Art Fleming in August 1970.
|Born||Arthur Fleming Fazzin
May 1, 1924
New York City, New York, USA
|Died||April 25, 1995
Crystal River, Florida
|Cause of death||Pancreatic cancer|
|Occupation||TV presenter/Game show host|
|Spouse(s)||Becky Fleming (?-1995, his death)|
Arthur Fleming Fazzin (May 1, 1924 – April 25, 1995), better known as Art Fleming, was an American actor and television host. He is most notable for being the host of the original version of the television game show Jeopardy!, which aired on NBC from 1964 until 1975.
Fleming was born in New York City. His parents, William and Marie Fazzin, had emigrated to the United States from Austria. They were a popular dance team in Europe, who had brought their show to America. Their son Art was a varsity letterman football player at James Monroe High School in New York, standing 6 foot, 4 inches (1.93 m), weighing 220 pounds (99.79 kg). He later attended Colgate and Cornell universities, starring on the football team, as well as water polo teams at both colleges. Fleming was a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy for three and a half years as the pilot of a patrol bomber in the Atlantic.
After leaving the Navy, Fleming became an announcer at a radio station in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was here that he first shortened his name to "Art Fleming." His radio career would later take him to Akron, Ohio, and back home to New York. He was the first announcer to deliver the popular, grammatically controversial slogan "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should" for Winston cigarettes.
Fleming's acting career began at age four, when he starred in a Broadway play. His first television role was as a stunt double for Ralph Bellamy in the detective series Man Against Crime. He would later star in The Flying Tigers and International Detective. He also played attorney Jeremy Pitt in The Californians, an NBC Western set in San Francisco during the gold rush of the 1850s.
Fleming also appeared in many television commercials. He was first spotted by Merv Griffin on a commercial for Trans World Airlines. Griffin thought Fleming was "authoritative, yet warm and interesting," and Fleming was invited to audition for the role of host for a quiz show Griffin was developing. Fleming (an actor with no prior TV quiz show experience) was initially skeptical, but his agent encouraged him to "act like a game show host" at his audition and Fleming ultimately won the job. The show was Jeopardy!, which Fleming hosted from March 30, 1964 to January 3, 1975 and again from October 2, 1978, to March 2, 1979. As the first host of "the world's greatest quiz show," Fleming earned two Emmy Award nominations. While he was host of Jeopardy!, Fleming never missed a taping.
Because he hosted a quiz show, Fleming earned a reputation as being a storehouse of trivia. While appearing as a guest star on Hollywood Squares (another popular NBC game show in the 1960s and 1970s), Fleming was once selected as the "secret square." His question was, "In 1938, who won the Wimbledon women's tennis championship?" Fleming picked Helen Wills Moody, one of the three choices read to him. The female contestant (who had selected Fleming) turned to Hollywood Squares MC Peter Marshall, saying, "Art Fleming would never lie! I agree!" He was right, and the contestant won $11,000. Fleming later said he didn't know a thing about tennis and had guessed the answer. He hoped the contestant would disagree, thinking he was wrong.
Throughout his career, Fleming starred in about 5,000 episodes of television programs and 48 motion pictures. After Jeopardy!'s first cancellation in 1975, Fleming returned to acting. He played the role of W. Averell Harriman in the movie MacArthur and also appeared on episodes of Starsky and Hutch, Kingston: Confidential as well as the TV miniseries The Moneychangers.
He also hosted a radio version of College Bowl for CBS. Fleming hosted the NBC radio weekend magazine "Monitor" during 1972. Fleming reprised his role as host of Jeopardy! in the movie Airplane II and in "Weird Al" Yankovic's music video "I Lost on Jeopardy". Fleming was also often called upon to host mock versions of Jeopardy! at trade shows and conventions.
It was reported that Fleming was asked to reprise his role as "Jeopardy" host when Merv Griffin brought the show back as a weeknight syndicated show in 1984, but he declined, leading Griffin to turn to Alex Trebek.
From 1979 to 1992, Fleming hosted a daily radio talk show on KMOX in St. Louis, which continued until his retirement. On Sunday evenings, he occasionally co-hosted Trivia Spectacular with David Strauss, a St. Louis schoolteacher. He also hosted the syndicated radio program When Radio Was. "The Howard Stern Show" (1 episode)... aka "The Howard Stern Summer Show" - USA (promotional title) Episode dated 2 February 1991- Wack Pack Jeopardy. In this segment Howard had Art Fleming, the original host of Jeopardy, sitting in to play the Wack Pack Jeopardy game. Howard had the Wack Pack, i.e., Fred the Elephant Boy, Quentin the Stutterer and Stuttering John come in to play. Howard said Art, of course, had the answers for the game. Art and Howard spent a minute talking about how the Jeopardy game was originally created by Merv Griffin and his wife. Art was reading the answers and the Wack Packers had to give the correct question. Howard had Art do his well-practiced Jeopardy thing with the guys. After the game, Howard thanked Art for coming in, and said goodbyes to Art and said "he's a good dude".
Fleming was married to Becky Fleming, mother of his two stepchildren. He also had four grandchildren. In 1992, Fleming retired, moving with Becky to Crystal River, Florida. He remained active in charity work, hosting fundraising videos for the Citrus County United Way, becoming involved with the Citrus Abuse Shelter Association (where Becky served as director). He also hosted a syndicated television program, called Senior America; it showcased seniors and senior activities.
Death and dedication
Studio 25 of the NBC Burbank Studios is named in his honor.
- Harris, Bob (2006). Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!. Random House Digital. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-30-73395-60.
- Jeopardy tribute website
- David Schwartz, Steve Ryan & Fred Wostbrock, The Encyclopedia of TV Game $hows, Checkmark Books, 1999, pp. 112–115.
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|Host of Jeopardy!