Hugh Downs, Former '20/20' Host, Dead At 99

Written by on July 2, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) — Hugh Downs, the genial, versatile broadcaster who turned one among tv’s most acquainted and welcome faces with greater than 15,000 hours on information, recreation and discuss exhibits, has died at age 99.

Downs died of pure causes at his dwelling in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Wednesday, mentioned his great-niece, Molly Shaheen.

“The Guinness E-book of World Information” acknowledged Downs as having logged extra hours in entrance of the digicam than any tv persona till Regis Philbin handed him in 2004.

He labored on NBC’s “In the present day” and “Tonight” exhibits, the sport present “Focus,” co-hosted the ABC journal present “20/20” with Barbara Walters and the PBS collection “Over Simple” and “Reside From Lincoln Middle.”

“I’ve labored on so many alternative exhibits and completed so many exhibits on the similar time,” Downs mentioned in a 1986 Related Press interview. “I as soon as mentioned I’d completed every thing on radio and tv besides play-by-play sports activities. Then I remembered I’d lined a boxing match in Lima, Ohio, in 1939.”

Downs started his broadcasting profession on the age of 18 as a $12-a-week announcer on a small Ohio radio station. When tv got here alongside, he at first regarded on it as a gimmick, however shortly realized “it was in all probability a juggernaut, and I’d higher be in on it.”

He was an announcer in Chicago, which was a tv incubator within the 1950, for “Kukla, Fran & Ollie” and “Hawkins Falls,” which he mentioned was tv’s first cleaning soap opera. In 1954, he went to New York for “The Residence Present.”

In 1961, Newsweek described him as “a gluttonous reader with a first-rate mind that he retains curried and exercised like a prize poodle.”

His status was such that he even gained the correct to approve any industrial he was assigned to learn, striving to maintain doubtful claims off the air.

“My loyalty was with the particular person tuning in,” he mentioned. “It was expedient. If I misplaced my credibility, what use would I be to a consumer?”

He confirmed his principled aspect once more in 1997, when he took a trip day on “20/20″ slightly than be half on a present that included an interview with Marv Albert after the sportscaster was caught in a lurid sexual assault scandal.

Downs had a selected curiosity in science, as soon as launching right into a monologue on the Paar present on the science underlying water-skiing. It prompted Paar to quip, “Properly, Hugh, once you drown, you’ll know the explanation why.”

His curiosity in issues of the growing old — he even earned a postgraduate diploma in gerontology — was highlighted in his Public Broadcasting Service collection “Over Simple” in addition to a lot of his “20/20” items.

“All of us endure in our tradition from the concept … that youth was the large factor,” he mentioned.

“There was sort of a lack of respect for older individuals, and we lose gleaning knowledge from older individuals. We lose the power to see that impairment and decrepitude don’t essentially associate with age.”

His work on “20/20″ additionally confirmed his adventurous spirit, such because the time he obtained to journey a killer whale, and one other time he placed on respiration equipment to swim close to an excellent white shark. There was a hazardous expedition to the South Pole during which one participant almost fell to his loss of life.

“I’m excited about science, the atmosphere, drugs and sure personalities,” he mentioned. “I simply do the tales I wish to do. I don’t wish to be simply the anchor.”

Downs started his work as Paar’s second banana in 1957, after a stint as host of NBC’s “The Residence Present.”

In a extremely publicized incident in February 1960, Paar stormed off the air in a dispute involving community reducing a Paar “water closet” (bathroom) joke the censors disliked. Downs gained reward for calmly telling the viewers “I’d wish to assume this isn’t remaining” and maintaining the dwell present working till signoff time.

Downs mentioned later that he anticipated that Paar would at any minute return to the stage “with some punch line or one thing. He didn’t.” However Downs mentioned he was finally grateful for the increase the brouhaha gave his profession.

Paar lastly returned to the present a couple of weeks later.

Paar’s departure from “Tonight” in 1962 paved the best way for Johnny Carson. Downs, in the meantime, started his nine-year run as host of the “In the present day” present. Walters was a “In the present day” colleague for a part of that point. She was an admirer of Downs who praised his generosity and collegiality.

He expressed his views modestly within the 1995 guide “The Field: An Oral Historical past of Tv, 1920-1961”: “In a method the much less expertise you’ve got or deploy, the much less probability you’ve got of overexposure. Which may be why I’ve been on community tv greater than anyone on the earth.”


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