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Frank Barron, 1919-2017, a Noteworthy Life of a New Jersey Native and Hollywood Journalist

Veteran Journalist Dies at Age 98

Frank Barron, my Television Critics Association (TCA) colleague, passed away last Monday after a long and quite diversified career in this business. Margie Barron, his beloved wife and also a TCA member, alerted the masses on Friday and shared with us this eloquent tribute to the man she loved. In honor of Frank, I would like to share this beautiful essay written by Margie. 

It seems Frank Barron’s life was a remarkable tapestry of noteworthy endeavors that could have filled several lifetimes. A natural born journalist, as a teenager Frank started writing for magazines and a major newspaper. Some of his notable achievements: He was a Master Sergeant during World War II, created a TV series, wrote cartoons, did publicity for top rock groups, was editor of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard Publications. He knew and interviewed Hollywood legends and notables for more than 70 years, and was kept active almost up until the end, always at the side of his devoted wife.

Frank Barron, of Sherman Oaks, California, passed away of natural causes on Monday, October 23, 2017, at age 98, after a short stay at the Sepulveda VA hospice unit in North Hills, CA. There are no funeral services since it was Frank’s wish to donate his body to the UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine for the advancement of medical education and research, which works with the VA Medical Center in West Los Angeles, a place that he said gave him excellent care along with the great respect every veteran deserves.

Frank was born in Elizabeth, N.J., February 5, 1919, the second son of Sarah and Israel Goldberg. He started writing in junior high, selling stories to “Boys Life” and other magazines. In high school he started covering sports for the Newark Evening News. “I wanted to be a sports writer and a baseball catcher. I wanted to write about the major leagues as an insider. And maybe be a symphony orchestra conductor off season,” Frank mused about his earliest ambitions.

Although he never played professional baseball, Frank does remember seeing Babe Ruth play. “He sure knew how to hit,” he recalled.

Frank went into the Army in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, and served in the Medical Corps administration stationed in England. Turning down a commission, he got out in 1945 as a Master Sergeant. He rarely talked about that time except for a few tales of some of the great guys he served with in World War II.

After the Army he became the sports editor for the Asbury Park Press newspaper before accepting a government job in Japan. He took charge of running several Air Force Base newspapers in the Tokyo area for a little over a year. Then
he headed to California.

“Hollywood gave me a great life and I met wonderful people,” Frank acknowledged. Among his notable encounters—Walt Disney, John Wayne, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bob Hope, and writing Hanna-Barbera cartoon storylines for his pal Joe Barbera. Frank also appeared in “The Man with Bogart’s Face” film written and produced by his friend Andrew J. Fenady.

Known for his sharp wit, Barron reported, “I got my foot in the Hollywood door when I met Ray Brenner, and we teamed as comedy writers. An agent signed us and we wrote for radio shows, for Red Skelton, Edgar Bergen, Duffy’s Tavern, Fibber McGee & Molly, Martin & Lewis.”

For the early days of television in the 1950s, Frank said, “We wrote for ‘The Jerry Colonna Show.’ Then I wrote for the daily ‘Pinky Lee Show,’ and a local NBC variety show Komedy Kapers, a KRCA show that nurtured talent before breaking on national TV. I was set to direct it, but Jerry Lewis took over so he could get experience for his DGA card. I never forgave him for that missed opportunity.”

In 1959 Frank created the western series ‘The Man From Blackhawk.’ “It was produced by Herb Meadow (“Have Gun, Will Travel”). It was unique about an insurance investigator in the Old West. It lasted a full season, 37 episodes, but a six-month writers strike killed it,” according to Frank.

Among the other fun stuff Frank got to experience during his many careers was working with Duke Ellington in 1959 for the “Jump for Joy” revival with Barbara McNair. He wrote special material for the show with Sid Kuller. Frank and Sid worked together for years writing night club material.

During the early 1960s, Frank was the publicity director at KHJ TV and Radio (now KCAL). All the attention the little KHJ Channel 9 station was getting was noticed by longtime Hollywood Reporter editor Don Carle Gillette, who groomed Frank to take over as editor when he retired.

Frank had two stints as editor of The Hollywood Reporter for owner-publisher Tichi Wilkerson, the first in the 1960s (1964 to 1968), and back again in the late 1970s. In between he worked with Al Burton for Norman Lear’s television company for a short time developing show ideas, before becoming news director for Billboard Publications’ five magazines for four years (1968-72). He also worked for the top rock’n’roll p.r. company Gibson & Stromberg. Frank always boasted, “With the rock concerts, parties, and wild characters I met, it was the most fun I ever had.”

When he was 61, Frank married publicist Margie Platt in 1980 at the home of Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels. A new life began freelancing for a variety of publications including Gannett Newspapers, Emmy, and becoming contributing
editor for Production Update Magazine.

He was a member of the Television Critics Association and wrote many stories with his wife Margie. There was a lot of traveling during his last 35 years, filled with adventures. As a self-described “punny curmudgeon,” Frank Barron had a remarkable life.

Frank is survived by his wife, Margie; sister-in-law, Mary Lou Platt Krewson (both from Beach Haven, N.J.); niece Ruth Goldberg Smith (of Edison, N.J.); cousins Barry Allen and Dr. Howard Feldman.