Arthur Godfrey? Who’s That?





Next to Dwight Eisenhower, arguably, the most famous American in the 1950’s was a guy named Arthur Godfrey.

Today, if you’re under 60, the only thing that name might mean to you is an oversized street sign on the Miami Beach side of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. (How many know who she was?)

This week the Miami Beach City Commission is considering renaming the street.

How famous was he?

In the early days of television he was the dominant face for nighttime and daytime TV. And it was all live.

Sixty years before “American Idol”, he had the #1 show–“Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts”. Acts would come out and the audience response was recorded on an “applause meter”. The show promoted the careers of everyone from Lenny Bruce to Patsy Cline.  

At the same time, he dominated daytime TV with his daily show “Arthur Godfrey and Friends”.  It featured his country cornpone personality and a crew of singers known as the “The Little Godfreys”. The Little Godfreys included an ever-growing popular singer named Julius LaRosa.

Notwithstanding his folksy demeanor, you did not cross Godfrey. He had a real nasty side to his egomaniacal personality.

How evil became apparent in October, 1953 when LaRosa wanted to make some career changes without getting Godfrey’s “permission”.  You just didn’t do that to “The Ole’ Redhead”. Halfway into the show, he fired LaRosa right on the air in front of the whole country.  It was a nationwide front-page story.  I was only eight years old, but I still remember my parents talking about it.

Like Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan–if you don’t know who they are, skip the rest of this story–he regularly brought his show to Miami Beach. Technically it was in Bal Harbour at The Kenilworth Hotel which he partly owned.  Like Sullivan and Gleason, he was rewarded with a street naming. At the time there was grumbling about that.  Although it had long since changed its policy, the Kenilworth Hotel still had a reputation for being “Restricted”. That meant no Jews. Despite that, he got the street renamed after him.

A half century later few remember who he was and why his name should still remain on a street sign.

Fame is a bitch, and a fleeting one at that.

8 Responses to “Arthur Godfrey? Who’s That?”

  1. Chaz Stevens, Mathematician says:


    I did the math… Holy crap dude, you are old … Never met someone born in 1907 before.

  2. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    C’mon Chaz, we old folks still have something to contribute. I remember all of them from seeing them on the teeny tiny TV we had, but didn’t really understand the significance of what happened.

    Sic transit… as they also say, a little more elegantly. I think I have the Latin correct. It’s been a while since I’ve read Caesar (Julius)

  3. Sad but true says:

    Some day 10 to 20 years from now (especially if the dolphins still cant make the playoffs) people will consider the renaming of the Don Shula Expressway.

  4. count l f chodkiewicz chudzikiewicz says:

    WdMr fields is in total ignorance of both current miami beach politics and social history as it pertains to american jews outside of fields broken down socialists from less desirable parts of brooklyn.
    Godfrey whose breakfast club i watched as a child like art linkletters kid shows although on a jewish owned network had repeated social incidents with anti semitic tones. As a jew whose christian paternal side gave people the impression i was christian i renember well as a young child the snide golf n country crowd anti semitic attitudes that only jackie gleason on cbs would not tolerate.
    The orthodox prifessionals that were the
    backbone of malakofs victory from behind for commissioner over ac weinstein corruption tainted outgoing mayor matfi bower do not want this memorial to the beachs old anti semitism in their midst

  5. Sam Fields says:

    Dear Count somethng or other,

    Do you actually think you write in English?

    For the life of me I cannot figure out what you wrote.

    Think about going to night school.

  6. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    I think Count’s problems lie more with the keyboard than English. I figured out what he was saying. Sort of like the game with numbers substituted for letters, or letters written backwards.

  7. Chaz Stevens, Mathematician says:


    Someone just got back from Colorado!

  8. Jae Fong says:

    And do not forget that Godfrey was the biggest anti-semetic person around. The sign on his hotel read:
    “No Jews, No Blacks and No dogs!”
    Hope he is rotting in hell!