward Poggenberg, an ornamental plasterer and semiprofessional baseball player, in Astoria, Queens, New York. His mother's given and maiden names are unknown. The year of his birth is sometimes reported as 1905 instead of 1901. He attended P.S. 4 and spent two years at Bryant High School in Astoria, but he left at sixteen to take a job playing the piano at O'Bryan's Café, a neighborhood saloon where he had performed after school when he was fourteen....

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Hammond, John Henry, Jr. (15 December 1910–10 July 1987), critic and producer of jazz and popular music, was born in New York City, the son of John Henry Hammond, corporate lawyer, and Emily Vanderbilt Sloane. Born to privilege, Hammond used his wealth and position, along with considerable resourcefulness and conviction, to promote primarily black music through the 1940s in ways that profoundly influenced its development and international acceptance. He later branched out to produce important folk and rock recordings....

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Hewitt, Don (14 December 1922–19 August 2009), television news producer, was born Donald Shepard Hewitt in New York City to Jewish parents—Ely S. Hewitt, an advertising salesman for Hearst Newspapers, and Frieda Pike Hewitt—and was raised in suburban New Rochelle, New York. Hewitt graduated New Rochelle High School in 1940 and went to New York University on a track scholarship. He quit school in the fall of 1941 and earned fifteen dollars a week as a copy boy at the ...

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Hummert, Anne (19 January 1905–05 July 1996), radio producer and advertising executive, was born Anna Mary Schumacher and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the oldest of four children of Frederick Schumacher, whom census records list as a steamfitter and a contractor, and Anna Lance Schumacher. At some point in her youth, she began using the name Anne rather than Anna. She loved to write and was attracted to journalism while still in high school, writing an advice column for the ...

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Leonard, Sheldon (22 February 1907–10 January 1997), performer, director, producer, and writer, primarily for television, radio, and film, was born Sheldon Leonard Bershad in New York City, the only child of Frank Bershad, a salesman, and Anna Levitt Bershad, an immigrant from Russia whose father had been a scribe to the Romanoff court. The family lived in the polyglot Morrisania section of the Bronx except for a period of three years during Leonard's early teens, when they lived in Belleville, New Jersey. In his autobiography Leonard describes Belleville as a "WASPy suburb" that made him self-conscious of the urban working-class accent and mannerisms that would become his trademarks as a performer as well as his Jewish background....

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Levinson, Richard Leighton (07 August 1934–12 March 1987), writer, creator, and producer of television programs, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Levinson, a businessman, and Georgia Harbert. He received a B.S. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1956 and served in the U.S. Army during 1957–1958. Levinson developed a lifelong partnership with William Link, his boyhood friend and college roommate. The two began collaborating on class skits and mystery stories as junior high school students. Levinson continued his personal and professional alliance with Link for over four decades....

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Levy, David (02 January 1913–25 January 2000), advertising and broadcasting executive, television producer, and writer, was one of twin sons born to Benjamin Levy, an accountant, and Lillian Potash Levy of Philadelphia. He excelled as a student, especially in mathematics and writing, both of which would remain lifelong pursuits. An economics major at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, he received a B.S. degree in 1934 and an M.B.A. in 1935....

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Nila Mack. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Mack, Nila (24 October 1891–20 January 1953), radio writer-producer, was born Nila Mac in Arkansas City, Kansas, the daughter of Don Carlos Mac, a railroad engineer credited with the “first run over the tracks to Guthrie in Indian Territory” in 1889, and Margaret Bowen Mac, a dancing teacher. Her father's family name had apparently been MacLoughlin in a dim Scottish past; Nila was to add the “k” to her name when she entered show business. She attended the local high school, played piano for her mother's dancing school as well as at the local open-air theater, and “won 208 cakes in local cake-walking contests.” After her father died as a result of a train derailment in 1907, her mother took her to New York for Chautauqua classes and in 1908 enrolled her at Ferry Hall finishing school in Forest Park, Illinois....

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See Nelson, Ozzie

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Tinky ‘‘Dakota’’ Weisblat

Nelson, Ozzie (20 March 1906–03 June 1975), and Harriet Nelson (18 July 1909–02 October 1994), television actress and singer, were icons of American middle-class culture of the baby-boom era following World War II. They were universally recognized as “Ozzie and Harriet,” which was the title of their popular television sitcom. Ozzie was born Oswald George Nelson in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of George Waldemar Nelson and Ethel Orr. He grew up in nearby Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, where his banker father was active in civic organizations. George Nelson was also interested in amateur theatricals, bringing the whole family in on the act, so that from an early age young Oswald sang and acted for the public. His work never entirely lost its original amateur orientation....

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Reis, Irving (07 May 1906–03 July 1953), radio and film director, was born in New York City, the son of Austrian immigrants Philip Reis, a tinsmith and construction worker, and Rose Lipkowitz. Already a ham radio operator at the age of thirteen, Reis showed an early enthusiasm for sound technology and experimentation. Although he received a scholarship to study bacteriology at Cornell, Reis lacked credits for admission, so in order to acquire the necessary courses, he attended Columbia University extension classes. But his interest in broadcasting—and the financial demands of supporting the family—won out, and he quit college after two years to take a job with the radio division of the telephone company in 1928....