Geoff Edwards was born in Westfield, NJ on February 13, 1931. Early in life, Geoff’s passion was music. He was a drummer, playing with a band during his summer vacations.
He began attending Duke University in 1949, where he immediately joined a Dixieland band and played clubs on the weekends. After a stint in the Air Force, Geoff went to New York to resume his musical career, but a startling encounter with a more established musician made Geoff rethink his future.
I went to the Union Hall in New York, and a guy named Phil Urso, who was a very famous—at that time—tenor player…great guy, played with Woody Herman, standing there with a little drizzle coming down…and he says, “Hey, man…You know where I can get a gig?” And I thought, “You know, maybe this isn’t what I want to pursue.”
His interest in music led him to pursue a career as a disc jockey. By 1960, he would be an announcer in Albany, an anchorman in West Palm Beach, and a program director in San Diego. He finally made his way to Los Angeles in 1963, acting as an announcer for KHJ-AM. He found himself involved in the year's biggest story not long after he arrived, being dispatched to Dallas to cover the assassination of President Kennedy. While covering the story, he was present at Jack Ruby’s shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, and in fact, was interviewed by the NBC national correspondent on that network’s coverage of the incident.
From his broadcasting experience Geoff made the transition to acting during the late 1960s with a recurring role as blowhard newspaper writer Jeff Powers on “Petticoat Junction,” as well as roles on "I Dream of Jeannie" & "That Girl." He also appeared as a late night movie host in the 1969 Dick Van Dyke film The Comic and co-starred with Paul Newman in the 1970 film WUSA. Geoff might have gone into acting full-time, had it not been for a conversation he had with Newman between takes.
I was in a movie with Paul Newman called WUSA; the worst movie he ever made. It doesn’t show up anywhere. If you find it on the internet it’ll take you to a page that says “Uggh.”
I spent an afternoon with him; we did a scene together. I was a radio engineer and Paul played a talk show host. I asked him about acting…He said, “Acting is like running a mile one foot at a time.” Because you act, then they change the cameras, do it again, change the lighting, do it again, on and on…He was a sweet guy.
Geoff stuck with broadcasting for the most part. In the radio business, he migrated to station KMPC-AM and found a comfortable home there for over a decade. In television, he was co-hosting a syndicated series, "The His and Her of It" for one season. It was around this time that Geoff got his first taste of the game show business. It was almost by accident; it was a phone call that Geoff wasn't expecting, and to this day, he's not sure why the call came to him.
One day, when I was with William-Morris, I got a call, and they said, “Monty Hall is sick. Can you do Let’s Make a Deal? Now you have to understand that I had never done a major television game…(Let’s Make a Deal) is the hardest game show there is to do. I don’t know why they asked me.
So I said, “Okay.” I practiced at home, I had the script, I had my kids being contestants. I went and I did the show. The first one went pretty well. The second one; I had a lady, and…what happens on Let’s Make a Deal is, no matter what you say, the people on the floor are going to do it. So I said, “Do you want this or that?” She said, “That.” I said, “Well, let’s take a look at that!” And I take a look at the floor manager, who went “Aaaaah!” What I had done was I left myself in a place where I had given away the end of the deal.
So I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what you can have. You can have that, or you can have what’s in my pocket.” And what was in my pocket was an empty hand sweating. Monty got well really fast.
Game shows didn't appear to be where Geoff's future was waiting. He continued with radio and acting for the next several years. He would eventually be cast in a 1972 summer replacement series, “Dean Martin Presents the Bobby Darin Amusement Company,” a vehicle for the popular singer which included comedy sketches.
I was playing tennis…and the phone rang. And my agent said, “Bobby Darin would like to talk to you about being on his television show.” I said, “Great! When?” He said, “Right now.”
So I got into the car, sweaty…I get over to NBC…Bobby’s on his way out, he says to me, “Walk with me down the hall.” He said, “This is the character I’m going to play…” And his character was going to be a shoeshine guy who used to be a champion or wanted to be a champion or whatever. And he said, “Talk to me. You’re getting a shoeshine.” So all the way down the hall, we did this bit. At the end of the hall, he said, “You’re on the show. Thanks.”
Geoff became part of the supporting cast, along with Rip Taylor (later of “The $1.98 Beauty Pageant”) and Steve Landesberg (a.k.a. Detective Dietrich on “Barney Miller”). It would be the highest-rated summer replacement series on NBC that year, and returned the following January as “The Bobby Darin Show.” Again, Geoff would be a cast member, often playing a straight man to Darin’s cast of characters. Due to Darin’s failing health (he died later in the year), the series would be short-lived, although Geoff later referred to it as “the happiest six months of my life.”
He would continue acting on-and-off for the remainder of his career, appearing in TV-movies such as Three on a Date and The Outlaws, and the 1997 theatrical release Drive, in which he played, amazingly, a game show host. He also appeared as a guest star on television series throughout this time, appearing on episodes of “Police Woman,” “Trapper John M.D.,” “Diff’rent Strokes,” “Small Wonder,” and “Sliders.”
Following the end of “The Bobby Darin Show” in 1973, Geoff would go on his greatest claim to fame, game show emcee. On the local television scene, Geoff received his first regular work as an emcee for “Lucky Partners,” a Los Angeles TV game produced by Bob Barker. In his autobiography, Barker notes that during his career as a producer, he only hired two emcees other than himself: Richard Dawson & Geoff Edwards. Reflecting on that, Barker says he "batted a thousand."
We offered some great prizes. “It’s a pair of sunglasses! And here’s a pair of slacks!”
He gained enough attention in a local role that, in his words, his name got "added to the wheel" of prospective hosts when new game shows began going into production. His national career in that role, however, had an inauspicious start; Geoff’s first effort, “Hollywood’s Talking,” disappeared after only 13 weeks.
The disappointment would be short-lived though, as Geoff’s training as broadcaster and comic actor would be just what producer Chuck Barris was looking for when he was casting the host of “The New Treasure Hunt.” Geoff would gain some notoriety in the role as the host who teased and stalled his way through slow-moving, torturous prize reveals, which fans of the show loved, but critics detested it for its perceived mean streak. “60 Minutes” profiled the show in an “expose” segment during its run after a contestant fainted during the show, and Geoff actually lost a few potential gigs as a result of a magazine article about him titled "The World's Cruelest Emcee."
Geoff was also becoming an institution on the
air at KMPC, “Where the talent is”; that slogan was
less a boast than an accurate description, as Geoff was working with such names
as Robert W. Morgan, Clark Race, Wink Martindale, Gary Owens, and Jim Lange. From 9 am-Noon each
day, Geoff spun records and in between, he did whatever he felt like, including
making prank calls to businesses in other states.
GEOFF CALLS A DRY-CLEANER IN GEORGIA
GEOFF: Hi, My name’s Mister Kent. I dropped off my leotards a few weeks ago.
CLEANER: Your what?
GEOFF: My leotards. Are they ready?
CLEANER: I’m, uh, not sure.
GEOFF: Well, I need them for fighting crime. Can you check?
CLEANER: Yes, sir. What’s the name again?
GEOFF: Mr. Kent. I had Miss Lane drop them off for me, though.
Oh…Okay…What do they look like?
By 1974, Geoff’s reputation was becoming so established that he was working on both coasts. As he continued his work on “The New Treasure Hunt” and Los Angeles radio, he began commuting to New York to emcee “Jackpot!,” a big-money game show from “$10,000 Pyramid” creator Bob Stewart. The show was a modest hit but met its untimely demise in 1975. Stewart didn’t forget the talented emcee though, and a year later Geoff was back in his employ as the host of “Shoot for the Stars,” the last NBC daytime game show taped in New York.
The show was short-lived, but Edwards would continue his relationship with Bob Stewart Productions during the coming years as a frequent guest on “The $20,000 Pyramid” and “The Love Experts,” and even substituted for “dean of emcees” Bill Cullen on “Chain Reaction” for two weeks in 1980, a gig that ultimately won Geoff the job as permanent emcee of that show when it reappeared on USA Network in 1986.
The 1980s continued to bring steady work, as Geoff kicked off the new decade with a brief run on “Play the Percentages,” a syndicated series from Jack Barry & Dan Enright Productions. It vanished after only 9 months, but Geoff was back on the national airwaves almost immediately with an updated version of “Treasure Hunt.”
In 1982, Geoff hosted “Starcade” in syndication, and one could argue this was his biggest hit. It enjoyed only a two-year run, but searching the internet reveals a HUGE following of fans, game show devotees or not, who fondly remember the show. Reruns aired for a time on the G4 cable network. It exists today in the hearts and minds of many as a nostalgic timepiece for the early 1980s, as the show revolved around the top video arcade titles of the day. JM Productions, which packaged the show, hosts a phenomenal tribute to the series at www.starcade.tv
During the 1980s, Geoff also co-hosted the local daytime talk show “Mid-Morning LA” with actress Meredith McRae (whom he had previously worked with during his time on “Petticoat Junction”), and ultimately won a local Emmy for the show.
Merideth is a wonderful person…We were the first show to really explore the beginning of AIDS; Merideth and I got an Emmy for that. It was a real pleasure working with her. It was a pleasure doing the show, too.
Interestingly, the Edwards-McRae combination almost became known to national daytime audiences, as they hosted a 1985 unsold pilot for Bob Stewart titled “$50,000 a Minute.”
Geoff also pulled double-duty in the game show emcee biz. National audiences saw him hosting “The New Chain Reaction” Monday through Friday on the USA Network while syndication audiences in California saw him emceeing the state lottery’s official game show, “The Big Spin.” This even became TRIPLE-duty in 1989, as Geoff added a new version of “Jackpot!” in syndication. In many parts of the U.S., viewers could see him 10 times a week, while viewers in California saw him 11.
After leaving “The Big Spin” in 1993, Geoff continued working in local radio, primarily in the Palm Springs area. He also briefly hosted “Radio Tonight” for the Cypress Radio Network in 2000. For a time, he rotated hosting duties with Peter Tomarken, Bob Eubanks, and Charlie Chase on “The $25,000 Game Show,” a traveling game show owned and produced by Eubanks. Geoff abandoned emceeing after that, retiring from television & radio, leaving behind only one regret.
A guy who I wish I had worked with, who I think was the greatest game show emcee who ever existed, was Gene Rayburn. Gene was a friend of Bob Stewart’s; I used to listen to him on the radio when I was in high school. He was on WNEW New York in the morning. I wish I had met him. Never even met him.
Primarily, though, his work for the past ten years has been based in the travel business. Geoff parlayed his frequent vacations into a career, writing articles about his travels for various magazines and co-hosting a weekly radio traveling show called “The Touring Company” with his wife Michael and journalists Paul & Elizabeth Hasley. His primary efforts as of today involve travel writing. You can read about his adventures on cruise ships all over the world at No Spin Travel and Avid Cruiser.
In 2009, Geoff was recognized for his outstanding contributions to our beloved genre when he received the Ralph Edwards Community Service Award at the 7th Game Show Congress. Geoff and his family beamed proudly as they were showered with accolades from peers like producer Bob Stewart and David Michaels, as well as numerous fans who turned out to show their appreciation for his life's work in front of the camera.
WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THIS GUY?
I’ve never seen an emcee having so much fun on his various shows. Whether hamming it up on those suspenseful skits on “Treasure Hunt,” or giving a teenager advice about grabbing the soda in the middle of the screen of Pac-Man Plus on “Starcade,” Geoff does a phenomenal job getting across the fact that he’s enjoying himself.
MEMORIES OF GEOFF
As a relentless devotee of USA’s afternoon line-up, I grew up with Geoff through “Play the Percentages” and “The New Chain Reaction,” and thanks to WSAZ for one season, the new “Jackpot!” I liked him, gosh darn it. And meeting him in person only reinforced what I suspected: face-to-face, he couldn't have been a kinder, more gracious, funnier person. Always down to earth, always entertaining, always a capable host, Geoff’s 20-year career in game show emceeing actually seems abbreviated compared to peers like Tom Kennedy, Bill Cullen, and Gene Rayburn, but for his talent and style, the name Geoff Edwards absolutely deserves mentioning alongside these legendary names.
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