Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ken Roberts

One of the public radio stations in my area plays old radio shows each night, and the other night one of those shows was an episode of “You Are There,” from the 1940s.

This series, which was later a TV show, re-enacted historical events as if they were breaking news, “covered” by actual CBS reporters. This particular episode, about the sailing of the Mayflower, was anchored by John Daly, a veteran journalist who is best known today as the host of “What’s My Line?’ The other “reporter” on the scene was longtime announcer Ken Roberts.

I was surprised to hear Roberts on “You Are There” because he wasn’t a real journalist, but no one can deny he was a superb announcer. You can hear him on 1930s episodes of “The Shadow” that starred Orson Welles, and he worked on many other radio and television programs, including soap operas.

As recently as the 1970s, on “The Electric Company,” he was the announcer for a parody of soaps, titled “Love of Chair.”

His son is actor Tony Roberts.

As I was listening to “You Are There,” it occurred to me that Ken Roberts had probably died some time ago.

Imagine my surprise when I found out, a few minutes ago, that Mr. Roberts passed away June 19 at the age of 99.

He might very well have been the last living old-time radio announcer and one of the few remaining old-time radio performers, period.

(Have you figured out by now that I’m a sucker for old-time radio anecdotes and performers?)

I know that the wonderful Anne Francis, who first attracted my attention – and that of many other young males – when she starred as Honey West in the 1960s, was a radio actress as a kid.

Does anybody out there know of any other surviving performers from that era?

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