Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Bill's writer-performer career spans the entire history of American Television. Do the math from his 1951 trip at NBC through the historic original Tonight Show with Steve Allen (1955) to his upcoming appearances with Pat Harrington in L.A. in 2008 and Bill's career odometer reads 57 years. In all that time, no matter what other accomplishments Bill can claim, the character he created on the prime time Steve Allen Plymouth Show in 1959 who announced: "My name…José Jimenéz!" will forever be his alter ego.
After graduating Emerson College in Boston in 1950 on the GI Bill (having served as a decorated combat infantryman in WWII), Dana entered show business via the famed NBC page route with fellow page/partner in comedy, Gene Wood. After he began writing stand-up routines for young comedian, Don Adams, the success of Bill's material (including the introduction of the famed "Would you believe?" riff, provided a major career boost for both. When, in 1959, the prime time Steve Allen Show moved west to open the new NBC Burbank Studios, Bill not only became head writer but also José Jimenéz made him an instant national phenomenon.
Soon followed his starring in the American night club circuit as a headliner and appearances abroad including a show-stopping 'José The Astronaut' routine with Milton Berle at the JFK Inaugural gala. Resulting from José's success as the flesh and blood elevator operator on The Danny Thomas Show, Bill was offered NBC Stardom via The Bill Dana Show on NBC (1963-65).
His comedy albums became top-sellers in the 1960s. He helped launch the careers of comedic greats such as Don Adams, Jackie Mason, Don Knotts, and Jim Nabors. He was nominated for several Emmy awards for his comedy writing. Another career highlight: writer of the "All in the Family" episode featuring Sammy Davis Jr., consistently rated in TV Guide's "Top 100 Television Episodes of all time." Dana was a featured guest-star on many television sitcoms including "The Smothers Brothers Show" and "The Golden Girls" as Uncle Angelo.
Adopted by the original seven Mercury astronauts, Dana became part of U.S. Space history on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo) 1961 the first words from planet earth to Al Shepard, America's first man in space were. "OK, José, you're on your way." Bill and José are honored by inclusion on The US Astronaut Hall of Fame and The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. He also serves on the board of the Astronaut Scholarship Fund.
In 2005 Bill founded the American Comedy Archives at Emerson College. With colleague Jenni Matz, Dana interviewed over 60 living legends of comedy for the Archives.His personal papers and archives are housed at Emerson College. Click here to see the Bill Dana Papers Finding Aid".
In 2006, Dana received a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters in Los Angeles. On the dais honoring him were Shelley Berman, Hal Kanter, Jayne Meadows, Gary Owens, Tom Poston, Jack Riley, Howard Storm, and Betty White. His book "The Laughter Prescription", co-authored with Dr. Laurence Peter will be followed this year with "The Laughter Prescription: Refill One."Bill has called Hana, Maui his beloved home for the last 30 years. He now lives in Nashville with his beloved wife, Evelyn Shular Dana, his best friend and business partner. He continues to perform and make America laugh.
Bill Dana is currently writing his Auto-Biography!
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