Monday, August 08, 2011

DJ Ernie Kovacs

Ernie Kovacs is remembered today as a ground-breaking television comedian. He got credit later in his career in videography as some of his work there was highly influential as well. His career was cut short by a car wreck at the age of 43, which though tragic only cemented his career in that way that an early death seems to in America. He was born and raised in Trenton New Jersey, and that is where his time in radio began.

In 1942 after some jibbing from fiends he auditioned for 920 WTTM-AM. He adlibbed jokes while reading the news off the teletype. They hired him. He had graduated from class clown to professional clown. The station had only been on air since that April. He became an announcer, DJ and non-stop prankster. In 1945 he picked up a gig writing a humor column for The Trentonian Newspaper.

He left WTTM-AM for a job at WPTZ-TV in Philadelphia in January of 1950. He started there as co-host a cooking show of all things. It was called "Deadline for Dinner."  He later hosted a morning show "Three to Get Ready" at 7:00 AM. It was a bit of news, a bit of comedy, a bit of weather. He dumped water on the weatherman, he ran through restaurants in a gorilla suit...it was a very odd format, very Kovacs actually. That started in November of 1950. By 1951 he was hosting his own shows "It's Time for Ernie," "Ernie in Kovacsland," and later "Kovacs on the Corner." His winning streak came to an end when NBC insisted their morning program "The Today Show" be aired on the station, bumping Kovacs. It was unfair, but it drove Kovacs from Philly to New York. He landed on on WCBS-TV in New York City with a new program "Kovacs Unlimited."

It was in New York that he took some time to return to radio. He was a morning-drive radio personality on WABC-AM. The "Ernie Kovacs Show" debuted May 30th 1955 at 6:00 am and ran to 9:00 pm. It ran Monday through Saturday.  The program was sponsored by Horn and Hardart, makers of the Automat.