April 3, 1929|
New York City, New York
|Known for||Radio and TV personality|
Kelly Bishop (1981-present)
|Relatives||Jacob Lee Leonard (grandson)|
Leonard was a midday radio personality on New York's WNBC-AM (660), shortly after it launched its "Conversation Station," a talk format, in 1964. He was part of a weekday talk-variety lineup that included "Big" Wilson, Robert Alda, Mimi Benzell, Sterling Yates, Bill Mazer, Brad Crandall and Long John Nebel and hosted a competition/quiz show for listeners called Fortune Phone.
At CBS and NBC
In the early 1970s, Leonard was part of an even earlier network TV innovation, partnering on CBS-TV with Jack Whitaker on The NFL on CBS, a studio-based show wrapping around the network's coverage of the National Football League with pregame features and halftime and postgame highlights from around the league. As producers changed, Leonard and Whitaker were eventually succeeded by The NFL Today with Brent Musburger, Phyllis George, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder and Irv Cross on one of network TV sports' longest-running studio-based programs. The core of the team would stay until the mid-1980s, while the show itself has aired continuously ever since, except for several years in the 1990s when CBS did not have NFL television rights.
As for Leonard, he would move to NBC and be teamed with Bryant Gumbel on its GrandStand show, where he would stay until just before ESPN launched. Also during the mid-1970s, Leonard hosted Midday Live, the daily talk show on WNEW-TV (now WNYW) in New York City (he was replaced by Bill Boggs). While at WNEW, Leonard was one of the original co-hosts with Bill Mazer of Sports Extra - considered a pioneering show for the Sunday Evening Sports Wrap-Up show format.
At ESPN and CNN
On September 7, 1979, he was the first person to speak on ESPN. He gave a brief introduction before the network showed a slow-pitch softball game. Leonard also made occasional appearances on SportsCenter.
A year later (1980), Leonard moved to CNN, where he hosted People Tonight, the network's first Los Angeles-based live entertainment news talk show. Many of today's major name celebrities made their first national talk show appearances on People Tonight. including Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Pee Wee Herman. The show was ground-breaking in its coverage of Hollywood red carpet premieres and many breaking stories including the death of John Lennon and Natalie Wood. Robin Leach cut his teeth as a New York-based correspondent before signing on to do Entertainment Tonight and later launching the pop culture hit series, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Leonard stayed at CNN until 1982, when CNN hired veteran talk show host Mike Douglas.
Leonard is married to actress Kelly Bishop, who played Emily Gilmore on the CW show Gilmore Girls as well as Marjorie Houseman in Dirty Dancing. He has been married twice before, including once to Salome Jens, the actress. He has one daughter, named Norma Sheryl Leonard. He also has a grandson named Jacob Lee Leonard.
- Crowe, Steve (September 7, 1999). "ESPN celebrates 20 years of reshaping sports on TV". Sun Journal. Lewiston, Maine. pp. C4. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Finder, Chuck. "20 years later, ESPN no longer a little sport". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. pp. D8. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Emmons, Donald (August 24, 2002). "SportsCenter special tomorrow". Toledo Blade. Toledo, Ohio. Retrieved 30 April 2010.