Here at Bensonhurst Bean, we’re constantly amazed at the sheer amount of celebrities who spent their formative years in Bensonhurst. Among them is New Utrecht High School graduate, as well as the originator and first host of Candid Camera, Allen Funt, who would have been 98 years old today.
The classic television program’s catch phrase, ‘smile, you’re on candid camera,’ continues to be part of America’s pop culture vocabulary.
According to an article in today’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Funt, the young phenom that he was, graduated from New Utrecht at 15. And like a true renaissance man, the brainiac also kicked some tuchus as a member of Cornell University’s boxing team.
From the Eagle:
Funt began an early radio career when he worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on her radio commentaries, and also was a gag man on the radio show “Truth or Conse-quences.”
He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II at an Oklahoma base. One day, reading the “gripe column” in the army newspaper Yank, he thought of recording the gripes of servicemen for broadcast. The original idea didn’t work. The servicemen were too self-conscious at the microphone, and the format was flat and colorless. Funt developed a new idea — recording their spontaneous gripes with a hidden microphone. The result was hilarious, and that provided the spark for a new radio idea when the war ended.
After Word War II, Allen was host to radio program Ladies Be Seated, in addition to the precursor to his famous TV show Candid Camera, Candid Microphone.
After a stroke in 1993, Funt’s son Peter took over the show.
Allen Funt died on September 5, 1999, at his home in Pebble Beach, California, at the age of 84.