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Adams, Don (13 April 1923–25 September 2005), comedian and actor, was born Donald James Yarmy in New York City, the second of the three children of William Yarmy, a restaurant manager, and Consuelo Morgan. Adams, who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, liked to read and draw but had an aversion to New York public schools. Much of his youth was spent frequenting the movie theaters on 42nd Street, where he believed he received a better education. At parties he and his neighborhood friends, a number of whom also forged careers in show business, tried to top each other performing comic bits. Adams's forte became impersonations of the Hollywood stars of the day....

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Don Adams. With Barbara Feldon, on the set of the spoof spy showGet Smart, 10 September 1965. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Caesar, Sid (8 Sept. 1922–12 Feb. 2014), television comedy star, was born Isaac Sidney Caesar in Yonkers, New York, the youngest of three surviving sons of Max Ziser, a Jew who emigrated from Austria, and his Russian-born wife, Ida Raphael Ziser. As a young boy Sid amused factory workers in his father’s greasy spoon, the St. Claire Buffet and Luncheonette, with Italian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, and Lithuanian double talk. At eleven, Sid learned to play the saxophone, and he made six dollars a week playing in Mike Cifficello’s Swingtime Six while a student at Yonkers High School....

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Clark, Dick (30 November 1929–18 April 2012), television host, was born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Bronxville, New York, the second of three children, to Richard A. Clark and Julia Barnard. During Dick’s childhood the family lived in Mt. Vernon, a suburb of New York City, and his father commuted to Manhattan daily for his job as a sales manager for a cosmetics company. The death of his older brother in World War II was a devastating loss for the family, particularly for young Dick, who idolized him....

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Harmon, Tom (28 September 1919–15 March 1990), football player and sportscaster, was born Thomas Dudley Harmon in Rensselaer, Indiana, the son of Louis A. Harmon, a steel mill policeman, and Rose Marie Guinn. Harmon grew up in Gary, Indiana, where, under the coaching of Doug Kerr at Horace Mann High School, he earned fourteen varsity letters in four sports, started three years for the football team, was the leading national interscholastic football scorer with 150 points in a season, and won state track and field championships. Coach Kerr steered Harmon toward the University of Michigan, where Kerr had played, and where he took the high school’s backfield each spring for a clinic....

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Keeshan, Robert “Bob” James (27 June 1927–23 Jan. 2004), actor, was born in Lynbrook, Long Island, a suburb of New York City, to Joseph Keeshan, a grocery chain manager, and Margaret Conroy Keeshan. Both parents were émigrés from Ireland. Robert, known as Bob, and his three siblings attended local schools and enjoyed a comfortable upbringing until their father lost his well-paying job in the early 1930s, during the Great Depression. Resettled in the suburb of Forest Hills, the family struggled to make ends meet, and their situation became worse with the sudden death of Margaret Keeshan in ...

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Kupcinet, Irv (31 July 1912–10 November 2003), sportswriter, columnist, and television host, was born in Chicago, the son of Max and Olga Paswell Kupcinet, grocers who had immigrated from Russia. The couple raised their family in a small apartment above a grocery store in Lawndale, a Jewish neighborhood on Chicago's West Side. Some of Irving's earliest memories were of sitting beside his father making deliveries on a horse-drawn bakery truck....

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Myerson, Bess (16 July 1924–14 Dec. 2014), politician and television personality best remembered as Miss America 1945, was born in Bronx, New York, to Louis Myerson and Bella Podell Myerson, both Jewish immigrants from Russia. She was listed as Bessie on her birth certificate but was known as Bess from an early age. Her father worked as a housepainter and her mother at a number of part-time jobs. Bess had two sisters, one older and one younger, as well as one brother who died before she was born. The family lived in a one-room apartment in the Sholem Aleichem Cooperative Houses. Though the family was not affluent, an emphasis was placed on education, including music education, as Bess’s mother believed it important that a woman be able to support herself financially. Bess studied piano and flute, graduating from the High School of Music and Art in ...

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Perkins, Marlin (28 March 1905–14 June 1986), zoo director and television personality, was born Richard Marlin Perkins in Carthage, Missouri, the son of Joseph Dudley Perkins, a lawyer and judge, and Mynta Mae Miller. Perkins developed his fascination with animals as a child, progressing from a pet dog to the various creatures found on the family farm. “Not just snakes, I also kept possums, raccoons, turtles, frogs, baby coyotes, anything I could find,” he recalled ( ...

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Susskind, David (19 December 1920–22 February 1987), television producer and talk show host, was born David Howard Susskind in New York City, the son of Benjamin Susskind, an insurance agent, and Frances Lear. When Susskind was a baby he moved with his family to Brookline, Massachusetts, a comfortable suburb of Boston. After graduating from Brookline High School in 1938, he spent two years at the University of Wisconsin, where he met and in 1939 married classmate Phyllis Briskin, with whom he had three children. He transferred to Harvard University in 1940 and received a bachelor’s degree in politics and government in 1942. Susskind then served in the U.S. Navy for four years. Bored by the long periods of inactivity encountered in the military, energetic Susskind abandoned plans to become a college professor and set his sights on a career in show business, which he called “the most dynamic and interesting field I could get into.”...

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Swayze, John Cameron (1906–15 August 1995), television news anchor and product spokesman, was born in Wichita, Kansas, and grew up in nearby Atchison. After high school, Swayze, whose childhood dream was to become an actor, took a job with the Kansas City Journal-Post...

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John Cameron Swayze. On NBC's News Caravan, 1955. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Williams, Andy (3 Dec. 1927–25 Sept. 2012), pop singer and television star, was born Howard Andrew Williams, the fourth of five sons and a daughter, born to Jay Emerson Williams, a railway mail clerk, and Florence Bell (Finley) Williams in Wall Lake, Iowa....