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A pioneering talk show host, Phil Donahue's Phil Donahue Show paved the way for virtually every talk show to appear on TV since.
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Born Phillip John Donahue on December 21, 1935, Phil Donahue introduced the world to the modern talk show, inspiring such giants of the industry as Oprah Winfrey to follow in his footsteps.
Talk show host, born Phillip John Donahue, on December 21, 1935. His father, Phillip, was a furniture salesperson, and his mother, Catherine (nee McClory) worked as a shoe clerk. He attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana (BA 1957).
Upon graduation, Donahue got a job at KYW radio in Cleveland, Ohio as an announcer. At WHIO in Dayton, he became a newscaster, and also started a radio talk show called Conversation Piece. In 1967 he joined a rival station, WLWD-TV, and tried out a new format, a talk show aimed at "women who think." His idea was to involve the audience, and have them interact in person, or via telephone, with his guests. His topics attempted to be substantive, relevant, informative, and somewhat controversially progressive.
From 1974-1985 the nationally syndicated Phil Donahue Show was broadcast from Chicago, the city that would later host the amazingly successful Oprah Winfrey Show, and moved to New York City from 1985-1996. Winfrey??s show would ultimately overtake Donahue??s in the ratings, but Winfrey acknowledged her debt to Donahue (whose life-long support of feminist causes and pro-women in the workforce stance, along with his revolutionary talk show style, was clearly not lost on Winfrey) by saying, "if there hadn??t been a Phil, there wouldn??t have been a me."
Donahue co-hosted a political and social issues-oriented talk show with Vladimir Pozner, a former information chief to the Soviet Union, called This Week with Pozner and Donahue from 1991-1994. With the growing trend towards more sensational, tabloid-like talk shows, Donahue??s ratings suffered, and he lost several key markets before ending production on his show in 1996. In July 2002, MSNBC coaxed the silver-haired host out of retirement to helm the much-hyped return of Donahue. However, eight months later, poor viewership caused the ratings-challenged cable network to cancel the show.
Despite recent fumbles, Donahue is leaving a legacy of an intelligent, informative daytime talk show style, whose influence is noticeable more today in the nighttime news hours. His way with asking the probing questions, his limitless curiosity, and trademark enthusiastic bounding up and down the aisles of his studio in order to get as many audience comments as possible, is legendary. He won nine Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Host in a Talk or Service Series, and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1996.
Donahue has five children with first wife Margaret Cooney: four sons, Michael, Kevin, Daniel, Jim, and one daughter, Mary Rose. He met second wife, actress Marlo Thomas, when she was a guest on his show; they married in 1980.
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Since the early days of television, talk show hosts have been among the most popular personalities in the medium. From TV pioneers like Jack Paar and Johnny Carson to daytime legends like Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey to late night talkers like Jon Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel, here is a look at the famous hosts who have talked the talk on TV.
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