by Joe Regan Jr.
“This is your night” the monthly series presented at the Metropolitan Room by manager/owner Bernie Furshpan, honored the recently deceased famed talk show host, Joe Franklin. Franklin, whose last public appearance was as the grand marshall of the Metropolitan’s Variety Show Marathon competition into the Guinness Book of Records. Although he was ailing, he was as sharp and spry as ever during that marathon. During that marathon Furshpan told Franklin he wanted to honor him on his birthday. After his death, Furshpan decided to go ahead with the tribute on March 9, Franklin’s birthday.
Joe Franklin began his talk shows on the radio long before such TV pioneers as Jerry Lester and Steve Allen. He also began a high rated TV show, hosting, as he often stated, the new artists, the stars, and the forgotten as well as those who never had much of a career at all. Furshpan introduced every act and gave stories about Franklin. The cyclorama had many montages and stills of Joe and his guests, as well as his cluttered office. Several Presidents were guests as well as international politicians and, of course, the Dalai Lama, whom he introduced as “Hello, Dali!” His memory was incredible and he never used notes when talking to a guest, sometimes surprising them with what he knew about them or ordering a star to interact with an unknown or a politician.
The list of guests this night was cosmopolitan. Every performer had personal stories and those who sang were in terrific voice. The musician on stage for most performers was Barry Levitt. Richard Skipper was 15 when he first heard Franklin on the radio and was often a guest. Skipper sang a moving “Before the Parade Passes By.” Quinn Lemley talked about Franklin attending her burlesque show on a stormy night and repeated her great Rita Hayworth number, “Put the Blame on Mame” stripping off that one glove. Sara Zahn talked about Joe seeing her show when she was an unknown and rocked with “I Can Cook Too.” Richard Holbrook sang the beautiful song from “Carmelina” from his Burton Lane show. Joe Sirola did the whole scene from “My Fair Lady” leading into “With a Little Bit of Luck,” and danced all over the stage. Jim Brochu did his tribute on the video screen because he was at “Broadway Backwards” that night. A folk singer, Annie Calder, who is known as Endorphin Annie, with her guitar playing partner, Ryan Thompson, sang a beautiful song she wrote called “Thinking of You.”
One of the most moving guests was Bob Diamond who told how he began his career 51 years ago as a page at Franklin’s radio station. He was suddenly promoted to Stage Manager, calling the tv shots in the booth. Suddenly he was promoted to Director and learned, in one of Franklin’s books, that Franklin liked the way he cut away from embarrassing moments and insisted he become the director. Diamond ended his tribute with a heart-breaking song.
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