LARRY KEATING – PORTLAND RADIO ACTOR, ANNOUNCER & HOST

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    Craig_Adams
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    Today June 13, 1899 Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Keating was born in St. Paul, Minnesota to Mary (Manion) & Lawrence Charles “Larry” Keating. Since father & son had the same first names and used the same nickname “Larry”, the son took “Lonny” as his first name early on and later switched to Larry. From this point on in this bio the son will be known as “Larry” and the father will be known as “Lawrence.”

    Larry’s father, Lawrence worked for the Minnesota Packing Co. but he was formulating an idea of getting into the theater business. This inspiration would ultimately lead to Portland. In 1900 Lawrence C. Keating partnered with Daniel “Dan” Flood and opened a moving picture show in Helena, Montana, showing audiences the silent film of the Jim Jeffries-Tom Sharkey fight and South African, Boer War scenes.

    In Summer 1901 “Keating & Flood” arrived in Portland to show their moving pictures but something happened. They sold the films to bandleader Charles L. Brown and left Portland. By 1902 they had relocated in Oakland, California, getting into the slot-machine business. At this time Mary & Lawrence Keating’s marriage went on the rocks and they divorced. Larry went with his father back to Oregon.

    Then on December 28, 1903 Larry’s father Lawrence Charles Keating, 31, married Ellen Minnie “Nellie” Lidwell in Astoria, Oregon. In January 1904 the newlyweds and 7 year old Larry moved to Portland where “Keating & Flood” began looking for a building to open a vaudeville house. On March 24, 1904 it was announced they had leased the old “Fredericksburg Music Hall” at 7th (now Broadway) & Alder. On May 1, 1904 it opened as “Lyric Theater” a vaudeville house but soon changed to a stock company. On October 20, 1904 Keating & Flood took over management of the “Baker Theater” at 3rd & Yamhill. On October 24th it opened as their second vaudeville house.

    On August 21, 1905 they lost control of the “Baker Theater.” Keating & Flood did a great job building up clientele, so much so, the owner wanted to take control, making all the money. On October 31, 1905 Keating & Flood opened the “Liberty Theater” at 4th & Stark as a vaudeville house. The partners would occasionally act in productions.

    On June 27, 1906 Larry’s half brother was born John D. “Jack” Keating. (Died: 12-14-68). He would later open “Keating Studios” in Portland for audio recordings and still later co-own KYA San Francisco & KPOA & KONA (TV) Honolulu. This might have had a bearing on why Larry decided at this time to move back to the San Francisco Bay area with his real mother.

    On June 25, 1909 it was announced Keating & Flood Company had incorporated. On January 29, 1912 Keating & Flood’s Lyric Theater presented its first burlesque, a musical comedy “The Girl With The Golden Vest.” “The scene is laid in the little town of Oak Grove, Clackamas County Or.” By September 1915 Larry was living back in Portland and attending “Christian Brothers’ Business College” where he was elected secretary of the Glee Club on September 9th.

    One of the actors Keating & Flood were most proud of giving a start was Gracie Allen. Long before she met George Burns, Gracie Allen was working in Portland stock theater. She first appeared at Lyric Theater as part of the cast of Dillon & King’s “The Isle of Joy” which premiered on October 24, 1915. “The Irishman and his Hebrew partner are stowaways aboard a steamer bound for the mythical Isle of Joy.”

    Next Gracie appeared in Dillon & King’s “The Globe Trotters.” A 11-14-15 write up said “One of the most attractive numbers is the knobby little dance by Charlie Riley & Grace Allen.” Next was “The Athletes” 11-28-15 then “Henpecked” 12-6-15, “His Royal Nobs” 12-13-15 & “The Bargain Hunters” 12-19-15. Gracie got more and more popular, landing the leads with each play and Portland loved her! Before the end of 1915 Gracie had left for bigger things. In 1918 Larry was working for Willamette Iron & Steel Works in Portland, specializing in the manufacture of steamboat boilers and engines.

    On September 12, 1918 Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Keating, registered for WWI where he served in U.S. Field Artillery and afterwards was a seaman and oiler on freighters traveling the world. By November 1919 Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Keating had married Mary Rowe in Houston, Texas. Back in Portland he began as an actor at the Baker Theater stock company. On December 5, 1920 “Friendly Enemies” debuted at the Baker with Larry in the cast as the Newsboy. On December 27, 1920 the Baker Players presented “Way Down East” with Larry as a youthful-old doctor.

    On March 28, 1921 it was announced Larry would play the part on Loran in “The Guilty Man.” On September 11, 1921 “Nightie Night” debuted at Baker Theater with Larry as a passenger. On September 18, 1921 “The Ouija Board” play began with Larry as Jules. On October 2, 1921 “Crooked Gambler” debuted with Larry as Mr. Stone. On October 23, 1921 it was announced Larry would play the part of the old tailor in the comedy production of “Turn To The Right.” On October 30, 1921 it was announced Larry would play the part of Rube in the cast of “Buddies.”

    On December 5, 1921 it was announced “Madame X” with Larry as Tony Salarno. On December 11, 1921 Larry Keating began in the cast of “The Songbird.” On December 26, 1921 it was announced Baker Theater would present “Shore Acres” with Larry as Doctor Leonard. Larry continued in the Baker Theater players through 1922. In July 1923 Larry left Portland to act in plays in Birmingham, Alabama. In July 1924 it was reported Keating was on tour appearing in “White Cargo” one of the national play successes of 1924.

    In August 1926 Keating returned to Portland after concluding 71 weeks acting in “White Cargo” playing the part of Ashley. During Spring, Larry had been with Century Players in Philadelphia. Keating was guest actor in the mystery drama “The Last Warning” playing at the Heilig Theater. Larry appeared in other plays but left Portland at the end of September. In 1926 Larry’s father Lawrence Charles Keating retired from show business. In September 1928 Keating was playing second lead in “Congo”, alternating engagements in Boston and Brockton, Mass., billed as “Lonnie Keating.” On October 17, 1929 Larry & Mary welcomed their first son Robert S. Keating.

    On November 15, 1934 Larry Keating joined the radio staff of KGW-KEX as Chief Announcer. “Behind The Mike” column said: “Although he was an actor by trade — and probably still is — Larry doesn’t sound a bit like Barrymore; he was 14 years on the stage, played stock in 25 cities. He was in three recent Broadway shows.” On December 20, 1934 Larry Keating began as the announcer on KEX’s new “Thursday Theater” at 9:30pm live from the Arabian Room of the Multnomah Hotel.

    On May 1, 1935 Larry was now using his real first name, Lawrence for acting, playing lead in Portland Civic Theater’s comedy farce “Good-Bye Again” at the Taylor Street Theater. Review: “Lawrence Keating as Kenneth Bixby, of course, took the cake…as the old expression goes.” By June 1935 Keating was commentator and moderator of KGW’s “The Oregonian On Review” Saturdays at 6:30pm which dealt with material from the forthcoming Oregonian Sunday Magazine. On August 1, 1935 Larry Keating was part of the KGW cast of the retooled “Easy Happiness” series, which had been originally titled “Rented Happiness” Thursdays 9:45pm.

    On September 11, 1935 Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Keating, 39, married 30 year old Consuelo B. Heidner in Stevenson, Wash. Consuelo was the daughter of a former Army colonel who was a Roosevelt Rough Rider and former Governor of The Philippines. On October 18, 1935 Keating began his biggest Portland Radio hit “The Amateur Show of The Air” KEX Fridays at 9:00pm live from the “Mayfair Theater” at Broadway & Taylor. Larry was master of ceremonies for all kinds of acts. Contestants competed for cash awards. The series had 250 applicants a week auditioning before broadcasts. At the end of four Friday broadcasts they hoped to organize a road show which would be sent to theaters in nearby cities and towns.

    On December 26, 1935 Larry Keating was the announcer for the NBC Red Network program via KGW “The Standard Hour” which presented the “Portland Symphony Orchestra” in the auditorium of Neighbors of Woodcraft Hall. This was the first in a series of three broadcasts sponsored by Standard Oil Company of California. 8:15 to 9:15pm. By early 1936 Larry was playing the romantic role of Randolph Jordan on the popular KEX series “Covered Wagon Days” Tuesdays at 8:30pm. Trivia: In Fall 1936 the role was taken over by Chet Huntley.

    Then on March 11, 1936 in a reenactment, Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Keating remarried Consuelo B. Heidner in Stevenson, Wash., six months after their first marriage. On May 8, 1936 Larry left on vacation, then was heard two nights later playing the lead in a crime drama on KGO San Francisco. Back from vacation on May 21st. On June 4, 1936 Keating interviewed Dr. Belmont Farley on the KEX program “Our American Schools” carried on the NBC Blue Network.

    On July 28, 1936 it was reported Keating was announcing on KEX’s “Homicide Squad” Mondays at 9:00pm. One of the cast members tells the story: “There was this little down-and-out character who used to come and watch Keating perform shows. At the end of the show, Keating used to talk to him and slip him a little money. It turned out this had been a doorman at the Lyric Theater, owned by Keating’s father. The doorman had received a serious head injury during World War I, and, in the tradition of the theater, Keating (who earned $1.25 a show, $2.50 if it was sponsored) was helping out the man who was down on his luck. The doorman used to walk away saying “I just love Larry.” This story was chronicled after Larry’s death.

    On August 8, 1936 it was announced Larry Keating had joined the NBC Blue Network staff in San Francisco (KGO). On September 11, 1936 Larry Keating was part of the NBC staff reporting from Boulder Dam (Hoover Dam) on the start of the first generator. On September 28, 1936 Larry began as master of ceremonies for the series “Carefree Carnival” 6:30pm on the NBC Blue Network. On November 12, 1936 Larry broadcast ceremonies of the opening of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge on the NBC Blue Network at 10:30am.

    On April 6, 1937 Keating began as quiz master “Professor Puzzlewit” on the popular NBC Blue Network show, Sundays at 9:00pm. This show continued until 1941. On August 14, 1937 Keating and other ex-KGW alumni now all working for NBC San Francisco, put on a special show “NBC Salutes KGW” 9:00pm. This had to do with KGW’s dedication of its new 625 foot steel tower, the first in Oregon. In October 1937 Larry was host of the drama series of true stories titled “I Want A Divorce” on NBC Red Network Sundays & Wednesdays at 8:15pm. On November 2, 1937 Keating began hosting “Meet Your Neighbor” on NBC Blue Network at 8:30pm.

    On December 20, 1939 this story ran in the “Behind The Mike” column: NBC San Francisco had fixed it up so their announcers could read the Portland commercial following the morning market reports but they didn’t give Larry Keating all of the details. After reciting the reports he sat there with the commercial ready to read it, when Bong, bong, bong went the NBC Chimes supposedly ending the program. Larry calmly lays down the script, tilts back in his chair and “Well,” says he, with great disgust “the boys certainly *!(?&/! that one up!” He says that during the time he should have been reading the commercial and it goes out on the air. On the NBC log the monitor writes down “Commercial missed. Instead there were remarks by the announcer unbecoming a gent.”

    On August 11, 1941 Larry Keating was transferred from NBC San Francisco (KPO/KGO) to “NBC Radio City” Hollywood. On March 16, 1942 Larry began a new quiz show, hosting “Noah Webster Says” Mondays at 6:30pm on NBC Red Network. On October 10, 1942 Keating began as narrator for the new NBC series “Newsmakers” Sundays at 3:45pm. On January 17, 1943 Larry started announcing on the “Dick Powell Serenade” program, Saturdays at 7:15pm on NBC. On April 28, 1943 Keating was a cast member of the new NBC series “Scramby Amby” Wednesdays at 9:30pm.

    On February 4, 1944 Larry began announcing on “Furlough Fun” Fridays at 9:00pm on NBC. On February 28, 1944 Keating became emcee of “A Song Is Born” Mondays at 6:00 pm on NBC. Also on February 28, 1944 Larry Keating & Garry Breckner were co-emcees for the new “Hollywood Star Time” program weekdays at 12:15pm on The Blue Network. The show originated from a special dining room just off the main RKO Studio lot dining room. Stars were brought to the mike and quizzed by the emcees.

    On March 1, 1944 Larry Keating left NBC to work freelance. On July 13, 1945 it was reported that Larry Keating was now a bachelor and liking it. On October 10, 1945 Larry’s father Lawrence Charles Keating of 2216 N.E. 47th Ave. in Portland, died at age 73 while visiting Larry in Los Angeles. By June 1946 Keating was master of ceremonies for the syndicated “Hollywood Sound Stage” program.

    On April 11, 1947 Larry Keating became the announcer for ABC Radio’s “This Is Your FBI” when the popular program moved to ABC Hollywood studios. Larry would stay with the show to 1953. On ABC Fridays at 8:30pm. One night some movie scouts came over to the studio to view some promising actors in the cast. In the end they didn’t hire any of the actors. They hired the announcer. On October 4, 1947 Larry began as the announcer on the new CBS series “First Nighter” Saturdays at 5:00pm.

    By May 1950 Larry Keating had worked in 16 Hollywood motion pictures including “Song of The Sarong” (1945) and had begun work on his first contract film for Paramount titled “The Mating Season” (1951) with (Gene) Jean Tierney & John Lund. On October 11, 1950 the motion picture “Three Secrets” was released by Warner Bros. in Portland. The adult drama featuring Keating, played at United Artists Theater.

    On September 9, 1950 Keating made the jump to television on “The Hank McCune Show” Saturdays at 7:00pm. Larry played Hank’s sidekick in this NBC slapstick comedy series that quickly disappeared from the TV schedule. This program never aired in Portland, since there was no television in The Rose City and maybe that was a good thing.

    Keating continued to be seen in movie roles, in these motion pictures: Follow the Sun (1951), Francis Goes to the Races (1951), When Worlds Collide (1951), Bannerline (1951), Come Fill the Cup (1951), Too Young to Kiss (1951), Carson City (1952), Monkey Business (1952), Above and Beyond (1952), Inferno (1953), A Lion Is in the Streets (1953), Give a Girl a Break (1953).

    On October 5, 1953 Keating took over the role of neighbor Harry Morton on the popular CBS Television series “The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show” Mondays at 8:00pm. In Portland we didn’t get to see Larry’s debut until after KOIN-TV signed on the air 10-15-53. We saw Larry for the first time on the October 19th telecast. Larry would stay for five seasons, until the end of the series.

    Larry continued to make movies as well: Daddy Long Legs (1955), The Eddy Duchin Story (1956), The Wayward Bus (1957). On October 21, 1958 Keating’s role as Harry Morton, continued on “The George Burns Show” Tuesdays at 9:00pm on NBC for the next six months. He appeared in the movie: Who Was That Lady? (1960).

    On January 5, 1961 Keating began playing Roger Addison, Alan Young’s irascible neighbor on the popular “Mister Ed” Television series which first began in syndication. In Portland it was seen Thursdays at 7:00pm on KPTV.

    On April 20, 1961 Lawrence Joseph “Larry” Keating, 64, married Ruth Elizabeth Evans. On October 1, 1961 “Mister Ed” was picked up by CBS Television Sundays at 6:30pm (KOIN-TV). Larry was scene in the movie: Boys’ Night Out (1962). On January 7, 1963 Larry appeared on “Stump The Stars” with the cast of “Mister ED.” CBS Monday at 10:30pm. On January 15, 1963 Larry’s step mother Ellen Minnie “Nellie” Keating died at age 81 in Hawaii.

    On August 20, 1963 Larry checked into Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. On August 26, 1963 Larry Keating died at age 64 of Leukemia in Hollywood. Larry had been ill about six months but continued performing as a regular in the cast of “Mister Ed” until a week before he passed away. Keating was an immensely popular component of the “Mister Ed” chemistry and his sudden death came as an enormous shock to not only the tight ensemble cast but the viewing public as well. His absence started the show’s steady decline in popularity.

    On August 28, 1963 the body of actor Larry Keating was flown to Portland. On August 30, 1963 Requiem Mass was held for Larry Keating at St. Rose Church, 2727 N.E. 54th Ave. at 9:30am. Vault entombment at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

    Written a year before he passed: Never a big-name star, never getting a top bracket salary, Keating, nevertheless wouldn’t trade places with any of the bigger shots in the business. That’s because he’s a gregarious soul and gets his greatest satisfaction out of being recognized wherever he goes. “I’ve seen that face somewhere!”

    Special Thanks to Joel Miller who helped make this biography more complete.

    References: The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows, imdb, The Oregonian, The Press-Courier, Wikipedia.

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