The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters always present a dais full of entertainers and industry notables during each of their five annual luncheons that honor some special person in broadcast history. Last year their impressive list of honorees ranged from the Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully to astronaut Buzz Aldrin (he did the lunar broadcast), from actor Robert Wagner (for all his great TV shows) to big band songbird Kay Starr (who did radio broadcasts). To lunch with the PPB bunch is a treat, not only to enjoy the toasting and roasting of the honorees, but also to meet the wonderful pioneer members.
Veteran radio and television icons Edgar Bergen, Jim Jodan (Fibber McGee & Molly) and Art Gilmore founded the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters in 1966. They invited a membership of radio and TV producers, writers, performers and technicians from all fields. Many have been in the television industry since its infancy.
The current PPB president is producer Sam Lovullo (Hee Haw), who said, “We have no agenda and back no causes, except to have fun and good fellowship.” Jeanne DeVivier Brown is the chairman of the board and program chairperson who magically puts together each dais that helps create all the fun at the Sportsmen’s Lodge luncheons.
So far this year there have been two great gatherings, one for a performer, Andy Williams, and another for a producer, Bob Banner. Both can be proud of being pioneers in the industry.
Andy Williams got started in the business when he was a mere eight years old, singing with his brothers on radio during World War II. Bing Crosby included the Williams brothers on his hit “Swinging on a Star.” A recording career followed when Andy went solo. “Moon River,” Andy’s signature song, came along in 1961, thanks to his collaboration with composer Henry Mancini. The rest they say is history, headlining Vegas and doing TV variety specials over several decades.
During Williams’ PPB tribute, his friends not only spoke about his talent and achievements, but also about his integrity and his pioneering efforts to further civil rights. Among those telling their stories were Pat Boone, Peter Marshall, JoAnne Worley, Jane Withers, Marty Pasetta, Shelly Saltman, Allan Blye, Chuck Southcott and Hal Kanter. Ginny Mancini was also on hand, and was pleased to see that Andy has written a book called Moon River and Me, filled with more wonderful stories.
The pioneering producer Bob Banner was the PPB’s most recent honoree. Long before there was American Idol, Banner gave us Star Search. He was way ahead of MTV when he presented the Solid Gold music series, which gave professional dancers the spotlight as they grooved to the hits. One of the most prolific producers of comedy and variety shows, Banner has a forthcoming book called Those Wonderful Years: The Golden Age of Television. Candid Camera, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Perry Como specials, and Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall are just a few of his many golden shows.
The folks saluting Banner included Solid Gold host Dionne Warwick, John Davidson (who was discovered by Bob), Norm Cosby, Charlotte Rae, choreographer Anita Mann, comedy writers Ken and Mitzi Welch, orchestra leader Ray Charles, president of the Television Academy John Shaffner, and PPB’s resident humorist Hal Kanter. Sam Lovullo said, “Bob has done it all, and has done it with taste and class.” So has the PPB, honoring the greats who paved the way.