Our star had a long career in radio and television, as an announcer and host. The list of game shows with which he was involved early in his career is quite lengthy, and he appears in the oldest episode of a quiz program preserved on kinescope, NBC's Party Line from 1947. Here's a fun fact: he taped the pilot to The Hollywood Squares, but was dumped in favor of Peter Marshall when the show went to series.
But of course, if you mention the name Bert Parks, everyone will think of the Miss America pageant. He was its congenial host for a quarter century, until he was sacked in 1979. The pageant was seeking a younger audience, and Parks's demographic skewed decidedly old. His dismissal caused a bit of a firestorm, with Johnny Carson leading the charge to get him reinstated. Parks was so identified with the pageant that his statue stands in front of the Atlantic City hotel which always hosted the event.The effort to reinstate Bert failed, but I understand that Parks's iconic rendition of "Here She Comes, Miss America" is still played during the contest's final moments.
I never watched the pageant (yes, another gene I lack: I have never understood the fascination gay men have with beauty pageants). But anytime I have run across a clip of Bert Parks, he gives me the willies. Don't you find him a bit creepy? If not, you will in the following clip, which comes from the 1976 Miss America show. Paul McCartney should sue.
And I have to admit, it's the gayest clip to grace the Dance Party since its inception, including Prop 8 the Musical!
Bert Parks died from lung cancer eight years ago this week, at the age of 77.