December 30, 1914
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
February 2, 1992
La Jolla, California, United States
TV host, Actor, Singer
Best known as a popular TV game show host in the 1950s and the ever-smiling master of ceremonies for the Miss America beauty pageant. At age 19 Parks moved to New York, working first as a singer/straight man on "The Eddie Cantor Show" and then as a staff announcer for CBS radio before finding his niche as the enthusiastic host of the popular radio quiz programs "Break the Bank" and "Stop the Music" in the late 1940s. Parks' eager, affable style translated well to TV and by the early 1950s he was the ubiquitous host of both daytime and primetime game shows and variety series. Parks virtually became an American institution as the host of the annual Miss America pageant from its second telecast in 1955 until he was fired by producers seeking a younger image for the show (in the shape of Ron Ely) in 1980. A letter-writing campaign organized by Johnny Carson resulted in his return to his ceremonial post in 1990, and he once again serenaded the newly crowned Miss America with his signature song "There She Is, Miss America" at the pageant's finale. Parks' career was centered almost entirely on radio and TV, although in the 1960s he replaced Robert Preston as the title character in the Broadway hit "The Music Man" and performed in road companies of musicals; he made his feature debut in "That's the Way of the World" (1975) and made a quirky cameo appearance as himself in "The Freshman" (1990).