By Chuck Ross
“Paul Ryan, an actor, TV host and former ‘Entertainment Tonight’ correspondent, has died,” Deadline reports. Ryan, 69, “died April 23 of leukemia at Providence Saint Joseph Hospital in Burbank,” the report continues.
Deadline also notes, “His acting career included more than two dozen roles over four decades, with bit parts on such popular series as ‘Bewitched,’ ‘Emergency!,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ ‘Night Court,’ ‘Highway To Heaven,’ ‘Murder, She Wrote’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’”
The Hollywood Reporter, in its obituary, writes, “Survivors include his mother, Joyce. A memorial will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries in the Hollywood Hills.
I first met Paul back in 1977, when I was selling cable TV subscriptions door-to-door for Theta Cable Television, based in Santa Monica, Calif. That was the year he started “The Paul Ryan Show” on Theta’s public access channel. Back then, almost anyone who wanted to have a show on cable TV could, on what were known as public access channels.
What made Paul’s show special is that he had actual celebrities on his show. He had been in a 1973 movie called “The Affair” with Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.
As Peter Boyer wrote in an Associated Press article in 1980, “‘The Affair’ brought Ryan some good Hollywood contacts, but not much in the way of work. So he became interested when a friend told him about public access.”
Ryan told Boyer, “‘I called Theta Cable and said, ‘My name is Paul Ryan. I want to do a talk show.’ And they said, ‘Fine, when do you want to start?’”
In the show’s first three years, Boyer wrote, “Ryan’s guests have included Peter Ustinov, Lee Grant, Sophia Loren, Bob Barker, Marty Feldman, Christopher Reeve, Ursula Andress, Robin Williams, John Ritter and Henry Fonda.”
I remember I would ask Ryan who some of his upcoming celebrity guests were going to be so I could use the info in my sales pitch to get people to subscribe to cable service.
At the time of the Boyer article, Paul’s show had just been picked up for national distribution by the Satellite Program Network.
I didn’t know Paul that well, but I was impressed as hell that he could get big celebrities on his TV show. He told Boyer, “What I want to do eventually is an international talk show.” Boyer wrote, “He just may make it, considering his record. Ryan is a rare creature, a cable TV star.”
Neither of us could have possibly imagined what pioneering work Paul was doing with his show, or that three decades later cable would be such a force in TV programming.
Here’s a short clip I found on YouTube from one of Paul’s Theta Cable public access shows from 1978. His guest is Madeline Kahn.