- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Mike Douglas, whose affable personality and singing talent earned him 21 years as a television talk show host, died yesterday on his 81st birthday.

He died at 5:30 a.m. in a Palm Beach Gardens hospital, said his wife, Genevieve Douglas. She wasn’t sure of the cause but said he had been admitted Thursday.

Mr. Douglas became dehydrated on the golf course a few weeks ago and had been treated on and off since. “He was coming along fine, we thought. It was really a shock,” his wife said. “We never anticipated this to happen.”

Mr. Douglas’ afternoon show aired from 1961 to 1982. It featured his ballad and big-band singing style, other musicians, comedians, sports figures and political personalities, including seven former, sitting or future presidents.

“People still believe ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ was a talk show, and I never correct them, but I don’t think so,” Mr. Douglas said in his 1999 memoir, “I’ll Be Right Back: Memories of TV’s Greatest Talk Show.”

“It was really a music show, with a whole lot of talk and laughter in between numbers.”

Mr. Douglas did about 6,000 shows, most 90 minutes long, and estimated that at its peak the syndicated show was seen in about 230 cities.

Tim Brooks, television historian and executive vice president of research for Lifetime Television Network, said Mr. Douglas was “an outgrowth on the 1950s mentality of politeness.”

“Even when America was getting kind of angry in the 1960s and 1970s, his show was sort of an oasis of politeness,” Mr. Brooks said.

“He was a genuine nice guy,” longtime friend and talk-show host Larry King said yesterday on CNN. “It was easy to be around him. He had a relaxed measure about him, and he also had an incredible ability to get great guests.”

Born Michael Delaney Dowd in Chicago on Aug. 11, 1925, Mr. Douglas began his career as a teenage singer and entertainer for supper clubs and radio programs.

He was the staff singer at radio station WKY in Oklahoma City before joining the Navy during World War II and serving on a munitions ship.

After he returned home, he became a featured performer on the radio and eventual television program, “Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge.”

As the rock ‘n’ roll era began to emerge in the late 1950s, Mr. Douglas’ style became less marketable, so he started looking for a way to energize his career.

He briefly hosted “Hi, Ladies!”, a daytime television program on WGN in Chicago. In 1961, Woody Fraser, a Westinghouse Group W program director, recruited him to a Group W station in Cleveland (then KYW) to host a talk and entertainment program.

The show was syndicated, starting in 1963, but had a limited budget, and Cleveland was not a frequent destination for well-known potential guests. The show moved to Philadelphia in 1965 and to Los Angeles in 1978.

Three years later, Group W replaced Mr. Douglas with a younger singer, John Davidson. “The Mike Douglas Show” continued in syndication under Mr. Douglas’ control until he retired in 1982 to North Palm Beach, Fla.

Besides his wife, survivors include daughters Kelly, Michele and Christine and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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