Veteran anchor and Los Angeles icon Jerry Dunphy died May 20 after suffering a heart attack the previous week.
Possibly the oldest main anchorman at a local television station at age 83, he anchored in Los Angeles for 42 years, with a break of less than a year off the air. Known as the dean of local news, he most recently anchored the 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. news on Viacom-owned KCAL-TV until May 14. On the following day, he suffered an acute heart attack outside his condominium.
Known for his sign-on line, “From the desert to the sea to all of Southern California,” Mr. Dunphy began his Los Angeles television career in 1960. He anchored the first one-hour local newscast in the country, “The Big News” at KNXT-TV, which is now KCBS-TV. When he moved to KABC-TV in 1975, he helped the station become a news leader.
Mr. Dunphy also made headlines throughout his life. He suffered his first heart attack in 1978 and another one in 1991. Both required multiple bypass surgery.
In 1983, he was shot in the neck and wrist by gang members in a failed robbery attempt as he returned from dinner to anchor the 11 p.m. news on KABC. On another occasion, he was robbed when thieves broke into his home, held him at gunpoint and stole cash, jewelry and his Rolls-Royce.
In an interview with Electronic Media two months before his death, he talked about his earlier days. He started out in 1947 at a Wisconsin radio station, and he recalled exactly how many years he spent at each of the various Los Angeles television stations. “I’ve had a working paycheck for 42 years in news in Los Angeles,” Mr. Dunphy said proudly.
He may be the only local television news anchor to have his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, which was covered with flowers last week. Mr. Dunphy appeared in 75 movies and was a voting member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He spoke of his upcoming cameo on the HBO show “Arli$$.” The episode is slated to air in June and will be dedicated to him.
Mr. Dunphy said he was flattered when Viacom chief Mel Karmazin recently toured the KCAL station after the company acquired it and Mr. Karmazin said to him, “Jerry, we could have hired you back [to KCBS-TV], but we bought KCAL instead.”
World War II vet
Mr. Dunphy was a licensed pilot and flew B-29 bombers in World War II. He recalled being in training for the service in Albuquerque, N.M., with actor Jimmy Stewart, adding jokingly, “The women used to swoon, and the only problem was he couldn’t dance.”
Mr. Dunphy’s other passion was music. He was an accomplished lyricist and planned to release a CD in a few months. He wrote lyrics for 300 songs, some of which were recorded by Wayne Newton and T.G. Sheppard.
“He was a decorated World War II veteran-I know he shot down some enemy planes,” said KCAL and KCBS General Manager Don Corsini. “He received a Distinguished Flying Cross and two presidential unit citations, so this guy was just an amazing character.”
Mr. Dunphy is survived by six children. A memorial Mass for Mr. Dunphy was celebrated Thursday at St. Cyril Catholic Church in Encino, Calif. Funeral arrangements had not been released by press time.