John Conte (actor)
Conte was born in Palmer, Massachusetts. His mother, Maria (later known as Mary), emigrated to the U.S. from Calabria, Italy, with her lifelong friend Francesca Cuda, who had moved to Los Angeles, California before the Conte family. To be closer to Francesca, the family moved to L.A. in John's teens. After graduating from L.A.'s Lincoln High School he got jobs as a radio actor and singer. One of his first regular roles was on the Burns and Allen radio show in the 1940s.
His television career began as Master of Ceremonies on the 1951 late Sunday afternoon comedy hour, Star Time, co-starring Frances Langford and Lew Parker as John and Blanche Bickerson ("The Bickersons"), as well as sound-effects master stand-up comedian Reginald Gardner. His own weekly solo skit on Star Time was as an hilarious, heavily accented Italian-American chef ( in an all-white uniform, complete with huge muffin-shaped chef's hat) preparing bumbled recipes as he recited them along with frequent tangential references to "the homemade-a wine" fermenting in his bathtub visible from the kitchen. This led to a featured guest appearance with Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows about a year later. He then hosted Matinee Theater, a live-drama series on NBC (one of the first daytime shows on network television).
Conte made five guest appearances on Perry Mason : In three different episodes, he played the role of the murder victim. In another episode he was the defendant, and in still another as the murderer.
His major film role was "Drunky" in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955).
In 1968 he and his long-term third wife, Sirpuhe Philibosian Conte, launched KMIR-TV, an NBC-affiliated UHF station in the Palm Springs–Rancho Mirage market. The Contes built KMIR into the third-largest station in the Coachella Valley, and after thirty years (in 1999) sold the station to Milwaukee-based Journal Communications.
- Rourke, Mary. (2006, September 7). "John Conte, 90; Stage, Screen, Radio Actor Founded the NBC Affiliate in Palm Desert". The Los Angeles Times
- Associated Press. (2006, September 8). "John Conte, 90, Actor on Stage and TV". The New York Times, page A25