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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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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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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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Serling, Rod (25 December 1924–28 June 1975), television writer and producer, was born Rodman Edward Serling in Syracuse, New York, the son of Samuel Serling, a grocer and butcher, and Esther Cooper. In 1926 Serling’s family joined a growing Jewish community in Binghamton, New York. As editor of ...

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Thomas, Danny (06 January 1912–06 February 1991), entertainer and philanthropist, was born Muzyad Yakhoob in Deerfield, Michigan, the son of Shaheed Yakhoob (later anglicized to Charles Jacobs), a horse breeder, and Margaret Christen Simon. He started working at the age of eleven, first selling newspapers on a street corner and then candy and soda pop in a burlesque house. He later changed his name to Amos Jacobs and started a song-and-dance act with one of his brothers. He quit high school at age sixteen and attempted unsuccessfully to find employment as a comedian, then worked several years as a punch press operator, night watchman, and semiprofessional basketball player. In 1932 he became an announcer on a local radio station and then master of ceremonies at Bert’s Beer Garden, in Detroit, Michigan....

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Jack Webb On the set of “Dragnet.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112140).

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Webb, Jack (02 April 1920–23 December 1982), actor, director, and producer, was born Jack Randolph Webb in Santa Monica, California, the son of Samuel Webb and Margaret Smith. His parents separated when he was about two years old. Because his father left home when Webb was so young, he had no memories of him, and he was raised by his mother and grandmother. He grew up in an impoverished section of downtown Los Angeles, where at Belmont High School he became interested in art and dramatics and performed in several school productions. Needing to support himself and his mother, he gave up plans to attend college, and following his graduation from high school he worked in a men’s clothing store. On his own time he appeared on several local radio programs. In 1943 he joined the Army Air Forces, and while stationed in Minnesota he worked on a few United Service Organizations (USO) variety shows. Following his discharge in 1945, an affiliate of ABC Radio hired him to report on the San Francisco Conference (Apr.–June 1945) held to draw up the charter of the newly formed United Nations. While he was in San Francisco, Webb hosted a morning show focusing on jazz and also played the part of a tough detective in the radio drama “Pat Novak for Hire,” a series about waterfront crime. In 1947 he married singer-actress Julie London, with whom he would have two children....