Ones for the Ages
It was Clint Eastwood (now 86) who once said, “The only reason I ever thought about retiring from [acting] is sometimes you think, ‘How many roles are there for someone my age?’…I keep working because I learn something new all the time.” And it was Don Rickles (now 90) who once told his Kelly’s Heroes costar when he was being honored with an award, “Nobody else has said it and, Clint, I say it from my heart: You’re a lousy actor.”
Strangely enough, that all sums up the best way to age well in the entertainment business: Always be learning, never take yourself seriously and look out for Rickles (who, thank goodness, has been doing the same ageless act forever).
To honor B&C’s 85th anniversary, we identified some prominent lifetime members of the industry who have been around at least as long as we have. Chances are you’ve heard of them:
Bob Barker: It’s been nearly 10 years since the longtime master of The Price Is Right took his last official showcase bid, but Barker, who turns 93 next month, will always be remembered for smoothly handling both his excited winning contestants and his commitment to animal rights, which found him ending episodes with a request to have your pets spayed or neutered. And chances are Adam Sandler won’t ever forget that final Barker-delivered right cross in Happy Gilmore.
Charles Dolan: The founder and former chairman of Cablevision began his career producing and syndicating films of sports events, and he’s enjoyed an incredibly successful career at the intersection of sports and television. Involved early on in the local cable business in New York (he created the first urban cable TV company in the U.S.), Dolan, now 90, founded HBO in the early 1970s and then brought Cablevision to life. He also has a controlling interest in the Madison Square Garden Co. Earlier this year, Cablevision was sold to Altice for $17.7 billion.
Don King: The renowned boxing promoter, now 85, got his real start by bringing Muhammad Ali and George Foreman together for “The Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. The high-haired one went on to be instrumental in the careers of boxing champions—and their lucrative fights—for decades, guiding the fortunes (and taking his prodigious cut) of Ali, Mike Tyson, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes and many others.
Angela Lansbury: A total of 18 Emmy nominations—18!—without a win for Dame Lansbury. But one shouldn’t cry for the 91-year-old honorary Oscar winner and multiple Tony winner, who famously embodied Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote for 12 seasons and scares new viewers all the time who see her in the original Manchurian Candidate. Now, Lansbury spends most of her time in her performing first love: the theater.
Newton Minow: The former FCC chairman is famous for his 1961 speech wherein he called out what he termed television’s “vast wasteland” of programming that didn’t serve the public interest. Minow, now 90, has dedicated his career to that public interest, serving on the board of directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates (“I have been on it from the beginning,” he told B&C in an interview last February) and being instrumental in arranging a rather famous meeting—between young lawyers Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson.
Rupert Murdoch: Anyone who believes the 85-year-old former CEO of 21st Century Fox may be slowing down had best ask his new wife, model Jerry Hall. Murdoch continues a legendary maverick media career with roots in Australia and the worldwide newspaper publishing business that has led to any number of triumphs: News Corp. and his creation of the fourth major broadcast network, Fox; continued publishing ventures through HarperCollins and The Wall Street Journal; and a wealth of TV companies from Britain’s BSkyB to myriad outposts in Asia and South America. Despite moments of controversy, Murdoch’s exploits remain the news of the world.
Dan Rather: The 85-year-old newsman enjoyed an incredible run as anchor of the CBS Evening News, competing during a glory age of the genre against Tom Brokaw (NBC Nightly News) and Peter Jennings (ABC World News Tonight). Enduring his share of professional incidents—from being roughed up at the 1968 Democratic Convention to the issue regarding documents related to George W. Bush’s service record and 60 Minutes—Rather remains an important pundit, perhaps most famously as David Letterman’s guest on his first show back after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Pat Robertson: In 1960, Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network, which now produces programming seen in 218 countries and territories around the world. The network’s signature program, The 700 Club, has been a television fixture for 50 years. Robertson, a onetime presidential candidate, remains a popular conservative Christian voice.
William Shatner:Star Trek, that 50-year-old marvel, is about to get yet another reboot on streaming service CBS All Access, but the original show’s Captain Kirk has never needed one. The 85-year-old just keeps working, now seven decades into a television career that has featured roles in everything from Boston Legal and T.J. Hooker to Twilight Zone episodes including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
Herbert Siegel: The News Corp. senior advisor is the definition of a mogul. He served as president and principal executive officer of Chris- Craft Industries (which he sold to Rupert Murdoch in 2001 for $5.3 billion) and chairman and CEO of its parent, BHC Communications. The 87-year-old Siegel also had prominent stops and/or investments at Citadel Broadcasting, Warner Communications, Paramount Network and UTV.
Barbara Walters: Walters, 87, has fostered a career of famous firsts. They include, most prominently, female morning show host and evening news anchor. Her annual look at the 10 Most Fascinating People was required annual pre-Oscar show viewing on ABC for years. And The View, which she created, remains a popular daily fixture.
The Comedy Club: Finally, we feel compelled to point out that if laughter is the best medicine, some of the most prominent names in television history are clearly continuing to take the cure. So here’s what we’d love to see: A classic evening of comic star performances from the 85-and-up set. Rickles—who won a 2007 Emmy as star of the HBO docu Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, would have to be there. He’d be featured alongside four of television’s most famous comic names from the 1950s and ’60s: Mel Brooks (age 90), the Your Show of Shows and Phil Silvers Show cowriter who directed Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein; Neil Simon (89), cowriter with Brooks on TV shows and author of plays including The Odd Couple and Brighton Beach Memoirs; Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man cohort Carl Reiner (94), who created The Dick Van Dyke Show; and Mr. Van Dyke himself, still dancing and cracking wise at nearly 91. If you’re in need of a little deadpan delivery, Bob Newhart (87), master of two of television’s most popular (and eponymously named) sitcoms, will be there. Jerry Lewis (90), the telethon master and acclaimed director, is still working, having done two films this year. Need a producer? TV legend Norman Lear (94) will serve. Looking for a spring chicken stand-up star? You can’t go wrong with 85-year-old Jackie Mason, who conquered Broadway 30 years ago in The World According to Me! But who do you get to emcee such an event? We’d ask that kid who was born a month-and-a-half before Broadcasting put out its first-ever issue, Regis Philbin, but we know what he’d say: “I’m only one man!”
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below.
Rob has written for Broadcasting+Cable since 2006, starting with his work on the magazine’s award-winning 75th-anniversary issue. He was born a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium … so of course he’s published three books on NASCAR, most notably, Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of NASCAR Legend Curtis Turner. He’s currently the special projects editor at TV Guide Magazine. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post and his origami art has been in The Wall Street Journal. He lives with his family in New Jersey and is writing a novel about the Wild West.