Night man

Jack Joseph

Photo By David Robert

There was a time in Reno when the casino workers’ best friend was Jack Joseph. When they got off swing shift at midnight and went home to unwind, the late-night movies he hosted were the only thing on the air. Eventually, his show was squeezed out, and now he markets the Jack Joseph’s Coupons book that appears in local mailboxes each month. But his signature sign-off remains a fond memory to a generation: “Blue skies, green lights and peace, my friends.” Joseph’s career in radio and television covers an important period of postwar broadcasting history. This week he will be inducted into the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

When did you come to Nevada?

Oh, gosh, that’s going to date me. About ‘61, I think, ‘62.

Where did you come from?

I grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., graduated from high school there and joined the Marine Corps, came back out of the Marine Corps, and as everybody did, I went to school. Syracuse University was right there in my home town, so I went to Syracuse. My first job was in Auburn, N.Y. back in, I think, about 1958. That was a commute of about 30 miles. That was a back-breaker because I had to jump out of school, and I’d go down to the station to work most of the night. And my second job was right in Syracuse, where I was living and worked at WLOS. Dick Clark worked there, by the way, at one time … the station hired the kids from school … I had an agent who placed me around. I went from Syracuse to Buffalo, N.Y., which is a big, big jump as far as population goes. … I got married, jumped down there to Florida, worked [as a disc jockey] at Coco Beach when they [NASA] were still sending rhesus monkeys up. That’s Cape Canaveral, and I worked close to a lot of network guys down there trying to cover everything. I was doing a radio show, WKKO. They gave me the job to cover the shoots, as well. … I worked most of the night out there, sometimes waiting for the darn thing to go off. … And then I went from there to El Paso, Texas, and I worked at KSTM a number of years. I went to KSL in Salt Lake City. After that, I went to Dallas. American Airlines was my big sponsor there. Went from there to Reno. I was going to [continue moving from market to market, but] my agent died. I stayed here. I was getting older anyway.

Where did you start in Reno?

At KOH, which was a big 50,000 watt station, as you know, goes clear channel from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Monterey, Mexico. It was pretty nice, I thought. So anyway, I came in here, and I worked at KOH for a long time. They got me a job downtown. I had a radio show live from the Waldorf Club. … I was there for nine, 10 years. And then I switched from KOH to KOLO. I met everybody there—Buddy Ebsen, Robert Wagner, Charlton Heston, Harry James, Petula Clark. Dinah Shore became a very good friend of mine, and she helped me an awful lot … I’d usually get them all in eventually … Petula Clark came in every night. She came in with her husband, Claude Wolf, and she’d come in and answer the phone for me a lot of times. I thought, “Oh my God, what’ll somebody say on that phone?” But she did it. We got tea for her, she liked her tea, so we had tea—in fact, I have a picture of her holding a cup of tea and answering the phone at the same time. And Liberace was very good. Lee came in all the time. He was usually booked into the Nugget in Sparks. Manny Glick, who was the stage manager at the Nugget, would bring all these people in. … Oh, Sammy Davis Jr., now there’s a guy who was so nice to me.

When did you start doing the late-night movies?

I talked to the manager of the station, KOLO. They were closing down at 11 o’clock, and I said, “Let me do a movie.” … And we did a movie for years. Mayfair Market was one of my big sponsors. They were the first to be open 24 hours a day, and we used to do a “Midnight Special” for the night people, and it got real popular. They used to post it in the dressing room, locker room, for Harrah’s.

Did you know what a following you had among the casino workers?

Oh, that was, really, my thanks to those guys. It was only because [in the Waldorf days] it was a place to go before you got in your car. It was before they got in their car that they’d come over to the Waldorf, and it got to be an old hat thing to just come over and have a cup of coffee or something and then go home. That’s what made the Waldorf a success for me … I had to watch how much was going into the cash register.

What made you start the coupon book?

Somebody suggested that. My daughter had gotten out of school, and I wanted to get her out of … Delta Airlines, flight attendant. Not knowing what she wanted to do, I said, “Why don’t you do this book? I’ll give it to you.” She’s been really very good at it for the last—what?—about 12 years now. That’s how that came about.